In defense of Craig Etheridge and SSCX Nats

Eight years ago I bought a Langster, and forever changed road riding as I knew it.  The pure joy found in mechanical simplicity and savage brutality is hard, if not impossible, to understand if you’ve not been blessed with the experience.  Thousands of miles, over century rides, and mountain passes, and four hour round trip commutes to work – all on what is effectively the wrong bike – change you forever.

The extension of that experience into competitive cycling, for me, seemed natural.  I began entering time trials on that Langster in 2008.  I returned to the world of mountain bike racing – the first time in sixteen years – on a perfectly good 29er that I removed the derailleurs from.  And I was indoctrinated into the world of cyclocross on a one gear commuter bike someone had cast off on Craigslist after a virgin ride.
My heart is in tradition, although truth told I have raced SSCX on a ziptied bike.  My preference is to not have to hassle with immobilizing shifters and taking cables out of the things that move the chain.  I’d rather invest my worry into how I’m going to make it to the top of that runup one more time, rather than fret over whether or not my chain will jump cogs.  As long as there’s adequate inspection before the race starts, I don’t get too worked up over the nuance, although seeing a race rig committed to a single ring and cog makes my heart sing.
It bothers me that Craig Etheridge has an opinion about the National Championship of singlespeed cyclocross that is almost instantaneously vilified.  His contention – that racers are using the SSCX race as a warmup for other championship events – is perfectly valid.  Because that is precisely what some racers are doing.  And it cheapens the race in the process.
Doubling or tripling up your local Saturday classic is one thing.  Nationals need to be held to a different standard.  As long as any race at Nats can be used as a tune-up for another race at Nats, it’s simply not a race that’s worth anyone’s time.  You want everyone in a championship field of one mind – that this is THE race.  All in.  The culmination of an entire season, maybe an entire career of effort and commitment.  This is the big show, the big dance, the big fucking deal.  That’s what makes it special.  If it’s not special, then it’s an expensive waste of time.   
I don’t know why that point of view doesn’t resonate.  Maybe it was lost in some other things that Craig said.  Maybe it’s because factions of the cycling community love to pile on and hammer unpopular opinions.  Will some racers be left out of racing two National Championship events?  Of course they will.  The greater transgression is that those who make SSCX Nats their only race, who pay the same money for the same USA Cycling license, who for one day aspire for the same level of entitlement, participate in a diluted experience.  If the race is worth having, it’s worth having standards.
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3 thoughts on “In defense of Craig Etheridge and SSCX Nats

  1. I appreciate your perspective. It was one I didn't share. I appreciate how you laid it out.
    It certainly is different than mine and gave me some things to think about. I raced exclusively single speed mtb for 5 years. I have done probably 20 some cross races on a single speed, many of those in the killer b class, long before there were single speed races. I think the issue with Craig is that his a poor loser. He is a notorious sandbagger, who chased the killer b race in the USGP's across the country. He rides for a factory team. He is a “PRO” single speeder, and it was frankly sour grapes from my standpoint. Basically, he's was pissed that other faster pro's crashed his race. They weren't real single speeders. It's just a lame argument. I don't like when faster guys beat me either. He likes to win. Good on him. There were no qualifiers. Have a single speed bike. to be honest I felt bad for Craig at first. All of us have had a bad race, or things not go as we want, but few of us have had a microphone stuck in our face right at that awful moment. I was kinda willing to give him a pass, even though based on his spectacular sandbagging career I wasn't a fan of his already. I've seen his act at races and it's not inspiring. His insistence to stand on the point and continue to make the argument made him look like a giant spoiled brat. Worst of all for me was that with some real legit issues coming out of Austin, the focus a week out was on the single speed and a bratty pro. Frankly I hope they make is a non championship race, and just have the class…then when Lindine kicks his ass, no one will really care. Other point that I think hurt Craig is that Lindine, who won, is such a likable, great guy. Had someone who has less of a positive imagine in cycling circles won- say Levi- I think Craig might not have been crushed as badly- although he would have still deserved it. Although I would still think his argument is weak sauce. It's a one gear race. That's the current qualification, a bike with one gear…
    thanks again for the counter points.
    respect
    fatmarc

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  2. OK, I don't see how a larger field cheapens the race.

    So, say there are 60 guys lined up for the start, instead of 40. If those extra 20 are really just warming up and scoping the course, they'll be off the back quickly and out of your way. If they decide to go for it, then they're competition. And in the worst of all scenarios – where one of the guys noodling along warming up beats you – then you're just slow.

    Let's say on a normal day you'll finish mid pack, 20th out of 40. Now you'll finish 30th. So what? You ran the same course, and did the same time. If everyone faster than you would just stay home, you'd podium every race. Where's the fun in that?

    In lots of places, promoters have problems getting enough entries to run a race at all, and have to combine classes just to put enough racers on course. Is that a problem as well? Should that practice be eliminated as well, since it cheapens the race? (And besides, it raises the ugly spectre of being beaten by some 15 year old kid).

    Sorry, I don't understand. To me, more racers just makes for a better race.

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