RACE ETIQUETTE: Allowing the Pass

this is a post I wish I had the creative energy to expand upon
sadly... I think I expended all my blog energy on images

leaving me without the energy to put my ideas into words

yet... I will try to spit something out
I will spit something out without a google to the NORBA RULES OF PASSING
or even a race promoter or maybe a racer's explaination of how things should be done

RACE ETIQUETTE: Allowing the Pass... allowing the pass on race day

passing and being passed are skills that we as mountain biker racers must attain
there are some known rules
their are written rules
there are some unwritten rules
some of the rules are to protect the trails while other rules are to keep the riders safe
I am not sure if I know the written rules but in my years of riding and racing bicycles I have come to have a slight understanding of the unwritten rules
I have come to have an understanding of the etiquette

last month was Potomac Velo Club's summer training series Wednesday At Wakefield
this four race series is an exercise in passing
the trails at Wakefield are tight and twisting
the tempo is high... everyone is riding at their personal threshhold
the course is built for speed

there are some open sections but who wants to move at a slower racer's pace until the double track creek trail to pass
for the most part racers are cranking at full throttle in the woods
the race is spent chasing the wheel in front of you
trying to catch the wheel in front of you
trying to get past that set of wheels and get onto the next set of wheels
which means the passing often happens in the woods at full throttle in between the twisting and turning in between the tight trees

Wednesday at Wakefield is also about getting together with friends
in an effort to remain friends... we try not to be dickhead to others when passing
it is a balance... trying to respect each person's right to race... trying to have your own right to race
with hearts racing and adrenalin passing we try to maintain a certain level of respect for the other racers

fast racers catch the slower racers
this is a fact of the multi-lap race
there is a staggered start on a multi-lap course which will have an overlap with the different classes
Wakefield is an extreme example of this... are veteran racers on the course at the same time as Trips for Kids teens on the trails for their first time

Wednesday at Wakefield offers a chance for people to hone their skills on the fast/aggressive/polite and safe passes

making the
fast/aggressive/polite and safe passes and allowing the fast/aggressive/polite and safe passes
not every pass goes as planned some encounters are less than perfect
sometimes we need to be scaled on our intentions as well as actions
this is mountain biking... not tiddly winks... contact can be made

shoulders will rub... hopefully handlebars will not tangle
there may need to be a panic stop rather than slamming into a tree
contact is sometimes part of the process
it is a learning process
we need to test our limits to know our limits
we all hope that nobody gets hurt

it is not my intention to single out any one class as being worse than any other
class but I will...
it is pretty clear that the sport men are the worst when it comes to passing
both their passes and being passed
it has been a while since I have been passed by a sandbagging sport leader... but I can recall a few uncool encounters with the leading sport racers
but... it is to be expected... uncool people do uncool things
the uncool pass goes well with the uncool action of sandbagging

my not being passed by the uncool sandbagging rider has nothing to do with me being faster then them
there are plenty of sandbagging sport riders who are faster than me
it is just that I have not lined up and been released in a situation that caused me to get passed by the uncool sandbagging rider..

while it has been a while since I suffered an uncool pass from an uncool sandbagging sport rider it has not been that long since the last time I had the hassle of trying to pass a back of the pack sport rider

it is funny... no one works harder to fight the pass than a back of the pack sport rider
if they can pedal harder... why do they wait until someone is trying to pass? why do they not fight to pass the rider in front of them instead of the rider behind them?

giving the polite audible "on your left" to a sport rider is like putting your turn signal on during rush hour traffic in new york city

the response is often the same
it is obnoxious
it is dangerous
it is recurring
it is inappropriate
it is counter productive
it is not sporting

this weekend past I experienced a good deal of friction trying to pass at the Cranky Monkey event at Fountainhead in the categories released at 10am
the Clydesdales were released last
it was not too far into the woods that I was running into slow moving caterpillars comprised of sport riders
the places to pass were few and far between
there were times when I had to accept my place in line and accept the pace that they were setting
I had to be patient I had to wait my turn
but when it was a rational time to pass... I tried to pass
well... I thought that the information I shared would grant me safe passage
but no... it was a battle an exhausting battle
a number of times I found myself off trail trying to get past a rider only to have them accelerate along side of me
forcing me to choose between muscling in for the hole shot or braking hard and dipping behind them
I chose not to risk injuring myself or any other racers
of course there were countless of sporting allowances for passes
clean safe friendly passes
I played cat and mouse with some riders from the other classes
them allowing me to pass... only having me clear the way when they worked to pass me back

no one every had to stop on the trail side
there just had to be a little communication and the location of the right spot to allow for a logical pass
it can be exhausting... so much energy expended to try and pass
my mind wished for a time trial where I could have spun my cranks without other riders blocking my flow
I wondered if I would have been happier in the back of the pack in the very fast Single Speed Class
but I was at the front to the Clydesdale Class... working very hard to stay ahead of the pack and I found myself racing at other racer's pace for longer than I felt was reasonable

not too get too heavy with the show and tell...
I want to get into some show and tell...
we all often like to be on the telling side of show and tell

the most humorous effort to pass came early on in the first lap
I had already caught and passed the top four racers in my group
I was trying to gain ground on them by passing the stragglers in the sport class
on one heart breaker of a climb I got stuck in a long line of racers
one by one I worked my way up in places that seemed safe and respectful
it was tough with my single speed to accept the slow geared bike pace

in some cases dismounting and walking was the rational choice... I can walk faster than the granny gear rides

at one point I found myself on the tail of a rider whose was very stubborn about my request to pass
not only would he not allow it
he refused it
he challenged me... requesting me to "take the pass"
reminding me that "it is a race"
telling me to "work for it"

getting hurt was not within my objectives of the day
hurting someone else was also not within my personal goals
so I denied his invitations...
on another day in a different mood maybe I would take the path and push him off trail
but on this day the little angel on my shoulder beat out that little red devil

so much energy wasted...
so much mental energy wasted...
it is not so much that I have known this guy for twenty years
no... it was not that we went to college together
no... it was not because we have been catching up with each other at races since the days of canaan
no it was not any of these things
it was not even that we were in different classes
it was simply the matter that a slower racer should allow the faster racer to make the safe pass
comperable racers working against each other may go shoulder to shoulder
but this hundred yard battle for a photo finish should not be a part of each and every pass

he would not let me pass
yes... passing is part of the race
yes... fighting for position is part of the race
but actually fighting for your rightful space on the trail
well... I did not want to have to fight this guy off the trail

my gloves were for cycling... not for boxing
I came to ride... not to fight

even if I felt confident that I could win the space on the trail
I just wanted to ride my bike around that two lap course as fast as I could

this was one of several passes that caused me grief
one of several... but, for the most part it was a glorious passing experience
sure there was the joker walking his bike on the trail right before shock-a-billy
my handle bar clipped him or his bike
either way... that guy... well... I am sorry your bike failed you... but you are failing us all by not letting us have our race because your race ended early
but I do not understand why you are blocking the trail


all is cool
all is forgiven
we learn from these things

I am learning
I may very well be a slow learner
I have a lot to learn
I am an imperfect person
I have made my fair share of fast and aggressive passes
I am sure that there are a number of racers who would laugh if they read this and tell a story about them trying to pass me
I do not always have the breath and the brain power to articulate my thought as I try to move my bicycle forward
there have been some bumps on the shoulder
I maybe have accidentally caused a crash
but... the notion of intentions must be weighted along with the actions
I wish no one ill will
I do not wish to put anyone in danger

just like everyone else I want to have fastest/safest race/ride I can

I wanted to re-read this
I am famous for run on sentences
even without sentence structure I have run on sentences
but... it is late
this effort got clustered when I tried to save it
I tried to break it back into form... but not sure it I did
this was written while breaking up fights with my kids, watching the olympics, and drinking a beer
it if does not make sense... sorry

I would have liked to have flowed better and wasted less energy on making the pass
the overall is where the interesting results lie
the SM100 is a great race... the mass start is part of what makes a race like that so great



Jim said...

Nice racing. I only have two rules, but follow them scrupulously.

1) If they are in a different class and have caught me up, give up the pass as soon as possible, even if it's a bit sketch or disadvantages me to do so.

2) If they are in the same class, and moving at comparable speed, they ain't gettin' nothin' for free.

Roger That said...

But how do you know what class they're in? Do you actually converse? Do you check their number?

--From a rider with a whopping two races of experience?

sean said...

Anyone who flies up behind me is given a free pass for the most part. Even if they are in my class. Blocking might slow someone down, but it sure isn't going to make friends.

I have noticed the same phenomenon where I fly up on someone and suddenly they decide to speed up. Still slower than I want to progress but just fast enough to make passing a long drawn out affair. As soon as I get by they disappear out the back when they downshift back to reality.

It is frustrating for sure. But it is part of the race. Accepting being on the trail with all types of personalities and skill levels at the same race tries/requires patience.

Sajkovich said...

Your description of Sport Sandbaggers is money! The scurge of NOVA racing!

Outisde of NOVA these suckers are even more frustrating because I always seem to role up on them at the top of a 3 mile section of single bling with little or no passing opportunities....ouch!!!

God bless you for not using your clydesdale mass to make a path.

MRussell said...

Try Xterra races... talk about not knowing how to pass. hell a lot of don't know how to ride singletrack...

have a great day.

gwadzilla said...

yes... faster racers get the red carpet (no... I do not pull over as if it were the king of siam)
and similiar speed riders have to work for it

there is lots of conversation
unless I am approaching fast and just give the word that I am passing

yes... the fact that the passing rider disappears into the future is the statement that the pass should have occured uncontested

sandbaggers suck
if you own a pit bike to race c in cross... give it to charity... bikes to the world... trips for kids...
if you are considering asking your coach if you should move up a class... well... maybe having a coach means that you are not approaching this from a sport level...

it is tough for me to comment on a sport racer winning uncontested showing that they should race expert after I won a clydesdale race without having to race... well... that is a blog topic for another day

I love that Urban Course in Richmond!

and yes
very similar classic east coast single track
not a long enough straight to pass
gotta pass before it starts to twist or turn