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Old 04-15-13, 09:26 AM   #1
JeffOYB
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Tight passing: good or bad sportsmanship?

I'm new to CX and am liking it because it seems kinda like bike racing plus pro wrestling. : )

I like the idea of tricky passes. I'm old but I grew up doing crits and track racing and I always liked the bumping. CX seems to me to let ya bump but not get hurt. It's actionpacked but with fewer casualties.

So I just got the new issue of Cyclocross magazine, #19 (not that new, I guess). It has a neat story in it called "Illegal Contact" about a conflict between 2 racers on the course. Tricky passing got carried away, beyond the comfort zones of both players. To me maybe that's the biggest angle: it wasn't cool for either rider. They knew the pass wasn't going to work out cleanly at all. Well, ya gotta read it. (http://www.cxmagazine.com/issue19) But I can see there are tensions here in the values.

There are a couple things here. One is passing. The other is the duty of lapped riders. My impression is that we pull to the side as speeders come by. It's worked out fine for me so far. I've read that in pro events racers sometimes (always?) get pulled when lapped, but maybe that depends on the series, etc. One of the tensions in the conflict in this article is that both riders were still racing hard tho one was being lapped and he'd been lapped a lot so wanted to keep rolling as he was lapped rather than having to totally get out of the way, off the course, put a foot down, etc. I can see that. Most places there will be room for an easy pass, but what about occasional long stretches of tight tricky singletrack where passing is tough?

So back to passing...

Ideally, both riders are equally game for whatever skills are required -- if the trickier rider can pull off the move then more power to em. But they have to be able to do it, right'n'clean. But "clean" is relative. You can't be crashing or hurting others. But here's the tension: if a rider is skilled then a bit of bumping is fine -- there's no tangling of pokey parts or bruising, etc. I suppose as a season progresses and you get to know each other you find out what level of action is desired. Fun is the name of the game -- fun for everyone. I suppose this is what happens in crits and on the track as well. You don't just bump anyone. But as you get to know who you're with and what they can handle and enjoy then go for it.

But, who knows, maybe in this day of carbon and old-fart racers the main value is "stay away!" I guess I'll find out.

(Issue #19 also has a great fun piece on the Ghillie suit superfan who gives away LOTS of $ handups ... and the tensions in the values of that. If ya check em out, tell em I sent ya!)

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Old 04-15-13, 06:44 PM   #2
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CX is not singletrack, courses are most typically wide enough that a stronger racer can pass a slower rider along majority of the course without resorting to cutting them off. Even if you are racing against a well match competetor, there is ample opportunity to let you legs do the talking, not your hips and elbows. Also consider that a smart racing move often will be to let another racer lead, so you can get some draft on the faster sections and conserve a bit of energy.

If you are getting lapped, you definitly should back off momentarily and yield the good line when getting overtaken.
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Old 04-15-13, 09:02 PM   #3
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Sure, all you say is true. I'm referring to courses that have longer tight spots or when an issue of tough passing does come up. You're right that it usually doesn't and that there are usually easy-enough work arounds, short waits, etc. Sometimes, though, it's not the case. I've heard of tricky passing before and lapped-rider questions -- seems like grey areas where questions do arise and where people could get touchy if it wasn't handled right.

Then there's tactics where one might run someone wide who is trying to pass, to make the pass harder for them, etc.

So despite the usual wide-open and easy-pass aspect it does seem that there are occasions where good-natured, competitive "close encounters" might happen. Everybody just needs to be on the same page. Yet with the question of, say, a singlespeed event where you might have several intense A's and intense C's on the course the C's might not want to pull very much aside for scattered faster A's coming around them several times in the race -- they're trying to race, too, and maybe revising your own momentum every time you're lapped can get tiring. Moreover, the C's might be gungho but not have the skills and so they might react badly to squeeze-thrus that A's might find tolerable. So sometimes folks AREN'T on the same page.

I suppose most times if a pass doesn't go as nice as could be hoped that most folks holler a sorry and make amends somehow. ...Possibly though things get touchier in these days of fragile carbon.

Anyway, something like that is kinda what happened in the Issue #19.

I suppose some courses have longer tight sections where the question comes up more often but even in general I can see tricky passing not being the rarest issue.
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Old 04-25-13, 08:45 AM   #4
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"Tricky" passing is almost always bad etiquette and unnecessary. Bumping is racing, as they say, but that isn't a license for unsafe riding. Just because a guy is going to fall on soft dirt if you knock him down doesn't mean it's OK to knock him down.

I've raced against the slower guy from issue 19 (we had an epic battle for 9th place among the Clydesdales at Kruger's Crossing last year) and I can verify that he's putting in a fierce effort even if he is at the back of the pack. He's also a really nice guy.

Maybe I'm biased, but I don't think there was any question who was in the wrong in that story. It's true that slow riders should (and almost universally do) get out of the way when fast riders are over-taking them, but there are times when it just isn't possible for slow guys to go where the fast guys want them to. That's part of why we're slow. If I could ride any line on the course, I probably wouldn't be getting lapped. Sometimes there's only one line that I can safely navigate.

BTW, if you turn to page 30 of issue 19 of CX Magazine you'll find a picture of me, so I've officially made the big time. Sure, I'm standing on the hill watching a race, but I'll take what I can get.
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Old 04-25-13, 09:12 AM   #5
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"Tricky" passing is almost always bad etiquette and unnecessary. Bumping is racing, as they say, but that isn't a license for unsafe riding. Just because a guy is going to fall on soft dirt if you knock him down doesn't mean it's OK to knock him down.
I would hope that I was clear about the nuances involved here. I would never think it OK to knock someone down. But I explained in detail how there's more going on. For instance, I'm not very skilled but it would be hard to knock me down or to bother me and I expect contact and am used to it from crit/track days, but I know that some folks aren't cool with it. I suppose that in the A's the occasional squeeze-thru moves are more tolerable and part of tactics and part of the fun. I like it! It's why I like bike polo, I suppose. But with newbies it's obviously more likely to cause panic. Just like on a road ride, elite riders can lean on each other while they chat and can lean harder in competition without worrying, but a newbie would be alarmed. I suppose the main thing is to be courteous and only push it or even get really close to riders who you know are cool with that.

Also, "knocking down" can be relative. If a light brush-against "causes" someone to panic and crash then this can be a grey area.

I suppose it's just common sense. And it's likely easy to tell who is who. I was kind of thinking that in mixed fields that you might have problems with skilled mixed with less-skilled but it doesn't have to be: if you see someone is nervous then give em a break.

I suppose with road/track that in mixed fields it's harder to see who is who and the rough dudes treat everyone roughly and you're shelled if it makes you nervous. But the differences might be easier to see and easier to deal with in CX. ...Altho this 'hole shot' stuff makes me wonder.

I liked that article about the conflict and thought it made it clear that the faster guy blew it, but it did bring up the tensions that can sometimes occur. I agree that most times these are totally needless and easy to avoid.

Cool that you got into the mag of record! Fun when that happens! I got into the Worlds spread in #20!
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Old 04-25-13, 01:24 PM   #6
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The thing is, no one ever means to knock someone down, so when someone gets knocked down it's always by someone who didn't intend for that to happen. And yet it happens. Most of the time everyone is cool about it regardless. That's one of the great things about CX.

I think you're right about the extra jostling in the elite races (though even pros get ticked off when somebody makes what they perceive as an idiot move). I'd like to think that no one below Cat 2 would feel the need to squeeze past somebody (though as you say it might be OK if it's somebody they know well). It still happens though, and our local mailing list gets busy every year with people one both sides of the coin whining about it. I once had a guy in a mid-week C race call out "Middle!" as he approached me. What the heck am I supposed to do with that? I laughed and got a good story out of it. What I didn't do was move for him.

The hole shot is something else completely, and I'd say when two or more people are sprinting for the same tight spot they know what they're getting into and almost anything goes.

Mixed fields are an interesting problem. The singlespeed field in these parts is particularly hairy because it's gotten popular with people at both extremes of the speed and skill spectrum, and this with fields of over 100 racers. SSCXWC has helped set appropriate seriousness expectations in the past. It's a shame to see it moving across the country. Who knows what the East Coast will do with it!

I'll be looking for you in Issue 20.
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Old 04-29-13, 08:25 PM   #7
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Who knows what the East Coast will do with it!
I know you're joking, but CX is fun on the East Coast as well, believe me. And we've heard of single speeding.

Anyway, regarding the OP - safest bet is to pass on the straights. In general, whatever your discipline, passing riders in turns is much more challenging, because even if they take a slow line it's very difficult to have enough of a speed advantage to pass decisively. If you're lapping someone, chances are you have the power to come past on the straight. Lapped riders should try to make way, of course, but it isn't always possible. But the race level should also set expectations, somewhat. In a CX 1/2 race, get up close and personal, to a lesser extent, same in CX 3. In CX 4/5, some more discretion is advised. Seems simple enough. Basically, don't go thinking you're a mega hotshot in your low level amateur cross race and everything should be fine.
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Old 04-29-13, 09:20 PM   #8
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I know you're joking, but CX is fun on the East Coast as well, believe me. And we've heard of single speeding.

Anyway, regarding the OP - safest bet is to pass on the straights. In general, whatever your discipline, passing riders in turns is much more challenging, because even if they take a slow line it's very difficult to have enough of a speed advantage to pass decisively. If you're lapping someone, chances are you have the power to come past on the straight. Lapped riders should try to make way, of course, but it isn't always possible. But the race level should also set expectations, somewhat. In a CX 1/2 race, get up close and personal, to a lesser extent, same in CX 3. In CX 4/5, some more discretion is advised. Seems simple enough. Basically, don't go thinking you're a mega hotshot in your low level amateur cross race and everything should be fine.
Sounds good.

I suppose with peers who you're comfy with a tactical pass when you're closely matched might mean you get half a bike ahead, or even just a wheel ahead, in a corner and then swing a bit wide making the one you're passing have to relent and lose some momentum and accept the pass, especially if more turns are coming up.

Sometimes that kind of pass might actually be easier than on a straight where they might be able to keep holding you off or coming back around more easily. In a series of corners once you get a lead it might be easier to keep it so I could picture some pressure coming on with who can get ahead just barely enough to change lines on the follower and thus control them...to an extent. It might depend on how willing or not they are to back off.

Well, I don't know all the fine points. I suppose it's a learn-as-you-go thing and also from watching.
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Old 05-18-13, 12:45 PM   #9
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might adapt some Roller Derby rules if the spectators are failing to show up.
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Old 09-15-13, 10:17 AM   #10
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If there is intentional bumping or elbow throwing to either pass or defend your position that's not cool, but a little contact is to be expected. I like to pass in corners whenever possible because if you can make a little acceleration and get by cleanly taking the aggressive line it has the added benefit of forcing the other rider to the outside/onto the brakes.

If a category leader is coming through I'll usually pull over a little if possible and notify the people ahead.
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Old 09-18-13, 03:06 PM   #11
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I basically agree with what's been said . . . in the races I do, cat 4/5 and masters 50+, it's really a non-issue . . . due to small field sizes ~15 masters 50+ . . . sometimes in a 4/5 a new racer will get a little excited at the start and do stupid things . . . which is useless because the 4/5 field is pretty well sorted out after the first lap . . . I actually stated at the start line of a ~30 cat 4/5 field a couple weeks ago, "let's take it easy on the first lap, no touching wheels" . . . it was fine. yeah, slower riders always pull over for the fast.

I have to say I do enjoy passing in the corners but only do so when it is an obvious opening, such as a rider who is taking it wide, and I can dart through and accelerate cleanly on the inside line . . . that's fun! have to say, I also do a little bit of blocking when a rival is coming up in a twisty section. it's a game of body position. but I would never elbow or hurt anyone, that's just stupid for us weekend warriors, plus we all know each other and race against each other weekly.
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Old 09-18-13, 04:41 PM   #12
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Just don't try to go to the inside without announcing or really knowing that you are clear. I've "shut the door" on a few guys that tried this, some on purpose some not.
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Old 09-19-13, 02:22 PM   #13
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Basic rule of thumb is don't be a dick. The only time you really have contact is the start and race to the hole shot. There is usually some bumping going on there but the bumping should not be done to push some one out of the way but rather something that is done just because you are all in close proximity. After the hole shot and the first lap things tend to iron out a bit. If you had a bad start but are stronger then the riders in front he you will need to pass that means you might have to come out of the best line to make the pass. It requres work on your part but you should not be bumping people to get them out of the way. They earned that spot and have every right to it. The onus is on you. Of course later in the race if there are lapped riders then they really ought to move out of the best line. Also it can't hurt to ask, "Hey can I get by?"
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Old 09-19-13, 02:36 PM   #14
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Yeah, it's gotta be fun for everyone. Hopefully everyone's on the same page. Tight passing is fun for me. I could see a race going back'n'forth some between tricky old dog slow racers and it being fun. It's what the crowds are there for.
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Old 09-20-13, 01:00 PM   #15
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FWIW:

4A4. Over its full length, the course shall be a minimum of 3
meters wide and be well marked and protected.
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Old 09-24-13, 02:44 PM   #16
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Just don't try to go to the inside without announcing or really knowing that you are clear. I've "shut the door" on a few guys that tried this, some on purpose some not.
there's all sorts of situations, some where announcing the pass is appropriate, some not necessary. Like a couple weeks ago, 2/3 of the course was twisty turns, with one section of four back to back 180 turns, right-left-right-left . . . in that situation, some guys were going waaaay wide, and it was easy to slip through on the inside, I'm not going to announce "inside", it was just obvious, and sometimes, announcing can come across as yelling, and some people don't like to be yelled at. and sometimes, people can be jerks, like my teammate who when he hears "passing inside", automatically MOVES inside to block the pass . . . like a boxer telegraphing a punch . . . "OK, here comes a left hook to the right cheek, here it COMES" . . . the opponent raises his right glove to block. No, sometimes you just TAKE the inside, and they are on your hip before they know what hit them.

Then of course, in other situations, probably most of the time, the polite thing is to announce, like when passing a lapped rider, communicate, they are happy to move over.

Most courses, 99.99% of the time, I wait and pass on the straights. Mostly, because I'm NEVER in contention for the podium. Just once in a blue moon, the situation might call for an unannounced, inside pass on a turn.
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Old 09-24-13, 03:25 PM   #17
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No, sometimes you just TAKE the inside, and they are on your hip before they know what hit them.
I guess that's OK if you don't mind them on your hip. What irks me is the guys who yell at you to "hold your line" when you start wide and cut to the apex on a tight turn. You know, that is my line.
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