Skinsuit Sausages, Deli Slicers and Disc Wheels...Guest Blogger Corey Green of Cincinnati from the 2009 Cyclocross Nationals in Bend, OR:
Today was supposed to be my "B" race - a race to see the course, figure out the bike set up and make sure all was right for the "A" race on Saturday. However, my equipment only partially arrived, so instead I got to watch a lot of the racing today. Here are some observations from the day.
As Joe has written previously there is a decision matrix that we all go through before painting the skinsuit onto our body for a race. Whether we are looking for sleekness for a crit race or a tight fit for a cyclocross race the goal is to remove the clothing as an opportunity for failure without appearing as though you are 10 lbs of flour in a 5 lb sack. The question is...does racing in a National Championship race change this decision matrix?
For spectators many factors should be considered before launching a verbal assault on Mr. Husky and questioning whether he should have poured himself into the multi-colored sausage casing known as a skinsuit. I am certainly not throwing stones at guys forcing ones self into a skinsuit. I did it all summer at time trials and I am sure snickers were bountiful from my competition, so let's just say I am just casting doubt.
The guy on the left here looks like a nice guy, appears to have a smile and a mighty nice crop growing on his face. Based on his bike choice and the Edge composite wheels, I don't think he is hurting for cash. From this information you can theorize that he wasn't forced to decide between the usual bibs and shorts -OR- skinsuit when he placed his kit order last fall. He could probably get both. What decision process went through his head to look like this in a national race?
But, I got to thinking...was it really that bad? Afterall, a size husky skinsuit affords sponsors a larger billboard. Let's give the guy some credit, it was 11 degrees at this point of time and he was out riding his bike. Where was I? Sipping coffee and taking pictures of a husky fella painted into his clothes. What if he didn't wear a skinsuit, what would that look like?
Luckily enough there was another husky fella riding his bicycle around the track with a similar build, so it gave me an opportunity to compare and constrast. If you notice there is very little difference, except for "bulbous" bottom part of the belly. The skinsuit appears to have reached the end of its ability to restrain the outward pressure and push back. The two piece approach appears to give the lower part of the torso area a bit of resistance against "The Hulk" exploding out of his clothes and going "all Hulk" on unsuspecting spectators.
Another consideration is that the resistance to outward pressure also makes rider #2 appear to be a bit more in shape than rider #1. If you took them both side by side in the YMCA shower I doubt you could tell one from the other, but rider #2 has the edge on looking ready to win Nationals. (editor agrees and the white bike makes him look even more svelte.)
Another question is whether to consider age in the mix. I was surprised at the number of guys riding in skinsuits in the 60+ categories. These guys are competing for a stars and stripes jersey and should be shown some respect. The question I have is whether a skinsuit striped like a popcorn box at the theater is really the best way to get that deserved respect. However, one highly respected celebrity has proven over decades that vertical stripes also make you look thinnner.
In the end it is Nationals. This is what you train for all year and your last race of the year - let it all hang out. Well, let it all exert outward pressure on yourr seams, you won't be wearing the skinsuit again this year.
Every cross race has its selection of equipment choices that make you wonder, and the B races today were no exception. It has been a long time since I had seen a set of Spynergy "deli-slicers" on a bike, but I spied some today. Immediately I wondered how those would actually ride in a cross race. They weigh more than any other wheel I have ever ridden, so they have to be painful to sprint out of corners. Studies have shown little to no advantage to deep dish wheels, so this one puzzles me. The only way this makes sense is if he is carrying a loaf of pimento loaf in the jersey pocket and uses the wheels to slice a sandwich halfway through the race.
Then I saw something that still makes me scratch my head. Yes, to the right is my first witness of the Cross Disk. A Cross Disk? Are there cyclocross time trials at nationals? Is Zipp trying to create a new wheel market? I am hopeful someone will give me some explanation that makes even an ounce of sense. I am completely speechless when trying to explain why someone would bring this wheel and race it at cyclocross nationals. Seriously, completely stumped. (editor: as it turns out that's the bike of 2009 55+ Nat'l CX Champion Paul Curley from Taundton, MA. With 23 Nat'l titles under his belt in multiple disciplines, there must be something to it. It appears as a disc wheel, but according to CX Magazine it's actually more of a plastic spoke cover than a solid disc.)
Tomorrow brings the Juniors races after a long night tonight. The equipment is to arrive at 6pm on the trailer that left Tuesday morning. We will be wrenching deep into the night and the kids will be freezing their bums off at 8am. Wish them luck.