The Zanconato singlespeed series presented by NEXT wheels was created six years ago on the muddy fields of White Barn Farm in Wrentham, MA. At a drunken Ice Weasels we all thought how do we keep this SSCX party going all season long?
When I announced my impending retirement from pro racing along with mine & Niels’ intention to create the Northwest Women’s Cyclocross Project, I also stated my intention to race some single speed cyclocross and target SSCXWC as my “A” race for the season. Although I was half joking, I actually did want a goal to work towards to keep me on the bike through the gloomy Seattle fall. I retired from pro racing and went back to work full time; I did not retire from riding my bike or the joy of slipping and sliding around in the mud.
Retirement means different things to different people. For me, continuing to race single speed was the perfect balance of having something to train for while participating in a subset of a sport that embraces everyone from pro racers to total beginners. Also from a pragmatic standpoint, it rarely…
SSCX racing in New England was pretty much born at Ice Weasels. True story. Before Colin and Thom got a wicked smart idea to have a dedicated SSCX race at the end of season party…err I mean race no one and I mean no one raced SSCX. Ok, that is a lie. Thom did. He raced a sick pink IF against geared riders. And had about as much fun as you would expect at that time. A SS Mtb racer can do some damage against geared racers in New England. But racing a SSCX bike against a bunch Killer Bs hopped up on red bulls and dreaming of elite glory is no joke. Thom (and Colin although he always denies it) deserve so much credit for spawning the Zank SSCX Series. We got the idea around year 3. If you hadn’t noticed sometimes we are a bit slow on the uptake. But on those beer soaked fields at White Barn Farm this series was born. And I can’t thank Thom and Colin enough for giving us the gift that keeps on giving.
Ice Weasels is the end of season CXmas Party for the NECX. It is like an Office Holiday Party but on bikes. And like all Office Parties shit gets pretty weird at times. And the photos and videos the next day are laugh out loud hilarious. Ice Weasels never disappoints. It moved to Riverpoint CX Park in Warwick two years ago and has found a new home. The RI crew have done such an amazing job with the venue. A dedicated CX park where they let us pretty much get rad all day long. I want to say a heartfelt thanks to the NECT crew not only for making Ice Weasels so great but for making the whole Zank SSCX Series so rad. They went all in. Bob Stine and Melissa Downs were at every race. They embraced the leaders vest 100% and made it what it is today. When we came up with the idea with the vest we had no idea how people would respond. Bob and Melissa took it to a whole other level than what we thought it would. HUGE high fives to those two and their entire team.
This year’s Ice Weasels was looking to live up to its name. Climate change or just weird New England weather serves up lots of oddball weather at Ice Weasels. We have had some really cold years. And we have had years like last year when it was in the 40/50s. This year a few forecasts were saying 9 degrees. I was freaking a bit out about that I won’t lie. But it never was that bad. It was cold in the early parts of the day but luckily SSCX racers go off last as the premier race of the day so we started at the warmest time of the day. This is very helpful when people are in costumes. Or not in costume or clothes as one hearty SSCX racer did.
There was a lot on the line this year. It came down to a close race between Pete Smith of Mad Alchemy and Bob Stine from NECT for the overall in the men’s race. Pete edged Bob out to take the overall title of the 2016 Zank SSCX Series presented by Mad Alchemy. Congrats to both Pete and Bob. You are both true champions in my mind. Both raced with class and spirit the whole season. And they both encouraged and cheered on every racer on the course. And we all drank beers together after every race. That is what makes our series great in my opinion.
The women’s overall was just as exciting. Melissa Downs pretty much took that vest at White Park in NH back in September and never let it go. She is one of my favorite racers in the whole NECX. She showed up at IW in an Evil Knevil costume. Her bike had a faux exhaust pipe with a noise maker attached. The women bring so much to this series. We have had some really great battles all season long. I have to again give a MAJOR shout out to the Zip Tie Fairy Lesli Cohen. This series can not happen without her. She does so much for the series. The series is really a DIY affair done as a labor of love. It has grown to what it is in large part because of Lesli.
This year’s Ice Weasels sold out so fast it wasn’t even funny. I think there were over 100 SSCXers and 30 fat bikes. It made for some pretty hilarious media. The first trip into the Danger Zone got pretty exciting I will say that. One of our main goals in the series it to make sure everyone feels welcome. And to convert the geared to singlespeed.
Thank you to everyone who came out and raced this season. HUGE thanks to our sponsors: Zanconato Custom Cycles, Mad Alchemy, 3Cross Brewing, Feedback Sports, Castelli, Crossresults.com and Jake’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream and Bakery. Thank you to the promoters for letting our little Island of Misfit Toys invade your race. If you have ideas for next season or want to be a part of the series in any way just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. For now may your beer be cold, your bourbon warm and your cupcakes fresh. Cheers
One of the coolest things about the Zank SSCX series is the end of season raffle. We save all our prizes until the end and then hold a massive raffle/party at Ice Weasels. For every race in the series a racer does they get a raffle ticket. The more races you do the more chances you get to win really cool stuff. And the Mac Daddy of all the raffle prizes is a custom built Zanconato CX frame! Last year’s winner was Eric Lovering. He is the owner of Chainline Cycles in Laconia, NH. He is relatively new to CX. But in a very short time he and his team have made a huge impact on our series. The Chainline Pain Train as we affectionally call them always brings it. And by bring it I mean bring home-brew and custom koozies to every race. And they are always at the front. They are one of the teams that really has made this series so rad.
When we pulled Eric’s raffle ticket out of the hat last year I think we were more excited than he was. Well that is a lie. I have never seen anyone more excited to win a raffle. Eric’s enthusiasm is probably one of the things I love the most about him. He is always psyched about life. The big unveil came at Putney this season. Eric’s bike named Glitter Bomb is a beauty. It is built with Dedacciai Force OS tube set, Ahrens thru axle rear dropouts, PF30 BB shell with Niner Biocentric30 insert and sick ass race ready geometry.
Mike Zanconato sums up SSCX succinctly, “The feel of riding and racing a single speed is different than a geared bike. I think it goes beyond the lighter weight too. Maybe it’s psychological, because you have to change your riding style and how you approach obstacles and course features. You are thinking ahead more. But the bikes just feel like they accelerate better. I can’t really explain it, but you know it when you feel it.”
The raffle bike came with a sick Enve carbon disc CX fork. Eric chose a very cool mix of parts including NEXT tubeless carbon rims. NEXT is the wheel company of one of our founders Jerry Chabot. Jerry was there from the very beginning and really his vision of having a competitive SSCX series is what has always kept us going. He also has been steadfast in making sure we always allow zip tied mods to keep the series inclusive. We love dedicated bikes. And Eric’s is an example of how beautiful they can be in their simplicity but we welcome all manner of pedal bike at the Zanconato SSCX Series as long as it is only one gear. How you get to that one gear is up to you.
The paint on Eric’s bike really has to be seen in the sun in person to be appreciated. It is a sparkle pink powder coat. It really looks like wet paint. It is amazing how far powder has come. I love the little details Eric added to the build. Blue Endless cog, blue spacer on the stem, gold chain. So many cool little things making this bike special.
We hope to see all of you at Ice Weasels! The SSCX race is sold out. I hope you registered. If you missed out this year at least come down and hang out and drink some beer and eat some cupcakes with us. Thanks to everyone who has made this season so special. May the odds ever be in your favor at the raffle.
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.
Our good friend Matt Lolli is offering a rad print to commemorate the series. Check it out here!“It’s been too long since I’ve printed some posters, and even longer since I’ve done any sort of linocut printing. I figured that this year’s Zanc SSCX series was the best excuse to back into the relief-printing game and a fun way to give back a little bit to the series.Cowbells and lightning bolts. Need I say more?Print is about 12″x12″. Water-based printing ink on Japanese 71gsm printing paper. Edition of 30. FREE SHIPPING!About the series: The Zanconato series is truly where I feel most at home during the CX season. All of my friends race that series, we all hang out afterwards, and friendly competition abounds. It’s like a big extended family that I get to see pretty much every weekend from the Fall through the Winter.”-Matt Lolli
Some info has leaked out from Secret Squirrel HQ. This is the last SSCX series race before the big finale at Ice Weasels! Do NOT miss this one. It is going to be special!
“As you can see from this incredibly complex and professionally produced map, we are very organized. If you could please direct your attention to the image on the left you will notice that the parking lot that we use for Crosstobeerfest is where you will park for #SecretCX but the race start/finish is further North. It’s not far, and dammit you have a bicycle.
Now, if you look at the image on the right you will see that the Beer Tent is also the Registration Tent and is home to DJ Gary Lombard (DJ Cuz) who will be spinning pump you up type music that will make you ride faster and take chances. Ipswich Ale Brewery will be there to sell you the only alcohol that can be consumed on the grounds. You cannot bring your own so don’t because we have to kick you out and Chip doesn’t know yet that he is the bouncer but he is. It will go great with a Linguica sandwich and Kale Soup from Two Sisters LLC
Right next door in the pink tents is TriMom Timing (do not bother them, at all, ever). They are conducting sensitive results and timing operations.
Next to them is a Pit. It is a left hand pit, which to us is no big deal whatsoever because most of you will not care as long as you have a place to put your spare bike and/or wheels. VeloFix will be there for Neutral Support before and during your race.
Mike Zanconato, or Zank, as he is affectionately known here, is the legendary bike-builder behind the Zanconato Singlespeed Cyclocross Series. Not only is he a consummate weldor (a ‘weldor’ is the craftsman who wields the welding device; a ‘welder’ is said device), he is also a fascinating guy with an incredibly interesting background.
Recently Mike got together with some of his heroes in the welding industry for a chin wag, and they recorded this very special episode of the Welding Tips and Tricks podcast.
We invite you to have a listen and learn more about the man, the myth, and the legend that is Mikey Z. Be forewarned that it is #weldporn geeky, so you will probably learn more about TIG welding, gas regulation, tungsten, and tolerance than you ever thought possible…