Once upon a time, you could find me turning my pedals in anger at any number of local bike races on any given weekend. While mostly criterium based, there was a mix of short stage races, omniums, and one day road races within a two hour drive. Lower category races all had waiting lists if you weren’t quick enough to get a spot on the first day of open registration.
Looking at my USA Cycling results, the last road event I participated in was the Boulevard Road Race in 2014. This brings me to my point. The Boulevard Road Race is no longer on the calendar. Like so many other local events it has vanished due to any number of reasons.
The state of cycling
Cycling is changing. As a sport that always seems to be in a state of flux, riders are focusing more on non-sanctioned events. The popularity of gravel rides is a prime example. I admit that riding a gravel bike is more appealing with each passing day. I’ll stick to my cyclocross bike rather than procuring a gravel specific bike, but the outcome will be the same. The technical bike handling and ever changing scenery that someone experiences on these rides is a nice change from the road rides I’ve done countless times.
Of the many people I used to race with, there are only a handful of us still riding. Most have abandoned cycling for other hobbies during their free time. Cycling takes dedication and large blocks of time just to be mediocre. Especially if you don’t have the natural talent some are blessed with. Even those with the natural talent find out after a few seasons that they’d rather be golfing or fishing that spending countless hours training.
Time for me to speculate about where the sport may be heading. I think we’ve seen the rise and fall of fixed gear cycling. While events such as the Red Hook Series have certainly been possible in the last few years, it seems to be simmering down. I know a few elite racers that take part in these events, and even they admit the days of these series are numbered. The support they saw in the last few years by riders, roadside crowds, and municipalities are following in the footsteps of road racing.
I think gravel rides, grand fondos, and other non-sanctioned events will continue to do well. Participants don’t need to hold a license with USA Cycling to participate. Riders can take their training as seriously as want without having to worry about being pulled from the field. Everyone who participates gets a pair of socks and a tee shirt, and let’s be honest, people love that kind of thing. It’s less competitive and more fun, and ultimately, that’s what keeps people coming back. The people at the front will continue to take things a bit too seriously. Meanwhile, those at the back will enjoy the challenge and the camaraderie.
I miss certain aspects of racing, but I’m not itching to get back to it any time soon. I certainly don’t miss the attitudes of the folks that raced like they were going for a Pro Tour contract. We all have jobs to get to on Monday. Cycling seems to be embracing fun over competition, and I’m all for it. Stay safe out there, and as always, keep the rubber side down!