Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Really Great Race

What makes a great 'cross race?

A couple weeks ago I had a discussion with a sponsor who wants to put together a western states race series, like a mini SuperCup. As we both used to promote races the discussion became a debate about what makes a great event.

We observed that in Norcal historically the higher profile events (like UCI races with cash and press and pros in attendance) have had a hard time competing with the local race series. There's something about the Norcal scene which seems to value the grass roots over the "big show".

So what makes an event great? Should it be measured by participation, like Surf City which once could get upwards of 400 riders in a day? Or by cash prize lists and press coverage, like the US Grand Prix? A full scale promotion with finish line arch, PA system, expo tents, race announcer and schwag bags? The prospect of earning bragging points in the local series, like Central Coast? Or a great local race every week within 20 minutes drive, like the Sacramento series? Or is it only about the race course itself?

Bottom line, what is it that makes you turn out for a race?

Ground rules: This is not a "flame the promoter" thread. This is not a place to ask for entry fee refunds. This is not a discussion forum for callup procedures. And don't waste bandwidth saying things like "every course ever design by Keith Defiebre rocks hard!!!" - be specific!

Photo credit: J.S. Mcelvery

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cross Couch Clinic

Learn 'cross from the comfort of your couch ... skills videos from Velonews.

Part 1 (introduction)
Part 2 (courses)
Part 3 (dismounts)
Part 4 (barriers)
Part 5 (carrying)
Part 6 (remounts)

Monday, October 23, 2006

BikeReg.com: 600+ Natz Registrants in the first 10 minutes

Just got word from Steve Roszko at BikeReg.com about Nationals Registration - some 600 Registrants in the first 10 minutes!

Here's a graph:

Steve says:

"This is the biggest registration spike we have seen because it was so important to be in first for riders. With one phone call and one chat support, both just informational not problems, I would have to say it was a success."

"We've had other big quick sell outs like the Mt Washington Hill Climb and the Single Speed World Championships but they just had to get in, it did not matter to be first."

Only one phone call and chat support? That's a good indicator they're doing a good job on their UI.

I registered for the 35+ event pretty quickly and hopefully got a low registration number - after missing last year I'm a bit worried about call-ups. There was very little delay in loading and confirmation in spite of the volume. Kudos and thanks to BikeReg for handling it so well...


Friday, October 20, 2006

National Registration Opens Monday 9AM PST (noon EDT)

Those of you watching the USA Cycling Feed at the bottom of the NCNCA CX page may have noticed this tidbit showed up today - you can stop worrying now, Dave...


Monday, October 16, 2006

Natz Reg Watch

Ok, babblefans ... need the help of a few internet spies.

As you may remember, last year the US Cross Nationals in Providence RI filled up their registration insanely fast. By this time last year, several of the Masters cats were full and closed and the B's were well on to their way to filling a second wave of 150 guys.

This year for some reason the promoter has not got their online reg. running yet, but you can be sure once they do start the spots will go fast.

Maybe the USCF is thinking about introducing qualification requirements for 'cross, following the mess at this summer's Road Natz where fields filled up and many legitimate contenders who tried to reg onsite were not allowed to start, even though scores of registered entrants had failed to show. Just a guess, I don't have any actual facts on that issue, but it makes for good babble...

Anyway, all you net jockeys... please keep an eye out at cyclocrossnationals.com and if you see an announcement email me or Funke asap and we will post the news here. Thanks...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hernando's Blog

If I:

(a) had a sense of humor
(b) had good writing skills
(c) didn't have a job

I like to think I'd keep a blog like Mike Hernandez's.

Fortunately I only have enough of (a) and (b) to recognize them, and that's a whole lot easier, because I can just link to it.

Like this:

Good stuff on the Women of Nor-Cal today...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Three-Dot Lounge: Hellyer Park

Howdy cross fans, and welcome to the wonderful month of Hottober. Which is, in case you didn't know, one of the four months of cyclocross season: Bumptember, Hottober, Mudvember and Freezember. Though yesterday's race, being still early in the month, was a little of both Hot and Bump. And the weather experts are still divided as to whether there will be any mud in Mudvember this year or if it will just get hotter.

Speaking of bumps, nice turnout yesterday for the first round of the Bay Area Superprestige at Hellyer Park. Hands up, how many of you dropped your chain on that course yesterday? I did too, except I need more than two hands here. Mark Noble, he could've dropped his chain a couple times and still finished well in front. As for me I'm still looking for one of my kidneys. I'm also looking for a mechanic who can explain to me the finer points of third-eye setup for single chainring. Seriously, email me
here 'cause I need help.

Speaking of gears, if you run double chainrings on your bike you may have wondered what to do with the vestigial 11 or 12 cog that invariably comes on those stock-bike cassettes in back. Seriously, unless you're Barry Wicks you probably have no need for a 53-12 in NorCal races, or even a 48-12 for that matter. So here's one idea mentioned to me on the course yesterday: run junior gears. I bet most of you didn't even know the USCF re-introduced junior gear limits, but in fact Shimano makes special cassettes in 13-25, 14-25, 15-25 and even 16-26, which have one-tooth steps through most of the block. For serious big stud appearance run a 44 single in front and you're golden.

An unfortunate milestone was crossed in the Babblesphere last week when Editor John "Keep It Clean" Funke was forced to shut down the comment line on my doping post. In light of all the messy emotions stirred up by my article, I resolve and promise to do a better job this week and absolutely refrain from mentioning anything that could be remotely viewed as controversial. Natz qualifiers.

Administrative note. If you were out there taking photos and want to share with others, hop down to the
race report blog and post your link in the comments. Funke or I will try to remember to put up a photo link in the reports section each week. Judging by all the guys out at Hellyer with big cameras that looked like they cost more than my bike, you must have got some good shots. Post 'em.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Doping in Cross?

The approach of fall and the arrival of CX season have finally started to ease the sting of this summer's doping scandals. Ah, cyclocross... so pure, so elemental, so unspoiled... right? I wish...

Cyclocross has had an uneasy relationship with doping for years. Back in the opening days of the EPO era in the early 90's, when "dope" usually meant amphetamines and nobody had heard of EPO, some of the earliest cases of European riders dying unexpectedly in their sleep, later attributed to overuse of EPO, were Belgian 'cross riders.

Throughout the '90's leading riders on the pro circuit drew comments for their "extraterrestrial" performances and telltale signs of 'roid rage. And then last year, the whole thing blew open when two of the world's top 'crossers, 3-time world champion Mario deClercq and Belgian star Ben Berden were both banned for dope, Berden for taking EPO and deClercq for participating in an infamous cycling dope ring that also netted champion roadie Johan Museeuw.

Some doper apologists have said that the extreme difficulty of cycling events such as the Tour De France drives some riders closer to dope. (Though I got a laugh out of the quip by Christian Prudhomme, new director of the Tour: "After the positive test of Justin Gatlin nobody had the idea to shorten the 100 meters, did they?!")

If the "it's too tough" argument justifies dope, what can we expect of 'cross, the toughest hour in cycling? Berden famously commented prior to his conviction that the only reason he wasn't winning was the other guys "have a better medical program."

After this year's disaster on the road circuit I think the UCI has got to be taking a hard look at tougher dope controls in 'cross before the sport suffers its own meltdown. Following Berden's positive result the title sponsor of the SuperPrestige circuit, Karcher Group, threatened to pull its sponsorship in disgust. Look for ethics codes and surprise raids just like the road circuit.

And if you think doping is a problem isolated only to those big time races over in Europe, remember even our own little road scene over here has seen its share of doping convictions among domestic road pros. Here's hoping the same won't be seen in 'cross...