Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kermesses: A Mission Statement

I am very excited about the level of interest being shown in the Andy Salmon and Mashel Nisqually Kermesses. I am glad that people are interested in a style of racing that, while inspired by Belgian Kermesses, is really unique to the Northwest.

I encourage everyone to try it. The vast majority love it, but it's not for everyone. And I understand that. As I get more and more emails from riders about the races I am also beginning to get emails lobbying for changes to the races to make the more "accessable". I scare-quoted because most of the riders making these requests haven't done a Kermesse before so are basing their requests on their cyclocross or road racing experience. And, additionally, there tends to be an underlying impression that turnout is low and / or changes to the race set-up would improve it.

I get where many of these riders are coming from. There is a much larger segment of riders who are career Cat 4/5's and treat racing as competitive group rides. This is very very different than the traditional culture of bike racing and definitely causes some friction as well as opportunity for promoters. That said, many of the fears these riders express aren't the reality of Kermesse racing. Kermesse has elements of both road and cross, but it is unique. In road you have to ride as fast as the field or it's usually a long, miserable and lonely ride home. Kermesses are more like cross: the race breaks up but because the courses are short and the terrain is bumpy riders tend to ride closer to their confort level as a whole so it spreads out and you aren't alone. But unlike cross, were technical sections tend to cause riders to be solo Kermesse races tend towards small groups. It's true those groups change as the race goes on but it isn't a solo ride like either cross or road. In a wierd way it's the best of both -- the ride your tempo safety of cross with the group dynamic of road.

Secondly, it is true that the 1/2 field has been a challenge (I believe we had the 2nd biggest non-crit 35+ Masters field last year), but the constraint on field size is the course: our max field limit is 50 riders and we can't run waves.

Now we are always open to ways to improve the race, but my advise to those who are thinking about racing but want changes to be made first is to try it once. Then decide: you're likely to find that the experience is not what you expected (good or bad) and that the changes you'd like to see are very different than the ones you thought you wanted.

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