Monday, November 15, 2010

UTCX #8 – State Championships

Saturday was the state championship race, held at Mount Ogden Golf Course. Hands-down my favorite venue of the year, even if Seth described it as “deciding the cyclocross champ and hill climb champ in the same race.” There was a decent-sized climb that changed the dynamics substantially. There was also an absence of technical elements, with two barriers being the only time you’d consider getting off the bike*. Intentionally, at least.

*Bunny hoppers like Rico and Bart never got off the bike.

My tirade against sandbaggers notwithstanding, I decided to race the B flight. My motivation was primarily that Adam and my brother Steve race B, and I had never raced against them with fresh legs. I wanted to see how I measured up. Nate Drozd deserves props for racing in the A flight, where he got a respectable result on a course I don’t think suits his strengths—I expect he’ll move further up the results sheet next week at Wheeler Farm.

We had 37 starters in our race, most of whom showed up early to stake out a spot. Just before callups, three guys from The Church of the Big Ring made the little ring* move of the day when they rolled in and entered the pen from the front, not the back, placing themselves on the first row. Brian Cadman would have been called up anyway, but I don’t see why the other two thought they were entitled to start from where they did. I wish I would have said something at the time (but I have a blog, so I can say what I want when I want and anyone who doesn’t like it can leave a comment, because comment moderation is also totally little ring).

*In other little ring news, Tim Az won both cat. 4 races at the USGP this weekend. Which is cool. Except Tim has been racing cross for three years, and has won a number of races and been on the podium in even more in that time. But since UTCX isn’t USAC sanctioned, none of that counts towards an upgrade, so when he races out of state, he’s a four. And since he doesn’t do much road racing, he can’t get an upgrade based on his road category.

I love UTCX. I love Matt’s commitment to it. I love having a dozen chances to race in that series plus nearly a dozen more in other races throughout the season. It contributes to Utah having one of the best racing scenes in the country. But would it kill us to get the races sanctioned? Sure, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference for Utah racers who just race the UTCX series, but you have to be a three to race at Nationals. Tim can’t race at Nationals. Tim beats the crap out of the fours at a USGP. Sanctioning and upgrades keep the competition competitive.

The little ring move didn’t make much difference for me. I was second row, had a good start and was fifth starting up the hill. Passed one on the hill and was fourth.

Next time up the hill, Joseph Moffett (Mad Dog Cycles) gapped us all. I knew I couldn’t climb with him, so I didn’t even try. I had second and third in sight when we entered a series of tight, 180 degree turns. I had good momentum through the turns when my tire washed out, and I was suddenly laying on my side, still clipped in.

I lost a few spots getting up and was in seventh. I chased hard the rest of the lap, probably a little too hard. My asthma kicked in as we passed the start/finish line. It felt like someone was standing on my chest, keeping me from filling my lungs more than half way with air.

I’ve had this happen before in road races, and I’ve sometimes been able to sit in until I recover. But I have to back way off or it just gets worse. There was nowhere to sit in, so I dialed it back and watched as seven guys rode past me on the climb. On the dirt road at the top of the climb, I got to where I could breathe again, so I started the work of bringing back the guys ahead of me.

Over the final two laps, I slowly clawed back all but two of the guys that passed me. Eric Martin (Skull Candy) and Mike Pratt (Canyon) were the last two that I caught and passed. I’ve raced with those guys enough on the road that there’s a bit of a friendly rivalry there. I led Eric from the top of the climb. My breathing still wasn’t normal, and he told me I sounded like his dog right before it died.

Just before the barriers, I hit it hard and got a little gap on Eric. I wasn’t going to catch Drew Free, my Revolution teammate who was the next guy up, so I focused on riding clean and just keeping it upright through the finish.

There was a 180 degree turn 50 meters from the end. I didn’t want to fall in that corner, so I took a foot out just in case. As I rounded the corner, I heard the click of a gear shifting. Mike Pratt had caught and passed Eric, had caught me, and was now starting to sprint, and I only had one foot clipped in.

I turned the cranks a couple times before I clipped in, managed to clip in, then sprinted as hard as I could. I beat Mike by maybe a wheel. As Daren put it after the race, encouragingly, I beat all the guys that mattered. Now I just need to figure out how to ride faster than the eight guys who were in front of me.

While I could have done without the crash, I’m happy with the race. The course wasn’t particularly technical, which was helpful to me. Technical would have been better for Daren, who finished third in the 45+ race. His brother Doug got his second win of the year, making him the 55+ state champion. Congratulations, Doug. Tanner had a great race and finished ninth in the Elites, despite a crash with two to go. Rick finished sixth in a stacked Singlespeed field, and Annie was one step off the podium in Women’s B.

I’m finally starting to figure out how to race cyclocross. I still suck, but each week I feel better. More importantly, though, I’m having a lot of fun. And getting my fix of self-inflicted suffering, which is perhaps the part of racing I’m most addicted to. Who knew skinny tires on dirt were such a riot?


  1. Using a shitty governing body to benefit a very small number of racers is a poor business decision. That's my belief. USAC helped destroy MTB racing and could do the same with CX. I am a HUGE fan of no USAC. Plus, I will leave it toothers to discuss the absurdity of 30 or mor national champions In one discipline.

  2. You sounded bad when I caught you on the climb. I was really surprised when you caught back on. You had an impressive finish after that.

    There was another little ring move in our field. But I won't name names. I'm still scratching my head about a guy who's been having respectable results all year long in the A field but downgrades for the State Championships. Is it really that big a deal?

    To do that, and then not to win it... little ring.

  3. The correct move is for USAC to honor upgrade points scored in alternative assocations.

  4. Don't hold your breath, though.

  5. Bob: Not coming from a MTB racing background, and having only been competing for two years, I don't know enough to have the same ill opinion of USAC. I'm just a fan of an orderly system of ensuring a competitive race for all participants. USAC doesn't do that perfectly, but it's better than the haphazard system in which Matt tells you you're upgraded after one win but allows others four with no pressure and allows A flight racers to downgrade for the championship.

    Maybe USAC sanctioning isn't needed, but following their classification guidelines would be helpful, with maybe a little common sense on Cam's part (which of course would require those competing at USGP events to ask him to apply it, which they may or may not have done) for guys heading to national-level races.

    Grizzly: Yeah, I know who you're talking about. And I agree, little ring. If you've been racing A all season and win the B championship, is that even something to be proud of? Nate had nothing left to prove in the B's. We would have assumed the same for Julian had he not proven otherwise.

    Turbo: Recognizing results from other associations is a good solution. There's reciprocity with the Oregon association. I'm sure there will be plenty of Oregon-based riders in Bend next month competing for the USAC title. But to my previous point, I think we need some sort of method to our madness before we could credibly ask for reciprocity.

  6. Can you provide a link showing your results? I would like to compare your field sizes with those here in Seattle.

  7. Michael: Here you go. This shows finishers, not starters. We typically have about 10% of the field DNF if you're trying to compare numbers of starters.

  8. I think USAC ends up taking the blame for a lot of stuff that is, to be fair, affected by other forces out of their control. I must admit not knowing enough about Bob's situation to either agree or disagree about his assertion about USAC's contribution to the "descruction" of MTB racing. Currently, the Raleigh series is USAC sanctioned, and is the only way to earn your upgrade points in Utah cyclocross. However, the upgrades officer, Cameron Hoffman can and does recognize your license category from MTB and/or road in considering upgrades. There are pros and cons to USAC sanctioning, but I feel it well worth considering for promoters like UTCX. There is a very real need for the cycling community to band together for the overall health and well-being of the sport. USAC is a major supporter of U-23 and junior National Teams programs in Europe. Several young riders from Utah, Mitchell and Connor have both benefited from USAC's programs.

  9. Jeff: Thanks for speaking up on behalf of USAC. Interesting to have you, Bob, and Turbo each offering a different perspective and in each case one with more experience in the sport than I have. I know you've got a vested interest, so to speak, if you can call it that. Except that you don't get anything in return for the work you do on the UCA board other than the satisfaction of contributing to a sport you love. A big thanks to you, Cam, Ferg, et al for the effort.

    Perhaps USAC made some poor decisions that adversely affected MTB racing. Or perhaps sponsors realized that promoting their brands via MTB racing was a poor business decision because MTB racing is not spectator friendly. Or perhaps it was a little of each. I don't know. All I know is that I'm yet to be associated with an organization that was run perfectly, but I'd rather have an organization (such as USAC) imperfectly advocating and organizing cycling than nobody organizing it at all.

  10. Some of what I believe USAC has done to hurt MTB racing could be debatable, but, I believe it, so that is all that matters, to me. I also know that they have done some good, but, and this is critical, they are road centric, which is great, for road racing.

    Ask Robbie and Mitchell and Krista Park and Heather Holmes who paid for their Worlds trips, Ask Ryan Harrison about the ridiculous worlds selection criteria.

    However, on the MTB side they seem to only care and act on things that a few high profile riders/teams want (GF/Trek - Luna). The went to o far in the boom years and became a promoter, which doomed them. They then came up with a brilliant (I mean that) idea of a NRC type format, which then failed due to internal politics over having UCI points or not (Once again, related to the above mentioned teams desires)

    They have some ingrained belief that if they build a huge purse at an event, it will draw pro's and amateurs alike, which it does neither.

    If any of these 'leaders' ran a corporation, I expect that corporation would be filing for chapter 11.

    It is the local associations that actually do the work and grow the sport. And sometimes that local association is non USAC and made up solely of people like you and me promoting the sport in our spare time.

    For UTCX/ICUP/USCS to choose to be sanctioned the promoters have to recognize significant benefit. I just don't see it. There is associated cost, either in dollars or 'rules' and I tell you, the moment some local race series tells the Expert(now Cat 1) group, that in order to race you need to buy a 70 dollar annual license, will be the moment that the Expert category shrinks. The majority of local MTB racers could give a hoot. There is no benefit for that 70 dollars that actually means anything.

    Turbo: I got my CX upgrade based off of UTCX results and MTB results, maybe I shouldn't have, but I did. All it took was me to ask. Preparation helps.

    Somewhere deep within USOC's website is a mention that if you believe your governing body isn't working, you can start your own.

    Anybody want in????

  11. Bob: As for the requirement to buy a license shrinking your expert field, just roll on over to any road race and look at how many people show up. Everyone, from Cat. 5 to Cat. 1, has to have a license. Doesn't seem to hold too many people back.

    Go to Idaho to enter a MTB race. You'll be asked for a license there, too. Same for Mountain States Cup races in CO.

  12. Actually the need to have a license (or pay the $10 one day fee) has held me back from ever doing a road race. It may sound silly but for dabblers such as myself (and many of my friends) paying a race fee, a licence fee and a timing chip fee to get smoked in a road race isn't going to happen. Same deal with ICUP/UTCX. If you had to have a license the beginner/C fields would be almost non existant and the sport/B fields would be cut in half.

  13. The Winter Park (mtb) race series has been in existence for quite some time and gets 400-500 participants every race. No license is required. Beginner and Sport men often have 15-40 in each category.

    The Mountain State Cup (MSC) events are fun but the beginners and sports men often have 5-20 in each category. MSC seems more geared to experts/pros but the license fee also likely plays a role. I think every day road racers race for different reasons than every day mtb racers so, while weekend warrior road racers will pay the license fee, weekend warrior mtb racers will not. Could also be that mtb racers are cheap! And, yes, I am including myself in that category.

  14. Bob has it pretty much spot on, at least from an MTBer point of view. I wouldn't do another ICUP race if I had to buy the annual license. There are too many other viable alternatives.

    What does that $70 get me as an amateur, local MTBer? A chance to upgrade myself within the system is pretty low on my priority list. Other people are obviously different, but I think the overall attitude on the start line at the ICUP is "USAC? Who cares?."

    I'd love to hear from Matt O. or ICUP promoter Ed Chauner on this. Obviously they have chosen not to sanction the races. I think that's a wise move, but I'd be curious why they've come to that conclusion.


  16. I read Tilford's blog. I was at the meeting he references. I would just like to encourage people to get the real facts about the issues he brings up. It really doesn't serve any good to complain when you have only part of the picture. At the end of the day, it's just complaints.

    The real question is: are you going to be part of the solution, or are you just going to complain?

    I feel it's vital that we have strong cycling organizations to help the sport thrive; administer championships, make and enforce rules, document records, support future stars, and fight against the negative forces that threaten to shut us down.

    I would call that a "significant benefit" to membership. I don't expect everyone to agree, but I hope some do.

  17. Jeff, I was just showing an example of others problems or complaints. And I think Tilford likes to complain. I just believe that the organization is better if it comes from the bottom up, and the way the board of USAC is elected and run, at least in terms of the MTB side does not lend itself to this. Act local, which I know you do. Think globally, which I'm not convinced USAC does well.

    In any case, this discussion we have had on Mark's blog is valuable and helps move us forward.

    A serious question. I have my belief, but, do yo think it is viable for one governing body to control multiple disciplines? Each of which have their own unique rules, cultures and athletes.


    I don't think so.

  18. And the real solutions for USAC to recognize their model for MTB and possibly CX is not working, MTB, the numbers prove it, meaning the numbers of viable, growing events and series sans USAC governance. For CX I worry it will suffer the same national fate as MTB did, boom followed by bust.

    USAC should accept upgrade requests from riders in non sanctioned events with results.

    This would solve some of the artificial animosity.

    USAC should dismantle the mtb nationals qualifying requirement for amateurs.

    With few exceptions mtb nationals are actually regional events for amateurs.

    USAC should restructure to be less top brass centric and more membership centric.

    USAC should invest as much in every discipline, not just those that get current press.

    These are just a few of my ideas, for when I retire and have time to run for a position on the board or to start a new national mtb governance body.

    Meanwhile I will heckle, push adam's buttons and add file to marks fire

  19. If $65 for nationals is egregious, then so too is $25 for a 40 minute, non-sanctioned weekly race. Just sayin'.

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  21. Me and Bob don;t always agree but I am with him 100% on this topic.
    I would hate to buy an annual license on top of race fees to race cross locally. Someone like me who may only race one or two races off the couch would not bother anymore. The last thing I need is some USAC official harping me that my tires are wider than 34 mm and that the course is not USAC approved because the barriers are not regulation height and the singletrack is too narrow, etc.... Its a local race no reason to get the feds of the sport involved. Also I agree that half the B and C fields wouldnt bother to come out and try to experience something new. Talk about growing the sport USAC discourages people from participating in my opinion. I remember when I was younger and racing mtb that I wanted to go do a sanctioned road climb. It was hot as balls and I had my sleeveless jersey on and couldnt start. Also some other poor sap had some team jersey of his favorite pro team and couldnt start cause it was against regs. Yeah that proved to me then and there that USAC is clueless in getting people out to the races cause they are too worried about silly stuff. Also I think in Cross and mtb if you want to race in a harder category you should be allowed WITHOUT upgrade points. The only thing you should need upgrade points to move up is to the pro class, at least that is how it use to be when I was young. You wanted to line up with the experts, go for it, nothing holding you back, if anything way to go for taking the step yourself without being told.

  22. SBJ, excellent work as always in stirring the pot.

    Whether it makes sense or not, having to buy an annual USAC road license (especially one that expires at the end of the calendar year regardless of when it was purchased) kept me from doing a few road races this year (mainly weeknight crits). It is not really the cost, it is more the principle. Kind of like having to buy a number plate to race cross. If I was only planning on doing one or two cross races and still had to buy a number plate, I probably wouldn't do it. Again, I know that doesn't make total sense.

    For me it is often the perceived benefit and principle (more than the actual money) that factor into my racing decisions. For road racing, I can definitely see a benefit to a nationalized system that handles points, upgrades, race officiating, etc. The chase for upgrade points in road racing is a compelling part of the whole experience and one that drives a lot of riders. So, if I was still doing a lot of road racing, I probably would purchase a license at the beginning of the race season.

    Maybe cross is similar, however USAC, if it truly wants to grow the sport, should provide for reasonable ways to include points from non-USAC series, whether that involves a reasonable promoter cost and guidelines. It shouldn't be you are either with us or against us.

    As for MTB, there really can't be much debate about USAC/NORBA nearly killing off pro-mountain biking (and amateur racing on a national level) in the United States and sending most promoters off to start their own non-sanctioned series. As it stands, I think mountain biking with the growth of endurance racing events, and really strong regional series is mostly beyond the need for any nationalized point system except at the pro-level. Racers are not chasing upgrade points because basically you can always race in a harder category if so inclined.

    How is that for a rambling jumble of thoughts?

  23. I've always viewed buying an annual license as just one of the various costs associated with racing a bike. Never realized there was so much angst about it. Of course my annual license, amortized over the number of road races I did this year, worked out to about a dollar and a nickel per race.

    Buying number plates, on the other hand, drives me nuts. Want to do one race? $25 for your race and $10 more for your number. And $10 more besides if you didn't pre-register. Yeah, that encourages participation. Total cost=$45 for a single, one-hour (or less) race. Makes $65 for nationals seem that much more reasonable by comparison.

  24. i'm certain angst is not the correct word.

    you have always (for a few years)viewed buying an annual license as just one of the various costs associated with racing a bike.

    If you would have only raced dirt (MTB and CX) in Utah for those few years you would of 'always' thought otherwise.

    In the end, the market decides, and the market for CX and MTB in Utah has decided against.

    What was the average attendance at the sabbath Series compared to UTCX???

    Also, The Deer Valley ICUP race next year will be an interesting experiment in USAC efficacy, as it is supposed to be a national qualifier. Lets see how many local Experts pony up a 70 dollar license fee.

  25. USAC really came through for CX in a timely manner on the tire width issue:

  26. JZ: Given the discussion going on here, I'd say the timing of this is, um, curious? USAC botched this one, bad. The technical director not two weeks ago emailed Kris Walker to tell her tires >32mm would not be allowed in masters nationals. Seems they could have made a decision and stuck with it at the beginning of the season?

  27. SBJ, I see you weighed in on the CX tire width issue as well. Go get 'em!

    If that is true regarding the Deer Valley Icup, count me out. I think the last national race I did at Deer Valley cost around $50 and I had a license. There was only like 10 people in my category.

  28. Bob & JZ: If nobody shows up to the DV race, I might actually do that one. Wait, nevermind. Because in addition to the $70 I spend on my road license, I'd have to spend $35 more to get the MTB add-on. I'll agree wholeheartedly with anyone who says having to buy separate licenses for road and MTB is just as stupid if not more so than having to buy number plates.

  29. The reason they charge for the number plate is that in the past people would lose an absurd number of plates and the promoter had to eat the cost (not as cheap as one may think). The cost of the number plate is there so people think twice about misplacing it.

  30. I acknowledge the “cultural” differences between the cycling disciplines, and to Bob’s question earlier, I see the problem with trying to govern them all under one umbrella. Excellent point—and really at the core of this discussion.

    The real question is, does USAC offer enough benefits to the community to justify the license cost? That will ultimately be decided by the promoters who must walk the fine line between your demands for less cost, and the reality of running a responsible business.

    Unfortunately, the cost of participating in athletic events is skyrocketing. Have you raced a Triathlon lately? Much of the reason for the rising costs are the unfortunate reality of lawsuits arising from incidents at those events.

    The actual costs of putting on a race series are amortized into your number plate, entry fee, and even the “day of” late registration fee. The promoter must carry a decent insurance policy to protect him (and the individual riders, spectators, etc.)... this and many other things cost good money.

    Who ultimately pays for it? You guessed it. You.

    I am afraid the days of loosely-organized, friendly races with low costs are behind us. Bite the bullet. The good news, is we have some great promoters in this state, with a vibrant racing scene and a lot of great riders, some of who are posting to this thread.

  31. Forrest: seems as if $3 would be plenty to charge for replacement plates after giving the first one for free. Especially since they cost all of $1.50.

  32. This:

    "The good news, is we have some great promoters in this state, with a vibrant racing scene and a lot of great riders, some of who are posting to this thread."

    Spot on, Claw.

    I think at the core of this discussion is that there are a lot of us who love to race our bikes. That's why there's a good race scene--we create demand.

    We're fortunate that the demand is met with a supply of quality races. Customers, in this case racers, always want more value for their money. We're talking about how we'd like to get that.

    But the reason we have one of the best race scenes in the country is that we have promoters putting out a quality product and racers who feel like it presents a good enough value to pay them for it. Maybe it's not perfect, but I'll take what we've got here over what's on offer anywhere else in the country.

  33. Promoters could always just forgo the permanent number plate, like the ICUP does. Ed charges for a personalized plate, but it's not mandatory. I imagine he buys the generic plates in massive quantities to keep costs down.

    "I am afraid the days of loosely-organized, friendly races with low costs are behind us."

    Not in the MTB world. There are 2 thriving weekly series in the area that are loosely organized and inexpensive — Sundance and Full Throttle. And while those races may not be the so-called A races, they draw top level riders, large fields, and for many riders have replaced the ICUP entirely.

    There are also tons of the underground events, mostly endurance, for MTB racers to jump into. I realize they are a different breed of race, but they continue to grow in numbers and participants. Which I think prove that regardless of what any governing body decides, riders will find a way to meet their own riding and racing needs.

    USAC, or any other central government, will never "grow the sport". That's done locally, within circles of friends, families, and at low-key events like the ICUP or UTCX or the other many series we have here in the state. I've never raced on the road, so I can't comment there, but the 'cross and MTB opportunities are very beginner friendly, and that is important. If someone leaves an event feeling intimidated or ripped off, they are not coming back.

    Some of the USAC rules, regs, and crazy-ass officials can easily turn newcomers away. But then, so can cocky riders, difficult courses, and high costs.

  34. Lunch ride races and Thursday Night World Championships are a great alternative. $5 entry and paper plate for a number plate (provided at no cost).

    Oh, and I can't wait to see what Bob has lined up for 2011.