The Holy Week of Cyclocross
Cyclocross for many of us is a religion, a devotion to mud, dust, rain and rutted corners is the reason we get out of a bed in the morning. We travel far and wide to practice our faith with growing numbers of others that have fully converted to the ‘cross. Our church is anywhere that open space and plastic course tape meet to create a gauntlet of turf, stairs and wooden planks testing both skill and endurance to find the proper balance between suffering and speed. Our Mecca in North America is New England, and for a 10 day period known as Holy Week thousands travel from all around to participate in what has easily become the biggest series of races in the country.
The Holy Week of Cyclocross consists of seven races over the course of a week and a half. Beginning in Lancaster, MA with the Midnight Ride of Cyclocross and ending some 10 days later in Providence, RI. To fill the space in between the kickoff and finale is arguably the biggest race of the year in Gloucester, MA and possibly the most fun you can have at race while getting lapped by Barry Wicks in Shrewsbury, MA at the Night Weasel Cometh. Holy Week attracts the faithful from all over the globe to compete and congregate in what is a grand celebration of all things cyclocross. It’s easy to be overwhelmed on your first visit to the Motherland by the shear number of competitors, by the size of the beer garden and what the perfect ale is to compliment your sweet potato taco, by the guy with “Good Will Hunting” accent trying to smash you through the tape on lap one and by the fact that you are taking a warm up lap behind Katie Freakhin Compton! But it is also all of those things that draws us to these events, the sights and sounds of 150 people on course at once is something you can only experience at the biggest of races, and at races like Gloucester and Providence you get to experience it over and over throughout the day. Holy Week is kind of like a cyclocross stage race, with so many racing days in close proximity to one another your body starts crave more food and more rest but when the whistle blows to start the next race it easily accepts the punishment it’s about to endure.
Under the lights on muddy ski slopes or on the cool rocky shores of the Atlantic it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment of the race, the pain that your legs and lungs are experiencing lessens as you enter tunnels of sound encouraging you to go “haahda dyude!” It’s through these experiences that makes it easy for one to fully believe in cyclocross. So if you are one of the believers and you spend your summers smelling mastik one and praying to a shrine of Erik De Vlaemink you owe it to yourself and to the gods of cyclocross to make the pilgrimage to New England for Holy Week.