Monday, November 22, 2010

Op-Ed: Be careful were you cyclocross

I came back from a road ride one day last week and a cyclocross race broke out! I was returning to my car near sunset after putting in a few dozen miles in beautiful western Somerset and eastern Hunterdon Counties. As I approached the park parking lot with my car I was shocked to find the once empty lot full of cars and cyclists getting ready for a ride. What I had stumbled upon was a friendly pick-up after work cyclocross race and the group of 25 or 30 competitors started soon after I arrived. I watched them as I was packing up, for 15, 20 minutes or so.

For the most part the race seamed like good, clean (irony!) fun. The majority of the race went through fields and paths that could be best described as a managed meadow and did so without any noticeable lasting impact. However the course designers took the race around the parking area by using the raised landscaped areas around the parking lot and within the short amount of time that I was there, the racers had done what only could be called significant damage to this landscaped area.

I understand that mud is part of the sport and that cyclocross races are supposed to have off-camber turns and traverse slops to add technical challenge. That is all well and good but damaging public property and doing so in an area that all park users cannot help but notice is sure not to win over the general public with regards to cycling. It’s one thing to create a bit of mud on the trail in the back of the park but to chew up the landscaping into a muddy mess around a parking lot, where no one was ever really intended to walk or ride, is another thing all together. It’s a real shame too because the area of landscaping that the racers chewed up probably consisted of less than 5% of the entire race course. This area could have easily been avoided and it really wouldn’t have made a difference to the race.

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