Return of Wacky Promoter Weekly

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!

(Introspective Break)

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.

(Another Pause)

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.


Unknown said…
you also forgot to comment on the distribution of prizes that were available. what about your idea of allowing all of the category winners to pick from the prize table and then letting all second placers, and lastly all third placers? i thought you supported that idea too? that way the 3rd place elite doesn't get a new carbon handlebar while the 1st place sport gets a pair of grips.
Colin R said…
Rosey: In all my years of racing, I have seen about a 10% success rate in running an actually fair prize table. It's just too friggin complicated for most promoters, who have been working hard all day long, and just got handed results they've just seen, and have 200 racers waiting impatiently to do awards. Do your podiums, throw people at the table, and you're done. It just happens that way.

Also, your example sucks, 3rd place elite should absolutely pick before sport winners. I would do all 1sts/all 2nds/all 3rds WITHIN a category. 3rd place expert still gets dibs over 1st place sandbagger, er, sport.

Anyway, that's a fight for a different day.
Unknown said…
oh yeah, i forgot mtb has 10 sub categories within each category so yeah, your example is much better.

i still stand behind the idea that if you are giving out prizes to categories other than the elites, make them random lottery style. i mean, chances are the promoter got the stuff for free anyway so reward joe average who showed up to have fun (and give you money) despite being unlikely to podium. it's not that hard to randomly pick numbers out of a hat or off the registration page. if you're trying to encourage a post-race scene, it gives a little more incentive to stick around and be social too.
linnea said…
I think the 3rd place Elite man took a pair of foam grips as they were the only thing on the table that didn't clash with his sponsorship... Another reason to give cash to elites?
matt said…
disc brakes have no place in cyclocross
solobreak said…
I direct you to the EFTA mission statement.

The group was originally founded when USA Cycling took over NORBA. As noted on the above link, the group is not focused on elites. I think the idea is that elite riders can have as much fun as everyone else if they want to. They just go faster.
kevin said…
Baby steps Colin, I hate cantis just as much (actually much more) than the next guy, but let's fight for v-brakes before we try for disc brakes.
Colin R said…
solo: it's possible that EFTA and I just have totally different philosophies, but the recent addition of their Elite category makes me think that we both agree that separating out and rewarding the elite racers is a good idea. Last year EFTA's policy was to raise the elite entry fee and use that to cover their prize money, so it's clear that they don't have a pure never-give-elites-money-because-we're-all-here-to-have-fun policy, despite their mission statement.

kevin: v-brakes aren't banned, dude.
solobreak said…
Discs for CX is the best idea ever. Think of the glut of obsolete carbon canti'd frames and deep dish wheels that will flood the market. I'll be commuting on a Ridley with 404s for a song.
solobreak said…
And Gewilli will still be complaining that none of them are big enough for him.
mkr said…
Nice post and good conclusions. Did anyone notice that the race flier actually mentioned merchandise prizes for Elites (only) right on it, or was it just me? I was surprised when they gave goods to other categories as well. I agree that the elite/open category is bigger this year in general and that there are fewer (though still some) sandbaggers, which is a good thing. Speaking of which, Colin, when is the last time you placed lower than top 5? You too should be a man and upgrade to mediocrity :)
Colin R said…
mkr: i'm surprised it took this long in the comments for that question to come out. the deal is that my knee is still questionable, I have had to keep all my workouts short (90 mins or less) and even then I can feel it getting tight at the end. I was going to do the elite race if it had been 25 miles, but 3 hours/39 miles seem like a BAD IDEA.

Strangely enough it feels much better racing than training, I think the rest between intervals is when it swells up, but if I just go flat out it never gets stiff until I stop. So if I make it to Pinnacle, yeah, I'll race Elite. Someone's gotta pay for your prize money :)
Our series (MASS) has one cash class. It pays 20 deep at a pre-determined rate. Everyrace in the series is required to pay the same amounts. We call these classes elite.

we have the age group expert classes that race for prizes.

As a promoter (Granogue MTB) prizes are the toughest thing to do. We give plaques to the experts and sports 5 deep in everyclass. beginers get medals 3 deep, and we raffle off all the prizes that get donated to us.

been helping/promoting races for 12years, this has worked best of all options.

Just figured I'd share what nother region does...
Big Bikes said…
Yes, I saw that there was no cash for Elites at Bear Brook so I drove 8 hours round trip to New Windsor New York to race The 1 1/2 hour long Singlespeed-A-Palooza by myself. Much more cost effective.

I am wicked smart and you are all idiots.

Cross bikes shouldn't even have brakes at all. Part of the suffering associated with Cross should involve riding uncontrollably into other riders and inanimate objects. Purify the pain.

kevin said…
Holy shit, you're right (about the vbrakes). When did that happen? Do they allow black socks now too? Last time I checked (admittedly, at least 2 years ago) both vbrakes and black socks were not allowed in UCI races.

Know anyone that wants to buy a pair of XTR cantis, that work, ummm... great?
Anonymous said…
Hey Colin, I'm the kid you saw at Harold Parker. If you ever feel like letting me join in on a group mtb ride, my e-mail is

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