Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pulled @ USGP? What The Hell Were You Thinking?

Hey Sour Puss.  Hup Hup and cheer up.  The first faces I saw at the USGP on Saturday were sour pusses.  Like a pre-school art project gone wrong, their dejected faces decorated with the course’s dry dirt glitter affixed by a grotesque snotty sweat-glue told the story.  They didn’t even care to wipe off the Dirt Goatee©.  When I arrived in time to warm up for the Elite masters race, a lot of strong Cat 3 riders, riders who normally would be driving the front end of their regional series races, stood disgruntled on the outside of the tape as they watched the front end of the 2/3 race finish.  Getting pulled sucks monkey butt.  You could hear their thoughts.  “I should be up there.”  "The course was too short."  Riders felt cheated, and rightfully so…but only to an extent.

  1. Mark LeggMrKatieCompton  I will say, day 2 at USGPLouisville was a step in the right direction but still some work to do.

As Jay Leno would put it to Hugh Grant, “What the hell were you thinking?”  45 riders entered a Cat 2/3 CX race with over 100 riders from all over the nation already signed up.  No offense to their prowess on the bike, but I think it’d be a tall order for even Jeremy Powers to plow his way from the back to the front of a 145 deep field of 2/3 riders in 45 minutes while avoiding every calamity, even if the lap was 8 minutes long.  By some of the bitching and moaning I heard from Cat 3’s around the course you’d think common sense were a banned substance.  You got whomped by starting in the back of essentially a Cat 2 race.  Maybe what’s really stinging ya is realizing that the whoopin’ was administered by 15 year old Jordan Cullen, pictured below.  The Cat 2/3's at the USGP aren’t a 30 year old’s playground anymore.

Still, a rider doesn’t see himself as a bib number and a birthday.  They see themselves as a Cat 3 who trained hard, paid $35, traveled, maybe even booked a hotel and didn’t really get to race.  Yeah.  Yeah!  You tell ‘em Joe Biker.  You say if the promoter accepts 145 riders, 145 riders should have a shot.  Yeah!!  Well this is a big field in cyclocross and not the 26.2 mile course of the Flying Pig marathon.  Riders get pulled when about to be lapped.  It sucks.  It’s cold.  Its cross.  Having a longer course at USGP may have saved a few souls, but I’d say even with an 8 minute lap, close to half the field was doomed from the start based on math alone. 

The last 50 riders signed up in the 2/3 field spilled cooking oil on the counter, left the coffee maker on and hoped the house wouldn’t burn down, short course or not.  That’s not the promoters fault.  There was a better option.  Coulda.  Woulda.  Shoulda.  A racer coulda passed 65 riders with a click of a button by entering the 80 deep pro race.  The Elite Masters 35+ had a solid 70 riders, 45+ had a manageable 59. 

Yeah the course was short.  However, even with an 8-9 minute lap, I have never been at a big cyclocross race where 140 riders, even 100 riders, even 75 riders finished on the lead lap.  Think of it like a beer bong.  The first 1-2 beers will make it down easy.  Unless you’re a fraternity brother nicknamed Bruno, the 3rd PBR tall boy is going all over your shirt.  Secondly, I’ve started in the back in big races.  Even at the top of my CX game, avoiding every wreck and hitting every perfect line, I’ve never been able to pass 35 or so riders at the most.  For anyone who signed up when the USGP 2/3 field grew past 100, the odds were in the casino’s favor. 

CX is growing faster than the mold on the water bottle in the back of my truck.  A few years ago combining the 2’s and 3’s at USGP and other large races made sense and didn’t make a gargantuan field.  Promoters could attract the regional Cat 2’s that would rather not fork out another $60 for a UCI license they’d use once.  For the first time in their CX lives, if they entered early, they could be on the driving end of race rather than getting beat by Cat 1’s and pros.  Strong Cat 3’s would have their hands full, but still have fun.  With the short course at USGP and a field close to the population of metro Louisville, the fun got pulled right with the riders.  So I guess there are three options: enter a race where the mathematic probability of finishing on the lead lap is the highest, design a hideously long cyclocross course that can keep a larger portion of a field 145 riders on the lead lap or, simply split the 145 strong 2/3 field.  I like the latter.  It’s a good thing too.  Cyclocross in the US, in the Midwest, in Cincinnati and Louisville, is big enough for each category to have its own field.  That’s incredible.


Andrew said...

Nice post Joe, you pretty much summed it up. From a health of the sport standpoint it's a nice problem to have. There were only about 20 Cat 2's so a seperate race would not have impacted the field size much. However, the top Cat 3 was about 1:30 back on Sat and 2:40 back on Sun so more guys would have had a fighting chance of avoiding the hook. I'd rather have a slightly shorter race with an extra time slot or two (say a B masters class) to keep the number of riders on course a little more reasonable.

Joe Biker said...

No surprise there were only about 20 people with Cat 2 licenses. Just makes my point that there's obviously an over abundance of 3's.

There'd be more Cat 2's in the CX world if upgrading didn't mean a ticket to the back of the Pro/Cat 1 bus.

James Billiter said...

Thanks Joe, I was the victim of 'cross fever. I had such a great time at the UCI3 races — I forgot the consequences of starting in the back of a field twice the size!

It was the first time I have ever been pulled from a race, but it was my fault due to my own poor performance. It was shocking and I immediately went for a pacifier.

Next year I will train harder and learn to sign up faster!

Karew said...

The other issue here is that the race should be held on the course, not to the registration line. I do not think it's fair to have to register in July for a race held in October, just so that I might be given a front row starting spot. The random draw worked in the pro race, and I think it would work in all of the other races as well. Seed guys with USGP points first, followed by local series leaders, followed by everybody else sorted in random order. On the same note, the USGP should probably start thinking of having a series for the lower categories as well, but that's another topic.

nathan said...

I understand the need for early registration, but I don't understand why a large race like the USGP can't use timing chips. If they are going to field races with over 150 riders without pulling over more than half the race. It just leaves a very bad taste In your mouth to be pulled before the finish. If they want riders to continue to do their races something needs to change. I for one would be willing to pay a couple of extra dollars to have timing chips if necessary.

Mark said...

great post, all great points.
These are all the reasons I kept my money in my bank account this year, and went mountain biking instead for the first year since inception of this race. Plus those usgp officials consider themselves way too important. I was so sick of their politics (too serious), the lack of separation of large fields, that put me on my mountain bike over the weekend. A friend that stayed at the Ramada told me he was warned by a usgp official Sat morning about the amount of coffee he was drinking, he thought she was kidding and made a joke, she reiterated her comment "Seriously watch your coffee intake". I mean really? Does she really think it's her right to tell anyone at breakfast what to eat and what not to eat?
- to Nathan's comment about paying more to race with Chips. I am not paying more, for chips. I don't know where all the profits go for all these races, but why can't the state cycling organizations help fund chips? they can pool them for large events? There should be chips at all three days of uci and usgp. This is a no brainer. Although, the race officials and organizers over the uci weekend do an amazing job with that they have. They should separate the 2/3 field, have separate time starts for any 3 race with other fields (like Gun Club>thanks JohnG). The old farts pay the same money to race that the 3's pay - but the seniors are penalized for being seniors and must fight their way through that same 75-100 open 3's in their 35/45 group of 60 or so. Pay respects to the seniors, maybe Special parking too (kidding).
If there are no call ups for the top tier racers in the ovcx at usgp, then what is the point in combining them in the series? ovcx could just schedule around them, take their racers/cross promotion/etc and let those that want to go race race and be 50th or get pulled.
--It seems racing usgp this year (a first year venue) is sort of like buying the newest laptop/computer/software version/camera - at some point there will be issues and at some-point they'll come out with a new version and get all the bugs worked out.
--When the Pro's are interviewed on video tape and slam your course, then maybe it's time to get humble, stop telling people what to eat for breakfast and make some big changes.