Poll: Riding Around the Barriers – Fair Game or Should Be Penalized?

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It wasn’t the first time, and won’t be the last, but Sunday’s cyclocross racing at the Gateway Cross Cup was marred by controversy due to an unintended faster line on the course. Three ingredients created the controversy: the course construction, Zach McDonald’s ride-around-the-barriers and the UCI official’s unique ruling and penalty on McDonald’s actions.

We’ve seen this before, with Nicholas Weighall at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Bend, the 2012 Roubaix World Cup (below), and even a month ago at a NABRA-sanctioned Norcal race this year (with the promoter saying he was fine with it).

Screenshot from 2012 Roubaix Cyclocross World Cup, riding around barriers.

Screenshot from 2012 Roubaix Cyclocross World Cup, riding around barriers.

Reader comments on the race report, as well on Twitter and Facebook, place blame on different parties, but we’re curious about how the majority, not just vocal minority, feel.

Express your opinion by voting below:

Riding around the barriers, within course tape/fencing is:

View Results

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86 comments
KenjiSugahara
KenjiSugahara

It's fairly easy for us.  We just make a pre-race announcement that people must go over all barriers.  Takes care of that issue quite quickly.

Route 66 Bicycles
Route 66 Bicycles

what about a penalty for riding with your ass hanging out of your shorts?

Brent Chapman
Brent Chapman

lame. you have to feel like great about yourself if you do that. I bet these guys have no problem lifting the tape on double back sections and cutting the course too if no one can see them. so should we force our average low budget event promoters to go out and buy steel fencing and bolt them to the ground too? We raced in cones for years and other than a few occasions people rode the entire course and dismounted at all obstacles (unless they could ride over them), not around.

David Mull
David Mull

This type of stuff is exactly why there are very VERY few true beginners at any race. Non pros taking stuff that is supposed to be fun WAY to serious. I raced my 1st cross race this past weekend and was one of the only dudes out of 80 that wasn't in a TEAM kit taking themselves way to serious. Do you ever wonder why the pro racers are more friendly than the fast amateurs?

Thistlegirl
Thistlegirl

Three biggest things to remember in officiating and in equitable application of the rules- Was it safe? Was it fair? Did it effect the outcome?

Was it safe? Yes

Was it fair? Um….. was it in the spirit of the barriers are meant to be traversed, not avoided. No. But it's not a rules violation to exploit a loophole. But it's (probably) going to piss off your competition.

Did it affect the outcome? No. He still finished behind Ben. Seems it slowed him down- remember the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Will they make sure the tape is guitar string tight at the barriers next year? I'd bet on it.

Kathleen McNomah
Kathleen McNomah

Wow. There are a lot of CX Puritans afoot. I wonder how many of them also knock the lapped riders into the tape while they're racing for 20th place. In the 'spirit of CX', of course. ;)

Chris Gardner
Chris Gardner

WTF?!?! This is CX kids! Ride the barriers...run the barriers...or go the fuck away.

Ben Guernsey
Ben Guernsey

Did the race organization say all barriers must be gone over? As they do to us each week. It really comes down to the organizing body and the rules they laid out (I can't fairly take your poll w/o that knowledge). Otherwise it's just taking advantage of poor course design.

Pete Gill
Pete Gill

Definitely penalise, but you have to ask why is the course set up so you can do it?

Cyclocross Magazine
Cyclocross Magazine

Regarding bike choice, not everyone owns a cx bike, and the beauty of cx is that it welcomes most bikes at a non-uci level. Looking at someone, we don't know what they own and what they can afford, so let's make sure we don't say mtbs aren't in the spirit of cx. Courses can be designed to make cx bikes advantageous, and it's not disrespectful to use the tool that you own or is faster. Almost everyone started racing cx in the States on frankenstein bikes and clinchers - yet we don't declare people using carbon bikes and tubulars disrespecting the sport either. Let's keep it welcoming please. UCI races are where the regs get stricter.

David Fairbrother
David Fairbrother

The course and the barrier must be the same width, otherwise riders take the fastest line possible.

Are Tee
Are Tee

also....5.1.024 The course may include a single section of planks. This obstacle must consist of two planks placed minimum 4 metres and maximum 6 metres apart. The planks must be solid for their entire height, without sharp edges and not made of metal. They must have a maximum height of 40 cm and extend the entire width of the course. In the event that the course is abnormally slippery, the plank section must be removed on the decision of the president of the commissaires' panel in consultation with the organiser and, should he be present, the UCI technical delegate or the cyclo-cross sport coordinator.

Are Tee
Are Tee

Operative wording likely, but not required, to dismount. Not breaking rules per the rules....hence the reason you can hop the barriers.

Are Tee
Are Tee

Obstacles 5.1.022 The start and finish sections must be free of obstacles. 5.1.023 The course may include no more than six man made obstacles. Obstacle shall mean any part of the course where riders are likely (but not required) to dismount. A section of planks as described in art. 5.1.024, must be considered as one of these obstacles.

Cyclocross Magazine
Cyclocross Magazine

hopefully there's not a next time even though we already said in the post there will be one. but if there is, we'll add that option. haha.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey

I was at a race last year in a park, where cones were used where it crossed over a parking lot, riders bypassed part of the course by riding through the parking lot, despite knowing full well the course did not go that way. Cheating? The question is where the line is drawn, I've been at several races where the official has stated you must not bypass the obstacles. On the courses I've helped set up, we always stake each barrier. That said, I have "ridden the tape" pretty hard to find a better line past mud, roots, etc...

Nicholas Brown
Nicholas Brown

Seems to me this type of course feature would create an interesting choice for the racer. Clearly there's a benefit to going around the barrier, but only for the first few through the gap. The resulting hand-to-hand combat of fighting for that line might make going over the barrier the faster choice. We see people make passes by taking the slower line all the time when the "fast" line is clogged.

Brian Wingbermuehle
Brian Wingbermuehle

The poll needs a middle option: "No penalty, but it is a weak move and the rider should be heckled mercilessly." You see stretches of tape that get knocked down during the race all the time--- is that like a free for all at that point also???

JtFountain
JtFountain

It's lame on both the part of the rider, and race organizer. Come on, it's not that hard to put stakes/posts at the ends of the barriers. Why wouldn't you? People running a race this big should know where to put the posts. As for the rider, even if it's technically within the rules, it's still unsportsmanlike... don't be a snake!

Nicholas Vorwerk
Nicholas Vorwerk

If the line is there then why not. Not any different than a root. It's just the faster line. But ya it is just bad course design.

David Hack
David Hack

I think it should be on smooth pavement and no barriers. C'mon man, this is cross. Ride the barriers!

Aaron Garcia
Aaron Garcia

No penalty. Adds an alternate line, fair game.

Andy Swartz
Andy Swartz

Even if riding around the barrier/s is technically OK, it's morally wrong. The notion that we need officially written and properly enforced rules to tell us what is not acceptable is silly.

Francis Jose
Francis Jose

There is a reason why they put barriers in the course. I don't think its right to go around it. If people think its fair, then might as well take the course tape off and just ride in a straight line to the finish. Haha

Rick Dalton
Rick Dalton

No penalty and I guess in an official rules view it is fair game. But don't expect any respect from your fellow racers if you take advantage of something you know shouldn't be an option. The promoter should be fined for not setting up the course to par. Shame on them.

Joe Marinelli
Joe Marinelli

"It's the course designers fault".....what crap. All you are doing is cheating your competitors and sending the message to everyone else that you don't have the ability to beat your opponent by going over the barriers. There are times where knowing the course better than your opponent proves you were better that day, this is not one of those times.

Kathleen McNomah
Kathleen McNomah

And if a barrier's higher at one end vs the other due to the nuances of the topography, will racers also be flogged for taking the line at the shortest height of a barrier? Good grief, dudes, if it's within the bounds of the "tape", it's part of the course.

Jeff Grijalva Sobul
Jeff Grijalva Sobul

Fair game, but bad form on Zach's part. In Roubaix, it was a big group with not a lot of room. Excusable in that context. Zach was alone. No interference. I say stick to the spirit of the sport and respect the course.

Hemanth Shenoi
Hemanth Shenoi

If the tape falls down between laps, am I suddenly entitled to interpret the course as I wish? By that logic I'm cutting the course straight to the finish line! Simple solution: Create life threatening obstacles for those who knowingly violate the spirit of the race.

Bret Zimmerman
Bret Zimmerman

Obviously the course director did not do a good job setting it up. Everything between the lines/tape is fair game. I dont agree with going around but its all on whoever set up the course. The racers took advantage of their screw up.

Richard McClung
Richard McClung

Read the rules. Despite what any of us feels about the morality of the action, there is nothing at all in the rule book about it. Therefore, there i

Charlie Kozak
Charlie Kozak

Let see: So when a runner racing in the 3000 m steeplechase competition and run around the water jumps because physically possible and not fenced, that would be legal? Of course not, he would be disqualified. This poll is pointless if you are a fair play competitor.

Jeff Cospolich
Jeff Cospolich

yeah the promoters should have staked/taped next to each barrier. However, everyone who races knows why the barriers are there. They should know better. So I say penalize him. Similarly, some courses (esp here in bumpy Colorado) can be faster on a mtb. But most racers (esp those in upper classes) will choose to race their cx bike bc it is in the best spirit and respect for the sport.

Jeff Gernert
Jeff Gernert

Be ashamed if you are too cheap to spend the extra $2 for another stake so the course is setup right. This is all on the race promoter.

Paul Massey
Paul Massey

Inside the course markers, fair game!

Phil Avery
Phil Avery

Penalty or not, be ashamed it you ride around barriers. Barriers are one of the defining characteristics of the sport.

Dwayne C. Letterman
Dwayne C. Letterman

I was at a race last season where there was no stake at the barrier and one guy kept riding up against the tape pushing out riding and around the barriers. He knew wasn't right, because he kept looking at the officials up on the hill. Miraculously his next time around two fence posts had appeared. It's a cross race, you run the barriers. Dodging the barriers = cheating.

Matthew Rogers
Matthew Rogers

tough one to vote on. if its with in the tape you take the fastest line. but i would like to believe id have enough respect for the sport and the course designer to go over a barrier and not around for that is cyclocross.

Bruce Hodson
Bruce Hodson

penalize. spirit of 'cross racing makes it so

FreddyD84
FreddyD84

Interesting dilemma for sure….and I see both sides.…..and this occurred in our race this weekend here in WI but was set up intentionally in our race. We had two big logs as the 2nd (of four) sets of barriers. If one could bunny hop the "fat" end of the first log, the landing area gave way to a straight shot (on the ground) past the second log. The course tape was intentionally marked with this "time bonus" of sorts as there was a stake in the ground two feet to the right of the end of the second log.  On the first lap as I dismounted and ran (currently in third), I watched the eventual winner do a massive hop - which did require a significant scrubbing of speed - and then proceeded to ride by the 2nd log. Given that the remount area was uphill if you couldn't (me) or didn't remount immediately, hopping barrier 1 was a HUGE advantage.  I thought it was pretty cool - there was a good amount of risk for the reward. I was just jealous I couldn't hop a barrier, let alone a log that high. More importantly, even if I HAD been able to, I didn't pay enough attention during my pre-ride to have taken advantage. Granted, that could have been because my brain naturally says it's a barrier, go over the stupid thing: run it or ride it!


Allen Acevedo
Allen Acevedo

How much do you want to bet that EVERY race promotor will adopt this policy next weekend?

seanwittmer
seanwittmer

Kenji, it's very unfair to compare your series to any USAC or UCI race since you all have your sh.t together. You guys don't even use course tape! And when it comes to barriers, bring on the 6 pack!

KenjiSugahara
KenjiSugahara

@seanwittmer LMAO.  Ross would have a fit if he heard you wrote "no course tape"!  He was lamenting that all the photos people took were of areas of cones instead of the "cool" places with all the tape.  Nooooooo! Not the dreaded six pack.  They suck for guys like me.  :P

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