Wacky Promoter Weekly Vol 2: Stupid Prize Money

You know, this might have to become a regular feature here. I didn't realize how many boneheaded promoter decisions get made on a weekly basis. Of course, promoters are awesome people, and I love them, and without them the sport would die, and they should never be criticized, etc, etc. Anyway, sometimes awesome promoters make decisions that are not awesome. I will be highlighting one of those today. Said promoter is still awesome, but would be awesomer if they corrected this error.

24 Hours of Great Glen Prize Money: Cut n' Pasted?

We all know that I loves me some Great Glen. I've known the crew over there since I was in high school, I've raced there twice, and my third 24 hours is coming up this weekend, and I'm super stoked as always.

That having been said, the prize money is one of the most sandbag-encouraging decisions I've ever seen. Let's have a look:

See those sections in red? Click the image and have a look if you can't read them.

It almost seems like they couldn't be bothered to have different purses based on category, like the rows were just cut-n-pasted as an example and then left that way. Every single winning four-person team gets paid $400, except Expert and Pro which get paid $600. But wait, you say, isn't that fair? Shouldn't all winners get paid the same??

No. Not at all. Not when you have skill-level categories in your race. The winning Women's pro team gets $400. The winning Women's beginner team gets $400. Heck, every winning Women's team gets $400. So winning Women's beginner is the same as pro? All the sport teams that beat the beginner winner will go home with $0, but the beginner team gets $400 just because they labeled themselves differently?

Four hundred bucks is not a small chunk of change. If you're a borderline sport team, is $400 enough to push you toward signing up for beginner? If you're a borderline expert team, maybe you should race sport and have a shot at $400, since you'll never win expert...

People sandbag for enough reasons already, without a huge financial incentive.

The fact of the matter is that it's hard to categorize your team for a 24 hour race, since it's so different than most racing. People miscategorize their teams for many non-malicious reasons as well, I'm not saying every team that outperforms their category is a horrible bunch of sandbaggers. There's always one sport team that blows the doors off half the expert teams on the way to a top-10 overall finish. Maybe those guys are sandbaggers, maybe they've all be training since they reg'd back in March, maybe they're just better endurance/night riders than traditional XC. Whatever it is, they were in the wrong category, and while they might feel a tad guilty about it you're still giving them cash money, as much as most other teams. This is stupid, right?

Ok, so what's the solution here? It's simply, really -- strip the skill-category based designation for prize money. For 4-man men's teams you have: Beginner/Sport/Expert/Pro/Master. 4 of those are skill-based and 1 is age-based. So, give the fastest old-guy team money like you're doing now, (because 45+ guys shouldn't have to fight the pros for money), but them throw all the Beginner/Sport/Expert/Pro teams in one big list sorted by laps. Then take the top 5-6 teams and pay them, regardless of what category they're in. Overall winners are experts? They get the most money. 2nd place pro team still beat all the experts by 2 laps? Give them 2nd place overall money. Sandbagging sport team was 9th overall? Cool, you won your category and all, but didn't end up in the money. That's how prize money should work, go fast = win money. You can't sandbag if you're all in the same category.

Not convinced? Let's run a hypothetical prize breakdown. There's already $3k allocated to men's teams ($400/$400/$600/$600/$1000 for overall winners), how about this:

1st: $1000
2nd: $800
3rd: $600
4th: $400
5th: $200

So now you're paying 5 teams instead of four, the overall winners don't get $1600 ($600+$1000), but on the other hand 2nd place overall doesn't go home with nothing if they're pros. And there's no category BS. Ride fast, get paid, just like it should be. You might even get more entrants -- I've heard "well it's a lot of money to enter, and we can't beat the other pro team" as one of the reasons last years #2 pro team won't be back. An $800 carrot might change their mind, and would give you better racing and more entries to boot.

I know it's too late this year to fix, Great Glen, but next year, please rethink your prize money.

Reminder: I love promoters. They do awesome work. I am trying to help make your race better. I am a Great Glen junkie and I'll be back next year unless Sven rips my tent down while I'm sleeping because of this post.


CTodd said…
When will you be promoting a race?
Colin R said…
Planning on getting as involved as possible with running Canton Cup this year. Do you know who I should talk to on IBC or should I just email the list?
trackrich said…
But under your proposal, do you lose the teams that had half a chance to win $400 because they now have no chance of winning anything? Pretty sure there is no easy answer and there's no way everyone would be happy anyways...
Colin R said…
Good point Rich. I dunno, are there a lot of people entering in the hope they can sandbag/win $400 in beginner/sport?
solobreak said…
So is there no double-dipping? The overall team is $1000. If they get their category money too, that seems fair enough. The soloists look to be getting boned here, if anyone.

And you can see, not nearly as many expert/pro teams as sport/beginner teams. Maybe that's the way the promoter wants the event to be. That's the cool thing about being the promoter - you get to be "the decider" too. You don't have to be fair, or equitable, or nice, or anything. Pretty cool, huh?
solobreak said…
Hey now I actually read your post...

Simple solution - drug testing. You guys should setup your tent close to registration with big "U.S.A.D.A" and "Medical Control" signs. But they you might end up swimming in piss before it's over.
Colin R said…
Maybe that's the way the promoter wants the event to be.

It's entirely possible that these prize amounts were set very specifically to encourage casual teams to race. It's also entirely possible that the organizers have never considered that their prize distribution encourages sandbagging. I'm a non-casual rider who hates sandbaggers, so my post is addressing the latter.

That's the cool thing about being the promoter - you get to be "the decider" too. You don't have to be fair, or equitable, or nice, or anything. Pretty cool, huh?

That's the cool thing about having a blog - you get to be "the decider" too. You can write about whatever you want, and no one has to actually act on it. Sometimes you promote interesting discussions, sometimes solo explains obvious shit to you.
solobreak said…
All this hate and anger. How'd you ever get into mountain biking and cyclocross?
Hill Junkie said…
Your proposal resonates with me. Although I'm 45, I still rank myself overall whenever it makes sense, such as hillclimb races where everybody does the same thing. I am also a staunch conservative, something rare in the cycling ranks. You must understand in the current ideological environment, everybody is a winner. We've been pounding this into our kids' heads for a couple decades now. You are a product of this generation, and it is refreshing to hear ideas like yours. We have so many categories at amature sporting events of all sorts that pretty much anybody has a chance to "win". There are no losers. It's too bad the rest of the world doesn't operate this way.

But it may well be the case that having many categories increases participating. For many events, especially ones that raise money for a cause, a promoter would be foolish not to set up awards that maximize participation. Sport categories at MTB races have always been the biggest. As an engineer, I recognize this as a special type of optimization problem. You have a finite amount of award cash, so how do you distribute it to draw the maximum number of participants? You proportion it where most of most of your potential riders like to participate. Not fair to top riders? Absolutely. Encourages sandbagging? Maybe unintended side effect. But the promoter is likely working a completely different optimization problem, one that involves selling the event to as many participants as possible.
Colin R said…
HJ -- if that's the explanation, then I can live with that. I still don't think it's the *right* way to do it, but if money, er, participation is the overriding goal then I can at least understand it.

My initial assumption was that it was probably just carelessness on the promoters part. It boggles my mind that the idea "lets pay beginner class $400" could be floated and not immediately shot down, but the mind of a 26-year-old racerhead is quite different from the average promoter, I would bet.

In any case I have avoided any sandbagging issues by racing a 2-person team, so that is not biasing my assessment.
MUCHAS GRACIAS for saving my derrière at Great Glen. When you get around to post about the experience I will make sure to add my bit about your great sportsmanship and supportive spirit in the middle of the night.

Your chain tool is waiting along with a growler of your favorite brew at John Harvard's in Cambridge. I'll have Steen leve it there for you.

Cheers and thanks again,

Alex said…
You do realize you have a typo in your title? I thought it was a semi-colon until I realized "weeky" isn't a word, either.
weak and feeble said…

I'll read this again when I've gotten some sleep- but as much as I hate to admit you might actually be making some sense- you might just actually be making some sense- I'll fly this up the flag pole. I will add to the rules that "Regardless of Colin's result he shall from this point forward always finish outside of the money"

Keep riding fast-

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