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First Mud 2-Tracklocross comes back to Randalls Island

This Saturday, April 11th. Its time to get dirty…real dirty.
Its the 2nd annual Track Bike Cyclocross being called: Tracklocross.
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get more info at the website: www.tracklocross.blogspot.com
I’m told anyone can participate in this event.
To get a better understanding about what this event is all about I sent out some questions to the race organizers and got back these responses. (Note there are two people organizing this event and both of them responded to the questions. I marked the responses accordingly)

Who is organizing this race? (Name, Age and where you live)
We are Drew and Mattio – two bicycle enthusiasts and alleycat racers in our twenties who live in Brooklyn.

What bikes do you own?
Mattio: I’ve got an everyday IRO which has doubled as a cyclocross bike, a Felt TK2 for racing at the track, a Co-Motion Ristretto for road racing, and a sweet 1973 Pogliaghi track bike.

Drew: I’ve got a soma, a fuji track pro, a mikkelsen road bike, and a bob jackson touring bike.

For those who don’t know, describe what is Cyclocross and what is unique about this race?
Mattio: Cyclocross is a nutty sport from Belgium where it’s grown over the past century as an opportunity for road riders to stay in shape during the autumn offseason. Riders ride bikes that look like road bikes but with knobby tires and some geometry modifications. The race is done around a roped-off course, a circuit that the riders repeat over and over again, that features a variety of obstacles – steep run-ups, barriers, tight slick turns, off-camber sections, exposed rocks and roots… challenging terrain. ‘Cross is about carrying speeds through these obstacles and frequently requires racers to dismount, carry their bike and run over and through difficult sections.

Drew: This however is not your typical cyclocross race. Tracklocross is part cyclocross, part alleycat, and part urban exploration. The race is in a really muddy and mostly off-road area, but there are checkpoints, and racers have to find the best way to the checkpoits. Second tracklocross is not about building a bike to suit a particular terrain, the way cyclocross sort of is. Tracklocross is more about riding what you have, wherever.

Besides the obvious mechanical differences, what makes a track bike cyclocross different from regular? Is it track bike only? Do racers have to make special modifications for this event?
Mattio: Tracklocross is a goofy word we coined to describe our particular brand of riding bikes that are ill-suited for the terrain. Tracklocross isn’t a cyclocross race – it’s not about cyclocross bikes, it’s about racing wherever with what you’ve got. Last year, track bikes were encouraged but not required; this year, riders must have either a fixed gear, or 23mm slick tires. We’ll probably see a lot of people putting knobby cyclocross tires on track bikes to deal with the difficult sections of the course, which was common last year. But we’ll also see a lot of people riding their everyday track bikes. Crihs took second place last year riding a track bike with risers and slick tires. The reason we have this rule is because we don’t want mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes competing in this race. It would be an unfair advantage!

Drew: We’ll also see a handful of people making it harder on themselves by entering the “track legal” category that we have – drop bars, 23c slick tires, and a fairly high 49-16 gearing. Probably the best bike for this course is a fixed gear with low gearing and knobby tires. But the course is muddy and difficult, and we want to really reward people who stay true to the spirit of the race and ride a truly inappropriate bike, so there will be a special prize for the first racer who can complete the course on a velodrome-ready track bike.

What should racers wear?
Clothes they don’t mind getting muddy. And, while they’re at it, they should bring a bike they don’t mind dragging, and maybe a change of socks.

Can anyone participate in this event?
Mattio: Absolutely! You don’t need to be a licensed racer or anything. You don’t even need to be competitive – we’ll see a wide variety of riders, from the fun participants who determinedly bring up the rear to the foaming-at-the-mouth nutjobs who will be competing for the title Mud God of Randall’s Island.

Drew: But that said, the course is not easy. If you want to win, then you’ll need to bring a lot of stamina and bike handling skills.

What is the Cyclocross scene in NYC area?
Hmm. Good question. Last year, there was one race – way out in Staten Island. If NYCers want to race ‘cross they need to pile into cars and drive to New England, Jersey, Pennsylvania, or upstate. I didn’t race cross last year until Staten Cross, which was stupid, because it’s fun. Apparenlty there are informal cyclocross training sessions in the fall on Randall’s Island, organized via Facebook.

Do you race competitively? Cyclocross or other cycling events?
Mattio: This year will be my first year of road racing and my second of track racing. I used to race every alleycat I could get my hands on.

Drew: I race a bit of track now and again, and I’ve raced a fair number of alleycats. I’ll do at least one road race this year, just to say that I’ve done one.

What lead you to organize the race last year?
In 2007, alleycats were really big and huge, and then cooled down really fast. We wanted something that was a bit outside of the traffic norm, something that was wild and challenging and offered alleycat racers a race where they didn’t know what to expect. Randall’s Island makes a great venue for this – it’s a little bit weird, a little bit spooky, this bizarre half-park corner of the city where we can kind of run wild without really bothering people.

Did you have to get special permits from the city? tell them it was a Citibank Fun Run or something?
Heh. Nope, we haven’t gotten permits. It’s all taking place in public parks; it’s more or less a scavenger hunt, if authorities ask, and while there are Don’t Go Here parts of the island, obviously we want participants to ride sensibly, stay on the roads and paths on the Island, and be considerate of other users of the island.

How was the attendance last year? What will be different about this year?
Last year we say about forty racers come out. A third of them didn’t finish – they had mechanicals, flats, or just plain old couldn’t hack it. This year, we expect more people to come out. I can’t tell you how many people told me, “Wow, those photos looked amazing, I’m kicking myself for not coming.”

This year, the course will be different. First off, there will be more mud. The island has changed a lot – last year, so much of it was basically a construction site. They’re building a whole bunch of new playing fields in areas that previously only had… um, playing fields, actually. This year we had to look for exciting new checkpoints, abandoned some favorites from last year, and also try to design a course that *feels* like a different race – which is a challenge on a small island with only a handful of roads and paths. But we’re up to the challenge. We just hope the racers are.

Who’s coming out?
Who’s NOT coming out? Alleycat racers, commuters, roadies, trackies, and cyclocross racers. Beyond new york, we’re expecting people coming up from philly, boston, dc, connecticut, elsewhere.

Some of the pictures I’ve seen of the race and the area make it look rather post-apocalyptic. Whats the course like and how does it get so damn muddy?
Last year, the course took people over gravel roads, down a few paved paths, onto a huge mound of random sand at an abandoned baseall field, and then into muddy corners of the island. Like I said, there were whole sections torn up as part of construction, and there are all these parts of the island that are underneath the TriBoro Bridge, and underneath the railroad tracks – this deadspace that becomes perfect for checkpoints. Last year it rained the day before, which made conditions perfect.

This year – well, we’re not reavealing details of the course yet. But it will not be easier than last year.

Will you be providing power hose scrub downs of the racers after the event?
No. Racers will be on their own in figuring out how not to piss off their roommates.

What are the keys to winning this race?
Top riders will have to be strong and fit as well as really determined. They’ll also have to be clever. The manifest is a map of the Island with a few landmarks, and the checkpoints indicated with dots. How racers get from one to the other is up to them. There’s plenty of room for really fucking up the route. Last year’s winner was throwing his mountain bike over fences in an attempt to take a shortcut… he was actually making his race a lot longer. But it all worked out in the end last year.

Will we see this type of event in Xgames 2015?
I hope not.

What are your future goals for trackcyclocross?
We’d like to see it take place in more places. It would be great to see people organizing alleycat-style pseudocross races all over the country, on their own. Even more importantly I’d like to see the alleycat scene just start to diversify. “Underground” racing is a cheap, awesome, participatory sport that’s a lot easier to get in to than “official” bike racing. And it can be a lot more fun, too. I’d like to see all the alleycat energy continue to get supercreative so that there are lots of ways to be a part of it.
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Christian Thormann took some nice portraits of racers from last year:
sludgement-day-21
more images on his website: www.christianthormann.blogspot.com

Some images of the carnage last year: Sludgement Day.
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Photos taken by Luke Stiles posted on flickr.

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