Front Range 60 2011 – ‘amateur’ style
OK, I’m pretty fired up about this one so I’ll get right to the positive news before I start ranting :-)
The good: I got 5th place in the Front Range 60. 6 laps on a fast 10 mile course. Felt great the whole time and got my nutrition and pacing dialed in. No mechanicals. Did I mention my legs felt great? I was crushing it. At the end of lap 6, I was ready for a few more. Race logistics were ironed out, registration line wasn’t too bad and there was watermelon, strawberries, oranges and free beer! And the decision to delay the Battle of the Bear XC race until later in the day meant less trail traffic (it was still not ideal but not atrocious like last year)
The bad: The race organizers made a horrible last-minute starting line decision that, in my mind, casts a shadow over the legitimacy of the race and maybe the RME series. Let me explain…
At the start they announce a “special treat” and call up all Pro racers (I assume that means anyone with a ‘professional’ status granted by a legit cycling governing body?) to the front. Keep in mind that no license is required for this race and there is no pro category. They let the pros go in front of the singlespeeders. And before you know it, all the top amateur riders are sitting at the starting line wondering what the hell just happened.
Did they just decide to start a new pro category? NO. The pros were still in the Open age group categories but would have their times adjusted to match our ‘amateur’ start time 3 minutes later.
WHOA THERE BUDDY… let me explain how many things are wrong with this picture….
- There are generally no ability categories in endurance races .. only open age/gender groups. Part of the reason I like MTB enduros over highly categorized XC races is that everyone is on a level playing field and best rider wins regardless of what it says on your license (if you even have a license). Even their own website proudly advertises “No License Required”. This is a slap in the face to that ethic.
- If there are ability categories, fine.. let them be actual categories. Pros race pros. Cat1 races Cat1, etc. Don’t start dozens of people 3 minutes ahead of me and tell me we’re racing in the same category because you’re going to adjust the times.
- This ain’t a time trial, we’re racing against our fellow MTBers, not the clock. The pros started before us and were racing their own race .. they got the pacing and strategic benefits of racing against their competition. Not even close to an even playing field.
- Traffic. The first lap we were held up by the large SS field and lots of time was lost waiting for passing opportunities and many risks taken and matches burned in order to take those opportunities. The Pros did not have any of this to deal with (though we all had to deal with lap traffic towards the end of the race).
- The “surprise” aspect of this atrocious decision made matters worse. The pros were called up and the race officials proceeded to take an inventory of all the riders who had scooted up in front of the SSers. Watching this take place, I’m not convinced they counted everyone which means someone’s getting 3 free minutes. If they had planned this all along and could look at the plate numbers to identify pros, well that might be acceptable (but just make a pro category at that point). As it was, there was no way of knowing if everyone who scooted up front was actually a legit pro or if their number got counted or if their time got adjusted.
- It just complicates timing and leads to all manner of potential result errors. Here’s a crazy idea .. in order to simplify bookkeeping, why not start each category all at once and the first person across the line wins, the second person gets second, etc.?
Just a massively poor decision all around on the part of Warrior Cycling.
All I wanted to do was show up and race my bike against my peers, may the best man win. That is, after all, what we paid to do. Looking at the times of the guys ahead of me in the results, I have to wonder how much I was slowed down picking my way through the SS and pro fields? How much was lost in simply not being able to pace with my competition? Could I have stuck with the guys pulling 3:40? I won’t know .. not on this course at least .. I was not given the chance to find out. Somehow the organizers saw it fit to deny us the right to compete with our competition (huh?) based on our status and membership in an unrelated cycling organization.
As it stands now this crap just breeds some very strong resentment from the top amateurs, such as myself, who are amateurs by choice. I typically beat about 50-75% of the pro field in any given race and today was no exception. Most of them have day jobs just like me. What makes them “pro” and me an “amateur”? Only the fact that I have not pursued that status with the USAC due to its’ irrelevance to the type of racing I enjoy. Normally I could give a shit about category labels; I just want to race my bike against other fast dudes on cool trails and see who comes out on top. I’ve got a career and a family and “going pro” is just not on my radar. I wasn’t aware that my personal choice to “just race” would actually prevent me from competing on an even playing field with other riders in my category. Isn’t that what the Open category means? Pro and amateurs alike duking it out for top honors? Apparently not…
Ugh. Enough ranting .. I’m over it. I’ll continue riding hard, training hard, and working hard and competing against cool folks, amateur and pro alike. Hopefully on a level playing field next time.
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