my first few seconds of my very first race, i screamed inside 'oh god, i'm going to die!'
as i have mentioned on more than one occasion, mostly to assuage guilt or excuse my lack of speedy forward motion, i have never raced: not road, not cross, and certainly not mountain bike. however were i to be resident in portland, there's more than an evens chance that i'd break that pattern by trying my hand at cyclocross. you may well be wondering why a boring old fart of sadly limited athletic ability would find it necessary to uncover the cantis and get muddy. the latter is almost guaranteed, as portland's winter weather seems rather similar to islay's winter weather, though perhaps a touch lighter on the wind. the answer is dirty pictures.
finding a thus entitled volume lying on the side-table at mr olson's portland residence, there's a moment's hesitation in picking it up; one wouldn't wish to pry or cause embarrassment, but in this case, it's one of the finest clandestine choices i have ever made. dirty pictures is a selection of output from the guys at pdxcross.com and is a self published book (through the auspices of blurb.com) detailing the joys of mud, sweat and gears through the 2008 cross season.
to watch messrs boom, nys and stybar cause each other anguish and pain through successive years of uci cross is all very well to view on telly or cycling.tv, but at the risk of incurring belgian wrath, it's all very, very serious and laden with start fees and coloured jerseys. pdxcross is as far removed from that as peanut butter is from marmalade. in the words of sly and the family stone, 'it's a family affair' encompassing races for big people, female people, little people and family people, mostly conducted with muddy, ear to ear grins.
'if winning is more important to you than having fun, then you've already lost'
but the realisation that cross can be fun in portland could just as easily have been garnered from the many folks i met during my week: vanilla already have a cross team (and it's not like sacha needs the advertising), molly cameron races cross, as does ira ryan, slate olson and even the less competitive chris distefano. and jordan hufnagel is bringing on his own team this year. i rest my case m'lud.
however, the underlining of the affair is encapsulated in this book of dirty pictures; 160 photographs selected from 50,000 all snapped by some of the finest photographers it has ever been my privilege to meet. the book and the website give the impression that this is a venture by some radical crossers living on the periphery of portland bicycle culture. but in fact mike davis and torsten kjellstrand are comfortably middle class, work for the oregonian newspaper, and also produce an excellent magazine covering the food and drink culture of portland city and its surrounds.
dirty pictures contains some indescribably beautiful black and white pictures, that are so finely and acutely observed that i am now happy i never moved from photoshop over to the emulation of a real photographer. davis and kjellstrand are accompanied in this venture by rob finch, pamela royal, jamie francis, tim labarge, heidi swift and mike's wife, deb pang davis. such is the impact of the contained photography, that i spent a considerable portion of a ten hour flight from pdx to amsterdam, marvelling at their uncanny observation, timing and a highly sympathetic vision of pdx cyclocross.
'...and heck, i had freaking darth vader chasing after me on a bike, i mean how many times in life do i get to say that?'
if you'd like to share my enthusiasm for cross, photography or more likely, both, you can grab your own copy of dirty pictures from blurb.com for £35.38 ($70) for the hardcover version, or £25.38($50). it will be money well spent even if you never don cantilevers and dugast tubulars. you can also view a selection of the photography at pdxcross.com. many thanks to mike davis and torsten kjellstrand for stopping by at stumptown coffee. the photos accompanying this article were taken by and are copyright of mike davis.
posted on thursday 21 may 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................