Retro gallery: Racing in a blizzard at US CX nationals in 1995
As we make our way through December here in North America, our thoughts have begun to turn towards the cyclocross national championships. At the same time, amid an unseasonably warm stretch here in Colorado, it’s easy to wax poetic about snowier times. Such a combination of sentiments is a recipe for remembering some especially epic ‘cross nats of years past – and some fine photos from the 1995 US national championships, taken by Paul Boudreau, jogged our memory too.
On a chilly New England day 26 years ago, the class of the US ‘cross scene gathered in Leicester, Massachusetts, to race in a snowstorm. As Boudreau explains, “The blizzard was nasty. We pulled into a rest area on the Mass Pike and my pals decided to bail. I stupidly decided I would keep going. Best decision ever.”
The times and the clime meant that even some of the very best in the country were riding – gasp – mountain bikes. There was a wide array of clothing tech on display too; some wore the finest warm-weather athletic gear on offer at the time. Others opted for more festive flair.
Jan Wiejak would go on to win the men’s race, and Janice Bolland took the women’s title.
Then-future American cyclocross legend Tim Johnson was also determined to make the start in the juniors race at a nationals event held in his proverbial backyard.
“I was working retail at the time. I was working at REI,” he explains to CyclingTips. “That was my first season of cyclocross and being scheduled to work on weekends meant that I was calling in sick a lot, and in fact, I asked for that day off from work. I was denied, because I’d already claimed too many weekend days off, so I called in sick the morning of that race.”
After Damon Kluck was disqualified for having gearing that exceeded juniors limitations, Johnson would go on to secure the junior national title in Leicester, so his decision to skip work seems to have paid off, although there were short-term consequences.
“I got a phone call Sunday night or Monday maybe from my manager at REI telling me that I was being fired because I had called in sick when I obviously wasn’t sick,” he says. “I was on the cover of Ride magazine later that month, being national champion, having the jersey. They sold Ride magazine at REI. When I went in to pick up my final paycheck, I’m on the newsstand.”
Years later, Johnson counts three elite national titles on his career palmares. He looks back on the atmosphere at Leicester fondly, and in so doing is reminded of just how much has changed as the sport has grown. Nationals alone has evolved from a single-day event with only a handful of categories to a multi-day affair with numerous races and a huge combined field, and obviously tech choices have developed too.
“To think that there would be an event with a couple thousand racers over five or six days, just totally outside the realm of possibility. No one ever thought it would get like that,” Johnson says.
“You were still playing flag football. You were still like, ‘Hey, we should totally have a race. Yeah, let’s get a flyer.'”
Take a trip down memory lane with us through the lens of Paul Boudreau.