The Coveted Hat

As we suffer through the fetid crisis brought on by a certain Austin cyclist, it’s worth recognizing that bicycling is also still a source of the sublime. In that spirit, David Gill noted on the web-page for the finale of the Peak Season Cyclocross Series that the January 27 race would also serve as the 2013 Santa Cruz County Cyclocross Championships.

The “highest placed Santa Cruz County resident in each category is awarded the coveted hat,” the race instructions said.

Coveted hat is a term they apparently use in Santa Cruz for a Gobha-Clothing merino casquette with our trademark Santa Cruz equilateral cross crown. 2013 is the second year running Gill has reached out to us to buy an order of caps to award category winners; we’d already heard from a couple of Santa Cruz Countychampions who said they loved their hats, and wanted to buy whatever other styles we had.

Providing Santa Cruz winners with our hats is a special honor, because Santa Cruz is the birthplace of American-style cyclocross. And it has its own place in our heart because during the late 1970s and early 80s, we devoted our winters to cyclocross races in Surf City, winning the 1981 California state junior championships there, and getting second there in the senior state championships the following year.

The second place was a bit of a hollow victory, however; we were actually the third person across the line. Legendary American cyclocross pioneer Lawrence Malone was second, behind perennial national champion Clark Natwick. Malone had turned pro to race in Europe, however, and the state championships only counted for amateurs.

We’d gotten what during those years was a perennial consolation prize of being the first also-ran behind those giants of American cyclocross. They and Northern California star Joe Ryan made up the U.S. National Team at the world championship at Hanover Germany – where Malone became the darling of the global cycling press for his ability to bunny hop barriers. Between 1975 and 1987, Natwick and Malone together won eight national championships. We never beat Natwick, but one glorious day happenstance contrived to let us beat Malone in a non-championships Santa Cruz event in1983. We’d spent the whole race nipping his heels, and after we crossed the finish line, both of us collapsed. After we’d lay motionless for a few seconds, one of the spectators informed us we had another lap to go.We guess we were the first to hear her, because we rose to our bike first and held Malone off the whole lap for second place.

            Fair? Not exactly. But to paraphrase Lance Armstrong on Oprah Winfrey, it didn’t fit the dictionary definition of cheating, either.