Archive for the Philosophy Category

I learned how to race during the 2005 season. It was my third season racing and I had changed categories each year. In ’05, I was racing 35+B. The previous year in the Cs, I’d had a couple of decent results — top tens — but I didn’t know what to expect in the 35+Bs. My first race at Hillsboro, I lined up in the back and figured I’d try to pass as many guys as possible. I passed a few and ended up in the middle of the pack.

In prior years, I’d gone out and ridden hard but with little purpose. I had learned the names of few of the riders around me. I tried to beat the same faces each week. But it wasn’t until ’05 that I started to pay attention to the race around me.

I learned the names of my competitors and recognized their faces, bikes, and kits. I started understanding their strengths and weaknesses. I analyzed my own abilities. During races, I watched how people were riding each section of the course and related that to how it would affect me. Could I attack them there? Would I need to get in front so they couldn’t take full advantage of their strengths?

That awareness was the first step on my way to racing.

It turned out that ’05 was the first year I realized I could win. Late in the season, there was a course that many racers cursed. It was a decommissioned gravel pit and it played havoc on tires. Often the weather was abysmal. The week prior to Barton, I told a teammate that my strategy was to get to the front and stay there.

It sounds like bravado, coming from someone who hadn’t yet finished in the top five. But Barton appealed to me. I found it sublime. The fact that others hated the course only increased my advantage. I lined up with the intention to win the race — the first time I had ever done so.

Here is a snippet of the race:

I’d been out front for a long time, maybe 30 minutes, but Grant was bridging. We had taken the bell but the laps were running ten minutes. We have a lot of racing to go. We are coming up to a long flat stretch into a fresh breeze. I let Grant come around just after the cement barrier. He looks at me as he comes around, perhaps wondering why I slowed. I get on his wheel and ride it until we dip into the mud covered rock garden.

Grant gaps me through the bog. I’d been riding it poorly all race but I’m not worried. I know there will be a moment to attack him. I get back on heading up a rise. Grant knows I’m there and I want him to feel me. I’m right up on him, pressuring him in every corner.

Bam. He’s down and I jump. This is it. Another curve and I drop down the loose chute and safely take the turn on sand, gravelly pavement. I stomp on my pedals and sway back and forth out of the saddle through the woods. As I skip onto the cement pad through the car port, I feel my rear tire is soft. Through the next rise I know that it’s soft but not losing air fast, if at all.

On the other side of the ditch, I see two juniors just coming out. They are both running the distance to the dike, side by side. This is a difficult decision. Each previous lap, I’d remounted after the ditch and ridden to the dike for the run up. I want to preserve my rear tire and decide to run it.

I’m off the bike, through the ditch and on the juniors quickly. I pause, and catch my breath. The three of us block the path and Grant comes up but doesn’t try to get around. At the dike, Grant and I scramble up in front of the juniors and remount simultaneously. As I sprint out of the saddle, my rear rim thumps on the ground at each stroke. I’m jarred and bounced and defeated.

Grant moves smoothly in front. I desperately try to stay with him. In the bog before the final run up, he’s already five seconds up. Eppick passes me. I have nothing going up the hill. They cross the line in front.

I finally picked up Tim Krabbe’s The Rider. In the past I’ve balked at the $12 price tag for a thin paperback. However, on Sunday evening at Powell’s, I picked it up and started reading. I was enthralled within a few pages and had to take it home. Just past the midpoint, Krabbe talks about fun. Racing isn’t fun, he says, until it’s over. Then one can look back and regal in the experience. Back in my rock climbing days, my buddies and I talked about climbs being retrospectively pleasurable. They are hard and scary until they are done. I find that cyclocross racing — and bike racing in general — is much the same way.

After one of my less successful races, a friend asked me how it went. I told him about my woes and he responded, “But you had fun, right?” Of course I didn’t have fun. Racing isn’t fun. But I felt a little guilty about saying as much since I might just be taking this racing stuff too seriously. So I told him, ” Sure, it was fun.” I knew that it was a lie then and I still believe it is a lie now. If you’re having fun in the moment, you just aren’t racing.

Let me tell you a little story. I’ve written a race report that contained this incident but I’ll drill down a little deeper into my psyche.

I’d come up on Diviney a few laps previous and he latched on to my wheel. We are working well together, trading off, and are pulling along Juenger. Mitchem had hung for a moment but we’d just dropped him after he crashed on a rutted corner. The leaders, perhaps ten guys in a loose bunch, are a minute or two up the road and there are some chasers a minute or so behind us. We keep on putting time into the riders behind.

Riding with Diviney suited my purpose. The two of us are pushing each other and I hope that we might overtake some stragglers falling off the lead group. If the three of us stay together long enough, I plan on attacking just prior to the bell. Diviney might be able to stay with me but I’m pretty sure than Juenger would drop

After the second run up, Diviney takes the front and drives down into the depression and leads us up the easy rise to the top of the course. Just prior to leveling out, the grade steepens for ten meters. I’m on Diviney’s wheel and plan on taking the front once we hit the flats. Going up the rise, Diviney slows. I’ve got momentum I don’t want to lose but I’m focused on staying on his wheel. I’m not able to parse the two conflicting desires. Instead my front wheel inches up the right side of Diviney’s rear wheel. I stare in terror as he stands on his pedals. Rock, rock, rock and bang into my front wheel. I push hard and for a moment I think I might stay upright.

The fingers on my right hand are crushed between my bar and the gravel as I hit the ground. Diviney says something. Perhaps “Sorry.” Juenger avoids me. I get up quickly and assess the bike. Turned bars, twisted shifters. Chain still on. I stand a moment and watch the two of them disappear. Mitchem goes by. I say out loud, “I’m done” and start to walk along the course.

I realize how foolish I am to quit and straddle my front wheel and turn the bars round to the front. I bang my hand on the shifter until it turns enough to be serviceable. I get on my bike and turn the pedals. At first it’s hard. There is no rhythm. I can see Diviney and Juenger up the course a long way. Mitchem has joined them. Are there riders behind me? I can’t see anyone close. My right hand is gray with dust and red with blood. My fingers are sticky with the paste as I shift and brake.

The riding is impossible. I try to go hard but I can’t. I run the cobbled hill. A man rings a cowbell and screams encouragement. I’m in the middle of nowhere. My old friends are ahead of me and the gap seems insurmountable. I still can’t seen anyone behind me. I have lost my will. On the paved out and backs, I see how close the chasers are to me. I’ve got to stay in front of them. Race not to lose position.

A lap floats by without purpose. Oh, there’s Diviney by the course, crashed. He looks hurt. He must have been up nearly a minute, thirty seconds at least, and he’s still on the ground. There are people there. One less rider in front of me.

The lead A riders lap me and I latch onto their wheels. Maybe I can ride this surge and get back to Juenger and Mitchem. I hang on until they gap me through a slightly technical section. I wish I had been able to stay with them.

Finally, it’s the bell lap and I can see Voldengen getting closer behind me. I’ve cracked. Mentally, I’m done. How can I keep going? Somehow I stay in front of him. On the final 200 meters before the finish, I look back and see I have a big gap. I sit up and pedal to the finish, my race done. Voldengen is on my shoulder as I cross the line.

The word on the street is that the US is probably going to move its National Championship races to the first week of January to align with the rest of the world. The plan is that KC Nationals ’08 would proceed as scheduled and the next Nationals racing would be in January of 2010. I believe the rationale for the change is to bolster the appearance that US ‘cross is on par with European cross. Personally, I think the change is a bad idea, at least for the present.

Currently the US cyclocross calendar stretches from September through December with the bulk of the races taking place in October and November. In many areas of the country, it’s feasible to assemble a schedule of ten to twenty races each season over about three months of racing without extensive travel. Typically there are some early season races in September with the traditional season openers occurring on the last weekend of September. Most of the big races have been contested by the weekend prior to nationals with a few races scattered through the holidays. After the National Championship races, the big guns (men and women elites, U23, and juniors) head over to Europe for several weeks of serious racing to prepare for the World Championships in January.

If the US National Championships are moved to the first week of January, what will most likely happen is that the domestic cyclocross season will shift several weeks later in the year. The prestigious regional series will want to offer races up until Nationals but I doubt the promoters will find additional time, energy, and resources to add two to four more races to the end of their traditional schedule. The obvious choice for them will be to start their racing schedule later in the season. In order for the season to run from late August through the first of January, some new race promoters will have to step up and fill the gap. So what’s the problem with more races covering a longer period of time? I think people will get racing fatigue and the rapid ride in popularity will certainly crest and perhaps head downward.

Even if intrepid promoters step up to offer new early season races, it’s going to take a couple of seasons to fill in the calendar. The early season races are the driest and warmest. Thus, they are very appealing to folks just trying out the sport. By the time the crappy weather rolls around, a bunch of the first timers are converts and will race in anything. However, not as many first time racers are going to turn out for cold and wet conditions — the kinds of conditions found by the later part of October and the time of the season where the big series will be kicking off under the new plan.

This year, the USGP had a compressed schedule that saw all the races contested within five weeks and the final date was two weeks prior to Nationals. In order to preserve the same sort of schedule, the first date would be in the middle of November and the final weekend is going to compete with Christmas travel. The USGP series has been great for building national interest in cyclocross and has attracted the best talent in North America. Delaying the start until the later half of the season or extending the schedule will detract from its preeminent place on the schedule. Such a change might affect sponsor dollars.

Speaking of sponsor dollars, either promoters will have to find more sponsors or the pool of money will have to stretch over a larger number of races. If races can’t attract sponsorship, then they can’t remain viable year after year. Generally, one-off races (those not on the calendar from season to season) don’t attract as many racers and are consequently more likely to not be around for the next season, a definite Catch-22.

Lastly, by moving the National Championships to January, the US elite racers don’t have that several week window where they can travel to Europe to race in preparation for Worlds. Sure, they can still go to Europe to race but the logistics get trickier. In order to spend several weeks racing in Europe, US riders would have to travel to Europe, return to the US for Nationals, the return to Europe to compete at Worlds. That means purchasing two round trip tickets. Even scheduling a week or two to race in Europe will be problematic since important series dates, including the USGP, may interfere.

I think you can say goodbye to the cross camp if the US moves Nationals to January. It’s going to be difficult for the junior and U23 Worlds team members to attend camp, return to the US for Nationals, then head back to Europe for Worlds. And there would be fewer senior racers at camp to mentor the younger riders.

Count me in to list of people opposed to moving US Nationals to January.

Many of you may have seen the results of the Hofstade WC. Powers, Johnson, Trebon all one lap down. Ouch. Today I’ve got some reflections on that race made by an American who has raced it the past four years. This year he’s sitting at home with a new son. Without further ado, here’s Erik Tonkin’s thoughts on the race.

You may know this already, but top-30 in a men’s World Cup is automatic discretionary selection to the our country’s World Championship team. (Or at least it was, as I did not petition for Worlds this year and, thusly, paid not attention to details.) USA Cycling really nailed that criterium, given that as long as I can remember, only three, including Page and Trebon, have placed top-30. (I’m not sure about pre-2003 results.) I managed to become only the third, placing 25th at last year’s finals, a uniquely horrendous day indeed. (I was already named to the team, so the result was meaningful only for curiosity’s sake. Also, I have to thank the weahter for making it all possible: only the stupid survived.)

I though for sure the modest record would be matched today, by Powers and, especially, Johnson. I guess it really is harder than it looks. Just think: Powers, in all his tries, has never done it; ditto, Wicks and a host of others, from Baker to Jacques-Maynes to Stewart to Wells, etc.; and now even Johnson.

I shouldn’t leave the ladies out of the discussion. The equivalent result for women is top-15. While the men’s WC series is hot all season long, the women’s really heats up right about now. Early women’s WCs sometimes see very small fields. In fact, at one last year only 15 women started, and Christine Vardaros placed 14th. She was then automatically on the short list for world’s, a proverbial wrench thrown into the selection process for the rest of the women’s team. Nevertheless, outside of that fluke result, it’s been rare for a rider other than Compton to place in the top-15.

For Sue Butler and Wendy Simms (Canada) to place in the top-20 at Hofstade only two minutes and five down is exceptional. That was a real WC. I’d say it’s the best result either have ever had on a ‘cross bike. For Sue, whether she knows it or not, it was her best race on any kind of bike, ever. The course, its setting, the time of year, the crowd, and the competition make it–seriously–bigger than any ‘cross other than a World Championship held in Belgium, like last year at Hooglede-Gits. (That was something–it was kinda freaky.) Worlds in Italy this year will pale in comparison. In fact, Friday’s GVA series ‘cross at Loenhout–“Azencross”–will exceed this year’s worlds in nearly every way.

But back to the men. I’m so disappointed in how the top US riders not named Page performed. I honestly can’t believe it. All of them have Euro ‘cross experience, so they should know better! Yes, their results underscore how different the sport is over there. It explains why top US riders will, in all seriousness, fear whether or not they can beat somebody like me in Belgium even though they wail on me all season at home.

And they’re right to worry: had I been there, it would have been more salt in the wound. They would have been one rider further back. I don’t mean to sound immodest. I mean, hell, to finish in the top-30 is a rather modest goal. But you have to race with a complete lack of modesty–the total lack of care and regard, the absence of ambivalence–to meet the goal. You need total commitment to achieve so simple and small a goal. And I don’t have a problem giving my all for what seems so very little.

Yes, I am sitting in a comfy chair at home right now. Some of what I have to say is thanks to bitterness boiled over: I’m envious that they’re there while I’m here. And I can’t fairly judge what it was like at Hofstade today. Still, I’ve been there four times, and I think I can say my record stands for itself. And I’m the one who made it publicly clear that I’d like to see the US field her best 5 in Europe, even if I’m not one of ’em. Well, four of ’em are there now. I always thought of myself as the spare tire that gets the job done until the real wheel gets fixed. Maybe the spare ain’t broke, and we shouldn’t fix it.

What’s the opposite of modesty? Is it arrogance? Cockiness? I suppose I’m now guilty or, at least, flirting with it! But what’s truly cocky is not trying hard. Hell, that’s what I do at Cross Crusade events, so guilty as charged. Trust me: I’m not cocky half-way across the planet. If you’re really good over there, you will still get crushed. And I’m not really good. So, I don’t further disadvantage myself by bringing less than my very own best effort. I’m sorry to call people out, but they’re pros and can and should be able to take it. Pick it up, guys! I know you can do it.

–Erik Tonkin

I’ve got a big time cross hangover. My season ended three weeks ago at the Portland USGP and now it’s all unstructured riding for me. I commuted — just commuted — for a week and a half and then started doing some riding. I’ve left the HRM/speedometer at home. I like riding that way so much, I might keep leaving it a home for a long while.

Then there were all those races in KC to geek out about. I was checking the KC Nationals blog compulsively, like some sort of OCD freak who had to hit the refresh button on the browser or else the heebie jeebies would grab hold. I watched all the video and looked at all the pictures and read all the reports I could. I couldn’t help thinking I was missing something big as I sat at home. The weekend had some great moments and some real low points too. A lot has been made of Page’s comments about being the best rider out there even though he didn’t win. Big deal *yawn*. How about AJM saying that Tillford was sandbagging in the 45-49 race since he won it by almost a minute. I guess it’s okay to race the age groups if you only win by 3 seconds.

Wait a minute. Where was I going? Oh yeah. Some people would like the cross season to be longer. I don’t. I think that three months is about perfect and that the national championships is a pretty good closing date for domestic racing. First, the weather starts to get pretty cold in most of the country by late December and cross isn’t really a winter sport. Sure, some snow once in a while is good for the soul but races scheduled for times of the year almost guaranteed to see temps in the teens and a chance of snow on the ground is just silly. The holidays are also a great time to connect with your family. All you guys are spending a big chunk of the weekend (or practically all the weekend for the dedicated doublers) away from home. C’mon. Go out with your wives. Play with your kids. Have some fun — that’s why you have a family in the first place isn’t it? To spend time with them?

Races have started popping up in August. That’s just wrong. Early September is bad enough but August is rediculous. Yeah, let’s go out and race cyclocross in choking dust and oppressive heat. Who thought that would be a good time? If you really need that, take up mountain bike racing. Just wait till the nights get cool and there’s likely to be a little crispiness in the air before you get started racing cross.

Personally, I like the compressed season. I have plently of time to be family guy and then I race for three months and I’m done. Perfect. I love the late summer as cross season gets closer and the anticipation builds. Everyone starts obsessing about their bikes and whether their form is either going to last or come around. Then the season starts and it’s racing every weekend until the weather gets so crappy that it takes more than an hour at home to clean up bikes and kit.

And then the season is over. Done. Time to think about what to do for next year so you can finally beat those guys you’ve been racing around all season. Time to form trianing plans and consider what new stuff might make you a couple seconds faster. It also gives you some time to take it easy before building up for a road or mountian bike season if you so choose.

The compressed season keeps cross fresh and fun. It makes it possible to race other bike disciplines or keep your family life sane (generally not both). It also gives you plenty of time to figure out how to go faster next year and makes it easier to eveluate whether you managed that trick for the just completed season.

So have a beer and stop on over to and pick up some Euro race DVDs to watch as you ride the rollers.

Last week, I saw lots of people picked up the link to the New York Times cyclocross article. And people in the Portland area might have seen a piece about Saturday’s USGP event when they opened the Oregonian Sunday morning. While some may be excited about seeing our sport in the news, I’m unimpressed. Call me when they run these stories in the sports pages.

The article in the Oregonian ran on the front page of the Metro NW section and the Times piece ran in the travel section. It seems that non-cycling media consider cyclocross a lifestyle, not a sport. I understand that for many of us, cross is more along the lines of lifestyle. Racing enriches our lives and gets us out of the house on weekends in the Fall. However, there are elite athletes competing regularly and they don’t get a single mention in the sports section. I find it especially egregious that the local newspaper in bike crazy Portland couldn’t see fit to report on the national level racing out at PIR this past weekend.

I know that the past week was a busy one in Oregon sports. The paper had to dedicate at least 50 articles to the Civil War (Oregon-Oregon State college football game to the uninitiated) and Portland was host to the US’s first Davis Cup victory in years, not to mention high school football. But they can’t find the space to report on a national level cycling event? C’mon.

I sent the following email to the sports editor:

This past weekend, Portland played host to the final stop of the USGP of Cyclocross, a three weekend, six race series. Each day there was a full slate of racing with races catering to all skill levels, including juniors, and culminating in the men’s and women’s elite races. The elite races featured the best domestic cyclocross racers and had national championship and world championship ramifications. However, there was nary a peep about it in the sports pages of the Oregonian. I understand you had to publish 50 or so Civil War articles but it would have been nice if you could have spared a column for the USGP.

I did notice that there was a very nice article about the Saturday racing in the Metro NW section. However, it didn’t mention the elites and said nothing about results. While lifestyle articles are fun and interesting, I think the elite athletes deserve some recognition in the sports pages.

The two royal couples of Northwest cyclocross have welcomed new members to their families. Dale and Ann Knapp’s new bundle o’ joy is Callen Isabella Knapp, born on November 20. Rhonda Mazza and Erik Tonkin are the proud parents of Magnus Mason Tonkin, born early yesterday morning.

As cross fans, we can dream of the wonderful cycling exploits these two tots have in their futures. However, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that kids will choose their own way in the world. They may turn out to be great cyclists. Or not. But their mommas and paps are going to love them no matter what.

Congratulations you guys. May your futures be filled with joy.

In a race where you have to push your body as hard as you can for 45 to 60 minutes, it takes some mental fortitude to keep your head in the race. Your legs and lungs are screaming at you to take it easy for a while — maybe just skip the rest of this race and start over next time. Sometimes it takes all the mental power you have just to keep on going, let alone holding that wheel or bridging to the next guy up the road. But summoning the will to do just that is essential if you want to improve.

I’ve had mixed results keeping my head in the race thus far this season. I’ve had some real successes like at Horning’s and Astoria. In those two races, I chased wheels and worked hard out of every corner. I kept up the intensity (for the most part) from the whistle to the finish. I’ve had some pretty miserable efforts too such as Barlow, Alpenrose, and Hillsboro. In those races, I didn’t maintain my focus and didn’t execute a plan. Since two of those races were the initial dates on my calender, I’ll excuse myself. However, Hillsboro was a real disappointment. My latest outing at Kruger’s Farm was a mixed bag.

At Kruger’s, I was very aggressive from the gun and worked hard to shut down gaps and stayed in the front of the race for a couple of laps. But once guys started coming around, I didn’t make the full effort to keep with them. If I’d have hung on to Benno for a while, I’d have gotten to the front of the race again. And over the last couple of laps, Butler and Quirk dangled 20 seconds up the road. A couple of hard efforts on my part could have bridged that gap over the course of a lap and a half. The thing is, those kinds of efforts are really hard. Focusing the mind to work through the pain is the challenge.

Sure, sometimes you just aren’t going to have the goods to deliver the deal. However, I’m not sure that I’ve ever left 100% on the course. I’ve had some great efforts and done well over stretches of a bunch of races. But I haven’t been nearly as consistent during races as I’d like to be.

My best results of the year were; Horning’s 11th, Barton 12th, Hillsboro 12th, Astoria 14th, and Kruger’s 6th. I’ve been pretty consistent over a range of courses. However, my best result was at the course least suited to my strengths. Horning’s had a lot of elevation and though I dropped a lot of weight coming into the season, I’m no climber. The difference was that I was mentally on top of my game.

I might have done myself a disservice by stating that one of my season goals was a top ten finish in a Crusade race. I got too wrapped up in my placings — even during races, and I didn’t execute the plan. I’ve got to go out and race my race. If I train hard and keep the focus sharp during races, then the results will come.

I’ve got two more races and my season is over. This coming weekend is the Portland, OR stop on the USGP series and I’ll be racing the 35+ race on both Saturday and Sunday. There are over 80 guys registered so far and I won’t be getting a call up. That means I’ll be staging by lottery so I could be anywhere from third row to last row. I can’t control that but I can control how I race my race. No matter where I stage, I have to get out there and race hard. Pass the guys I should pass, chase the guys who are faster, and work out of the corners. Never sit in. Get going at every opportunity and remember it’s a 45 minute race, not a 60 minute race like I’ve been used to.

I’m really looking forward to the weekend and I hope I can keep it frosty upstairs.

There’s been some bitching over on the Cross Crusade forums about Barton park. Apparently it was too roadie for some. Too much like a crit — a crit with loose gravelly corners and two run ups. I seem to recall a couple weeks back that a bunch of people were complaining about Horning’s being a mountain bike course. It seems that a vocal collection of racers want the course designers to lay out a course that plays to their individual strengths.

You know, I think I’ve heard something about training your weaknesses. Perhaps that’s a better plan than crying about how a course sucks. And for the record, I finished 11th at Horning’s and 12th at Barton. I thought both courses were really fun — though I’d have liked an extra dismount or two at Horning’s (not that I’m fast off the bike).

Back in my first season, I wrote a brief review of all the courses I’d raced and ranked them according to how much fun I had and also mentioned how they stacked up against the UCI course rules. I was naive and received a few unkind comments but Russ H. sent me a nice note. He seemed to appreciate that I really did have a great time racing and was just sharing my opinions about the courses we raced. Back then I had a dangerous amount of knowledge. I was informed enough to have strong opinions but didn’t have enough experience for them to be worthwhile.

Now that I’ve got a few more years of racing under my belt, my already pretty mellow attitude has mellowed even more. I’m going to race whatever course the promoters lay out for me and I’m going to have fun doing it. Since I’ve got a family and I’m not as invincible as I used to be, I might take it a little easier through some of the sketchy sections. I’d like to stay in one piece and keep my skin. Over the years, I’ve decided that running certain sections was certainly in me best interests even though the bold might have stayed on the bike.

Getting back to the whining about courses … I’ve heard some comments about how courses should be this or course should be that. First, I’d like to point out that OBRA isn’t USCF (thank God) and it isn’t UCI either. That means that OBRA cross races only have to adhere to OBRA rules. You can head over to the web site and read the full rules document, but the cross specific rules are so brief, I’ll quote them right here:

15.7.1 The course will have the following characteristics:

  • No more than half will be paved.
  • About 75% of the course should be rideable.
  • Each lap should be at least 1 km in length.
  • The start should be wide and long so that the stronger riders can get to the front before the narrower part.
  • The course will be of sufficient width at all points to allow room for one rider to pass another.
  • The course must be clearly marked.
  • Barriers will not exceed 40 cm. in height.

15.7.2 Pits will be under the control of the Chief Referee.

15.7.3 Bicycles may only be exchanged in case of a mechanical problem. An exception may be permitted by the Chief Referee in extreme conditions.

15.7.4 Lapped riders may be removed at the discretion of the Chief Referee. If they are permitted to continue, they will finish on the same lap as the leader. Riders considered out of contention may also be removed at the discretion of the Chief Referee.

15.7.5 Riders must go over artificial barriers placed on the course and may not ride around a barrier for any reason. The Chief Referee will disqualify any rider not complying with this regulation.

15.7.6 Riders are expected to remain inside the course following all markings. The Chief Referee will disqualify any rider not complying with this regulation.

So far, all the courses have adhered to the OBRA rules. I admit that just because a course adheres to the rules doesn’t mean it’s a cyclocross course. It’s up to a course designer to translate the available terrain into a coherent course. I’d say that most of us have some idea of what should go into a “true” cross course. However, I think there are only a couple of hard and fast rules. They are 1) a cross bike should be faster over the course (in total) than any other type of bike, and 2) there should be a couple or so dismounts per lap.

So here we are getting different types of cyclocross courses week in and week out and people are complaining that some are too this and too that? One more thing you might not have taken into consideration — it’s difficult to secure a venue for 500 to 1,000 racers. Parking, traffic, and turf damage are just a few of the logistical problems the promoters have to deal with. Add in people pissing in the bushes, throwing their trash all over the place, and bringing beer to “dry” events and it’s a wonder we have any place to race.

Personally, I think we’ve got a premier set of races each season. I feel lucky to be an OBRA cross racer.

At the Cross Crusade debut, there were some dudes racing Beginner that were pretty fast. Eighteen of them were at least a lap faster than the remaining 120 or so racing in that class. I’d say that those Eighteen ought to move on to a higher category and I would recommend the Bs as a reasonable destination.

I suggest the Bs because those guys completed 6 laps in the 40 minute race and the Bs finished 7 laps in the 45 minute race. I think those races went a little longer than advertised and the leaders of both those races were putting in lap times around 8 minutes. Shoot, I was racing 8:30 laps in the 35+A race so those guys were going faster than I was and I’d be racing Bs if I weren’t age grouping it. The winner of the beginner race was making some weak argument about being worried about getting in the way in the B race. If that’s his concern, he should just line up at the back of the Bs and race hard.

I started my first Cross Crusade race as a B. I’d gone to a couple of the clinics and had pretty good fitness — probably like a very fit recreational rider. I’d raced some mountain bikes a while back and I’d done a couple road races too. A few years ago when I started, the Cs were essentially the beginner category and I figured I really wasn’t a beginner. After all, I was decent at the skills and knew how to race. I got my ass kicked in the Bs but I wasn’t last.

I’m not saying I’m mister perfect especially since I dropped down to the Cs the next year. However, over the next couple seasons, I managed my way up to the 35+A race where fast guys show me what’s what on a weekly basis.

Isn’t that what competition is all about? There are a bunch of guys way faster than me on the line every week. There are some really fast A racers starting ahead of me too. Last weekend, I only got lapped by two As — Shannon Skerrit and Erik Tonkin. Some folks racing who didn’t lap me? Adam McGrath, Carl Decker, Aaron Olsen, Molly Cameron. Last year, I would have gotten tagged a lap by a bunch of As and this year in the first race it was two.

So maybe I’m not finishing in the points but I know I’m getting faster. I’ve got goals like not getting lapped by anybody. I’ve even got a bigger goal of finishing top ten and there are a couple races where that might actually happen.

So what cat should you start in? Dunno. I guess you just have to make a gut check and decide what your goals are. Where does your satisfaction come from. Do you get your jollies beating down on some weekend warriors racing their out of shape hearts out? Or do you want to jump into the flames and get your short hairs singed — where you might just learn more and get faster. You just never know what you are capable of until you get pushed to your limits.

I vote for racing hard against the tough guys.

And to all you racers out there stuck in USCF land? Bummer, dude. Earn those points and get your butt up the ladder.