Thursday, November 15, 2007

What makes a 'cross course?

One of my favorite things about cyclocross is the diversity of race courses. Each race has it's own personality and challenges. Different features favor different riders. Each race is different.

Are you a mudder? A runner? A good bike driver? A diesel? A climber? A technician?

A cyclocross course exposes your strengths and your weaknesses. A good 'crosser will work hard to improve weaknesses and become well-rounded. Your strengths will always be your strengths, but improving your weaknesses is satisfying and beneficial.

I like the fact that there are many ways that you can improve. It's not just about putting out more power, though that usually helps!

Sunday's race has me thinking about what makes a cyclocross course. The Race Pace track had zero dismounts. Are dismounts absolutely necessary? No. However, I would prefer that racers have to get off their bikes at least once per lap.

Well executed dismounts, remounts, and bike handling are a thing of beauty, balletic in my mind. They are the ARTISTIC part of 'cross. Power and speed are the science. The combination of the two creates an allure that gets my juices flowing.

Race Pace Promoter Rodger Carter wanted a faster, less technical course and that's cool. I really enjoyed the race and the changes made from last year. His explanation of why they didn't include any dismounts is interesting. He says that when 'cross was developed the running part was intended to keep the racers warm since the races were run in the cold, wet winters of northern Europe.

Since our races are run under much milder temperatures there isn't the same need to keep the racers warm. So, an Autumn race season and global warming are the reasons for the decline of dismounts and running in cyclocross? Interesting theory, but I'm not buying.

He also argues that a racer should be able to do well on all types of courses and I totally agree there. However, I think you can throw in a set of planks or force a run-up and still have a fast, non-technical course. If you're going to forgo any forced dismounts you should incorporate more technical sections (like the off-cambers at Race Pace).

That said, a rainy day would have made this track very tough...I'm thinking 3 dismounts and some very slippery grassy sections. If that happens you can always remove the planks. Anyway, I'm not bitching...just contemplating what makes a 'cross.

Diversity in cylcocross courses is a GREAT THING. I had a blast at the Guy's/Evo MAC mud-fest weekend last year where there was a shitload of running per lap and I also enjoyed Race Pace where I never had to get off my bike. It's all racing and none of it is easy.

While I think that most 'cross races should be more in the middle of the ride-run spectrum, it's fun do one at the extreme from time to time.

The season is nearing it's end, but my enthusiasm is still boundless.

Off-topic, but good reading:
Michael Lewis on what really drives Wall St. and much of the business world.


josh said...

i linked this post from my blog. great write up. soooo true. right on.

Chris H said...

His whole bit about dismounting was meant to keep you warm is bull. Riders who dismounted and ran simply found it faster than trying to ride through difficult sections.

It's funny because the aspect of carrying the bike to move more quickly through obstacles was adopted by riders in the TdF who had to negotiate treacherous mountain roads.

I guess one could argue you got the added benefit of staying warm while running down a pass in the Alps or Pyrennees rather than riding, but in 'cross the runs are to short for any long term benefit.

The UCI should have never relaxed the rules on man made barriers by making them optional.

EyeBob said...

All courses should have at least one area where you have to dismount.

On the other hand, IMO, three dismounts on any lap is too many.


Elaine said...

Excellent post - I completely agree, and couldn't have said it better.

I was not a fan of the Race Pace course. I'll take technical over speedy, (I like trail running over road running for the same reason), and mud over wet grass any day .

'course I might be biased, having gashed my shin in a crash during this race. (I'm better now) :)