SSWC09 ventured into my proverbial backyard when Durango won the honor in a well played game of bowling at last year’s SS Worlds. How could I not take part? Never mind that my work in Afghanistan makes it very hard to keep in race shape, each trip requiring a month to regain the basest of fitness levels – much less that which is required to push my single geared steed up one of the toughest race courses I’ve yet to encounter.
The fact is, SSWC is perhaps the best showcase of people who love riding bikes for the love of riding bikes. The only requirement (aside from the entry form’s coloring contest) is a love for riding your bike with only one gear. Leave your gears and your derailleurs at home sissies…THIS world championship is for those in love with a single cog.
One thousand riders, nearly two hundred of them women, dressed in all manners of drag, tutus, onesie’s, and even a few speedos ala Micheal Phelps with an oversized bong in their camelback. Nurses, cheerleaders, and frisky frauleins frolicked at the start line as we got ready for a mass start up down Durango’s Main Street. And that was the men. Our racing group of three lined up in front of a guys in hot pants and security uniforms, and more than one person was heard commenting that perhaps this was the coming out party for Durango’s gay pride movement. Our support crew, aka: ‘sexy cop’, a red-headed Dorothy, and Elvis worked the crowd, perhaps enjoying the start line all the more knowing their only requirement for the next few hours was excessive drinking. Sexy cop ‘arrested’ a Micheal Phelps look-alike, wearing nothing more than a speedo, goggles, and a giant bong in his camelback.
Okay, so the course may have been shorter than any other race I’d done, and the atmosphere more akin to a cruiser bike pub crawl, but the course was brutal. The first hike-a-bike was a couple miles out of town. Winding singletrack so steep and narrow we had to dig our cleats into the hillside to keep from sliding down into the hundreds of riders below us, calves cramping with the effort of avoiding the dreaded domino effect. Looking above, racers snaked their way at a turtle pace up to the rideline….a dispiriting sight. Luckily, in the spirit of SSWC, the surrounding banter was side-splittingly vulgar…men dressed in all manners of tutu’s and pink knee highs, shouting profanities at friends, teammates, and strangers above and below as we inched our way painfully up the hillside. I searched the switchbacks above for my boyfriend wearing a silver 1970’s girls blouse that could reflect the sun back into space, yet I couldn’t spot him. I looked below for the third member of our racing trio, dressed in a skeleton unitard (yes, unitard) with the tib/fib cut off to stay cooler. Nothing.
Feet blistering from the extended climb in bike cleats, we crested the ridge for the first of many impending beer stops. Cold cups of Dales Pale Ale were handed out by cheering spectators. Never has a beer tasted so refreshing, and I needed a little courage in a cup to get me through the next few miles of technical rock ledge ‘riding’. Riding? More like a combo of one-legged skateboard style coasting and endless dismounting, till finally the crowd thinned and the riding began through seriously hairy ridge riding towards a wicked descent where you could hear hundreds of spectators cheering below in a wild beer filled party. I was greeted by a large, shirtless man who jumped in front me, thrusting a can of Old Chub in my face, demanding “chug it!”. Thrilled to have made it off the ridge relatively unscathed, I happily obliged, smiled and sped off for the second half of the race. Passing by our riotous support crew, made up of ‘sexy cop’, ‘redheaded Dorothy’, and one hell of an Elvis, passing out jello shots they made at the condo the night before. Grabbing a jello shot, I asked if they had any water, my water bottle was already empty and I couldn’t see a water station anywhere through the sea of drunken supporters and keg stands. They didn’t, I’d have to figure it out on the way.
I knew the second climb would be tough after the hike a bike, but I didn’t how much that took out of me…I’d been hiking/riding for two hours and was sorely wishing a grim death to that stupid girl with the nalgene full of white wine had told me I could have a drink of her water, then laughed as I gulped, then spewed out the offending drink in horror. The rest of the course passed by as a series of beer stops, whiskey shot stations, a bacon stop, and even a twinkie stop by literally hundreds of supporters who littered the course; cheering, shouting, taunting, and proferring up all manners of alcoholic drinks and junk food. Three hours in, and desperate for some actual hydration, I asked one group if they had any water at all…alas, they were out. But they did have a cooler of melting ice that had played host to several cases of beers a hour earlier. Eagerly I unscrewed the cap of my water bottle and dipped in, avoiding the worst of the floaters. I drank it down to the ice, and refilled, thanking the angel of mercy for his mucky cooler water and sped off to finish the course, knowing one last hike-a-bike was in my future.
This climb was as brutal as the first. Unending switchbacks where I hopscotched with a fat man in a pale green tutu and afro, and a local girl with white angle wings who knew what was coming next and enjoyed shouting back, “just a few more switchbacks to go”, a bit too gaily. I thought about ripping off her wings and shoving the down her throat, but realized that would simply waste too much time. After the second whiskey stop near the top, I thought, “F this…I’m faster than a fat man in a tutu!”
I spent the next few miles why the race course organizers hated bikers so much…until blessedly, I passed a woman who shouted, “One more mile to the finish and its mostly downhill!” I nearly got off my bike and kissed her. Instead, I shouted my excitement, wiped the dried drool from the corners of my mouth, and sped like a banshee to catch that chick with the pom poms I’d seen on the ascent a few hours earlier.
Boyfriend, Sexy Cop, Dorothy, Elvis, and more beer greeted me at the finish line. Gratefully, I allowed my trusty tangerine single geared steed to be taken from me, and led to the sidelines to watch the rest of the mayhem. More men in drag and tutus, women in skirts and hot pants, it was like Halloween on bikes. With beer. Lots and lots of beer. Finally the fat man in the green tutu finished and we started to wonder when our skeleton teammate would be joining us. We heard the last riders were coming through – hundreds being turned around at the time cut offs, or having already quit. We knew in our heart of hearts it was Skeleton-man! We waited, we drank beer, Sexy Cop ‘arrested’ more scantily clad men, and still no Mike. Then finally, the motorcycle sweep came towards the finish line with one lone biker behind him – it was our guy!! We hollered ourselves hoarse, jumping up and down as he made his way up the final stretch. He was the last rider, he made the 5 hour cut off, he was officially DFL!! (Dead Fucking Last) OUR GUY made DFL!!! WAY cooler than of us winning! We laughed and celebrated as he tried to sit down and not puke.
Unfortunately, our celebrations were cut short by the asshole on the unicycle. Nuff said.