I love nearly everything about this photo taken by Marius Maasewerd at the 2014 Men’s UCI XCO race in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Nearly everything. Let me “dissect” the photo and explain why…
Two of the best: The number one (Nino Schurter) and number two (Julien Absalon) racers in the world battling it out in the Treehouse section of the Pietermaritzburg course. What’s not to like about that? It was a good bet that the race would come down to the two of them and it would have, had it not been for Schurter’s flat.
Rocks: Lots of rocks. Pro mountain bike racers–especially in Europe– have taken shit in years past about their technical abilities and the lack of “real mountain bike” courses (mostly from people who have never raced a World Cup XC race). I have to say, having seen more races in recent years (thank you Red Bull TV), that seems to have changed. Punchy climbs, steep descents and challenging courses have become the norm, rider skills have improved and the racing is better for it. There seems to be fewer “road racers racing mountain bikes” and more well-rounded mountain bike racers. Sure, the courses are still multiple short laps, but this makes for better (web) TV coverage and access for spectators. Win.
Spectators: If you see the video coverage of the race, there seemed to be plenty spectators at Pietermaritzburg and that is always a good thing for the sport. The good thing about the spectators seen in this photo is (and I am stereotyping here) that they don’t have the appearance of being XC racers. In America, 99% of race spectators are racers who are on hand to compete in other categories or close family of racers. The spectators in the photo above seem to be there just because they want to watch the race. Have you ever watched a European cyclocross race on the web and compared the crowds to those at American races? In Europe you have a hodgepodge of old guys drinking beer, old women and kids cheering right alongside your average cycling fan. In America, we don’t have much trouble getting cycling fans to (big) races, but struggle in having Joe Six Pack want to come check out a race. So for me, seeing folks who appear to just be “regular folks” cheering on racers is always cool.
Nino’s legs: To paraphrase Seinfeld’s George Costanza– I say this with an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality… Nino’s legs are fabulous. There, I said it. Chiseled, powerful, muscular. They resemble the legs of a road sprinter more than those of an XC racer, and compared to Absalon’s pasty, twig-like appendages they look like tree trunks.
Absalon: The dude just keeps on racing and keeps on winning (or coming damn close), and even though I just knocked his pasty twig legs, I would give my left nut to have 1/1,000 of 1% of his ability or body fat percentage. I can tell you now, that in my ENTIRE life (even 50 pounds ago) I have never, ever, EVER had as little body fat as he is rocking right now. Prick.
I told you I loved nearly everything about the photo, so here it is, and based on some of my comments or Tweets in the past it is probably apparent… Manuel Fumic and those fucking baggy shorts.
I have nothing against baggy shorts, they are perfect for casual rides, urban assaults or the occasional two-wheeled pub crawl. I mean who wants to go into a local bar dressed in Lycra? But I’m sorry, I just don’t get why any-fucking-one outside of Sport class would want to wear them (especially on the elite pro level) for XC racing. Sure, I get that some folks just don’t enjoy showing off their man meat (Robert Plant style), their lady bits or unwanted bulges, but we are talking about some of the fittest athletes on the planet, I doubt this is any concern of theirs. Every time I see the Cannondale riders wearing them it makes my nuts sweat and skin crawl.
Having said that, the dude IS racing at the highest level and he DID get second place in Pietermaritzburg, so I guess he can do whatever the hell he wants. Meanwhile, I could wear a skin suite designed by the leading sports scientist in the world, have veins full of EPO and a motor on my bike and struggle to come in mid-pack at my local XC race series, so who the hell am I to say? Not worth arguing about (although many over on Pinkbike.com are having a go at it in the comments), I just know I don’t like it…. sort of like fat bikes on anything but snow or sand, people who try to ride a cross bike at a cross-country race or wearing bibs with no shirt on. Just because you CAN do it, doesn’t mean you should. Hmm, I guess that could be said of me writing this blog as well…
Top photo: Marius Maasewerd
Bottom photo: Michal Červený, mtbs.cz