We arrived at the course in a steady rain. Finally, a rainy day in California! Jon had new Challenge "Limus" tubular mud tires and was, of course, also equipped with a decade of mud experience. I suspect, given how dusty and parched the last four years have been, some of the newer Cali-Crossers in the race had never ridden proper, muddy 'cross courses before.
After Jon's warm-up lap he came to the car and smiled, like, "I got this." I smiled, too. All of us felt pretty confident as we headed to the start area, so imagine my surprise when, after the start whistle had blown and the racers were on their way, some guy was off the back and riding partially naked, struggling to put on his clothes, and that guy was Jon.
Yes, Jon started the race about 25% naked. Right before the start he had decided his undershirt was too hot. He peeled off the top half of his skin suit, whipping off his undershirt and tossing it to me. Before he could get the top back on, the start whistle blew.
In retrospect, he said he should have just stayed there and finished getting dressed, but instead he chased after the pack with a comically exposed shoulder, back and chest. The inside-out sleeve flapped in the wind behind him as he rode, hands-free, along the rutted trail, struggling to put his clothes back on. The pack sprinted ahead as the crowd laughed at Jon's shockingly bare skin. He was in dead last. I still hold out hope that someone has pictures.
Jon's mom, Mimi, was there with me to watch the insane start. We waited seven minutes for the pack to finish lap one and by then Jon had already moved up to about 10th place. He was now fully clothed but his side was covered in mud from a crash. We cheered him on and hoped for the best, walking toward the back of the course.
At the back of the course we found a twisty network of ups and downs as well as the bike pit, which I was pleased to see was almost entirely manned by women. Girlfriends and wives perhaps? So different from Belgium.
As Jon came whipping back through, one spunky girl from the pit confirmed for Jon that the two men just ahead were the leaders of the Elite race. They were Justin Thomas of Reno Wheelmen and Gareth Feldstein of Real Wheels. Jon, of course, was just confirming these were the leaders having passed racer after racer, striving to erase the damage from the wardrobe malfunction.
Next lap he finally caught the two leaders and promptly managed to pass Gareth in a tight corner, foot out, cornering like a mad man. Soon it was just Jon and Justin fighting it out at the front. Right about then that same spunky gal from the pit began yelling at the other racers: "The guy with the beard and mustache is not 35+! He is not 35+!." 35+ is an age-protected category, and she was right, 41 year-old grey-beard Jon had chosen to race in the Elite category instead. Mimi and I laughed.
Eventually Jon got ahead of Justin and held a strong pace. Justin got tangled in some course tape right as Jon was getting a gap and that gap held. By the time Jon crossed the finish on the final lap he had over 30 seconds on the rest of the field. It was a gap big enough to allow Jon to cruise through the finish riding no-hands, only this time he was riding no-hands to celebrate victory rather than to get dressed.
Mimi and I agreed it was fun to be back out watching Cyclocross again, though she lamented forgetting her cowbell. We watched Jon in a post-race interview and then followed him to the medical tent to get the crash wounds cleaned. After that we did what any good Cyclocross aficionados would do and headed to the beer garden. Jon had a vanilla stout float. I definitely saw a lot of beer gardens in Belgium, but never beer with ice cream.
The winner drinks his beer float.
The podium shot. Another top step finish for the very-successful Chico Masters Cycling Team
Jon being interviewed by Fit and Filthy.
Yep, he looks pretty fit and filthy to me.
And the bike does too.