Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chicken & Egg

Do we lack choices because we lack interest, or do we lack interest because we lack choices?
I know I’m like a broken record with this, but I’m thinking again about the uniformity of mountain bike racing in Wisconsin. I don’t expect any changes to come from the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series (WEMS), which exists to promote the cross-country marathon format. The Wisconsin Off-Road Series (WORS) offers one Super D and one short track cross-country (STXC) race per year, but otherwise sanctions cross-country races that look very much alike. Super D and STXC are on the program only at the Midwest MTB Championships. That three-day weekend—the less-prestigious remains of the WORS Cup, which, in turn, was less prestigious than the Subaru Cup—is supposed to be the jewel in the WORS crown, but the top pro riders who used to compete here now compete elsewhere. We’re no longer on the map of the big national series. Nonetheless, the inclusion of Super D and STXC make that event unique in Wisconsin.

Well, unique for two more weeks. There's a great-looking weekend of collegiate mountain bike racing planned for Sep. 10-11 at Alpine Valley. It’s too bad the weekend is open only to collegiate racers. The format is almost identical to the Midwest MTB Championships, with cross-country, Super D and STXC on the schedule. And the downhill run will be significantly longer than a typical collegiate downhill, which should be very welcome news for racers and spectators alike.

Super D wouldn’t work at every WORS venue, but think of the series you could have with just Iola, Mt. Morris, Portage, La Crosse and Lake Geneva. That’s half of the calendar. And who says a Super D race has to be only an undercard fight before the main event on a WORS weekend? Have a date at Alpine Valley for everyone, not just for collegiate racers. Come to Washington County and race again at Sunburst, or create a Super D and Freeride event at Little Switzerland. When you don’t need miles of singletrack, there are lots of possibilities.

STXC could be a feature of every WORS weekend. At Nordic Mountain in Mt. Morris, former home of the Subaru Cup, they probably still remember where to set up the course. CamRock and Sheboygan have hosted cyclocross races, so those STXC courses would be easy to define. Even the Brown County Reforestation Camp—normally a challenging place for spectators—can host STXC. It proved that last Saturday night when local organizers ran a short track race on the lighted ski trails. The camp has about 3 miles of those, and the STXC race was a great addition to the Reforestation Ramble weekend … even if it wasn’t technically part of the USA Cycling-sanctioned WORS program. The prospect of bad weather kept me in West Bend until Sunday morning, but friends had a blast and the entry fee was only $10. If the STXC race comes back to the camp in 2017, then it will go on my calendar.

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