It was neat to see so many junior riders at this weekend's UCI3 Cyclocross festival in Cincinnati. Even the ones who kicked my ass.
It was also neat to see adults taking some very young racers around the course during warmup and showing them the ropes.
I do have to admit, though, that my initial reaction to some of this "coaching" was lukewarm when it appeared that the adults involved started getting a bit serious about matters. Then I saw some really young kids riding some really expensive wheels, a topic thoroughly discussed on some recent Facebook threads.
I then compared those scenes with the kid warming up behind me on Sunday (who looked to be about 10 years old) who was yelling and carrying on the whole time because he was having so much fun just riding his (non-$2000 wheeled) bike around the course. That, my friend, is what it is all about.
I am not sure why I have such a reactionary aversion to parents and role models who take their children's bike racing so seriously. Is it any different than a parent who really gets into their kid's little league and hits ground balls to the kid who plays shortstop? Or the parent who regularly practices shots at her soccer playing, goal tending daughter?
Maybe I am a bit sensitive to this topic because so many people take the fun out of their children's sports by taking it so seriously. Or maybe because I remember being told in 4th grade football by Coach Marconi that he was going to bash our heads into the brick wall if we didn't hit the sled harder during a 90 degree practice.
This sport is pretty great, and there are already enough barriers to entry for young riders, such as affording a safe and race worthy bike. Let's encourage the kids, but not scare them away.
And, for God's sake, a 12 year old probably does not need $2000 wheels. And a $3750 cross bike is not a mid-level cross bike. Nor is a $1999 frame.