Another edition of Flagstaff’s longest running underground race & Fourth of July festival, the Cruiser Nation, is in the books. It is a downhill (mostly) run on single speeds at high noon, winner take all, full on local bragging rights grudge match. And, for the rest, an excuse to act like a moron out in the woods.
The race starts Le Mans style with all the competitors attempting to speed walk to their bicycles a good 100 yards up the hill. And this year, speed walking was enforced by Team Hobo’s able rock throwing contingent.
Yes, they actually threw those rocks at people. That boulder he’s holding looks like a Paris Roubaix trophy. Please note the Coors Light sunglasses and beer in his back pocket. The kid has style for miles.
The holeshot was taken by Jesse (edit note: I had him down incorrectly as Jeremy earlier.) running an Ibis Mountain Trails with a 24 inch rear wheel. You don’t see too many of those around anymore. Second to the corner was the Gnome. I’m not sure what happened to either of these guys aside from the fact they did not take the top spot. Third was Art Keith, this year’s winner.
Art is an Indiana native and proud Indiana University alumnus. The man is a Cutter. Yes, he has raced in Bloomington’s own Little 500. Yes, he’s been back to work as a mechanic for the same race. Yes, he’s down by law.
I asked him why he was wearing a hippie dirtbag Grateful Dead shirt. And he told me, “Dude, my parents were hippies!”
And, as always, it ends with a big pile of bikes and a whole lotta beer.
Here are some more pics of the event: picasaweb.google.com/CruiserNation07.
** Update **
The Cutter himself chimes in:
I thought I’d share a few words about the 14th annual Cruiser Nation Downhill. First, thanks to all the gnarly locals who show up and make this the great and highly entertaining event that it is. So since I was late last year and missed the damn start, I was up there a freakin’ half hour early this year which only allowed more time to mix, mingle and drink with some of Flag’s best that I don’t get to see every day. That’s right drinking before you race is not an unheard of practice with this crowd, and when it is 90 degrees a cold beer is not to be turned down. So I ended up doing a couple shots of what we thought must have been Beam and then had a nice cold beer about 5 minutes before the start.
I’m sure I didn’t consume the most before the start but it was enough to get a little loose before going into that first corner with only a rear brake, talk about loose, shit people were all over the trail. The start was interesting and I think the key is to not get too far ahead of the group in the speed walk because that is when you get pelted with the rocks. I personally did not but the guy next to me took a good sized one in the back, that’s right not just spectators but the other racers can throw them too. So I stayed in the group until I grabbed the bike and somehow managed to be 3rd or 4th into the woods.
Crazy shit then ensued, I was just following Jeremy and the gnome trying to keep it upright and see through the holes in the dust whenever possible. The shit was fast and these guys were going for it. Somebody washed out in a corner and I squeaked by, then the next corner two guys who had probably been out preriding the course all week used a cheater line to cut out a slow corner passed all three of us, then it looked like the gnome got caught by surprise when a log that is 1.5-2’ off the ground appeared from out of the dust in front of him.
The gnome was going a little (maybe a lot) too fast and locked it up only to have his front tire explode when he hit the log and then cartwheeled over it. Pretty spectacular and I was ready to call it a day because I thought he was going to need some attention. However, he said he was fine and I cruised by in pursuit of the questionable leaders. These guys were giving it there all though and even banged bars and did some shouldering all at what seemed to be about 30mph on a loose dusty trail. I figured I was doing great just to be in third and would wait to see if these guys might make a mistake.
Sure enough good old karma came into play and the front guy goes down, the dude in second has to hit his brakes so he doesn’t run the guy over. I had a front row seat and just stood up and punched it. So I made it around both of them and then just put my head down. That was a mistake because I then rode off course. In the few seconds it took to realize my error Timmy, last years champ rolled past. Damn, I thought I had it and then lost it. But to my good fortune, and Tim’s bad, he flatted and I was able to roll back by maybe a hundred yards before the finish. A victory for just riding smooth I guess.
Then the real fun started with a victory Tecate and bacon cheeseburger made on site, sweet! This is a great event and anyone near Flag on July 4th should not miss this one but bring the right bike or you will be ridiculed into submission. Also the Tie-dyed dead shirt was just to prove cyclists can look stupid without wearing lycra and since stupid seemed to be the theme for the day, well you know, when in Rome…
A little about the Little 500 and the Cutters too. This is a great amateur event that has been going on at Indiana University since 1950, long before “Breaking Away” introduced it to the general public. I went back this April (usually the third weekend) because I new the Cutters had a good chance and really I just can’t stand missing this thing. Unlike any bike race you have ever seen with plenty of chaos and drunk people too. In this case the drunk people are not on bikes but rather in the stands, many in groups with their sorority sisters!
So I went back and offered to wrench, was treated to some of the greatest weather in recent Little 5 memory, and a great race that saw 5 teams together on the final lap. The Cutters rode a textbook race and got their sprinter to the final lap and he did just what he said he was going to do and took it from the first turn letting no one around on the backstretch. With this the Cutters notched up there 8th victory tying them for first all time with the legendary Delta Chi teams (Dale and Wayne Stetna) of the seventies.
The Cutters have achieved this in only half the time since they have only been a team since 1980 proving once again, I think, that karma can affect the outcome of bike races, I hope. For anyone in the mid-west in April this is an event to attend including the postrace parties that fill the neighborhoods for the weekend, and where this year I saw a guy ride an office chair for a block and a half down a hill without spilling his beer!