Monday, June 21

New Belgium Urban Assault Race Report

I love the Dirt Divas....

More on that later.

Big Worm
and I joined 348 other people at the first ever (in Charlotte) New Belgium Urban Assault Race on Sunday. Don't know what that is? Here's the breakdown from the NB UAR website:

You and your teammate will set out on a city-wide quest for 'checkpoints' on your favorite two-wheeled steeds. At each checkpoint, you'll drop your bikes and complete a funky/adventurous obstacle course (which earns you one bead), then remount your bikes and hit the streets for more.

So I thought Big Worm and I had a good shot at placing rather high in the standings. We know Charlotte pretty well after earning a living riding around it for over a quarter of each of our lives, and the not quite downtown areas have been explored through boredom and in search of cheap beer for years. Some folks actually said (after the race) they had their money on us. Lotsa people were separated from their money that day.

From the start I had a good idea of our route. The first mystery checkpoint had been semi-revealed to us VIA a crossword puzzle with the following answers:

1 afro
2 booty
3 clockwork
4 loop
5 queens

I had scouted out the area of the BOOTY LOOP looking for any sign of any of those things before work on Friday. On QUEENS University property I found a building number 22 (TUTU) next to a giant CLOCK. Afro? Perhaps a guy would be waiting there wearing an afro... who knows. Anyways, since a second mystery checkpoint would be revealed when we got the first I decided it would be wisest to go to there right outta the gate so we could integrate the second mystery checkpoint into our route ASAP to avoid any backtracking.

Big Worm and I were one of the first teams to our bikes after the LeMans start. I yelled to him that we had to nail the first coupla traffic lights from the start and we did. We were alone on our route to Queens University, and it felt like we had already won... up until we saw some folks who had selected a different route ahead of us, but we nailed them all back, save for a team from Bike Source, and we were the first to arrive at the giant clock. Unfortunately there was no one there, especially no one with an afro or a checkpoint bead or a clue to the second mystery checkpoint.

Big Worm and I rolled around Queens University, the Booty Loop, and beyond looking for anything that looked like anything. We were not alone. There were dozens of teams desperately seeking some sign of a checkpoint, and my tolerance levels were being tested. One of the things I was afraid of when we signed up for this race was that there might be an element of luck involved. The race may not go to the fastest riders, the best route selection, or the best obstacle obstalcelators, but to the riders who managed to get lucky. After @ 30 minutes of rolling around (there was no sense leaving the area since we had to get all the checkpoints to win and the beer didn't start flowing for 2.5 hours) we some saw riders coming hot in our direction, a sure sign that they had found what we were looking for, so we started to move towards the flow.

It was a guy, riding the BOOTY LOOP on a bike, in a CLOCKwise direction wearing an AFRO and a TUTU. Fuck. We lost a lot of time, but we got our bead from him, Big Worm got the clue and affirmed he knew where it was, and we were on our way to the next stop at Bike Source.

Once we got to our next checkpoint at Bike Source everything went like clockwork.... (I shudder just typing that word now). We nailed the paperboy obstacle, moved on to the Common Market Southend and did the piggyback polo obstacle, rode through town to stop at the Disco Chicken sculpture (mystery checkpoint #2), over to Ray's Splash Planet to go down a water slide, up to Smelly Cat for some human bowling, and then over to the Common Market East for a carpet puzzle.

We were on our way back to the finish in well under two hours. We knew that anybody who had found the tutu/afro guy early had a much better shot at winning, but it felt like we did well. When we got back to the finish line the bikes laying around the venue made it evident that we were not all too close to winning at all. We hopped on the big wheels and bounced through the inflatable jungle gym to a disappointing 19th place overall.

So we didn't win. Our friend (and former messenger) Kevin Thompson had played by the rules and used them to his advantage. The promoter had said he would announce all the mystery checkpoints after he had started all three waves (waves determined by a DIFFICULT online quiz). Kevin's mom was there, so he had her listen for the mystery checkpoint info and she belled him up while he was en route to nabbing his first checkpoint. It was in the rules that you could use any resource at your disposal, and that's what they did. My hat goes off to them for their big W.

I still had one more fear/element of mystery involved with the race that almost kept me from registering. Since Big Worm and I registered kinda late we paid $65 a piece to enter this race. I expected this for my entry fee:

You'll get a 100% cotton t-shirt,
New Belgium schwag including a
drawstring back pack, bike bell,
Specialized water bottle,
lots of New
Belgium beer

Hmmm... that was from the website, but later we all got an email with the following information:

Food is available

1st two beers are on us!
"Lots of New Belgium beer" turned into "1st two beers are on us" and there would be food "available". All right, so the food ending up being in exchange for monetary units. I could handle that, but since I was either in this for the win or a 5:00pm hangover the "lots of" turning into "two" was a problem. To make matters worse the beer wouldn't be available till noon (NC State laws in play), we finished @ 11:00am, and rumors were circulating that the beer would be available at either $1 or $4 after you used your two tokens. There's a big difference between $1 and $4 in the circles I travel in, so when they finally announced that $4 cups (with the proceeds going to a charity) were the real deal I have to say many of us let out a collective "meh."

I know, they never said "free food" or "lots of FREE beer". It's just that I don't like ambiguity, especially when my money is involved. I had a great time, I get the point of the rolling checkpoint which added an element of chance so it just wouldn't be the fastest riders for the win, the obstacles were cool, and the other racers were awesome. Speaking of which, even though I quietly bemoaned about the $4 beer I never had to pay for any beer the whole time I was there. The non-drinking members of the Dirt Divas (mainly Shelley and Melissa who took second in the female team division) contributed to my 5:00pm hangover cause, and there was a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge action at the taps that kept Big Worm and I happy right up until the promoters asked us (all that were involved) to stop playing smash up derby with the big wheels.

It was fun... I'll say that. The New Belgium people threw a heck of a shindig. I'm sure if I woulda emailed them previous to the event they woulda cleared up the ambiguity before I registered (they were very responsive to emails), so the blame of making assumptions falls squarely on me. After they closed everything down there was some pool crashing, a stop at the Common Market for more refreshments, and then a street party... none of which were associated with New Belgium.

Would I do it again next year? I'm not a big fan of throwing everything I have into a race (hours spent on an online quiz and a crossword puzzle, bringing my road bike, scouting routes in the week leading up to the race, and whatnot) and having luck play into the equation. Had I known it was going that way I woulda skipped the quiz, rode my fixed gear messenger bike (AKA The Fastest Bike in the World), backed off the pace, and just had fun. That said maybe next year I'd go at it again... for fun.

Just for fun because that would be funner.

Big Worm did wear the GoPro HD camera, so eventually I will have an edited NB UAR video for your enjoyment.

Did I mention I love the Dirt Divas?


cornfed said...

Whew that post took a better turn towards the end. You almost became Dicky Plews.

Anonymous said...

You are racer-boy geekster! Geez, chill out, why don't ya?!