In fact at Secret Squirrel they are encouraged and supported. And the sales from the hand ups go to support the troops. I would say that is a win, win. Secret Squirrel is a first year race put on by Mike O’Connell and the rad folks at Rock Hard Racing. It is the type of race that we love. Grassroots, fun, community based and a legit course. The Zank SSCX is all about these types of races. When we look at our schedule each year this is the type of race we want to feature. In New England we have so many races. And each year we see more and more of these types of races becoming more popular. It is a great thing for CX. So what makes a race like Secret Squirrel so great? I think it starts with the promoter. Any promoter that has a DJ, beer tent, food trucks and caters to single speeders and fat bikes is A+ in my book.
One of the most fun parts of this CX season has been #hype. I don’t think I have to explain hype but the way it happens in the NECX is pretty funny. It begins with maybe some secretive tweet or image being posted. Then a youtube video follows of course set up. Then the promoter sends out a hype email and sets off a full on hype frenzy about the event. I don’t even really understand it. But why try to understand magic? If you saw a Unicorn in the woods would you try and make sense of it? Of course not. Often times the SSCX race sort of feels like a bit of an after thought. But at Secret Squirrel we were 100% embraced. I somehow was elected to be the bouncer. I was hyped. I will say that.
Having a race the weekend after Thanksgiving rules in my opinion. Thanksgiving is all about family. And the NECX is my family. No doubt about it. I miss them when I don’t see them. Getting to see everyone and have an in season reunion was perfect. The course at Secret Squirrel was so euro. We use the term euro to describe a lot of the woodsy type courses we like to ride here in New England. But its more than just woods riding that makes a course euro. It is the terrain. And soil. And the techy features. Secret Squirrel could hurt you. You had to be on your A game in the woods section. It really pushed you to find good lines and be smart. The mix of sand, dirt and pine needles made for such a unique course. The run ups were legit. I hate running but these made the course better.
We had about 35 SSCX racers lined up for the last race of the day. We also had about 10 fat bikes. I know some people don’t really like racing with the fat bikes but it cracks me up. I like that we go off as one big rolling Island of Misfit toys. The fat bikes bring that kind of old school mtb vibe to the race. And certainly on a course like Secret Squirrel they had both an advantage and a HUGE disadvantage. My fat bike probably weights 35 pounds. I can’t even imagine trying to push, carry or drag my fat bike up some of those sandy run ups. I would have thrown it in the woods and just drank all the beer. I lined up next to my good friend and legend Mike Zanconato. One of the most amazing things about our series is that our founder and a bunch of our sponsors race the series. It makes it even more of a community than it already is.
I was super stoked to be lined up next to Mike. We got a clean start. Kind of. We hit a sandy bit on the outside of the first corner and almost lost it but we railed through that and into the first little woods sector with a jump at the end of it. Into the chain link fence section. Then we were just pacing it up the grass straights and into the barriers. We get to the barriers and Mikey stacks it into the first plank. He kind of saves it then slams into the second plank. He pulls it together and we take off chasing down the group ahead of us. We have a great couple of laps. Just full gas. I literally stop being able to breathe. With about two laps to go Mike crushes me on the little climb out of the fields and takes off. It was a great move. I thought I could bring him back in the woods but he put even more distance into me up there. Impressive. Mike had such a great race. Power and skill all dialed in.
The big story of the day though was the quest for the vest. We have had a leaders denim vest this season. It has changed hands a few times on the women’s side. But on the men’s side Bob Stine has owned that vest all season long. Pete Smith has battled and chipped away at that lead throughout. But coming into Secret Squirrel it looked tight. Twenty points separated the two riders. Pete ended up in a battle with Brad Smith for the podium. The front end of the SSCX race has gotten so competitive. It really is amazing to see how this has grown. The top ten were battling the whole race. When the dust settled Pete had claimed the vest by 2 points. Two. Points. With one race to go left in the series it is going to be really exciting to see how it plays out. HUGE congrats to Pete for leading the series. Mad props to Bob Stine for his class and competitiveness. He has really upped the level of racing this season. We wish them both the best of luck heading into Ice Weasels.