’Cross Intel: Pete Webber Reports on Nationals Uncertainty

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Pete Webber shows off his snow skills. Terri Smith

Pete Webber shows off his snow skills. ©Terri Smith

by Pete Webber

Hello Cyclocross Fans!

Cyclocross Magazine has invited me to write a column for the remainder of season to provide some insight from the US Nationals and Masters Worlds. During the coming weeks, I’ll try to write as often as possible and provide a look inside these races.

Let’s talk about Nationals … So much is new and different with Nats this season.

First, the date change has thrown a spanner into everyone’s training schedules and the racing calendar. I raced my first Nats almost 20 years ago and the date has remained constant ever since. That’s a lot of years to dial in the right training program in order to arrive with good form. This year … boom, everything is out of whack with a three-week shift. And most regions of the country had no races to keep the fires stoked. Chicago stepped up with a UCI weekend, and small races took place in Kansas City, Medford, Oregon and Santa Rosa, California, but cowbells were silent in most regions, including New England and Colorado. I’ll bet that success in Madison will go to the riders who deal with this new calendar best. Let’s hope that next year more promoters will be brave enough to host late December races.

Second, Nats moves to a fresh location and one with a lot of uncertainty. All season we’ve speculated about the potential for extreme weather in Madison, and more specifically … what gloves to wear? Recently, concerns about the quality of the course have been circulating. Without a previous top-tier race at the venue, the uncertainty has sparked record-high hand-wringing among some ’crossers. So why didn’t the organizers provide more info about the course? It’s like they were trying to keep it a secret. An aerial map is all they provided, and they issued no details about the features, obstacles or anything else their customers were clamoring for. Sure, there have been a few third-party course previews, but those have only fueled more questions. I have not yet ridden the course, so I’ll save those opinions for later. But I will say this: when it comes to marketing ’cross races, the course is the most important element. The recipe is simple: use a well-regarded course designer, create a great course with cool features, and be sure to tell people about it! Your event will get more riders and better pre-race excitement.

Regardless, I’ve learned not to obsess about the calendar, conditions or course. As a racer, I find it is best to just race the race. Don’t think about the course being good or bad, suiting your style or not. I try to simply “turn it up to 11″ and not worry about things out of my control. Sure, some courses may be better for your skills than others, but it is counterproductive to obsess about it.

Fortunately, when it comes to Nats, somehow things always turn out to be epic!

Pete Webber (Boulder Cycle Sport) has raced cyclocross for 20 years and is a two-time Masters National Champion. He was recently inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame for his mountain bike advocacy work. He is also the featured athlete in Kenneth Lundgren’s excellent article in Issue 15 on Off-Camber techniques.



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My (and many other cx'ers) opinion on the Natz issue:

Who says Natz has to be at the end of the season? Lets make it a REAL party. Split Elite and Masters/Juniors Natz races. Elites in Jan to fall in line with UCI, M/J's in November pre-Thanksgiving (same as the Canadians). All local series' will take that weekend off and Nats will become a big deal again. Continue to push races through the holidays but don't make Masters and Juniors have to train and compete through the holidays. There is little interest and it leads to burnout. Most CXers compete in other disciplines too (look at Wells this year, and he's pro) and we need some downtime in our long seasons. Nats in Nov will make it more weather conducive for athletes all around the country, not just those who are used to living and training in the colder climes. November weather can still be brutal for those diehards who want it: NW weather is still wet, NE and MW is already cold enough, but our Southern brothers will get a fair shake once in awhile. Also, you will have better competition since more people are on-form in November whereas many burnout by Dec/Jan. Those who want to race Worlds and on the Int'l scene are motivated enough to train through the Holidays if they feel so inclined, but Natz should be for the masses. Have some courage USAC, lets make Natz and CX fun again and put the focus back on grassroots.

Thanks for your thoughts, Peter, good luck at Nats and see you at Worlds.


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