A rough ride

Black Hawk bouquet

A virtual bouquet for the victors in the Battle of Black Hawk.

From our Good News and Bad News Department:

First, the Colorado Supreme Court told the knuckleheads running Black Hawk to stick their bike ban where the sun don’t shine, opining that cyclists have every bit as much right to the road as do busloads of bluehairs itching to flush their Social Security checks down a two-bit casino town’s loos.

Next, not everybody was delighted with the recently concluded world cyclo-cross championships in Kentucky. Take Steve Tilford, for example. Tilly should have every reason to rejoice — after all, he won the Masters 50-54 title — but he’s seething over what he says was the organizers’ failure to provide functional bike-cleaning equipment in what proved to be an incredibly filthy contest.

Now, I have no interest in casino towns. I consider gambling a tax on stupidity, which should be painful, if only in the wallet pocket. But I’m forced to take note when the highwaymen who run these shitholes tell me I can’t pass through unless I’m in an officially approved vehicle. So chapeau to the cyclists who got ticketed and fought the sonsabitches all the way to the Supremes, and won. They should celebrate with a bicycle parade through Black Hawk, the bigger the better.

As for worlds, well, I wasn’t there, but from a distance it looked like a fairly hellish weekend for all concerned, especially the poor sods struggling to keep the rising Ohio River and Beargrass Creek from turning the course into a water park.

That said, having raced nearly all of my “career” as a masters racer, I got used to shabby treatment early on. Masters racers are the equivalent of the casino’s bluehairs — the marks, the rubes, the suckers, genial nitwits who amble in to get fleeced and then shooed out to grow a fresh coat so the promoters can keep the lights on for the main act. I never raced a world championship, but there were plenty of times when nobody in authority could be bothered to tell me how I placed, much less help me keep my bike operational.

They always managed to cash the check, though.

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26 Responses to “A rough ride”

  1. Jeff Cozad Says:

    Tilly is right. The folks on the Masters side of the house screwed that one up. It was amazing seeing these 16 pound bikes with 40 pounds of mud on them. There is zero excuse for having pressure washers freeze up.

    The UCI Worlds was a bunch of great racing on a seriously worthy course. The organizers basically screwed the pooch on the spectator side of things. They had not enough port-a- potties, not enough beer tents and just one big food tent. The lines were horrendous. But still, I wouldn’t of traded the experience for anything. I’m seriously considering a trip to the Netherlands for next year.

    • Khal Spencer Says:

      To me, there is no excuse for having 16 lb bikes in a cyclecross course, especially one that was fast degenerating into a race between the river and the sandbags, with the cold added for good measure (do folks in KY even think about adding anti freeze to their power washers??). On the promoter side, wouldn’t ya think that they should have checked things out and moved the venue rather than letting the race go to hell?

      More importantly from my point of view, having found out the hard way that I was better at cyclist advocacy than at bike racing, chapeau to the Black Hawk folks who fought this battle all the way to the CO Supreme Court. As I said yesterday, its worth fighting city hall on these egregious insults rather than sitting and letting us be run over. One can choose whether to race, but its a lot harder to have to choose to not ride a bike because the morons in places like Black Hawk decide that the laws don’t apply to them.

      Sincerely sorry about the folks who saw their bikes turned into mud sculptures, but that is a temporary insult. Bike bans last a lot longer.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks for the update from the scene, Jeff. My racing (save one attempt at nats, in 1992) was strictly low-level stuff. If you had wheels in the pit, you were cool, and if you had a spare bike, you were a god. And once all your shit was clogged up, you were done.

      You should take that trip to Wooden Shoe Land. Charles Pelkey keeps telling me that the only way to get the full experience is to cross the pond and watch the Euros do the do.

    • Steeb'n O' Says:

      // There is zero excuse for having pressure washers freeze up.//

      That was irony, yeah? Cuz Mother Nature always gets 51% of the vote.

  2. Patrick O'Brien Says:

    I know nothing about cyclocross rules or racing. It seems to me if a rider can’t make it through the race on one bike because of course conditions, then the course is unusable for racing and the race would be won in the pits not on the course. The privateer would be out of luck. If the conditions are also damaging bikes, how can they continue racing that course? Looking at the photos of the bikes, it would seem that the turf was also being destroyed. Didn’t the organizers have the option of moving or altering the course once conditions became that bad? Did the flooding contribute to the mud on the course? Was this a once in a lifetime situation? Help me out guys, I don’t get it.

    • Steeb'n O' Says:

      Here’s what I know about running big events: the first time you go through it, you’re going to look like a monkey humping a football, and that’s without Odin throwing you a meteorological curveball. Definitely seems like the organizers could have used one more dry run, but at the same time, lots of variables on their spreadsheets that we don’t get to see.

      Eg, portapotties. Never enough, no matter what. But someone’s paying for them, and they’re not the sexiest exhibit to try to get sponsors for. (“Drop trou in the Specialized Shitters, presented by Nature Valley Granola Bars!”)

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        Oh, I don’t know. How about this: “This shitter brought to you by Selle Italia, keeping you comfortable no matter what you are sitting on, or for how long!”

      • Steeb'n O' Says:

        Reminds me of Jon Krakauer’s sign at Everest base camp. Something like, we’re very serious shitters and don’t need your help filling our cans.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Patrick, domestic cyclo-cross used to be a remarkably democratic discipline back in the day, or so it seemed to me.

      That said, weather and course conditions have always favored the well prepared. When I started racing ‘cross, most folks didn’t have two bikes — hell, most didn’t have actual ‘cross bikes — and a spare set of differently shod wheels in the pit, and perhaps some toe spikes, constituted the acme of preparedness.

      If you had good fitness, two actual ‘cross bikes and a gooey course, you had a serious advantage over the poor slob running one mountain bike with skinny tires, because rarely was a course rerouted to accommodate changing conditions. A clean bike for the last couple laps could make a world of difference. And if you had to run two-thirds of the course, which happened to me a couple of times, it sure was nice to have a comparatively light Steelman Eurocross made of Reynolds 853 to drape over one shoulder.

      Once the Very Serious People® discovered ‘cross, however, things got very different very fast. Now everyone’s racing 16-pound plastic wonderbikes, and more than one of them, too. Masters have seasoned pit crews — it ain’t just the significant other handing up a bottle 20 minutes in — and all the superfluous technological “upgrades” that clutter up the road and MTB scenes have infiltrated, too, from 11-speed cassettes and skinny ankle-bracelet chains to disc brakes.

      If there’s a point to be made here it’s that if you take ‘cross seriously enough to race masters’ worlds, you should take it seriously enough to fetch along everything you need to be successful, including your own power washer. At that level — and for many levels below it — ‘cross just ain’t for the little fella anymore.

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        Thanks Patrick. That explains it. We used to shoot archery 3D tournaments. We shot them with traditional bows, recurves with no sights. One local club ran a shoot where they took great pride in the fact that if you missed a target, your arrow, at the time worth $4 or $5, went into rocks and was severely damaged or destroyed. Their shoot didn’t last long.

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        Seems that once the Very Serious People with 16 lb plastic fantastic bikes sporting close ratio, tightly packed 11 speed cassettes come into play, then one has to have courses with highly optimized mud and grunge so all that highly optimized bike stuff meshes properly, or at least so you can bring the Properly Optimized Plastic Fantastic Bike to go with Today’s Properly Tuned Grunge. At some point, does the Very Serious Nature of modern cyclecross make the whole endeavor somewhat an oxymoron? What’s the point of running through the woods with a filthy bike if its a vulnerable, plastic fantastic bike.

        I still shoot archery with a 30+ year old compound bow that my stepdad gave me, using aluminum arrows I hand built in the 1980’s. If I lose one, I grieve at the loss of an old friend, but not because I just launched a ten dollar carbon fiber arrow into its lithospheric fate. Maybe I should get Very Serious about it. But that would defeat the purpose of going to the range for a couple hours of quiet Zen with the bow.

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        Khal, we quit archery a while back, when the biking thing took over the garage. We had a ball doing it for 11 years. I sold the last of the custom take down recurves, made by Bruin in Wisconsin, 3 years ago, along with all the arrow making stuff. If it’s not as satisfying as it used to be for you, try a recurve with fingers and no sights. Get one that shoots off the shelf close to your hand; skip the elevated rest. They really are a hoot. When you concentrate on the target and hit it, the zen thing makes sense. Kinda like looking too long at the big rock on the trail while picking a line. You look at it, then hit it!

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        Actually, I might look for a lighter recurve. I damaged my right shoulder in 1996 in a bicycle crash and have trouble pulling the heavy compound for more than a few shots. I usually shoot it with the pulleys released at about 35 lbs. So I might as well get an elegant recurve.

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        Another plus, you don’t hold the weight at full draw for long, just a second. Slowly draw, touch your anchor point, relax and release. All one movement. Thirty or forty pounds of pull is all you need for targets. Enjoy.

  3. Steeb'n O' Says:

    Another take:


  4. James Says:

    Tilly’s take is just some ol’ dude spouting off because some hack in the bike ‘journalism’ scam thinks his opinion matters. Well once Tilly goes over to Europe with his multitude of bikes, wheels, rubber boots and pressure washer than I will listen. Until then…he is barking up a tree in his neighbor’s yard. In essence, there is no story. Props though for winning the rainbow jersey!

    As for the course in Louisville, and those who might think that it should have been changed: pfft!!! It is cyclocross NOT a criterium!!! The mud, water, sod, snow, ice, frozen tundra, etc. is what you get when you sign up for it.

    You no likey getting dirty? Go race a crit. Personal experience says that crits are about as much fun as, well, nothing really. Cross, however, is 1 frickin’ billion, zillion times more fun even if you suck at it.

    • Jeff Cozad Says:

      James… Steve has been there, done that.

      Professional Cyclist-Career Highlights

      4X US National Cyclo-Cross Champion
      5X UCI World Champion MTB-Masters
      1X UCI World Cyclo-X Champion-Masters
      3X World Road Team Member
      2X World Champion Masters Cyclocross
      1st NORBA National Mountain Bike Champion
      Inducted into Mountain Bike Hall of Fame-2000


      • James Says:

        Part of it is that Tilly HAS done a it before, and – as you note – been rather successful at it. So why complain about something which he has no control over?

        Because he can….and some scribe will take it down, run it past his editor (or mom whichever applies) and go with it. I would love for it to be a perfect world where cross races were run solely on sand (no damage to grass) or snow (melts and waters the lawn), but alas that is not always available. Thus complaining about the Worlds set-up after racing Nationals is either sour grapes or just some ol’ guy’s opinion. I say that because the course set-up at Nationals was about as bad as what went down in Louisville.

        Thus, and this might be where I lost y’all, if Tilly is going to complain about something as pedestrian as not having anti-freeze in the washers when entire teams brought over truckloads of bikes, wheels, tools and clothes….well then maybe he can schlepp his anti-freeze powered washer over to Belgium next year. Granted he is not a pro anymore so expecting a pro treatment while racing as an amateur smacks of master racing elitism.

      • art Says:

        I think his issue is that after years of sandbagging in Masters as a sponsored pro, he’s finally getting a look at how the other half really lives.

  5. Patrick O'Brien Says:

    Thanks for the explanation James. I get it now.

  6. Larry T. Says:

    Before it became cool, I used to think ‘cross was kind of…well…cool. But once the MTB fad started to show signs of fading, the industry has hyped ‘cross to the point it seems to be a competitive shopping event as much as anything. To keep up, you need multiple bikes, wheels, and antifreeze filled powerwashers. And of course the Masters racers (as always) are the biggest f__ing whiners of all, despite the fact they usually have the most expensive equipment. Tilly’s probably right in his rant but it’s tough to feel too sorry for these guys…it’s not like their stuff was STOLEN, it just got kind of used up…and isn’t it the end of the season anyway? I’m sure most of these guys toss last year’s stuff out like a used condom when the newest-latest crap the industry tells you that you gotta have comes out. Back in the day when I played around with motocross motorcycles, we used to say “there’s NOTHING more used than a used MX bike”. I think it’s gotta be the same with ‘cross, no?

  7. sherkat Says:

    The real problem was the Elite Worlds, where the line for the beer tent was well over an hour.

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