Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The changing race calendar

Bike races are awesome! The people that go are always great, and they are different between road, mountain, cycle cross, and I am guessing track, but I have never really been to a track race. Some say that the mountain bikers are the nicest people, but I rarely have met a mean road cyclist. I think that you find very serious racers, all the way to more recreational racers at every race.

Last year my bike team hosted it's first bike race, and for 99% of the members on the team it was all of our first race. Mark French was in charge of it and he put it all together in less that a month. I never thought it would be possible, but when you really want something and you have a government that is willing, things go very easy. It also helped that our race was not on roads. It was a cycle cross race, this is a race contested mostly on grass, some sand, hills, and over other obstacles that may require riders to dismount their bikes, run and re-mount. The race was hosted in a great park in Columbia, IL called Veldrijden Columbia. It was a great day and we had a good enough turn out to turn a small profit that we donated to Helmets First. An organization that gives helmets to kids for free or at a discounted rate. The hype around the race was great, people were really happy with the event and if we had been able to put it into a better weekend we would have most likely sold out our heats. This coming Fall, we have been able to secure a very good weekend and are looking for an even bigger turn out, and even more success for the race.

This year we are also very excited to be able to host the famous Lost Valley Luau. This race is famous for it's amazing course, first race of the season status, and the fact that it gets rained out all the time, and has rarely been run. Hopefully with my luck though it w ill go off on a perfect 65 degree and sunny day. I have only been able to experience this course one time and if I was able to mountain bike more I would be there at least once a week. It is a perfect trail, almost World Cup good even, too long though. It is an 11.5 mile long loop with great technical areas and all out fire road sections. This gives every type of racer a chance to put the hurt on the other type. Although I think if you are a decent all power rider, with a lot of handling ability and great flow, this is the race for you. Lost Valley has a great promoter that is running it with Matt James at the helm. Matt is a master mechanic, super personal trainer, mtn bike/cx shredding, all around mellow dude, who knows his shit about putting on a mtn bike race. So if you are looking for some good off road fun, with a get back to the roots feeling, this is the race you cannot miss this March.

The toughest race we might be putting on this year is a cirtirium in August. We were able to get a great weekend, in my opinion, the week before the MO state crit race. With not a lot of crits on the schedule for this time of the year, and crits disappearing  from the calendar all year, this is an all around good thing. Some of the greatest races in the St Louis area have been canceled this year and it wears heavy on my heart. These were great races that were canceled not because of a lot of motivation, but because of a general lack of local governments to support these sports.

Many of our races have been happening in fairly affluent areas and these types of people are the squeaky wheel. They make your ears bleed with why you shouldn't do something, and unfortunately those on the opposite side either don't say anything, or don't say enough to outweigh the negative.

Luckily our local government found us. Maplewood had hosted a race in the past, from what I understand, and they had always wanted it to continue. I have no idea why it didn't but we were lucky to have this race fall into our lap. God works in strange ways hu? We have been given many options on roads that we are able to use for the weekend, and we are currently looking for an exciting, challenging, fast, and spectator friendly race that will keep people coming back for more, for years to come.

Unfortunately road bikes seem to bring out the worst in people. Once you are on a bike you no longer are a human to many people. And a bike in the road is not a person getting their workout in, traveling to work, or riding to the market to buy dinner, they are a road block that shouldn't be there. I think that many people in government feel the same way and it shows in their willingness to approve of new, or even long established races on roads or even parks that are lightly used by people and or vehicles. It really feels a lot like a prejudice and it is really hard to take and or understand. It is in no way as bad as other discriminations that have happened throughout the thousands of years, but it still hurts.

I guess the only way to really start to find a spot for cycling is to make our own place......but what does that mean. Right now I don't know and I am not in a place to make anything I have on my mind happen. But maybe someday. (My wife hates when I say that) I may be young and in many ways naive to many parts of cycling culture and governance, but sometimes coming in and looking at things from a new angle can mean new innovations, and evolutions in an area. One thing St Louis needs is a veledrome, and I don't even race on the track, but it seams that any hub of great cycling has a great veledrome. Our current track is outdoors and sadly in need of a lot of repair. Put a 250 meter smooth wood track inside one of the million vacant buildings and you would have a new cycling hub in the STL, and a rallying point for all STL area racers. Maybe the Chicago Velo Campus is something we should be looking at?
Lost Valley Luau is part of the Unitedindirt.com series under USAC

Built outside by mostly volunteers. This could fit in a warehouse easy.

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