Austin has long been hallowed ground for the most prolific musical performances ever performed on a live stage, hence it’s moniker of ‘Live Music Capital of the World’. Countless memories of virtuosity and passionate crooning have filtered through the Texas airwaves via PBS since the early 1970s with musical deities too countless to remember. The notoriety spawned a festival, the Austin City Limits Festival held annually in Zilker Park, despite great concerns of the massive treading on a historic arboreal surroundings of the Texas Live Oak. This same fear manifested itself towards another frenzied event, no less passionate and no less spectacular: to the burgeoning fans of Cyclocross across the United States.

Zilker Park was the backdrop for shedding of dirtbag blood, sweat, and tears by our nation’s finest cyclocross talents, traveling thousands of miles to grace the Texas sunsets with helmets instead of low brimmed hats. It was the stage of a different act, and none less phenomenal of emotion and grit from a year of hard work and travel. The stage was set (and reset) for the fans of our sport, and it left us with the same after-concert emotion, fulfilled, exhausted, and looking forward to the next stage.

To honor this monumental event, we decided to interview some of our favorite racers! The final day of races didn’t quite turn out as anyone had anticipated but a good time was still had despite the circumstances. Let’s hear what some of our racer friends had to say about their 2014-2015 season, their Nationals experience, and the coming year…

Our Interviewees:

Anthony Clark, @tweakn101, 13th Elite Men
Team: JAM Fund / NCC
Residence: Feeding Hills, MA

BrittLee Bowman, @BBrittLee, 14th Elite Women
Team: HOUSE INDUSTRIES – SIMPLEHUMAN – RICHARD SACHS
Residence: New York City, NY

Crystal Anthony, @CJoyAnthony, 5th Elite Women
Team: Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
Residence: Beverly, MA

Damian Schmitt, @damianschmitt, 1st Industry Race, 14th Masters 35-39 Men
Team: Portland Bicycle Studio
Residence: Bend, OR

Dani Arman, @Dani_MSmith, 42nd Elite Women
Team: Tenspeed Hero
Residence: St Charles, IL

Michael Dutczak, @mdutczak42, 46th Collegiate D1, DNS U23
Team: University of Illinois at Chicago / EGO p/b Sammy’s
Residence: Chicago, IL


BritLee Bowman battling the mud     BritLee Bowman on the run-up
BrittLee Bowman battling the mud and the steep rocky run-up, Photos: Amy Dykema

What’s the craziest thing to happen to you while racing this past season?

Anthony: Got a spontaneous bloody nose at HPCX!

BrittLee: It’s not that crazy but it’s what comes to mind… at NBX, a UCI CX race in Rhode Island, I was having a decent start but then suddenly slipped out in the third turn. I went from being fourth wheel to being on the floor and seconds behind everyone else. I was shaken but got up and decided to have fun with the rest of the race. Group after group, I picked riders off and battled all the way back up to 11th place. Turned out to be a really fun day!

Crystal: Typically I have a plethora of crazy travel stories, but I think the most unique thing that happened this year was giving medical aid on course during a race! Meredith (Miller) and I went down in a crash in Gloucester, and her leg was gushing blood. There was no one else near enough to help so I ended up putting pressure on the wound until the medics arrived.

Damian: It wasn’t in a race, but one day I had to go bring my brother back home. You see, he’d run off on bikes with his friends because they were bummed out about our house being sold to developers. My dad was mad and charged me with going to get him, but when I grabbed my bike I discovered that they’d popped my new tires! I grabbed the neighbor girls’ bike and took off. She was not happy and the thing was tiny. It even had training wheels, but what else was I supposed to do? Anyway, at one point some “friends” in a car stopped and asked if I needed a ride, but I declined. When I put my hand on the car door, the driver pinned me to the car and took off down the road. This poor girls bike started falling apart. I mean, even the training wheels fell off. When the driver let go of my hand, I launched over a ditch and crashed. I wasn’t mad though ‘cause I almost landed the jump. Eventually I found my brother and his friends. We also found an old pirate ship with treasure, but there wasn’t a bike involved, so that’s a story for another day.

Dani: The entire second day of Jingle Cross is the craziest thing to happen to me this season. I’ve fallen numerous times (an undisclosed amount) and had constant mechanicals, but nothing felt as crazy as my first UCI race on the hardest course I have ever done!

Michael: The hands down craziest experience this year goes to blindly buying a ticket and attending the Qiansen Trophy CX race in China! Not only did I have the opportunity to race overseas but I saw the Great Wall with a bunch of awesome up and coming cyclists and also got to sit down to dinner with some heroes of cross.


Anthony Clark ready for the run-up      Anthony Clark displays post-race style
Anthony Clark preps for the run-up and displays post-race style, Photos: Amy Dykema

What are you most looking forward to while at Nats in Austin?

Anthony: Racing for top 10 in the country then hanging out with everyone afterwards to celebrate the whole season of sikkcnnncenssss!

BrittLee: I love the energy of the crowd at Nationals. There is always such an amazing feeling when racing in front of a crowd like that.

Crystal: Racing my bike! That’s my favorite part of any race. After a really slow start to my season, I finally felt my form was coming around, and mentally I had come to peace with how racing fits into my life alongside teaching, so I was in a good place.

Damian: Being with my CX family and eating good food. Mission accomplished! It would have been nice to see more music, but it was a good trip.

Dani: The opportunity to really push myself and compete with the country’s best. Leave nothing on the course.

Michael: I was really looking forward to racing the national level guys again and test my fitness as I changed my training a little bit from the last couple of years. I am usually incredibly burned out by December!


Dani Arman over the barriers   Tricia Fleischer and Dani Arman post-Women's Elite race
Dani Arman over the barriers, and with Tricia Fleischer post-Women’s Elite race,
Photos: Tenspeed Hero (L) & Amy Dykema (R)

What’s in store for you for 2015?

Anthony: No idea yet, I know it will be rad and sikkkkk I’ll let you know in, like, I dunno…. kidding! It will be awesome: a year of fastness and radness and what!

BrittLee: In 2015 I’ll be managing and racing for my road team Stan’s NoTubes p/b Velo Classic Cycling. We will be doing lots of East Coast racing and a good amount of NCC, NRC and UCI events as well. When the Fall comes I’ll be back to Cross, of course!

Crystal: First up are the World Cup in Hoogerheide and the World Championships in Tabor! After that, I’m planning to race a mountain bike season, but I haven’t lined up my schedule yet.

Damian: I’m excited to race my mountain bike again and to be in shape before November. 2014 was a hard year for me and I wasn’t very motivated before the season, but being involved with Molly Cameron and Portland Bicycle Studio has me very excited and ready for #CX2016!

Dani: So many possibilities! I’ve realized my true investment is better spent with cyclocross (true love), but I will be giving mountain biking a whirl, as well as compete in a road events. All while reppin’ TSH. I will also be guest riding for the CWEC (Chicago Women’s Elite Cycling), a newly formed group composed of a several badass (Chicago) chicks who will be joining forces to attack the larger events as well as continuing to promote the sport of women’s cycling throughout the Chicago community and beyond!

Michael: For 2015 I am racing with EGO p/b Sammy’s and focusing on upgrading to Cat 1, really learning the team dynamic and getting a taste of racing at the UCI level. Then hopefully I’ll take a break in August/Sept, and then bring the fitness to cross!


Damian Schmitt pre-race     Damian Schmitt winning the Industy race
Damian Schmitt winning the Industy race at Nationals, Photos: Molly Cameron

What do you like most about Chicago?

Anthony: Can’t really say, only been to Chicago once and it was three years ago. Technically it was at a ChiCrossCup UCI race, soo it was sikkkk.

BrittLee: For me, a good city has to have a few things; access to a body of water, a good cycling culture and good food. Last time I was in Chicago I found all of those things!

Crystal: I like that on any corner you can hear multiple languages! As a language teacher, I always found that stood out to me. As a corollary to this, there’s so many great ethnic restaurants and some great places to salsa dance.

Damian: Besides The Bonebell? Probably Kanye West, Common and Lupe Fiasco. I’m sure if I spent any time there it would end up being the pizza though.

Dani: The camaraderie of enthusiastic cyclists; they have made me feel welcome from the very beginning.

Michael: Chicago is very special to me as I have always lived close, and for the last 4 years went to school at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Living right in the city has introduced me to so many awesome people. Also we have so crazy good beer and food!


Crystal Anthony on the run-up     Crystal Anthony post-race
Crystal Anthony tackling the run-up, and post-race smiles, Photos: Amy Dykema

And a post-nats follow-up question…
What was the most significant impact you feel the Nationals postponement had on yourself or others?

Anthony: Mine was I was supposed to fly home and see my boy. It delayed it a day and kinda bummed me out. It was fine, still shredded. But I like Sunday races, I’m a creature of repetitive habit…bam sikkkkk. I couldn’t have done it without Squid Bikes, Jam Fund / NCC and all the sponsors…

BrittLee: The postponement was obviously an issue for many people and caused a lot of financial and logistical issues. I was mostly unaffected by the date change as I had driven to Austin and was staying in host housing so I didn’t have to rebook flights or pay for more hotel nights. Besides throwing off my pre-race routine a bit, I was also pretty disappointed that no one re-scheduled any of the post-nats parties for Monday night.

Crystal: As a result of the weekend, there were many lessons learned. I discovered all over again just how much I love to race: I was so crushed when I heard I would not be able to race Sunday, and so elated to hear we would be able to race after all on Monday. As they say, you don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone! In my case, I luckily had a great team that took care of rearranging all travel plans for me and my teammate Kerry to accommodate the schedule change and allow us to still race. However, I know a lot of riders had to expend quite a bit of extra money to switch plane travel and extend hotels/rental cars. Some had previous work or school commitments. Beyond this, there’s a whole mental aspect to preparation; as my friend puts it, I go into “race-dork” mode the night before and getting into my zone. As riders, part of racing is being able to adapt to circumstances out of our control and make the best of the situation. In this case, everyone was in the same boat. For me personally, I got to spend some extra time with my parents who had made the trip down, and I got to do a fun (and painful!) ride with my brother Jesse on Sunday. The delay was somewhat fortunate because I had really bad legs on Sunday it turns out!

Damian: We (Oregon) had a lot of juniors racing that day and I was there early getting bikes ready when we heard the news. I was bummed that I wasn’t going to be there to help and cheer for them, but after the initial shock and disappointment, I ended up having my best personal day in Austin. I met up with friends and had brunch, walked around to antique stores, flipped through records and ate amazing doughnuts. That was all before the after party and the after after party dance fests! All in all it was a great day for me on a personal level.

Dani: It was a rough race for me; I took a chain ring to the knee right away, making it difficult to ride and run. Kind of just survived the race unfortunately. As for the postponement, the most significant impact on myself and others was negativity. The anger at USAC was through the roof, some needed to leave the race, some races were compromised. It was sad to see the junior women be sold so short of proper competition. Preparing for this race all year (years even) only to be forced to forfeit reflects poor light on the sport. Something that was once a true passion could now be looked at as lost cause, which is truly disappointing.

Michael: My first race (Collegiate D1) in Austin basically ended in a broken rear derailleur hanger. Even though I got a new bike and finished only 1 lap down, I was really looking forward to the next race (U23). But since it was cancelled, I had class and my parents had work that we already skipped, we weren’t able to stay to race on Monday.


Michael Dutczak pre-race   Michael Dutczak with the bike carry
Michael Dutczak all smiles, and displaying the bike carry, Photos: John Boho (L) & Lynne Hipke Senkerik (R)

The rescheduled date for the penultimate battle for the Stars and Stripes was much like a late blues session between Texan giants ZZ Top and the Winter Brothers, where the 2AM session with few spectators still yields a mighty fine concert. The howl of the late night session lingers in the minds and hearts of those who love the music, and so do we. Holding fast for the next show to take our breaths away, no matter where it is, and no matter how it’s held.

We believe in a solution, and it’s a stage dedicated to the love of our sport. Austin created one of the most revered sound stage studios for the weekly Austin City Limits show. This is what Chicago is creating with the likes of The Big Marsh, where we dress the stage for the future of off-road racing events, where no one but the voice of participants who support the cause write the set list.

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An extensive photo collection of many 2015 USA Cyclocross National Championship races (and The Bonebell-hosted Chicago party) by photographer Amy Dykema can be found here on Flickr.

This article is a collaboration by Bonebell teammates: Amy Dykema, Amy Weik, Eleanor Blick, and Paolo Urizar

“Can’t you see the tears roll down the street” – Stevie Ray Vaughan

Indeed I saw the tears roll down, figuratively and literally, in one bizarre Sunday morning riddled with flashbacks of bar fights, Embrocation Magazine squeegie maneuvers, and homemade chicken mole. It was a stunned awakening on the gray drab of Austin that was soon to be tweeted around the world as the cyclocross race that almost never was. Before I lay into the surreal moments that I woke up to with a mild hallucinatory state, there was so much more that was worth reminiscing about in two flights and an eight hour travel back to Chicago.

I lived in San Antonio, TX for just over two years of my teen life, and had found solace in nearby Austin. The city was weird then, and it continues to thrive in the passion of the counter Texas culture while still wrapped up in its lone star pride like a warm tortilla. I vaguely remember the Jane’s Addiction show in 1991 at The Coliseum, but the river and the park are a crystal clear memory, down to the scent of the Texas shrubs.

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That scent caught my attention again this past week, it lingers ceremoniously around the river, and Zilker Park, giving the metropolitan view a whiff of Texas country. I relished it now over 20 years later as a different kind of hooligan, the kind that came to see the backdrop of the Texas capital famous for live music, turned into the arena of cyclocross orgasm for the National Championship. It was my first time away from work in just over a year, I was ready, and I came with my trusty crew to lay havoc with our heckles and screams for all our midwest brethren. Austin did not disappoint me.

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We rented a fabulous set of cottages nestled in the Old Austin neighborhood of Terry Heights. Highly recommend the Casa Kenwood, for those looking for an alternative to the hotel atmosphere and still be accessible to the Austin metro area it’s most famous for. Uber, a bicyle, and my feet made the most of getting around town in a self sufficient and gratifying way. Breakfast tacos seem to disappear before my eyes at every turn of the Congress mile and food truck lot nearby. USA Cycling arranged for a number of after parties that brought good crowds and stirred up the spirit of the cyclocross party gangs in every team, with ample opportunity to Instagram your fave hero shot as the pros are known to accommodate so easily. The first few nights were calm blur of high fives, bad choices in drink mixes, and the random Brian Worthy sighting in his iconic orange puffy jacket. I grabbed a second dinner at Lucy’s Fried Chicken on Wednesday evening that landed me in a great conversation with the famed Zapata Espinosa, better known as Zap, of whom I had followed among the pages of Mountain Bike Action in the ’90s. Frog legs were ordered, fried chicken livers were munched on, and swigs of Pearl, made for a great backdrop of the dirtastic conversation of our mutual love of gravel biking.

Sometime on Thursday, my mother stopped by with my sister and her kids to drop off a homemade gift of mole, rice, and tortillas to fill my friends with Latin soul. A double chocolate cake was also involved, I satisfied all the housemates, and then some.

The venue was stellar, honestly. A few easy miles that meandered the Austin river front brought us to Zilker Park where tent cities filled the lots and a course draped in Volkswagen blue fencing awaited us. The technicality of the course was it’s primary feature when viewed at any angle. It was up, and down, and a lot chicane twists that made use of every inch of the park features. This included a gnarly run up of made of shale and craggy rocks. It was what I would expected out of a state known for its exaggeration of everything. The races from Wednesday through Friday were calm, tough, and with over 30 midwesterners showing up for the fight, every bit worth watching for. I even escaped to get a ride in along Barton Springs that took me, Embrocation Cycling, and a Robot Powered by Love, to the rocky, swift, natural trails that graced the parkside. It was the highlight of the trip to explore new paths and be included in the warm aura of the springs on a chilly day in Texas.

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Somewhere between that ride and the next morning, I witnessed a bar fight, and had a 4:00AM firepit chat with kind friends dispensing sage of the twilight hours. We figured we’d have a few hours to sleep in before the big show, until of course, the actual morning plan that awaited us.

Eight o’clock came fast, and my phone started chirping maniacally. My roommate’s phone too, had also taken onto vibrating fits. Something was amiss as media friends and our own crew starting live social mediating between race officials, the twitterati, and us. Blurbs came across from ‘race cancelled’ to ‘lance gives last ditch effort’. It was a horrid ball of confusion as to exactly what was going on, and our hungover disposition didn’t digest the news well. We were in a silent disarray with a whole house awoken with the details and stunned at the communiques that soon followed. We were heartbroken, and I personally was very upset for everyone who had travelled to enjoy a great race day. The dust had settled and some people chose to go home, and some were already booked for the next day but leaving earlier than the new start times for the races, so effectively still losing the opportunity to spectate the elites take the City of Austin on, as that is what it became, the race against Austin’s 5:00 traffic jam. I saw the elite race, in pixelated slow motion video granted to me by the San Antonio International Airport. It was bittersweet, and I was okay with that because it wasn’t the racers themselves I came to see, it was the friends I came to spend it with. Of course, our awesome Chicago crews that came down south of whom we supported as their biggest traveling fan club, are to thank for their dedication to this great sport and finishing another incredible year of Chicago Dirtbaggin’.

I believe that Sunday would have been a well attended spectacle of fierce competition and love for the weird City of Austin, but instead I will giggle everytime I think of the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation as a group of ne’er-do-wellers sending out a 911 web alerts while rocking out to Rush’s ‘The Trees’.

I did dance with a unicorn, so there’s that.
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