One gear, weed, burgers and a mandatory winner's tattoo: 2023's wildest World Championship

The Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships offer a chance to win a coveted tattoo instead of rainbow bands

The SSCXWC in Utah in 2019
(Image credit: Ian Matteson)

After two years of Covid cancellations, the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships (SSCXWC) is taking place in Durango, Colorado, this weekend, where participants will be vying for bragging rights and a lifelong tattoo instead of rainbow bands. 

Now in its 14th rendition, the very unofficial, unsanctioned and anarchistic World Championships is a celebration of all the things we love about ‘cross: playing on bike in the mud, beer,  hand-ups, fried foods, spectator engagement and a healthy dose of competition, without the limitation of pesky rules around sock length, tires width, barrier height, flat bars or course features.  In fact, there’s only one enforced rule: the winner must immortalize their victory with a tattoo or forever be shunned from the single-speed community. 

Other, unspoken rules include wearing a costume, checking your sobriety at the door and to not take yourself seriously. 

The SSCXWC travels to a different host city every year, and while most frequently held in the U.S., Italy and Canada have also taken turns hosting the end-of-year mayhem. Those wanting to host a future event will have to win the honor during the hosting competition on the first day of the SSCXWC long-weekend. 

The race weekend generally consists of a series of qualifying rounds prior to the final championship races on Saturday. The qualifiers are a series of on- and off-the-bike Feats of Strength ranging from track stand competitions and time trials to donut eating contests and Karaoke. 

The championship course tends to be an obstacle race where the common barriers or fly-overs seen at regular cyclocross races make way for unique features such as a stripper bus shortcut, human and/or fire pit barriers, foam pits, ponds, dual slaloms, junk yard jumps and corn mazes.

The event is contested by amateurs and pros alike, and previous winners include former pros Adam Craig, Sarah Sturm, Maxx Chance, Barry Wicks, Jessica Cutler and Mical Dyck. 

In 2016, even the great Belgian cyclocross legend Sven Nys joined in on the fun, and came in second to six-time winner Adam Craig. 

What’s in store for Durango 2022

The SSCXWC in Utah in 2019

"Feats of Strength" competitions take on all shapes and forms

(Image credit: Ian Matteson)

After winning the hosting competition at the Utah event in 2019, it fell on industry man Dylan Stucki to bring this year’s event.

“A little drunken fry sauce competition turned into this ordeal. I didn’t really think it through but I thought it would be sick to have it in Durango because we had the Single Speed Mountain Bike World Championships here back in 2009,” Stucki told Cycling Weekly.

“But it’s not just planning a bike race either. It’s also planning concerts and parties and all the auxiliary stuff. It’s definitely quite the on-taking.”

In addition to the three Championship races and qualifying heats, Stucki and his team organized a packed schedule of events, which include an Alley Cat race, a grass polo competition, roller races, a critical mass Durango cruiser group ride, a Bluegrass concert and bike art show where participants can show off their single speed race steeds.

Yeah, Stucki’s been a busy man! And he’s eager to get the program rolling with some 316 registrants ready to fight for those tattoos.

“We sold out the men’s race in like a week. We also have the first ever non-binary championships, and 65 women. It’s a pretty decent turnout,” he said.

To get the multi-day party started, participants will pick up their race packet, which includes a reusable beer vessel and a marijuana joint.

The qualifiers will take place on Friday with heat races, and for those who fail to secure a championship slot then, there will be other opportunities to qualify in the many Feats of Strength comptitions, which this year will include a Big Mac eating contest sponsored by the local McDonalds, a pedicap tractor pull, barrel racing and tug of war.

Once again, the competition looks quite fierce with some World-class pros in the mix.

There’s Giant Factory Team rider Stephan Davoust, LifetIme Grand Prix winner Keegan Swenson, Specialized off-road pro Russel Finsterwald and reigning champion Maxx Chance. In the women’s field, there’s elite cyclocrosser Sunny Gilbert, retired domestic pro roadie Beth Ann Orton, former winner Sarah Sturm and a host of local Coloradoans looking to make their state proud.

“It’ll be a really exciting race, I’d imagine. I think most people take it seriously enough to make it a race but also participate in the fun stuff,” said Stucki.

“Sarah Sturm gets so stressed out about this race every year ‘cause she wants to win but she also wants to do all the fun stuff and party and have a good time. And so, maybe at the demise of her ultimately winning the race, she ends up participating in everything.”

“It’s the best mix of bike riders. We have an exciting race at the front — they’ll take some handups and partake in the course features but then they keep moving— and then you have the rest of the folks who are just there to have fun.”

When asked who his money was on, Stucki was of course quick to favor his partner, Sarah Sturm. In the men’s race he ultimately picked Stephan Davoust. “Because I think he could pull off the party-to-race ratio,” he said.

“And the non-binary category is a mystery with just a bunch of dark horses.”

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Anne-Marije Rook
North American Editor

Cycling Weekly's North American Editor, Anne-Marije Rook is old school. She holds a degree in journalism and started out as a newspaper reporter — in print! She can even be seen bringing a pen and notepad to the press conference.

Originally from The Netherlands, she grew up a bike commuter and didn't find bike racing until her early twenties when living in Seattle, Washington. Strengthened by the many miles spent darting around Seattle's hilly streets on a steel single speed, Rook's progression in the sport was a quick one. As she competed at the elite level, her journalism career followed, and soon she became a full-time cycling journalist. She's now been a cycling journalist for 11 years.