It is the one year anniversary of this blog. Yes, that's right, it has been a little more than a year now that I have been going on and on about, well, not much at all in general. How time flies. As part of the anniversary celebration I thinks it time to stir some sh!t up, if you will, and look into some of the crap that I get to hear about when I get home from work. That as opposed to crap I get to clean up when I get home from work. Speaking of stirring and cleaning up sh!t, I'll have to give you my hot setup tip for cat litter at some point. My own secret blend of herbs and spices that totally neutralizes the kitten poops.
Why is it that the topic of entitlement just won't seem to go away? Last year I wrote a piece on it from my perspective as a club racer and team captain who was trying to balance and rationalize the demands and expectations of those affiliated with the clubs race teams as well as amateur racing in general. This year it seems that the target of those entitled are the unfortunate individuals that find themselves higher in the race standings, referred to as the sandbaggers in order to retain outward consistency, than those entitled masses. These masses are the ones that expect or more, demand to finish higher up in the standings than they currently are because, you know, they deserve and are entitled to it, and so they themselves can upgrade into further mediocrity if not into just plain absurdity.
I must admit that I have not been part of this whole thing first hand. That is not to say that I have not been privy to accounts and recounts of both sides. At first glance I would agree that the same people seem to be winning certain low level amateur races week in and week out, by a large margin. The races in question tend to be non-elite races at the big UCI series events. These people also tend to be a combination of mostly Junior racers (under 18 years old) and Masters racers (over 35 years old). On the surface it would be easy to quickly dismiss them as sandyboogers and demand their immediate category upgrade to push them out of the amateur races and into the elite races, even though none of them are professional cyclists who get paid to race their bikes. Clean, easy and unfortunately, shortsighted.
If anyone looks at the rules they will notice a couple of things. First, junior racers can not participate in the UCI elite races that we have in this region. That means for those Juniors that upgrade beyond a category allowed in an amateur race, they could no longer race any of the larger local series events, period. Next, for the Masters racers, they can indeed race in the UCI elite races with the purchase of a UCI license. However, if they score any UCI points at all they would be barred from competing in the Masters World Championships. So after spending all the dough on a license you'd basically have to DNF every race you enter or run the risk of miscalculating your finish and gaining unwanted UCI points. This is reflected in a piece here. But hey, at least they'd be out of your way, right?
A big problem is that sandbagger is a very relative term that means many different things to different people. There are also many external factors that people fail to take into consideration when passing judgment. Of course there are legitimate sandbagger out there, those who just enjoy doing well and refuse to progress in category to the point of mediocrity. Actually, one can easily say that those people are realists and understand both their limitation as well as the true fact that greater motivation is derived by positive results than by negative results, at least by most.
I personally feel that in the beginner category, which is Cat4 for cyclocross, people should indeed be pushed through and out as soon as they are competent to safely compete. As such, Cat4 should have no incentives or rewards given for placings, nothing to entice people to stay there. Cat4 is supposed to be the place where those coming into the sport get to experience the fun and positive aspects and where the hook is set, so to speak. It's not supposed to be a destination. At present, this is not the case. We have career Cat4 racers. Judging from the field sizes, we have a lot of them.
I think that in order for the sport to progress, we need to discourage that from happening. Because the sport is so top heavy yet thin in the mid section for a certain gender based segment, there is not sufficient volume to warrant a separate Cat3 field. At the UCI races it is unfair to require the Cat3 racers to purchase a UCI license and race with the professionals and as such, you end up with a combined field. If you want a separate race, grow the Cat3 field. This may not give you a separate time slot but it could possibly result in a staggered start, separately scored event.
The bottom line however, is that there is a point at which upgrade no longer makes sense. Many of us wrestled with this in mountain bike racing recently, when the categories and rules were changed/consolidated and we were told in no uncertain terms that we could not upgrade further regardless of the local results we'd gotten, which in the past would have qualified for an upgrade. Pro means pro as in you get paid to do it as a job. It is not an ability based classification. In the real world what that means is that no matter how good at writing blog posts or how much content you churn out, you are not a professional writer unless someone values your work enough to pay you for it. As such, I may be a professional software engineer but I'm still just an amateur cyclist.
I think it is truly unfortunate that so many seem to feel entitled to results beyond those they are naturally able to achieve. What happened to hard work and time in the trenches? What leads people to believe that if they are unable to win the races that they are in, that they will somehow do better in the higher level races. Why is it that people are satisfied scoping the classification that they are part of sufficiently that they too attain the results they are looking for? I like to compare myself against everyone, not just the SSCX 44 year old bald/overweight men from Bedford. On the up side, I'm totally dominating that category!
StFUaR, harder in fact, as the case may be!