Friday, September 16, 2011
Waaay back in August, when the temperature was still above 70 degrees at all times, I went over to Ireland to race SSWC 2011. Joining me for the race was Thom Parsons, Gerry Finnegan, and Rob Ide. Of course my bike didn't make the connecting flight so I spent the first 30 hours trying to get updates of its whereabouts and having to stay close to the house.
When it did arrive, the frame was sticking out of the cardboard box though nothing was missing or damaged
I reassembled the bike on Friday night (yes, awesome way to spend my night in Dublin) so we'd be ready to go on Saturday morning. Although I had free lodging with Gerry's family in Dublin, it was at least 2.5 hours away from the race sight. We set out in two cars with bikes in the trunks and made it to the registration table about 10 minutes after they had closed. Luckily this is SSWC, not a Verge race, so they were more than happy to re-open and get us squared away. It also only took about 30 seconds per person because they don't have lengthy waivers and licenses.
Since it was SSWC, 90% of participants had a costume or bizarre attire of some sort and probably 50% were already drinking.
Everyone left town together and we were escorted by local police some 6 or 7 miles to the trails. It's comical enough to ride an mtb on the road, but to see a group of 500+ on single speeds with trail gearing was even better. Beers were passed around, costumes got stuck in the spokes, and janky single speed conversions were failing left and right...and we hadn't even made it to staging yet!
Once at staging, we were told to leave our bikes and go over to the music/food/beer tents that they'd set up. This gave people more time to drink beer and dance it up while the organizers disorganized all of our bikes. An eternity later, we lined up under one of those inflatable arch things and were sent running up the hill to where our bikes had been left. Slightly anaerobic from running, we all scrambled to find where they'd hid our bikes. White bikes were all piled on top of each other (there were A LOT of white bikes). Some were hung from trees, some were moved all the way from the front to the back, and some, like mine, were barely moved at all. Despite my bike barely being moved, I still spent a ton of time looking for it because I expected it to have been moved. Finally found it and set out on the two lap, roughly 20 mile course, behind at least half of the field.
We started with a long-ish fire road climb where those with janky single speeds that made it through the road ride began shooting parts into the air as their riders tried to grind the 34x15 up the hill. Seriously, so many broken chains in the first .5 miles. When I finally came to the single track, I had to dismount and wait as we funneled into the trail. Not fun! The single track though, was fun, and whenever possible I'd pass a rider or two and then try to pass a dozen on the next double track. It went like that for the whole first lap until early into the second lap when I was finally clear of traffic for a bit. Not much they could have done, but it did make for a less than stellar first half and reminded me how important it is to start well (and find your bike) if you want to take an event seriously. Also, next year my bike will be neon pink so I can't miss it!
Anyway, the course was pretty fun, and it was impressively dry given that it's in Ireland where it is rainy and crappy 364 days of the year. The winner was a local who apparently is in charge of mountain biking in Ireland and may well have built the trails. Hey, I didn't want the tattoo anyway. I did get a heinous neon orange shirt and stupid looking mismatched socks with leprechauns (seriously guys, save your money and give me a free beer or two instead) which were both used to clean my muddy bike before packing for the return.
Overall, I had fun. We didn't get to immerse ourselves in the usual silliness of the event because we were staying far away and because we had to rush back to Dublin afterwards so I can't comment on who won the partying (though I know Thom won the pre-party).
Next year is in South Africa which definitely is not going to happen for me. It's ok because I think singlespeedapalooza and Dark Horse 40 are probably better anyway.
I didn't take many pictures, but there are some good ones here: http://acunamatadaar.blogspot.com/2011/08/sswc-2011-ireland.html