It's Not Your Race.

Last week at the Kulis crit I saw something I don't particularly like. The people I saw do it are people I like and respect, but it doesn't make it any less wrong. In fact. that sort of behavior can have a seriously negative impact on road racing in the area.
Ever since we started the crit series, we've allowed riders to jump in other races if the field wasn't large. It fills out the pack and gives more people to draft behind. If there are no complaints from the field, it seems to work well. A lot of the time it's in a race higher than they usually compete in, to give them a taste of what the next level is like or a bump in intensity. I've done it, and I made it a point to sit at the back because:
  1. I'm lazy.
  2. I probably don't have the energy/fitness/motivation to do anything anyway.
  3. I don't want my inevitable implosion to gap anyone off the back.
The last one is the most important point. I don't want my actions to affect someone else's race. If I'm not signed up for that particular class, I shouldn't help or hinder anyone in such a manner that influences how things shake out in the end. I'm pack fill until I can't hang on, and then I pull myself. There's no need to clutter up the course. If I just jump in, I can just jump out. However, if I'm signed up for that race, I'll hang in there as long as possible after being dropped because I paid to be there. It's my race.
Jumping up is one thing, but jumping down is another thing altogether. And yes, I've done that too. When you jump down a level, you're likely at a fitness level higher than most (if not all) of the field that actually signed up for the race. I think it was Apache Chief's brother-in-law who said, "with great power there must also come great responsibility." Maybe I misattributed that. Nahh, I think I nailed it.
Anyway, I believe a racer sitting in a lower-level race should make even greater efforts to not affect the outcome of the race. Pulling at the front, dragging back breakaways, contesting sprints to eat up bonus points, riding false tempo in favor of a teammate... all of this pretty much falls into affecting the outcome of the race. If the field isn't strong or organized enough to do something on their own, it shouldn't be done.
I saw what were likely race-winning breaks dragged back in two separate classes by individuals sitting in on a lower-level race. Believe me, the guys who made the initial effort, put their all into it, and then got caught noticed- and they certainly cared.
In my opinion, they got robbed. To paraphrase Donald Trump Jr., they've been had. They've been took. They've been hoodwinked. Bamboozled. Led astray. Run amok.
Sure, these races mean and amount to nothing. They're only for fun. Anyone who places too much importance on them is a fool. Making a race harder will make everyone better racers. There is some reason to this position, but I would say it's a self-centered logic.
These racers paid money to race against semi-matched opponents. They are racing to see who is the best- at that level. When sandbaggers and others muddy up the waters, it can lead to resentment, and resentment can kill a racing program faster than America's obesity epidemic can. It's their race. I don't really care what the motivations are. I've heard that the advanced rider was "just working for a teammate", "just having a little fun", or any number of other excuses. In the end, all that matters is whose race it is. If it isn't yours, don't jump into the mix.
So why even let more-accomplished riders race down a level or two? I can see several advantages. The main one is encouragement. Dropping back to pace a dropped rider (if that rider wants it), providing tactic/technique guidance, or generally mentoring newer races are very appropriate uses of the great power Apache Chief's brother-in-law mentioned. When you have that reserve, you can think clearer and properly interpret events as they transpire. You can discourage dangerous practices so that everyone has a greater chance of going home with all of their skin. You can point out tactical moments in the race to those too gassed to notice them at the time, so that maybe they will recognize the signs in the future. Maybe a kind word mid-race will help someone feel like they're part of the community, and therefore more likely to come back week after week. That's really the goal- getting return customers.
Let them race their own race. You'll get your chance.


  1. Spot on. We run into this behavior sometimes at the Tuesday Night Twilights, our local training crit in Santa Rosa, CA. And it sucks here too!

    1. I don't see it as malicious normally. Usually the perpetrators don't think of it in that way. No matter what the intentions are, it has a negative effect. Sometimes all that's needed is a quiet word to let them see not everyone views their actions the same way. If that doesn't work, public shaming has proven effective in the past...


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