Wednesday, December 30

Cross Examined

So, I got this yesterday from Fatmarc on the FaceBook:

"Longtime listener, first time caller: I have long observed that you prefer the longer endurance events. I've found it interesting how much attention you've paid to cross in recent posts (blog/fb)... Just curious the driver? You moving away from endurance/stage racing ? Just because nationals are in your backyard ? It generates interwebs traffic? If you asked me a month ago "what does Dicky think of cross?" I'd have said he hates it, and anything USAC.." Not that anyone would have asked me that, but I was just curious... what causes the people's single speed champion of the world and endurance racing to postulate on cross so much recently? I'll hang up and listen to your response?" ~ FM VDB

Fat Marc is a respected blogging cyclocrosser, so he deserves a lengthy response.

Allow me to postulate, gesticulate and flatulate all over my piece of the internet.

I'm fascinated by the concept of cyclocross racing.  It reminds me of when I was a boy, growing up in very rural NE Ohio, entertaining myself with my banana seat Huffy Wrangler.

(not my picture, but definitely the bike)

One of my favorite things to do was to race my little friends on their bikes.  Since there were no "trails" or BMX tracks in Pierpont, OH, we raced on random courses in front and back yards, around the church down the road, or just plain in and around the woods.  Right at this tree, over this hump, down this hill, behind this bush...

So, basically cyclocross... with even sillier handlebars for off-road use.

I love racing cross, although it's been years since I did a legit, USA Cycling, non-Black Metal Friday event.

photo cred: Bill Fehr
Black Metal Friday Cross.  No entry fee, no rules about sleeves, no bib number, no prize money, no course tape...

I loathe short track racing, mostly because it doesn't allow me to apply my strengths... I mean the things I'm less weaker at in all manners of propelling a bicycle across the surface of the earth.  Cyclocross adds a few things I can do rather well, like mounting and dismounting, and it seems a lot more like a "game" or an obstacle course.  It's fun... and pain... and friends.

If I could live two human lives concurrently, I would race both cyclocross and endurance MTB.  But I don't.  I stick to one. Why?

From Spring to Fall, I'm focused (as much as I ever can) on endurance mountain biking, specifically on a single speed.  It's my twoo wuv.

I devote a fair amount of time to travel, racing, preparing, "training," monetary expenditures.... most all the things.   By the time cross comes (it comes every year BTW), this is where I'm at:

I'm tired of all the driving/riding in cars to get to places.  I hate being in a vehicle to begin with (thus my job and method for getting to it), so after a full "season" of travel, I'm not so tempted to spend my weekends driving for hours just to race for an hour or so.  I don't want to have this conversation with my family:

"Remember how I was gone like every other weekend from April to October?  Yeah, well now I want to be gone every weekend from October till February... so I can drive four to six hours round trip and race for an hour.  And drink post-race beers, of course.  Oh, and sometimes it will be back-to-back Saturday and Sunday?  Still okay?  My stuff will be at the curb?  Okay."

I'm happy to have some free weekends.  This is the time to fit in the bicycle riding around all the other things in life.  When I do get those off-"season" rides, I want them to be slower, shorter (in distance), fun, relaxed... not fitness oriented at all.  A calorie burning justification of a post-ride burrito and four baskets of chips and salsa.

USA Cycling.  There, I said it.  Ever since ______ _____* "won" his spot to represent the U.S. at Marathon Worlds, I've felt quite different about shoveling money their way.  Not only did he have to foot the entire bill, he had to buy his Team USA kit.  Really?  I thought some of my money went to support our athletes.  Whatever.  That was just the beginning.  They've been doing very little but heap on more and more reasons to not want to get a license... and then they've raised the one-day from the measly $5 (back when I used to race on a one-day) up to $15.  Yeah, a loaf of bread was a nickel back then.  Shut up.

*not sure he wants his name brought into this

Kinda makes it less inviting for the first time dabblers when they're staring down a $40-70 (total) entry fee for a thirty to ninety minute event (CX or MTB XC).   Especially when there are so many other options out there.... well, at least in the world of MTB.  Not so much for the cyclocross dabblers.  USA Cycling almost owns the CX scene in America (right now anyways).

So yeah, I love the sport and find it enthralling.  I love that people are willing to get into cars and drive all over the place to race in some municipal park between miles of winding course tape.  I do have some not so mixed feelings about pits, pit bikes, support and all that, but that's just the endurance racer in me.  It's always been part of this particular sport, and no amount of complaining from an outlier like me is gonna change that.

Where I come from, mud happens.  Deal with it.

So why "postulate on cross so much?"

It's cycling.  I live it, breathe it, sleep it, eat it, drink it.  Other than checking the weather, I don't know what the internet is for, that and looking at bikes, bike racing, bike racers... and when I'm looking at the weather, it's because... bikes.  I read/write about road racing, but I don't do it.  I read/write about doping, but I don't do it.

So I read/write about cyclocross... and then not do it... except maybe in this case, which I still might.

Or might not.

And I will be going to Nats, because it is in my backyard... and my family is away... and because my little friends will be there (not on their banana seat bikes tho).

That is unless something way better comes up and then I'll do that.


Fatmarc Vanderbacon said...


excellent post.
Thank you for that.
I have reduced my spring/summer traveling for pretty much the same reasons you list, except that my passion is cross.

USAC doesn't do crap for mtb. I agree 100%.
There are better options right now. I also want to give the new CEO a shot. I'm ever the optimist. Still not sure what he can do for MTB, but in general I'm hopeful.

Nationals will be horrible and wonderful. Whenever you bring together tons of passionate people who are all certain about how things should run, and all somewhat suspicious of the entire event- interesting things happen. As bike racers, we all want to control as many variables as we possibly can, but in this situation that just isn't possible. So we do what bike racers do: complain and postulate why we spend so much money to complain. Again, I try to positive...

good on you Rich.


Mike P said...

"The People's Champion" sounds good to me

dougyfresh said...

Great article. Thanks!

I turned away from USAC around that same time when I heard XXX needed to pay so much money to represent the US as you wrote. That bothered me a lot and I stopped giving USAC my money. The one or two CX races I do a year are not affiliated with USAC, which is a huge plus and why I compete in them regardless of how I well I finish.

The monetary side also gets me. To compete in at least 2 CX races (some level + singlespeed) you are spending close to as much money as you would a 50-100miler mountain bike race. The preparation and travel logistics are comparable. I'd rather be out on my bike for 4+hrs at that price than 180 minutes.

Rob Kristoff said...

Gee, I can't imagine why USAC is having money troubles... also, NC sounds to me like a good place for CX nationals. Do you have heritage trees? Will you cancel the race on the day of the race? Ok, then! (There I go about USAC again) But I'm only a cross fan. Never raced.