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.

8 Responses to “The perfect course”

  1. MtMann says:

    +1 on the venues. I’m in my first season and certainly with the lack of rain I’m no judge of variety regarding conditions, not much mud, with the exception of Barlow and the little bog at Rainier. But I’m having a blast with the differences in the courses. Now that I bumped up I’m also getting to watch how experienced riders handle fast, slow, steep, loose, etc. You can’t buy this kind of education.

    Speaking of UCI, I know this is slightly off topic, but am I going to be unable to race my Poprad (disc brakes) at PIR? I’m gonna be way bummed if such is the case.

  2. Guy Smith says:

    Here yee, here yee, tis the words of truth, now speak more of this bowl!

  3. K-Man says:


    Question will be whether I will hit the deck as many times at Estacada. 😀

  4. Martin says:

    “Speaking of UCI, I know this is slightly off topic, but am I going to be unable to race my Poprad (disc brakes) at PIR? I’m gonna be way bummed if such is the case.”

    As I understand it, this only applies if you race in one of the USAC categories with UCI points associated with them. If you race Bs or below, it’s treated basically as an OBRA race.

  5. Brooke says:

    Kenji, in the videos, I saw a lot of people dumping it on that descent off the dike. What’s up with that? It wasn’t even wet! I’ll admit I feathered my brakes the first couple times I did it but was off the brakes thereafter. Maybe you were pulling too much front brake?

    If Estacada is wet, then there are going to be some treacherous turns in the bowl.

  6. Patrick says:

    When one has a family do they seriously think “I’ve got to be careful through this sketchy section because of the family and all?” when drilling it in a race? I’m not being a smart arse here, inquiring minds want to know.

  7. Brooke says:

    Patrick, not quite like that. It’s more of a general attitude. I’ll push thing in a race and I do go down. However, I’m more apt to do the “smart” thing nowadays. On Sunday, there was a dude in front of me riding pretty sketchy so I backed off until there was a good spot to pass rather than going for the pass ASAP. My experience and age are factoring into my decisions. The “wife and kids” comment was more about where I am in life and what my priorities are.

  8. Guy Smith says:

    My lively hood is definetly in my head, after being off work for four months do to an accident, it has put an importants on everything I do, the old every action has a reaction. but I still try to stay on that edge!

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