Just as with bikes, we're fans of events that defy labels and categories and are big on fun. The Dirty BikenetiCrit in Virginia is one such event, and the event drew out both top dirt racers and top costumes. See the report below.
by Peter Schultz and Pablo Bachelet
What do you get when you combine ’cross with road racing? A crit that is a whole lot of fun?
Picture part gravel grind, part ‘cross party, and part crit. This hybrid of hybrids was Dirty BikenetiCrit! p/b Fair Winds Brewing—a first-ever effort to unleash some serious roadie mojo onto gravel roads.
The endeavor occurred August 27 in Haymarket, Virginia.
"Our goal was to bring the ’cross party to road racing—and create a crossover (pun intended) event to bridge road and ’cross formats and seasons," said race director, Phil Troutman, who is with Team Bikenetic in the Washington, DC area. "Dirt crit," Troutman said, "It's a thing...its own thing!"
Coming off a season of mountain biking, gravel grinding, and road racing, the race offered a transition into the ’cross season less than a month away. All races, with the exception of the mountain bike and “Anything Goes” categories, were sanctioned as official USAC crit races. The Pro/1/2/3 races were also Mid-Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association (MABRA) Road BAR races.
The 1.4-mile gravel course featured some tight turns—call them sketchy, real sketchy—that favored ’cross riders. They found the fast tape-to-tape lines, nipping the grass for added traction. The rocky, dusty surface required equipment that could both take a beating and help the riders keep the rubber side down. Tire choice ran the gamut from standard ’cross tread to wider, smoother gravel tread.
The roadies? Well, they brought the powerful engines that could roar down the straight sections.
The emphasis was on a good time, but the racing was full on. When we organized the event, we weren’t really sure how the races would play out. Would there be a tight and large peloton desperately looking to hold on for dear life and tackle the slippery stuff? Or would the racers spread out, cyclocross-style, with the leaders lapping the laggards?
The result was clear from the start. Yes, pacelines did form. The 45-minute races on the slowish gravel surface ensured that anyone who wanted to be near the front had to endure some serious pain. In fact, the pain was so intense that riders quickly started popping off the back in each race.
“Oh, that hurt” was a much-repeated line throughout the day.
And speaking of hurt, the spreading of the peloton was a bit of a relief, minimizing road rash. The race registered four bruised riders out of more than 250 participants. And nothing broken. And a whole lot of smiles. The hurt was nice hurt.
The race attracted many of the top racers from Virginia, DC, and Maryland, including Jeremiah Bishop and Jared Nieters, who battled in the pro race until Bishop soloed away on his Canyon mountain bike. His Strava recorded an astonishing 22.3 mph average speed over 16 miles, with zero drafting (but an aero position, see below). Many roadies wish for that average on smooth, flat pavement.
The free beer, provided courtesy of Fair Winds Brewing, stoked the party all day long. It tasted even better than usual out of a custom built keg bike (see picture). Donations in the jar at the beer tent from racers, fans, and the support staff brought in nearly $400 in support of local mountain biking projects including a new pump track at Lake Fairfax Park that is breaking ground in September, according to Rob Lowe, Vice President of the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE).
Based on the success of this event, we expect to see more of this format in the future.
Jan Feuchtner, co-owner of the Bikenetic shop in Falls Church, VA, said: “We couldn’t be happier with how this turned out. It was a perfect mash-up of our love of bikes, beer, good people, and good times. The event matched the personality of the shop and our team. Helen Huley, the shop’s other co-owner chimed in: “Turn that roadie frown upside down and join the dirt crit fun!”
More info: www.bikenetic.com
Based in Northern Virginia, authors Schultz and Bachelet are ’cross and occasional road racers.