Thursday, December 08, 2005

Why aren't your stupid friends racing cross?

You really need to get your friends and teammates to race 'cross, I mean REALLY. From what I've heard USAC membership numbers have been up the last couple of years in Nor-Cal, yet our CX races seem to be little sparsely-attended this season. It seems most of these new people are racing on the road of all places. I know I'm preaching to the choir but what about your friends? Why aren't they racing cross?

Why is this? My theories:

  1. The Norcal Elite Men are not as strong on the Nat'l scene. It seems our fearless foursome of Andy, Ben, Jackson, and Justin all have priorities like jobs, babies, road racing (sneer) that are eating into their CX time (don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with jobs and babies). What's more, nobody seems to be stepping up and filling their vacant spots. This bums me out. Note: we're not doing so badly in the Women's department with the Velo Bellas stepping up and trying to fill the shoes of Gina and Carmen. You may think it's a stretch to think that the absence of Elite riders has anything to do with turnout in the C's, B's, etc. I don't, these are the guys that inspired me to get all hot and heavy into cross and I know I'm not alone. Watching Justin racing at the '99 Natz in the Presidio was a pivotal moment in my cycling career - that next season I went from a retired roadie to a cx nut.
  2. We lack juniors/espoirs to step into these big shoes. My son Liam is still about 12 years from racing cross...any other ideas? So. Cal (namely Scary Fast Racing) is doing a great job recruiting juniors. Everyone knows how great Rad Racing has been doing with kids in the NW. If we can get some clubs to do with Juniors what Velo Bella and the Velo Girls have done for Women, we'll be on the right track. Any ideas out there? I hear great stuff about mentoring on the road.
  3. Sponsorship - most teams are based around the road racing season (argh!!!) and my team is no different. CX season is at the end of the year when most of the money is spent and resources are gone. Why is so much money going to Road Racing? Are they really getting that much more exposure? There needs to be a "paradigm shift" in the thinking of sponsorship. Cyclocross is an excellent spectator sport where you can actually read the logos on our skinsuits. I challenge you to read ANYTHING off a jersey at the next crit you watch. Plus, people actually enjoy watching cyclocross. There are exceptions - Velo Bella has its priorities straight. Clif Bar gave us a glimpse a couple of seasons back what dedicated resources to the sport can accomplish - sending four riders to Worlds.
  4. Three Words: East Coast Nationals. This shouldn't be a deterrent, but sadly it is. CX Nats is a hoot and everyone knows it. Get over it and next year plan on travelling to RI, so it's a few hours more on a plane than Portland.
  5. Because I am not racing this year. I'm sure this accounts for most of you and I'm really touched. I feel your pain, you're so upset that I'm not out there going cross-eyed trying to latch on to the J-M's wheels that YOU decided to take the season off as well. Thanks, but it really isn't necessary. Come back next year please and I'll try to do the same. I promise.

So...these numbers are all road racers? Gimme a break. What are these people thinking? Here's my Top 10 reasons they should be racing cx:

  1. Chicks dig cross. And they race, too. Have you hugged a Bella today?
  2. Get Noticed. Have you ever heard someone scream your name in a road race? crit? That's because they can't find you. At most CX races I see, nearly every rider has fans cheering for them. Plus, Russ and Nancy and a about 4 or 5 other people took a close-up picture of you and put it on their website, and you didn't even have to take a flyer for that perk.
  3. Meet people. Yeah, before and after a CX race you can hang with some cool folks. Everyone is laid back here. Attitudes are left at home and your legs and lungs do the talking. The CX community is a close-knit and quirky bunch - where the carbon-craving techno-dweeb meets the tatooed cross-dressing bike messenger.
  4. Get better at riding a bike. CX requires skills and will definitely help your power and handling skills. Oh, is this why your stupid friends don't ride 'cross? Well then make fun of them for it at every opportunity, especially when they biff trying to bunny hop that broken bottle on the side of the road.
  5. Have a life off the bike even though you're in training. Elite racers rarely require rides much longer than 2hrs, shorter than most Cat 4 roadies train! Also, the season is only 4 months long, meaning that come January you can go snowboarding and not worry that you're missing some silly early-bird races. In CX, DFL is the early-bird race, and I'll be damned if you can have that much fun at some dumb training crit. Oh yeah, and you can race every weekend barely drive more than an hour each way.
  6. Weather. Bay Area pretty much has the perfect weather in the Fall. Or do your friends prefer sweltering in July in some god-forsaken Central Valley hellhole? Jumpin' Junipers did you see the forecast for Providence this weekend?
  7. Fun. I'm not sure how we manage to have so much fun doing something that hurts so much, but we do. Probably has something to do with brevity of the races, and 1-3 above. Also, did you ever get a beer feed in a road race?
  8. CX bikes are the ultimate utility bike. Double-duty as a road bike with a quick tire swap, or triple-duty as a commuter - it can handle it. Perfect bike for a long ride on fire roads or a mixed pavement/gravel ride. Think: road ride without cars...
  9. Learn how to really hurt. CX is as intense as you get. If you're wearing a HRM then you'll know your max HR in about 3 minutes if you dare look. Maybe this is why your stupid friends don't race cross?
  10. Avoid injury. Sure, you fall down and get a little scratched up from time-to-time, but that's nothing compared to sliding on your ass with 10 guys on a greasy corner into a curb because some joker took a stupid risk. Also, you can train on dirt thus lowering your probability of getting run over by a soccer mom in a Ford Excursion.

Is there something I missed?

Seriously, why aren't your pansy-ass friends racing cross??? Tell me...and tell them!


Blogger Dave Carr said...

I did my small part...I got three coworkers here at Camelbak out to try least one of 'em is going to be out in force next year too. Now if I could just get some junior kids into it.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone knows road racing is far more cool than cx. It is harder than cx and that's why you don't have to train for it. Have you seen how well the fast roadies do in cx? Ha!(all due respect to the very few who do). One reason and one reason only those guys don't race cx, THEY ARE SCARED!!! This is an official guantlet throwing statement. Rich Maile

10:23 AM  
Blogger eric sterner said...

I've been trying to talk my friends into racing cross but trying to convince a bunch of downhillers that throwing on some spandex and pedaling/running as hard as you can is more fun than DH doesn;t work so well. Unfortunately I don;t see a lot of youth coming into the sport for the very same reason. CX doesn;t lend itself to the action sports image that well which is too bad since it's so much fun.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Olaf Vanderhoot said...

"Have you seen how well the fast roadies do in cx? Ha!(all due respect to the very few who do). One reason and one reason only those guys don't race cx, THEY ARE SCARED!!! This is an official guantlet throwing statement. Rich Maile"

gawdamnit Loki, you are so in line for an ass-whoopin next year when you show your wanker butt on my roadie-turf.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Jsage said...

I've tried to talk a few guys on my team. One even did some practice rounds. His only statement was "that was really hard". I have others that have done it in the past. They all said it's fun and tough. I'll keep trying until they all give it a shot and see why I devote my season plan around CX.

I think what gets me is at least roadies that haven't raced cross should come to a CX race. See what it's like. If you race any form of cycling you owe it yourself and fellow cyclist to check out another type of race.

See how CX is a subculture of cycling. How everybody is pretty chilled and close knit. How you can easily meet guys that are top riders and they give you tips. Not so stuck up like at a road race.
I like to think CX as the Blue Collar of cycling hanging out at the local pub. Where road racing is the Yuppie going wine tasting in a valley that over charges for subpar Chardonnay.

Look at Horner. On Sat he predicted a top 5 for Sunday...ah yeah little off there Chris. Besides you need to learn to carry a bike and to be smoother. Can't wait until Page shows him a thing or two.

How many sprints happen in a crit or road race? Maybe 5-6, tops if you include the primes. Holy crap in CX you START with a sprint then that's all you do all race.

The other thing that gets me is the cost ratio of CX is much better than road racing. Road, I train X hours for 1 to 2 50 min races in a weekend. Unless I'm a master rider I'm stuck to that lack of racing. True, I can race longer, but really life doesn't allow for that. I'm pretty happy if some months I can race twice. Three I'm a very lucky guy.

CX...I can race 4 times a weekend with out being of master age. Then when I am of master age, hell I could race all weekend.

There is my rant back to pondering my tyre pressure and praying for mud on the 17th

J Sven Van Der sage

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Olaf, remember, what doesn't kill you, makes you STRONGER! And like I said, All due respect to those who do go well on the road, then go fast in cx, because I know I am not one of those. Rich Maile

1:32 PM  
Blogger Olaf Vanderhoot said...

"All due respect to those who do go well on the road, then go fast in cx, because I know I am not one of those. Rich Maile"

- LIAR -

For those who don't know ~ it took 37 attacks at BerkoHills to finally get a gap on the dark god.

Talk about your master of disinformation.

I haven't met a single cX rider out 'training' in the summer road scene who didn't hammer like all hell.

that's so damn boss.


1:58 PM  
Anonymous Casey Kerrigan said...

Why don't more roadies give Cross a try?

Some reasons might be

1) No large groups to draft off of. If you are a pack fill type roadie it is easier to get sucked along by a big old draft than to get out there and suffer by yourself ( or maybe with one or two other riders)

2) More equipment to buy. I don't think a lot of roadies want to risk trashing their sweet road rides playing in the dirt and mud.

3) No free laps. If you get a flat you need to continue around the course until you reach the pits ( or your spare wheels if you have any). No cutting across the course to a pit where a mechanic will change your wheel and push you back in when the pack comes back around.

4) If you are not doing a road race then you are most likely trying to win the World Championship club training ride :)

4:04 PM  
Blogger Dave Carr said...

I think the main reason my roadie friends don't try cross is they are all anal about sticking to their fall/winter base mile programs so they can be slammin' at Cherry Pie and McLane... Joe Friel says don't do cross so they don't do it.

As for me, I am (or once was) halfway decent at both crit racing and CX. But not 12 months of the year.


4:11 PM  
Blogger Dave Carr said...

ps. I love going out and kicking their butts in the fall, as they whine ... "We're supposed to be going slow today!!"

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and everyone knows, slow is for....

6:31 PM  
Blogger packfill said...

hello crossers,

I'm a retired roady who tried cross for the first time this year and fell in love. I even tried recruiting others to go with me after my first race and subsequent new addiction. I tried roadies and mtbers but to no avail. I unfortunately couldn't identify why no one was interested. After I saw that you could race reasonbly competetively on a mtb I thought that it would be easy to get a few people out to try it. I really made efforts but just couldn't get anyone to bite. They missed out. I can say that no one recruited me to come out and cross. I stumbled into it as a way to get back into cycling and find motivation to train by getting my tail kicked in a race. My idea was to do some late fall racing just to be able to have a little form for a serious road training program starting in the winter. Well now I'm motivated to train again and will be trying not to lose my hide while racing on the road next spring but I am also planning an early end to my road season so I can race a real cross season. I'm hooked!

I will preach and testify about my very positive experience with cross racing. The scene IS very laid back and friendly. It also IS very competetive. I nealy puked at all three races I attended. I also will add my two cents about why more roadies don't cross. At least for me it was the timing of the cross season. It started when I was exhausted from the road season and was getting some very much needed rest. With the biggest road racing in California in the early spring I was always planning to start the manditory big base miles in November. Using an availabe weekend day off to race a 45 minutes at LT cross race instead of spending 5-6 hours at breath through my nose pace just didn't make any sense even though I always looked at the cross schedule and was jealous of those who were getting to compete.

One thought that I have though is that if you can just get some to try cross there is a very good chance that they will like it as much as I did and will win some converts. One way that might get some roadies to at least try it is to have some cross races scheduled at the time when the roadies are looking to start adding some intensity to their training programs. For example I am planning on riding those early bird races for exactly the reason stated above but I would drop the asphault four corner boredom for a cross race in a second. I am a newby to cross so I will just ask. Why does the cross season end when it does? I realize the timing of Nationals and wanting to peak for the big race but the season is very short at least from a road perspective. Why not keep the racing going through the winter? It seams that we would have more racing in REAL cross weather with a higher probability of cold and wet which crossers seem to cherish. I've done plenty of early springtime crits and road races in in 45 degrees and raining (numerous memories of Visalia, Redlands and Sea Otter). I got a sunburn at one of the fall cross races I did this year and put on sunscreen at the others!

So there are a few thoughts from someone just starting to change from a road to cross mentality. See you at the races.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Casey Kerrigan said...

Maybe promoters could help by trying a few things to entice new Cross racers. The Surf City Cat C women races had pretty good turnouts maybe due to the Cross survival kits they were giving away to first time women cross racers???

Maybe if you pre-register for the Cs race and swear it is your first Cross race ever you could get a discounted race entry fee ( say $5). If Cross racing is as addicting like everyone says then maybe Cross promoters need to take a page from the local drug dealer's handbook. Give the first sample away for free and then once you have them hooked charge them full price :)

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most people know that road races attract a better lookin' crop of male and female bodies to check out, whether it's as a racer or a spectator. And you don't get your shoes dirty racing road.

10:23 PM  
Blogger ali-la-pointe said...

there's way too much coaching and over-zealous training stuff going on in the road scene with all the power-meter gizmos, testing, etc. at what are essentially hobbiest/beginner racing levels (all of us but the pros and some of them too)- this is leading to folks taking Friel and others seriously about cx wrecking their road season so after they come out for one DFL, find out that cx is hard, they bail with the now-acceptable excuse that they have to keep their heart rates down. There's some delicate ego stuff there too (can't stand getting lapped by a Cat 5). Also road racing is pretty cerebral-tactical stuff compared to cx and might attract different personalities because of that too (my excuse for being a crappy roadie). There's not enough of a game, with accompanying bitchiness, to keep roadies interested.

Roadies are not going to build up cx around here.

I think we could grow cx by poaching adults from the alley cats,
showing up in the triathlete world where people like to suffer and run by themselves, and maybe stopping by the Santa Clara Police Athletic League BMX track to try to entice some kids (and their parents) out too (yeah John K. and Dan M.?)?

9:16 AM  
Blogger Dave Carr said...

I'll tell you what got me interested in cross initially was one time on the side of Mt. Tam, as I was dragging my MTB over those idiotic logpole barriers at the trailheads for the umpteenth time, some guy blazed down the trail on CX bike -- which was unusual enough to begin with -- dismounted, flew over the barrier at warp speed, and shot off down the road before I had time to blink. That experience pretty much blew my mind and after that I just had to try it out.

The other way you can hook in your MTB friends is to show them the practical benefit of CX skills in MTB races. No matter how good their handling skills, sometime they are going to have to get off the bike and when they do, a lack of CX skills will hurt them (p.s. here's an article I wrote on that subject).


3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"Most people know that road races attract a better lookin' crop of male and female bodies to check out, whether it's as a racer or a spectator. And you don't get your shoes dirty racing road."

Well I would have to say the girls racing CX are way hotter and alot nicer to talk to. Maybe it's cuz they like to play in the dirt or mud if we're lucky :)

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicer to talk to and even have a beer with, but NOT hotter. That's definato.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Spumoni said...

Dave and John -

I've enjoyed the discussion aboout getting more people involved in 'cross. I wonder, though, if our overall attendance has fallen off this year, or whether perhaps the proliferation of races and categories has made the fields smaller at any one race, even though more people are racing than ever before.

This year we had the Pilarcitos, Surf City, Central Coast, East Bay and Sacramento series, plus other individual races. The Sacramento series alone had 10 races - that's a season for most people!

Two positive features of this rich racing scene are that riders don't have to travel too much to get to races, and fields are usually manageable size so that start position isn't such a huge headache. We're lucky to have so many great events to choose from - thanks to all the Bay Area's great race promoters!

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Make the courses faster with less bumps so it does not destroy our backs (even Robinson has back problems now) and we will do more cx races - but the reality is the "hard core" crossers do not want the "roadies" out there. I am mtb'r gone road and if races were not so hard on my body I would race a full CX season. Barriers are fine, smooth off camber turns are great, but throw the bumpy crud in there and I am staying home. Good example is Aptos high - beautiful course would love to race it, but 4 times down the bumpy downhill and my back is toast.

Bottom line is we are all cyclists and it seems that with vast experience in all types of cycling I do not see as much of a division as discussed here. CX versus roadie - SHUT UP and ride and support others who do too and you may get more participation in "YOUR" disipline.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slavonia is right. Aren't the fields big enuf! I mean especially in the Pilarcitos, Velo Bella and Central Coast races? C'mon, cross is a fringe sport of an already fringe sport. I guess this really IS the whine country.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Brij Lunine said...

This is a great thread. Let me just say that Jon Suzuki got me back into cross after nine years pretty much off the bike. He manages the Missing Link/Bianchi team. He hooked me up with a great deal on a new bike--which is an issue for some cyclists wanting to get into it. Jon also does a great job with sponsorship so buying clothing wasn't such an issue.

So aside from what's been mentioned in all the good comments above support from teams with equipment and a bit of team structure can get a few more folks out there too.

Other suggestions: More promotion especially for collegiate and high school (mtb) cyclists. This seems like a natural fit, yet I see very few collegiate racers out there. I've been trying to get Brian Vernor to screen "Pure Sweet Hell" ( here at UCSC, but he's understandably reticent. I know if I saw that film in high school and I had someone willing to show me the ropes I'd have been so down.

I know when my focus was primarily the road it was tough to balance recovering from nine months racing with the intensity of cross. Yet, the season after I raced a fair amount of cx was hands down my best ever. Plus with the likes of Bart Bowen mixing it up with us in Albuquerque it was hard to complain about needing to rest. Hell, a group even had post-cx race basketball games. New dogmas be damned, why do you think the sport was invented?

What I did this year: The minute a friend expressed interest I gave him all the advice I could. Hooked him up with Jon who set him him up with a used bike. I took him on some rides, helped show the ropes, etc. Then went early to the first few races to try and get him situated--he's hooked.

I know the back is definitely an issue with cross and really bothered me until I started doing a lot of core strengthening exercises. (Well, if you call 20 min. 3 times-a-week a lot.) The aforementioned Aptos downhill posed no problems. This can really help the road racing too.

That's it, now to get motivated for the the last CCCX and Peak Season (brilliant!) series.

Adios, Brij

9:26 PM  

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