When Carl Decker took the lead at Raleigh’s Midsummer Nights race last Thursday, reactions were wildly mixed. Some were impressed with his decision to swap his borrowed-from-Adam-Craig Giant prototype cyclocross bike for his own new Giant Anthem 650b dual suspension mountain bike, but others hurled insults, shouting, “Cheater!” at him as he rode past. The Cyclocross Magazine Facebook and Twitter were abuzz, but Decker remained calm and happy with his win.

Racing for Giant, Carl Decker passed race leader Jonathan Page with just under two laps to go to take the win. His ability to ride the stairs and bomb the descents had given him an extra two or three second advantage every lap, and, “On the pavement I was going just as fast as everyone.”

While some of the crowd—and Page himself—objected to a mountain bike winning a cyclocross race, there was no USA Cycling official present to clarify that there wasn’t any rule to prevent Decker from racing with flat bars, fat tires and dual shocks. While a compromise was reached and the prize money between first and second was evenly divided, research into the rule and a talk with USA Cycling officials showed that Decker was in the right when he chose to switch to the mountain bike.

“I started on a ’cross bike but it was a bike that was new to me and it was really bumpy out here,” Decker explained. “I’ve been an enduro racer recently so I went to that bike quick, the first time I pitted [a half lap into the race].”

He’d checked on the legality of switching to his mountain bike before the race started, chatting with promoter Richard Fries. “Before the start, I asked if they were measuring tires and they said no,” he explained, so he had no reason to think that riding a mountain bike would spark such a controversy.

He added, “Riding the stairs was only an extra second but for me; running tires me out. Run-ups kill me. Running with a bike in my hand, I’m awful, so riding both of those each lap was huge.”

Despite protests about Decker’s bike choice in the race, Decker simply said of Page, “I couldn’t believe how fast Jonathan was going on a ’cross bike.”

And as far as the ‘spirit of cyclocross’ goes? “It’s in the spirit of racing cyclocross, or ’cross in July at least,” he says. “I’m a big fan of bringing the right tool for a job within the rules. And if the rules say I can bring a mountain bike, I’m bringing the mountain bike.” While the cyclocross community at large was torn between agreeing with Decker’s choice or lambasting him for it, think about this: If Decker won on a mountain bike, and the mountain bike was agreed by all to be the best choice for race equipment, is that a racer issue or a course design issue?

At the end of the day, for Decker, the race went “as good as it could. It was awesome.” We hope to see Decker show up at more races this season so we can see another showdown between him and Page.

Carl Decker Interview, 1st, 2013 Raleigh Midsummer Night’s Race


See also our interview with Ben Berden, third place.