“Even Disappointment is Bigger in Texas”
There’s a lot to be said about the events that occurred on Sunday morning here in Austin, all of which have been stomped to death elsewhere, so what I’ll say is, for a race that was almost killed off, this was one of most beautiful and challenging courses I’ve ever witnessed. That’s coming from someone who has never traveled overseas, of course, but still.
Look, Austin is a growing city, trying to keep things “weird” and maintain its small town vibe, while it’s bursting at the seams with new construction and lots of new, self-important money. Events like SxSW, ACL and Fun Fun Fun Fest have been destroying the same parks over and over again, so when people see their beautiful Zilker and its hillsides being “destroyed”, they tend to overreact. Especially when they’re not briefed as to what “cyclocross” is.
I can say, It upsets me that this is what the ‘cross world will forever remember us by, not for the ripping course and supportive local scene. We all love cross and it kills us just as much as it kills you. Anyway, onto the story…
For the past week, I’ve been figuring out how to document this event and let me tell you, it was a lot easier before the organizers changed the course up. I had spots for each lap and ideas about how to tie in the women’s and men’s races, all of which was out the window when Sunday’s race was cancelled and the course underwent major work, eliminating many of the vignettes I had planned.
Shooting ‘cross isn’t easy, but it sure is challenging and as a photographer, I learn something new each time. Having raced on Wednesday, I felt like I had a good understanding of where to go and when. Throughout the entire day on Monday, unridable mud slowly transformed into 100% hero dirt. The lines were worn in and even the most technical section – a ribbon of off-camber mud-gutter with a 10″ drop off into one of the old course’s lines – was ridable. For most anyway.
At the end of the day, I experimented, caught some moments and pulled together one of my favorite galleries to date. I hope you enjoy… and remember, Austin loves ‘cross, let’s try to forgive and forget.
Face Plants and Frito Pies at the Crash Nationals Night Race
Photos by Gideon Tsang, Kevin Sparrow, Chris Lee and John Watson
Words by John Watson
When the 2015 Cyclocross National Championships (R.I.P.) were announced here in Austin, our local club, Beat the Clock Cycling and I decided to throw a bandit race out in the woods on the far East side of town, away from all the sanctioned races on Thursday night. We wanted it to be technical and tough, and best of all, at night.
Over the past few days, with all the events that came to Austin surrounding the 2015 Cross Nats, it’s easy to guess that I’ve shot a lot of photos. I’ll do my best to work them into various galleries, each with themes. Or something like that…
The first day at Cross Nats was not nearly as warm as previous days. One day, it’s 60º and the next, 30º. Granted, it was still sunny on the course. As both a racer and a documenter of this event, I felt that Wednesday captured a different energy than I’ve experienced so far.
That energy lies in the camaraderie of racing with your peers. Whether your age group, or the cult-like following of zipping around on a singlespeed bike – which is the most hysterical hole shot to ever witness – 130+ racers spinning super fast, going half the speed of a “normal” holeshot. Whatever it is, people were stoked to race en masse and anytime people are having fun, I’m into it.
For me, shooting these past two days have solidified how I want to shoot the Pro men’s and women’s races… See a selection from day one in the Gallery!
One of the first Shop Visits of 2015 on the radar over here is Tomii Cycles’ new workshop and the best news is, it’s located only a few miles from the office. Nao and his family moved to Austin at the end of the summer and Scott’s touring frame is the first bike to be made here in Texas. Tourers are usually viewed as utilitarian machines, until you see a bike sculpted like this.
See more of Scott’s tourer at Tomii Cycles’ Flickr.
Purging bikes isn’t fun, unless you can sell it to a friend, or in this case, a co-worker. One of the higher ups at Mellow Johnny’s recently decided to part with his Rock Lobster singlespeed cross. It was practically new and just so happened to fit Jonathan like a glove. Best of all, Jonathan finally found a place for all those turquoise Chris King bits he had been saving.
Singlespeed builds are ridiculously beautiful, especially when they have a color combination like walnut brown and turquoise. Relying on the ever-so-stoppy, Paul Mini Motos and Pacenti SL23 hoops with Tubeless WTB Cross Boss tires, this thing will be good to go next season…
But as we all know, cross bikes are much more diverse than that. We’ll be seeing more of this beauty in the coming months, I’m sure of it.
It’s not every year that the USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals land in your backyard. Over the past few days, the crews here in Austin have been mapping out the course, staking turns and building lots of the additions to the otherwise rough and rocky limestone outcroppings.
There are a number of places where you’ll be able to gain momentum, until it ends abruptly with sharp turns and muddy corners. The course is soaking wet today, but it’s not supposed to rain anymore until Saturday. Right now, it looks like it’ll be a blast, especially going down the main hill before the uphill barriers.
I swung by today after a ride and shot a few quick photos, after pre-riding most of the course (which isn’t allowed apparently). I’m damn impressed with how well things are shaping up.
Check out some preview photos in the Gallery.
I should preface this gallery by saying, as an isolated selection of images, it’s ok. But after I post all the content I got from this weekend, it’ll be more complete. That includes, reviews, portraits and yeah, my new cross bike. For now, however, it does encapsulate our race conditions and a rather fun way to end the season.
We’ve had a fairly wet fall here in Austin, resulting in some grueling races with a lot of mud. The problem is, we don’t get normal mud here, since the base is limestone. Instead, we get iron-rich clay and clay, well, clay doesn’t like bikes. At all. Unless it’s in the drying process, when suddenly it becomes rails of brown pow.
Saturday’s race was more of a Tough Mudder course than a race course, with the day starting off as a 2 mile track, with around 1.25 miles of running. It sucked. Sucked the energy from your legs, sucked your derailleur off your hanger and sucked all the space it could find within your stays, cranks and fork. The officials shortened the course, resulting in faster times, but still, a lot of running. I’ve never had to shoulder a bike in a race before. Usually, everything was ridable, for some of us, anyway.
When Sunday came around and I could barely walk, I wasn’t looking forward to the course.
Alas, there’s that magical moment where mud transforms to fast lines of singletrack through the woods and mudpits become tacky enough to form a rut. Those are the moments where cross racing takes hold of your skills and sharpens them like a battle ax. Sunday was amazing and fast!
After doing my thing, there was talk of a chili eat-off between one of the older teams in town and the newer teams. Yacht Club vs Super Awesome. I had my money on the later, since Yacht Club prides themselves on their fine dining and boyish physiques. Boy was I wrong…
For the past two years, a few guys from Beat the Clock Cycling have taken to the open roads the morning after Thanksgiving to escape Turkey-snacking and Black Friday madness. This time of year is when we get in our camping trips. It’s not 100º out and the only worrisome factors are the sudden cold fronts that blow in and yeah, the horrible headwinds that make trekking south-bound unbearable.
Still, knowing we might face rain and 30+ mph headwinds, a few of us loaded up our TT bikes (tent time bikes) and glanced over Nick’s route through Texas Hill Country. On the agenda: Pedernales State Park and Guadalupe River State park, the former of which, none of us had ever been to.
Our previous trip was such a success that we were all stoked to just get out and ride. John had missed us the first round – he was on his honeymoon – but brought along a whole bottle of Weller 12 year that was left over from his wedding. That and a bag of Flat Track Coffee…
a skid a day!
Well, we’re back! It was a fun, windy and sunny time but we made it home mostly in one piece. Expect updates to the site all day tomorrow and once I get my film developed, I’ll post up our route, as well as some selects.
’til then, check out our Instagram accounts: @johnprolly, @dwntwnbikr, @messengerofjustice and @jkneve
I hope you had a great weekend!
You’ll have to excuse the excess in this photo gallery. There are a lot of shots in here.
Now that I stated the obvious, here’s even more… In Texas, we don’t get much rain, nor do we get many rainy cross races. So when the sky opens and the mud builds up, don’t be surprised to see file tread tires and Red cassettes in the staging areas.
Like house cats, having escaped for the weekend, a lot of people got quite the shock when every corner was suddenly slick and every descent, a myriad of dark brown ruts, with no grass to grip for traction.
Saturday’s race has been called the best of the season. A lotta climbing, as much descending. All in glorious mud. As the afternoon went on, it got worse and by the time the B’s raced – which is what I was in – it was pouring on us. Things didn’t go so well and I didn’t shoot many photos of Saturday’s race, but Sunday. Sunday was a blast.
New course, still just as muddy, with a run up that some of us rode and yes, plenty of pain…
Read along in the captions and enjoy the Gallery!