Thursday, June 19, 2008

Racing - (Pre) Tour of Pennsylvania (ToPA)

No, I'm not racing Tour of PA (warning: audio on that page loads right away.. for a quiet page, click here). First of all, I'm about 15 years too old for it. Second, there are some damn good riders in it and I'd be crawling into a team car faster than you could say "Boo!". And thirdly, there are climbs. Big ones. And I hate racing over climbs.

But I'm going to the race anyway, to help out a bit.

This isn't quite the Philly thing, helping the Super VIPs enjoy the day, a volunteer thing, a "give back to the racing community" thing. This is a little more serious as evident by the 60-something page list of tasks I have to perform over the course of the six day, seven stage (if you count the prologue TT) race.

Okay, I'll admit it, the 60-odd pages is a race bible, not a list of tasks. My list of tasks is pretty short:

"Don't screw up."

Still, though, when I get all my notes on, say, the Bethel Spring Series, it comes out to, oh, say, a page. Two on a busy day, and four on the last day (since I have to print out the overall GC). So 60-odd pages is a lot, like "I gotta reload the printer" lot. Heck, I even got out a notebook, punched holes in the printout, and started a ToPA notebook. Sittin' right next to the laptop as I type.

My title, according to the bible, is "Technical Assistant/Team Liason".

This is pretty cool. I have an actual title, and it means something. At pretty much all my IT jobs my title meant nothing. My last one was "Associate", that in a company that has only Associates, Senior Associates, and the guys that run the company.

Or "Telesales Manager", which is what I was before I was an Associate.

I did tech support at that company.

So a title is cool, and the fact that the title has something to do with my responsibilities is even more cool.

It is serious business though. $150,000 prize money, the most ever offered for a U25 race. I guess that titles follow money. What exactly do those titles mean? It just means I'm busy before, during, and after each race.

I'm not alone. There are two pages of names of people helping out, a few of them familiar to the domestic racing scene, most of the others people I've never heard of but I'm sure comprise the group of unseen heros that make races happen in the US of A.

This whole shindig is a big enough deal that even though the race starts on June 24th (a Tuesday), I need to be down at the race by June 21st (Saturday).

Saturday, in case you don't know it, is the Nutmeg State Games.

Since I've been waiting for the Nutmeg Games since last year, I'll be doing my race. But then I have to leave. So after I cross the line, I'll be changing, packing up, and zipping off down to Philly.

ToPA also means a week and a half away from home. No missus (well I can talk to her on the phone), no cats (can't interact with them, and the phone would probably just confuse them), no plants (I'll have to remind the missus about watering them, especially the new ones).

I think ToPA means 20 hour days, but I'm not sure. I figure that's what it'll be, and any less than that will be a bonus. I'll be mighty sleep deprived on the way home, that's for sure. And my responsibilities end at some point on June 30th, the day after the ToPA ends, not June 29th. Team Liason duties and all that.

ToPA means that I'll be working closely with a bunch of racers I've never heard of, U25s, guys that show up on my radar only when they get signed by a big team or win some stage in some big race somewhere. I feel like the ToPA will be something along the lines of a "preview", a demo if you will, of some of the talent that's out there.

It also means I probably won't be riding too much. I'll bring some running stuff, but that may not happen either. Maybe I'll be reduced to running up and down the fire escapes at the hotels, I don't know, but I hope to get some sort of physical work in while going through this whole experience. I have this fantasy of borrowing the neutral support bikes and taking them for a spin but I highly doubt that will happen, based on how much work those guys do before, during, and after each race.

And, finally, ToPA means I can see what it takes to run a big, big race. Largest purse for U25s, huge logistics, enormous support staff, multiple cities, international teams, road closures across town lines and county lines. It certainly beats Bethel, that's for sure.

I feel good about this whole gig, and I hope I can pull it off to my satisfaction.

Now to go for a ride...

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