First off let me begin this post by thanking Matt, Josh, and Zito for putting on a great race. For those of you unfamiliar, the Stupor Bowl is the largest alleycat in the world and the second longest continuously running (NYC's Halloween is the oldest) messenger race in existence. Last year 450 people or so showed up and I think the number this year was in the high 3's. It is also the most prestigious alleycat in Minneapolis and many riders and racers have cemented their legend and place in MPLS cycling lore with victories in this grandest of all races.
I've been looking forward to this ever since last year, when I finished second to NYC's Austin Horse. Since I organize the other big MPLS alleycats, the All City Championship and the Bicycle Film Festival race (Babes in Bikeland is all girl), the Stupor is really the only big one I get a chance at. To say that this is a big deal for me is an understatement, this race was a big hole in my palmares (bike dork for resume) and I wanted it bad. For the glory, for the thrill, and to show everyone who doubts my speed what these legs are really capable of.
Here's how it went down:
On Friday night I got to pre-reg only to discover that it had closed an hour earlier than posted on the flyer. This meant no registration for me, though I was able to get some photos of one of my friends mani's (in an unorthodox move the organizers were handing them out the night before minus two mystery stops ) so I had a beer and took off for home and started plotting and planning.
front of manifest
That night I got terrible sleep, I was all wound up studying the manifest and possible routes (for Stupor Bowl the start of the race is always a mystery until the roll out, and there were two additional unknown stops this year), sorting gear, and worrying about clothing choices. All my worrying and anticipation also gave me the trots and when I woke up in the morning I was seriously concerned about dehydration, (the first thing affected by nerves is always my poops, when I was a younger man a girl broke my heart and I didn't have a solid shit for three months), my stomach was also in knots and I had to choke down my breakfast. Not a great start to race day.
The weather was a balmy, 23 degrees. So I wore a longsleeve woolie, arm warmers, vest, knickers, and leg warmers, and set off for One on One around noon. I did some sprints to warm up on the way there and my legs were feeling pretty good. Despite feeling ill, I was starting to get excited about racing. When I arrived One on One was already a mob scene, so I found a quiet corner and got back to studying the mani. Around 1:30 the organizers had us roll out to Gold Medal park which was to be the secret start location. I was not stoked, as I knew we would have to run through the snow, and would thus have wet feet for the duration of the race.
climbing the hill to the start
Once on top of the hill, they clued us in to the first secret stop, Minnehaha Coffe and sent us off. There was still an unknown stop, that we would be informed of at the coffee shop, so routing was a huge gamble. If you had already passed through the part of town where the second secret stop was you were pretty much screwed and would be forced to backtrack.
the mass start
I'm on the left side in full run (photo Deplaqer)
On the run down the hill as I passed the organizers I yelled that I had this thing won as I was feeling pretty good by that point, and was super pumped to get on my bike and go to work.
First stop was Varsity Bike Shop, this was the first two of six eventual river crossings. (Traditional MPLS alleycat wisdom holds that the key to victory is crossing the river as few times as possible. Typically that means only twice.) I was first in the door at Varsity and by the time I crossed the bridge I had a lead of at least six blocks on my rivals. Then over to the westbank to Palmers and the Nomad, outside of Palmers I ran into the Robeast Trevor Crayton and assured him that this race was a done deal.
My next stop was Minnehaha Coffee where I would learn the location of the second secret stop. My biggest concern was that the stop would be the Hexagon (I rode past the Hex to get to the coffee shop) and I was tempted to go stick my head in and snake the stamp if it was indeed the location. I didn't and luckily when I got to the coffee shop we learned that the second secret stop was Tiffany's which was across the Ford parkway in St. Paul. At this point I knew my route was solid and felt that the Stupor Bowl was mine to lose. On the way to Tiffany's I passed Andy Larson's group and Spencer, I thought that they too were running the speed race, and knew that they hadn't gone to Varsity, so being on the trail of my rivals gave me a much needed push up that hill. I wanted to catch them.
Back to Minneapolis, I grabbed the stamp at Angry Catfish and headed to Adrians (my recent move to South Minnie really helped a ton during this section of the race). I again passed the Andy Larson group on the way to Adrian's and was steadily closing in on them. I now had a long pull to Bryant Lake Bowl, and I headed North on Chicago to Lake St. Lake St. was bumper bumper for about 25 blocks as I made my way to Lagoon. It was fun as shit, riding the center line, bobbing and weaving. I had lights when I needed them, gaps between cars, I was flying and had a shit eating grin on my face the whole time. I caught Andy's group at BLB and learned that they were racing Stupor not Speed.
Hit Lagoon, where I saw former Champ Andy and Spencer which added motivation. After Lagoon, I went against traffic up back up Lagoon and had to jump off the bike and carry it through traffic to squeeze through the nonexistant gaps in the cars. Next was Trash Bags HQ, then CC club, then Dragon, then wrong way down Lyndale/Hennepin past the Walker to Nick's house, then Mackenzies's.
By this point I was kind of chilling, riding hard, but definitely not killing myself. I knew somebody would have to be running a hell of a race to beat me, and my big fears were bonking or getting stopped by the cops. It would be just my luck to put together a perfect race only to be nabbed by the police towards the end.
Cuzzy's came after Mackenzies, then Haleks, Behind Bars, 331 Club and Grumpy's NE. The last stop was the Red Stag and then into the finish.
handing in the manifest
When I got there, the Stupor Champ was already waiting, congrats to Jeff O'Neil (I think that's right) from Philly. Andy Larson was his drunkestique and his contribution can't be ignored.
It took another 18 minutes for second place speed to come in, which was my homie Martin. Martin is one of only two people to do every Stupor Race, is organizing the Dirty Benjamin, and is a hell of a dude. I was so happy to see him on the podium.
All in all this was easily the best race of my life, I had 18 minutes on the field, lights when I needed them, my bike was awesome (the Croll), gaps in traffic, and my legs felt great. It was amazing, and actually fun (usually it's just pain and suffering and the fun comes with being done), and is something that I'm going to remember for a very long time. If you know me, you know how big of a goal this was. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I'm so grateful that everything worked out. I love racing bikes so fucking much!
these sick Hed track wheels
And of course the Trash Bag
I've always wanted a prize bag so f'ing bad, Thanks Andy!!
Thanks to everyone who rode and made this possible, thanks to the MBMA for starting this shit. Events like the Stupor Bowl make me so proud to be a part of the Minneapolis cycling community. Can't wait till next year.