Old School meets New School. Old school wins.

I said I had more to say about the Herman Miller Brickyard Criterium in Grand Rapids, and here it is. Make of it what you will.

As you should have read in the previous post, Bissell-ABG had a rider ‘up the road’ with a good-sized lead. They also had a posse at the front of the field mucking up any chase efforts.

At one point, the other teams got their collective shit together, went to the front, took over the first seven spots, and began a concerted and organized chase effort. The gap started to fall.

So now, at this point, if you’re on the Bissell-ABG team, what do you do? Do you…
A. go up to the front and actively/forcibly get in their way? Or…
B. sit in and allow the other teams to work without interruption?

And if you choose Option A, how active/forced do you get?

Opinions vary. I think the answer comes down to which school you come from: Old School or New School.

Classic old school tactics would have Bissell-ABG riders going to the front throwing elbows and jabbing their brakes to intimidate the other teams. They would pinch riders into the curb to slow them down. They would get verbally abusive. They would take scary lines through the turns to discourage other riders from overtaking them.

That’s what Eddie B. taught us. That’s what everyone did back in the day. It was considered normal. Ask Jonas. Ask Thurlow. Ask Frankie.

(I remember a time when the rider next to me reached over and squeezed my brake lever to slow me down. I won’t name names.)
(I remember a time when a rider grabbed my jersey as I started to accelerate to chase his teammate.)
(I remember having a rider stick his shoulder into my ribs and push me off the road when I tried to pass.)

More modern tactics (not necessarily New School) would see Bissell-ABG mixing things up at the front of the pack. Not in a physical way, but in a passive “get-in-the-way” way, which is what B-ABG was doing until the other teams took over control of the front.

But something changed about the time that Lance Armstrong was “winning” his 7 Tours de France. In a nutshell, more people watched the Tour on TV, got interested in racing, took notes while watching the Tour, and then brought those tactics to an American bike race.

Today’s generation of bike racers thinks Eddie B is just a lame store at the outlet mall.

In the TdF, there is no ‘blocking’ to speak of. When it’s time to reel in the breakaway, the sprinters’ teams go to the front and bring back the breakaway unimpeded by blocking tactics. The breakaway riders’ teams get out of the way and give the chasers a free reign at the front.

That’s what these New School cretins have brought to American criteriums: the lameness of Eddie Bauer.

Well, it became an issue in Grand Rapids when Bissell-ABG decided to get a little more assertive in their blocking efforts. They moved to the front, barged into the line, bumped a few elbows, and made a lot of riders angry.

The other teams felt that since they had control of the front, Bissell-ABG should back off. (This was actually verbalized by a rider later.)

Things got argy bargy after that. Riders began chopping each other and brake checking each other. It was awesome. Even the spectators noticed what was going on. It was old school.

For a minute there, I thought I caught a whiff of wool.

Things finally settled down. No one got hurt in the exchanges. But there was a decided rift between the two styles of riding and which one was thought to be more acceptable.

And of course, we can blame Lance. For making cycling popular and therefore influencing the modern bike racer with a kinder and gentler set of tactics. Or maybe we can just blame society, come to think of it.

My advice to new riders is to go find a quiet grassy area in a shady park somewhere, ride back and forth together, and beat the hell out of each other until you are completely unfazed by bodily contact.

It’s going to happen; there are a lot of Old School guys still racing their bikes.

To learn more drills and skills, there’s a book I want you to read…

Reading the Race Chris Horner Jamie SmithWhether you’re a new racer, an aspiring pro, a team manager, or even a roadside fan, Reading the Race will elevate your cycling IQ for better racing.

Find the book in your local bookstore, bike shop, or online:

Barnes & Noble
your local bookstore


Why USA Cycling Should Add a Team Competition to Nationals

Today, the U.S. held their National Cycling Championship Road Races in Chattanooga, TN. It’s a pretty big thing. The winner receives the prestigious title of National Champion along with the stars-and-stripes jersey that they’ll wear for one year. Forever after, they’ll carry that title with them in one form or another. For instance, only a national champion can adorn their jersey with any form of stars and stripes. If you look at the collars or sleeves of a former national champion, you’ll see this distinctive mark.

But they don’t win it alone. Cycling is a team sport.

In both races today (both men’s and women’s), team tactics were beautifully employed by both the winning teams and the losing teams. Obviously, the winning teams’ were employed a little more beautifully, but that’s not my point.

Teammates in both races turned themselves inside out for their team leaders. They chased, blocked, attacked, paced, sat on, reeled in, and worked like dogs to put their ‘leader’ in the proper position to win the race. (I place single quotation marks around ‘leader’ because it’s a nebulous title, a role that changes during the course of the race. It’s not etched in stone.) By doing so, they gave up their own chances of winning the prestigious title for themselves. For all their work, they get … essentially… nothing.

But if ours is truly a team sport, then it’s kind of silly that we don’t award the championship to the entire team. That the guy who spent his last pedal stroke to close the gap between the breakaway and his team leader gets nothing more than a party tonight and a hearty handshake. That the woman who turned her own legs to fire to hold onto the wheel of a competitor so that her teammate could ride easy wears no token on her jersey next year.

It also makes it hard to explain to the common spectator that cycling is a team sport when they watch the Olympics and see only one rider get the gold medal in the Road Race.

We should change it.

Whomever rides on the winning team should also be on the podium. They should get a medal. They should also get stars and bars on their jersey. They should also be allowed to wear some sort of designation on their jersey for the rest of their career.

Starting yesterday.

Reading the Race Chris Horner Jamie SmithWhether you’re a new racer, an aspiring pro, a team manager, or even a roadside fan, Reading the Race will elevate your cycling IQ for better racing.

Find the book in your local bookstore, bike shop, or online:

Barnes & Noble
your local bookstore