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