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Heavy Metal Hammerfest: Thoughts from a Spectator

In cyclocross, the bike sometimes gets a lift on your back. (Photo by Brandee Lepak)

I just went to my first cyclocross race. And after seeing it in-person, I have to agree with Dr. John’s assessment: “Words hardly do it justice.”

The race I saw was the first in the Heavy Metal Hammerfest series in Arizona … so maybe I should say “words hardly do it Justice for All”. It was the first chilly night in the Phoenix area, perhaps brought on by the sport’s roots in European winter cycling (I told organizer Brandee Lepak that she should try tricking the weather gods by holding the event in late September so we get some relief from the heat). Aside from that, here are some thoughts about the first-ever Heavy Metal Hammerfest race and cyclocross in general:

  • Brandee and her team transformed a farm surrounded by subdivisions into a perfect slice of cyclocross culture. It’s amazing what some stretchy plastic tape, a massive mound of fresh dirt, some high-power lights and some creativity can do.
  • The racers in the top classes are fast and skilled. Even when negotiating a sand pit or a series of tight turns through trees, I could tell these guys were hell-bent for leather. Good fun for spectators – and the racers seemed to like it, too.
  • Show up early and watch the warm-ups. You’ll see some wipe-outs and plenty of laughter … much of it from the riders who take the tumbles.

    Yes, there were a few Iron Maidens on the course, too. And she got a taste of the action on a mountain bike (a hint for thrifty cyclists like me who try not to have TOO much gear …) Photo by Brandee Lepak.

    • The Heavy Metal Hammerfest has a really nice grassroots flavor. Sure, it has sponsorships that make it financially possible. But the focus is on the nature of the sport — that off-kilter, low-key and very friendly feel that’s only possible from people who share enthusiasm for a sport that flies under the mainstream radar.
    • Oh, yeah. It’s called Heavy Metal Hammerfest for a reason … and I could go to these races just for the music – Metallica, Judas Priest, even a bit of Krokus! I’ll also have to give props to the very excited MC. I really enjoyed hs commentary.
    • Congrats to my 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo friend Ryan Zilka for his third-place finish in the Men’s Category 4 race. Way to go!

The next Heavy Metal Hammerfest race is Dec. 8 at Horseshoe Park in Queen Creek. The fun starts at 6 p.m. – yep, evening races (but you won’t need to stay awake all night). Bring your headlights!

A friendly but very competitive pack lines up for a cyclocross race. (photo by Brandee Lepak)

Gels? Energy bars? Some drink that ends with "ade"? Screw that - there's bacon on! Cyclocross wackiness at its best. (photo by Brandee Lepak)

Gels? Energy bars? Some drink that ends with “ade”? Screw that – there’s bacon on! Typical cyclocross hijinks. (photo by Brandee Lepak)

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