Dec 10 2005
“At one point I literally broke down and started weeping,” US Cyclocross Nationals race organizer Richard Fries said, apparently overwhelmed by yesterday’s epic conditions. Richard, I have some news for you: there’s no crying in cyclocross. The whole idea of the sport is dealing with transitions, and molding the unexpected to your own iron will. If that means 60 minutes of jogging in a circle with the bike on your back, so be it. Rider safety should be the only concern that stops the ‘cross show, and the scenes of “carnage” described by Fries in this report hardly seem compelling. Hypothermia? At 34 degrees? Having competed in some ski events where the Chief of Race had to stuff the thermometer into his pants to get it to the -4Â° F (-20Â° C) “race legal” temp, I am extremely skeptical that these “hypothermia” cases demanded immediate attention. Other than that, the only major injury reported was a chainring wound to an “Achilles [sic] heel” (given the meaning of that phrase, I think VeloNews meant to say “Achilles’ tendon” or just plain “heel”), the sort of injury you could expect to find at any ‘cross event.
No doubt the spinally-deficient among you will now mention that the wind and snow made it too hard for the riders to see where the course went. Not to sound heartless, but this isn’t track – course awareness is part of the game. A rider’s ability to moderate between how fast they can go, and how fast conditions will allow them to go without risking misfortune has always been a key element of cyclocross; just because the factor limiting a rider’s top low-risk speed is visibility instead of loose mud doesn’t make it suddenly “unsafe” to race. Now, I know, sometimes you just have to cancel a race. Things like hurricanes, lightning storms, active volcanos, chemical attacks, etc, these are good reasons to postpone an event. But unless riders are at immediate risk of death while racing, the show must go on. Racing in ideal conditions is always a nice treat, but it’s the truly nutty days that make cycling great. After all, what do people remember best about the 1988 Giro: the ultra-mega-epic climb over the Gavia in a snowstorm, or the dozen days of sunshine that came before it?
Contrary to what it might seem like, today’s post is not entirely a rant. There’s other news out there beyond the organizers of US ‘cross Nats being a bunch of weenies (US ‘cross Nats race results, for example). Walter Godefrut, former classics specialist and recently retired Ringmaster of the T-Mobile Circus of Destruction has plenty to say about his time with that team in this interview, and pretty much none of it is good. There is apparently “Huge ProTour disarray” after yesterday’s Grand Tour secession (no kidding, eh?), and in case you’re still looking for a Christmas gift, Pez (no surprise there) has some more suggestions.