Most riders train hard, eat right and race their bikes to the best of their ability, then go home. Some volunteer their time to local races or causes and see a little about the inner workings of what it takes to put on a race. Few do both. I have had the opportunity over the past two cyclocross seasons to team up with Bike Monkey and become one of those few people that race and promote races. One of the facets of my company, CX Nation, is to do course design for the races that make up the Santa Rosa Cup. Let me tell you, this job is not easy and takes quite a bit of time. You can’t just show up the day before a race, line out the course and be done. I usually start months before a race is to happen and I begin, what I like to call, “massaging the venues”.
You see, most possible venues have no idea what cyclocross is, let alone what a race could do to their park or winery or whatever. I have learned over the past few years that you really have to lay everything on the table and let them know the possibilities. That way there will be no surprises…or I guess I should say fewer surprises. There will always be surprises.
This year the last race in our series was at Windsor Oaks Winery. They were actually looking to get people up to their winery to do some mountain biking in the summer months. Well, I explained to them what cyclocross was and they were actually pretty excited about doing a race at their winery. The winery was a great place to have a race. There were great features, like a dam, some elevation, lots of grassy fields and the potential for mud.
The day before the race we were setting up and I met the vineyard manager. He had some concerns about where the course was going and how it would effect erosion, etc…. I was just thinking to myself, “we have been planning this for months and how come I never met you or heard of any of these concerns.” He knew that we had done some restoration after races, which we have, and so I had to assure him that we would do it here also, even though it had never been discussed. Bad idea to not appease the property manager the day before a race.
It is hard to be a promoter and a participant in your own race. I tried to race with the Master’s field in the middle of the day in past races. It just doesn’t work. But I figured why not jump in with the elites for 60 minutes of fun at the end of the day. It was kind of a reward for me. I wasn’t expecting a great result. I started at the back and just tried to have fun…..and you know what, I did! Lots of rain fell during both the men’s and women’s elite races and it turned the course sloppy and slippery, which is just the way I like it. We don’t get these types of conditions in California all that often. I got to run my tubulars at 22 psi. What a treat!
The race was a success and the managers of the winery were very excited. We had a few hiccups with communication to the workers that were there the day of the event, but all in all it went well. Our work was not done though. We still had to clean up the mess. So a few weeks later Carlos and Greg from Bike Monkey, and myself met up there and went to work. Let me tell…it was real work. Raking all the ruts that the bike tires made, spreading seed and covering the entire course with straw. We had to come back the next week and put more straw down because we ran out.
So the next time you get frustrated with a promoter because they misspelled your name or didn’t have results up in 10 seconds or didn’t give you any prize money – just stop and think. We aren’t doing it for the money or the ego (at least at the Santa Rosa Cup). We are doing it because we love the sport and want to spread the fun of cyclocross. Oh and by the way…it takes a lot of work to put on these races. So next time you see a promoter, thank them for doing whatever they are doing to put on a race for you. Ok, off the soapbox.