I know why the caged bird sings
By Christina NACCC 2010. Dirty South, Hotlanta, or any such name, I had no idea what to expect as Atlanta was one major city I had never previously visited. After a 12 hour red-eye drive from Chicago, we arrived in Atlanta at 10am Friday morning to the welcoming house of Lola and AZ who were still in the process of moving in, after organizing a killer CMWC three weeks prior. As people slowly started trickling in from all over throughout Friday, we started to see an awesome crowd of messengers take shape. That night kicked off the event with a group ride to registration and Goldsprints. Many people turned in early after being given start times as early as 9am.
When I arrived to the park Saturday morning, everything was far from set up. The course in Grant Park began to form as a loop just under 2 miles long with 12 checkpoints, and a couple decent hills that my Chicago-acclimated legs were desperately trying to remember how to conquer. After a quick breakfast and a couple pre-rides around the almost entirely one-way course, I began to feel pretty prepared. The whole park began to transform as polo courts were built on the higher parking lot tier, and ramps were brought in for an out and out trick competition. The first heat of the qualifiers went off at 12:15pm, after providing ten minutes of prep to pour-over the manifests. The pick up had to be in order, while you could drop packages at your leisure. I tried to coincide pick up and drop off as much as possible, though the long Fed-Ex tubes were unwieldy and difficult to carry more than two of. Two manifests long, an hour and forty-five minutes (for me) of 80-degree weather, I was sucking down Gatorade as much as possible. I made a few silly mistakes but felt that this type of manifest was actually pretty beneficial to my style of routing. Lots of laps, but with some focused attention, able to hammer it out.
At that evenings after-party, one of the organizers, Matt, read the results aloud to the crowd. Of the 90 racers, they decided to qualify 37-32 men and 5 women. I was dead middle of the pack at 14th, with Nico nicely ending the qualifiers in an impressive 4th place seat, with first place clocking an impressive hour and a half time. The evening also featured a dunk tank courtesy of the Chrome sponsors, with the dunkees receiving some pretty impressive prizes. Luckily the night had not cooled off too much, and the endless stream of free PBR took some of the edge off.
Sunday morning’s events took off with a very successful Open Forum. I like to stress that an hour, maybe two of serious time during a weekend of debauchery is completely worth ensuring a repeat of said fun. A lot of racers came out and really positively contributed to a conversation on changing the voting to a two-year, multiple city system and where to have NACCC in 2011 (AUSTIN, TEXAS! Wahoo!).
The finals began almost two hours after the scheduled time, but actually mitigated the peak noon heat a bit. A Le Mans start kicked off a long 26 (or more depending on your routing) lap final, again with pick ups in order, and intentionally forcing you to do extra laps to be able to get all your packages on. Lots of Fed-Ex tubes, lots of water bottle and Gatorade and Red Bull hand ups and lots of awesome heckling/encouragement from all the amazing checkpoint workers who sat out for almost 4 hours, spectators, and racers who hadn’t qualified but came out to yell along. This manifest just clicked pretty well with me, and I continued to hold on to packages until I had to stop at the specific checkpoint anyway for a pick. This led to a couple laps with a full bag of 3 Fed-Ex tubes, but it also smoothed out the stoppage a lot. Toward the end, you had to really be aware of what you were giving and getting from the checkpoint workers since you could be picking or dropping up to three at a time to workers who had been seeing riders at all different progressions of their race. Also just to be aware of the packages you were still carrying when you would not have to stop at the specific checkpoint again. Towards the end though, I hooked up with another rider from LA that we kept swapping spots with and we rode through the course together, keeping each other on track which I know helped me immensely and I hope was mutual! We pounded through the final 6 laps just feeling really composed about how I was feeling in the heat but still keeping it mental. Apparently learning how to enter the pain cave of cyclocross has extended benefits. When I pulled into the final stop at Girl.Bike.Dog, they said only one rider had come through ahead of me. I thought I was up there, but not doing THAT well. As we took off together, it was clear if it came down to some sprint finish, Derek was definitely going to take me, so I cruised down the final hill to clinch third overall and first female. I ecstatically realized the one rider ahead of us was none other than Stu Louder, a fellow All-City rider and all around good dude. The rest of the racers started pouring in, Nico coming in 11th after a forgotten pick up and an extra lap, Mike Malone at 19th and none other than AugDog cinching a repeat DFL trophy and rounding out our Chicago contingency in the final.
So despite some personal mishaps and some late start times, overall the NACCC went off really well and was a total blast—all in perfect weather. Atlanta surprised me with a ton of yummy vegan food, lots of good people, and a smaller city vibe I was totally into. And it didn’t hurt that the organizers snagged some killer sponsors who really stepped up the prize factor. Big ups and thanks to the NACCC organizing crew who seemed to have a lot on their plates--Congrats to Matt and Maggie on their wedding next week!
(All photos courtesy of people. Such examples of people would be Eric Day. He's real good people.)