Friday, October 26, 2012

The Rules

Every year, there is grumbling from racers about other racers in the field. Typically, the grumbling is about people who are doing well in the field, and the fact that those people should upgrade or move to a different race (typically, the Elite race). Often, the people doing the grumbling aren't aware of the RULES associated, and every year, I find myself having to explain what the rules are...

So, the first rule is that the Junior racers (those racing in the 15-18 men's category, or Women's 3/4 category) CANNOT race in a UCI Elite field until they have reached a racing age of 19 for men, and 17/18 for women (see UCI rule 1.1.036 and 1.1.037 in the general rules and 5.1.001 in the Cyclocross rules).

And from USA Cycling and UCI rule 5.1.001:
Eligibility for Masters World Championships
The UCI is very strict on who can ride the Masters World Championships. Unfortunately, the rules differ slightly by discipline. Below you will find what the eligibility requirements are for each discipline. Note that in general, you are eligible if you are 30 and over and do not lose your master’s status via one of the specific rules. 
Masters Cyclocross World Championships
You can ride the Master World Cyclocross Championships if your racing age is 30 or above unless you: 

  • Have been on a UCI team of any type (any discipline) in the current season* 
  • Have competed in the Elite World Championships, Continental Championships, or World Cups in any discipline in the current season. 
  • Are ranked in the UCI CX classification published after the National Championships in Europe.
* Note that the season is not the same as the calendar year. The 2011 CX season begins September 1st, 2010 and ends in mid February 2011 at the World Championships.
This means that any of the Master's Women, racing in the 3/4 category, also cannot race Elite at any UCI events if they plan on racing at the Master's World Championships.

[Edit: the women CAN race Elite, but must ensure that they do not accumulate any UCI points by either A) not racing to their full potential; B) waiting until all of the points places have crossed the line before finishing (a la Marilyn Rusekas); or C) DNF'ing the race.]

What does this mean in New England? At any of our Verge/Shimano series races, the juniors and masters have to race in a category that is available to them - typically for the men, the Junior 15-18 race, and for the women (both juniors AND masters), the Women's 3/4 race. However, in the smaller, non-UCI races, you will find many of these junior men/women and master's women racing in the Elite fields because they don't have to worry about their age, or accumulating UCI points.

My philosophy? I have a lot to learn from the racers in my field who are stronger than me - juniors, masters and everyone else. And, if I want to place higher, I need to work harder. We might not like the rules, but knowing what they are helps to put everything in perspective. And really? This is just riding bikes :)

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Some people have noticed that my kit has changed :). I was asked about joining Kathy's Blue Steel Cyclery team a little while ago, and after much discussion and a lot of thought, I decided that the timing was right for me to make a change. I have been racing against Kathy and Karen T. since I started racing 'cross oh so many moons ago, and know that I still have a lot to learn. Who better to have as teachers than a multi-time World Champion CX racer, and someone who has won her fair share of CX races?

So, the past two weekends, I have registered and raced for Blue Steel Cyclery, and I will continue to race for them for the remainder of the season. I'm really excited about the change, and what I can learn. Oh - and after the muddy racing in ME last weekend, I am even excited about the fact that my new kit is black :). Some of you have commented that it will take awhile to get used to me in the new kit - well, me too! Just look for the crazy knee socks - I promise that won't change :)

I guess I should also comment on the racing that has been going on. Here's the short version of the past two weeks.

Mansfield Hollow - SSCX - We'd never done the long-standing Mansfield race, so decided to make the trek down. We weren't disappointed, and as I said to Ron M (the promoter), our first visit there definitely won't be our last! 

On previewing the course, I absolutely loved it. There were 5 dismounts per lap (depending on how good your technical skills were - some of the guys likely only had two), with two sets of barriers, sand, a run-up and a diagonal uphill crossing of a telephone pole. Oh - and there was a chicken running around the course :). 

My race was reasonably uneventful, save for one lap where I miscalculated my speed heading into a turn/uphill/rock/root and hit the rock/root head on. Stayed upright, but it cost me at least a few seconds. I still managed a second place finish, but the best part of the race was that we had a new convert in the women's field! Allison S had raced in the Women's 3/4 race earlier in the day, and then jumped into her first SSCX race. Talking to her afterwards, I knew it wouldn't be her last race on the SS.

Photo: Nick Czerula
MRC SSCX - I was excited about this race despite the rainy, wet, slippery, muddy conditions - I like this course, I managed to convince Allison to give the SSCX another try, and there were EIGHT women lined up to race (including one woman who bought my Kona just that morning!). The best part of the race for me came in the form of racing against a very good friend. 

I could see Teri and a B2C2 rider in front of me for a long time, and I SLOWLY was making progress closing the gap. As I was nearing the end of the third lap, I could see the race leaders (Curtis and Mike) coming up behind me. I COULD. NOT. GET. LAPPED. So, I dug harder and managed to get across the line before the leaders, but barely. 

Heading back up the straight, I managed to catch and pass the B2C2 rider. That left just Teri ahead of me. At one point, she called out, "C'mon, Cathy!" - I was TRYING! I didn't actually get by her until the back straightaway, after the sand "pit". When I passed, I called out "Don't you give up now!", and the race was on. I knew that Teri was there as we crossed the logs, went through the tough uphill turns by the parking lot, and then into the barriers. As we were about to make the final turn into the finish I called out, "Are you ready?", and then I hit the fence. Not hard enough to put me down (thankfully), but hard enough to get my foot unclipped and to let out a yell. Keeping the bike upright, and not having Teri plow into me was a good thing! And we really sprinted it out for the finish - racing at its finest. What I hadn't realized was that we were racing for the final podium spot of the day!

Downeast - Day 1 - What's not to love about racing in mud and cow poop? The race at Pineland Farms has long been a favorite, and John G and his crew did a FANTASTIC job with the course this year. I loved every minute of it, as painful as it was! 

Early in the race (despite a bad start), I managed to get around some mayhem and bad handling skills, but still sat somewhere in no man's land. Mike yelled at me at one point to "Go!", and I managed to put a gap into the riders who were right behind me. I was never passed by any riders, and rode solo for much of the race, so didn't know where I had placed when I was finished. It wasn't until after Mike's stellar race (he won another one!) that I found out I had finished in 6th place, just missing the 35+ podium (and what would have been a Blue Steel sweep). That was one of my best Verge finishes ever, reminiscent of Green Mountain. And it had been so much fun!

Downeast - Day 2 - My mother always told me that if I didn't have anything good to say, I shouldn't say anything at all. So, there you have it :).

Off for more racing this weekend. Definitely will be doing the SSCX race at Orchard Cross on Sunday, and still debating what to do about Saturday's race at Canton.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Every year it seems that the 'cross season comes fast and furious. This year is no exception, with the first CX race in August, and already four double weekends in the books. It's no wonder, then, that I was tired after Gloucester, and in need of a break.

Don't worry - Tide will get the tough stains out!
Photo: Nick Czerula
Yes, Gloucester happened. I went and played in the mud both days, and had a great time. The most fun I had, though, was watching Mike's absolutely STELLAR races both days. I am so proud of him. He put in a lot of really hard work this year, and seeing it payoff literally left me in tears. He's been pretty humble about his performance, but I'm happy to tell you all just how great he really is :).

Yes, those are tears!
Men's 45+ Podium (Day 1)
Men's 45+ Podium (Day 2)

So, after Gloucester, I decided that I was going to take a break. A real rest week. Yes, my former coaches Sara B. and Aidan would be COMPLETELY shocked by this! I have long joked that the word "rest" is not in the Rowell vocabulary. But, it was time. The season is long, and the body and mind wanted to slow things down a little bit.

Don't get me wrong - resting didn't come easy. On Tuesday, I was seriously watching the weather and debating going out to the Night Weasels race on Wednesday. I hadn't raced there since the first year... I looked at the weather. I looked at the pre-reg lists. And then, I somehow managed to convince myself that I wasn't going. Amazing. Instead, I rode the rollers for a scant 30 minutes watching others race there on the live web stream (well, at least until the stream went black :)).

The next battle came with the Providence races. I had decided I wasn't going to race on the weekend - still resting, and that course is in my head after having avulsively fractured my ankle there in 2009. But still I looked at the weather. I saw that my friends and teammates were racing. I hmm'd and I haw'd. Ultimately I decided against racing again. Anyone who knows me, however, will know that this wasn't something that was easy for me - I am a cyclist - I ride and I race. To decide NOT to do that went against what I knew. I'm considering it learning at an old age :)

Photo: TGP
I still made the trek down to Providence to support Mike in his racing, and to cheer on my friends and teammates. Of course, with the nicer weather, the lederhosen came out as well :). I started this tradition about 5 years ago at Gloucester. My heritage is German, and I grew up in a very German region of southwestern Ontario (Kitchener was called Berlin prior to WWII - the name was changed afterwards for obvious reasons). In fact, Kitchener-Waterloo boasts the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany, and I have been more times than I can count. It seemed to me that with beer tents and bike racing, lederhosen made sense. Unfortunately, my trend hasn't caught on :).

I stood on the sidelines as the women's 3/4 field staged in the starting grid, and heard a chorus of "Why aren't you racing?" and "What are you doing over there?". The funniest moment though came when Sara B. (my former coach) asked why I wasn't racing and I told her that I was taking a break and resting. I thought she might fall over from the shock :). It was great fun, however, to cheer on my friends, fellow competitors and teammates as they made their way around Stage Fort Park.

Day 1 Finish
Photo: Duane K.
Then it was time for Mike's race. I headed to the starting grid with a clear path to the pit as soon as the whistle blew. From the pit, my view of the race was pretty limited, but early I could see that he was racing smart, and doing well. As the 45 minute mark of racing approached, we heard that there was STILL one lap to go! This was a LONG race, and the temperature was pretty high. Mike doesn't always do so well in the heat, so I hoped he could hang onto the lead he now had. My worry was unfounded, however - he held his lead to the line, and this time, I managed to be there for the finish. Another great race for him that would be followed by a second day of stellar racing on Sunday. He has now had two weekends in a row of great performances, at arguably, the biggest races on the New England calendar.

Amazingly, I was wiped out after a weekend of not racing! Standing on my feet all day both days, running around the course, and the long days outside were not quite as restful as I had anticipated ;). This week was a return to some good training (though I somehow thought I would feel a bit better after being so rested :)), and now it's all 'cross, all the time for the remainder of the season!

I hope that the rest week paid off. We'll see what this weekend brings.