Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Sunday's round of the Southern XC was held at a new venue in the Ashdown Forest - Pippingford Estate. Take a peek at the video to get some idea of what the course was like; I thought it was brilliant. It didn't exactly suit my strengths as there was a lot of climbing, but as a true test of mountain biking skill and fitness, it was one of the best courses I've raced on.
One thing that I'm getting kinda despondent about is the whole category thing in XC racing. It's a shambles.
I race as an Expert and we're on the course at the same time as the Elites (who do one lap more than us), the Masters (30-39 year olds, race four laps like me) and the Sport category (do one lap less than us). I think I'm right in saying there were 12 in the Expert category on Sunday, a similar number in Elite and more in Sport and Masters.
The thing is, we're pretty much all going at the same speed. At the last race at Crow Hill, my finishing time for fifth place in the Experts was exactly the same as the guy who came fifth in the Masters category - we covered the exact same distance as each other in exactly the same time, to the second. The only difference between us is that he was maybe two years older than me, say 30. Hardly over the hill eh? So why aren't we RACING each other?
The problem is that having loads of undersubscribed categories means there's no real sense of competition. The range of abilities even in the 12 riders in Expert is huge, and I was 8mins behind the winner at Pippingford (In a race that lasted 1hr40mins). That's a big difference. If they at least made Expert and Masters one category, I'd actually have some people to compete against. How are you meant to motivate yourself to dig really deep when the guy ahead of you has 3mins in hand, and you have 3mins over the guy behind you? How do you improve if the only person you're competing with is yourself?
It's only one man's opinion, but I say make Masters and Expert one race at local level, make it really competitive and everyone will have a better experience, and be much better prepared for national level competition. After all, it's meant to be a race, not a casual ride by yourself.
Posted by Andy Waterman at 11:51 AM