August 26, 2011
Race day. This was my first thought as I woke up in our tent. The whole trip culminated around this one day. This was the reason we came to Ireland. This is why we are here. In Ireland, the nights are cold and the ground is hard. To save space, I opted out from bringing my ground pad and was starting to regret it. My body was tired and sore and I hadn’t even stood up yet let alone race my ass off in costume. But it was race day and I was excited.
I threw on some clothes and we walked down into town to find some breakfast. We had breakfast at Molly’s. The eggs and toast were good but the scone was nothing to talk about. I was a little nervous about finishing up the last minute work on the costumes that was needed so I set up a makeshift tailor shop in the tent (way too cold outside!!)
I spent the next two hours sewing pants, tying my hat to my helmet, sewing stripes onto socks, pinning and folding, etc. It took a little longer than expected but was WELL WORTH IT!
The Single Speed World Championships s an annual event. It’s a goofy, beer-driven event with a bunch of crazy people on single speed or fixed gear bikes (I know not much about this considering this was my 3rd day on a single speed, EVER). If you look at the winners from years past, USA has dominated, for the most part. But that’s not really important. The most important part of the championships is that you have a kick ass costume and are shit-faced by the end of the race. The top three finishers are documented and everyone else comes in “4th.” So, your odds are pretty good of getting “Top 5.” (in an SSWC kind of way). The first place man and woman don’t get some lame jersey to wear around for the rest of the year. They get a tattoo. If you don’t want a tattoo, don’t come in first.
Back at camp, our transformations were complete. The camp had turned into an Alice in Wonderland kind of circus. A local reporter came around to get a load of all the costumes – they were all pretty impressive. He called our costumes, “”fancy dress” and went around asking some questions. He was hard to understand. We all had a bit of fun with it…
It was time. Heart racing and costume complete, we rode down to the marquee tent for an informational meeting (not a whole lot of information given other than, “ride your bike, yea?!?”). Then it was time for the “Parade of Nations.” We rode from the center of town to the race start at Ballyhoura Bike Center. Tires, handlebars, costumes, yelling, cowbells…it was quite a show.
SSWC is more of a tongue in cheek race than a “serious” race. Don’t be confused by what I mean. There are some serious competitors in this race. World Champions, Pro Mountain Bikers and crazy bastards who train all year for this one event but no one takes themselves too seriously. You are meant to laugh. You are meant to have fun. You are meant to joke. Get on your bike and hoot and holler and make it to the end as fast as you can.
While we were standing around drinking beers at the finish line waiting for the race to start, the race coordinators were “moving our bikes around” at the starting line.
Can you find your bike? It took me a little while. Race on.
I was determined to finish the entire race (2 laps) even though most everyone that is a normal rider (i.e. not a crazy fit single speeder) only does one. You can opt out at after lap one (who cares, right? YOU aren’t going to win!) but I DID care. I had never quit a race halfway through. I have always finished. And I was going to finish this one, too.
The track was sweet. It was awesome. The best riding I did the entire trip. I was having a blast. The bridges, single-track, and technical riding was all enough to make you whoop and holler.
That last lap was hard. Delirious after lap 1, I had to ask which way to go at the loop. Half way through the second lap, I was a wreck. It was raining. I had fallen a dozen times, including face to the bridge on a slick corner. I was tired. My hat askew and my chin bleeding, I crossed the finish line. The party had begun and I grabbed a smoothie and a Snickers bar with a grin on my face.
Cold setting in, we rode back to camp freezing. Back at camp, I took a nap but got pulled out of the tent an hour later by our teammates ready to party.
Duvel bottle empty, we took off for McCarthy’s bar for the awards ceremony. McCarthy’s is a true Irish bar. I love Ireland for this. There are still stout old men running the best pubs in town complete with the pretty daughter behind the bar. Henry is one of these people and his daughter completes the package of McCarthy’s.
After the place was jammed with people, awards were announced – first, to DFL – Dead Fucking Last and then first placers were asked to stand up and show off their tattoos. First, was women’s class:
Then, men’s class. Dude started to pull his pants down! I’ll spare you the grundle pictures we accidentally took!
People were peeking in through the windows to get a look at the party. The place was HOT and it was time to head out but before we could squeeze through the mob and out the door, our South African Ambassador took over the microphone…SSWC 2012 will be hosted in South Africa thanks to the glorious singing of this guy:
SSWC 2011 refused to end quietly. The party went strong until 5:30am. Next year, South Africa. See you there. In costume.