Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why does cross have to be "something" except hard?

I hear it all the time. "Cross is this" and "cross is that". Or something along the lines of "it's not cross because it's not fill-in-the-blank". Common forms are below.

It's not cross if there aren't hurdles.
It's not cross unless it's raining.
Cross is all about mud.
It's not cross if there's singeltrack.
Cross shouldn't be a grass crit.
It's not cross if it's 70 degrees.

I'll tell ya one thing. The only thing cross should be is hard. Cross isn't anything in particular. The racers make it a race. Not the course. Not the weather. Not the current UCI regulations. Not the temperature. Gimme a break. Race each other. Not the course.

I don't know why, but the hurdles thing really bugs me. It's a bike race. It's not a get-on-and-off-your-bike race. Throwing random hurdles into a field is rather unimaginative and rarely changes the face of the race. Obstacles should be there to break the rythm of the race and force changes.

What's the point of all this? As usual, I don't have much of a point. It just makes me giggle when I overhear a rider in their second season of racing cross telling someone else what cross "should be" or "isn't". The only thing it should be is hard. Now go race your bike.


Colin R said...

I was with you up until:

It's a bike race. It's not a get-on-and-off-your-bike race.

I agree with the gist of your argument, but the dismount/remount thing is the defining attribute of cross. Seriously, when you describe cross to layperson, you probably say some variation of "cyclocross is racing your bike around a small course on and off road, where sometimes you have to get off and run over or up stuff you can't ride."

but whatever. you're basically right.

gewilli said...

back in the day...

with billions of barriers...

long run ups...

courses were even different than they are now... and the element balance of the course had a huge affect on who would win (aside from the elite/pro level - ie the guys who'd been doing it long enough to be good at everything)... in the ranks, the B and C races...

courses certainly changed the face of the race...

Don't mis-interpret bitching about a specific race as more than some yahoo covering up the fact that the sum of that specific course didn't play into their strengths.

Ie mr bitchy "i'm not a roadie, and you can pry my cold dead hands off my top mounts before you convince me that they don't belong on a cross bike" colin


CTodd said...

Like dismounting in front or back, cross-top levers are optional. If you like 'em use 'em. If not, don't.

Stop focusing on what others should or shouldn't do. Focus on what you are doing.

DB said...

I agree with you about stopping the whining but I disagree with your opinion about courses. One thing that makes cross cool is variations in courses. Those old timey courses with long run ups, stream crossings, barriers and other weird obstacles are inherently cool. They make cross "MORE than a bike race."

The soccer field cross courses where they just string up a bunch of tape are just less interesting. Still fun. Just less cool.

zank said...

I didn't really express an opinion about any type of course. I like them all. Putney was great back in the day when there were 7 sets of hurdles on the course. But that was what Putney was all about. And Putney is still a killer race without all of those barriers. I also really dig the super long run up at the Cheshire Cross. The course designer used a natural obstacle. Perfect.

I will stick by my statement that cross is not a get-on-and-off-your-bike race. What I mean by that is I think it is silly to have an obstacle just for an obstacle's sake that has no real bearing on the outcome of the race. When natural terrain is used to force riders off their bikes, it tends to break the race up more. Personally, I don't care about any course one way or another. We all race the same course.

Zoo said...

***kneeling down on hands and knees*** Oh Zank, Mighty and Powerful God of all things Cyclocross, you could not have put this any better, ever think about putting together a Cyclocrosser's Bible, I swear I'll read it and pray to it every morning, afternoon, and night.

"The only thing it should be is hard. Now go race your bike." - Priceless, absolutely priceless. Zank do you have a fan club yet? Can I join?

Yash Katsumi said...

Cross is where I get to try out shiny new bike things I have dubbed "The best thing ever" and realize ten minutes into the race that I should have been training instead of scouring the web for Magic Potions or brakes that actually brake.

I like fun and really awkward natural barriers like in Sterling Sterling Sterling. I also like natural barriers where if you can harness max heart rate power and finesse the bike for ten seconds and ride it, you have just made up ten spots.

Barriers can be a bit boring since most everyone rides them at the same speed anyways. (Unless you eat shit on them.)

Colin R said...

one time i tried to ride a barrier.

i ate shit.

it wasn't boring.

Yash Katsumi said...

True. If you can bunny hop a barrier the beer garden erupts in joy.

Bob Kuhn said...

You'd better like getting off your bike at least twice if you are going to nationals and the two 40 foot stair run-ups. I see them deciding the race.

Brooke Hoyer said...

Dude, here's what I think. A good cross course will make the best use of the terrain at a given venue. A rider should be off the bike a couple or five times a lap. A rider should be rewarded for choosing a cross bike rather than a mountain bike or road bike. The course should have some good transitions with more than a few being slow/fast/slow types of things. There ought to be plenty of opportunities to pass (a good rider shouldn't have to wait more than 20 seconds to pass someone).

It should be hard.

I'll agree that random planks are bothersome but given the fact that promoters often can't build a little staircase on a small rise, barriers must often suffice.

Jungle cross was fine and dandy when the total field for a given start time was in the teens and twenties. With up to 250 racers on the course at once, jungle cross just doesn't cut it anymore.

So there. atmo, imho, ymmv, hth, nttawwt

gewilli said...

"couple or five times a lap"

oh that would be awesome...

IIRC only stevens really pushed that envelope at BayState/Sterling last year... and then he had to take the stairs out for the UCI race...

Glawster was off the bike once in the B race... or twice in the 3/4 35+ race (2nd race of the day) with the sand.

We gots lots more cross racing coming up - lots more different courses...

Brooke is damn right though. It does sound an aweful like stuff Adam Myerspace has mentioned in the past...

tjh said...

LOL...local cross promoter legend Bob, of Velopromo junglecross fame, had a course a few years back w/ 11 forced dismounts per lap! Barriers, stairs, a giant drainage ditch. I loved it since my sense of humor is as twisted as Bobs. He figured it was and early season race. Might as well give everyone a chance to work on their skills. If you were rusty at the start, you sure smoothed it out 9 laps later. Last year he had a course that flowed really well. I think he must have been under the weather.

Craig said...

Can I give an Amen Brother?!
It's not about the bike, or the course, but the rider, and their ability to suffer. If they cannot handle their own performance come Monday, then I see 2 options:
1)harden the F&*k up.
2) Find another sport.

If you are not having fun, why show up. It's like a 5k, you know it's not going to be fun, so do what you can and improve. The beauty is that there is always someone to race with, even if you're fat and slow like me.
BTW update your bbz pics!

zank said...

Craig gets it.

megA said...

oh craig.

if only you knew how many times i had to debate your very point this past weekend.

i don't know if i've HTFU, but i'm at least toeing the line again this weekend.

cross is.