The Bilenky Cycle Works Urban Junkyard Cyclocross Race is not your typical cross race. Unless your idea of typical includes riding through stacks of junked cars, ducking under I-beams, traversing railroad ties and taking a trip through a storage trailer. Like the City of Brotherly Love, this race is gritty, a bit rough around the edges and something that for some reason you find yourself wanting to return to. And like any true Philly sporting event, bring your “A” game because your fans are sure to let you know if you have not. This year’s race attracted all kinds from the newbie racer to the pro-mountain biker to a newly minted national cyclocross champ.
The 3rd annual running of the junkyard cyclocross took place December 21 and I caught up with four souls that voluntarily risked tetanus and grave bodily harm to take part in the day’s festivities. Here are their thoughts on how it all went down.
Not to state the obvious, but this race is different. What makes it different for you?
MARC VETTORI aka FAT MARC (C3 Sollay.com): I didn’t make my mind up that I was going until the morning of … Only brought one bike, no trainer.. Worried about staying dry and warm more than anything else. The course was super fun, but not so UCI.USCF legal. Hell, I’m not sure it’s legal anywhere and I mean the laws of the land, not cross rules. VIVA LA RESISTANCE!
HARLAN PRICE (Independent Fabrication): It’s in a junkyard. It’s officially not serious, but is seriously fun.
ANNE ROCK (Sturdy Girl): Fear of tetanus.
DAMIEN TALESE (Ambler, Pa.): I’ve never done a CX race before. I don’t do much if any racing. Mostly ride with friends just for the fun of riding (and to stay in shape).
How did you prepare for the race? Pre-race food, warm-up, pre-race ritual?
FAT MARC: Well since Reston [Capital ‘Cross Classic] I’ve been riding my fixed gear two days a week. I’ve also been catching up on eating and drinking. Especially the stuff I skipped during cross season. I got to do some days at the climbing gym working some bouldering problems, too. None of that was proper preparation. Saturday night I went to a party that my buddy Peaches’s in-laws hosted. Buddy the keg breaker made sure I was properly hydrated. Jeff [Bahnson] bought me a chicken and bacon sandwich from the roach coach before our race.
ANNE: Race preparation: Prepare? Pre-race food: candy canes. Warm-up: Rode from my house in Mt Airy, Pa. Pre-race ritual: usually, a visit to a heated bathroom and listening to my IPod that has songs in sync with my warm up pyramid.
DAMIEN: Race preparation: Weather was iffy, so I sat on my couch all morning and wrestled with myself “go or not go.” Pre race food: coffee and a bagel. Warm-up: one lap around the course. No pre race ritual.
What did you wear and did you get it right for the weather?
DAMIEN: Spandex and a winter Under Armor top Gore jersey. Yes I got it right, until I got wet during my warm-up. Then got wetter during the race.
FAT MARC: I had initially planned on riding my race by being paced by Anne Rock, but she stood me up. I had intended to wear my cargo pants and my Granogue Cross sweatshirt. Jeff was in the heat before me and wearing his pajama bottoms. They got really funky, really quickly. I quickly slipped back to the car and put on some tights and my C3-Sollay.com shorts. I pulled the bibs up over the sweatshirt for maximum sexiness.
HARLAN: I always get it right. Even when I’m wrong.
ANNE: I have a knack for that. Extra socks, plenty of wool, and lobster claws for the ride home.
What bike did you race? What tires and pressure?
DAMIEN: SS Ti Bontrager, Maxxis mobster tire, 35 psi. I liked the course it was nice.
ANNE: The Felt FX1 with Michelin Muds. I didn’t flat, so I guess the pressure was just right.
HARLAN: Pneumatic hydrolic cross IF machine. Rubber higher than usual.
FAT MARC: I raced my 5 year old Fort Frames Cross bike. I had clinchers on. No tubulars for the junk yard. I think I ran 35lbs in front and rear.
Describe the course. What was the best part of the course? Sketchiest?
FAT MARC: After you rode out of the trailer there was a couple of switch backs. The one cut left hard. I would always go way outside and start to dive in. With the normal taped courses I could lean the tape to make the corner. Unfortunately there was the frontend of FORD F150 as the course marker, and I came awfully close to being a fly on the windshield a number of times. The 6-pack of railroad ties were fun to ride over.
HARLAN: Through a junkyard. Take every piece of road shrapnel you’ve ever seen and put it in a two acre lot. Best part was the stupid sign. Sketchiest was the submerged railroad rails.
ANNE: It was hard to see the course through my mud encrusted eyes. Lots of pot holes, lots of cars, train tracks, dead bodies, and crack vials. Best course of the year. I didn’t pre-ride the course, so I found entering and exiting the trailer a bit of a surprise.
DAMIEN: I liked the course it was nice. The best part and sketchiest was the trailer with the trailer people in it. Once you got in it the floor was wet and slippery.
Is this your first time doing this race?
DAMIEN: It was my first time doing this race and first CX race.
ANNE: First time doing this race.
HARLAN: First time.
FAT MARC: Yeah, it was. I’ll definitely be back.
What was the key moment in your race?
HARLAN: Taking a lazy line, thinking I had enough of a gap, but not counting on a slipped pedal to let Bush come around. [ed. note: Harlan finished 2nd behind Bush].
FAT MARC: A few thoughts here. The start was way faster than I had expected. I quickly found myself near the back. Next about 7 laps into my 10 lap heat, I realized that riding the fixed gear bike to the donut shop wasn’t great training for a 10 lap cross race. Finally, and this was the biggest key for me, was realizing that Anne Rock had showed up during my heat, and that since I had qualified for the final (by finishing 4th in my heat), that she was going to race the final for me. Jeff, who took second in his heat had the same idea, and Anne raced the 2 lap final wearing both our numbers.
ANNE: When the little dog ran in front of me. Didn’t see that coming.
DAMIEN: I was in the mix ’til he said go. Everything just blended together.
Any standout moment before, during or after the race you can share with us?
ANNE: Seeing Damien trying to race cross. The roach coach. The dude in the red, white and blue outfit. Pirates. The usual.
HARLAN: Wrapping ourselves in packing tape.
FAT MARC: Once I realized that the gap between Dan Langolis (Action Dan) and me was not changing and I asked him to slow down and wait for me. That tactic didn’t work and better than me trying to chase my brains out to catch him. My Jedi skills are weak. Dan’s are much stronger than mine.
Give some advice to somebody thinking about doing the Junkyard CX race next year.
DAMIEN: My advice-It’s a must do race, there is a big mix of people racing. From pro MTB racer to the non-pro MTB racer. Even if you just wanna go and spectate you can. There was beer and food and chill people hanging out all day.
ANNE: Heavy sedation and lots of bacon before the ride. Also, many changes of clothes. Or just ride naked-that way you’ll avoid a wet kit.
HARLAN: It’s not a race. If you don’t appreciate petroleum products on your face don’t go.
FAT MARC: Beer than liquor never sicker, liquor than beer, have no fear. Buy low, Sell High. If it’s too good to be true it probably is.
Give a shout out.
DAMIEN: Shout out to Bilenky bike builders and whose ever junk yard we were in.
ANNE: A shout out to the fine folks of Bilenky bikes for hosting this grand event. Also, the [DCCoD] stalwarts Jeff B. and FatMarc for giving me their race paper-plates. You guys are alright in my book!
FAT MARC: My wife Diane rules. This lifestyle wouldn’t be as fun or even possible without her. I’ve said it before but having a partner who understands all this Tom Foolery that is the cross lifestyle just makes all this that much more awesome. Thanks to the Delaware Cyclocross Coalition of Delaware. Thanks to Lauri Webber for allowing me to take her 15-year-old son to race in a junkyard. Jeb is a great traveling partner. To all my teammates on C3-Sollay.com, the 2008 MAC Cup Champions; Thanks to my coach Chris Mayhew. Thanks to Kris Auer for deciding on a black kit. For a bigger fellow like myself, black is very slimming. Thanks to folks at Henry’s bikes and Howard at Newark Bike Line for their support as well. . I’d also like to thank the inventor of the apple fritter, clearly the world’s most dominate donut. Thanks to Lenore for emailing me and telling me the race was still on. I was getting ready to settle in for a long day of couch surfing, and this was much more fun.