Coming off the gong show that was SSUSA in Winona, and leaving Colorado fresh from the Epic Rides inaugural Grand Junction Off-Road, I knew it was going to take every ounce of my legs and liver to survive the journey to SSWC in Italy. But I was once called DC’s test monkey, and that’s what I’m here for, your viewing pleasure.
I was traveling with a highly specialized crew of SS veterans. Coldhands, whom I had met while drinking Budweiser and watching porn with the locals during SSWC in Ireland. And Chewy, the Godfather of Fat Bikes and Single Speeds of the Upper Midwest. It had only been two weeks since SSUSA, so our trio hit the ground stumbling right from Customs. We touched down in Nice, France and immediately hopped the drunk train to Finale Ligure, Italy, where we could shred their famed 24-hour course.
After two long nights of wine, beach wrestling, and trampolines; we got our shit together to ride. Having joined forces with Alvarez and Boozy the Clown, we were now rolling five deep on trails floating directly above the Mediterranean. Two hours of the most ridiculous views I’ve ever caught from a bike. Steep, twisty singletrack right above the goddamn Sea.
Road beers and wine kept the stoke high as we rolled into town late to find that Team USA was already well in the lead for the 2014 hosting after destroying the Pixie Cross race.
And the destruction continued at the poor unsuspecting little bar we descended upon. Several rounds deep the wheels started to come off when the pixie bikes were brought in and from there the bartender lost all control.
Scottish women were scared, bikes were thrown, and an Englishman was passed out in a shrubbery. Finally it was a mountain bike race. Sensing the looming trouble his friend was in, Charlie the Bikemonger drops this one on me; “Sometimes you just have to let your friends die in the mountains”. Truth.
Race start Saturday came like a freight train and we found ourselves being shuttled high above town to the start. As the peloton walked down the hill for the LeMans run, Team USA built a modest pile of front wheels and did some other rearranging.
Some good steep techy at the beginning, but then it smoothed out along an alpine river. Throw in some good hills to keep us honest and 90 minutes in I found myself at beer station 1. Local kids all too happy to be left in charge of the booze made sure we left with one in hand.
After a good handful of beers, I rendezvoused with Chewy and Coldhands for the second half of the “race”. Trudging through some more double track hills and techy rock gardens brought us to beer station 2 about an hour later.
We had picked up Surly James and it was now clear that the four of us had a firm grasp on DFL. Could I have rode faster? Yes. Would I have had more fun? Fuck no. We took as much beer as we could and rode on, past fields of dairy cows and amazing waterfalls of glacial runoff. It was stunning scenery; ride too fast and you’ll miss it.
We stopped for a beer along the river when I found myself questioning something. “I either sharted, or it’s just all the chamois butter. Oh well, can’t do anything about it now.” I decided it was the latter, so we pedaled on.
Just before the finish we pulled up to a tiny country store to buy some celebratory wine. I convinced the confused owner to give me the bottle and some plastic cups to go. If we were going to roll four deep across the line for DFL, we were going to do it in style.
Post-race the hosting competition continued with a 4-person short track relay, and a bike toss. And with the big lead from the pixie cross in hand, Team USA again jumped out front and brought it home.
SSWC 2014 – Fucking ALASKA
It seems a very appropriate choice to me, a place most Americans never think about let alone travel to. That will be some real shit, no faking it up there. And the locals just may be up to the challenge.
The after party rolled on to the wee hours inside a classy restaurant turned Discotheque. Jake and Sam got the mosh pit going strong, while one of the REEB ladies kept the DJ in check. “Don’t you play that fucking Britney Spears pop shit!” The Belgians decided to play guest bartender, and soon the Jack Daniels was flowing free.
Boozy found a nice spot to rest in the back, and it didn’t take long before the crowd had donated a nice blanket of bras and undies. One of the local girls asked me as I came out of the bathroom with boxers in hand, “Is this a mountain bike tradition?”, and I believe I said, “It is now!”. I think they extended last call about three or four times for us that night. Such love.
Morning showed no mercy and the daunting task of finding our way back to Nice could only be soothed by breakfast wine. It seemed reasonable to me anyway. As stories were being swapped of the night before, Trevor jumps out of a random van shouting “I come bearing underwear!”
Apparently he had salvaged everyone’s skivvies and began to distribute among the group. Breakfast wine turned to lunch, and from there most of Team USA loaded into the local bus and descended down the valley to Aosta to catch trains to various cities.
And just like that, it was over. Bikes ridden, beers emptied, wine guzzled, locals frightened. We did what we came to do. I had the time of my life; I can’t imagine having more fun, in a better place, with better people. Not much more I can say but, see you in Alaska homies!