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September 20, 2012

For the uninitiated Interbike is the largest cycling trade show in the US. It’s a chance for dealers like Bicycle Sport Shop to meet with product makers and distributors and to make buying decisions that will impact what you see in your local shop. It’s sort of like the bike shop going down to the bike shop to pick up a few things–we’ve all done that, right?

I’ve always wanted to come to Interbike. Not because my job necessitates it (our buyers are here doing the aforementioned work), but because it’s a chance to see all the latest product offerings from nearly every manufacturer under one roof and to rub elbows with cycling stars both riders and gear innovators.

I somehow convinced the General Manager that it would be great if the shop was live-Tweeting from the show floor, posting a few Facebook status updates, and writing this blog at Interbike. And so, here I am. Crossing Interbike off the bucket list.

We actually have two crews here. A few guys came out Monday for the Outdoor Demo–two days of riding all the 2013 bikes and gear out in the desert. Basically Interbike moves the show outdoors for two days, so along with companies’ demo fleets, they are there on the desert floor talking up their wares and getting retailers excited about their line-up with the goal of expanding product orders or catching a new dealer. For shop employees like our early-week crew, it’s simply a chance to ride the latest.

My three-man contingent arrived Tuesday and had a relatively quiet day. The show portion of Interbike wasn’t going to start until Wednesday, but we had our own work to do–getting our show credentials and getting prepped for CrossVegas. CrossVegas is part of the Cross After Dark series and is billed as Americas largest cyclocross race. Comprised of a USA Cycling race for category 1 through 3 racers, the “Wheers & Dealers” race for all category riders who work in the industry, and pro women’s and men’s events, CrossVegas has something for everyone. So we spent Tuesday building bikes that we brought along on the trip, picking up race numbers, per-riding the course, and day-dreaming about what we might see at the show.

Wednesday we were up early. Well, I was. I wanted to hit the show when the doors opened at 8. So I found myself at breakfast with the other early birds and a few night owls from the casinos, frantically texting my crew who joined me in short order.

Show time.

This doesn’t come close to doing justice to the size and scope of Interbike.

Overwhelming. There is literally so much to see that you can’t actually describe how big it is. We set about planning on meeting for lunch and each headed our separate ways. I had gotten a tip from the Shop’s GM to walk floor highlighting what you wanted to go back and look at in more detail. That great plan lasted exactly one booth–Campagnolo–where I ogled the Super Record and trying the new Athena EPS electronic drivetrain. From there it was a whirlwind–Castelli where I met CrossVegas pro men’s race podium finisher Tim Johnson as well as Patrick whose been the Bicycle Sport Shop Cyclocross Team contact for our kits), Fairdale where I said hello to Taj Mihelich, Niner to see the new carbon RIP 9 RDO, Brooks, Shimano, CerveloSRAM, and more, and more, and more.

CrossVegas pro men’s second place finisher Tim Johnson and I at the Castelli booth. Tim’s advice: “own the suffering.”

By lunch I was not only hungry, but also trying to recall what the best thing I had seen was. Or, more accurately, trying to decide what the best thing was. It was a tie. The whole show experience was the amazing. (And I can’t wait to hit it again here in a few minutes!)

Post-lunch was a quick trip back into the show. I had forgotten my clear lenses for my glasses and with the race at night I wanted to be able to see as well as wear eye protection. Luckily I was at a cycling industry trade show–Bolle loaned me a set of specs. Add to that some latex tubes from Vittoria, and a pair of the world’s best socks from Swiftwick and I was a sponsored rider for Wednesday night’s main event–the CrossVegas Wheelers & Dealers race!

Joey (the shop eBay czar), Cassidy (who works sales at Lamar and is the captain, or Admiral, of Austin’s Team Yacht Club–cross is as much about fun as it is about racing), and I rested some in the afternoon, kitted up, and then rode the 6 or so miles over to the Desert Breeze Soccer Complex where the race was to be held. We got there with time not only to pre-ride the course some, but also to swing by the Specialized truck where Zane, the lead wrench, gave my 2012 Crux Expert the pro treatment. This was going to be my last race on this bike, and I was happy to have it dialed in by an expert.

There were 156 riders in our event. Some for fun (me) some looking to try to win. The start was chaotic at best. In turn 1 on the first lap the rider in front of me put the rider to his left in the crowd control barrier. As my lead guy tried to correct he overcompensated and fell. I t-boned him in the ribs, I think, at basically full speed, but managed not to fall. After that, it was simply attrition. Joey–afectionately known on the racing circuit as the Cuban Missle–finished just outside the top 50 in 54th, 4:33 adrift of the winner. Cassidy bettered his 2011 showing, coming in 83rd 6:09 back, and I rolled in 6:43 back for a spectacular 92nd.

It was so fun.

Joey (c), Cassidy (r), and I ham it up for the camer post-race at Cross Vegas.

We hung out the rest of the evening at the race, watching the women’s and men’s pro events, had a celebratory beer, caught up with more industry folks, like Tim from Grease Monkey Wipes, and rode safely back to the Strip–thanks to Brian from Knog who set us up with Knog’s new Blinder lights, which we had forgotten to bring to Vegas, and our hotel to catch some sleep and get ready for today.

I’ve always wanted to go to Interbike, day 2.

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