Friday, December 4, 2009

Tour of the Battenkill—More Thoughts on the Fee Increase.

My post last week about Tour of the Battenkill’s fee increase stirred up a hornet’s net of opinions and counter arguments. Overall, the debate that took place was good and at times productive. Dieter explained that he will use your increased registration fee to make T shirts and rent timing chips. Neither of these additions will improve our experience during the race.

While I am skeptical about the need for timing chips, I have to admit that they may help Drake and his staff get results posted a little faster than the +5 days that zencycles points out that it took last year.

Curiously, Drake did not mention improving racer support, such as neutral wheel cars for lower category races or even having multiple “wheels in, wheels out” cars per race.

The key for me would be seriously increased wheel support. Drake didn’t mention anything about neutral support. Therefore most of his “improvements” for 2010 are aimed at peripheral details, while failing to address the most people’s central complaint with Battenkill: LACK OF RIDER SUPPORT.

If you talk to people about this race or read cycling blogs you know that flat tires are common in this race. More importantly, there was little to no support for racers who flatted.

If I drove 4 hours, paid for a hotel, paid a $75 race feel and got a flat and had to walk to the finish, a T Shirt and accurate results would not make me feel any better.

You have a choice. You can take Dieter Drake at his word and believe that you $75 will be well spent and that the race will be markedly better than it was last year. Personally, Dieter’s comments on this blog failed to convince me that the race will be worth $75.

Maybe I am wrong. Perhaps Drake is trying to limit the number of registrants in order to provide a higher quality race. But if we consider his past behavior in this regard, we should conclude that this is likely not his intent. Last year Drake opened multiple lower category races in order to gather as many $45 registration fees as possible. As a result the race suffered from botched results and riders suffered from inadequate support during the race. Even riders who finished without incident passed dozens of riders walking duckfooted up the dirt climbs while pushing bicycles with flat tires.

Again, I could be wrong. The race could have been suffering from growing pains that an extra $50,000 in registration fees will massage away. Its your money to gamble with.

For my part, I plan on hosting a very long ride (race) on the same day as Battenkill. I have been exploring formats and routes, trying to devise a format and a route that will prove challenging to competitive cyclists while offering an acceptable level of safety. It won’t be a popularity contest; I won’t be offended if friends chose to race Battenkill.

I am looking for suggestions about route and format.

13 comments:

zencycle said...

I've done the race twice. My fitness is always a big question mark at that time of year (as if it's not any other time of year...). That said, my experience in being a licensed racer and racing in quite a few road races with extended dirt sections since 1987 has taught me one thing - be prepared.

The possibility of flatting at BkR is quite high. The possibility of me getting dropped is quite high. Therefore, a venn analysis would show the possibility of me getting dropped and _then_ flatting is of significant concern. So, I carried a spare tire and a CO2 cartridge. Fortunately I didn't need it either time.

Trust me, carrying around ten ounces of junk in your pocket isn't going to make the difference between getting dropped and not getting dropped, I don't care who you are. If you lose the win in a sprint by half a wheel, I could see you suggesting otherwise. For me though, that won't be an issue, like wise for the other 99% of participants.

So for me, having raced in probably over 100 races in my life with _no_ wheel support, having that support is a luxury for me. However, for a $75 entry fee, a wheel van is something I would expect, even if they pass me while following what remains the pack.

I really don't know how much 'greasing' Dieter has to do to the local palms in order to run the race, but I can imagine that the event running through that many towns requires some 'incentive'. I've put on a few road races over the years and I know all about having to pay for a cop detail at a remote intersection where the cyclists have the right-of-way and a volunteer marshal would suffice.

For $75, here's what I expect:

~ A well marshaled course
~ A well marked course
~ A support vehicle for my field
~ sag wagon at the tail end of the race
~ after the race, make sure all the wheel vans are parked at the same spot they loaded the wheels
~ accurate results for the non-placers posted on-line within 48 hours.

These are actually things that promoters like Mike Norton does at all of his road races for less than half the cost of what Dieter wants.

FWIW - Timing chips will in fact help out. There will be no issues with reading a race number obscured by another rider, rain jacket, or torn/missing. Your place in your field will be available for posting literally as fast as the operator can press the 'print' key.

BTW - I can tell you exactly how mike norton gets his results up so quickly, He hires JD.

James said...

I was in a foot race today and they had timing chips. To pre reg for the race it was $15. It was a very small 5K race maybe a 100 people. It seems like a good idea so the times are all digital to begin with. I'm sure it will be less of a hassle to tally all of those riders. Not sure if the extra cost is justified though.

Maybe you should do the root 66 Hopbrook Dam race. I raced BK last year but since it falls on the same day as Hopbrook it's kind of a no brainer for me. Close to home, less expensive and deep down I have more fun mountain biking.

You did pretty well with those muddy cross races and every year HB is mucho muddy.

Anonymous said...

yawn

Cary said...

Good point-James. I raced HopBrook for the first time last year and it was a mudfest. Fun, but Bold and Hines blew by me. I would definately chose HB over BK.

Big T said...

I am still shivering from the freezing non-stop rainy mudfest that Hopbrook Dam was this past spring. Brrr.

Anonymous said...

I looked in to the cost of chip timing. Looks like $2500-$3500 for 1000 participants. FYI, ToB had 1600 people on bikereg, which counts people on waiting lists into the number. About 1025 actually pinned a number on. Either way, at $2500 or so for the chips that amounts to 33-47 riders at $75 a head. The increase is starting to seem like greed to me....

C Kontogiannis said...

I am the person that coordinates the pace and wheel vehicles for the Battenkill amateur race day. I would like to provide a quick note of clarification on the issue of support vehicles for this race.

In 2009, every amateur race field included one "wheels in/wheels out" support vehicle and each set of 5-6 races departing in short order also included a sag wagon. Each support vehicle included a USAC official that was responsible for the proper positioning of that vehicle. Some of the higher category fields also had a neutral support vehicle. Approximately 350 spare wheels were given out on the amateur race day.

I cannot dispute that some riders who were in contention this year may have not been properly serviced. However, in each race, the decision to provide service (or not) was made by an experienced USAC official, and we have discussed the observations in this and other forums with the Chief Referee.

Based on these same observations, in 2010 I will field two "wheels in/wheels out" support vehicles for all of the races, along with a sag wagon after each set. I cannot promise that everyone will be satisfied, but I hope that most people will consider this a reasonable solution.

Reading Zencycle's list of expectations for 2010, I think I can say that we had 4.5 of the 6 items nailed down in 2009, and we are working diligently towards fixing the other 1.5 in 2010.

But even with two support vehicles per race and more sag wagons, I would still suggest that everyone carry a CO2 cartridge and tube - it just makes good sense all around.

If you have any comments that you would like to provide directly, I can be contacted at ckontogi@nycap.rr.com or at 518-441-2319. Thank you.

Connie K.

zencycle said...

connie,
don't use me as a benchmark. I'm just noting what would make me happy.

Anonymous said...

Last year I flatted and got a wheel change about as fast as humanly possible. It made no difference though, as the course and the speed of the field made it impossible for me to get back with the lead group. If you're racing one of the faster fields, getting a flat is pretty much race over... just the risk one takes in bike racing.

Anonymous said...

What I like is the logic:

(1) Services last year, like results and wheel vans, weren't good enough.
(2) Services cost money.
(3) Race fees go up.
(4) "That's ridiculous, I won't pay it."

It's fine if you didn't have a good time last year, and it's fine if you want to whine about $30 (even if you have x number of carbon wheels and thirteen pairs of Sidis). It's fine if you don't think the race is a good value. But it's inconsistent to complain about a lack of services and then complain more vociferously when they are provided at a cost.

At least Mr. Myerson had a moral point, rather than poor logic masquerading as insight. As for the t-shirts...if you read the comments it's pretty obvious that they're provided by donation, not paid for by race fees.

Last thought: Battenkill, if you're coming from Boston, takes a minimum of 12-18 hours out of your life (probably much more). If $30 (or whatever the fee increase is) is significant to you, you must not value your time very highly. Because the time commitment and opportunity cost are the highest costs associated w/ the race...not the tubulars, not the entry fee, not the gas and not the hotel.

RMM said...

Anon:

You actually make a valid point.

In light of the fiasco with support last year, I don't trust that Drake and ToB was planning to use the increased fee to provide a higher level of support. Drake never mentioned increased support in any of his press releases during the announcement of the increased fee.

At least not until the controversy on this blog.

Furthermore, if you read the comments on this blog about rider support, you'll notice that ToB officials are commenting on/committing to increasing the level of support in for lower category riders. This was partially my intent: to "encourage" Drake et al to use their windfall to pay for better/more support for lower category riders.

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