Linnea got some prize money in the mail for winning Elite Women. It was postmarked before this post was written so I had nothing to do with it. In summary, Bear Brook Rocks, see you there next year!
Editor's Note: This is a tough one to write because it's so hard to critique the actions of any promoter without coming off as a thankless, whiny racerhead. It should be noted that I did actually promote a race once.
No one races for prizes, or at least no one admits they do. Certainly the vast majority of racers would still show up in the event there were no prizes; hell, half of them never win anything anyway, despite mountain biking's best efforts to make everyone a winner with 4 ability levels and ~6 age categories. And yet, prizes get handed out, so if we're all gonna keep doing this prize thing, let's try to get it right.
This past weekend I hit my first efta race in a while and the event was very well run; you only need to look at its dedicated web page to see what a labor of love this was for the organizers. Which makes it all the more painful to complain about the one thing that got totally botched -- Elite prizes.
This is not a proxy complaint on behalf of my girlfriend, who won the Elite women's field, because she was only racing one other person, and I'm fine with a promoter cutting the prizes when you have a field of size two.
This is a complaint on behalf of the 20 or so Elite men who took the line and rode way faster than the rest of us, for way longer than the rest of us, and saw no cash for their efforts. Traditionally (cyclocross, road, Root 66, other EFTA races), pay cash to the elite racers. The worst part is that last year (!!) this very race paid out $125/$100/$75 to the elites. This might have contributed to getting 20 elites to show up this year, and I bet many of them might now find better things to do next year. Even though they don't race for prizes... allegedly.
Alright, so how the hell does this kind of thing happen? I thought giving your overall-freakin'-winner some dough was a no-brainer, but then again I think legalizing disc brakes for cross is a no-brainer as well. So I took to the internet to see what I could learn about the crazy ways of EFTA, because while everyone loves reading an off-the-cuff inflammatory rant, I sure don't like attaching my name to one.
One of the most illuminating things I found was this mtbmind forum post with a nice discussion of the elite category, prize money, and the ethos of EFTA racing. Sounds like the Elite category used to be $50 to enter and that's how they covered the prize money, which seems strange (why don't I just give Matty O some 20s in the parking and cut out the middle man?), but there was some obvious questions about how that would just make all the semi-elites sandbag the significantly cheaper expert race. So this year it seems like Elite entry fees are the same as everyone else, which could kinda almost provide an argument for cutting their prize money, if you squint really hard. Ok...?
Furthermore, last year's race had a whopping 3 Elite finishers, so that probably made the promoters think that very few Elites would show up this year. Of course, last year they went up against the Pat's Peak MTB Festival 24/12/6 hour/Root 66 XC race that was literally 15 miles away. So that might have affected the turnout just slightly.
(Don't get me started on EFTA/Root 66 events happening on the same day less than 50 miles apart, that's a whole different rant. Oh look, it's happening on June 28th this year, good work guys!)
Aside from the Elite debate, the most interesting thing in that mtbmind forum post was finding out that EFTA requires its promoters to donate 50% of their proceeds (at least I think it was 50%... now I can't find the quote) to a charity. I bet that's a fun one when you're doing your budget, knowing you attracted less than 150 racers last year and your entry fee is effectively $12.50. If you figure you can guarantee 100 racers - then you have a $1250 budget. I saw three porta-potties and a standby ambulance on site, so they might have blown $1250 right there, and even if not -- would you want to put $600 ($300 per gender, $125/$100/$75) of your race budget on the line knowing you only had 3 elites finish last year?
I rest my case. Elite prize money fell victim to budget cuts! In this economy, whaddya expect?
Well -- I wouldn't say that I'd expect it, but it sure would've been cool if, upon noticing that the fields were huge, the promoter decided to dip into all that money s/he didn't expect and handed out some cash to encourage them to stay that large next year!
You can make an argument that "pampering" a few elite racers isn't an appropriate way to spend funds, which I guess could make sense if you want to cater to the average racer. Which is pretty shortsighted, in my opinion -- I have a whole argument in my head about the role elite riders play in perpetuating development of the sport, but let's just say that encouraging the fast guys to road race isn't how I'd do it. But I'll wait for someone to make that argument in the comments before I get started, since this is already long enough.
Anyway, you can ask the guys who didn't get paid, and every one of 'em will tell you it's not a big deal. And it's not. Bear Brook was a super event close to some big population centers, and as long as it doesn't end up conflicting with a major road or mtb event next door it will be huge next year as well. So all I'm really asking is that next year, we kick in some dough for elite race, and start acting like mountain biking is a real sport again.
Oh, and just to keep it all in perspective, you should realize that this race almost got cancelled by the State of NH.
Monday, June 1, 2009