Thursday, March 25, 2010

RMM’s 2nd Annual Guide to Local Race Teams Part II




Nor’East


This team appears to be based mostly in NH. The lower category riders appear to be little more than crit jocks, though they also field an elite team that does moderately well in Pro12 races

One of the major advantages of joining this team would be the ability to train with and learn from higher category racers. Also if you are pretty sure that you are going to make an upgrade to cat 2 mid season, this team would be a good fit, since you wouldn’t have to change teams to have teammates to race with in the upper cats.

Cambridge Bicycles/Igleheart Frames


If you are reading this, it is probably no secret to you that I am deeply involved with this team. I helped develop the program for the team’s first road season and continue to exert some secondary influence on the way that the team is run (I no longer hold any official office on the team). I explain all of this for 2 reasons: 1. I am proud of what I have helped build. 2. Clearly I am biased.

Cambridge prides itself on teamwork and race domination. Our goal in every lower category race is to be a determining factor and to put a single rider on the podium. We succeed in this goal a good portion of the time. We practice race strategy and routinely talk about strategy. Instead of having everyone finish a race, some riders’ jobs are to attack until they have to pull out of the race (or stay away and get the result). Before a new rider is allowed on the team, they have to explicitly agree to work as part of the team as opposed to “let’s just wait til the end and see what happens.”


2009 was a highly successful road season. We had over a dozen road podiums and we made decisive moves in almost every race we entered. We have started to build a nascent cat 2 team, which is shaping up to have a promising season in 2010.

We also had a number of riders upgrade and a few riders decide to ride for other teams in 2010. With the personnel change we are in a period of transition. There are a bunch of promising riders in the pipeline; so while we don’t know how our season will play, it is also very exciting.

CB generally only accepts riders who have already demonstrated a commitment to racing…we judge this by race attendance. Currently, we are considering cat 2,3 and 4 riders. If we sound like a team you want to race for, then get in touch.

There are a few stereotypes about CB. We are a bunch of hipsters. We are more concerned with partying than racing (yes we have beer sponsors for cross). We are more concerned with our kits than with bicycle racing. We all wear ironic mustaches. We can be dicks during races. All of these stereotypes are more or less true at one time or another.

I am proud to say that we subscribe to the shrewd, cutthroat form of tactical racing made famous by personalities like Mark McCormack, Paul Curly and Adam Myerson. If I wanted one thing said about our team it would be this: we raced hard and smart.

Cyclonauts Racers


This team is essentially a cat 3 leadout train. When these dudes show up to a crit, they come deep and start winding it up with about 2 kilometers to go. You can’t get around them, since they have like 10 dudes who are killing themselves to deliver their man to the line first. I admire their work. But they are limited.

It is fairly well known that Mike Norton is the biggest personality on the team. He sprints well, but really hates a hill. So his team generally sticks to flat races where their powerful leadouts almost guarantee a good result. Seldom are they a factor in a hilly race.

Cyclonauts also promotes lots of races. They do a great job. The Norton/Cyclonauts races are some of the smoothest running races around. Reasonable race fees, results are posted quickly, payouts are timely and in cash.

Some people object to Norton and his cohorts based on personality. Norton is a player and is outspoken. He has been promoting races without USAC sanctioning. His biggest transgression appears to be his success. He has thumbed his nose at USAC and has suffered almost no consequences.

Personally, I respect Cyclonauts and their team, while not desiring to emulate them.


HUP United

While this is not a road team, some of their members race road in HUP kits, so I feel that I need to mention them.

HUP is focused on the feel-good side of bicycle racing, specifically cyclocross. While HUP has some talented riders, I don’t feel like it is off base or insulting to say that HUP is more interested in friendship and camaraderie than in smashing races.

HUPsters are some of the friendliest racers around. They will be the first to help you fix your bike before a race, even if they know that they are helping you to beat them. You will see them handing out cupcakes and beers regularly. Its almost like they bring a mellow west coast vibe to NE.

HUP is the team for you if you are looking to make friends and enjoy yourself. If you are looking for a team to work with to be competitive on the road, then HUP is probably not right for you. That said, many people who desire a strong road team in the summer would really enjoy racing with HUP during cyclocross season.

International Bicycle Centers

This team continues to soldier on. Fielding small teams on the road and off. They sometimes get some decent results, but that this is usually a result of individual accomplishment as opposed to teamwork.

International has started fielding an elite mtb team. While this team does not compete regularly on the road, it is an indication that the regular IBC team is somewhat in decline. The elite team is administratively separate from the regular team. They wear different kits, different colors and share almost nothing but a sponsor. I only mention this since it seems like this team may experience some upheaval in the near future.


Boston Road Club

BRC had a rough season in 2009. A mass of riders left the team and formed the meat of a number of newer teams (Svelte and CB). That said, this team has been in the game for a long time and I am confident that they will rebuild with a new batch of riders. Even with their diminished numbers, they still have some strongmen capable of bringing the pain in a cat 3 or cat 4 race.

Membership is available in two levels, associate and team. Associate membership is for non-racers or for racers from other teams; it offers a discount for the Wells Ave races. In 2008 and 2009, I was an associate member of BRC (not sure if I will do it this year; I’m broke!)

BRC is s developmental team, which does an excellent job of introducing new racers to the sport, teaching them strategy and introducing training techniques. They are the organizer of the Wells Ave Training series that runs every Sunday from mid-March through September. Also, they have regular training rides midweek.

I remain friends with a number of BRC team members and alumni and can say that I have lots of respect for what they do. If you are a newer rider (cat 5), BRC is a great place to learn the ropes while getting some support and advice from more experienced teammates.

Wheelworks

This team is like the phoenix, it keeps popping up and then flaming out a few years later. My understanding is that support from Wheelworks has been tepid for lower category riders in the past. Perhaps it has changed?

Its current iteration is a B level/masters cross team. But as these things go, they will likely race on the road as well.

They have a few good riders. The trick will be whether they work together or just all show up to races in the same kit.


For The Teams I Forgot to Mention: If I left you out, it was not an intentional slight. I just included the teams that I know something about.

34 comments:

Big T said...

While I am not going to be pissed off about it, I'd like to introduce a correction: no, not all CB team members wear mustaches, not at all. Thank you.

Natalia said...
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Natalia said...
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mike said...

man, no scathing commentary for us? i think you spent more time racing with me last season than your own team!

RMM said...

Mike:

Are you planning on fielding a road team?

mike said...

yeah - we did battenkill, green mountain and ct stage race last year, and i think greg did well at hilltowns... we usually only field 2 or 3 riders per race.

this year we have a bunch of 5s, 4s and greg and i (along with one or two others) are going to (hopefully) be 3s by mid season.

we just race, pretty much anything really - lauren and ryan did pretty well on the track i think.

RMM said...

Mike:

I shall post an addendum. Or maybe not.
Once I have some experience with you all on the road, I'll let everyone know what I think. Right now, I have no firsthand information with which to form an opinion.

Todd Rowell said...

You wrote: "Some people object to Norton and his cohorts based on personality." That's true, but some people object based on his actions. Mike does run a lot of races and do a lot for the community, and his races _are_ generally well run. But his antagonism toward women is well known, and I don't think it helps the sport. There's also a lot of controversy over his actions in the MCRA, and although I don't know the details I do know that a part of that organization has left and started a new group, MCRB or something, and I don't think that happened just because they had a personality conflict. I'm not going to go into details of occasions when his races weren't well-run because that can happen to anyone, but his reaction to mistakes seems pretty poor, e.g., when a pace car leads a field off-course it might be technically correct to say that all racers should know the course, but that's pretty unhelpful because for all the racers know the course had to be re-routed, such as Hilltowns 2007 when the P/1/2s ended up racing through some guy's back yard because of a medical. And speaking of medical emergencies, some of the biggest medicals I've ever seen have been at his races and I have to wonder about that (I have personally had no problems but I've had to pick up the pieces multiple times and heard even scarier stories when I wasn't attending).

Anyway, you seemed starved for some controversy, so there you go. Nice round-up, but what about CCB, MetLife, Spooky, etc.?

P.S. It's "Northeast Bicycle Club" not "New England."

RMM said...

Todd:

Thanks for the input. I was unaware of Norton's reputation in regards to women. If that I find that this is the case, it would definitely alter my opinion of him.

As for the safely of his races, I agree that Sturbridge had an unsafe finish. As for the other races, I've done plenty of them... and have based my comments on my experiences. I heard about the debacle last season at Quabbin...the way that I see it, is if you promote that many races for so many seasons, you are bound to have some medicals and some routing errors.

As for the MCRA and the MCRB, I am peripherally aware of the issues. But I don't know the details, so I will not comment on that situation.



As for controversy...Last year, I was roasted for saying less. I kind of expected people to get pissed off again...

Big Bikes said...

Administratively separate?
I take offense at that sir!
The IBC Elite team has no form of administration.

-t

RMM said...

Big Bikes:

Please correct any misconceptions that I have about your team.

SHopengarten said...

1) As a member of the Wheelworks CX team, let me say this: 2009 was a rebirth, and with a small high end of Pro MTB and Cat 2 on the road and a few masters guys. The CX squad was really a homegrown team of current, and part time employees, pulling in some cool customers and members of the masters squad. Expect to see more, especially with the launch of a new Womens Team. And the CX team will be back on the low end with more Cat 3 & 4 racers.

2) What about Green Line Velo?

RMM said...

SHopengarten:

See yesterday's post for my views on Green Line Velo.

solobreak said...

Mike Rowell, is there a promoter in New England who has put on more races for women in the past 10 years than Mike Norton? I don't think there is anyone who is even close, but if this is wrong, please comment.

Mike ruffles feathers of both genders. This come with the territory of being a doer.

Anonymous said...

@solobreak you're getting your Rowell's mixed up.

solobreak said...

Oh yeah, I am. Sorry.

mweiler said...

Minuteman Road Club got left out. Great club for the bi-curious (tri and road). Teams show up to early season for road races mainly to get in shape for tri season. What is lacking in organization is made up in strength- PJ, Smudger, Wright, et al. make a solid team when they all show up. A lot of the 4's have upgraded to 3's this year so it will be an interesting season.

Most members find themselves in the 'burbs and spred out, so if you're in the city, you might want to check out some of the local teams.

RMM said...

mweiler:

I knew that I was leaving an important team out. Thanks for the reminder.

Mike said...

For anyone that does not know me. I have been putting on races now for 24 years. How many promoters do you know that have done that. I was one of the first to put 3 different women packs out on the road. I do not hate women. I have tried to do as much as I can for them. But it comes to a point where you have to hope the women will take control of their sport and help themselves. I have been and always will give the women a chance and a race to race in.
With promoting as long as I have, I thought I was taken care of with insurance. Well I was wrong. If you take a look at all the other sports they all have insurance like USAC. So why does it cost so much? Why does it not cover you better? We looked into that and found out this. The promoter does not cover the rider insurance. The $3 the promoter pays is to protect everything else at the race. Riders are protected due to having a racing license. If you do not have health insurance you would have to pay a $5,000 deductable. For my April race I paid over $1,500 for this insurance though USAC. This year it only cost me $300. But this year I took out insurance to cover every racer in my race. It will only cost a $100 deductable. Both coverage cost me just over $600 this year.
About MCRA this will all come out when the court case is over. The only thing I can say is the court found in favor of the MCRA in small claim court and was handed a judgment of $2,000 and court cost against both of them. Now we are in a appeal court which is now out of the small claim court and into civil court. When people steal they needed to be held responsible.
About Cyclonauts racers, yes we love Crits but we do ok at road races also. We have won plenty of road races last year. Even when there are hills. Cyclonauts know how to take come to a race. Come by and see how we travel. The best thing about the Cyclonauts is we are work for one cause and that is putting a Cyclonaut in first place. Do not think it is me they are working for. It is the team and we have had many different team members win a race.
Either way I like you blog at least you took a stand and said what you think.

Thanks
Mike Norton

RMM said...

Norton:

I didn't mean to imply that Cyclonauts only works for you or that you that you all were absolutely unable to perform when there are hills. But in my experience, Cyclonauts really only show up en mass to crits.

While Cyclonauts is made up of a different demographic than my team, we race in much the same way: everyone works to put one rider on the top podium spot. I wish every team would race this way. If they did, racing in New England would be even more dynamic and challenging.

As for MCRA, I have no comment.

Rowell:

You make a pretty harsh accusation against Norton. If you want us to take it seriously, I would ask that you substantiate it with some evidence.

Todd Rowell said...

Solobreak: yeah, wrong Rowell, not even a relation. But I bet you're right: Mike probably _has_ run more races for women than any other promoter that I can think of in New England. If that's all that matters then: Yay! He wins!

Seriously, I do think that the number of racing opportunities is important, but it's not the entire story. Mike may not hate women, but he sure seems to rub them the wrong way. I'm not a woman so I can't comment better, but I don't think that whatever is going on there is good for the sport. I'm willing to be open-minded about it, though, and I know that complaints abound even when things are generally fine, so if some women came forward and said things were cool then I'd listen.

For what it's worth, I'm going to back Mike up here and say that women _do_ need to take the majority of responsibility for their side of the sport and help themselves out of the doldrums they seem to currently be in. I do know that some of them are trying to create some movement there. But making them do it all themselves is probably not collectively healthy, even if they could.

As for the rest, I can only form opinions based on what I've seen and previously described. As RMM points out, anyone who runs as many races as Mike is going to be hit with some pretty bad accidents at their events and I'm trying to take that into account. Perhaps I've just known too many unlucky people. I haven't _personally_ had any problems with Mike or his events and again I'm willing to be open-minded.

Todd Rowell said...

RMM: you replied while I was writing. To what are you referring? (I can see multiple possibilities.) I'm not sure if I'll be able to offer much evidence since I'm not a woman and am not involved in MCRA and could at best report thirdhand and have been asked to not repeat some information anyway, but I'll try.

My main point was to respond to the suggestion that people disliked Mike only because of his personality by pointing out that some of his actions might be responsible, instead. That's not to say that some people _do_ dislike Mike because of his personality; I hope he doesn't feel offended when I say that he does have a strong personality (not necessarily a bad thing) and I bet it bends a lot of people out of shape. Personally, I have little problem with him. And hey, he's a great draft.

Anonymous said...

RMM: while your opinion of other clubs maybe valid and objective, your writeup and further comments about your own club reek of confirmation bias, even beyond what would be reasonably allowed in your already admitted bias in the writeup.

In short, the way you describe CB is not how the rest of us saw you guys in the Cat 3 field last year.

Now this in no way discredits your opinion on other teams, but I suggest you (and members of any team that may have been criticized here) step back and pay attention to the gap of what you think you're doing and what others perceive. Nothing worse than seeing yourself as a well-drilled-leadout-train when the everyone else sees a bunch of two-to-go-heroes that are gone when it really matters in the last lap.

solobreak said...

Todd, I agree there is more to it than putting on races for women. However, I think his alleged "antagonism toward women" does have a lot more to do with personality than his actions, which include putting on more womens' races than all the womens' clubs combined. But I have cringed when he addressed a field of women prior to a race. I may have partially agreed with his message, and several women racers who were present that day confided to me that they did as well, but the delivery was not so nice. To me that is a personality thing. You just have to know Mike to understand it and learn to love it. He is big and ugly enough to defend himself though; he doesn't need me to do it.

I'm not sure womens' racing is in the doldrums either. When I started racing men's field were typically all full (1/2, 3, 4 anyway), but there would be 15 women total, and they often got lumped in with the 55+. Contrast that with today's fields. Women still only comprise around 9-11% of the New England USAC membership (I think it was 400 out of 4400 in 2008, or something like that). They generally turnout for races at a participation rate equal to or better than men. There just aren't enough of them yet.

RMM said...

Anon:

Obviously you don't want to reveal your individual identity, but why don't you at least let us know what team you are on so that we can compare your team's results with ours. If what you say is correct, then over the course of the 2009 season we should be able to see all of the times where we faded and you team came on strong and got the win.

Either way, I'd rather that my team made a bold moves and blew it than sat around waiting for someone else to act.

Anonymous said...

RMM: Strawman argument, and you are entirely missing my point.

Whether we faced off 10 times or 100 times, whether my team actually did it better than yours or not, does not invalidate my opinion that you; this isn't a cock-sizing contest (for me anyway).

My point is not who made the gutsiest moves, who laid it all on the line; your post and subsequent replies have the confirmation bias that CB is racing with the mature tactical savvy of McCormack, Curley, and Myerson... which is not at all the case (and Curley very much sits in for the field sprint).

We'll face off enough in 2010, no need to worry about that.

Anonymous said...

edit: -"that you" in paragraph 2, sorry.

RMM said...

Anon:

The strawman argues anonymously.

Todd Rowell said...

NOW it's a party.

Solobreak: you make a good point about how Mike's personality is a likely cause of the appearance of "antagonism." I haven't personally heard him speaking to a field of women (I'm always on the course!) but I have heard the cringe-inducing stories (plural) after the fact. So perhaps this _is_ merely a failure of communication, but it does seem like it's costing him attendance--a loss for both sides.

P.S. ix-nay on the "u" ord-way ound-ray ike-may.

I haven't been racing as long as you have (I know because there were cat 5s when I started) but back then women's fields definitely seemed larger than they are today. Now this might be because I only did the more popular events when I first started; or maybe it's due to the fact that there was a strong women's series in one shape or another for my first few years and I'm comparing that boom to the more stable field sizes we see now and that you have seen over the longer term. Or maybe it's just that everything seems bigger when you're young and I am so not young now. Either way there seem to be plenty of women concerned about the perceived decline of their side of the sport and they're doing something about it, as they should. But there definitely aren't enough of them yet, as you say.

RMM: I don't think Anon's point depends on his team's results, or whether or not he even races (although he's clearly a 3), or even how you or I feel about anony-posting (I think we see it similarly), but rather upon how intelligent and observant he is. You offered your thoughts on other teams (as an outsider) and your own team (obviously as an insider); Anon replied with the outsider's view of your own team. If you believe that an outsider's view of a team is valid (which you seem to, and I agree) then his seems no less so.

RMM said...

Rowell:

I agree that there was a race or two that we launched leadouts for no one. And obviously an outsider's view is valid. But I don't think that anon's assessment of my team will stand up to an analysis of the data. Go check road-results.com . I did. I checked over every team's results as I was writing my reports. Granted, it was a cursory glance for each team; I was lookling for trends and big results.

Rowell:

I allow anonymous posters, since sometimes an anon poster will offer something valuable that they wouldn't offer if they had to "sign it.". But, inherently, an anonymous statement has less strength than one backed up by a real person who is willing to publicly defend their position while weathering the fallout from their statements.

gary! said...

my 2cents:
i've heard, and not paid much attention to rumors and facts about mike norton's personal life, but as an organization i really like the majority of the races cyclonauts put on, and it seems like every guy on that team is a behemoth who, if you can hide behind them and come around them, awesome, but if you miss out on them winding it up, that's the end of your chances.

megA said...

I prefer to think that Hup brings a little southern charm and kindness to the racing scene as opposed to the west coast laid-back-ed-ness.

Our tagline is something like, "Hup United! We say hello to you on the bike path!"

Hells yeah.

xo
m

iworedettos said...

hup podiumed at battenkill. just sayin'.

RMM said...

Re: Hup podium: That's the best news I've had all day. Thanks for pointing it out, thereby brightening a bleak day.