Last night, under the stars of a clear desert sky, Gavia, Fred Marx and I took in the season-opening cyclocross race, Cross Vegas, a lovely circuit traversing an improbable oasis of grass in the Spring Valley neighborhood west of the strip. Fred, a/k/a the Other Chris, played real photographer, the outcome of which will be visible soon, if the pace of Interbike ever relents enough for him to eat a decent meal. That left Gavia and I to take care of everything else (coughdrinkingcough). And this is our story. It starts with a lone figure (me) in a windowless press room somewhere in the Sands Convention Center...
5:15 Ominous warnings concerning the likelihood of getting a seat on the shuttle to Cross Vegas rise to a low murmur. Gavia has long since fled the scene, with bro, who is committed to an evening of real work, and they’re driving from their undisclosed location to the race. Not via the Strip. So this shuttle thing needs to happen. And the theme of the trip so far is “there’s a big line”.
To the flip!
5:20 Terror-stricken, Chris walks toward Venetian Hotel on advice of people who took the shuttle last year and thought it was "over there someplace." The Venetian is adjacent to the Convention Center, a 3-minute walk along the outdoor sidewalk. Chris goes the indoor route.
5:30 Chris admires the ceiling of the gondola area, an oasis of serenity in the Venetian Hotel set between expensive shopping hellscapes. The ceiling looks like an evening sky, and it takes a couple looks before he realizes he's still indoors. Some gondolier looking dude is singing an aria. My guess is they don't do that in Venice.
5:45 The shuttle isn’t at the Venetian, it’s back where you started from, dimwit. Chris heads back indoors for the maze-like traverse of the hotel. There is no cheese at the end. But huzzah! There are shuttle buses. For once, the line was smaller than expected.
6:00 Shuttle departs for Cross Vegas. With Chris on it, somehow.
6:25 Arrival at Cross Vegas. Chris discusses media credentials with organizer dude. The entrance is paid admission to the right, media to the left. About 10 feet after entering the two lines merge. So yes, Chris is trying to beat the $5 admission.
6:26 Chris successfully beats the $5 admission.
6:26:02 Chris buys the biggest burrito on the premises. Interbike has been one nutritional mishap after another. Nothing is as convenient as you want; it’s always later than you think; and if it’s free, it’s gone or it sucks or both. By this time, breakfast never happened and lunch was... I’m not sure. Garlic something. So yeah, food.
6:30 Chris runs into Gavia and the other Chris. Yay! Commence media badge errand in search of greater event access -- a critical precondition to writing this article about how Chris had to find his media badge.
6:31 Gavia figures out that the media badge gets you into the VIP area. Chris can see her across the barriers, but is too hungry to shout.
6:45 Chris finishes burrito, finds beer. Starts watching the first race, the Wheelers and Dealers event, pitting various categories of Interbike exhibitors, workers and ... dudes against each other. Like the opening act to a big show, they’re fun, but no threat to overshadow the main events.
6:52 First successful beer handup takes place.
7:25 Chris figures out that the media badge gets you into the VIP area. But it doesn’t get you free beer. You need the Wristband of Very Importance for that. Gavia is working the crowd.
7:40 After much mingling Gavia finds Nick Frey, inventor of Boo Cycles (bamboo frames) and a professional roadie for the Jamis squad. After a brief introduction, Gavia convinces Nick to get us free beer. He has the Wristband, and succeeds. Fun chat ensues, which will turn into a story later.
8:00 Pro women are called to the startline. Gavia runs off for some quick quotes, but they're drowned out by the sounds of an Elvis impersonator singing the national anthem.
8:12 Women’s Pro Race begins.
8:13 Georgia Gould and Katerina Nash get a 10 second lead on the field. The two teammates go from the opening gun, more or less. For the next 20 minutes the MC keeps reminding us that, although they are teammates, one of them will eventually stab the other in the back.
8:30ish Nash drops Gould after a brief mechanical. Nash will never be seen again. [In a good way. Sorry, I should rephrase that since we're in Vegas.]
9:00 Nash wins. The outcome hasn’t been in doubt for at least a half hour. That’s Cross sometimes.
9:01 Some VIPs abandon prime real estate along the fence next to the big runup.
9:01.0001 Gavia snags prime real estate along the fence next to the big runup. Thirty minutes to the men’s event.
9:05 Warmups for the pro men are pretty impressive, with a few guys demonstrating (for the first time all night) that it’s possible -- even reasonable -- to bunny-hop the two small barriers at the bottom of the runup and stay on the bike, hammering up the hill. This looks like a massive (~3 seconds) time-saving maneuver. This is going to be fun.
9:20 Chris leaves to grab a final beer for the evening.
9:22 Chris discovers the VIP beer dispensors stopped checking for wristbands, announces to Gavia.
9:22.-01 Gavia goes to get a beer.
9:30 Men's Pro Race begins.
9:31 Men's Pro field passes us in a stampede of wind, wheels, cowbells, and flesh. Bart Wellens of Fidea is among the leaders and one of the bunny-hoppers riding up the runup. At the top, he executes a 180 into the descent that defied the physics of conventional bike handling. Yes, this is fun.
9:45 Although the front of the race is a pretty tight group of 8-10 riders, behind the leaders the gaps are growing. The handups begin. Dollars are the currency of choice. Danny Summerhill, in his full Garmin-Cervelo kit, quickly establishes a reputation of taking dollars at high speed, on the descent. A couple of the Jelly Bellys are even more proficient, running the runup, so they can score on both sides of the hill.
9:55 Race deploys a dollar sweeper to clear the course of dropped bills. Or maybe a drunk guy jumped the barriers.
10:00 Tim Johnson moves up from just behind the leaders to just off the front. With teammates Christian Heule and Jim Driscoll in the chase, the team tactics have begun. Wellens has Rob Peeters with him, and two Rabobanks, Lars van der Haar and Bart Aernouts, are mostly riding side-by-side, comfortably in with Ryan Trebon and Jeremy Powers too.
10:20 Wellens puts in a threatening move.
10:22 Summerhill continues his money-grabbing exploits. The Jelly Bellys have paid off their college loans.
10:30 Wellens is reeled in before the final lap, and van der Haar wins a tight seven-man sprint. That's a wrap on the racing action.
10:31 Gavia talks to Johnson. Riders are almost powerless to not talk to Gavia.
10:50 Podium presentations are going on, and Gavia is cornering the top women. Chris shuffles his feet, desperately tired, hoping nobody sees his media badge and attempts to be interviewed by him. The Other Chris is actually working. Making two of us at work.
11:05 Work is over. Time for pizza. Chris's phone advises the group to head to the Strip.
11:30 The pizza place in Chris's phone no longer exists, if it ever did. Longing dreams of Pizza dance in Chris and Gavia's heads as we drive past New York, New York. You can tell the real New York by the abundance of late night pizza options. This is not the real New York.
11:45 The Strip seems to have most of the planet's more exciting destinations nailed down, or mocked up, or both. Egypt, France, Italy, more Italy, Monaco, ancient Italy, the South Pacific, Malaysia, and 13th century Britain. Still, there is no Scandinavian-themed casino. Would it kill them to pay their respects to Scandinavia? I'm thinking Fjordland, the Fountain of Glogg, blackjack dealers with Viking horns, stuff like that. The Thor movie redone as a Broadway musical. This is gold, right? Am I right?
12:30 Dreams of pizza extinguished. Arteries 1, Trying to get food in Vegas late at night without walking through a casino 0.