Monday, January 28, 2013

"The Italians are coming! Mama! The Italians are coming!"

All of American cyclocross is having its Dave Stohler moment this week. If you don't remember your Breaking Away (and honestly, shame on you if you don't have at least a few viewings of that movie under your belt), Dave was the goofy, Italophile, bike racer in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana who found a moment of acceptance when he learned that the Italian Cinzano team would be participating in a local race. Unfortunately for Dave, he learned how little regard the Italians had for Americans.

As the cyclocross world descends upon Louisville, Kentucky for the 2013 World Championships, we are in a similar twitter as our paragons of the sport, the Belgians, make the first ever trip over to our side of the world to race some 'cross. Unlike Dave, the U.S. has its own distinctive flavor of cyclocross.

In Europe, cyclocross is a spectator sport of the general masses like football, baseball, and basketball are here. Picture your typical, rabid American football fan and you have the general sense of the typical Belgian cyclocross fan. But here in the U.S., cyclocross is a fringe discipline of the fringe sport of cycling. Most of the fans of American cyclocross are cyclocross racers themselves. So our perspective is different.

Key difference #1 - The Holeshot

In the U.S., we constantly refer to the holeshot in 'cross. Simply put, the holeshot is the person who gets from the start line to the critical first turn first. The advantage of the holeshot is that you get out front early and minimize the amount of chaos that you encounter in the critical first lap of the race. Those unlucky souls who find themselves in the back of the field going into the first turn, rarely make it up to the front of the race (or Kop van de Wedstrijd if we want to brush up on our Flemish).

Key difference #2 - Heckling

Heckling is the mix of harassment and encouragement that can only truly come from someone who knows your pain and struggles. There is no equivalent to this torrent of good natured abuse anywhere else in the cyclocross world. Sure the Euro's are used to having beer thrown on them and they are able to exact retribution for this form of pure harassment on occasion, as evidenced by this at 1:01 in:

But how will they handle heckling? We shall see.

Key difference #3 - the dollar bill hand up

Yep. It's exactly what it sounds like. Sometimes you get a dollar bill hand up when you are sucking in the back, or flying off the front, or the ever insidious dollar bill hand up in a very difficult, technical part of the course where you need both hands on the bars and all of your attention focused on the task at hand. But taking the dollar bill hand up is a sign of pure style.

So welcome to American Cyclocross ladies and gentlemen! We're glad you're here, but don't think we worship the traditional way of doing things. We've had decades to bring our own style and flavor to this sport that you invented and we hope to spread that love around the world!

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