The Way Ben Rolls
Ben wrote this in response to some flubhub on the local cyclocross list about warming up and getting in the way of racers. The bonus is, it goes beyond explaining what should be common courtesy...
Consider this your homework assignment for today:
here's what i think the proper protocol for warming up is. it involves riding on the course, while others are racing, and i think anyone can benefit.
i wait until there's a big gap (40+ sec) that i can slot into, and then ride at the pace i think the racers on the course are going ...that is to say, slower then i want to race at. i'm riding the course to read it, not to hot dog or rip corners. so what if you can follow the line set down with your tires at the edge of traction? the faster line, i guarantee, is OFF that line. read the course, find, inspect, confirm and discard routes through tricky sections, and you will come up with your own line that suits your riding style and ability.
if you come upon a racer, regardless of who catches who, get out of their way. the only time i'll pass a racer is if i can do it clean on a wide section with many lines. never come close to a racer in any technical section. i've seen you herds of men on the same team riding the course together, crowding some woman and acting impatient, well to you i say get the hell out of her way. i very much want Mary and Lorri to be at the races, telling their friends what a blast they had, and not regretting their time and wishing things could be different.
instead of wishing that racer X would get out of your way, learn from them. they've done several laps, they know the course. see where they go, ride it at their pace. you'll probably be going that "slow" by your last lap, but you'll feel fast and sleek cuz you put in a blistering warmup ride right? riiight...
when i go hard during warmup, the only reason is to test traction. that's it. my legs are going to get warm by tooling around the course, dressing right for the conditions and then riding a little on the road and doing a few openers then, if necessary. you are on course to learn how to ride it, maybe test tire pressure, but not to do your efforts. you are calculating in your head "ride here, get off here, start cornering here, brake here" and then a little of "try this line, can i ride this?" if you're reading this group, you're an experienced CX racer. you know how to ride a bike, you know how to cyclocross, it's not foreign. trust your ingrained knowledge, and think about what you are going to be doing in the race. 'cross is about technique and skill and power, in that order. (ed note: read that line again)
if you're not thinking about what you're doing out there, and just following others around, there is no way you will win a race or even encounter the unique moment where you say to yourself "i'm in position to win this race, how am i going to go about doing it?"so instead of blowing doors on your warmup, and racing by every lower category racer on course, step back and think about what you'll do today. watch several racers and pick a few good ones to watch; i always try and see what line Anne F. is taking, cuz damn that girl's fast through the corners.
above all, treat other racers with respect, they deserve it.