The UCI did away with masters road world championships and USAC is now encouraging riders to race qualifying gran fondos in order to have a shot at becoming a “gran fondo world champion.”
At first I wondered if they were doing this to fatally poison the delusion of masters racers. Maybe they were thinking that no self-respecting delusional old person would call himself a “gran fondo” anything. By ruining the competition pyramid so that “mature” riders are no longer the base, maybe they were trying to get the competitive focus back where it belongs, on young people.
But then I realized that road racing is still falling off a cliff at the rate of 32.2 feet/sec2, and that’s not going to change by jiggering around the titles for old fart race winners.
Then I thought that maybe someone got really pissed at all these masters world champions. I know several masters world champs and they can smash me without even trying. But maybe it rubbed someone the wrong way.
Maybe they were thinking that a world champion by definition shouldn’t be delimited by the word “masters”? Just like a true World Series of baseball shouldn’t be delimited by the geography of North America, maybe someone got upset about sticking the word “masters” in there next to “world champion.”
Or, I thought, maybe someone got ticked off that the masters worlds champions wear the same arm bands as UCI pro world champs, kind of like trademark infringement. Someone out there in pro UCI Land was afraid the masses will think there’s some equivalency between a rider who wins the elite pro road race and a grandpa who wins the 65+ masters leaky prostate road race?
Perhaps they were upset that when you win a masters world title in anything, you’re not winning based on ability, you’re winning it on ability plus the artificial limiter of age. It’s a stacked deck, a grossly un-level playing field because you’ve excluded reams of people who could beat you like a drum, people who are so much better than you, you’d be dropped after mile one.
They might have complained that if you’re going to have world championships based on age, why not also do them based on race, or native language? Or better yet, further refine it based on weight + age, like Strava. And why stop there? Why not name people world champions of certain Strava segments? Maybe they were scared we would have thousands of world champions every year, each one entitled to wear the same UCI stripes that Eddy once wore. “Wanky McWankster, UCI World Champion of The Driveway In My Gated Community Segment.” Bands, please.
However, none of those explanations panned out. I think the UCI looked at the amazing number of people who do grand fondues and decided they wanted a piece of the action. That certainly fits with USAC’s new motto of “be everything to everyone.” And as goofy as being a fondue champ sounds to the average bike racer, most fondue participants don’t race bikes at all and don’t want to.
They want to do grand fondues, and to them it’s way more prestigious to win the NYC GF than the East Dumblecrook Jakeleg Crit.
What’s awesome about the new Gran Fondo Worlds is that the words “grand fondue” put an emphasis on what the participants of these events really are: Hobby cyclists who are very serious and very good, and especially good when compared to people near them in age. Having the words “gran fondo” make it clear that no matter how seriously the athlete takes it, in the end, this is all just for fun. Gran fun.
No cyclist I know is going to brag about being a grand fondue world champion. Instead, they’ll do the race, get the result they get, and come back from what was a fun vacation in Italy or wherever with their attitude in the right place: They did a good race, got a good result, and are ready to move on to the next one. In fact, I’m doing Phil’s Cookie Fondue in October.
Minus the arm bands. Please.
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