Austin shitty limits

One of the nine thousand 'cross cartoons I've done since taking up the benighted activity. This one appeared in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

One of the nine thousand ‘cross cartoons I’ve done since taking up the benighted activity. This one appeared in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

It’s not often that I say, “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t go to cyclo-cross nationals.” But this is one of those rare occasions.

Somehow, the promoters, USA Cycling and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department — after four days of running lesser championship and non-championship events — found themselves at odds over whether Sunday’s Big Finale was appropriate given the appallingly ‘cross-like conditions at the venue, Zilker Park.

A less-than-joyous noise apparently having been made unto the Lord by some non-Belgian whose voice carries, the marquee events were first canceled, then postponed until Monday, though a sober copy editor might raise a few pointed questions about the “Barring more rain” qualifier in the headline some USAC media type slapped atop its announcement.

I’ve been to ‘cross nats more than a time or two, and I can’t recall anything like this happening anywhere else, despite flood, freeze, snow or snafu. Course changes? Si. Cops running people away from the venue, perhaps never to return? No.

Someone has intercoursed the penguin with a vengeance here, and if I were sitting on a flat wallet in an Austin Motel 6 with a useless race number, all kitted up with no place to go but home, I’d want to know who the hell the all-hat, no-cattle sonofabitch is. If he had a brain, he’d be out playing with it, as Dan Jenkins once wrote.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, they say. I guess that goes for the fuck-ups, too. Oops.

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38 Responses to “Austin shitty limits”

  1. Jeff Cozad Says:

    Well…. At a minimum, USA Cycling should be refunding entries for everyone that was racing today. It wouldn’t be much w/respect to the additional expenses folks are having, but it would be something.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Yup, that’d be a nice gesture. Be nice, too, if test events were run to give the locals a hint as to what they’re in for. ‘Cross is a whole lot bigger than it was when I was running my little races, and I heard plenty of chin music from critics even back then.

  2. pablopinchasso Says:

    like a bike can damage a 300 year old tree….gmafb

  3. pablopinchasso Says:

    i have about 20 oak trees on my property and trying to kill a tree that I don’t want it damn near impossible…. they are like weeds. so damn tough I can chop the damn roots off at the surface and it doesn’t do a thing. takes Roundup full strength concentrate to kill em…..Austin is out of touch with reality….

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      In Bibleburg we suffered from what the neighbors called “junk elms.” Man, we lost black walnuts, crabapples and ornamental apples to bugs and blights, but nothing short of a tactical nuclear strike could take out those elms. Roots to Beijing and back again.

    • CFS Says:

      Please educate yourself on the environment in central Texas, the recent drought stresses, and tree biology before you speak. Our trees are in a very delicate state, we have lost thousands in recent years. It takes much less than the bike damage seen here to severly harm these trees. This event should never been scheduled in Zilker park.
      Having said this, I sympathize with the competitors and spectators! Hopefully this will be a learning experience for the entire cyclocross community as to proper venue choice in the future.

  4. Libby Says:

    Oh, dear. Brains. Interesting how Dan Jenkins put it. My father would say, “If he had another brain, he’d have a pair.”

  5. Libby Says:

    I just looked at your post again and saw the great cartoon! So often I don’t get the photo, ‘toon, video the first or second time around and sometimes the comments don’t make sense because I haven’t even seen the entire post….great mobile service.😼

  6. sharon Says:

    Disclaimer – I’m from Austin area. I agree probably was not a great idea to have hosted it at Zilker Park. I’m sure it was chosen with the best intentions – to be close to downtown with all the amenities including hotels, restaurants and bike shop of major sponsor. And if it hadn’t rained so much, might have worked ok. But the park gets majorly trampled on a regular basis by every music festival that has ever been invented. The locals hate it because it does tear up the park and oak trees are being stressed and lost due to the multi-year drought. Really bad situation all around. We wanted to go out today and watch a family friend race. Instead – I rode 40 rides on a somewhat dry road.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I understand why USAC and promoters want to be close to where the action is. More spectators, better TV, potential converts, easy transport, exposure for their sponsors, and so on.

      But some venues are just a bad idea. This seems like one of them. Which is too bad, really, because the course itself was drawing a lot of praise.

      Downtown Bibleburg is similar in many ways. The city fathers are pimping downtown so relentlessly, with “special events” nearly every weekend, that nobody wants to go there anymore.

      The merchants I spoke with expressed considerable annoyance this past summer. One actually abandoned the downtown area entirely.

  7. bromasi Says:

    usa cycling should revert back to their old name ABLofA

  8. Mike J Creed Says:

    So Sharon, the park has seen numerous music events and activities that tear up the park, and yet they continue to issue permits. Give us your tourist dollars, but please stay in your hotel rooms until it’s time to go home.

  9. Pat O'Brien Says:

    If you’re a privateer, you’re screwed. But that isn’t where the money is, is it? Aren’t monopolies grand?

  10. Larry T. Says:

    Only in America. The weather is too awful and the course is too icky to have………..a cyclocross race? For 2016 maybe they’ll hold the ‘cross nationals on an Astroturf circuit….in July. Perhaps this is the result of all the industry hype swelling this once fringe sport into a major money-making machine? I’m sure the eggheads could put some real facts behind what I call the a-hole factor. When you double the number of persons involved in anything, the number of a-holes does not simply double, it goes up by a factor of 10.

  11. Jeff Cozad Says:

    Here something from an email from a friend that lives down there and races.

    The meltdown happened for not isolated reasons, but for an interaction of factors. First, the selection of Zilker Park in Austin for the site was understandable, as it offers a great venue in a city that many folks feel is very hip and cool and which embraces an alternative cycling community, similar but to a lesser extent than Portland, etc (though no hippster in Austin would believe that). However, you CANNOT find a place in the Austin area that is more of a flash point for conflicting interests that pits multiple parties versus environmentalists than Zilker Park – nothing comes close. The people living around there hate the use of the park for large events such as the Austin City Limits gig (the music festival folks are using for comparisons on FaceB and other places, see below). In that area, there are endangered species in the spring-fed springs that are threatened by run-off from the surrounding areas (including the race course), what goes into the watershed in that area affects an aquifer that is the water source for hundreds of thousands of people outside of the Austin area – I could go on and on, but scarcely does a week go by around here that there is not some flare up regarding a clash between some interest and the environment in the Zilker Park area – did USAC not know this?.

    Secondly, I’ve seen many postings, FB etc comparing the use of Zilker Park for huge events such as Austin City Limits outdoor music scrum (and it is) to this CX event. Here’s the problem with that: Zilker Park is enormous, acres of area. Where ACL happens is on a giant open flat meadow area that is nothing but grass – no trees, etc. Each year, the crowds beat that place to shit, the corp that puts the event on gives the city a couple of $mil and they completely re-sod acres, close if for 4-6 weeks, it comes back, and everyone (mostly) are happy. This is NOT where the CX course is. The CX course in a more environmentally fragile area, e.g. little top soil, hills where runoff goes into springs, ancient trees (yes, we have trees in TX) with fragile root systems. You can’t just blow up this area and replant it.

    Third, USA Cycling made this into something much more than a National Championship. In fact, the Nat Champs were just the last event of 4 prior complete days of racing on the same course. So, to folks making comparisons to the Belgium CX championships, I’d ask: Prior to their Championship races did they have races for 4 days on the same course that resembled anything like this: Male and female single speed races, 4-8 non championship races (likely more hard to tell from their site), races for categories such as “Male Industry Cat 1-5,” “Female Industry Cat 1-5,” ALL day Thursday & Friday of Masters categories for men and women for every age division (5 yrs each) from 30+ to, yes 80+, Friday being capped off with a team co-ed collegiate relay… I’ll save you the details, but same sort of crazy crap yesterday (Sat) – Did the Belgians do this?

    Fourth, I suspect that the Austin Parks folks did go to some races, did see what sort of damage could happen to the environment with CX races, but doubt that they saw what the environment would look like on day 5. I’ve never seen that have any of you? I doubt the Belgians have either, but I could be wrong. I’m sure they also did not expect that we’d get rain here – it really doesn’t rain here much anymore, so having a soggy 4 days leading up to last night when it really rained made things, relative to where the course was selected to be, an environmental problem & it was Zilker Park – it’s one thing to get 1.5 inches of rain on an unused course another to get on one that is already beat to hell.

    So, in my opinion, if folks are looking to place blame they should first look at USA Cycling for: 1) Staging a cluster F of events that killed the purpose of the event, the National Championships, 2) Selecting a site that has a LONG (unless you live around here, it’s hard to explain how long) history of environmental controversy, and then at the City of Austin for being lazy and not doing their due diligence of investigating impacts that exceeded simple 1-3 day reasonably planned CX events. Hey, if this event had been staged at another location, it would have gone off today, regardless of the rain – if this event had been a true Championship event across a couple of days, it would have gone off right there in Zilker Park. The interaction of the location, the extended cluster F of races, and the weather killed the CX Nats in Austin.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      As I mentioned above, I’ve been to more than a few of these things: Golden (1992); Seattle (’94 and ’96); Lakewood (’97); San Francisco (’99); and Boulder (2014). I even helped lay out the course in ’97.

      Looking back at the stories I wrote, a couple of things stand out. First and foremost, the championship has gotten a lot bigger. in ’94 I covered six categories. In ’96, nine. You get the idea. What once was a one-day affair has become a five-day festival and freak show — six days, if you count registration, packet pickup and a course open for recon rides.

      They’re doing races for juniors down to age 9-10 and geezers to 80-plus, plus collegiates, single-speeders, industry types and a few non-championship races. Oh, yeah, and let’s not forget the kiddie course.

      Second, the races used to be held in places nobody gave a shit about, like North Sea-Tac Park, a far corner of Bear Creek Lake Park, and what have you. Far from prying eyes, which may be bad for promoting the activity but is good for just about everything else. The Presidio course had to be redesigned at the 11th hour after a tiff with one of the land managers (NPS, if memory serves), and we had to alter the Lakewood course quite a bit to accommodate evil weather. The former was tough, because everyone was watching (it was The Presidio, for fucksake). The latter was a breeze. We could’ve attacked that sucker with backhoes and bombers and nobody would have noticed.

      It seems to me that if ‘cross remains an insanely popular activity — the crowds at the Cross Crusade races have been off the charts for years — then USAC might want to look at doing one nats for the elites and another for everyone else. One’s for bidness, the other for giggles.

      Pain in the ass, I know. Part of the fun of the sport is being able to race on the same course the big dogs use. But what’s fun for us, in this instance, anyway, is clearly not fun for the pros. Just ask Elle Anderson, who flew home from Europe for nothing. She’s crossing the pond again today, trying to refocus on worlds.

      Addendum: Cadence Sports, the promoter, is an Austin-based outfit. At least one dude in the know says they did everything right, but it seems to me they should have been more aware of the potential for disaster, with the tree types on the prod. It only snowed twice in the five years I lived outside San Antone. But it happened, as shit does.

    • Steve O Says:

      Thanks, Jeff. Nice lay-down.

    • khal spencer Says:

      Thanks all for the dissection of this cluster-F. When we visited Austin, one thing that disturbed me was the lack of the kind of open space we in the Land of Entrapment take for granted. Predictably, when there is limited space, there will be conflict.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        For reals. We used to run a little ‘cross race in Monument Valley Park in Bibleburg. I found out later from Brook Watts that nationals had been held there once, a long time ago.

        The city parks people were cool, and as long as we walked them through the course and followed their rules, it was all good. (It helped that we donated the proceeds to park maintenance.)

        But the park is in the Old North End, where many People of Money store their fourth or fifth homes, and at one race some dog-walking city councilman took exception to our use of “their” park.

        He leaned on the parks peeps, who looked at us, shrugged their shoulders, and said in effect, “Hey, we gotta do what we gotta do.” And we never put on a race in a city park again. Packed up and moved to a county park, where we donated proceeds to maintenance and adopted the trail network we used for a course.

        Last couple years there haven’t been any cyclo-crosses at all in Bibleburg, though Katie Compton and Alison Dunlap — two of the winningest American ‘crossers ever — both call the place home. That USA Cycling outfit has some connection with the place, too, I’m told.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        Amen Khal! That is why I like to live in the West. We moved to Kentucky for a short time. Everything there is owned, posted, restricted, and/or fenced.

  12. khal spencer Says:

    Speaking of fuckups, good old George Will wrote the usual right wing trash talk about climate in last week’s Albuquerque Journal. I’m writing a response. If anyone is interested,could you please take a look at this over on my alternate rant site?

    Two questions. One, is the level OK for a general audience? Two, does it explain the “greenhouse” effect? Thanks in advance for any takers. I’m keeping it under 600 words until I know their word limits for a foaming rant (with apologies to O’G).

  13. Larry T. Says:

    Nicely done Khal, but you’ll go right over the heads of the numbskulls who believe the claims of climate change deniers. They believe the flimsy claims because they’re……….well… know what my wife says.
    The best response is –
    Unless you’re in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry there’s simply no valid counter argument.

  14. Pat O'Brien Says:

    None of the examples Will cites compare to the climate changes happening today, especially the speed of change. As one commenter to the article said, he is comparing apples and oranges. David Suzuki said it best in my opinion. “Too many people, with too much technology, using too much of nature, too fast.” I will suggest you challenge him with this question. What is the carrying capacity of Earth? Seven billion? Ten billion? Or as an English feller said, “the difference between order and anarchy is nine meals.”

    • khal spencer Says:

      Thanks, Pat.

      Actually, things like the Little Ice Age happened really fast, geologically–that is the scary shit we sometimes refer to as “tipping points”.

      The LIA could have been a local upset caused by a change in the Gulf Stream, which carries warmth from the subtropical Atlantic to Northern Europe. One potential impact of climate change is this: if polar or Greenland ice melts due to warming, it will decrease the density of nearby surface water (fresh water is less dense than salty water). Thus, we might see a slowdown in the sinking of dense North Atlantic water in the Gulf Stream, slowing the whole Gulf Stream. A slowdown in the Gulf Stream would have nasty implications for Europe, which would otherwise be pretty damn cold.

      Indeed, what is the carrying capacity if we are all carrying?

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        Thanks Khal! I often try to oversimplify things and arrive wrong conclusions. So Mr. Will and I are alike in some ways on this subject . Your explanation is exactly why I trust the scientific community’s explanations and linkage of climate change to CO2 increases and fossil fuel use. And I believe those increases are due to human activity. Or to oversimplify again, you folks do this shit for a living and Mr. Will and I do not. I choose to believe the science at this point. It seems to me that he just wants to muddy the water without really taking a stand.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Mr. Will is a professional member of the Fog Index Society, i.e., he deliberately used at least two formal logical fallacies in that piece to muddy the water. One, by referring to “Cassandras”, he appeals to ridicule–I’m sure he wants to lump serious scientists with alarmists. Two, he uses the red herring, i.e., if it happens naturally, it can’t be us. But there are so many things that affect climate, the fact that it has always changed doesn’t mean we are not fuckin’ with it ourselves.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Pat, here is another one (published in the Santa Fe New Mexican).

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        Thanks Khal. That was an excellent editorial. Dr. Johnson seems a little obsessed with the term, “greenhouse gasses.” I think you wrote it with the target audience in mind. You put it in plain English, which is not the same as “dumbing down” your view. And, explaining a technical subject in plain English is a special skill that more scientists should learn. But, I guess that would put some science journalists out of a job, and then Patrick would be on my case.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Mike is a geochemist. He, like yours truly, is a bit of a hair splitter and iconoclast. Actually, the term itself is a little misleading. A greenhouse works by physically blocking heat from escaping. The atmosphere works by chemically absorbing the heat, although one could treat either as some sort of boundary layer.

  15. khal spencer Says:

    Holy shit. Brandenburg did it. D.A. is seeking murder charges against cops in James Boyd death.

  16. Deputy Dan has no friends | Mad Blog Media Says:

    […] Friend of the DogS(h)ite® Khal S. notes in comments that the Bernalillo County DA has leveled murder charges against the Albuquerque cops who shot […]

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