Saturday, December 04, 2010

Bethel Spring Series - 2011 Thoughts

We officially got word from the town that the race series is a go for 2011. For those keeping track, the official dates will be:

March 6, 13, 20, 27
April 3, 10

You'll note that there are no breaks in the schedule - it's every Sunday for six weeks. Easter, it seems falls much later than normal in 2011 - April 24th to be exact, two weeks after the last schedule Series race.

Just like any optimization process, the basic formula won't change. But some ideas have crossed my mind. So, for 2011, let me put some ideas out there. I'd like to get feedback (if you want to send it privately then email the address found at the bottom of this page - the link by my name).

Remember, these are ideas. They are not official.

First off, I'm trying to think of a way to do a clinic for the Cat 5s. I'd like to run the first race as a non-points race, with downloadable lessons (on the Carpe Diem Racing site). The riders would focus on certain tactical ideas each week, with perhaps four or five total lessons planned. I'm assuming that one week of racing will be called off due to ice, and I'd like to have one race be a real race. Sort of a final exam if you will.

The clinic would be open to anyone interested but the race itself would be open just to Cat 5s.
Cat 4-5?

This means that the second Cat 5 race would be the actual race. With a field limit of 50 it'll be tight. I was thinking of how to make it a Cat 4-5 race while severely discouraging the Cat 4s from registering - this would allow 75 riders on the course at the same time.
No Overall For Cat 5s?
Last year I watched some very good racers fight it out for the Cat 5s overall. I am convinced that they'd have been better served racing in the 4s or even the 3-4s. It's hard to request an upgrade though when you're in a strong position for an overall prize, i.e. the overall Series.

In order to both discourage Cat 4s from entering the possible 4-5 race as well as encourage the strong Cat 5s to upgrade to Cat 4, I'm seriously considering eliminating the overall aspect of the Cat 5 (or Cat 4-5) race. In other words each race would stand on its own, and there would be no overall Leader's Jersey, no overall trophy. This should give the strongest riders the excuse to upgrade while giving the truly new racers an opportunity to get a few sub-light speed races under their belt.

Longer P-1-2-3 races?

I know that there are a few Cat 2s and higher racers who don't do the Series because the races are, frankly, too short. In March and April the Cat 1s and 2s are looking to do 4 or 5 hours at a time, not dinky hour plus crits. Although we can't offer a 5 hour Bethel race (that would be epic, yes), we could extend the final race of the day. Instead of 31 miles I'm thinking of doing something long, at least for a Bethel - 45 laps or so, about 40 miles.

The problem is that there'd be more lapped racers, and we may have to pull some totally-out-of-contention racers. Lapped groups would sprint early to clear the roads for the lead group. And we'd all have to hang out a bit longer. But combined with a loop in the area, riders could get about 1.5 hours race time plus another couple hours doing a loop in the area. If that's enough to pull back a few riders, we'd do it.

No Juniors

With a pretty low showing of Juniors, it may be time to put the race on the shelf. The trophies, jerseys, and separate numbers end up almost wasted. We run the race with the Masters to save time, but frankly I don't see the value of the race. The Juniors typically end up better off in the categorized races.
Still Thinking About
One big change for 2011 has nothing to do with the race but everything to do with registering for it - USA Cycling will start doing online registration. This competes directly with a local organization that has served us extremely well,

USA Cycling's full integration appeals to me since I spend a lot of draggy time finalizing results so I can send USAC the right format file.

However, I feel the need to support BikeReg. Without them the race would not have become what it is now.

Another Thinking About

I'm trying to decide on the registration fees for 2011. The pre-reg will probably increase a bit and the prize structure may change. The race is existing in a deficit state so something needs to change. In the past it wasn't a big deal because my "real job" could absorb any losses. Now not so much.

I don't want to increase day of race; it's where I think it's comfortable and realistic. The pre-reg is a bit low, with a net of $8 (after the insurance surcharge is taken out) per rider in some cases.

Unfortunately at the same time I want more people to get prize money, which means that the winners would get less but the lower placing racers would then get something. The races tend to favor those that race well in this part of the season (like myself). Those riders have a good chance of winning something every week. I'd like to extend the prizes down a bit so that the riders just below the cusp can also partake.

I may make a change on the way we have sponsors. In the recent past (at least a few years) the race has taken essentially no cash in from any sponsor. For 2011 this may change.

No Changes For...

For other things we don't have any changes lined up. Masters will remain Masters 45+. Cat 5s will only be allowed in the first race of the day, not in Masters (and if we keep the Juniors, not in Juniors). The Women's race will continue on as a separate entity, and it will stay open to all categories, Cat 1-4.

Verge Sport has come up to the line once again to supply us with the Leader's Jerseys. They've been a great support over the years, even coming in person and supporting the race by sweeping, marshaling, and racing, all when I used other companies for jerseys. They're truly a racer's company - they love and support their sport. And they have great quality stuff - when my team couldn't get team knickers, I went and bought some generic black ones through Verge.

And of course we plan on having Navone Studios house our registration as well as serve up hot coffee, some eats, and various drinks and bars. Frank and his crew are all racers, all passionate about cycling. In case you didn't see the post from last year, their studio is a tribute to the cycling world.


My temporary parking spot on blogspot is kind of gone. I have to figure out how to put up some pages for the races, including, I hope, a mobile version for those who are looking for info from their phone. As a new smartphone owner, I realized just how useful the mobile sites are, as compared to the normal ones.

Of course as things progress with the races I'll update everyone. Hopefully on a newly written, newly designed site!


Shaver said...

scrapping a cat 5 overall is a good idea.

same for longer 1/2/3 races.

Unknown said...

RE: Cat 4-5 race.

From a career Cat 4...

The Cat 4-5 race is intriguing. Essentially you'd be eliminating the Cat 5 race, and making the 4-5 race longer with more racers. I never really liked two Cat 5 races.

Eliminating the overall competition for 4-5 may encourage 5's to upgrade to 4's, but you'll never discourage 4's from entering the 4-5 race. Sandbaggers won't care about the overall. If anything, you may encourage more sandbagging, as some 4's will look to enter the 4-5 race for upgrade points.

I like the 4-5 idea. Just know you can't win against sandbagging.

Aki said...

I wonder if I can make the proposed Cat 4-5 race long enough to qualify for the 5s but not for the 4s. I have to look into the upgrade requirements.

This could only happen if I could figure out a way to make the "first Cat 5 race" a clinic.

I really want to bump up the P123 race lengths but have to consider other things.

bigCrank said...

Sandbagging 4's??? if you don't have a series. there really shouldn't be a problem. hey, those 5's will benefit in the long run as they learn to big the sandbaggers. perhaps you make the prizes not so good in that race so that the only 4's that are in it are ones whose fitness isn't where they want it or one's that still haven't "gotten it" yet. you'll get one or two who need the ego boost, but they won't show up EVERY week (especially if it isn't a series). if they do and they win all the time, a simple question at registration like "what your still in the kid's race?" might deflate the ego and make them not want to race it. ;)

Kris said...

As an off the back Cat 5 who hopes to be more competitive this season, both the Cat 5 clinic and Cat 4-5 race is appealing. I'd love to have more time inside the pack watching and practicing different tactics. But since I am also only a few races away from being upgrade eligible, the idea of a more challenging 4-5 race would be great, to get an idea of what I'd be in for once I upgrade.
And I agree, I for one am far less inspired by a series overall as a Cat 5, nice bragging rights, but not really something I'd be shooting for. I just want to get out and race and learn and improve.

Aki said...

My biggest concern with having a 4-5 race is that we historically get 60-80 Cat 5s each day (hence we scheduled two Cat 5 races in the past). If even 10 or 15 Cat 4s enter a 4-5 race, there won't be enough spots for some of the Cat 5s to enter. This could be very discouraging for a new racer. And although it's important to "toughen up" incoming racers, turning them off of racing isn't the way to do it.

I'm decided on no overall for the Cat 5s (nor 4-5s if we have it). I'm pretty sure we'll increase the P123s. The clinic I'd like to do but am still thinking on how to do it.

Anonymous said...

I think you should condsider reverting back to 40+ masters, so that more folks can race the masters race and then the 3/4 right afterwards. What's the point of having a +45 race anyway?

jeffrey lesser said...

2010 was my first year racing cat 5. The Bethel Series was a great learning experience. Just racing there taught me a lot about what to do to be safe. I also learned (first hand) a lot about race tactics. Although I didn't do well, (one race I think I was last place) I had a GREAT time racing.

My goal for this year was to "try" to do better. If you could keep the race exactly the same that would be great. However, if you put me with cat 4's, I will have a very tough time at every race. I'm not going to learn anything except to experience a frustrating race as I struggle to try and keep up with the faster pace. Any lessons will be missed as most cat 5's will be grouped together anyway.

Last year, Target Training had a classroom on the "Bethel Series" race seminar. Here is where I learned about the race and what to expect. Also, I learned how to ride in a group, by actually riding in a group. This combination worked.

Race day is about seeing who has the best fitness and race game plan....period. Please don't eliminate this. If my ability puts me at last place, then so be it. Having a separate seminar (at another time) is a great idea and I would attend.

My biggest concern is the sandbaggers. It's like racing with men and boys. They are so much faster, but I'm not sure how you change things. It's quite clear some of them belong in a higher category. I'm not sure why they would want to race with riders who have a much lower ability. Ego I guess!

Suggestion-have last years top 3 overall winners of cat 5, race in the next higher category in the proceeding years race.

I know it's impossible to please everyone, so thanks for listening to one riders point of view.

Aki said...

JL - Thanks for writing with your ideas/thoughts. I've decided to go straight Cat 5 (but just one race). I want the Cat 5s to race against other Cat 5s.

As far as upgrading, the top Cat 5s from last year are either Cat 3s or even a Cat 2. One rider won a slew of Cat 3 races at the end of the 2010 season. If you thought the races were hard, they were - even I can't beat that particular Cat 3 (or 2).

I'm also (and doing this as we speak) holding a clinic on bike racing during the Series. It'll replace the first Cat 5 race time-wise (i.e. 8-8:45 AM) and go over some of the basics of safe and sane bike racing.

I'm firm on the 45+. The Masters field was getting a bit unwieldy and I wanted to keep some of the younger, faster Masters in their categorized races (Cat 3-4 or P123). This, by the way, includes myself. Since there isn't enough time or numbers to do a proper M55+ (or some combination of 40+ and 50+ etc), right now we need to limit the field to 45+.

For those keeping track, the P123 race will be increased to at least 41 laps. I remember racers (lined up at the start) voting to keep the races under 44 laps long but I want to have at least 40 laps for those M40+ Cat 2s and 3s :) So 41 laps is the advertised length of the P123 race.

Dr. Xeno said...

Yo - been reading & geeking over your voluminous blog. Wonder if you've ever visited us here in NorCal for January/Feb Early Bird Criterium series; 5 Sundays, skills clinics for cat 5s (4s if they want) and practice races with low fees, 5th Sunday is for real. This is a BIG DEAL, 500+ racers on a nice Sunday with 65 mentors this year; another handful of coach/leaders. The upper cats who mentor can easily get 100 miles of riding in circles moderate/tempo riding with a harder burst for the 1/2/3 race which is ~60 minutes. Contact Larry Nolan for Qs, or if we chat I could e-mail you my copies of the curriculum. Best learn to race program around, maybe only? Real key is the field sizes & mentors make the first race experience both realistic and supportive. If the get dropped, we roll them back the S/F for a rest and jump back in with the pack (good practice for inevitable free lap of the future)

You mentioned teaching tactics, I say stick with skills.

We always keep 5s separate, and even in season we less and less 4/5 fields. Our master's age cuts here are 35+/45+/sometimes 55+; but even in SoCal they tend to go 30+/40+. We have a huge district in NCNCA, 3000+? And most are 35+.

Aki said...

Thanks for all the tips. I got wind of the Early Bird stuff from folks who have done it. They really like the whole setup, feel they got a huge benefit from it. I don't have the mentor numbers/quantity so I'm thinking of a less-person-intensive way of doing it; I'm also going to be dealing with a much smaller group, at least that's what I expect initially.