Cross Worlds Are coming to town! That is the coolest thing ever. While I'm excited about 2013 like everyone else, I'm really pumped about 2012 (and 2013).
Thats when Louisville, KY hosts Master's Worlds. Even though the venue for 2011 hasn't been established yet.
There's been a lot of chatter lately about pushing our Natz into January "like the rest of the world". I disagree with that, here's some of my thoughts as to why.
We're not the rest of the world.....our winters have the potential to be below zero in January. Heck, it's even possible for it to get that cold in December. (2009 Bend). While lots of you will be quick to say "Ahhhgh toughen up", it's not about that. I love racing in extreme conditions like Gloucester 09, Maine 09, Bend 09 etc.
We are a huge country, Belgium is not, and most of the other European countries also are not huge. Travel in winter is sketchy, but if we're talking about driving, well then we can leave earlier, drive more carefully etc. But if we're talking about air travel, which lets face it.....Lots of us fly to Natz. Then the travel is out of our control. Storms cancel flights, or delay them. This reason alone is why it's frustrating and sometimes pointless to even compare the cross scenes, at the PRO level on either side of the ocean. We have big UCI races in the US just about every weekend, but it's NOTHING like Belgium where they can drive to just as many (even bigger) races. Flying all over the place will just ruin you and also leaves no time to actually train.
I'm all for racing after Natz, but I think it should be at the local level. If we're just racing locally, it's not the end of the world to change plans at the last minute. In New England we'll get entrants no matter what the conditions.
Also with the Worlds coming to town, would it be reasonable to ask amateurs to travel 1 week to one corner of the country, and then to another 6 days later? 6 days apart is the actual race dates, but you gotta show up a day or two early. Everyone would have to fly from Natz to Worlds. Not great. Especially in this economy when taking 1 big trip is a big deal, 2 might be unattainable for some/many.
That brings me to another point. Everyone shouldn't go. This isn't gonna be popular, but don't mistake me for someone who gives a shit. There are too many entrants at Natz. It's a friggen joke....a circus. Why is it that USAC requires us to qualify for Mountan Bike Natz, when a big field at mountain bike natz is 45-50 guys, but for Cross it's open to any and all? It seems to me the only answer could be MONEY. Now theres nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but the governing body shouldn't pimp out it's national championships. We should have national championship racing at the national championships. We should not be playing bumperball with lapped traffic, 2 laps into the race. The first few guys to get lapped in masters races at Natz are just awful bike riders. Slow, unpredictable, clueless, usually heavy, terrible bike handlers. Guys racing for National titles shouldn't have their races threatened by this situation. (Marky Mac 2007, Kansas). This isn't little leauge where all the kids play 2 innings so they don't cry or shoot up a school. At Natz in Bend this year, Coates and I went through at least 40 guys. USAC should limit the field, require qualifying, pull riders about to be lapped at both pits, the start/finish, and maybe 2 or 3 other designated spots on the course BEFORE they get lapped. Anyway the point of this isn't to rant about USAC. I could go on forever on that one.
The point is to say, lets practice a little self discipline. In Belgium I discovered that theres lots of good racers, but the very fastest guys are the only ones to show up for Natz. I know, I raced in their Natz. But the guys that don't stand a chance of being top 25 or 30 don't bother going. At Masters Worlds the fields were about 55-60 riders and it truly was international. Fields any bigger than that are pointless. Now I know it sucks and it's a bit elitest to say "just fast guys should be at Natz". Lets face it, in this country "Natz" has become the biggest party of the year and Cross certainly has the coolest culture.....and I love a party as much as the next guy. BUT, you know who's partying? The back half of all the fields. The front half are buckled down, focusing on finishing off their season with a good result. Then we party afterward.
If Natz are bad, then won't Worlds be worse? We can't just allow anyone to enter that wants to. With some fields near a ridiculous 200 rider count at Natz, you can safely assume that lots of foreigners are gonna want to try out cross in the USA for Worlds, so we'd have over 200 riders in some fields. Thats awesome that it's that popular and also very cool that it's in our yard, but it would be hugely irresponsible to allow the race to swell with that many entrants and turn it into another circus.
Before you suggest we make the laps longer so it'll be less likely to lap riders, think about what cross is. The risk is making it less exciting, and drawn out laps will change the whole dynamic. Cross will "jump the shark" and go the way of mountain biking in the 90's if we tweak it like that. 6 to 8 minute laps work well for the spectators, commentators, and racers.
So I'm trying to say that I think Natz should stay put or if anything happen earlier. It's always such a shock to the system to have everyone trying to peak for the biggest race of the year and then just shut it down right after. There are thousands of us racing cross, how many continue on to Europe after Natz? Maybe 10? 20 tops on any given year. Why not have it in mid November so everyone can play with that peak fitness for a while? The races after natz would be really exciting too. Local series like our New England Verge series could have races after Natz without asking promoters to have races after Christmas, risking low turnout and lost income. Right now we look at the 2nd week of December as the finish line. If we have Natz in November then there will obviously be racing after Natz, and since we're back to racing locally at that point the possiblity of continueing on farther will be much better....I think. Thats another thing, with Natz where it is, the following weekends are filled by major holidays. Some of us will be psyched to race again Jan. 7th or so, but the majority will shut it down. In Europe they have Natz, and then Worlds and then they keep racing after that. Are we gonna do that too? No, we'd try like crazy to hold our fitness into January, do natz and then stop, just like we do now. Also if you have natz in November you might see a lot more PRO roadies trying to hold their form for cross natz, since it's a reasonable time frame vs mid December. Either way, Natz shouldn't be the last race of the year, but if it's mid December or mid January.....it will be (in this country).
Also lots of U23s and Juniors never get to race in their Nat. Champion kits. If you win Natz in the last year of the juniors or u23s then the following year you can't wear it. If it's in November those few would at least be able to wear the Stars and Bars a few times in races.
I'm just sayin......open your mind.
Posted by Jonny Bold at 5:21 PM 0 comments