As usual the last day was a bittersweet day. It's the last of the year's Series which means that a lot of stuff ends. The core group of people I see each weekend will change - just like you never get the exact same people showing up at two different race venues I never see the same core group of people at other races, not all at once. This is more so because some of the core group don't even race. It makes Bethel unique because it's the only time I see certain people at the races.
Of course we had ourselves some great racing. Unusually no titles had been clinched by the last week and in fact every title was up for grabs. Each year I hope that someone will cinch the Series early - I have some shorts for said rider ready to go. If they don't then I just give the overall winners a pair of shorts.
In 2013 each race came down to the final efforts in the final laps, except perhaps the P123 race. There were a lot of close finishes resulting in some ecstatic riders, along with the inevitable devastated ones. 20 or 30 minutes after the races and everyone was all smiles. For all the "what ifs" and "but thens" the riders that took the overall earned their titles.
Only in the P123s did the top contenders neutralize one another, watching all the points ride up the road. Some ferocious battling in the field almost brought things together but wisdom relented and the race ended with the overall podium spots unchanged.
I ended up stopping almost as soon as I started the 3-4 race. It was a bit unfortunate because my brother headed over with his family and my dad. I was already off the bike and probably changed when they arrived. It would have been nice to be on the bike for the kids. Ah well.
A fascinating occurrence was that this was the first time in 21 years that we had no trophies left over - there were no absentee podium finishers. I was actually stunned. I think the extra week, to avoid a Battenkill conflict, worked out well.
So how did the Series end up? I'll touch on a few spots that came to mind right away.
The weather... it went both ways. We didn't have a snow day and we didn't have rain on any week.
We also never broke 70 degrees, and we spent virtually the whole Series in the 30s and 40s. That's not so good, but, at the same time, it's sort of what a Spring Series should give you.
That's... not great but not bad.
We had a new spot for registration this year. The bakery gets too crowded (did you see the lines??) so we needed to find a different spot. We were fortunate to have use of the very cool spot we got to use. I was treating the folks who lent us permission anonymously but it's Cycling Sports Group, aka "Cannondale". A nice side benefit was that racers could peer through the glass at the Retail Lab, a showroom chock full of bike bling.
We had two new people at registration, Joel and Amanda, and did well, even under the gun at the peak hours of registration.
Overall registration and the associated things (end of day stuff for the officials, posting results, etc) went well. Pretty much all the errors were mine or due to late communication. I'd forget to add someone or someone would ask to change something at 10 PM on Saturday night. In all cases we figured things out okay.
It's one of the most honed aspects of Bethel and it showed.
The first week had some rough spots as the camera did a bunch of things on its own. In "Auto" mode it adjusts shutter speed, focus, and light balance. It took us two finishes to fix it but that meant two finishes where we couldn't pick numbers. Lesson learned.
The rest of the time the camera worked well. Obscured riders, oddly pinned numbers, and the occasional "perfect glare" situation made for some missed numbers, but we captured virtually all the numbers.
As the second year we're using this system it worked well, minus the hiccup on that first week.
One good thing about the final week is that I get to give away a bunch of stuff. It's fun making other people's day. This year, with Cannondale and Outdoor Sports Center's support, we gave away a Cannondale CAAD10 frameset (a CRCA racer won it).
The actual CAAD10 frameset on display.
Winner gets to choose the size.
Other prizes include a CycleOps Fluid Trainer (Bethel Cycle rider), a couple helmets that I remembered to put them in the car (CRCA and I forget who), and some smaller stuff (FGX somehow won three of these prizes). Drawing the tickets were a little girl, a little boy, and three? of my nephews (ages 5, 7, and 9).
Outdoor Sports Center, our main sponsor, provided us the use of the start/finish tent.
I want to give a shout out to Outdoor Sports Center. They are much more than just a sponsor. The guy that runs the place showed up every week of the Series, helps with the grunt work (i.e. moves boxes, helps load/unload van, etc), and loves the whole atmosphere of the race.
In fact he's the main reason why I added one week to the Series. When Battenkill conflicted with the last Series race we saw the turnout plummet. The poor turnout disappointed the normally enthusiastic guy (and me too). I figured an extra week would be okay, it would allow all the Battenkill riders to return, and it would be more fun for everyone involved - me, the sponsor, and especially the racers.
The camera crew on the trailer. All one of him.
This is the last week that our Series crew will be together like this. There's no other race that requires this much consistent help. Working the race is a bonding experience. It's like when you go on a century ride with a small group of people. Merely the process of doing the ride forces everyone to share a challenge and to meet it. It's hard not to build a bond with those around you.
Unlike a random century you go to, at the Bethel Spring Series I have the luxury of selecting the crew. I used to vet the crew from birth, as the joke went - I've known a few of the crew as long as they've been alive. I knew the parents before I knew them. It's hard to explain to other promoters where I find the crew.
"So you have some good people helping you at Bethel. Where do you find them?"
"Well first you find a friendly nice young couple that doesn't have kids. Then when they have kids you vet the whole family process. Keep the good families on a short list. It helps if the parents go to races because then you can see the kids as they grow up. When the kids come of age you hire them. It takes a bit longer than just interviewing random people but it works well."
"Oh. Um. Thanks."
This year I expanded a bit and added people that I haven't known for more than a decade. It worked out well, super well in fact.
I consider the officials part of the crew as well. I ask for them specifically because they help shape the tone of the race, the attitude of the race.
This year we had more volunteers than in recent memory and for that I'm super grateful. With the new "cut through" around the Bethel Power building we needed a couple more dedicated people. Missing regulars for various dates also reduced available resources.
Therefore the marshals really helped make the race work as well as it did this year. I really, really appreciate the time and effort they put out, especially during those bitterly cold days.
I want to mention the racers themselves to conclude because it's only fitting. When someone says something nice about Bethel to me, I reply in complete truth that without the racers there'd be no race.
Someone last year described the way I think of the racers at Bethel.
"(He) really cares for all "his" racers--that is, everyone that pins on a Bethel number." (DocM)
I never realized that this is how I felt about all the racers at Bethel. I want everyone at Bethel to succeed at racing, to race as well as they can. I may get frustrated with some, never with others, spend more time with this one than that one, but in the end it comes down to this:
I want everyone at the Bethel Spring Series to have fun racing.
Because at Bethel they're one of mine.