Saturday, June 07, 2008

Racing - Philly, The Day Before

Today I got just a brief glimpse of what it takes to be a "real" race promoter. The fact that there was a meeting for the staff who would take care of just a few select sponsors is pretty incredible. They also handle other guests and sponsors, numbering in the hundreds, perhaps even a thousand or so. I could count myself among those "other" guests for a few years, but to be in the elite circle, I've never done that.

I contemplated a couple of different driving schedules (driving to my dad's Friday night or driving to Philly today, and variations off the "Dad" one), but to make things easier on me, I decided to do the drive all at once today.

I felt like Inspector Gadget once I finished a planned brief stop at "Superior Shopping" (the fancy way to say Best Buy, according to a funny review I read on their site). There I got a new HD camcorder type thing (it also takes 8 MP pictures), a card for the same, and a couple miscellaneous things (battery for our regular digi cam and an adapter thing so I can plug AC plugs into a cigarette lighter thing).

Once hooked up, I had a laptop with Google Maps running, letting me navigate with a really big screen, and later I charged up the HD camcorder. The latter seems full of potential so I'll see how it works with the helmet cam. It's so light I could leave it in a jersey pocket, and it has AV inputs, critical for a helmet cam setup.

I got to the race hotel. Not hard to miss with a couple team cars in front, a women's team leaving for a ride, and all sorts of sticker laden vehicles scattered around the entrance. I got inside and was surprised at all the cycling people. There were people wandering around with race bikes (deep profile rims and all), wheels, tools, and bags. The cycling folks were easy to spot - small, lean, and tan. Mister Scarface, he who won the Lehigh Valley Classic, was there talking with two teammates and someone that could have been a director or something.

I didn't recognize anyone else, but apparently I fit in because someone said hi to me, and I had no idea who he was except he was slim, had shaved legs and a sock tan.

Maybe it was the bag I'm using, a Timbuk2 bag with a distinctly cycling-oriented logo on it. Or my shaved legs. Or my Verge socks.

Because, frankly, I'm not slim, at least not in a road race way.

Anyway, I found myself, after about 5.5 hours of driving, some shopping, and a BK/pee stop, at the meeting room at 2:25 PM, 5 minutes before the meeting would start.

Dave Chauner ran the meeting. He should have, he's the guy behind the whole race. I feel kind of a kinship with him - for the longest time he lived two streets away from me (i.e. 2 streets away from my dad's place). I've also run into him at races, specifically the Bethel Spring Series. I didn't want to point this out to him since the two times he showed up I didn't let him race, despite his protests.

See, a guy with a PRO license can't enter a Cat 1-2-3 race, and for a long time we didn't permit the race for Pros.

Somehow, when I introduced myself, I forgot to mention those two meetings with him. He did have a shocked look on his face though, but it was probably something he forgot to do and made a mental note to himself to do it.

If you introduce yourself to me at Bethel and I have a shocked look on my face, that's probably the reason why. Don't worry about the elbows you threw and whatnot, that won't enter my mind.

I got a shirt, cap, and a cool badge that says I'm a staff person, at least for tomorrow. The race is huge, beyond my grasp. Heck, I wouldn't even know where to get these badges printed up, and to get embroidered shirts (and boxes and boxes of them!), that would require bow-coop (beaucoup, i..e "lots" in French) bucks.

Caps, they cost a fortune too. And they have boxes of those too!

There was a lot of talk of the VIP vehicles, including motorcycles, but it all kind of went over my head until this Italian gangster looking guy (well a friendly version of a gangster) mentioned there'd be a Ferrari F1 as well as a ZR-1 Corvette.

I started wishing I fought to be a driver.

The drivers get to do cool things. They drive VIPs around and talk to them while they drive. They explain how the race goes, who is who, tactics (!), and try to convey "racing excitement" to the VIPs. Driving, talking about racing, and being in the middle of pretty much the biggest one day race in the US.

I could do that.


Alas, I am but a mere support staff, a domestique if you will, one that basically works to support the drivers and motos. If the VIP (actually, the V-VIP, for Very Very Important Persons) area was an aircraft carrier, the drivers are the pilots. Everyone else works to make it possible for the drivers to drive around the VIPs.

Cool, eh?

What's cool is the two promoters drive the extremely-V-VIPs around. Those V-VIPs probably get the really good stories because Dave knows them all, and he's been doing this since 1983, the year I started racing.


After the meeting I drove up to Princeton, NJ, to my host's apartment. He is putting me up pretty much because the guy who asked me to work asked him to put me up. Lots of faith there, but I think I'll be able to uphold my reputation. My host is a Cat 3, but he's a self-admitted climber, so no trading race stories. I mean, think about it.

"I dove into the turn, dug a pedal, but kept going!" versus "I came around the hairpin, the front wheel came off the ground just a bit, but I just leaned forward a bit and kept climbing in the 25!"

"I moved a hair to the left to shut the door on the guy!" versus "I nudged my heart rate up to 198! Just enough to break the guy on my wheel!"

"And then I slammed it into the 53x11!" versus "And then I slammed it into the 39x17!"

Well, he did mention something about a pasta dinner.

And after dinner, maybe I'll show him some of the helmet cam clips.

And we can talk shop. "Have you ever done..." or "What do you think of the new fill-in-the-blank group?"

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