Let Your Freak Flag Fly

The snow has established a solid foothold on the front range around Anchorage. At slightly lower elevations, fog and high humidity add to the recent drop in temperatures. I scraped my windshield the last couple days before work, and briefly considered wearing a jacket.

That escalated quickly.

With a household full of sick people, a handful of hours of sleep, and 7 days straight of work under my belt, I dug deep into my "Suitcase of Nope" and didn't ride my bike. I just wasn't interested, and didn't try to ride myself into enthusiasm. It works a lot of the time, but I knew it wasn't going to happen for me this time.

Instead, I watched the rolling freak show that is Arctic Cross. I mean that in the nicest possible way. 'Cross season in Anchorage is when the roadies and MTB guys get together and steal the last few minutes of competition remaining before the snow closes in. Riders come from all directions and demographics. The bike polo guys come out. The unicyclists come out. The guys on fat bikes come out. The toddlers on kick-bikes come out. Even an uptight roadie with a failing body like me can see that the atmosphere is everything that's right with bike racing culture. The vibe is completely inclusive and competitive at the same time.

I wasn't racing. I sold my 'cross bike in the spring after years of injuries, vowing that I was done with the sport. Watching the racers beat themselves into the ground on the Government Hill course (my favorite), I realized I had made the right choice. I miss the intensity, both physical and mental, of racing 'cross, but I wouldn't have lasted 4 laps. When you have no bike-handling skills, you're going to fall. A lot. When I fall, I hurt myself. Sometimes a lot.

My lack of participation didn't stop me (or anyone else) from heckling the riders, providing encouragement to those that needed it, and generally soaking up the atmosphere. That atmosphere can be best summed up by this picture:

2015 Arctic Cross #3 picture by Alec Cervenka.

Joey Bacala, 2015 Tour of Anchorage Champion, rode a couple Open Men laps in the costume with a seeing-eye rider. He got caught up in one of the turns, ate it, and flailed on his back. He totally sold the 'cross t-rex thing.

Yeah, I didn't ride my bike that day, but I was able to hang out with people that did. Sometimes, that's enough.


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