Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crossing Over: A cyclocross national championships post mortem

Some observations from the 2010 Cyclocross National Championships in Bend, Oregon.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 14, 2010 at 11:24 PM

click to enlarge crosslr.jpg
The 2010 National Cyclocross championships again proved that Bend is a superb venue for large-scale self-propelled sports events. A great deal of credit for the event’s success goes to those community members who volunteered and spectators who came out to cheer.

That noted, am I the only person who got a bit tired of the "'cross is truly the world’s greatest sport” sentiments gushed by some in the local press? And the on going flog that 'cross spectators are the quirkiest ever seen at or participating in a sporting event?

As to the former, the “greatness” of a sport is in the eyes of the participants and fans. As to quirkiness, ever been down to San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers run? Now that’s one quirky event.

'Cross is a lot of fun to watch, looks tough for competitors and Bend was lucky to have a great two-year run of the event.

Easily the 'Cross Nationals warranted more press than the Oregonian gave them. A couple of column inches and no photographs in the daily based in the epicenter of the 'cross world? Come on.

Another note on 'cross coverage skimmed over by the press was the fact that Ned Overend took down the men’s 50 to 59 age group title.

Ned Overend? Well, if you’d raced mountain bikes back in sport’s early competitive years (the mid eighties) you’d know Overend. He was the best of the best.

Overend came to mountain racing from road racing and first got attention outside of his Colorado home turf when he crushed the field at the Revenge of The Siskiyous back when it was Oregon’s premier MTB race held over the July Fourth weekend.

The Revenge was one of a handful of major races on the West Coast at that time and Overend’s win was somewhat of a surprise seeing that he didn’t made not much of an impression at the starting line wearing a cammo-colored helmet and riding a, to quote local retired MTB pro Paul Thomasberg “low-end Schwinn,” instead of some fancy handcrafted bike.

Overend’s Revenge win had all the then star racers (mostly from Marin County, CA) grumbling. Who was this outsider? It had to be a freak win didn’t it?

It wasn’t a freak but the first of many big wins and soon the slender, super-fit Overend was a force in mountain bike racing for years to come.

Also a force was his Mountain Bike Specialties retail and catalog company that was among the first to offer a variety of mountain bikes when mountain bikes were hard to come by.

So hail to a mountain bike racing legend. He could probably race with the current crop of pros and not fare too badly.

Finally what's the deal with the cowbells the Nationals?

Using cowbells at sporting events has its roots in alpine ski racing in Switzerland. Looking for a way to make noise as along the race pistes, Swiss fans hit on the idea of using jumbo cowbells (the ones you see adorning dairy cows in Swiss tourism photos) and clanging them at races.

Hard to transport to the slopes, the big bells soon fell out of favor to be replaced by easier to lug around and ring, smaller cowbells.

Once the alpine ski world had become used to cowbells clanging away, their use filtered into the international cross-country ski-racing scene and then into cycling.

The first time I recall the use of cowbells at a big event was by Swiss spectators at the 1988 Calgary Olympics. The din of the bells was deafening at the alpine races and even more so in town at night after a Swiss skier had medaled.


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