I just got back from a trip to Portland, Oregon where I was visiting my family. Portland, if you haven't heard, is now heralded as bicycling's holy land, making it both a place of reverence and devotion, as well as the source of conflict for many opposing parties. In other words, the only thing that appears to be more prominent than enlightened Portlanders out on the streets on bicycles are blogposts and articles about the enlightened consciousness of Portland's bicycle culture. And, the only thing more prominent than blogposts and articles about the enlightened consciousness of Portland's bicycle culture are blogposts and articles about how ridiculously overblown Portland's bicycle culture is. (Both the pro-Portland cyclists and the anti-Portland blogposts appear to emanate primarily from the east coast.) Since I haven't ridden a bike in Portland in years, I really don't feel prepared to weigh in on this important subject other than to say that there are a ton of people riding bikes out there. The bikes, and the people, run the gamut from very fit to very cheap. Other bloggers will write better-written volumes about this subject, which will undoubtedly culminate in an East Coast/West Coast cycling war where the cycling communities' Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac will each get shot and the cyclist manifestation of Puff Daddy host a memorial criterium in a business park.
In any event, while there, I did want to take part in the action. And without a bike, that meant going to the Downtown Portland Twilight Criterium. I love downtown crits because they usually draw spectators that are not relatives of the participants. Turnout was quite good, with spectators at least 3 or 4 people deep around the half-mile loop. As previously noted, my photographic documentary skills are weak (too weak to even qualify for a "skillz"), but here's a photo to prove I was there.
I'm still a little jetlagged but things I noticed about the crit:
* The field was mostly local/regional teams, but one or two Bissell guys were out.
* Rock Racing was not present, but the most tricked-out entourage was the Range Rover team which had a bunch of new and vintage Rovers parked next to the course.
* Rock Racing was not present, but there was a fat guy in a Rock Racing t-shirt. I wanted to take a picture, but he probably would have tried to punch/sue me.
* There were a lot of crashes. I saw at least 5 from this corner. I suspect this means that either these guys had spent too much time at the beer garden or spent too much time at the espresso garden.
* It didn't rain in Portland. It usually doesn't rain much in the summertime, which is nice. But that also makes the number of crashes seem strange. Perhaps Northwest racers only know how to corner on wet pavement.
* Local team, the Gentle Lovers, featured prominently in the race. I like this team because the like unicorns and are fast.
* Local cycling star Molly Cameron led out the first lap and made it into what ended up being the winning break, but got taken down in a wreck. To her credit, as well as the credit of several other folks involved in crashes, she got up and back into the race. Sometimes I scoff at Pro-1-2 riders who drop out of races about half way through, but getting back into a crit after a wreck is pretty badass.
* Lots of metal rims, not many carbon rims. Maybe the roads were bad. Maybe they're poor. Maybe they know something others don't.
* Lots of spectators wearing cycling caps. About the same ratio of cycling-capped heads to non-cycling-capped heads as at a race in a non-hip, non-urban area where all of the spectators are also racing.
* Lots of tattoos. Both on spectator and riders. Portlanders better watch out. If this race was any indication of how frequently they crash, they're likely to ruin a lot of skin art. Maybe the tattoos are used to cover up old scar tissue. Otherwise, maybe they spent their carbon wheel money on tattoos.
We later went for a hike at Mt. St. Helens. It's a National Monument area and is apparently open to mountain bikers. The trails looked smooth, but were mostly loose ash. That's right, ash. Mt. St. Helens is still an active volcano that last erupted in 1980 and occasionally will kick up some smoke. I was sad I didn't get the chance to ride it, but hopefully I'll make it back out there soon. In the mean time, I guess the closest I'll get to shredding a lava flow is shredding the Harris Lake trails during a meltdown.