Note: I wanted to write the post before the race but I was just too busy working four of the six days before the race. I’m writing this after the race and will write part 2 later in the week.
The stars align in September in Las Vegas to create what has been described as the hardest cyclocross race on US soil outside of the National Championships. First, I’ll describe why this race is so important.
Timing: The UCI (International level) calendar officially runs September through February, but the US calendar has traditionally been September through December. Since the season is shorter here, there has always been more emphasis on the early part of the year.
Ranking: UCI races are ranked based on four simple categories. At the top there is the World Championship, and then the nine races of the World Cup. Following that, there are Category 1 (higher) and Category 2 (lower) races. CrossVegas is the second C1 event on the world calendar, and the first in North America.
Points: Start order is important in cyclocross, and at international events riders are staged in order of UCI points. This early in the season, last year’s points are used but as of October 1, this year’s points are used. This increases the importance of early season races for riders looking to have a good start to the new season.
Interbike: CrossVegas coincides with the largest North American trade show for the cycling industry, Interbike. The show isn’t open to the public (although I’m going tomorrow for my first time), but is instead a gathering for industry insiders. In particular the show is for manufacturers to show their 2013 lineups to retailers and media. In fact, the show has gotten so big that some companies no longer attend since they believe it is too crazy to actually get anything done anymore.
Spectators: The race is held on the opening night of the trade show and there are shuttle buses from the show to the venue a few miles away. The course is lined with 10,000 bike crazy industry insiders on vacation (usually on their boss’ dime).
Last year I raced the UCI Elite race and finished 42nd place. I’ll admit the result isn’t too impressive, but I feel like if I can finish on the lead lap (I did), then I deserve to be there, as I’m at least not getting in anyone’s way.
However, the Elite race was getting a little too big for its own good. The field was 120 riders, which leaves the riders at the back with almost no hope of overcoming the traffic in front of them. Also, the race filled up quickly, so the promoter was forced to leave high profile latecomers out of the race.
It was announced earlier this summer that only racers with UCI ranking would be allowed to race. This would keep the ‘riff raff’ out of the race, and allow for a deeper field of international level elite racers. It was also announced that if the race did not fill with only UCI ranked racers, that some unranked riders would be ‘upgraded’ from the USA Cycling amateur Category 1/2/3 race.
I contacted CrossVegas immediately. I figured it would obvious that I should be one of the first riders for them to consider upgrading. Here in Colorado, there are only 4 UCI ranked races per year, and they are very high profile races. UCI points are only give to the top 10 racers in a C2 race (2/year in CO), and 15 deep in C1 races (2/year in CO). There are only a couple other UCI races that are even within a 12 hour drive of where I live, making it very difficult to get UCI points compared to other parts of the country. The Northeast, in particular, has UCI races almost every weekend, and some are ‘split weekends’ with races on the same day within a few hundred miles of each other.
Unfortunately, I believe by contacting CrossVegas so early, my eagerness was misinterpreted as entitlement. I fully realized that I do not possess UCI points, and did not qualify for the race. My intention was to understand the procedure for upgrading as well as possible before I committed my limited resources to making the trip to the race. In the end I ended up buying plane tickets before I was confirmed for the UCI race, since prices were rising quickly as the date approached.
I wasn’t upgraded and even received a snarky response from the promoter via a private ‘direct message’ on Twitter:
All upgrades issued. Good luck with your sandbag, may not be as easy as you think or you’d have UCI points already….
I shrugged off the snub. I figured they had found most of their 80 guys with UCI points, and filled in the rest with racers more deserving than I.
When the Elite start list was first published only two days before the race I was very surprised to see local guys that I regularly finish ahead of that had been invited to the race. I was frustrated enough that I called the promoter of the race personally. I had a shred of hope that I’d be added to the Elite list, but mostly wanted to see where he was coming from.
I’ll admit that I bothered him the day before the race, which was probably a busy day for him, but I didn’t expect to be berated for a few minutes before being hung up on. He basically said that I wasn’t qualified (no UCI points), and that I was pushing his hot button by being so entitled. He angrily offered to refund my entry, “Look, just don’t come and I’ll give you your money back”, but I told him that I just wanted to speak my mind and that I’d see him tomorrow.
I was more angry than before, but I was even more certain that I would go to Vegas to prove to him that he had misjudged the situation, and to prove to myself that I was capable of a good result.
Obviously my twitter feed gives away the end of the story, but you’ll have to wait for the details in my next post, Part 2.