Friday, October 29, 2010

A description of CX from Bill Strickland

Bill Strickland, editor at large for Bicycling Magazine and author of Tour de Lance had nice description of cyclocross at the end of this Podium Cafe interview:


Cross, I love. One part of the appeal, I think, is purely social. With just a few exceptions, my friends and I aren't very serious about cross at all. We try to race hard when we're out there, but before and after racing, cross is just a good old get-together in a way that road racing isn't. Someone drives down a trailer or an RV, or pitches a big revival tent at a good spectator spot right on the tape, and we gather there and drink beer (yes, often before racing) and goof around. We heckle the riders in the most dumb ways: We yell ‘beardy' at the guys with beards, and ... I know this sounds inane, but I think that's the point for us. There was one guy this year, an elite, who looked like David Lee Roth, and every lap, for minutes as he climbed toward us, went around a turn and rode away, we kept yelling the Roth whoop and screaming, ‘Might as well jump,' and doing rock-star kicks. We were ridiculing him mercilessly, just crucifying him. But somehow the good-natured, dumb fun of the whole thing rose to the top, and instead of feeling picked on he felt - I don't know what he felt, but he came over afterward and drank some with us. I guess everyone knows that we race too, poorly, so there might be an understanding that we know what it takes to go fast at a high level, and that we respect what the racers are doing.
Racing cross - it's just a mess. A glorious mess. Compared to the tension of road racing, when you're in the pack and one stupid thing can end not just someone's race but someone's season, or ripple out and ruin a lot of people's seasons, cross is like being twelve years old again. It's a very childish kind of thrill: dirty, out-of-control, laughing with your friends, some senseless heated rivalry you'll forget about in thirty minutes, and that sort of slapped-together feeling like when you were so bored in the long summer months that you and your friends combine several sports to make a new one: ‘Hey, what if we ran with our bikes?' At the same time, cross can be as intense as you want to make it - when you're out there racing, you can be flat-out racing. The few times I've happened to get to the front of a cross race, I've been amazed at how like a road race it feels - swapping pulls, working together to bust off the guy you don't want around at the finish, modulating the gap back to the pack. When you're in the middle or back of a race, when you're just learning, cross kind of feels like you just go as hard as you can the whole time and there's no strategy. Up front, you're going as hard as you can while trying to employ some strategy.
Still, for me, cross is almost not all about results and almost entirely about my friends, about goofing around, about loving bicycles.

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