Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cri·turf·i·um

Behold, as of today, September 22nd, the waning rays of summer have slipped into the yore of golden yesterday. Autumn is upon us and that can only mean one thing. Actually two: we're all going to get sick and tired of Shim complaining about why there aren't more Fall mountain bike races on the calendar this year. The other is that Autumn marks the beginning of Cyclocross season.

Now some folks (Shim) deride cyclocross as "lawn racing" events because the race courses are primarily on grass. And some (actually just Shim) refer to it as lawn racing because they (he) hate(s) running so much that it ruins an otherwise good bike race. That, and one other person (Shim *yawn*) likes to goad Mark Savery, who is currently besides himself that the 'lawn racing' season is finally upon us.

But while Shim calls it lawn racing, I prefer the term 'criturfium'. Here's how it's defined:

Cri·turf·i·um
[krahy-teerf-ee-uhm]
- noun, plural -te·ri·a
1. a timed, short-circuit bicycle race conducted over grass, sand, mud and/or snow with obstacles requiring dismounts and shouldering the bike;
2. a closed-circuit bike path burned into the sod of a local city park or unsuspecting private property owner, often by encroachment. See Trespassing.
3. bicycle lawn racing

I prefer calling it a criturfium because the races are similar to a roadie's criteriums, or crits. Like crits, cyclocross races are conducted on a short circuit course less than one mile in length over a set period of time, usually around an hour. The courses are often serpentine with hairpin turns, which increase the risk of collisions with other cyclists. But while the turns and other rides are the biggest risks in crits, cyclocross races also have physical barriers and steep hill climbs that force the rider to shoulder his/her bike over various terrains including grass, sand, mud and occasionally snow.

One might wonder, with all the risks, why has cyclocross become so popular?

I've done some thinking about this and comes to this. Cyclocross is not the fastest growing demographic segment because of the opinion of the competitors. No, you ask any cyclist what they really feel about riding and shouldering their bike for an hour at maximum effort and the honest ones will tell you straight up: it sucks.

So if not the cyclist's that's behind the popularity, then who?

It's the fan who comes to watch the criturfiums who are clamoring for more, more, more. And do you know who makes up this demographic? Friends and family, and they're hungry for action.

You see, humans are naturally wired to be attracted to pain and suffering. This is evidenced from the headlines on the nightly news to the most popular sports on television: football and NASCAR, where gratuitous violence is commonplace. Yes, and right next to their team covering the spread, the people want to see all the carnage go down, up-front and center in HD.

Like NASCAR, Cyclocross races dispense the titillating thrills that the fans seek.

Indeed, 'cross races can be therapeutic. Even cathartic. For instance, does your spouse leave dirty socks on the bedroom floor every day? Encourage him/her to enter the next race. When they do, make sure you get a front row seat by the barriers. It'll be pay dirt. And, the $25 race entrance fee easily beats the shrink's deductible. Win-Win! But the real winners of a cyclocross race aren't the few who climb onto the podium after the race; no, it's the children who squeal with delight when they see Dad's ungraceful attempt at a running mount onto the bike. Uh-oh, groin shot! You tell me those kids aren't enjoying this. Indeed, it's sweet revenge for making them eat eat the tuna noodle casserole for dinner.

Carnage. Cylcocross. The people love it.

So here's to criturfiums, lawn racing or whatever you want to call it.

Can somebody ring a cow bell already?

Let the races begin, bloody American style!

11 comments:

  1. OH NO YOU DID NOT JUST COMPARE 'CROSS TO NASCAR!

    Good one.

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  2. Jon: you leave your dirty socks on the floor, too?

    Jono: I compared it to NASCAR to further provoke MOD as I'm sure he likens cyclcross more to F1 than hillbilly moonshine racing. Whatev. But really, IBIS Hakkalugis aside, most cyclocross sleds are more like NASCAR's roots of slapping together a functional ride -- frankenbikes -- than that of a fine racing machine.

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  3. i would say cx is way safer than that paved racing you call cat 4 road racing in Nebraska.... oh snap

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  4. Rafal: You're absolutely correct about cx being safer than Cat 4 road racing. CX is slower and the crashes are on softer ground. My cx growth theory is that the spectators want the crashes. And aside from Shim, who scrambles for his camera to record the agony forever, most spectators will (only) look with concern to ensure the rider's OK afterward. Like NASCAR, nobody was happy when The Intimidator went down with the #3 car.

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  5. Excellent!

    So assume you'll be at Swanson with us next week?

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  6. I think the Cross and NASCAR reference may be the coolest thing you've ever done, both attract the dredges of their respective societies.

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  8. Cindy Lee is stalking me again!

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  9. Uh, you can bring all the beer you want to a CX race......just like a nascar race.

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  10. Awesome post! That made me laugh several times.

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