1860, “furnish with sandbags,” from sandbag (n.). Meaning “pretend weakness,” 1970s perhaps is extended from poker-playing sense of “refrain from raising at the first opportunity in hopes of raising more steeply later” (1940), which perhaps is from sandbagger in the sense of “bully or ruffian who uses a sandbag as a weapon to knock his intended victim unconscious” (1882). Hence “to fell or stun with a blow from a sandbag” (1887). Related: Sandbagged; sandbagging.
– Online Etymology Dictionary
One of the most commonly heard complaints about the WCA Cyclocross Series is the proliferation of the Sandbagger. It’s frustrating. A couple years ago, I had a great race and barely missed a podium spot, losing a sprint for 3rd. Later, when looking at the results, I saw the winner was sandbagging. He had more than double his “Mandatory” upgrade points. That’s the closest I ever was to a podium, and I wasn’t there because someone was cheating.
This year’s WCA series is only in it’s 3rd race, and we already have racers past their mandatory upgrade points accepting podium presentations. The scale of this problem in the WCA series is disheartening. The Men’s Cat 4’s seem to have the biggest problem with cheaters. A quick look at last weekend’s racing results has a racer on the podium who passed his upgrade points the week prior. This coming Sunday’s race has a racer registered in the 4’s who has accumulated 36 upgrade points and 5 wins (15 points and 2 wins is supposed to be a “Mandatory” upgrade). There was a rider two years ago with 9 wins and 55 upgrade points still racing the 4’s. What the hell?
“So what?” you might ask. Well, when one of these people wins race after race like this, it keeps the riders underneath him from accumulating upgrade points and recognition. The upgrade points don’t trickle down to the racers below the sandbagger. What’s the point of racing if a cheater and a bully is going to keep you from ever moving up? Most of us want desperately to get better, move up, and race with faster and more skilled riders. When a sandbagger prevents you from doing this week after week, it gets discouraging to the ethical racers. The race promoters and series organizers work really hard to create great races and encourage large fields. I know a few people who don’t want to race anymore due to the rampant sandbagging in their category. It’s especially discouraging to the beginners. More people entering and participating in cross is awesome, and sandbaggers hurt our community.
What can we do?
1. Keep an eye on results, especially the podiums. There will never be a shortage of cheaters in our sport. If someone is breaking the rules, let them know. Sometimes it’s just ignorance and they’re just enjoying the newfound success on the racecourse. A polite reminder is all they might need.
2. If a racer is not upgrading and keeps registering in a lower category than he qualifies for: shame him. “SANDBAGGER!” shouted at the top of your lungs as they make an off-camber turn is pretty upsetting to the cheat. If a notorious sandbagger is accepting a Podium award, everything and anything you can insult them with is acceptable. You must weld this power carefully, nothing is worse than mistakenly or inappropriately making this allegation. Expect the cheater to get VERY upset when you point out his bad behavior.
3. Get your buddies involved. A group of hecklers is way more fun than doing it on your own. Also, probably safer (see #2).
4. Let the officials know. It’s their job to make upgrades when someone’s time is up in a particular category. When someone needs an upgrade and isn’t making it voluntarily, a nudge to the officials can help. However, don’t harass them about it, they do a great job and rage should be directed at the cheater, not the officials.
5. If 1-4 are not effective, then ignore the Sandbaggers. They’re usually egocentric jerks who cast a shadow over an otherwise awesome sport. Don’t get obsessed over their antics. You love cyclocross. Don’t let a few cheaters ruin that for you.
Nicholas Moroder is the everyday face of Belgainwerkx. He has been wrenching on bikes for 10 years and is a Certified Retul University fitter. He’s the kind of guy who can tell you what tire is best for your wet rides, or what brake pads will make your rims last the longest. He manages the service, product , fitting, and day-to-day operation of the shop.