For part one of the SSWC report see the previous entry below.
Once we got to Aviemore we dumped our gear and began building the bikes so we could head into town and grab some grub. Night fell, single speeds rolled out, food was consumed and we made our way to hang out in front of Cafe Mambo, the designated SSWC bar/hang out. Beers were consumed in the chilly air, temperatures were quite different than the sweltering heat and humidity we left behind in the Mid-Atlantic. We reconnected with Dave and his crew who had arrived by train. I spotted Mike and Kera, ex-pats now living in Germany, and went over to talk to them. Kera makes some cool custom bags and I had ordered one for my wife that she was bringing over. Chrome is one of our sponsors and makes sweet bags but they don't have a small purse sized bag the my wife wanted for our townie adventures so Kera's work fit the bill. Pix in a separate post when I snap some, but she's does some nice work, customized pretty much any way you like.
After beers we rolled back to crash as we were running on fumes by this point, having more or less been up for over 24 hours. The trip had just begun so we needed to get some sleep in the tank. The next morning we were playing it loose, grabbed some grub, ran into Mike and Kera at breakfast and made plans to meet up with them at Bothy Bikes (race HQ) a bit later to get some trail beta and ride. Difficulty wise we kept it light, lots of wide mellow dirt track that wound around lochs and through incredible country-side. Hooked into some singletrack too, met up with a few other riders and basically just enjoyed the flow of being in new territory and hooking up with riders with the same mind set as you.
Grabbed some more food and beers and made sure we were back at Both in time for "the decider" - the contest that will decide next year's SSWC location. No derby, no boat race, this year it was Rollapaluza. Goldsprints anyone? Racing on rollers, downing whiskey and dancing a jig is how next year's location was determined. Kera won the women's category (nice to be in the presence of a winner!) but the decider for the whole ball of wax was won by Curtis Inglis of Retrotec. Napa, CA will host SSWC 2008. Afterwards it was back to the Vault, the local disco/club complete with smoke machines and swag beer.
Early morning rise, stuff the gullet with some energy to carry you through the race and roll out on the bikes to get to Bothy Bikes for a take off time of 9am. The seven mile ride to the race start turned into eleven when some chaps at the front lost the lead group. How this happened at the pokey pace that was set still is a mystery, but with about 300 racers looking for the venue a few of us made an executive decision on which way to go at the intersection. I certainly didn't want to take responsibility if we got lost, but at least we were on a route that we had taken the day before so it was familiar. Eventually local boy Nash came up when we were pondering our next turn and led us to sweet freedom, again on a route we had traversed the day before. It was a great roll out, nice warm up pace, friendly faces, boom boxes blasting and one of the Minneapolis ladies rocking out with a cast and her crutches strapped to her bike. Nothing was stopping her fun. Yeah, thumbs up.
At the race start we were given instructions. 1) Go up the fire road hill and drop your bike 2) When told to start, run further up the hill, around some old man (turned out to be Dr. Jon in his skivvies), back down the hill and 3) Jump on your bike and "pedal like fuck". So, of course I dropped my bike way early on the hill which I later realized meant that was just further I had to run. Did you read my Big Bear report? I hate to run. Going into the run I was mid-pack, maybe better, but mid-pack of 300 people isn't great. I didn't want to fight for position when we hit the singletrack, but running down the hill I knew I was going to be in the hole quick. You see, a few weeks before the race I decide to race the course fixed gear. I mean really, when the pro dogs show up the chance of me winning go from slim to none, so let's just push my own personal limits and have at it. It's not like I haven't done this before and I'd been spending plenty of time riding fixed off-road lately. But back to the race. Down the run and on the bike we are bombing a downhill fire road and my legs are flailing, loosing positions to freewheeling rockets and I'm praying for a climb. Things flatten out and I can make some time and start to pick off some riders, then we get into the extended fire road climb and I gain some more. All we know about the course is it's 5 miles long and the winner does 5 laps. Steady cranking up the climb, feels good but the race is just begun and I know after a few passes on this hill it's not going to feel as nice. Climb with Jeff Jones for a bit and chat, then move on as I keep my cadence where my legs are happy. Level out briefly and then turn into rocky singletrack where there's lots of walking going on. Call out for passes, make it as far as I can before things are too bogged down with traffic to stay on the bike.
On top we are into rooty, damp singletrack. Slimy, loamy soil. Bdy English helps and the fixed doesn't hurt at this point. Slice and dice, make passes, this is classic East coast US type terrain so I'm right at home while others are moaning about the conditions. I had hoped for a technical course, this is the ace up my sleeve, and I got what I hoped for. Roots, rocks, reggae, feel the rhythm and go with the flow. First lap has some tough traffic as it becomes apparent a lot of riders are in unfamiliar conditions. No worries, we aren't the leaders, make the best of it and pass when you can. Difficult to do though with so much singletrack. Luckily the pieces are strung together with some bits of fire road. The ones that point up are good for me but the fire road that goes down is where I lose time spinning the legs like egg beaters as the freewheelers buzz by. There are some steep gnarly bits which are sweet but I'm nose wheeling down at times, front disc controlling all of the speed. Yee Haw, good stuff as long as you don't eat it which luckily I don't. On a long downhill I drop my chain. Seemed loose earlier on but I had snugged it the day before and blew it off. Bad call, who's your mechanic chump? I pull over on a fire road crossing and stick that sucker back on, then continue the descent. Sweet, sweet technical downhill, bump and grind, throw the bike around to avoid smacking the cranks on the rocks. Chain drops again as I finished off lap one and I'm force to stop and pull out the tool kit and deal with it. After that it is A-OK, rock back on to that long climb, rinse and repeat. So it goes and as you get to know the course it only gets better. Sweet as candy. Of course my photogenic moment comes when a rider in front of me bails on a steep line. As usual I figure I'll capitalize and take an "alternative line". Only in this case that line happens to be on a slimy rock that I have to negotiate at a weird angle and I almost take out the photographer as I botch it. Search around for that beauty of a performance if you want, it's on digital "film", but I'm not going to give you a freebie.
In the end I got in 4 laps which meant the winner Adam Craig lapped me (note: Olympic hopefully featured in the excellent Off Road To Athens). Once the winners crossed the line the race was over for the rest of us, whatever lap we were on. Another lap would have been nice, the course was tasty, but climbing the hills again at race pace would have put the hurt in my legs more than they were feeling it already so I guess that's a consolation prize. Didn't see any other fixed gear riders out there, not sure if anyone else decided to go that route. At the finish I reconnected with our crew and Rob from DE hooked me up with a much needed beer. Thanks Bro!
Next up: Part III - Awards, Wolftrax and beyond
SSWC: Part I //
Monday - September 17, 2007
OK, I think it's about time for a report on Scotland and the SSWC, don't you? Upon returning there was homebrew beer that needed to be kegged, bikes to be built, more riding to be done, a massive pile of laundry to unpack and deal with and everything else in life to jump back into. Well, I'm sure you know the excuses and have probably been there too, it's nothing unusual after returning from a bike vacation.
First we must put a big thanks out to Marty, Chris and Dr. Jon who organized the affair. They had it dialed and made it look easy but I know it took a hell of a lot of effort. Raise your pint glass to them (even if you didn't make it). These guys are tops in my book. Another huge thanks should go to the sponsors who provided a truck load of swag. People would show up if there wasn't a single freebie given away, but it's cool to see so many companies that support this type of unsanctioned event. Go check the list of companies here and give them your business.
So let's jump straight to the chase. It's been long enough that I'm sure this isn't a spoiler but if you don't already know the winners of the race were Adam Craig and Kelli Emmet. You can see photos of the ink they got over at Singletrack magazine. No word if they passed the doping test at the end of the race but since the ink has already been applied I'm going to assume there is no dispute with the title of the crown unlike some other bicycle races of late.
OK, we'll back up a bit to the beginning of our own journey. Six of the SSOFT riders headed over from the Mid-Atlantic region of the US. The more people you add to your travels the more logistics there are to cover and we had a few bumps but mainly it was pretty smooth. A couple of thoughts: Iceland Air had good ticket prices but has pretty crappy food and the planes seem a bit run down. And $70 each way for the bikes sucks, what happened to free international bike travel, especially when we only had one bag each besides the box? Steve tracked us down a nice house that was a mile from the center of town via back roads and bike paths. Nice score. We hoped to be car free but unfortunately it didn't work out that way. Unlike SSWC06 in Sweden where we were able to just grab any train at the airport and take it into Stockholm, Glasgow required reservations for bikes and a bus ride and multiple train hops. When we called a week before we were set to leave there was no room for bikes. Stress rises, Aviemore is 150+ miles from the airport, transportation is essential. Julie did some quick research to secure us two reasonably priced cars to accommodate six riders and gear and we obtained 2 Saris bike racks that could be disassembled and packed in the bike boxes. Stress decreases.
Leaving the states we meet up with Dave and his crew from B-more who are on the same flight as us so we've got 11 SSers on the flight over. A few pre-flight beers in the "lounge" get us started right on the long flight to Iceland where we'll have a short layover and then a hop over to Scotland. Barely make the flight out of Iceland because customs is backed up but we make it and arrive in Glasgow with out incident and all bikes arrive safely. We part ways with Dave's crew until Aviemore and set out to get our cars.
Some how we managed to get 6 bike boxes (unpacked), 6 people and gear in two small wagon type Peugeot vehicles. I didn't think it was possible, but we pulled it off. Driving in Scotland: Car on the left side of the road, driver on the right side of the car, shift with you left hand. Lots of reversing of brain functions going on but we managed. After a few hours in the car and a stop for lunch where Ricky d immediately sampled the local haggis we arrived in Aviemore.