Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New England Cross Races

We're very lucky here in New England. We have tons of cross races each season to pick from. Some parts of the country aren't like this at all. It's such a huge sport for us that lots of people want to step up and promote races at their local venues. Obviously this is a good thing, but with the Verge series getting bigger and bigger, is there a problem? Does the "big" series dominate the calendar? Does it monopolize it?

I think both of those things are true, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. For me these "A" races are where I want to be. It seems like most folks feel the same way based on attendance at these events. You can understand why, when you see the quality of the production when you race a Verge race. So whats the problem? I think it's the effect it has on the little guy, aka promoters of non Verge races. With 15 big races for the season it doesn't leave many scraps for the other promoters.

There's also another problem. The Verge races have gotten so popular that the schedule for the day is jam packed. There was much discussion about this last year and it's pretty amazing that they actually fit that much into the day. But...there's always a but, at what cost? Last year it was extremely hard to get a real good look at the course, and next to impossible to get in a hot lap. The races were so tightly scheduled that you had to be fully kitted up and ready to ride a lap the second the officials let you ride forward from the start line. Within a minute or two you were up behind the last rider in the field. Swarming that person would surely get you a tounge lashing, and subject you to mass "on-line abuse". So while 30 or 45 of us lingered behind said person until they finished, we often hit the finish line in time to see the next race staging. If you were quick, you might be able to cut the course and get most of a lap in before you got screamed at for being disrespectful to fellow racers (who were on the course 3 minutes back). We had to arrive 3-1/2 hours early before the race to try to do this twice, in between races.

The next thing that started to happen was for the officials to enforce the 80% rule which infuriated people to no end. They got pulled just because they were far behind. Even if there was no serious threat of them being lapped, they were mathematically eliminated so they had to get out. I think that rule was rectified, but it was generally a little more stressful and a little less fun to go the Verge races last year.

In no way am I saying ANYTHING bad against the guys at Verge. Don & Mike are the best! We have our kits made by them, and the stuf is PRO, PRO, PRO. Plus they "get it". Their long time sponsorship of this series is proof of that.

What I'm thinking about as a solution of some sort is to make the Verge series something for beginners to aspire to. In other words they would have to cut their teeth at the other races (non Verge races). If the powers that be in New England were to eliminate all the cat 4 categories they would be seriously helping out those other promoters. Not only that, but it would free up the schedule a bit at the Verge races, so everyone could get in a lap or two without feeling like you're stealing something or breaking the rules.

Some will say there are lots of weekends left after the Verge weekends, but there really aren't that many. Plus lots of people budget for x # of races per year. For me the 15 Verge plus Suckerbrook, Canton and the regional Championships (2 days) makes for a 19 race season, then natz and worlds. Thats more than a full season if you ask me. Others will say they want to race both days every weekend from mid September to mid December. Thats great if thats your thing, but it doesn't leave much time for decent training weeks, and most of those people are pretty burnt out by the time Northampton comes and goes along with daylight savings and warmer temps.

Anyway, I'm just thinking out loud here. I don't really care one way or the other, cuz I'm gonna do my thing either way, but it might be nice to throw the small race promoters a bone instead of running them out town.

Racers could learn the ropes a little bit more before upgrading to the "big races". Some of those local races are so cool and laid back with a mellow vibe. I think thats important to experience. When you strip all that away and replace it with "road rage like anger" from officials and promoters, then you're literally wrecking a good thing.

Thanks for reading, JB

20 comments:

rosey said...

1. who do you think pays for your first place cash in the master's category? certainly not the 70ish racers in your field or the 40ish in the UCI fields.

2. who do you think buys the gear that all the series sponsors produce/sell to stay in business?

3. how do you think the promoters break even (or make the few pennies they make) on the top notch product they deliver?

4. who do you think is hanging around to cheer your field on and adding the 'pro' atmosphere throughout the rest of the day?

5. so if Verge cut out the cat 4 fields, you're saying you'd have no problem racing at 9am in mid December?

Frankly, the tight schedule doesn't need to be a challenge until the days get legitimately shorter. The early season races have more than enough sunlight to still allow 20 minutes between fields. Also, if every Verge race didn't have to be a UCI event (I'm looking at you Maine and VT), the promoters wouldn't have to reserve that extra 45 minutes of warm up time for the less than 100 total (male and female) UCI riders.

Frankly, your post is selfish and disrespectful towards the 300+ riders whose race entry money makes the Verge events possible and who help bring attention to a niche sport from which you've benefited.

mrsmith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AlanAtwoood said...

Jonny; it's a good thought but given the current economic climate it won't be feasible or practical for years to come.

My thoughts on this would actually fall on the other side of the spectrum: Since the Verge series is now all amateur (thanks to the UCI and USAC), the NECCS races should not have elite races anymore, and just focus on the regional riders. The NEPCX (or whatever they want to call it) is now the elite series, and those races should concentrate on them and can the cat 4 races like you suggest. Even having said that, it still would be tough to finance those events given no one is giving out any cash anymore.

Alan Atwood

Paul Boudreau said...

Speaking for Gloucester, not going to happen. Cat 4s look forward to racing at Gloucester and I won't tell 125 people they aren't welcome.

To be frank, the cost of putting on our event is not offset by sponsorship alone. Income from 125 riders goes along way to helping us put on this event.

Regarding giving the new/smaller races a leg up: Providence is a pretty new race. But Richard, Tom & crew were able to get PVD to the highest level by building an amazing product.

Regarding the issue of lack of course time for hot laps, yes it's a bummer. But in the scheme of things, it's such a small problem in my mind. At the very least just about everyone runs up against that same disadvantage; that is except the Cat 4s who get up at the crack of dawn. As newbies, they can use the extra time on the course.

Paul Boudreau
GP Gloucester
Race Director

solobreak said...

I'm not sure how anyone found this post to be inflammatory.

gewilli said...

aren't we going to get to test this out with the new Burlington race happening the same weekend as Suckerbrook? or do i have my dates mixed up?

cycloWHAT? said...

Jonny, If I were fast enough, I would ride up to you and punch you in the nuts. Just kidding, buddy. After all, a man is free to think out loud on his own blog, isn't he?

Even if it's a stupid idea...

Jonny Bold said...

Rosey,
You took the bait didn't you? He dared you, and you did it. You tried to make this about me, but it's not. It's about giving cat 4 racers a good experience and also spreading the wealth to the small race promoters.

"1. who do you think pays for your first place cash.... "

Using your figures our 70 rider field would produce $2450. The prize purse is $500. That means we leave almost $2000 in the promoters pockets. We race for about 20% of the total entries using your numbers. Thats not a lot. I'd say we pay for ourselves just fine and contribute handsomely to the pro purses.

"2. who do you think buys the gear that all the series sponsors produce/sell to stay in business?"

I think the masters racers do. Haven't you heard? We're all doctors and lawyers.

"3. how do you think the promoters break even (or make the few pennies they make) on the top notch product they deliver?"

I think the money from every single entry fee goes into a giant coffer and it pays all the purses, and the overhead too. Then there's usually something left over for their troubles. Some races obviously do better than others.

"4. who do you think is hanging around to cheer your field on and adding the 'pro' atmosphere throughout the rest of the day?"

I think it's cyclocross fans. Some are cat 4's sure, some are the 45+ masters racers, some are juniors, some are family members. I certainly don't think it's a strict cat 4 cheering section. Again this isn't about me having people cheer on the masters race. Its about the cat 4's, and the small race promoters.

"5. so if Verge cut out the cat 4 fields, you're saying you'd have no problem racing at 9am in mid December?"

Racing at 9 AM would be fantastic! Do you seriously think I'm afraid of the cold? I would LOVE to race at 9 AM any month of the year.

"Frankly, the tight schedule doesn't need to be a challenge until the days get legitimately shorter. The early season races have more than enough sunlight to still allow 20 minutes between fields. Also, if every Verge race didn't have to be a UCI event (I'm looking at you Maine and VT), the promoters wouldn't have to reserve that extra 45 minutes of warm up time for the less than 100 total (male and female) UCI riders."

Good point....you were bound to have one.

"Frankly, your post is selfish and disrespectful towards the 300+ riders whose race entry money makes the Verge events possible and who help bring attention to a niche sport from which you've benefited."

Again sir....not about me. But from what you've said the cat 4's should come along and race in the wee hours when it's cold, with no one there to watch. They should plunk down their hard earned money to pay for the masters prize purses as well as the elites. They should then buy up all the product from the sponsors, but do it in a timely manner so that they can come provide "pro atmosphere" for the rest of us. That is what you said......and I'm selfish. Even while I said they might enjoy the laid back mellow atmosphere of a smaller race to learn the ropes and earn an upgrade so they can come to the big show, while simultaenously helping out the small race promoters.

It sounds to me like you think the cat 4's are everyone's bitch and you like it that way. I find it funny, actually hilarious, that you used these ridiculous points to drive your point home, when in actuality you took a huge dump right on the heads of every cat 4 in the field. At the same time, you helped me make my point even better than I could have. Thanks.

Seriously Dood, that was pathetic! Re-read that last paragraph of your comment and actually think about what you're saying. WOW!


If I was a cat 4, I'd choose to go to the other races and get to know the sport without being used and abused.

Jonny Bold said...

Alan,

Thanks for the comment. I like your idea even better. It only makes sense, but we all know the truth of the matter is that if a strict PRO race is held it won't have nearly enough income from entry fees to pay much of a purse. If there's a lousy purse, then nobody decent shows up to race. I seriously doubt they could meet the UCI standard without drawing from the amateur fields entry fees.

The time to give the UCI the flick may be near.

Jonny Bold said...

Paul,

Thanks for the thoughtful insight. I can certainly understand your point of view. Gloucester is the best race we have BY FAR and it's convenient that your spot on the schedule comes early in the year. That alleviates a lot of the issues for sure.

As far as Providence goes, thats sort of different with it having been the Natz course before, and having Tom and Richard it was destined to be top notch. I'm thinking more of the Orchard cross, and Mansfield Hollow and Coonamessett to name a few.

I wish Gloucester was the venue for Nationals in mid November.

Jonny Bold said...

Solo,

Thank You. I can elaborate on why it was taken that way by some people, but that'll have to wait. I need some sleep.

Chan,

You're the best man.....always telling it like it is and thinking for yourself......Respect.
But please leave my nuts alone you homo!

iworedettos said...

masters bike racing is in danger of becoming a total dorkfest, like triathlon.

or masters bike racing.

rosey said...

"You tried to make this about me, but it's not. It's about giving cat 4 racers a good experience and also spreading the wealth to the small race promoters."

Judging by the size of the cat 4 fields at Verge events, I don't think they're feeling crapped on at all, and must certainly enjoy the race experience they're getting, otherwise they wouldn't sell out nearly as often as they do, would they?

I fully agree, there are plenty of great small races that deserve better attendance, but despite good prizes, lower entry fees and often times, more convenient locations, they just don't draw the crowds the Verge races draw.

Closing these guys out (or going Pro only) of the Verge races, as Paul and Alan have noted, doesn't leave enough money to throw the quality of race you expect from Verge. You can't use 20+ percent of the entry fee just for prizes and expect to have enough left over for course materials, officials, scorers, marketing, and the copious other costs involved with promoting an event. You end up with a season full of mediocre races conflicting with each other from September thru December.

I'm all for trying to find ways to improve the Verge events for everyone, but making them exclusive is not a feasible option unless the decreased fields want to pay an even higher fee to play.

ringcycles said...

Jonny, you could always do like Lynne Bessette did w/ the Cat 3 race, start the 45+ event as your warm up. Or just start at the back of 45+ field, ride the first 2-3 laps as your hot laps, then drop out to finish your prep for the 35+ race. Yes you'd have to pay another entry fee, but that would actually help the promoters out. I'm certain you wouldn't want to do this for every event, but for some it might make sense.

Certainly that strategy would be better for NECX than nixing the Cat 4 field at Gloucester or PVD or NoHo. I think most of the Cat 4's in the big races aleady have cut their teeth in smaller local races as you suggested. We simply have a lot of folks getting into cyclocross in New England.

Carl Ring

Jonny Bold said...

Things Mr. President says.

"Dare you to leave a comment telling him the real answer is to race elites, and masters is for pussies. DO IT!".....Adam Myerson, President of NECCS

"You know what? He's actually not a nice guy. He's a self-absorbed, egotistical, angry, short-sighted asshole. Only he counts.".....Adam Myerson, President of NECSS

So, I try to say "Hey lets not forget about the little guys", (small race promoters) and this is the response from the President of all things cross in New England.

So do all of you masters racers have that straight? If you race masters you're a pussy, according to the almighty one. That means Marky Mac, Roger Aspholm, Matt Kraus, myself, Kevin Hines, Kurt Perham, Curtis Boivin, John Verheul, Steve Tilford, Don Myrah, Pete Webber, Brandon Dwight, Ned Overend, and anyone else that races in your appropriate age group. All Pussies. Jeez!

Ya, I'm the egosistacal, angry one. He says as he manipulates his little jock sniffing wannabes, tugging on their puppet strings. You guys should call yourselves "Adam and the Ants", no wait...."Adam and the Can'ts", as in Can't think for themselves.

You can't make this shit up. That's hilarious if you ask me.

I would think a guy with a hardware store hanging off his face would have a little more "Live and let live" attitude, but I guess not. Oh, is that bad to say? How 'bout calling everyone pussies from his keyboard? Is that OK?

Eiric said...

I'm with Solo (how anyone found this post to be inflammatory.) you (Jonny) saw a problem and instead of bitchin' you put forward a solution. Everybody just ride your freaking bikes

SteveS said...

For what it’s worth, Jonny, to the casual observer who doesn’t know you and isn’t entrenched in the CX world your post comes off sounding like thinly veiled attempt to get yourself more tie to pre-ride. As for your internet spats with Myerson, I’m sure you both feel like you’re fighting the good fight, but you both end up sounding like elitist d-bags. I’m not saying either one of you are, just that post like these can actually discourage someone from wanting to get into the sport.

MGood said...

As a mtb'er that also enjoys cross, I've wondered why the promoters of the non-Verge Series races don't band together and provide an alternantive series. Part of the fun of Root 66 or EFTA is the cummulative series not just the singular race.
This series,with less of an "elite" focus could instead offer different cataories that would appeal to the non-elites.

My opinion is that such a series would be very popular. Racers would get involved in a series and would go to races that they might not otherwisw attend, thus increasing attendance. They also would appreciate being a bigger part of a smaller pie and not just a "purse-builder" for the big shots at the Verge Series races.

Jonny Bold said...

SteveS, I agree with you for the most part, especially after seeing where this went.

I set out to say, Lets not ignore the small races (and the promoters) and give them a chance to thrive by not having sooo many Verge races, and perhaps consider a little restructuring of categories available. The last thing in the world that I thought it sounded like was elitist. I mentioned a couple things that have become somewhat of an issue at the Verge races, and that my proposed solution would also help with those, sort of like a perk on top of a perk. Help out the other promoters (after all they're part of the New England Cross Family as well) and make the day a little less stressed and frantic at the Verge races.

The pre ride time isn't just my issue, it's everyone's. There was a massive thread about this last year during the series. So it's valid. I have my system to do what I gotta do, but it really is a bit ridiculous to spend 5 or 6 hours at the venue for a 45 minute race.

None of it was meant to be inflamatory at all. I'm not saying that the cat 4s should stay home like so many people have suggested. I'm saying go to the other races, show those promoters some love and get some in return. After Rosey pointed out just how badly they really are being used, I'd be surprised if they didn't just take it upon themselves to do just that.

All that being said, I realize now that these "conversations" on the internet are futile, thanks to advice from a few friends. No doubt the words here in this comment will again be twisted and manipulated into something "some people" want to see.

In my mind if you don't agree, then say so, and then explain why. I didn't call anyone names or get all righteous and off topic(until it was done to me). Alan and Paul made constructive comments and signed their ACTUAL NAMES. If you want a levelheaded idea of what a promoter thinks, reread Alan's comment. Paul's is excellent also, although he's the promoter of the biggest race in the country and there's plenty of warmth (usually)and daylight to spare for his race. Alan is involved in every race and sees both sides. It's nothing but an open discussion online. Then hop over to Twitter and see how a couple haters with an entourage can stir up trouble. Like I said futile!

In the end, of course none of this is gonna happen, and I certainly don't think people are gonna read my little blog and say "Hey lets cahnge the way we've been doing things forever". But like I said, I was just thinking out loud. Thats how progress starts, with a little civilized discussion. If after a few years, several "ideas" have been floated, then maybe one starts to make more sense.

Anyway, thanks for reading and giving your opinion.
JB

Jonny Bold said...

MGood,

You're possibly onto the future of things. What has happened is that there are lots of bigger races in the US to attend for big pros. Heck, the best guys in the country are all from New England, but they don't race here much at all, Gloucester of course. But for the most part they're in another state or even country.

Whats left is a regional pro race, which in this region is pretty good. But does it merit that kind of purse, that we all end up paying for? If we lose the UCI (after all they did give "us" the major flick over the winter) then maybe a more reasonable purse could be offered. Keep the "big" races UCI (maybe Gloucester, Noho and Providence).

If not something like that, then what you suggested might be in the cards for the future. I agree that it might well be, very popular.