Cyclocross Magazine introduces a new semi-weekly op-ed column called “The Dirtbag,” an opinionated series by Cyclocross Magazine contributor Brooke Hoyer. Hoyer previously wrote “The Highs and Lows of Bottom Bracket Heights”  for Issue 4, and we’re psyched to have him back. He describes his column as one “focused on equipment choice that is based on value, durability, and effectiveness.” While many of us might drool over the latest 14 pound carbon Di2 and disc brake-equipped cyclocross bike, we simply can’t afford such a dream machine, and Hoyer’s columns just might make us feel better about our current equipment.

The Dirtbag, Entry #3

It’s the quadrennial running of the Summer Olympic games and that gets cyclocross fans thinking about the epic injustice of ’cross’s exclusion from the Games. Rabid fans want ’cross included in the games and have filled Internet forums with impassioned pleas and even started an online petition. In other words, they haven’t done jack except bitch about it. Personally, I can take or leave cyclocross Olympic inclusion, but I do have some helpful hints about how to go about it.

Winter or Summer? Since the ’cross season spans the Fall and Winter, most of the chatter has been about making it a part of the Winter Olympics. It is *much* easier to get a sport added to the Winter Games since the Summer Games is chock full of sports, disciplines, and athletes. The IOC has capped the Summer Games at 28 sports, 300 events, and 10k athletes. There is no such limit for the Winter Games; however, there is that pesky rule that the sport must be contested on snow or ice.

’Cross Olympic inclusion hinges on either convincing the IOC that it belongs in the Winter Games or finding some event from the Summer Games to replace with cyclocross. Changing the long standing requirement of snow or ice is going to be nigh impossible. There was talk about that restriction being lifted around about 2010 in Vancouver, but the IOC continued in their archaic ways. How are you going to pitch an Winter Olympics with a bike race grafted on? Not an easy sell. Cyclocross aficionados are just going to have to deal with the fact that it belongs in the Summer Games and risk a good chance of exceptionally good weather.

The Summer Games already hosts at least several sports that are usually contested in the Winter including basketball and track (cycling). Summer Games inclusion is also bolstered because cycling is already one of the 28 approved sports. The tricky bit is deciding which one of the 300 events to cut out. Trackies are already bristling about the number of their events that have been cut over the last few Games and it would be bad form to cannibalize.

The obvious event to cut is the modern pentathlon. Sure, it was created by the founder of the modern Olympic Games with inspiration from the ancient pentathlon. But really, do any of you know what it is? It’s an event based on the skills a 19th century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines might be required to have. WTF? It consists of sword fighting, shooting, swimming, running, and equestrian show jumping. Honestly, if we could add swords and guns to cyclocross races, the swap would almost be one-to-one.

The two most difficult challenges for inclusion are prevalence (number of nations participating) and governing body lobbying. Taking a look at the start lists for Koksjide, we see that 20 and 17 nations participated in the men’s and women’s races respectively. Cyclocross needs more people like Hakan Yildirim and Genevieve Whitson – racers from outside of northern Europe and the US. Another good sign is how cyclocross is growing in Japan. [See Cyclocross Magazine Issue 17.] Probably the best hope for ’cross would be for China to start racing and push the IOC for inclusion.

Lastly, the UCI would have to request and lobby for ’cross to be including in either the Summer or Winter Games. Sadly, this is currently the least likely requirement to be fulfilled. The UCI knows that if it wants a new event added to the schedule, it is going to have to give up one. While the modern pentathlon (19th century = modern?!) is an easy target for comedy, the reality of Olympic politics is that removing historical events with strong connections to the IOC is challenging. So the first order of business is to convince the UCI that ’cross belongs in the Games more than one of the track events. Seems unlikely. Look at how long it took to convince them that disc brakes were okay for cyclocross racing.

Still want ’cross in the Games? First, convince the UCI to ax a track event (Maybe team sprint? Isn’t there already a pursuit race?). Second, swallow hard and accept that it goes in the Summer Games. Third, build more participation in the rest of the world (China/Asia, South America seem likely candidates). Simple as 1-2-3.