There's an image problem in XC racing, and for once it has nothing to do with garish lycra. It's all about the 'B' line, and for some riders it's a big issue.
'A' lines are big and bold and in your face. They carry with them an element of fear, and kudos for the riders who take them on, and are quite often surrounded by spectators. But that doesn't mean everyone has to take them on.
There are plenty of reasons for a rider to pick a 'B' line over it's riskier 'A' alternative - tiredness late in the race, lack of confidence, lack of the required skill, brittle bones, malfunctioning rear brake, just don't fancy it. But for some riders, the self inflicted shame of taking a 'B' line is just too much to bear.
The labels don't help either - 'A' suggests Top, Best, Strongest, while 'B' suggests something a bit inferior.
Back in the mists of time, when I used to wear lycra and race a lot, the worst part of every race experience (apart from the lycra) was the inevitable chatter pre-race that generally went along the lines of:
"have you ridden the 'A' lines?"
"Are you going to ride the 'A' lines?"
"Did you see so and so crash on the 'A' lines?".
Sadly, although xc racing, bike technology and the skill level of riders has moved on, the conversation has not.
It's worth remembering that, at some point, we're all 'B' line riders. Everyone has a cut off point - the important thing is recognising where that point is for you.
In a bid to banish the negative conertations of the 'B' line, we're rebranding it. At Soggy Bottom XC events in the future, expect to see the following signs replacing the old hazard arrows.
So if you are one of the many riders who doesn't quite feel comfortable taking on some of the techy features of XC races, chill out, practice your skills, and if you don't fancy it on race day smash it down the 'Smiley' line with a big old grin on your face and all your teeth in your head when you reach the bottom.
Author: Maddie Horton