Las Vegas is most definitely in the middle of a desert. There is just no way of denying it; any map worth a damn will show that the City of Sin rises like a middle finger from the center of a vast brown expanse, away from major bodies of water, far from a dependable jetstream. Find a map that shows average annual rainfall and you will note that Las Vegas is shown as brown verging on yellow verging on red; this puts it squarely in the category of capital “D” Desert. On the other hand, the entire country of Belgium, the home, the heartland, and the most important chakra of cyclocross is categorized as “maritime temperate with significant precipitation in all seasons.” If you haven’t caught on, what I am getting at here, is that Las Vegas is an absolutely perfect location to hold a cyclocross tournament.
You maybe thinking, WHAT? But the course here will be nothing like what the sport’s glottally supercharged vanguard is used to racing, nothing like the climes and temperatures that molded and honed the venerable sport of cyclocross into the high-speed serpentine hammerfest that has so captured the imagination of the post-Perestroika American bicycle racing public. Sin City is known for its free drinks, not its monastic Tripels. It’s known for its garish use of rhinestones not its garish repurposing of rugby/soccer/field hockey socks. Outward appearances would confirm that Las Vegas is a less than ideal location for a cyclocross tournament and instead, would and should, be the perfection location for a solar cooking contest or a desiccation championship. True, these two competitions would be glorious spectacles in and of themselves, calling upon the highest levels of endurance, each match packed with so much suspense that pacemakers would be required of those in attendance, but this is obvious, no?
Las Vegas is not the hyper-metonym for the United State’s gross superficiality that the unenlightened might take it for. Scratch deeper my friends and you will find a vibrant city full of larger-than-life characters like David Copperfield, Carrot Top, and the fleet of foot known only as The Jabbawockeez . You may not have their talent or charm but they eat food and you too can eat food where they might eat food and dine at the hidden and not so hidden culinary locations that dot the city like supernovas in the night sky. The world’s best have found a home in this desert oasis; Wolfgang Puck, and other guys with names equally as a foreign and mysterious have made Las Vegas their home. This is the American Dream on a 12 pack of Monster Energy tall cans, a hyperkinetic fast-paced metropolis set to the transcendent future sounds of Skrillex and Tiesto. Once this is understood, once you can appreciate what it takes to grow this kind of electric Eden in a once cursed and barren land then you will understand that this is the perfect location for a cyclocross race, because cyclocross is nothing if not a challenge. And that is exactly what Las Vegas is, a GOD DAMNED CHALLENGE.
That is not to say that the cyclocross tournament would be missing all the traditional cyclocross signifiers; skeins of parallel tape drunkenly wending through a field, giant flags, rows of vertical 2”x16” riding impediments, a special order of beach sand, jolly revilers stoned drunk on rich beer, tacos, lycra outfits, startings and finishings, joy, shame, bikes, people, and air. It only makes sense that the event would take place on grounds most often utilized by another European sports favorite, soccer. We can only surmise that city officials did this in order to best contain any type of European outbreak. Imagine if a developed and compassionate social infrastructure infiltrated our shining bastion of excess? We are talking community centers, afternoon naps, and the narrowing of streets. No, no, we couldn’t have that, so officials have placed giant concrete soccer balls around the perimeter of the grounds like guard towers ready to be armed with capitalist commandos carrying free market munitions should the time come.
Fortunately for all involved the 2014 running of Cross Vegas did not encounter any counterculture incidents. The crowd pulsed with zealous excitement, spinning towards insobriety with the focused effort of a group imbued with a noted athletic background, “no pain, no gain.” We watched, participated, and were consumed by the monster that is CrossVegas.