Are you participating or are you racing?

Sounds so simple, well are you racing? This question was brought up over the weekend after some racers got pulled in one of the local races. Well, it was a “race” and it was sanctioned by a racing organization so it’s pretty clear we are racing, right?

Racers sign up, drop around $40 bucks for the experience which for some equates to about a dollar a minute and everyone (who is racing) is expecting to stand on that podium. It’s winner takes all and in regards to being lapped, one commenter says, “If you're concerned about getting lapped/pulled, you're not racing, you're participating and neither the promoter/referee owe you anything besides a start. The rest in your problem….If getting lapped is still a concern at this point, you're in the wrong category.“”

So if you aren’t in the running for the podium, get the hell out of the way as is in the men’s elite race where nearly half of the field was lapped according to the results. Clearly some of these guys are racing, but what are nearly the other 44-ish racers doing, are they in the wrong category?

But are we all racing? Does nearly every racer pin on a number expecting to be at least within arms reach of the podium? Is that why we are racing, for some upgrade points and a box of toothpicks or if we are lucky some overstocked item from a bike store as a prize? But that’s not why everyone races according to one commenter says, “The beauty of cross is that even if you're not competing for the podium, you can still race against others in your class who are of similar skill/talent/fitness. For some of us, just finishing one place ahead of the guy who always seems to beat you can be as satisfying as any podium finish. Take that away and you'll lose half or more of your "participants""

There is a growing trend in some “athletic” events to remove the concept of victory like in the the Tough Mudder and The Color Run according to a Wall Street Journal article called, The Slowest Generation In the article they say, “Tough Mudder is an event, not a race, we do not post the finish times on our site," says the Tough Mudder website. Arguing that results pages detract from camaraderie, Tough Mudder adds that obsessing about finish times is "lame."

Maybe the key point there is that they are an event, not a race. So where do participates go? Has anyone considered creating the Grand Fondo of cross? Make some 15-20 minute lap times, fold some categories together and make it about the experience, not the result. Sounds so unColorado yet very grass roots focused. Is Colorado’s very competitiveness as much as an asset as a liability in this case?

Which philosophy should a race promoter/official take for an race? One of protecting those racers who in gunning for the podium or one that nurtures every racer giving them a full experience for what they paid for. One could make a blanket statement like, “all bronze races never pull racers so those in the running simply need to deal with lapped rider traffic and Gold races are for racers”. Might sound great but not if you are a Gold promoter… but we are racing right?

This topic has been discussed before but under the wool of multiple aged based categories and in the context of summer crits, not fall cx. In crits if you aren’t categorized well then you are dropped within minutes after the starting so the concept of participating is more challenging but as mentioned earlier cx does not behave like a crit (thankful for many).

I’ve been on both sides of the fence, in 07 I was on fire in cross, held every top 10 result except 1st in the 3’s. I was all about racing, but last year the only race I did was states and came in dead last. I’ve been both racer and participator. I want to “race” again but it won’t happen this year but is there a place for a washed up cat 2 to participate? I could downgrade 4’s to prevent from being lapped but doesn’t that just push the problem down and into the 4’s field? If all 2’s or 3’s choose to “race” in the 4’s field so we could still participate than I feel sorry for those truly new guys just starting out. I’m not saying I want a medal or a ribbon for participating, … I really don’t care. I just like the experience of racing even if I am just going for 45th place.

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This discussion is not about re-hashing details from the weekend, that is the past, this is about the future and solutions. I’ve only touched on probably half of the details surrounding this topic so please join in and help build a better cycling community.

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