Cyclocross Participation in the US, 2013-2016

Colin tweeted the other day about a plateau in the number of cyclocross racers in the US:

This got me thinking: are the numbers stagnant across all US regions? Are some places shrinking, and others growing? Here in Colorado there’s a general perception that numbers are down this year, are we seeing something real? Colin was nice enough to extract a data set that contained state info and send it to me so I could pursue some answers to these questions. State data became reliable in 2013 – apparently before that, the scene in NULL was super hot – so that’s what we have here.

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New Digs

If you’re reading this, then I finally got in touch with my domain registrar to change name servers over to my new hosting provider. After many years of hosting with a friend, circumstances forced me to customer up and move to a commercial service. So, welcome to the new digs. I’ve furnished it lavishly with 404s and a default template, which I’ll try to remedy shortly. Or not. Hey, Internet is wikkid haaaaahd.

I have a Lance Armstrong story now

Yeah, yeah, I know. Breaking a four-month blog fast for this? But I think it’s worth it.
As one or possibly both of my readers know, I rode my sixth Pan-Mass Challenge this weekend. Being a high-profile event for a major regional charity, it tends to bring out the politicians and celebrities, at least those who are willing to pedal a bike. This year, Lance Armstrong decided to pay us a visit. Upon hearing the news a few days prior to the event, one of my friends remarked “how are they going to fit him and [PMC founder] Billy Starr in the same room?” Neither one is known for his humble demeanor, and LIVESTRONG could rightly be called a rival to the Jimmy Fund juggernaut.

Apparently somebody found an ego shoehorn, because LA found his way to Friday night’s opening ceremony in Sturbridge, shared a stage with Billy, and rode with us on Saturday morning. I had a small group of friends to ride with, and our sole goal was to avoid the freak show within the freak show. PMC inspires people to get on bikes, which I wholeheartedly endorse. Just don’t put me behind or beside them while they’re still working out how to grab a bottle and ride a straight line at the same time. I figured that our man would have a permanent cloud of admirers trying to work out how to ride a straight line and OMG TAKE MY PICTURE WITH LANCE at the same time, and I did not want any part of that.

Despite my best efforts, the rolling admiration society found me. A little more than 20 miles into the ride, my little paceline passed a group of 20 riders or so. My buddy JP noticed Lance in there, and we just kept riding. But then gruppo LA caught up. This happened two or three times. I noticed John Kerry in there, too. He’s riding a yellow Cervelo these days. I think his head tube is 1cm tall for every year he’s been in the Senate.

A few minutes later we started climbing a moderate hill. Lance was maybe third wheel in the group, I was a few bikes behind him. About halfway up, another guy passed me, rode up beside Lance and made the universal “slow down” gesture. Lance immediately backed off. I didn’t get it at first, but as I passed him, the pieces fell into place and I looked over at him. “So was that the ‘slow down, you’re blowing up Senator Kerry signal?'” I asked. “Yeah, but it’s not me!” he said, tossing his head mock-defensively at the riders up the road. I chuckled as I rode on.

Though I’m using Kerry to tell a joke here, seriously, the guy is pushing 70, he’s a U.S. Senator, and he’s out with us for a casual 110-mile ride with us. I admire that, even if he did wobble around somewhat. In the interest of equal time, I’ll note that Scott Brown came with us, too. He can ride a straight line, but (as he did last year) he brought his full tri-geek setup: TREK TT bike, TT helmet, disc wheel. I’m sure there’s some kind of political allegory in that, but I can’t quite work it out. I also bet he had a ton of fun with the crosswinds on the outer Cape yesterday.

So yes, another PMC in the books for me. Though my stories tend to focus on bike riding, I try to remember that everybody on that ride has a cancer story. That’s why we’re there. I’m truly impressed by the number of people who find the strength to drag themselves off their couches and do this ride. And I’ll probably go back for more next year.

On Snyder v. Phelps

Have I trained this week? No. Am I twitchy? Well, as of about an hour ago…yes. We’ve been back from Vegas long enough that I can’t use jet lag as my excuse any more, but I’m not sure what’s up, other than I’ve felt sluggish all week. Tomorrow night, for sure, hot date with the fluid trainer.
I’m postponing sleep for a few minutes to render my entirely unremarkable opinion on the Supreme Court’s Snyder v. Phelps decision. To wit: I think the Supremes got it right. My agreement is based largely on some of the particulars of the case. Nina Totenberg totally gave me permision* to gank this from her article on

The picketers followed their usual practice at the Snyder funeral. They alerted police in advance and followed instructions to set up their protest on public property, at a site 1,000 feet away from the church, near the vehicle entrance.
Though the protest was peaceful and ended before the funeral began, the picketers carried signs with messages offensive to many […]
Albert Snyder, the father of the dead Marine, did not see the signs until later when he viewed TV coverage. He says the picketers turned his son’s funeral into a circus, taking away his “last moment” with his son.

When I think about these protests, I usually get a mental image of a bunch of yahoos standing right behind the priest as the casket is lowered into the ground. That apparently wasn’t true, at least not in this instance. They were on public ground – just outside the church parking lot, sounds like – and were gone before the actual funeral took place. There was no personal contact with the family. I think I’d have a problem if that were somehow judged to be outside the bounds of the law. Certainly a $5 million judgement for emotional distress is way out of line, and that’s what the lower court awarded Snyder. As repugnant as this sort of thing is, I don’t think I want the supreme court saying it’s not OK for people to gather in public and say unpopular things.
Now let me state what should be obvious: like most people with a half-ounce of sense, I think Phelps and crew are somewhere between crazy and terminally cynical. I found this analysis of his behavior to make quite a bit of sense. The world would be a better place if this didn’t happen, and part of me thinks that by writing about it, I’m simply giving the situation attention it doesn’t deserve. But I don’t think it should be illegal, even though it would most certainly break my already broken heart should it happen to me.
Now, as a palate cleanser, go look at the coverage of the counter-protest at San Diego Comic-Con 2010.
* not really