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The Cross Diaries

Tulsa Oct 30th 2005.

Bonsai show, or cross race? Soc’s or Greasers? Following John Babsone Soule’s advice I went “west young man”, where Soc’s and Greasers alike would mix in a fierce battle for cross supremacy. Had I instead gone east from the intersection at 23rd and Southwest Blvd, I might have crossed the mighty Arkansas River to streets lined with old money houses and gardens. Houses with Giant Penguins where I may have seen cherub faced kids riding 700c cruiser bikes. I could have mingled with sexy herb growing hippie femme’s and swank upper middle class ladies escorted by men with soft gazes at a Bonsai Show that was being held at Tulsa’s Garden Center. Forsaking the comforts of Black Gold Row , I chose to go west.

Going west offered a far different life experience than offered by Tulsa’s Posh Maple Ridge neighborhood. West provided a ghetto landscape, a gaunt and austere industrial rail complex, and a lively tribe of men with hard gazes and women that refuse to take a back seat to life at a cyclocross race in Chandler Park.

On the surface cyclocross racing looks ill fitted to Oklahoma. Those that experience it know otherwise. Instead of sitting in a stadium watching dots on a field, spectators stand inches away from local heroes. Well to do masters racers intermingle with life hardened twenty-something's just scraping by. Redneck mountain bikers rub elbows with posh road prittis while punk rocking misfits fill the gaps in between. Somewhere in the midst lies an average jane or joe. It could be said that anyone who cross races is anything but average.

As racers kitted up, and took their warm ups, beer swilling frisbee golfers intermingled with spectators on fixed gear bikes and single speeds. Mild banter was exchanged. Racers took to the start, while golfers golfed, sipped their beers and tried to stay out of the way. All was quiet as Jack McNeal counted off the seconds. From the gun Tulsa Wheelmen rider Scott Gibson took the lead. Immediately he and the Wheelmen strung the field out in one long excruciating line of anaerobic torture leaving the masses gasping for breath. Social barriers melted away as greasers and soc’s alike shared the common misery of the total suffocation at the Wheelmen’s strangle hold on each of their collective necks. Behind Gibson the rest of the field was wiped clean by team-mates Josh Lewis, Will Gault, and Nathan Leigh. Coming in fifth, Ronnie Cookson was the only non-TW rider to make the podium in the Men’s A race. As for Jason Humphrey, the mighty rider from OKC, who placed third in the first race, he had pulled out by lap two.

Oklahoma City, November 13th 2005

The Oklahoma City series has moved to a new location; Kid’s Lake Park. No black gold row’s here; hello suburbia, goodbye ghettos. Women and men in green are everywhere;Velo Club appears to be elsewhere. I only see three Velo jerseys versus a plethora of T-Town riders. Even the B1 Rockers are in short supply. Carl Irwin throws down in the the B-race. Scot Cloer punks the field at the end with a sprint. Queen Quigley shows up and is ready to litigate. She takes first.

By now it is clear that Gibson is picking up where Steve Ragan, Raymond Hall,and Jacob Lasley left off. In Oklahoma City Gibson took the collective backs of Oklahoma’s cross racers and snapped them over his knee like twigs. That was after he decided to spike his bike into the ground and taco his front wheel on the first lap. Then in perhaps the most brutal display of sheer power, Gibson scrambled to the pits, changed his wheel and starting from well behind the pack rode himself from dead last back to the front of the race with plenty of time left over to bridge back up to his team mate Will Gault and take the win.

Three races down, five to go and Oklahoma’s Cyclocross series is in full swing. Off the front, or off the back, the cross dogs from T-town have laid down a new dogma for the series; All Green, All the Time.

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