Saturday, December 17, 2016

Shoveler’s Blues

It’s a losing proposition. But one you can’t refuse?

Today, finally, is the end of the 2016 cyclocross season in Wisconsin. The USA Cycling Midwest Cyclocross Championships took place in Sun Prairie on a course that literally had to be forced open with snowblowers. Racers competed—or, in some cases, just rode around the course uncontested—in single-digit wind chill. There was supposed to be another race on the same course tomorrow, but the organizers have canceled it in anticipation of wind chill that could reach 30° below zero. The Wisconsin Cycling Association has canceled tonight’s season-end party due to the snow that is expected to continue into the early hours of Sunday morning.

Only 28 racers were preregistered for tomorrow, spread across 8 different groups classified by gender, ability and age. The competition would have been a farce, just as it was in many categories today. How legitimate is a race when you’re the only one in it, or when merely crossing the finish line guarantees a spot on the podium? Those situations occurred in 11 of today’s 20 races. Preregistration for today was fairly robust, but many racers ultimately decided to forfeit their entry fees rather than to brave the elements.

Meanwhile in Antwerp, Belgium, the world’s top professional cyclocross racers enjoyed a dry, 46° Saturday. At this time of year, that’s a normal day there. But in Sun Prairie, the high temperature of an average December 17 is just 30° before you calculate the wind chill. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? I’m torn between respect for the organizers who work very hard to make these races viable, and a desire to see such events fail so that we can return to a schedule whose end date recognizes the harsh reality of Wisconsin weather.

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