Hey, the cyclocross season started!

Just like that, the cyclocross season is underway after a spectacular* kickoff in Rochester this past weekend. It’s remarkable how every year I spend months counting down to cyclocross only to find myself majestically underprepared one week before the first race.

*The race itself is truly spectacular and one of the highest production value events I’ve experienced. I, myself, was a spectacle.

Remember how we went on that awesome Belgium trip way back in February? Yea, I’d like to hop in a wayback machine right about now to ask past-Erin why she declined to inspect equipment after coming home. You know, in the offseason? Or really at any point between February and September. Long story short, I broke some things, some other things needed adaptery things, and I was rolling with with two sets of stock clincher wheels as my options for the weekend. One got set up tubeless with the siqq** Vittoria file treads and the other remained clinchers with whatever tread came with the bike. Basically regardless of conditions I’d be running files. Pray for not-rain!

**Mikey and Carlo of the scrub zone podcast told me this is how young people say something is really good.

Praise be to #Gary for the saint he is, for we showed up in Rochester at 10pm with bikes and parts that were not in their desired arrangement for racing. Leslie called him our magical fairy because while we’re not looking he does so many things. Friday night this included changing bars and chainrings while we were peacefully*** sleeping.

***The house across the street from us was a revolving door of people, one of whom was locked out in the middle of Friday night and spent an hour banging and screaming on the door. He was replaced by a barking dog that stopped for a mere one-hour nap between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

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Bike is DIALED.

The new Rochester course is fantastic. The dust bowl section from last year morphed into “double trouble” this year with the addition of a rooted tree section immediately before. The course is deceptively technical, with a dusty woods section into a sketchy off-camber, some fun weirdly-cambered hill turns, double trouble, and other down/up/sprinty/turny/generally cyclocross things. The race could be aptly renamed “the Rochester Gran Prix of Forced Dismounts” with five to seven dismounts per lap, depending on your skill level. Two run-ups, the log-step, barriers, a set of stairs, and double trouble which counted for zero to two dismounts.

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(pretty sure this is the feature that ate Mike Morse’s wheel)

I was feeling confident about my fitness after diligently preparing for cyclocross season by riding my road bike all year, most recently at GMSR. It’s almost like while I was riding road bikes, all the other racers were practicing for high-speed dirt turns! Jerks. So while they were both pedaling and turning fast, I tried desperately to hold onto groups while turning as if it were my first ever time on a bicycle. I owe a particular apology to Brittlee, whom I ducked ahead of on the double-trouble descent, then promptly crashed on my face in her way. SORRY.

I recovered from that crash by pitting, crashing again, pitting again, crashing once more for good measure, and limping my way back to the start. But not without seeing old Boston friend, and current Rochester resident, Nate!

On the plus side, skills come back with practice, and everything else about the weekend was great. The first race is like an actually-fun class reunion, where you get to see all your old friends. It was our first race back together as a team, the new bikes are amazing, Gary somehow gets more dialed in his setup every year, and we all remembered how much we love this crazy sport of ours. Rochester is a ride-able city with a surprisingly good coffee scene and some cool street art we were fortunate to explore on our morning spin.

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The only real negative is that racing the elite race makes it hard to superfan the elite race. So I didn’t get to see Ellen claim victory in the C1, but best believe I watched the replay. No amount of racing will ever make me less stoked to see good people pull off great results.

If you like tech things: I ran this tire tubeless at 22 and 22.5 psi.

If you like Strava nerd things they are here.

If you like supporting bike racing, go check out these folks who live-streamed the race for all to see!

And if you only care about results, look no further. Day 1 & Day 2.

Nutmeg Games: Fool Me Twice

Before I get started on what happened yesterday, let’s take a step back a year. Last year, for the CT State games, promoter Rick Comshaw posted what I felt was an unfair and inequitable race flyer. The Women’s elite field was offered a percentage of rider registrations as payout for a State Championship race. For the sake of brevity, let’s assume you already understand the reasons that approach unfairly penalizes already smaller minority populations and offers a disincentive to race. I wasn’t alone in my outrage.

There were mixed approaches to the situation last year, with some of the men trying to organize a boycott in solidarity with the women, some people reaching out to the promoter directly, and some reaching out to NEBRA, our local governing body. It had an impact, with the men’s elite field size taking a hit in numbers.

 

Some of our peers in the elite women’s field showed force by showing up and racing hard, to prove something that shouldn’t have to be proven at this point: that women’s racing is compelling, competitive, and deserving. Unfortunately, they left disappointed.

So let’s jump to this year. NEBRA held a line that they wouldn’t permit the CT State Championships to a race with unequal elite men/women payouts. We got a flyer for the Nutmeg Games that appeared equitable. I was skeptical, but part of the thing about being an outspoken loudmouth demanding change, is that you kind of have to back it up with a willingness to support change when it happens. This includes rallying my fellow outspoken peers. Positive changes should be positively reinforced, right?

gchat

On Friday I noticed that not many people were registered for the race, which I was bummed about because I like racing and big fields are fun.

The 5pm start time on a Sunday near Hartford was definitely sub-optimal, but I figured we’d get a few last minute additions. Knowing we had the NEBRA permit-stand going into this race, it hadn’t occurred to me that there would be any outcome other than whoever showed up racing hard and being paid out as per the flyer.

In the car on the way down my inner skeptic started speaking up. The radar was showing rain and I wasn’t so sure anymore that we’d get many day-of registrations. I bet Leslie one fancy-coffee drink that we’d get to the race and Comshaw would cut the prize list. She took the other side, believing that promoters must hold to what’s on the flyer.

We picked up numbers, got pinned, hid out from the rain, made small talk with our fellow racers, and ultimately lined up at the start. By this point it had started raining and the forecast only called for more rain. At the line, the promoter and an official asked us what our preference was for race time. The flyer stated we’d have a 60 minute race, and we stated that we’d all be happy to race 60 minutes, unless the weather conditions became unsafe. We were repeatedly asked if we would be willing to do 20-30 minutes because of the rain. We declined. We were pushed to agree to 45 minutes, which we agreed to only if the weather became too unsafe to continue racing.

After we declined to agree to a shortened race, we were met with a “ha, you know you’re racing for medals only, right? not money!” from the promoter. On the start line. Honestly, I think we were all too stunned to react. There were some groans, some WHAT?!s, and a brief discussion of whether to just walk away. He followed up with, “it’s in the flyer! Minimum of 30 racers!”

Quick, get your magnifying glasses, I think this is what we’re relying upon:

2017 Nutmeg Crit Flyer - FINAL

“Minimum field f is 15”.  Of course, I couldn’t see this until after the race, when I was out of the pouring rain and could inspect the flyer more closely.

Ultimately, I decided to race, and I did so for a couple reasons.

  1. It was a state championship race for the 4/8 racers that were from CT. It wouldn’t be fair to them to walk away and make an already small field smaller. It wouldn’t be fair to any of my peers who wanted to race.
  2. It was 5pm on a Sunday night and I still needed to do a workout, which I was unlikely to do if I left that venue.
  3. I paid $40 US Dollars to participate in this event.
  4. Field size is not a proxy for competiveness
  5. Field size is not a proxy for competiveness
  6. Field size is not a proxy for competiveness

The field was small by numbers, but loaded with talent. We made a good race of it. But that’s not the point here. What the promoter did was disgraceful. It’s a poor representation of the Nutmeg Games, who fund this event. It’s clearly in defiance of an agreement with NEBRA, and NEBRA was quick to reply:

 

More than anything, it put us in an impossible situation. It feels like “fool me twice” for me, believing that there could be a different outcome this year and showing up to be proved wrong. It undermines my trust that there’s actually any governing-body power to stop this kind of inequality. I’m not clear if that’s an acceptable line in a flyer, if it’s binding, or if it’s the version NEBRA approved. I’d argue that even if it is valid, there’s a burden on the promoter to make this known to racers in advance. Promoters have the ability to message all riders through BikeReg, where we all dutifully submitted our $40 to race. I’d argue that it’s disingenuous at best to accept our money fully knowing there was no intention to pay out the prize list. At worst, it’s fraud.

In a show of grand generosity, the promoter did say he’d still pay out the primes he’d planned for the race. There were two primes, each for $10. Yes, you read that right, $10. Leslie won them both. She used her $20 to buy me dinner, actually. Take a second and look back at that flyer for me – see something notable? A minimum of three (3) $100 primes for the men’s elite race.

So where do we go from here? Well, I’m going to write a letter to the Nutmeg State Games directly. I’d love if you would be willing to do the same. Tell them that it’s disheartening to see them supporting a promoter that doesn’t believe in equity, and who thinks changing the rules on the start line is an acceptable way to run a race. Tell them that CT deserves better for their state championship, and that there are other deserving races in the state and other promoters who take an active stand. I’ve already been in touch with NEBRA. And here’s where it gets tricky: men, I’m going to ask you to take a stand. Situations like this can persist indefinitely as long as there are powerful people standing by to allow it. And men, particularly elite men, you are the empowered group. Unfortunately, saying nothing here IS saying something. I know we all want to race, and we want racing to be a relief from an outside world that seems to be raining politics on us full-time. That’s exactly why we need bike racing to remain a safe space for all of us, and a refuge from the injustice everywhere else. Men, we need you to take a stand against races like this, and against Rick Comshaw personally. Men, particularly prominent elite men, refusing to participate sends a message that this matters.

Thank you for hearing me.

Erin

UPDATE: After communications with NEBRA, the Nutmeg State Games are stepping in to reverse Sunday’s decision and pay out both the Women’s elite and Men’s 30+ fields in accordance with the posted flyer. The official statement is here.

I appreciate the quick response from the Nutmeg Games. Personally, I’m going to donate my winnings to NEBRA. They do great work for us here in New England and work tirelessly to improve our racing community. They also provide resources, financial and otherwise, to promoters and racers. It’s my most sincere hope that we will not all be in this position again, that the race in New Britain returns in the future, and that we can all race there and have a good time.

Trans-Sylvania Epic! So epic mannnnnnn

Listen, I KNOW “epic” is so played out as a descriptor. Like, epically played out. The word is practically retired from our lexicon. BUT REALLY, TSE is epic AF. In my mind it was going to be 3-4 hours of mountain biking a day with some hangouts in between and lots of burritos and everything would be ultra rad, no big deal. I was like 25% right. Let me attempt to tell you about it in a number of words that will hopefully not add up to “epic” length.

As background, it’s worth noting that I ended up at this wild event on a one-way TSE hype train driven by conductor Mike Wissell (choo choo!). If you’re unfamiliar with Mike’s um, fondness, for this event, start here.

The race this year was five stages, down from the historical seven. Some of the stages were similar to years past, some stuff was new. That’s what they told me, anyway. It was all new to me. There are probably a hundred people on the old internets that have already described the stages in detail, so here’s the TL;DR version:

  1. Stage 1: “The road stage”. Probably 50% dirt road/paved. Fast.
  2. Stage 2: Tussey! Beautiful exposed riding, ultra fun trails. Many rocks. Wrestling the bicycle for hours!
  3. Stage 3: ENDURO DAY! WILDCAT! HYPE!
  4. Stage 4: RB Winter. Pouring rain. Cyclocross practice! Note: don’t play gas tank chicken in the middle of nowhere.
  5. Stage 5: Get dropped off 20 miles away and ride back to camp. Start with an hour climb. End with a long climb. Wonder if you’re in one of those endless stair paintings as you crack from 20 hours of riding in five days.

I obtained a GoPro to document this adventure, but I’ll go ahead and spoil the surprise. It wasn’t on for my one epic crash of the week. I’m sorry. But I did get this really critical footage of NECX favorite and ultimate ray of sunshine Vicki helping me with a bike wash. I earned a coveted title at TSE – somehow I managed to be the actual muddiest person on course every day. Shocking I’m sure.

Also the time I aggressively rode the wheel of a stranger downhill (because he refused to let me enter the enduro section first). He finally let me pass and then followed me directly into the bushes when the trail turned and I did not. Oops.

Moving on…

On day 1 I hit the first trail section with all the enthusiasm of a person who doesn’t understand stage racing and thought I’d “make up spots” by “pedaling as hard as I could” over “rocks”. Obviously I flatted spectacularly after I smashed my rim into a boulder. Stans shot out of the tire. It was spectacular.. And then I blew a CO2 trying to fix it. So I waited for friends. First Vicki stopped for me. Then Alex. It held enough air to slow-pedal to the rest-stop where the fine Stan’s folks sealed me up and I was on my way. In my mind I lost approximately three hours in this endeavor and all hopes of reasonable performance were gone. In reality it was probably like 15 minutes. And way less than Ian, who exploded his fork and freehub yet somehow finished with a positive attitude.

Day 2 I was all “I’m going to get some time back!”. Which I was TOTALLY DOING when I pinned it on one of the enduro segments, right up until the trail took a sharp turn over some rocks and I promptly ejected into a mud bog. I did have an awesome interaction with Mr. Dirtwire himself up on Tussey Ridge, where he somehow made my inability to negotiate the rattlesnake pit of a trail actually fun. There’s even video of it here.

Enduro day is the crown jewel of the event, if you ask me. I was super stoked to share on-bike footage of the segments, but did you know that on-board cameras do a really crappy job of showing how EPIC the descents are? They do a really crappy job. EPICALLY crappy, amirite?? Note: this blog is actually only possible because Mike and Selene warned me a million times that Wildcat is genuinely hard and not to go full huccone on the way into the rocks. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave enough time before starting the segment and caught someone in the super steep chute before the rock section of death. The result is a weird stop/start video that culminates with a H-I-I-I-I-I-I T-H-O-M-M-M-M-M as I praised my dropper post and momentum for facilitating my survival. Wildcat was the last warmup for the final enduro segment, a long descent over a dagger field of rocks with completely shot arms. All I could think was how much it would hurt to crash, but my arms were too tired to brake. 10/10 would recommend as a mechanism for learning how to descend faster: I actually made up some time on enduro day.

Stages 4 and 5 were cool too. There was pizza at the end of stage 4! And I almost ran out of gas in the middle of actual nowhere. Literal gas. Like, for my car. We passed a half-dozen buggies with Amish kids in hats and I thought I’d have to ask one of them for a gas can. They should really warn us city-folk about how there can’t be a gas station on every corner, because there aren’t even corners in the country. And there are no gas stations in the middle of corn fields.

Every insane climb in the last two stages made me question what series of bad decisions brought me to the race. I was a shattered cracked shell of a human by day 5, saved only by riding with great humans and a copious amount of coke and pb&j at the rest stops. By the way, the rest stops. The humans who volunteered their time to feed shattered bike racers in the pouring rain deserve praise beyond anything I could provide. Now that some time has passed, all those negative feelings about climbing, rocks, and EPICNESS had faded and all that remains is my advance ticket to next year’s hype train.

Damn. I’ve reached “epic” post length and haven’t hit the most important part yet. Rimmey. The best part of the race was staying in this big boy scout cabin with a dozen bunk beds populated by some of the raddest humans I’ve had the luxury of spending time with. I was saved by their knowledge and advice at least once on every stage, and they were the biggest part of what makes this such a great event. It really is a summer camp vibe. We really dropped the ball on not making friendship bracelets. The promoters pour so much into this event too. They make it feel like they’re sharing their favorite trails with you and they really want you to experience the best of what their local trails offer. Their excitement shows through in so many ways.

Lastly, thanks to Thom for capturing all my last-day feels in this muddy wideo. I think. I was cracked. And I don’t like watching myself on video.

That was at least 500 words more than race report need ever be, and yet I haven’t even scratched the surface on this event. Until next time.

TL;DR:

  • TSE is actually epic
  • The people make this race amazing
  • There are a lot of rocks
  • I still don’t know how to ride rocks
  • My heart is full but my legs are empty

 

I owe Colin Reuter two coffees and also have some feelings

…and just like that, Nationals is over. USAC and the Biltmore really did a great job with the event this year – the course was fantastic, we were blessed with rain, Asheville is a rad city, and the elite races had by-far the biggest crowds I’ve seen in American cyclocross. But, as climactic as Nats is, with it comes the bittersweet reality that the season is over. Months of training and racing summed up by one forty-five minute race. Certainly half the point here is to get to the prediction-postmortem wherein I owe resultsboy two coffees, but first let me talk about some feelings.

My race Sunday did not go as I hoped it would. Last year I was blessed with several tailwinds that blew me to my best ever elite finish. This year my race was over within two minutes, after getting hit from behind on the pavement and crashing ultra hard. Note: pavement is much less forgiving than dirt.

Race result aside, it was an incredible weekend. Jeff Kiplinger, founder of Averica, flew down to watch us in action. If you missed his three-part blog this week about the return on Averica’s investment in our team, please go back and read it here. We are so lucky to work with Jeff and Olga at Averica, but the relationship is so much more than that. They have become part of our racing family, they’ve become friends, and we feel so supported by them. Teammate Julie and I were lucky enough to spend all week in Asheville after racing in Tennessee last week. And we owe so much to mechanic and man-of-the-year Gary for driving our bikes to and from NC, fixing everything I broke, and living in a house full of women for a week. My sister Rosie and her boyfriend Taylor loved pitting in Austin so much that they couldn’t wait to come to a second championship event. My sister Laura spent all week with us, hanging out, cooking food, and making this rad-tastic sign. My lady Julie, and teammate-Julie’s husband Drew flew down to support us in the million ways partners do. The cheers from so many NECX’ers and other cx-friends stood out from the crowd at every turn of the course. It was unreal.

So when I hit the pavement, full speed and with a crunch, I did what any reasonable person would do considering the above. I got the F back up. It took a minute, and I couldn’t pedal hard, but the only thing weaker than my pedaling would’ve been bailing on the ability to ride that course, with those people, on that day. And then I cried, because that wasn’t how I wanted the season to end, or the show I wanted to put on for friends and family. But such is the cruelty of sport.

The good news is, other people raced REALLY WELL and totally destroyed our predictions. Airport wifi meant I could watch the replay and see so many friends ride like total bosses. NECX crusher-of-road-dreams-2015 GoFahr stomped to a 6th place finish! Wuuuuuut! KFC defended in her biggest challenge yet. Georgia Freaking Gould said “LOL RACE PREDICTOR” and stomped to 2nd after announcing all the masters women’s races on Thursday. What a dreamboat of a human. Antonneau rode in no-mans-land for 3rd all day, reminding everyone that she is the heir-apparent. And the return of Elle Anderson – proved me super wrong and stomped to 4th and a return-trip to worlds. Race predictor postmortem:

Erin’s Picks

  1. KFC
  2. Antonneau
  3. Amanda Miller
  4. Crystal Anthony
  5. Georgia Gould

Actual Results

  1. KFC
  2. Georgia Gould
  3. Kaitie Antonneau
  4. Elle Anderson
  5. Rachel Lloyd

The men: to be fair I admitted I know a lot less about the men. I know now that I owe Colin two cups of coffee: one because he bet on Travis Livermon in the top 5 and I said he was crazy.

coffee bet

Travis finished 8th, and Zach McDonald finished 19th. Colin and his “data” were right.

I stand behind the ZMD pick because DID YOU SEE THIS VIDEO??

Feeling good about my coffee bet @resultsboy. #ashevillecx16 @runzmd

A post shared by Erin (@efacc) on

And oh yea, Powers defended, as champions do. Logan Owen stood on a podium in his first Elite Nationals, and something unexpected happened to Danny Summerhill. Timmerman had a cleat fall off mid-race. Basically my non-podium predictions were all wrong:

Erin’s picks

  1. Hyde
  2. Powers
  3. Owen
  4. ZMD
  5. Timmerman

Actual Results:

  1. Powers
  2. Hyde
  3. Owen
  4. Page
  5. Kerry Werner

And thus we end the 2015 season.

NATS! Time to place your bets!

My dear friend Colin  executed the perfect efacc troll last night and posted his CX National Championship predictions. I mean, sure, he wrote a whole website designed to predict those things, but BLOGGING about it? Ultimate superfan trollbait. FINE. Note: Colin is way smarter than me and uses things like *math* to make his calls, but I have one distinct advantage here – I’ve actually been on the course.

The course is freaking hard. There’s a lot of elevation change – switchbacks up the hill for prolonged leg-blasting, then steep chutes down to maximize brappage. Oh wait, we retired that word. Well, whatever. There will be some gnar-gnar on the downhills. Slippery off-cambers and rutty sections will likely turn to Spartan race conditions after 2,000 amateurs have had their way with the course all week. Advantage goes to the better technical riders over the purely powerful.

His predictions are here. Start there before reading this firehose of nonsense.

Here’s where I straight up shark the graphic he posted of USAC vs crossresults race predictors:

Now you’ve already read Colin’s post, so I don’t need to spell out for you all the people one predictive system favors over the other or why. Methodology, bias, whatever. Let’s place some bets.

I’d be a total boob to bet against Katie and Kaitie at the front of the race, so I won’t do that. Even though I think there’s a decidedly non-zero chance that this is the year we see a new National Champion. The real question is who else will be at the front? Amanda Miller brought serious roadie power to the CX game this year, but I already ate my words in calling her a roadie when she went top-5 at Valkenburg. Valkenburg looks hilly AF. Oh, and she’s coming off the ultra techy Namur/Zolder winter World Cup combo. I’d be ignoring the facts if I put her out of the top five.

WHO ELSE? A consistent Elle Anderson is a solid bet, but we haven’t seen enough of her racing this year for me to feel confident on that call. Rachel Lloyd hasn’t raced since November, but always makes me regret not putting her at the top. Georgia Gould hasn’t raced much cx, but is a freaking Olympian and total badass. Crossresults is handicapping Crystal based on some “weak” (HIGHLY RELATIVE TERM) European results. Meredith Miller is one of Colin’s picks, and a super fit Meredith would do very well on this course – she did prove she can climb like a boss at Ellison, but struggled a bit in Europe over Christmas too. So there aren’t obvious choices – that’s what makes betting great! And resultsboy didn’t challenge me to a race analysis, this is about predictions. Ta-da

  1. KFC. What kind of jerk would bet against her?
  2. Kaitie. The heir apparent.
  3. Amanda Miller.
  4. Crystal Anthony.
  5. Georgia Gould.

*My biggest disappointment about predicting this race is that I’ll also be racing and won’t get to see how it unfolds until well after the fact.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MEN??

Admittedly, I don’t follow the men as closely as I follow the women. That said, the ascent of Stephen Hyde has made me tune way the F in. We can all agree that it’s going to be a JPow/Hyde friendsmash at the front.

Here’s that comparative predictor graphic I stole from Colin again:

I’d love to bet on Trebon for 3rd, as he’s clearly racing with a lot of feeling and has more watts than I could ever dream of. But with a season of back problems on a course that will be hard on the back… I can’t bring myself to do it. I will, however, bet on Zach McDonald having a good race. Light, technical rider on a climby, technical course? And a guy with something to prove? I’ll take that bet. And Dan Timmerman – why are we counting him so far out, predictors? He wasn’t at Kingsport, so it’s tough to bet on his current fitness. But he’s my favorite, and a total dreamboat so I’m betting on him having a good race.

  1. Hyde
  2. Powers
  3. Owen
  4. ZMD
  5. Timmerman

 

Disclaimer: there is rain in the forecast for Friday. The course will not drain well. If we’re racing in a swamp, all bets are off.

CrossVegas! American World Cup! Yeah!

CrossVegas!

(Disclaimer: I’m going to yap a whole bunch here about the elite women. There are related issues for the men and u23s for sure, but that’s for someone else to blog about)

Hey, it’s mid-September, we’ve had two weekends of domestic UCI races and BOOM – it’s time for a World Cup. And not just any old World Cup, but the first one ever to be held outside Europe! In the shining example of American excess that is Las Vegas – so very exciting! But hey, it wouldn’t be bike racing if this were entirely exciting and zero percent complicated. So far I haven’t seen anyone talking about the potential World Championship team implications of a September World Cup. Let’s think about some things:

There are seventeen American women competing in Vegas. I’m not actually sure which rule change made this possible, but it doesn’t matter. Seventeen! Out of a total 48 racing. If you have trouble counting – that’s a freaking lot of US racers. Most of them are World Cup usuals: Compton, Antonneau, Lloyd, Meredith Miller, Crystal Anthony, Kemmerer, McFadden, and Georgia Gould. Erica Zaveta has last year’s Christmas week races under her belt, as does Libby White. There are also some new faces: Ellen Noble had a monster breakout year domestically last season, but this will be her first World Cup. Amanda Miller has absolutely crushed the first two weeks of UCI racing, but also hasn’t been to a cyclocross World Cup. They’re joined by fellow first-timers Cass Maximenko, Sunny Gilbert, Beth Ann Orton, Jessica Cutler, and Laurel Rathbun.

Notably missing is Elle Anderson. Where is Elle? The internets say she’s riding her bike again after some kind of hiatus. There have been rumors flying, but none with evidence enough to consider printing. But it’s notable that she’s absent; she’s represented the US at the last two World Championships and last year earned an automatic qualification with her top five at Valkenburg.

While there are 48 racers registered, a few key players are missing: Pauline Ferrand Prevot, current World Champ in THREE freaking disciplines, is not on the list. Likely because this first CX World Cup happens before road World Championships, where she’ll be defending the rainbow stripes. Neither is million-time World Champ Marianne Vos. Also missing from the world top 20 are: Nikki Harris (6), Sabrina Stultiens (13), Pavla Havlikova (14), Jolien Verschueren (16), Christine Majerus (19), and Martina Mikulaskova (20).

Further, consider that USA Cycling has not updated the World Championship team selection criteria for 2016. Certainly they could do this after the fact, but as of now they have not. The full criteria are here but I’ll summarize, with bolding for emphasis. Note that these criteria are prioritized. As in, the qualifications higher on the list are higher priority than lower and “win” if there are too many qualifiers.

Criteria:

  1. Top 3 at the prior year’s World Championship
  2. Athletes with a top-five finish in a World Cup
  3. A win at a Bpost Bank Trofee or Superprestige Series Elite Women’s event
  4. The top 3 ranked athletes on the UCI individual rankings
  5. The winner of the 2015 Elite Women’s Pan American Cyclocross Championships
  6. The winner of the 2016 Elite Women’s National Championship
  7. Athletes with a top-ten finish in a World Cup
  8. Highest ranked rider in all the domestic C1 events
  9. Discretionary selections

Ok Erin, cool, thanks for all the rambling. Why does this matter? Well, with at least three expected top-10 riders not competing (PFP, Vos, Nikki Harris), there’s more opportunity than usual for an American besides Katie Compton to grab a top finish. Looking at the criteria above, a top five guarantees a spot on the Worlds team (unless something really bizarre happens- like eight different Americans going top 5 at a World Cup. not likely). A top 10 has historically guaranteed a spot as well.

Let’s also consider that CrossVegas is a dry grass course in the desert. Temperatures are at least a bit lower than last year, with an expected temperature of 80 degrees at race time. Also, it’s mid-September. The World Championships are in early-February. In Belgium. Without getting into a debate about how hard/not hard the course is in Vegas, the kind of rider that will be successful on a hot, dry power course in September, may not be the rider best suited for success on a possibly wet, definitely cold European course in February.

So what happens if an unexpected American scores a top-10 at Vegas? Scramble for the higher-ranking selection criteria? A season of tremendous battles at every C1? A USAC criteria revision? The World expects Katie Compton to go top-five. Nobody will bat an eye if Crystal claims a spot; she’s clearly got good form after Ellison and Nittany, and she’s been to the last two World Championships. But what if a wild card shows strongly? Amanda Miller is flying right now and a course like Vegas would seem to suit her. Cass Maximenko showed well in Vegas last year, proving she races well under those conditions. But neither have raced in Europe before. It will be hard to make the argument after the fact that someone with a World Cup top-ten finish is undeserving of a trip to the World Champs, and why would they be? Those are the criteria and a World Cup top 10 is a big freaking deal. But there’s some room for conversation here, I think. And I guess that’s really my only point.

TL;DR: CrossVegas is a big deal not only because it’s the first World Cup outside Europe. A dry, hot World Cup in mid-September has real potential implications for the World Championship team and the rest of the domestic season.

My face is on a cycling kit

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There are many ways in which I don’t support my alma mater. This is not one of them.

I heard Loyola was putting together a club cycling team and naturally wanted to get involved. To my surprise, they put my actual face (and former internet avatar) on the kit. This is pretty much the coolest thing that’s ever happened.