Interbike 2014: Cross Vegas

That 'wheelers and dealers' race was one big field, probably the largest of the night. I walked around the course, lingering here or there, where crowds had gathered, seeking emersion in the festival. The natural lighting had begun its evening fade and the park lights had yet to become effective when the race left the upper portion of the course and made its way into, and around, the bowl. Led by the eventual victor, and runners up, a long line quickly snaked along, and up and down, the darkened slopes. It took minutes - minutes - for the line to make its way over the run up where I stood; from first rider, to last wheel, there were no gaps, just a continual procession of faces and striding forms. 

Vuvuzelas sounded somewhere. Belgians for a day, with flags wrapped like capes from their shoulders, shuffled through the grass. Around the course pockets of light illumine the swelling ranks of spectators like little islands in a dark sea. Shouts rise and fall in a staccato as racers swirl past. Judging by the way roars burst forth from various distant parts of the course, beer hand-ups are taking place. At least one racer comes by chewing a dollar bill to appreciative hoots from the sidelines.

Belgium in the house

preview - i would later read an estimate of some ten thousand spectators

Even though I headed out the gates early, after the Wheelers and Dealers race, before the Pros, it would have been clear to anyone that the crowd intensity was going to be turned up several notches for those later two premier events. This may be mere preview, but I swivel at a burst of laughter from behind me in time to see a spray of foam, a can spinning to the ground, a rider dashing away, chased by heckles for his missed opportunity. The throng is already in good form and getting more worked up with each passing set of wheels.

Shuttle buses, not the dinky ones mind you but the full-size, cross-country tourist kind, continue to pull up to the curb and disgorge their masses. Many of those who fall out the door or stumbled down the steps seem to, already, be full of swagger and beer - no doubt many have helped drain the kegs back on the showroom floor. Some proceed straight (straight being a relative term) to the gates, while others take a moment away from watching eyes to stuff bottles of their favorite brew deep into backpacks and extra-large purses while muttering prayers that the clinking will somehow be overlooked. Not that there were any lack of taps inside the gates, but this is Las Vegas, and Vegas comes with a price.

 Another hour, this place is going to be packed. It is going to be wild, maybe reckless. And at the same time a professional athletic event will be taking place. National champions, World champions, and challengers to their crowns will compete. Cyclocross in America.

They hit the run up with long strides. Not everyone was able,
and every once in a while someone would ride up the steps instead.