Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Holy Week-Hell Week in NECX: the feast of Michaelmas

Midnight Ride of CX, Grand Prix of Gloucester, Night Weasels, Providence CX Festival.

6 races in 11 days. Some have called this New England cyclocross Holy Week, others have deemed it Hell Week. Certainly many of us will be praying for strength or mercy, since indeed it is both.

This week also marks Michaelmas; the feast of Saint Michael. The current date of St. Michael's Day is on September 29th, the day after the Midnight Ride. The ancient date for Michaelmas is October 10th, the day after Providence Cyclocross Fest ends. NECX Holy-Hell Week spans the feast of St. Michael.

St. Michael is the Arch Angel, the divine avenger. It was St. Michael who drove Satan out of heaven after the rebellion. In legend, the Arch Angel and Satan fought a war ending in Satan's defeat and descent to hell. The feast of Saint Michael commemorates the victory.

The races this week have several religous features. Racing at Gloucester is like a pilgrimage for cyclocross devotees. Many of us will battle our own demons during these races. This week ends in the city named Providence, on a course around a shrine.

But I have something to add to the myth. In medieval legend, Satan clutched at the Arch Angel's wings trying to hold onto to a place in heaven. Eventually Michael wrestled him away. Satan then fell and landed in a blackberry thicket. I imagine that Satan grasped at anything he could in his struggle, even a bicycle, meant for mortals, hidden under the Arch Angel's wings. Perhaps he held onto to that divine machine in his fall. Yet Satan was so disgusted with his outcast state when he landed in the thicket, that he threw the bicycle into the thorns. Satan then sneered, and dared foolish humans to race that machine through the blackberry thicket in the bleak cold of autumn. Cyclocross was then born out of that divine bicycle and that demonic challenge.

Every year, the bicycles become more heavenly, and the courses become more hellish.

So pray for us this week, lend us strength and mercy, we the disciples of cyclocross.

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