Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Upcoming Season

With the passing of solstice, the days are now getting slowly longer and eventually we will find ourselves at the beginning of yet another racing season. Looking forward to the upcoming season, I begin to piece together my mtb race calendar. Where to begin? Let’s first check out the USA Cycling website shall we? Once onto their site I head straight for the “mountain” tab, scroll down to “Racing Series Calendar”, select “MTB National Calendar” and this is what I get (photo at top right)

Which might be great; however most of these links either don’t work or send you to a list of 2008 rankings. Oh, I will say that the National Ultra Endurance link does work …and I love how they provide the schedule in a convenient wallet size version.

Hmmmm ….ok, let’s check out Cyclingnews. I remember Jeff referencing an article concerning the restructuring of the national mtb race circuit. After some fumbling I find the article and it does a fantastic job of outlining each of the five racing series:

1) US Pro Cross Country Tour
2) Kenda Cup East
3) Kenda Cup West
4) National Ultra Endurance
5) US MTB National Calendar
photo credit: threadless

(let us not forget Michaux and the Mid Atlantic Super Series!)

I’m still undecided as to whether or not this will improve the current state of mountain bike racing in the US. The Kenda Cup helps to level the playing field for those athletes that are unable to chase series points all over the country. This is especially important for the semi-pro and expert fields where most racers are fueling their endeavors with their own funds. Rankings at this level of racing are, more often than not, a reflection of expendable time and money rather than of actual athletic performance. Case in point, I was ranked 5th (or maybe 6th) at the national level in the expert field back in 2006; however, this was by no means an honest appraisal of how strong I was in comparison to the other ladies. A more accurate ranking might have landed me somewhere in the low 20s?

There also seems to be a good amount of overlap, which could have been avoided had there been better communication. I am currently faced with the following scheduling conflicts:

Greenbrier vs Cohutta 100
Windham vs Fools Gold

Ok, so maybe it’s just two conflicts. Not a big deal.

While the NUE series attracts more of a niche racing market, the other four series are essentially the same thing. Will the East and West coast Kenda Cup help to attract more racers or will it only serve to further dilute the current struggling population? Is it better to generalize or specialize in order to attract the much needed numbers? Is the Kenda Cup series a "bottom up" approach to improving the pro racing scene in North America? And to which series will we look for our new rising stars? The Pro Cross Country Tour or the US MTB National Calendar or will they create some sort of ambiguous hybrid? Will the current system encourage more racers to commit to a series they can actually follow, or will this complicated mélange of schedules only cause the further erosion of US mountain biking? This will be a pivotal season …hope to see you all out there!


Travis said...

Not that I'm partial or anything,...but the only thing that matters is how well you do at Michaux!,...and the tour. No schedule conflicts. The Classic Vibe Series would go, Michaux Series, The Stoopid, Shendoah 100, Wilderness 101, and always Le Tour.

Anna said...

So true. Thanks for helping me get my priorities back in order.

mikejoos said...

What will my National rankings be ? What do the articles say? Which race series are the best? Witch races should I go to? So many worries. Cutting your self might relive the stress.

Just kidding. Good luck w/2009

Anna said...

It is that dark, twisted, slightly disturbing sense of humor that makes you so unique ...besides, cutting stopped working for me years ago. Thanks for the well wishes!

Alex Metcalf said...

Best picture, ever.