Happy New Year from Cascade Cross! I know the holiday season can be crazy (and you're probably just glad it's over), but it does provide us with a great opportunity for us to share good cheer, then renew & rejuvenate ourselves for the opportunities ahead. Before that spirit totally escapes us, your secret cyclocross santa (also known as Ryan) wants to send out a warm greeting card. Sorry for the late arrival! I just want to extend a heart-felt message of gratitude for the wonderful cyclocross season we've experienced together so far in 2014. It has been an amazing sequence of races and venues with fantastic weather, course conditions, spectating, racing, and costuming (some of which we will review in a moment).

Let's rewind a year to get some perspective. Early in the morning hours of Jan. 11th, just hours before the series finale in Cornwall Park last season, I lost my best friend of 8 years - my Australian Shepherd named Bandit. He had been my shadow at every cyclocross course I've ever built. All those late Friday nights in the dark... what would I have done without his company? Probably given up. He was an extremely loyal companion and a great ski & ride partner. Here he is on a particularly thirsty day on the Whoopsie Woodle trail on Galbraith Mountain:

Bandit succumbed to an unknown fatal poisoning - perhaps natural, perhaps not. It was both ill-timed and perfectly timed. That fateful incident capped a particularly difficult year of promoting cyclocross for me. By the beginning of November, we had promoted six cyclocross races in six weeks. The stress level was causing low-grade destruction of my sanity. I was stretched to the breaking point, and by that time in January, Bandit's death could have been the force that caused the rubber band to fully snap. Fortunately, the Fanatik team and other volunteers stepped up in a big way and ran that event so smoothly that I could sit back a bit and just get through the day. I raced in the B race as way to honor his memory and keep the rubber rolling forward. The next morning I took his beautiful Blue Merle body out to my brand new property right by Silver Lake Park (home of our 2nd race last year) and buried him. I named the one acre lot Banditland.

With the success of that last race affirmed, I handed over the finale to the Fanatik team in a long-term agreement. That is, the last race of the season at Cornwall Park will always be theirs, as long as we can keep it. Feel free to share your support for that situation with the Bellingham Parks & Rec Department! My one request was that we rename the event Bandit Cross, and so it is! Cheers to you, Bandit.

In the early part of 2014, say spring time, I began conversations with all the interested clubs & teams that have helped me promote cyclocross over the years. I wanted each group to take ownership of an event and do much of the prep work so I could focus on the overall management & marketing of the series, the permacourse at Bellingham BMX (my baby), and have a bit of fun myself! It was a model that could bring more sustainability, since I seemed to be losing some of the incredible energy it requires to pull this off in my spare time (on top of all my other responsibilities and personal pursuits).

It became quickly apparent that every club had an important role to play, but not every club could fully pull off their own event. We had to continue to work as a group, with each person or group contributing where they could to make the whole machine operate. That's why I called 2014 the Year of the Collective. Maybe you didn't notice a difference, but this approach has proven to be quite effective for us this past year! We also brought in the help of Red Tent Timing which is another huge release of burden on me, especially on race day. Instead of being chained to the finish line all day as I have been for the prior eight seasons, I found myself wandering around checking on course conditions, talking to vendors & volunteers, taking pictures... even race commentating at Bellingham BMX! I was having more fun with more energy for racing myself, which brings it all home. I mean, we're all in this to get muddy, right?!

So what you will see more of in 2015 and beyond is a collective model of production of the Cascade Cross Series, and that includes you! You might also call this a co-operative business, that is, member/owner operated! The core leadership will be putting together a feasibility study of actually forming a legitimate business structure in Washington. Look for more announcements in this arena come springtime. Everyone is welcome to participate in this transition process!

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves! We still have to look back at the past few races and look forward to the next three events! I'll have to cover the excellent, new Whidbey Island race and Zombie Xmas Cross at Lutherwood in a “year in review” post in February, as I'm running out of breath! In the meantime, you can always count on Brett over at theHoleshot.ca for an excellent race report with photos. Let's just say, in brief, don't miss these races next year. They are the highlights of my season so far, and many called Fort Nugent Park one of the best cyclocross venues in the region! How fortunate we are to have access to all these amazing venues for our tiny little series!

I'll be filling in the details for the Ride of the Valkyries over the next few days, so please watch closely for instructions! This will be a real fun, casual ride with a slightly different feel than a cyclocross race, but you will still get a great workout with a bunch of cool people! I'm also going to add another twist: pointing you to a cause that I think needs some more serious attention in our society - the Clay Hunt Veteran Suicide Bill that is currently in the House of Representatives. I'm using our platform of staged battles on our bicycles to raise awareness on the very real issue of the mental issues soldiers face when they return from war. Please have a look at the Latest news on the issue, think about it, and write your congressperson if so inspired! You can also sign the Change.org petition.

Then, we come full circle to the race called Bandit Cross, with the ever-excellent Fanatik Bike Co. Racing Team pulling it all together for you. I'll be supervising and working with Red Tent closely to make sure our chip-timed results are totally dialed for Series Overall calculations to be made in time for our Awards Party immediately afterwards. This will be a special finale, not only for the reasons described above, but also because this will be my 50th race as a promoter of local cyclocross. You heard that right - 50! We have all the ingredients to make this a real special party to commemorate all this successful grassroots development, so please do not miss out!

Thank you, cyclocross warriors! I look forward to seeing more of you in 2015!