Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Pirate Sets Sail

Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey giving last minute instructions at the first Gravel Worlds
When I think of certain parts of my life there are those iconic people that were a big part of things for me. People that always rise to the forefront of my mind. Sometimes there may even be a group of people. In the context of the gravel scene, I feel that one of those groups of people are the "Pirate Cycling League".

The folks that make up this group are many, and I am sure that I don't know all of them. That said, the PCL guys were a really big influence on me and Trans Iowa. I know for a fact that the early support of riders like Matt Wills, Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey, Matt Gersib, and others was a big facet of the early success story for Trans Iowa. They took the story of TI back to Lincoln with them and they became "super fans" of the event. I will not easily forget the van full of Pirates from the truncated TIv4 finish line in Edgewood, Iowa.

This support and goodwill affected me directly when in 2009 I attended and raced in the last "Good Life Gravel Adventure" out of Lincoln. I stayed at the infamous "D Street Motel", a huge, rambling old Victorian era home near the Nebraska State capitol building that had been the college home for many of the PCL members in the past. One of the most notorious of these was a guy that went by the initials, "CVO".

I hadn't met Christopher Van Ooyen (CVO) when I first went to the D Street, but I had heard of him. If you were going in with the gravel cycling crowd in Lincoln, you were sure to find out who he was. Back in the early 00's, there was no Facebook, so everyone blogged. Well there was a Lincoln Blog about the local cycling scene which was pretty much dominated by CVO. I read it and followed the story of CVO as he led various group rides, raced, and then passed from a broken relationship into a time of living in Mexico. By the time I came to my second gravel adventure in Lincoln, the inaugural Gravel Worlds, CVO had returned and was living again at the D Street house.

  In Memory of Christopher Van Ooyen - 09/28/1972-10/10/2017
That's where I met him. We retired to the upper story of the house where we spent the evening before Gravel Worlds chatting and hanging out with other PCL members. The day of the first Gravel Worlds, CVO was a volunteer and I recall him writing my racer number on my calf in black marker. Just like a triathlete or runner might have, but this was a gravel race. Weird. I don't think I've ever seen or heard of that again in gravel racing.

Then, later on in to the first Gravel Worlds event, CVO was seen by many out rambling around in a beat-to-shit white GM car of some sort with two coolers of drinks. One Monster Energy, the other Bud heavy's. Here's a bit of a snippet from my race report:

"It was as I was stopped alongside the road, (where I had sat on a cockle burr bush by accident and was pulling the thorny devils outta my "nether regions"), that CVO appeared out of the haze like an angel. He didn't see me until he was right by me, slammed on the brakes, skidded to a halt, and backed up the car to see how I was doing."

CVO got me two Buds and a Monster. Then he did something I'll never forget.......

"As I stood and swilled the beers and energy drinks, CVO grabbed his clubs and some rogue balls and began to profess his love of golfing to me as he took a few swings at the "gravel fareway". Unwittingly, (or maybe not), he invented gravel road golfing in front of my very eyes. This CVO cat is brilliant!"

Craig Schmidt holding up the first Gravel Worlds jersey design at Yia-Yia's in downtown Lincoln
 He was brilliant, that CVO character. He made me feel good about my miserable finish as I climbed into his beat up car that day. He hauled me back to Lincoln, chatted me up like I was always one of the gang. Honestly, CVO was one of the reasons that Gravel Worlds has been cemented into the gravel cycling culture as one of those events that is at once "real", grassroots, and fun, but has that same cutting edge competitiveness that the pointy end of the peloton craves. CVO and his PCL cohorts really set the bar high back then, and to the Pirates credit, it still remains high.

The seas have been stormy of late around Lincoln and the Pirates have been particularly hit hard. First it was Randy Gibson, who was hit by a driver under the influence of alcohol and was killed. Now CVO has succumbed to a rare disease that took his life Tuesday morning. That's just devastating right there.

The Facebook pages I follow are rife with stories about CVO, his creativity, his kindness, and his influence upon cyclists. It is obvious that CVO influenced and touched so many lives. Even the life of a crazy old blogger/cyclist from Waterloo, Iowa. I mentioned in the beginning of the post that there are certain iconic people that I will never forget. Even though I only knew CVO a minuscule amount, his impact was huge. He definitely will always be a bright spot in my life as I think back to Lincoln, the PCL, and Gravel Worlds.

Sail on, my friend! May you find calm seas and clear skies.

1 comment:

Rob E said...

I almost forgot about his posts from Mexico, looked like he was having a blast just riding around and meeting new people, I remember thinking that looked like the life to have. Thanks for sharing.