Reflecting On Masters Worlds – A Column by Lee Waldman

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One thing Lee carries while racing - his bike! ? Annette Hayden

It takes a special type of person. © Annette Hayden

Masters racer Lee Waldman reflects on the Masters World Championships at Mol, and what it might teach him in preparation for Louisville. Missed Lee’s last column? Catch up on his musing of what makes us cyclocrossers unique.

by Lee Waldman

WHEAT RIDGE, CO – I just stumbled in the door, legs wobbly, from an incredibly windy ride. Logged on to find stellar results from the American contingent in Mol, Belgium at Masters Worlds. Over 30 American riders finished, representing US cylcocross admirably.

By now you’ve probably read the reports and know the results. You might also have viewed the video commentaries of Johnny Bold, Steve Tillford, Kevin Hines and Peter Webber. Anything else that I’d say would be redundant. But…I’d like to write not from the point of view of a participant, but of a hopeful. And that I am – a hopeful, planning already to experience the thrill in Louisville next January.

It’s a difficult task, writing about an event that you haven’t yet participated in. I thought it would be easy…but the more I thought about it, and the more I tried to write, the more I realized that I needed more information. I needed to know just what it feels like to race in what’s arguably the hotbed of cyclocross. To race with riders who have grown up with ’cross, who have raced at the highest level and who, listening to the reports of those who were there, are intensely physical. I wanted to know what I should expect. How fast is it? How aggressive? What should I do differently, if anything, to train? So I contacted Myrah, Ruseckas, Tillford, Webber and to Dan Seaton. What, I asked, were their thoughts on the race, the crowds, the course, the event in general?

Waiting for their replies, I viewed Pete Webber’s YouTube course preview. I hadn’t watched it, mostly out of jealousy. I wanted to be there too, experiencing the atmosphere, the course, the whole environment that’s cyclocross in Belgium. After reading his pre-race article and seeing the pre-ride, all I can say is I wish I’d had the time and the money to attend. So instead, I’m refocusing my work, my planning, and my imagination on Louisville. Between Peter’s comments and his pre-race video I felt that I had a pretty good idea of what the course was like.

It is true that there are courses that fit each individual rider’s technique and personality. Courses that fit best for me allow for some technical skill, smooth dismounts and remounts and a lot of fast riding sections that allow me to call on my background on the road. I prefer courses that have a rhythm to them; that require effort but also flow nicely. Probably my favorite course is Roger Williams Park in Providence.

Looking back on my results this past season, including Bend, I find that the turny, twisty courses, interspersed with long, hard riding sections yielded the best results for me. The harder the better.

So how might I have faired in Mol? Judging from Peter’s comments, and from simply watching, it looked like the strongest rider, the one able to put power to the pedals, would fare well. I don’t know how I’d stack up against the other riders who were born in the early 50s but I think I’d hold my own.

Some things stood out as I learned about the course. First and foremost the sand sections. We don’t have a lot of it in Colorado, with the exception of the Boulder Reservoir races which define sand racing for me. Sand saps your energy and puts a premium on power. It requires speed and the finesse to keep the bike upright against the forces aligned to stop forward progress. I think that I have as much of that as any other 60 + rider that I know.

It’s difficult to really get a feel for a course from a video, though. Although the Mol course looked to be peppered with direction changes, many of the turns were of the type that a good rider with good balance could pedal through. If you’ve been following my columns this year, you know that cornering is something that I’ve worked on all year. It feels as if it paid off since I no longer find myself getting dropped in corners.

Dan Seaton was able to cast some light on the personality of Belgian courses. I was surprised to find that they vary from one part of the country to the next. I shouldn’t have been, considering my experience here. We race completely different types of courses in Colorado than those I find when I travel to either coast. So why should I expect it to be different anywhere else?

There were some things that stood out from his comments. First, he corroborated what I regularly hear about the style of riding and racing. It’s much more physical there – less quarter given and taken. (note to self: start working on that now! i.e. Don’t be a baby, buttercup.) So I wonder, what will it be like next year? I know what it’s like to race in the States. Will enough foreign riders make the trip over to impact the style of racing here? If so, should I plan to race down another category in preparation? I already race in the 45+ category for most of the year. Should I really push the envelope and race down even further?

Dan had much more to say, but I’m saving that, along with thoughts from Peter Webber, for my next column.

Questions about courses seem irrelevant considering the fact that we will be racing not in Belgium but in Kentucky. Maybe my questions about the course would be better answered by riders who have raced in Louisville. Anybody out there want to share their experiences this season racing there? I know lots of us would be grateful. Feel free to comment.

On the other hand there appeared to be plenty of hard fast riding in Mol as well. On the courses I’ve ridden this year that have had long riding sections, I’ve been able to make up time and pass riders while on the bike. The only thing that bothered me about Mol was that it appeared to have a lot of relatively narrow sections in the forested parts of the course. It isn’t that I don’t like trees, but I have a physical problem that compromises me on those really narrow courses – double vision. It’s tough to pick a line when you see it almost separately out of each eye. Even after a lifetime of adaptation it’s still the one thing that negatively impacts my ’cross racing. But I digress. All in all I wish I’d been able to take the time away from my job as a reading teacher to go. That’s the bad news. The good news: Louisville is less than a year away. I’ll write more when I hear back from the guys that were there.

Time to go ride. Get out there.

 

 

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25 comments
Rod Dangerinthfield
Rod Dangerinthfield

If the UCI can rank Elites via points and Cross results can rank everyone, then we can have a system for seeding ALL riders at Nats and Worlds. It's not friggin rocket science. A 6-7 minute TT is not relative to a 40-60 minute race as they are two different events. It's kind of like running the 100 meter dash to seed for a 10 k. Plus it forces a risk/reward scenario for screaming on the edge of control to gain seconds and crashing and injury are more a possibility. There were more than a few people who were injured during the TT at Nats last year. Also, it detracts focus and preparation from the real race and gives those that are already seeded an advantage over everyone else. It's interesting how the guys commenting here are already on the front row at Nats and won't need to do a TT next year....no wonder they want it! We ride our asses off all year to get results and our governing body should capture those results and give us credit accordingly. Seed by crossresults if USAC is not willing to put any effort or money into this endeavor. State championships are a big event for many riders and a focus for most who don't go to Nats. There are many states that have great races put on by hard working, passionate and dedicated promotors....it's not a joke to them or the riders that compete. We're not all superstars like you Mr Bold.

dan norton
dan norton

Some good thoughts about the problem of too many riders in the final show. But we cant lump the masters with the elites, as each group has different requirements. Are there really 200, 100, 50 world ready elites ? Mabey its time for a "pro" class of elite rider. As for masters, have 30 minute qualifying races, take the top 10 and end up with a final of 40 riders, that way you get to race against others and if you cant crack the top 10 in your field, well mabey a top finish in the finals is a little beyond your fitness for this year. Watch the final, go home, train a little more and come back next year. Oh wait, next year is in Jan. and in Wisconsin, I guess I wont follow my own advice. And yes, Page rocks ! Doing it the right way.

Lughugger
Lughugger

In my opinion, calling for a protocol is a dangerous request for N American racers to make. As one comment states, Euro courses seem to be harder than most courses on the western side of the Atlantic. Therefore, any international ranking should be weighted in favour of the European competitors. That is, if courses remain the same. Perhaps an alternative is for N American courses to be more 'Euro' and 'harder' and less inclusive? Look how the UCI ranking equivalency's worked out this year. Jonathan Page was US top finisher with the lowest UCI ranking of the US entrants in the Elite race largely because he races Euro courses all season. If you're not racing Euro style courses, don't expect to be competitive come the Championships. Oh, and 'most courses' are not too tough and dangerous' in Europe. Don't confuse or equate participant and world level events, please. Euro courses are most certainly 'the real thing'.

Lee Waldman
Lee Waldman

All I can add is that I hope USAC is listening. Great thoughts.

Rod Dangerinthfield
Rod Dangerinthfield

Not sure Europe cross racing could be called the real thing. Most courses there are too tough and dangerous for the participant level crossers who are predominate here in the states. It's a "Beach" (literally in Mol) racing there for the average crosser. I say good riddance to the event being held at Mol. While the people in Belgium were great, they missed me coming across the line completely (and I was top 10) my first time there and I got a back row call up 3 out of 4 years as I watched the top Euros toe the front line. Not sure if there was favoritism, but your fate is sealed at that point as a good start position on the singletracky Mol course is simply vital for a chance to podium. Case in point Jonny Bold was front row and he podiumed, whereas US Nat Champ Don Myrah was stuck in the back on the grid and languished back in the field most of the race. That's a lot of effort and money wasted just do to "fate" instead of being staged according to your ability to place. My point here is that Masters Worlds, just like Elite Worlds, should have a staging protocol so racers who will contend will be appropriately positioned on the start grid. Let's face it, we all know who can contest there and who is there for the nice participant certificate. It's not rocket science (although Crossresults.com seems to have elements of rocket science!), it just takes a little effort (and, GULP, money) on the part of the governing bodies for Worlds and Nats to develop a ranking system based upon season results (hear that USA Cycling?). Doing a time trial is simply ridiculous and last years effort at Nats was also VERY dangerous on their ill prepared course! We do all these races all year (with lots of revenue going to USA Cycling) and there should be a way to get credit for your finishes to rank you for Nats and Worlds...hmmm, think the Elites get some kind of points right?? So it can be done. Money from older people still spends the same as money from younger people. At the risk of making enemies here, I also think Nats and Worlds should NOT be participant events, you should have to qualify for them and there should be field limits. Having 2oo guys in a race is simply profit taking on the part of the organizers as most of those riders will be pulled before they get in the way. At that point it's not a championship event, it's a fundraiser. All of this may sound a bit harsh, but we need to expect more from the people who take lots of our money and then funnel it away from us to focus on Olympic cycling events that most of us don't give a flying F about. Perhaps OBRA, the Colorado series and the Bay Area Super Prestige have the right idea by snubbing USA Cycling and putting on their own events for Cross enthusiasts and making these events great for the participants paying the tab.
And for the record, almost all the people competing in cross are "haves". It's not exactly an inner city or third world country sport. Even so, its still more about the Indian than the bow.

Linda Elgart
Linda Elgart

The positive side is that cyclocross in the US is a participant's sport. Some races will get hundreds, if not a thousand racers, at all levels. Local racing is not elitist, at least not here in Sacramento. It's family oriented, close to home, and accessible. Sure, there are elite racers, but grass roots seems to be the trend.

Jonny Bold
Jonny Bold

Lee,

The race in Mol will have zero impact in terms of preparation for Worlds in KY. Europe isn't coming here. I spoke to lots and lots of racers in both Belgium and Holland and not one single person said they plan to make the trip. I'm sure we'll see a few and I'm sure lots of Canadians, but for the most part, I think we're looking at US Nationals all over again with just a few foreigners sprinked in here and there.

Here cycling is becoming a pretty expensive, eliteist hobby, sadly a lot like Triathlon. In Belgium, masters racing is a completely different animal. It's more of a journeyman's sport. Lots of racers actually don't race worlds because the entry fee is 15 euro (less than $20), with no refund for returning your race#. The other races are more or less free. So if they don't wanna pay 15 euro, you can imagine how they feel about flying to the US with 2 bikes, renting a car, and a hotel, and needing to buy food all that time too. It's not even considered for a second by most.

JB

guest
guest

Sorry, but this article is a waste of time. There's no good information here, and no entertainment value either. The author seems like a nice guy, but sorry dude, I'm not really interested in how fast you can go thru a corner, or how you might've done in Europe.

lee waldman
lee waldman

You make some really valid points. But it's hard to hear someone when their anger and frustration gets in the way. I agree that there should / needs to be a ranking system. I was lucky this year to not have had to ride the TT at Nats but I will next year, if I go. Like you I'd rather see a ranking system based on year long results. It makes sense and I'm sure is doable if USAC would decide to do it. I live in a state were a very small percentage of the cross races are sanctioned by the USAC. Would that pose any sort of a problem as far as ranking? We like our independence here in Colorado and I wonder if rankings would end up being some sort of a hammer that the USAC could hold over us to force us back into the fold. The way it is now we have a thriving cross season with over 25 races between Sept. and the first week in Dec. They are all sanctioned by our local body, the American Cycling Association. I'd hate to see us have to change that just to get our riders to Louisville since it seems to me that USAC has little interest in masters and / or grass roots cross racing.

Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson

What in the world are you talking about? THINK for a minute.....How are 30 minute qualifying races a good idea? Thats almost as long as the real race. Is Nationals going to become a 10 day festival?

"200,100,50 world ready elites", What are you referring to here? This article is about Master's Worlds.....Thanks for the jibberish!

Jonny Bold
Jonny Bold

Rod, (real name?) You make some good points, but to be clear, I started on the last row in 2010 and got the same result , 3rd. You actually answered your own question about tallying points throughout the season. There are regions that don't even race under the USAC so they'd get screwed. The time trial wasn't my favorite idea, but you dismissed that too. It actually put guys like Don Myrah, Steve Tilford, and Roger Aspholm at the front of the grid where they belonged. You can hate on it, but give a better option. Your points idea is fatally flawed. I think ithe TT is probably the best resolution, simply because anything else is a worse nightmare.__As far as the courses being too hard or dangerous. I couldn't disagree more. Shit, every time you ride your bike it's dangerous, I accept that. If it's not hard it's not a deserving championship. I LOVE the course in Mol! Not everyone is gonna love every course.__I used to feel the same about having such big fields, but if the staging is done properly and the riders are pulled BEFORE they get lapped, then let them donate their $. Maybe USAC should give a little back in the form of a prize list in each field though.

Jonny Bold
Jonny Bold

Ya, I may have worded that wrong. It's like that in New England for the most part too, but lots of us have 2 carbon bikes, 3 or 4 sets of wheels, a coach and more. We travel pretty far to race by car and think nothing of flying 3000 miles for Natz, including car rentals, bike transport, hotels and meals.

I guess what I mean is that it's getting more and more expensive to participate in all the races we'd like to, and when the rich guys can swing it without a worry it seems a little like it's for the haves and not the have nots.

The Belgies are more likey to have a sprinter van equipped with compressor, water tank and power washer.

lee waldman
lee waldman

Jonny,
Thanks for the response. I was afraid that's what might happen. It will be interesting to see what actually takes place then considering the fact that both races are a week apart. For a lot of us it will be making the decision as to which week to skip work and race. It's sad that it comes down to that but I can see that as a distinct possibility. I kind of agree with "homeboy". Maybe I'll just start saving for a trip to Europe and experience the real thing. Who knows.

Rich M
Rich M

It is sad to hear that response from the Euro's, even the Elite's about coming to the states to race worlds. For the past 10 years american cross racers have traveled to Europe to participate in master's races, World Cups, World Championships, etc. Including extensive travel and equipment costs. Worlds is finally going to be somewhere outside of Northern Europe and no Euro's are willing to do what the americans have to do every time they travel to race their races?

homeboy
homeboy

Jonny, thanks for this info. I was expecting a euro feel here. However I'd rather go there for the real thing anyway.

lee waldman
lee waldman

I'm sorry that you felt that way. My intent wasn't to supply new information but just to talk about worlds from the perspective of someone who would love to have been there. But, as a writer, feedback is always helpful so thanks for your critical comments. That's the only way I can get better.

Rich M
Rich M

I think qualifying races are a good idea to narrow field sizes down. But I think they should be done on a regional level. 4 diff regions for US, Europe, other countries. Top 10 qualifiers get to go to worlds. Or if racers still want to travel to worlds for the experience, have qualifying races a day or two before the championship. Time trials would also work, but I agree with Pete, if you have a mechanical or crash your done. At least in a race you can recover from those things and still have a chance. I think the idea of a shorter qualifying race is good. That way you aren't spent for the championship.

Lee Waldman
Lee Waldman

So, I don't know if this will make any sense at all but back when I started bike racing on the road, the only riders who "qualified" for nationals, at least in the 1,2 races were the top, either 3 or 6 finishers in each states respective state championships. How would that be as a selection for worlds? Good, bad, ugly?? Just a thought

Jonny Bold
Jonny Bold

I would say that if you're a cyclocross fanatic.....like we all are, that you owe it to yourself to have that experience. It's one of the best experiences you'll ever have. Guarenteed!

Jonny Bold
Jonny Bold

Lee,

Probably a little of both. I think it'll take a couple years, but, when enough guys get pulled early in the race they'll slowly start to not enter Natz.

Since Worlds will be a first time thing for most next year, I'd bet a lot of guys will go just to say they raced Worlds. In my mind you haven't raced Master's Worlds until you've raced in the sand of Mol. That said, I'm really looking forward to Natz and Worlds in January. 11 months to go...
JB

Pete Webber
Pete Webber

I agree that a time trial is the best solution for start position at master's championships at this time. While it doesn't have any tradition or history, it basically works and I think it should be used at Nationals and Worlds next year. It is definitely better than random, and would make an international rider more confident about making the trip. My main complaint against it is this: it lets the governing bodies off the hook for developing a proper ranking system. In the long term, I'd like to see a sophisticated national (international?) ranking system similar to alpine skiing. That sport (and I would guess others too) use a system developed over several decades that works both nationally and internationally for all levels. It calculates points taking into account the quality of the field, it follows athletes over the long term, and is independent of category or age. Crossresults.com is on the right track.

However, I also think there needs to be some type of field limit at championships. Once you get over something like 125 or 150 riders, it is just silly and pulling riders before they get lapped can be challenging on a long lap and with the speed of the leaders being so different from the back markers. Lacking an international qualification system, the field limit could be filled by the time trial. The one hiccup is that a time trial can unfairly penalize unlucky mistakes like a mechanical or crash.

By the way, I think we all agree that start position is important, but it isn't the only thing. The winner in my race (40-45) at Mol came from the 4th row. I was 3rd row along with the other Americans.

lee waldman
lee waldman

Good point. It's pretty obvious that you've critically thought this through, something that I don't think a lot of other people have done. Maybe you're right, maybe the onus should be on the officials to control the race and make sure that the riders who might pose a problem for the contenders are removed. I guess in this country where we know the fields will be bigger, that might be the only equitable solution. Do you think that if people knew that would be the procedure that it would cause slower riders to decide not to attend. Or, do you think that they'd come anyway just to say they'd raced at worlds?

Jonny Bold
Jonny Bold

Again, if some states aren't even racing under USAC, then how will USAC recognize state championships? State championships are sort of a joke anyway, I don't think we even have one. If we do I don't know what it is, so that shows how much importance it has or doesn't have. Also some states have 25 or 30 good guys deserving of a spot at natz, other states literally don't even have cyclocross, so I think thats flawed too. If the officials can manage the races at natz and remove the fodder before they get in the way then lets roll with it. It creates a bigger crowd for all the races, especially the Elite Races. Plus when you're talking about Worlds, how would foreigners fall into the state champions idea? The TT is the lesser of all evils.

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