To win the prestigious Tour de France race an astounding seven years in a row, cyclist Lance Armstrong endured seven grueling treks lasting more than 20 days and 2,000 miles each. It was a triumph of heroic skill, athleticism, and willpower, demonstrating that man can conquer any challenge set before him. But as epic as his victories were, we found it far more entertaining watching a bicycle battle like last year's Dagger Death Race. Held on the Saturday before Halloween, the gonzo contest organized by a local crew of BMX riders featured more than 40 cyclists (many wearing costumes) racing around Tempe and Scottsdale in a quest for two-wheeled supremacy.
The over-the-top event was an "alleycat," a type of urban cycling race developed by bike messengers that involves participants maneuvering through a series of checkpoints through a city. Alleycats are big in cities like San Francisco and Portland, and have caught on across the Valley in the past few years, usually featuring a number of riders on fixed-gear bicycles (single-speed and often brakeless two-wheelers that have also gotten popular recently). Outrageous tasks are a frequent part of checkpoints at events, and the Dagger Death Race was no different with its stops. Riders had to succeed at such challenges as spinning around with their head planted on a baseball bat, digging chicken bones out of a pail of dirt, or drinking either beers or shots of hot sauce. Alleycats occasionally feature some lawless riding, like one rider who took his bike on Loop 202. A second race is in the works for this year, and promises even more mayhem. Let's just hope the cops don't spoil the fun.