North Philadelphia is not known for a big cycling event or race like other neighborhoods in the city, but last Saturday a group of cycling enthusiasts came together at the far end of N. 2nd Street for the Bilenky Junkyard Cross to race, cheer and drink beer.
Partly inspired by traditional Belgian cyclocross folk festivals that happen in the winter season, the Junkyard Cross adds an American twist with the backdrop of abandoned trucks, vans and sedans. Spectators, often with a beer in hand, find vantage points on top of the roofs, trunks and hoods.
This year the Junkyard Cross is in the hands of the same people that organize the Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championship Races (SSCXWW), another cycling event in the city the same weekend. Saturday’s festivities were set up as qualifier for the championship race held on Sunday at the Belmont Plateau. In years past, Stephen Bilenky’s artisan bicycle factory organized the race and has the course run literally at the back door of the factory.
There are a lot of “bicycle freaks and bike hippies,” said avid cyclist Dennis Brown about the biking counter-culture. Luke Demoe, a professional cyclist from Eugene, Ore., won Saturday’s “Mens A” race wearing only black Calvin Klein briefs.
Spectator, David Maricou traveled all the way from Belgium to see the races. He is interested in bringing the main event to his country. “We have a lot of things the Americans love,” said Maricou — the best beer, the best cobblestones and the best history in cyclocross.
Before the start of the afternoon races, a rider crashed in a practice run. “It was absolute silence when he hit the ground,” said Brad Quertuccio from Pittsburgh, Pa. “People were cheering because he made the biggest jump of the day.”
The unnamed rider overshot the ramp and crashed his front wheel into the ground, followed by his body. At the scene the rider appeared conscious when he received medical attention. He left on a stretcher wearing a neck-brace. The rider’s condition is unknown.