Mud and Food. On the surface, that sounds really odd. But for a niche sect of New England bike racers, it makes perfect sense… Please allow me to expand…
I’m a bit of a cycling junkie. I’ll put rubber to the road year-round, and have the wardrobe and accessories to make it happen. I live for spring and summer, when I can ride for hours at a time, exploring a plethora of winding country roads, suffering my way up hills and mountains (as much as we can call our east coast hills “mountains”). I spend a shameful amount of time glued to Tour de France coverage every July, and put a whole lot of time into the other 2 grand tours as well. I’m also a big fan of the “spring classics” – bike races that take road bikes and riders over the ancient, battle-scarred farm roads of Northern France and Belgium, often in cold, rainy and treacherous conditions.
I gave up mountain biking years ago in favor of road riding – mostly because I was tired of getting so muddy and filthy. But I do make one exception these days for getting absolutely muddy – cyclocross racing in the autumn. I’ll spare you the details, but Cyclocross, or just ‘cross or “CX” to some, is a subset of bike racing that got it starts in Northern Europe as a way to pass time in between road racing seasons. Embraced by the cycling-mad Belgium people, cyclocross has enjoyed a steady, growing fan base here in the USA, first gaining hold in New England, but now enjoying popularity all over the country.
What makes ‘cross racing so different is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sure, riders still dress in skin-tight clothing and put out incredible sustained efforts, but you are also likely to find riders dressed in costume, and taking “beer hand-ups” (instead of water bottles). For me, what makes cyclocross racing so great isn’t the racing (although I love that part), the cool bikes (ok, I love them too), the costumes or the beer (I actually don’t love that part) – it’s the friends and food. And that is, of course, why I am writing about it here!
A typical post-cross race for me typically means a caravan of close (and oftentimes new) friends, heading to the designated zone (sometimes a rider’s house, sometimes a bar or restaurant) to hang, have a few beers, eat some food and share some laughs over the days events. One of the regular crew of guys, an avid home brewer, is always bringing some bottles or growlers of his latest concoction – and usually we cap off the season with a specially-made brew produced just for our merry band of CX bike riders. My favorite dish to enjoy is certainly inspired by cyclocross’ Northern European roots – a giant place (or cone, if I can get them) of pommes frites.
Now look, I’m ok with just buying them at the race or in the pub afterwards, but if we’re headed to a rider’s house to gather, I make sure that my deep fryer and oil are packed in the car for some post-cx frites…
- 6 Russet Potatoes
- 1 quart peanut oil
- Mayonaise (or ketchup, if you must)
- Peel potatoes, cut into strips about the size of your first finger.
- Preheat deep fryer or a pot of oil to 325 degrees (F).
- Drop the potatoes in the oil for 5 to 6 minutes until a light golden color. Don’t try to cook too many at once – fry in several smaller batches if necessary.
- Remove the frites using a slotted spoon, and allow them to cool.
Now the important part – the double fry!
- Raise the temperature of the oil to 375 degrees (F).
- Drop frites back into the oil for 2 minutes.
- When crispy, remove frites and place them in a bowl.
- I’d suggest NOT covering the fries with foil – they might cool off a little faster, but that’s better than soggy frites! Instead, just eat them fast!
- Salt the frites while still hot so that the salt sticks.
Eat, laugh and enjoy!