A season of Fat tire Tuesdays has just wrapped up. I appreciate the efforts put in by the Hardcore and Redbike cycling clubs to provide the Edmonton community with a venue for some low key racing. Staring down the barrel of 12 races alternating between Sunridge and Terwillegar was daunting, but due to rainouts, only 8 ended up going off. I like that the organizers can just pull the plug at any sign of adverse weather or trail conditions, it saves us from having to clean our bikes, crashing, and/or breaking bike parts.
At the beginning of the season, I was nervous, as I usually am for these type of races. A long elite race gives me plenty of time to settle in and eventually arrive to a consistent finishing placing or time. Smaller elite fields and longer sections before the trail narrows mean starts aren't as critical. These short fat tire Tuesdays sometimes barely crack 30 minutes. One major mistake or bad legs could mean getting embarrassed by a sport class rider! Good starts are important, as the lead group can get out of sight within a half lap if you get stuck behind a weaker rider on the singletrack.
I struggled in week one with a slow start that forced me to have to close a MASSIVE gap halfway through lap one, except I couldn't and ended up missing the podium. Week two, things clicked and although I again had to chase midway through lap one to regain the lead riders, I was able to attack on the next lap. In the next 5 races, it almost felt like I had the respect of the rest of the group as I was allowed to go 3rd or 4th wheel even with a small "buffer gap" into the singletrack off the holeshot.
Anyways, with the finale of Tuesday night MTB racing for another summer, the cyclocross bikes have already started coming out, and I'm sure Jeremy Powers DVD's and cyclocross camps are already showing up on credit card statements. Everyone is being told that you must start from the front row just as Tour de France commentators routinely emphasize how important it is to be at the front of the peleton. To avoid crashes, to avoid bottlenecks. I used to love cyclocross as it was the only discipline where I quickly rose through the ranks. Now, I'm a little jaded. What was once a fun celebration of a cycling season has now become THE cycling season.
Cyclocross is big in Edmonton and a midweek race can bring out a couple of guys capable of a top 5 at nationals. We can play "see how long you can hold on to their wheel" with some top caliber riders. There are 15 or so Alberta cups providing plenty of opportunity to upgrade, so anyone who is fast should be in elite. So why are the front rows packed with midpack expert and sport racers 10 MINUTES BEFORE the start? Racers who can't even last a lap of "see how long you can hold on to their wheel". I and other elites like to get a fair shot at "trying to hold the wheel". Or should I use these races to learn how to battle from further back? Not something I really have to worry about in small AB cup elite fields, but if I ever decided to race nationals. Does it even matter? Stybar won World Championships from the forth row.
Cyclocross is all about heckling. Make sure to let the people on the front row know if they are racing outside of the top 8.