Thursday, November 20, 2008

USGP Mercer Cup Day 2 Race Report

After a brutal day of running through deep mud at 60 degree temps, mother nature decided to up the ante for day 2.

Post-race, a line of severe thunderstorms came through, re-saturating the course and destroying what little course tape hadn't already been ridden through. And then the temperature dropped twenty degrees.

Sunday morning's temperature hovered around 45, with wind gusting to 30 mph -- the most significant change to the course conditions was that warm, sloppy mud had been replaced by cold, sloppy mud. The course was effectively the same, except it had been shortened further, leaving "only" four length running sections. Actually, if you ran down the hills (which was becoming more and more popular), you could join some of the running sections together... so maybe it only had two running sections! Yay!

As you might imagine my motivation and core temperature were pretty low, and based on the number of people preriding (zero) I'd say my feelings were representative of the crowd. A surprisingly large field (87, after 92 the previous day) showed up for 2/3 Men -- the "beauty" (if you're promoter, which I sometimes am) of forcing prereg.

Off the line I took a very laid-back approach, and actually dropped some spots on the start straight. The caremeter, as they say, was reading zero. You guys can go ahead and get in the "draft" up there.

The course conditions had changed a bit -- the brisk wind was drying out the thinner areas of mud, and hardening up the deep areas. Deep tacky mud is absolutely unrideable, but the other sections were getting faster. There were a few spots on the back side of the course where -- gasp -- I had to brake before a corner. Gosh, it was exciting! I might even go so far as to say I liked it.

After a lap I started to get into it a bit more. The running was still horrendous (have I used that adjective yet? I've said "the running was X" about 100 times in these two reports) but the race was much shorter (3 laps) and there was a hint of technical skill required to ride the back section cleanly.

Linnea hadn't arrived at the venue yet after getting sick overnight, but I had her bike in the pit and took the opportunity to pit myself after 1.3 laps. It raised my level of happiness even further, because pit bikes are PRO and damned if I don't want to be PRO. It was also clean, for about two seconds. Best of all, I caught Pierre and had the pleasure of passing him while riding his former bike, and I wasted a lot of oxygen letting him know about it.

On lap 3 things got more exciting as Linnea arrived and started pitting for me. Another bike change, huzzah! One of my close competitors was also getting a fresh bike each half-lap, so we were having a jolly good throw down, and our pit crews were fighting each other for the hose. You know how the mid-20s of a B race are. Serious business.

As the race drew to a close I took one last bike change and applied the "advice" I'd given Linnea on that last lap to myself -- "Race ends at the top of the flyover, GET THERE." My bike-changing foe had been hurting me on the run, but with the end in sight I was able to pick up my stride in exchange for super duper pain and get ahead for the flyover. I scaled it with legs of jelly and sufferred on in for a scorching 24th place and the knowledge I didn't have do any more of the crap, at least until next weekend.

After how hard it was for me to find the motivation to race, there was no chance that a growing-iller-by-the-minute Linnea was going to line up for the same thing. We took the opportunity to get home a few hours early and left after pitting for Matt in the Masters race.

He used my bike for the short half of the lap and I ran the handlebar cam for him a few times. You won't believe this, but it's not exciting at all. Nevertheless, it's worth a look (four minutes) just experience the course. In the below clip Matt runs for 1.5 minutes of a 4 minute stretch... breathing as hard as he can the whole way.

USGP Mercer Cup Day 2 Handlebar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.

I'll be interested to see if the Mercer Cup happens next year. The park itself was destroyed until spring -- the mud will go away, in time, but people will have plenty of time to get upset about it first. The park ranger we had a run-in with on Sunday was a complete dick, no doubt because those damn cyclists had ruined his park.

On top of course destruction, there were some organizational issues that I'd like to point out. Generally, one cannot complain about the way a race was run without getting a bunch of crap about "you're not a promoter so shut up" -- luckily, I'm running a race in 3 weeks, and while it's no USGP it's still plenty of work. Anyway, the race was certainly run acceptably, it just lacked the polish of the Verge Series. Half of these things are probably out of the promoter's hands, anyway. Screw it, I'm complaining anyway.

1) We reused the same numbers from day 1 to day 2, except no one actually told us this. There was allegedly a sign at registration somewhere, and you know how easy it is to see any given sign when you're in a sea of people registering. I talked to other racers and the message had gotten around almost entirely by word of mouth.

2) The race lengths were ridiculous on each day. Day 1, they ran every race too long. There's no times on the results (sneaky) but my opening and fastest lap was 13 minutes, so I was probably out there for 55 min. Given that our posted race length was 40 min, 3 laps was obviously the right call. Day 2 had the opposite problem, the course had been shortened yet they told us three laps on the start line. This time we actually could have done four laps (like the A Masters did) to get the appropriate race length, but they kept us short, and also...

3) Stopping racers early. Because they were behind schedule on both days, they started barring racers from the finishing straight once they started staging the next field. While obviously you can't have people finishing while the next race is starting, my experience showed they were being way too aggressive about this. On day 2 I was kept off the finish straight, so I decided to watch the start of the 45+ race (which must be imminent, right?). Four minutes later, I left in disgust. Let people ride to the finish line until there's a minute to go, just make sure they get off the course once they cross the line!

4) Why were they behind schedule on Day 2? Because everything was pushed back 30 minutes because the course was still in tatters at 8 AM, when the Cat 4 race was supposed to start. After a thunder-and-wind-storm at 6pm the previous day, no one should have been surprised to have to restring a lot of course tape that morning, but apparently they were.

5) As long as I'm pointlessly and aimlessly whining, they called us up ONE AT A TIME for staging, right down to the last two guys. On Day 2 it took even longer because they had to cross names off the sheet to see who was DNS'ing from the day before. It's not a big deal, (that was a freezing five minutes I could have done without), but it makes me want to hug Alan Atwood at the next Verge.

If this post didn't do it for you, go read what Matt wrote, it's the same message but more eloquent.

10 comments:

G-ride 11/21/2008 3:50 PM  

God, I just hyperventilated watching that video. Its like trying not to ghost chew while feeding a toddler. Parents will know what I mean.

Hah, I have not seen those selle italia banners since I fashioned one into a man diaper while spectating at cross worlds in monopoli. I dont understand why the europeans dont like us.

matt 11/21/2008 6:43 PM  

wow. that was painfully slow racing. loud too.

I totally forgot that the camera was there so it's funny to hear Linnea mention it as soon as the bike comes back to the pit.

ghost chew. I've done that.

pvb 11/21/2008 8:59 PM  

As brutal is it is to watch my old bike ride away from me (or rather be shouldered away) I'm glad it's moved on to greener pastures with Linnea. I'm sure the TCX is super excited to be doing so well in elite races after paying it's dues as a midpack B racer. Hell, it even gets to wear carbon hoops on occasion!

trackrich 11/22/2008 7:02 AM  

Glad I missed this one.

And that ghost chewing thing just made me choke on my coffee... I'm just glad I finally shook the side-to-side sway from the baby years.

G-ride 11/22/2008 4:07 PM  

why is it SO hard not to chew along with them?

All these youngsters have no idea what us old guys are talking about. They are too busy out training and partying.

Big Bikes 11/22/2008 11:04 PM  

I can't wait to throw YOUR race under the bus Rooter. Ooh, I can't wait! Your race is gonna SUCK!

YOU - WILL - FAIL!

gaberator 11/23/2008 6:29 PM  

The situation for the vendors wasn't much better. A lot of us were hoping for a decent weekend since this is one of three stops for this series and they charge a hell of a lot for expo space. Unfortunately, no one even seemed to notice the expo area and EVERYONE had crappy weekend. Guys who sell $1000 worth of stuff sold $100. Worst CX race ever for vendors and thats saying a lot since CX racers and spectators are pretty thrifty as a rule of thumb.

I think they had a blog to pot complaints. I actually found the link from the race's profile on Facebook. I'm too tired from racing this weekend to find the link, but its around.

Colin R 11/23/2008 10:39 PM  

Gabe, that's interesting. Makes sense though, I guess.

They were fighting an uphill battle given how bad the conditions were. Had it been rideable, I wouldn't have been so annoyed by all the other problems.

solobreak 11/24/2008 8:01 AM  

I can't believe you went to Jersey for the weekend and didn't send me a post card, you thoughtless bastard.

gaberator 11/24/2008 9:33 PM  

I can understand how the ride-ability factor can exacerbate the other problems. My situation being a new business that is trying to provide a service for CX racers and having to pay to be at all of the races that you see my banners and myself, it sucks to have a simple thing such as layout of the event negatively affect how you do. Listen, I'm a super fringe business and I expect to be scraping by this year for sure. However, when I have very positive weekends at Gloucester where the expo was placed very well, I know it is possible to get by doing what I'm doing even at a CX race.

I think the entire race situation was a little bit in shambles this year. I'm not sure why this was- were the park rangers just being dicks all day and sabotaging the event? I don't know. I also know that I haven't promoted a race myself, so I don't know all the variables. However, having studied planning and design, I can tell you that simply placing registration, expo and bathrooms close to each other it makes everyone happy.

And for god's sake- get a beer tent!

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