Bike Controversy and Missing Race Official Brings Confusion and Compromise

by Andrew Yee

2013 Cyclocross National Champion Jonathan Page (Fuji Bikes / Competitive Cyclist) crossed the line, and rode up to Carl Decker (Giant Bicycles), who finished just nine seconds prior on a dual suspension mountain bike to take the win at the 2013 Raleigh Midsummer Night’s cyclocross race. There weren’t any threatening glares, no punches attempted or thrown. Instead, Page just muttered to Decker, “That sucked.”

Did Page mean the course sucked, the race sucked, or using a mountain bike in a cyclocross race sucked?

Page, resplendent in his new National Championship jersey with a fresh slew of sponsors, had just been beaten by a rider and bike combination that was better suited to the stair-filled and rocky descent-laden cyclocross course. Decker had swapped from his (borrowed from Adam Craig) SRAM hydraulic disc brake-equipped Giant TCX Advanced prototype cyclocross bike to his new Giant Anthem 650b dual suspension mountain bike after just half a lap, and proceeded to surge through the field, bombing the descents with abandon and riding the two flights of cement staircases (video here) as if they were curbs. It was the right tool for the course, but it was not a cyclocross bike.

Carl Decker was more than happy with his bike choice, and took the win. © Cathy Fegan-Kim

Carl Decker was more than happy with his bike choice, and took the win. © Cathy Fegan-Kim

“First cyclocross racer out there!” Page told Cyclocross Magazine, giving us a hint of what sucked. “Last time I checked it was a cyclocross race.”

The Raleigh Midsummer Night’s race is not a UCI-sanctioned event, nor an NRC event or National Championship. Decker checked with announcer, promoter and official-by-default Richard Fries at the start of the race if his mountain bike was fair game, and Fries assured Decker it was under the USA Cycling-sanctioned race. But with a USA Cycling race official missing from the event, confusion over the rules would impact the prize money distribution if not the final race result.

“Cheater!” some yelled at Decker as he raced by and floated over the stairs.

“He’s a great rider, so it wasn’t bad to lose to him,” Ben Berden (Raleigh Clement) said, after finishing third behind Decker and Page.

“Mountain bikes aren’t allowed in any USA Cycling-sanctioned race for Cat 2 and above,” a Page supporter told this surprised and at-the-time feeling uninformed reporter.

“I didn’t know you could race a mountain bike race in a cyclocross race,” Jonathan Page said. “I have to ride these skinny tires, it’s a cyclocross race.” Page understandably may not be completely familiar with non-UCI event rules, as he spends most of his time racing in Europe, and typically only competes in UCI races when racing domestically.

UCI races and National Championships play by the UCI rules that ban flat bars, suspension and fat tires (greater than 33mm, or 35mm for Masters at Nationals) from a cyclocross race, but at a standard USA Cycling cyclocross race? That was news to some of us non-rule-book studying cyclocross fans, racers and reporters.

Page inquired with Fries, the acting official, about the bike rules, but the results were posted, the podium ceremony about to begin, no official in sight to clarify the cyclocross bike rule variations, and one giant check making its way to the podium to be awarded to the winner.