September 17, 2008

Fox fork for sale and a rant about racing


First off, I ordered the wrong fork for my neighbor Martin and I’m selling the one that I ordered by mistake:
Fox F120 RLC (26″ wheel!) fork. Brand new, steerer uncut. There are a couple of marks at the top of the crown where my tool slipped (doh) when removing a crown race (the fork was installed on a bike but never ridden). ISO disc tab and (removable) v-brake mounts. $450 takes it, shipping included. Picture above. Feel free to ask questions.

Second, some of you may have heard about this. In essence, USAC is moving from a “beginner/sport/expert/semipro/pro” setup to “Cat3, Cat2, Cat1, Pro”. They’ve changed the names of the amateur categories and eliminated semipro. All in all, not that big of a deal. But the *reasons* they cite are hilarious. Let’s go point by point:

“The new categories, which closely resemble those used in other disciplines of competitive cycling, have been created to offer USA Cycling mountain bike members a more competitive racing environment.”
Translation: “Nobody races mountain bikes anymore, so we’re combining some categories to keep the field sizes up.”

“The terms ‘Beginner’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Expert’ carry little relevance outside of the mountain bike community, which makes it difficult for sponsors and the public to relate.”
Translation:“For some reason nobody wants to watch a group of really skinny people dressed in brightly colored garments ride uphill (as well as, approximately 10% of the time, downhill, albeit not much faster) for 2 hours at 4.5 mph. We’re confident that these new category names will get us an invite to the X games!”

“Our pro fields are tiny compared to our European counterparts. We have the numbers in terms of ridership, but we’ve been referring to them as Semi-Pros.”
Translation:“US mountain bikers suck. Really, we need better dope, but in lieu of that, we’re hoping throwing a bunch of fresh-faced semipros to the sharks will somehow make our molasses-slow top pros go faster. They’ll, like, spend more energy lapping people, and stuff like that. Or something. Pass that bourbon over here.”

“Semi-Pro members will be offered an automatic upgrade to Pro throughout the 2009 licensing period”
Translation:“Dude, we can charge all those sucker semipros $160 for a UCI license. Erm, I mean, help develop them as professional riders within a proper competitive environment.”

Now, in all seriousness, what the heck are they thinking down in Colorado Springs? Is anyone out there under the impression that the existing pros and semipros are going to become magically faster by combining the categories? I mean, most of the pro and semipro riders I know (with, um, yours truly as a bit of an exception) train pretty hard already. You’ve gotta develop new talent from the ground up, and *participation* is what can make racing popular (and maybe even lucrative).

So here are my suggestions for USAC.
-Keep the existing category names. Mountain bikers don’t *want* to feel like roadies, mostly.
-Throw out semipro if you want, but offer a cheaper NON-UCI pro license for domestic pros who aren’t serious enough to go to a World Cup or need to be drug tested (ie, the folks who will show up for local races, but never a UCI-level event).
-Make junior and collegiate licenses free. Encourage promoters to make entry fees free for juniors as well.
-Offer beginner licenses free for the first year to encourage people to try mountain biking.

Here’s the bottom line: Cycling needs to learn a lesson from triathalon (you have no idea how hard it was for me to type that): ours is a participation sport, not a spectator sport. Nobody in their right mind will stand around at the start/finish of some godforsaken trail loop to wait to see their favorite racers once every 45 minutes, no matter how much the category naming system has changed. On the other hand, cycling is great exercise, very social, and (relatively) inexpensive to do. If you want to offer big prize money and see Americans on top of World Cup podiums, make sure a *lot* of kids and their parents get psyched about bike racing.