Sports fans and media want athletes to be honest and candid and avoid the clichéd, rehearsed, company line responses. Yet when they speak their mind, too often they get skewered for their opinions.
Singlespeed extraordinaire and Hot Laps video series star Craig Etheridge (Raleigh / Clement) was willing to take such a risk in a candid chat with Cyclocross Magazine’s Andrew Yee after this year’s singlespeed title race at Zilker Park. He didn’t ask for his comments to be off the record, and didn’t shy away from expressing strong opinions that were likely to be controversial. Update: Etheridge responds and reflects to the community’s reaction to this interview, in his written letter here.
Etheridge lined up for another crack at the USA Cycling Singlespeed Cyclocross National Championships in Austin, Texas, in hopes of a bit of redemption after flatting on lap one of the 2014 National Championships in Boulder, Colorado and finishing a disappointing 12th place. Etheridge’s team manager, Donn Kellogg, was confident Etheridge would have been a contender without the untimely flat last year, and was optimistic his rider would be battling at the front in 2015.
After the finish, Etheridge wasn’t surprised by the result, but was still visibly upset. Etheridge opened up, explaining his frustration with the race to Cyclocross Magazine. Some may call it sour grapes, but Etheridge also attempts to start a discussion on the validity of the USA Cycling championship race.
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Cyclocross Magazine: Tell me about the race. You turned it on late.
Craig Etheridge: Yeah, I always turn it on late.
CXM: And you didn’t flat on the first lap like last year?
CE: No, I didn’t flat on the first lap. Technically clean race, finished OK, finished strong-ish, I didn’t crash.
CXM: Sounds like you have a little regret though.
CE: I’m just not going to race singlespeed anymore. I love singlespeed racing, I’ll do it every time but I won’t race Nationals.
CE: It’s just not Singlespeed Nationals.
CXM: Is it because of all the pros?
CE: Yeah. It’s not Singlespeed Nationals. It’s practice day. It’s warm-up racing.
CXM: Some people take the opinion that they’re flattered if pros want to try singlespeed, and if they do well, it’s great.
CE: Yeah, not today though. Not at our National Championships race.
CXM: Your opinion is, give the whole season a go on a singlespeed?
CE: Yeah, why wouldn’t you be respectful to the club?
CXM: What about the other opinion though, you race your local scene in the Elites and you show up and race Masters here? Isn’t that the same thing? What if you don’t have tough competition in your hood? You just kill everyone on the singlespeed and you think, why don’t I just race the Elites? It’s harder locally, and then at Nationals I’ll drag out my singlespeed.
CE: I don’t see anybody doing that. Nobody does that. It would be one thing if you actually did that, but nobody does that. The race wouldn’t be here if people did that. There wouldn’t be a singlespeed race if people didn’t race singlespeed all year long.
Give the championship race to somebody who races it all year long, not somebody who relies on everybody else to make the race even happen. That’s what it really comes down to. Why don’t we all do that and there would never be a singlespeed race. Does that make sense?
CXM: That’s one opinion.
CE: It is one opinion, but you know who else’s opinion it is? It’s everybody who does singlespeed all year long.
CXM: So you have a lot of pissed off people here?
CE: Yeah, me.
CXM: Where do you draw the line? I personally don’t know [how much] people like Tim Allen and Brady Kappius raced singlespeed this year. Tim Allen told us last year that [the title race] might have been his second singlespeed cyclocross race ever.
CE: Right. And I think as of today it might be his fourth race ever.
CXM: But he races singlespeed mountain [bikes] all the time. So does he consider himself a singlespeeder?
CE: Well I guess, but we’re not mountain biking right now. We’re cyclocross racing.
CXM: If you looked at the results, and you applied your rules, what place would you be?
(continue reading the Craig Etheridge interview on Page Two)