Outside Assistance.

Last week a picture popped up on my Facebook stream. Dark Lord of the Sith (and all-around nice guy) Bill Fleming had posted a picture of the four lead riders in the Susitna 100, a fat bike race. Three of them were sporting the vile, infected-green colors of the Pipsport/Chain Reaction team, while one of them, hardman Tim Berntson, was adorned in the classy-yet-distinctive kit of Speedway/Broken Tooth. Despite the odds, Tim's superior engine and Fatback fat bike rode away from them all and took the win.

Please feel free to talk amongst yourselves while I bask in my teammate's reflected glory.

To be 100% honest, I can't begin to hold Tim's wheel in any discipline. He's another one of those riders made primarily of lean muscle and lung stem cells.

In the comments under the picture, and (to my knowledge) for the first time ever on the interwebs, a little Facebook controversy sprang up when it was noted that one of the Pipsport/Chain Reaction riders in that group was not actually registered in the race.

Gasp! Conspiracy! Unfair advantage! Skulduggery! Shenanigans! Funny business! Hanky-panky! Roguery! Ad nauseum!

Nah. I don't think so.


Since the vast majority of races up here don't operate under the sanction of a large organization, our rule books are thin affairs. In the case of fat bike and other "extreme" events, the rules are mostly intended to keep people from dying. For the sporting part we usually just have a basic framework loosely based on the given discipline. The rest could be summed up as "try not to be an asshole". It's a relatively small community, and getting blacklisted for being an asshole can severely limit one's recreational cycling opportunities. Instead of spelling out every possible infraction, a general consensus of "dude, that's not cool" is enough to discourage certain behavior. Obviously this isn't a foolproof event management strategy, but so far we've squeaked by on consensus and common sense.

I've been in several events that were influenced by external forces. Mixed fields, unregistered riders, non-participant interference (pedestrians, traffic)... It happens sometimes, and mostly we accept it as par for the course. 

I doubt the rider in question intended on doing anything but riding along for a while, and it likely didn't occur to them that their presence had any impact on the race. Since I wasn't there, I have no idea if it did or didn't. That would be a matter for the people that were involved to bring up to the organizer, and the organizer would have to make that call based on the information they have at the time.

As there haven't been any draconian sanctions imposed, I think the consensus is that nothing malicious was intended. Hopefully the rules will be tightened up a little, but hopefully we'll continue to operate with a flexible sense of what's "right". There's certain things you need to be black and white on (e.g. safety in extreme conditions), and certain things you can let slide with a disapproving look. Shame is a powerful motivator.

Nobody's getting rich organizing or competing in races up here. We do it for fun, and a large part of that fun comes from the personalities and how they interact.

In this little pond, "dude, uncool" is preferred to strict legislation.




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