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I am a fan boy for all things spring classics. I have never seen the races in person but I’ve always loved the style, the grueling conditions, the brutal madness that is racing on narrow farm roads in unpredictable weather. It has a lot to do with my own youth growing up on a farm on a network of endless gravel roads with intense weather. The quiet and overly stoic attitudes of rural people who have had to carve out a living in the rich soil of America’s farmland. The muted glory hidden in a deep work ethic and never afraid to get into the dirt. Farmers are simple and driven people and I am no different. Solving problems with what’s on hand and making damn sure we get the job done even if it’s not the most graceful solution. Situations involving deep mud, hail, wind that will throw a rider into the ditch sometimes make me laugh. I’m sure there is some part of me that is broken but these are the experiences that warm my heart and leave a film of grit in my mouth. Long before I knew what CX (cyclo-cross is always written as CX in caps in my world), I was stuck in a snowstorm a few miles from the farm and rather than pedal around the field the long way, I opted to just run across the lumpy muddy land to get home sooner. To find out this is the functional birth of CX in Belgium makes all the sense in the world.

Every year as sure as the cherry blossoms and tender green shoots reaching for the clouded sun, I too feel the days getting longer and warmer. The shoulder seasons where things are less predictable and all animals (including us) prepare for the shift. No one bitches or moans. A sense of gratitude for being able to enjoy a slightly less wet day out. Leaving during a downpour means the sun will grace your mud speckled shoes in an hour (or maybe not…..) and leaving in a brief bit of dry without a rain cape is foolish. A deserving deluge for sure.


There is a poetry to the madness of watching completely inappropriate machines skip over rough stones, gaping muddy holes, through unseen puddles and taking to the sidewalk to move up a few spaces. Forcing the riders to keep every sense razor sharp at every second. All for the spectacle of locals and global cycling pilgrims to come and watch these two legged horses flash by.

I measure my own since of success in this solo business world by being able to go to Europe to watch this circus. I will make it… someday. Until then I’ll watch and worship this odd universe of bike racers and marketing parade from Portland and enjoy similar weather.

Ira Ryan

Author Ira Ryan

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