Words and Photos by Sal Ruibal
I can ride a mountain bike pretty fast for an old guy, but I am awfully slow at jumping off a bike, jumping over a barrier and then remounting. For an hour or so. In the mud.
Instead of racing a 'cross bike for many years, I should have been riding my old jumping horse, Jolly. A hoof in the face would keep even Niels Albert from riding off my wheel.
These days, I like to keep my suffering private and my drinking public. That helps regulate both of them. Cyclocross is about lots of drinking and even more suffering, especially with the cold, wet and windy conditions they've had in Louisville for the UCI Cyclo-cross (the official UCI spelling; they must get kickbacks from the hyphen cartel) World Championships.
Whiskey with a Belgian-beer chaser sounds like a good way to spend an afternoon with thousands of your stoned friends getting third-degree trench foot watching the ride-in races for Masters 70+ Mandarin Speakers.
The weird categories that get mashed up at local 'cross races were always a mystery to me. I would get placed in a group with genuine Masters who were fast, lower-case masters like me who were there for the free KrispyKremes and coffee, blind riders and Girls 12-14. I was thrashed by the Girls 12-year-old National Champion in three consecutive weekends in the Virginia State Series a decade ago. I can't remember her name (Mary Ann? Marianne?) but she's probably in the elite women's race this weekend.
Last year's UCI Cyclocross Worlds in Koksidje, Belgium was a wonderful party for 60,000 really drunk folks and the first seven Belgians that crossed the finish line. The only American men on the podium were three Cross Crusade guys from Seattle who passed out on it after the races were over.
They really know how to drink in public in Belgium. They come and leave in hundreds of buses so they don't drive drunk until they get back to their hometowns two hours later. They don't drink as much as they buy because they toss half of the brew into the faces of Dutch riders as they pass. The men don't pee on the restroom floor because they're watering the bushes outside the public restroom, which has a 200-meter line of women nervously doing the full-bladder do-si-do.
If you can make it to Louisville, do it. A big crowd and lots of spending on pizza and beer will help bring more top-level UCI races to the U.S.
And don't puke on your shoes. Puke on the shoes of the guy next to you. Belgian Style.