Ideas it could be said are the building block of progress, we all have them, good ones, weird ones, logical ones and expensive ones. Knowing which ones should blossom and which should be laid to rest on the back of a beermat is a skill. Most of the time we get it right, we never made that house from Play-Doh though we may have chose to eat less junk food. Bad ideas and good ideas, but we should never stop having them.
Cyclocross is enjoying something of a boom-time, finally the penny has dropped about its accessibility and dare I say it fun. You don’t need to be super fit to race for an hour in crappy conditions on a flattish course with some minor obstacles to spice it up and therein lies its charm. The popularity hasn’t happened by chance, over the last 6-8 years, racers and race organisers have been fine-tuning the formula, to maximize the appeal.
It’s hardly surprising then that event organisers are taking note and wanting to cut themselves a slice of CX pie and who can blame them? Event organising is one of those ‘occupations’ that seems quite ‘cool’ or even ‘glamorous’ but in reality is a pain in the arse. A lot of mindlessly boring work for possibly a little return that seldom justifies the effort in the first place. But always think of those happy smiling faces at the end of the day, how can you put a price on that? So when a seemingly simple format comes along, then you would want to throw your expertise at it, right?
Cyclocross is a bit of a sporting oddity, born out of necessity and now a discipline in itself. From its inception it was designed to keep racers racing through the winter. Whilst it was possible to keep training through the winter, keeping the legs fast wasn’t so easy. Cyclocross came along as a way to retain that speed in racers legs over a course that encouraged acceleration and deceleration over varied terrain, kinda like a criterium with mixed terrain, ultimately a device to keep legs frisky. Now we all know that Cyclocross has changed since its inception but the fundamentals remain, fast and furious, it’s that relentless speeding and slowing that makes the sport the success that is it. And so to the root of this rant. . . .
Cross the Bridge
This event happened last weekend and was a first for Inverness, which is great. The northern outpost has long had a very healthy cycle scene but alarmingly this is its first ever CX race. The course was built around a steep piece of scrubland split by a road but connected by a footbridge, hence Cross The Bridge. I can imagine if this was on my doorstep that one day the notion, an idea you might say would cross my mind that it might be cool to have a race that crossed this bridge and then I would get back to dreaming of that Play-Doh house.
The hourglass shaped course, climbed from the foot of the hill crossed the bridge climbed to the top of the hill and then descended back to the bottom, once more crossing the bridge. Mostly on singletrack with a nice layer of freshly cut grass on top, it was fairly obvious it was going to get slippy once a few riders got going on it. The vets and womens race was the first to use the whole course, the first couple of laps were ok but then it quickly became apparent that the combination of weak legs, skinny cross tyres and too tall a gearing wasn’t going to get me up that first half of the climb. As I suffered lap after lap watching mountainbikes spin effortlessly up the climb, I became a bit despondent. Why had I wasted my time coming up here? Why had they thought this would make a good cross course, when there was clearly no real advantage to riding a cross bike. I started to think about how much easier it would be on my mountainbike, both up and down. Then without any warning as I passed the finish I was told, “that’s it” Oh! Thanks a fucking bundle for the last lap heads up.
Gordy fared much better in the seniors race (which apparently was won by someone on a full suspension 29er) but I have to admit I didn’t hang around to watch it as all I could think about was getting home and salvaging something of my Sunday.
|broken gate at the side of the track|
So as I drove home, I pondered the experience, it was good that someone had taken the initiative to organise a race, very good. It was bad that they had allowed themselves to be seduced by an idea. It was good they had devised a cool course for the really young kids (in fact a bigger version of this would have been spot on for the grown-ups). It was bad that our course essentially was an uphill and a downhill and not a lot else. It was good so many people turned up to support the event. It was bad that someone with a semblance of cross course knowledge didn’t assess the circuit for suitability.
Enough whining, so lets end on a high.