Vallnord cross country World Cup winner Sabine Spitz expressed concern about the safety of cross country courses, which she thinks are becoming increasingly more extreme each year. The German had travelled to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, but crashed during training, injured herself and had to pull out of the championships.
"I think we've reached a point where yes, we want spectacular courses, but maybe we are at the edge where it is too dangerous," said Spitz to Cyclingnews. She planned to talk to athlete representative Georgia Gould about the issue.
"I have a feeling that the organizers have all been pushing to have the most spectacular courses," said Spitz. "They keep pushing more and more, but in the end, the riders have to pay the bill with the injuries."
Spitz spoke to Cyclingnews the day before she planned to head home to Germany for surgery on her injured shoulder. It's the second time this season that she has hurt her shoulder; she crashed in Albstadt, Germany during training for the World Cup opener and injured her other shoulder in exactly the same way. She had surgery to repair that earlier injury and missed the first half of the season.
Remember her crash during training on the Worlds course, Spitz said, "It happened at Shaka's playground. It's a spot we knew from last year at the World Cup. Compared to last year, it was made more difficult. There was more soil last year. Some was removed this year so it's a bigger step to get over the logs."
"Maybe I went in a bit too fast? The first couple of logs were ok, but the end of the logs, I hit one with the front wheel and it gave me a push and my rear wheel came up. I went into a nose wheelie and went over the handlebars from the last log until the bottom of the section - maybe a 3 or 4m fall. I crashed on my shoulder and once again, I had an acromioclavicular fracture."
"I knew this feeling since I had done the same thing on the other side. In that one, they put a fiber wire to hold my shoulder together. It will stay in, but on this side which I just injured, I only had natural fixation."
Spitz, who is one of the older members of the elite women's cross country peloton, has had many years to observe the changes in the sport and its race courses.
"For example, we had a nice course in Nove Mesto [at the World Cup] before. Why did they have to put in a new rock garden where you know that if there are bad conditions, you will have trouble? Even in dry conditions, a small mistake there is a hurtful mistake."
"In Albstadt [at this year's World Cup], I crashed. There were special conditions there - there was limestone, and it gets so slippery when wet, like with this clay here in South Africa. Organizers have to think, 'How is my course under all conditions?'"
"I also heard from a former member of the organziation for World Cup. He said that they had gotten money from the state or town to make the track ride-able in rainy conditions, too, but that this money ended up going into more difficult and fancy features, into more spectacular features."
Spitz pointed out that when the injuries happen, it hits some riders in the pocketbook.
"I don't know the contracts of all riders, but some riders who are out of competition have contracts which say that they get no salary when they are not competing."
"Maybe the UCI can calm down the organizers and the course builders? They could tell them that it is different to ride an easy lap verses a lap with your heart rate at 170bpm. It gets tougher every lap. You get tired and exhausted. You have to race with other competitors around you. It's not the same as just riding it. It might be better to take a step back with the courses."