The race came down to an animated battle between Stan and Adam Craig, a veteran professional mountain biker and repeat winner at SSCXWC with the ink to prove it. With the smell of sulfur in the air, the hiss of firecrackers, and the blinding flash of strobe lights through thick smoke, standing in the crowd felt like reporting from a warzone. While he and Adam traded places off the front throughout the race, the real battle may have been confronting the course and rambunctious crowd. The most daunting field of fire was found just past the shark jump, where a gauntlet of massive exercise balls thrown from the sidelines stopped both Adam and Stan dead in their tracks. Anyone who has watched Sven race in the past knows that he’s endured his share of heckling. In Portland, Stan garnered the lion’s share of the fans’ attention and at times seemed to have a target on his back, but he sported a smile the entire time and was visibly motivated by the energy of the crowd. His mud-covered grin spoke volumes about what the SSCXWC experience meant to him, and revealed that even the most serious competitors aren’t immune to the irresistible draw of people who are simply looking to indulge their primal love of bikes and beers. Adam went on to win the race in front of his friends and longtime fans, and while some speculated that Stan had something left in his tank, the world will never know. The crowd clamored around the local hero and his legendary opponent, and as Stan donned the yellow smoking jacket and became Sven once again, it was obvious that the general energy and worry-free attitude of the weekend had rubbed off on him. With an embrace of Adam and a pearly smile that stood in sharp contrast to his mud-covered face, he said what everyone was thinking: “Thank you for a great show.” Sven Nys may have adopted the pseudonym “Stan Nice” for the weekend, but the truth is that no one at SSCXWCPDX was acting. Raw authenticity and an in-your-face, do-it-yourself attitude define the event. It’s a welcome relief in the world of bike racing, where past results, the bike you’re riding, and your appearance often hold too much weight in defining “success.” In the world of singlespeed cyclocross, you gain acceptance by having a radical time and doing anything you can to help strangers and longtime friends have a rad time, too. Only one racer went home with the golden Speedo and the prestige of the SSCXWC tattoo, but once bikes were shipped home, after-party hangovers faded, and a weekend’s worth of mud, sweat, and beer were painstakingly removed from flannels and jean shorts, all that remained were the memories of an epic weekend and sweet speculation over how next year’s SSCXWC could possibly be more unusual.