Wednesday, December 22, 2010

RMM Throws Down the Gauntlet: Why I Registered for Battenkill.

I have received a trickle of comments about my decision to register for Battenkill. After my history of protesting the price of the race and the lack of rider support that the inflated race fee gets you, people seem surprised that I would participate in this event. In fact, I even got a personal email from one of the co-promoters that states: “We Are Surprised.”

An explanation is in order.

If you go back and read my original post, I never actually state that I would never do the race. I merely question the value of the race. I have also told many people that I would race Battenkill only if I thought that I had a reasonable chance of garnering a decent result. Part of me thinks that the further up the road you are in the race, the more the event approaches a decent value. My problem with the race has always been that for a $75 race fee you are riding dirt roads under-supported. For that proce, there should be far more neutral support than the promoter provides.

So why did I register for Battenkill? I registered because I am angry. I am angry about having a non-starter of a season in 2010. I am angry because I didn’t win any races in 2010. I am angry because I got my ass kicked in every cross race I entered. I am angry because circumstances conspired to leave me unfit and under-trained throughout 2010.

I channel my anger into training. My trainer is my friend. I have been grinding out 3 hours trainer rides on weeknights.

I will be fit for Battenkill. I will be fit and pissed off. I am paying $75 to kick ass and take names. I wouldn’t pay the inflated fee if I planned to perform poorly. You’ve been warned.

Train Hard.

12 comments:

plum said...

I'm intrigued, having written about this yesterday.

I was also surprised to see your name up there this morning. Your rationale started to read like hair splitting to me, but then you came around and convinced me in the end.

I'm interested to hear from others, because I truly do not understand the draw at this price point. It's still a greedy event, and it can't be the case that everyone is going out there with a defensible motive.

gary! said...

meh, still not worth it.
it's still $75 for dirt-roads, unsupported

Steve said...

It's supply and demand, right? If they can fill the fields for $75 then $75 is a fair price. I don't do triathlons, but do you guys see what people pay for those these days? Hundreds of dollars. Demand for all these events keeps going up, especially among the older guys who can more easily pay the high prices.

Stephen Pierce said...

that's part of the issue, though, steve. the higher the prices get on these sorta things, the less accessible the sport becomes.

Connie K. said...

RMM,

My name is Connie and I'm the technical director of the Battenkill - I also replied to this post last year when it got quite heated. We learned much from the dramatic growth we experienced in 2009. We promised to improve, and I think in 2010 we really did - I wish you were there to see it. In 2010, we had over 300 volunteers, 50 police officers, 35 field-dedicated wheel vans, 20 EMS vehicles, 5 stationary service pits, and 4 roving neutral support vehicles at the event (including Mavic and Mark Wysocki). The positive feedback we received after last years event was quite a contrast from the timing and support issues we dealt with in 2009.

Personallly, I'm glad you're giving the event another try - your reasons are similar to many others that choose to participate. I sincerely hope you will enjoy the experience and exceed your early-season objectives. That said, I really don't think you and some of your readers understand what it takes to promote any road race in the Northeast, whether it's a training series or a massive event like Battenkill.

As you've probably noticed, road races in this region are dying off. Simply put, the ever increasing burdens of state and local road permitting, reimbursement of law enforcement, EMS and communication, and the need to recruit and train volunteers to marshal and drive, while keeping the host communities happy - it's all proving to be too much for some promoters. If there's any one reason why Dieter is so successful, it's because he's found a good balance between all of these considerations. It doesn't always make everyone happy, but it works better than any other model I've seen in my 32 years of competitive cycling. Yes, it translates to a higher cost of service (read entry fees) but the competitors still come out in force.

Now if there's any reason to be pissed about some of the things you write, it's not because the Battenkill is going to fold over some harsh words - but Dieter doesn't buy your argument about "value", nor do I. However, the emotions you stir up will probably end up scaring some thinner-skinned Northeast promoters away from charging their actual cost of service - and their race will end up folding. Good intentions will not keep road racing alive when there are escalating costs associated with these events, period.

Perfect example - this past summer, Fitchburg put out an appeal for volunteer assistance. My club (CBRC) and Dieter's club (FTC) both responded - we not only drove pace cars for the road race, we brought out business radio equipment, warning lights, DOT signs, and other "stuff" that was bought and paid for primarily from the Battenkill - we volunteered our time and equipment for a race 200 miles away, right in your backyard!

Now I don't know if you or your club were there to support the event as well, but it seems as though a few additional volunteers from New York wasn't enough to save it. But the absolute truth is this - higher entry fees probably would have. Only one problem - the "value" mentality you and others espouse fight this every step of the way.

Earlier today, I saw the e-mail exchange between you and some of the other promotion staff. I'm inclined to believe their parting shot - just shut up and ride! But if you care to debate my contention that a road race with a $75 entry fee is no different than a CX race or criterium with a $15 entry fee, give me a call. I will be happy to explain it all to you - once you understand it, maybe you can help bring great road races like Fitchburg back.

Connie Kontogiannis
518-441-2319
ckontogi@nycap.rr.com

Connie K. said...

RMM,

My name is Connie and I'm the technical director of the Battenkill - I also replied to this post last year when it got quite heated. We learned much from the dramatic growth we experienced in 2009. We promised to improve, and I think in 2010 we really did - I wish you were there to see it. In 2010, we had over 300 volunteers, 50 police officers, 35 field-dedicated wheel vans, 20 EMS vehicles, 5 stationary service pits, and 4 roving neutral support vehicles at the event (including Mavic and Mark Wysocki). The positive feedback we received after last years event was quite a contrast from the timing and support issues we dealt with in 2009.

Personallly, I'm glad you're giving the event another try - your reasons are similar to many others that choose to participate. I sincerely hope you will enjoy the experience and exceed your early-season objectives. That said, I really don't think you and some of your readers understand what it takes to promote any road race in the Northeast, whether it's a training series or a massive event like Battenkill.

As you've probably noticed, road races in this region are dying off. Simply put, the ever increasing burdens of state and local road permitting, reimbursement of law enforcement, EMS and communication, and the need to recruit and train volunteers to marshal and drive, while keeping the host communities happy - it's all proving to be too much for some promoters. If there's any one reason why Dieter is so successful, it's because he's found a good balance between all of these considerations. It doesn't always make everyone happy, but it works better than any other model I've seen in my 32 years of competitive cycling. Yes, it translates to a higher cost of service (read entry fees) but the competitors still come out in force.

Now if there's any reason to be pissed about some of the things you write, it's not because the Battenkill is going to fold over some harsh words - but Dieter doesn't buy your argument about "value", nor do I. However, the emotions you stir up will probably end up scaring some thinner-skinned Northeast promoters away from charging their actual cost of service - and their race will end up folding. Good intentions will not keep road racing alive when there are escalating costs associated with these events, period.

Perfect example - this past summer, Fitchburg put out an appeal for volunteer assistance. My club (CBRC) and Dieter's club (FTC) both responded - we not only drove pace cars for the road race, we brought out business radio equipment, warning lights, DOT signs, and other "stuff" that was bought and paid for primarily from the Battenkill - we volunteered our time and equipment for a race 200 miles away, right in your backyard!

Now I don't know if you or your club were there to support the event as well, but it seems as though a few additional volunteers from New York wasn't enough to save it. But the absolute truth is this - higher entry fees probably would have. Only one problem - the "value" mentality you and others espouse fight this every step of the way.

Earlier today, I saw the e-mail exchange between you and some of the other promotion staff. I'm inclined to believe their parting shot - just shut up and ride! But if you care to debate my contention that a road race with a $75 entry fee is no different than a CX race or criterium with a $15 entry fee, give me a call. I will be happy to explain it all to you - once you understand it, maybe you can help bring great road races like Fitchburg back.

Connie Kontogiannis
518-441-2319
ckontogi@nycap.rr.com

Anonymous said...

Taking a moral stand against high race fees is fine, though it will ultimately make races more expensive. If you don't think the product is worth the price, don't buy it. Just remember that competition brings prices down...not complaining, bitching/moaning and definitely not boycotting. So if you really want to make the world a better place, promote an alternative race w/ equal fun and lower costs.

The total cost of attending Battenkill = fuel, housing, food, entry and opportunity cost. From Boston, fuel will run you about $52. Housing maybe $120, probably less. You'll spend a few more dollars on food when on the road than you would at home...maybe $30? Entry $75. Opportunity cost of taking 24hrs away from home will vary depending on whether you have family, other riding options, opportunities to make money (work), etc...but unless you've got a very low value on your time, opp cost is the largest expense. Assuming you're time is worth nothing, the 2009 increase from $50 to $75 is still less than a 10% increase in total outlay. I've got a family, so taking 24hrs away from home comes at a very high cost...entry fee is a teeny tiny chunk of total. Battenkill could charge much more, and arguably should. But for lots of us, 2010 showed that it still generates a healthy consumer surplus.

Funny enough, based on 1500 riders reg'd w/in 90 minutes (including server delays), it looks like Battenkill is a freaking bargain. And it motivated this RMM fellow. Which may have entertainment value.

RMM said...

Connie,

I don't care to debate about value anymore. I've said my piece.

Though I wish that your event staff would stop harassing me via email though.

Connie K. said...

If you stop calling Dieter an asshole, I believe that his staff will stop offering you a refund.

Just remember, it's your behavior that influences how people around you react. When it comes to Twitter, put your brain before your thumb.

See you in April, and good luck!

rosey said...

oh man, how pissed are you gonna be if you flat in that lead group? gah!

plum said...

Connie, here's the thing.

You win.

I could sit on here and bitch until my fingers fall off about how unhappy I am with the price of your event, but in the end, judging by the numbers you're pulling, it doesn't matter. You're making it work. People still want to race the Battenkill. They wanted to at $50, now $75, and for all I know they'll happily pay $100 for the privilege.

I'm a proud subscriber to the "value mentality" that you decry. That's a very real and practical philosophy. What would you prefer - that I open my wallet and pay whatever you tell me to pay? Not every cyclist is in this sport for the philanthropy. I'm pretty generous with some events, but after they prove they're worth it. You're not there yet.

Stephen Pierce hit it right on the head. Events get more expensive, more exclusive, less accessible - and this is NOT a positive thing for the sport.

It's interesting to see how at least one person has justified the price of entry. Unfortunately, that logic only works for race promoters & the financially well-to-do and burns every local guy and girl just trying to scrape their way through the sport. Those are real people.

Anonymous said...

The Marxists meet the Capitalists.