Why Look, a Soap Box: Cyclocross and the Art of Spectating

September 13th, 2014 — 9:55pm

As a post-script to the beer throwing and other undesirable spectator activity at Cross Vegas, here are a few quick thoughts:

Cross Vegas is an amazing event that brings the best of the best to the United States. A couple jerks in the crowd should not overshadow that. The story here is that Meredith Miller and Sven Nys took exciting victories over world-class competition.

That being said, the beer throwing/spraying was stupid, disruptive and insulting to the elite athletes who start to prepare for an increasingly long season a couple weeks early to be in top form for this specific event. Yeah, sure, cyclocross is weird. But so is my day job. Yet to date, nobody has doused me with a can of Bud while I try and do it.

U.S. cyclocross is a small, tight-knit community. I don’t have to tell anyone who has experienced it that you are part of something special. There is no excuse, however, for what some spectators did at Cross Vegas. The responsibility for those actions fall squarely on that small-segment’s shoulders and I think for the most part, those involved know what they did was unacceptable. Some have already reached out to the community and apologized, which should give this particular incident some sense of closure.

But here’s the cool part: we can make sure these incidents do not happen again. And doing so isn’t hard. As a “small, tight-knit community” it’s okay for us to self-police. If you see somebody doing something egregious, something that interferes with the race or denigrates those racing, tell them to stop. Or, if you are uncomfortable doing that, tell the race organizer and let them deal with it.

And, no, I’m not saying we should become fun police. If some dumbass is making a complete fool of himself but otherwise being harmless, that’s on him. Let that freak fly his flag. But throwing beer at both pro fields, like what happened during Cross Vegas, or tossing topless stripper cards specifically at the Cross Vegas pro women, is something that should never again happen. I trust you all to know the difference between “stupid but fun” and “stupid but unacceptable.” Remember, you’re at a cyclocross race, not a Limp Bizkit concert.

Peer pressure is not necessarily a negative concept. It can be used for the side of good. Let’s impose a little peer pressure for the sake of the sport we love. Keep ‘cross weird. Keep it fun. But keep it respectful, too. Be it Cross Vegas or any other race this season.

So enough with the lectures, already. Next week in this space we will have Sven on SVENNESS. It’s pretty darn cool. Seriously.

See you at the races.



5 comments » | Commentary

The Week In Cross This Week: Episode 6

September 9th, 2014 — 6:37am
Ellen Noble (JAM Fund/NCC)

Ellen Noble (JAM Fund/NCC)

It’s finally here! Cyclocross season has begun. Before heading off to Cross Vegas, we took a trip to Trexletown, Pennsylvania, for Nittany Lion Cross. It was great day of racing at the UCI2 event and we grabbed the top finishers to learn how the day went. This episode features interviews with Laura Van Gilder, Stephen Hyde, Ellen Noble, Curtis White and Jeremy Durrin. We get a run down of how the race played out and then delve into how these top riders deal with adversity during a race, what their season goals are and how they start the day.

If you’re at CrossVegas, come say hi. I look just like the guy in the garage. Also, check out Skills Drills And Bellyaches at www.cyclocrossbook.com.

Thanks for watching.

For those having issues with Vimeo, here is the exact same video but on YouTube:

Comment » | Uncategorized


August 30th, 2014 — 1:38am

I got in trouble over the past week for declaring “Cross Is Dead.” I was accused of being lame and negative. And maybe that’s the way it came across. But to be clear, I don’t think ‘cross is dead. In fact, I think the exact opposite. Cyclocross gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me up late at night (it’s 1:15 a.m. as I write this). I live and breathe the sport. I really do. Cross is alive. And thriving. And, ironically, it is that belief (seasoned with a pinch of sarcasm) that got me in hot water.

About this time every year, the same chorus seems to start from a small corner of the cyclocross world: “It’s too corporate, too many roadies, disc brakes are ruining the sport, races are too expensive, grass crits, carbon wheels, dumbed down courses, Cat 5 high zoot tubulars, Di2 and aero helmets, training plans, power meters, blah … blah … blah …”

You used to hear people say that cyclocross in the U.S. was like punk rock. I would argue that U.S. cyclocross today is about as punk rock as Green Day is punk rock. Yeah, back in ’87 when they were playing 924 Gilman Street, Green Day may have been punk rock, but holy hell, Good Riddance?!? What happened to my punk rock?!? In the late nineties they started playing Green Day at high school graduations, for effs sake. And now the band has a Broadway show and Tony nominations. THIS IS NOT PUNK AT ALL. I want my Kerplunk!

Man. And we used to say they sold out with Dookie … who knew.

But here’s the kicker: Green Day is a damn good band. And damn good at what they do. Are they making the same music they did at seventeen years old in the late eighties? No. And why should they? Billie Joe Armstrong is 42, has a family. He’s not going to write more songs about leaving his parents home and living in a warehouse. If anything, he’s going to write about his kids doing that.

In the same manner, cyclocross in the states has grown up. It’s become popular. It’s not punk rock anymore. You can no longer have gnarly single-track and three foot drop offs into a raging creek at a race because when that happened, there were only 10 other people (maybe) in your category. Not 120. We need infrastructure and amenities and manageable courses to make sure everybody has a good time at races. That doesn’t mean it has to be easy or dumbed down, but it can no longer be stupid for stupid’s sake. It’s not punk rock.

And the cycling industry isn’t deaf. They hear what’s going on and are going to cater to (or in some instances steer you towards) the real or perceived needs of the sport. So innovation, needed or not, is going to happen. Spending money on bikes and wheels and coaches and power meters … it’s going to happen. But if you don’t want to do any of that: THAT IS OKAY!!! Go to a race, fly your freak flag, have a good time, have a beer with your buddies. Please! I love it. All of it.

You want to have a season goal of finishing top five in your series and upgrading by December? Hell yeah, go for it. You want to see if you can eat more cupcakes than your teammate by the end of the men’s elite race? I will be there cheering you on. It’s a big tent. And everyone is invited. That, my friends, is the beauty of cyclocross. And come to think of it, that is also the beauty of punk rock. We are still small, relatively speaking, and we all have one thing in common no matter our backgrounds: we love the sport. As in punk rock, If you love the music and the message, your background shouldn’t matter. As long as you respect the music, the community thrives. Respect the music, respect the sport. It’s no different. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it in your own way. Say, maybe cyclocross has a little punk rock left in it after all.

So please don’t tell me ‘cross is over, or it’s been ruined. That’s nonsense. It’s better than ever and you should enjoy every minute of it you can. As the sport grows, the real danger isn’t that more triathletes will start showing up or everybody will be wearing $700 skinsuits, but that the venues we love will start to disappear. You want to get mad at something? Get mad at that. And then go change it. Promote a race, go to a city council meeting, be a cycling advocate, promote the sport. All of these things grow the popularity and stave off the hostility that is out there. The hostility that wants bikes off the streets and out of our parks. Cross isn’t dead. But it’s up to you to prevent it from dying, Smokey.

In the end, I thought it was funny to respond to what I perceived as silliness within the sport with the hashtag #crossisdead. And when that seemed to backfire, I went in another direction and made this super-cute bumpersticker. And if you’ve learned nothing else from my rambling, at least know that you can buy the sticker, along with a couple others at the crosshairscycling.com shop. I need a miracle, people.

Bill Schieken

11 comments » | Commentary

TV Guide: European Cyclocross

August 22nd, 2014 — 11:10am

Granted, most of in the US don’t have Sporza on our cable box, or even on our Internet. But that doesn’t mean we don’t watch the races, right? So here’s the schedule for all of the 2014-2015 televised Euro-cross races. Mark your calendars and I’ll see you on Twitter at @cxhairs.

Date Cyclocross Type Broadcasting
September 27, 2014 GP Neerpelt Soudal Sporza
October 5, 2014 Casting (Ned) Superprestige VIER
October 12, 2014 GP Mario De Clercq Bpost Trophy Sporza
October 19, 2014 Valkenburg (Ned) World Sporza
November 1, 2014 Koppenbergcross Bpost Trophy Sporza
November 2, 2014 Zonhoven (Bel) Superprestige VIER
November 9, 2014 Ruddervoorde (Bel) Superprestige VIER
November 11, 2014 Annual Market Cross Niel Soudal Sporza
November 16, 2014 Asper-Gavere (Bel) Superprestige VIER
November 22, 2014 Koksijde (Bel) World Sporza
November 23, 2014 Spa-Francorchamps (Bel) Superprestige VIER
November 29, 2014 Milton Keynes (UK) World Sporza
November 30, 2014 Flandrien Cross Hamme Bpost Trophy Sporza
December 6, 2014 Grand Prize Hasselt Bpost Trophy Sporza
December 7, 2014 Flemish Druivencross Overijse Sporza
December 13, 2014 Scheldecross Antwerp Soudal VIER
December 20, 2014 Cyclocross Essen Bpost Trophy Sporza
December 21, 2014 Namen / Namur (Bel) World Sporza
December 26, 2014 Heusden-Zolder (Bel) World Sporza
December 28, 2014 Diegem (Bel) Superprestige VIER
December 30, 2014 Azencross Loenhout Bpost Trophy Sporza
January 1, 2015 GP Sven Nys Baal Bpost Trophy Sporza
January 4, 2015 Cyclocross Leuven Soudal Sporza
January 11, 2015 BK championship Championship Sporza
January 18, 2015 Roubaix (Fra) World Sporza
January 25, 2015 Hoogerheide (Ned) World Sporza
January 31, 2015 WK Tabor (Cze) Championship Sporza
February 1, 2015 WK Tabor (Cze) Championship Sporza
February 7, 2015 Krawatencross Lille Bpost Trophy Sporza
February 8, 2015 Hoogstraten (Bel) Superprestige VIER
February 14, 2015 Middelkerke (Bel) Superprestige VIER
February 22, 2015 Closing Price Malle (Bel) Sporza

2 comments » | 2014 Races, Public Service

Hilly Billy Roubaix 2014 Video

August 4th, 2014 — 8:55pm
Mike Simonson, 2013 Ulta Cross Series Champ and 2014 series leader.

Mike Simonson, 2013 Ulta Cross Series Champ and 2014 series leader.

It’s not really a documentary, not really a short film, but somewhere in between. Here’s a video I produced covering the Hilly Billy Roubaix, a 72 mile race that takes place on some of the nastiest roads in West Virginia. Started in 2010, the Hilly Billy Roubaix is a classic. Part of the Ultra Cross series, the Hilly Billy is a tough mud, dirt, grass, gravel, road race with a ton of climbing. Sounds fun, right?

One clarification from the video, I say that Garth Prosser holds the record for fastest time. Garth holds the 40+ record for the course with a time of 4 hours and 18 minutes. Michael Mihalik and Mike Simonson now share the overall record with a time of 4 hours and 19 minutes.

Also, Crystal Anthony set the women’s record this year with a time of 4 hrs and 31 minutes.

Special thanks to Stephanie Swan, Fritz Kessler and Marc Glass for letting me use the Hilly Billy Theme Song at the end of the video. You can see them play it live here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KW484pmfZU

Thanks also To JR Petsko for having me out. Check out all of the races he promotes here: www.abraracing.com.

Thanks for watching.

Hilly Billy Roubaix (Final Edit) from In The Crosshairs on Vimeo.

4 comments » | 2014 Races, Commentary, Video


July 21st, 2014 — 9:50am

Basil as a kid. Still growing into his collar.

Indulge me for a moment as I ramble on for a while about neither bikes nor bike racing. Our dog, Basil, passed away yesterday. He was 13 or maybe 14 years old. And was with us since he was about two, about the same time I started racing cyclocross, to give this the most tenuous of connections to In The Crosshairs. This is Basil’s story.

My wife, Heather, is a veterinarian and at the time we came to have Basil in our life she was working as an emergency vet at a clinic in Annapolis, Maryland. This was 2003.

One day at work, Heather is presented with a dog at the emergency clinic whose owner is convinced has cancer. “He’s scrawny, losing his fur, won’t eat, and is sickly. Dog has cancer,” the owner told Heather.

“Well, let’s examine him and run some test and see if we can come up with a course of care,” Heather responded.

“The kids have already said their goodbyes,” The man told her.

“I don’t understand. You’re dog may be sick, but he’s not dying.”

“The dog has cancer. We’ve said our goodbyes.”

“Sir, your dog doesn’t seem to be suffering and I’m not sure he’s that sick, if sick at all … I’m not going to euthanize him for you.”

“Dog has cancer, doc.”

This goes on for awhile, some initial test are run, and the dog—named Bear—is a bit dehydrated and does have some sort of skin infection. Heather suggests starting the dog on fluids and taking some blood tests.

“We don’t have any money. Our family has already said its goodbyes. Look how scrawny he is.” Refusing to kill this cute yet skinny black lab looking dog, Heather did something she has only been compelled to do one other time.

For most of us at work, there is only so much we can come home with from the office: A couple pens, box of paperclips, on occasion a ream of paper. When you are married to a veterinarian, however, there is always the risk that what comes home from the office is alive and will require feeding and walks. This happened to us once before when living in Rochester, New York. One day, we were the new owners of two ferrets: Teemu and Persephone.

It almost happened again when we were a whisker away from adopting a pit bull who had been shot in the head by a burglar. The dog’s name was Andre Lopez, which was reason enough for me to take on that guy. But he was adopted by some other person in the clinic who got there first.

Continue reading »

8 comments » | Commentary, Uncategorized

Tactics at the front of the Giro Rosa

July 16th, 2014 — 8:49pm

In case you missed it, the Giro Rosa took place the past two weeks and it was great racing. Definitely worth catching up on the highlights and marking the event as one to follow in 2015. In the final stage of this year’s race, mountain classification leader, Emma Pooley, goes off the front on the climb. The always dangerous Mara Abbott, who is 2 minutes behind race leader Marianne Vos, wants to chase her down. Vos’ team, RaboLiv, in an attempt to preserve their spots at the top (Pauline Fernand Prevot sits second and Anna van der Breggen is in third) doesn’t want Abbott up the road. So they don’t let her chase.

Good tactics? This is what you can do when you have a strong team and they are all at the front.

Non-sporting? Should RaboLiv have raced positively instead of negatively even though tactically it was more dangerous, with Vos who has stated she isn’t as good on long climbs?

What do you think? What do you think?

Thanks for watching.

4 comments » | 2014 Races, Commentary, Video

The Week In ‘Cross This Week: Episode 5

June 26th, 2014 — 2:37pm

For Episode 5 of The Week In ‘Cross This Week, I quickly talk about one news item and then explain a joke for four minutes. But it’s all about cyclocross … and firefighting, so watch. Who knows, you may learn something … about firefighting.

Thanks for watching and see you in a couple weeks.

1 comment » | Commentary, Skills and Technique, Video

The Week In ‘Cross This Week: Episode 4

June 20th, 2014 — 3:00am

This week on The Week In ‘Cross This Week we delve into the recent updates to the UCI Cyclocross Rulebook. Oooooh exciting!!! Actually, there’s some interesting items in there. Including a big change to how World Cup teams are selected, and what that means for powerhouse nations like Belgium and a shake up to the daily schedule for UCI races. We also revisit the stop and go rule for riding through the pits. And, of course, no episode is complete without a Moment of Sven. Although, it’s not called that in the episode. But you’ll figure it out.

Thanks for watching.

The Week In ‘Cross This Week: Episode 4 from In The Crosshairs on Vimeo.

Comment » | Commentary, TWICTW, Video

The Week In ‘Cross This Week: Episode 3

June 13th, 2014 — 2:48am

For episode 3 of The Week In ‘Cross This Week, we return to the Niels Albert story for the latest updates, check in on Sven and his quest for a top 10 finish at the European Championship XC MTB race, get the lowdown on a PFP kerfuffle, and talk ‘cross racing in Belgium, Las Vegas and Australia. If you have a second, please check out our book, Skills Drills and Bellyaches: A Cyclocross Primer, available at www.cyclocrossbook.com.

Thanks for watching.

Comment » | Commentary, TWICTW

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