Great race today. As usual, DCMTB put on a great event. The course was sublime - just perfect curves and a balance of handling and effort/recovery stretches. Bumpy as hell - but that's beyond their control and the fault of recent very dry weather. Good fries, great beer from DogFishHead (60 Minute IPA and Raison d'Etre) and good fellowship.
Now a word about scoring cross races. I know the refs are getting battered every time a podium gets screwed up. I know that 125 rider fields don't make it easy on them. But I also know that it is the most disheartening thing in the world to get pulled early on the "80% Rule" or some version of that as it's understood locally. If you've wrapped lap three, have maybe three more to go, are suffering, and get pulled, and you're in back, it's not the end of the world. You can live with that... until you see 20 guys who were way behind you ride on by, and it takes the leader 5 minutes to come through, and he's way ahead of the first chase, and you calculate you would have gotten in one or two laps more, easy, before you got lapped.
At that point you think, "Fuck it. I'll just send a check for $20, and they will have gotten what they want from me." Then, as you're having a little pity party, you suddenly see a couple guys in points contention getting pulled for no apparent reason whatsoever. Then, when you think it can't get worse, another buddy who was near DFL rides past the Start/Finish, killing himself to keep with a bunch of top 10 guys, trying to avoid getting pulled - which he does successfully. At that point, you feel at a complete loss for words.
I sucked today and was probably running in 90th when I got yanked - I was about half a lower back twinge away from stepping off the bike at that point. But a lot of slower people weren't yanked, while several much faster people (including 3 or 4 in points contention) were. I have serious angst over this.
The guys in the big fields early in the day - the M 4, 3/4 and 3/4 35+ are the guys whose fees pay the bills. They're the reason everybody else has prize money, nice swag, and so on. And they get treated poorly, for some reason. As a promoter, I hate this. The top 5 guys in the race are wonderful, but the bread and butter guys, the Joe Lunchboxes, finish 10th - 125th. I'm sick of seeing them take it in the shorts, often at random. Podium guys might sneer but the podium guys aren't immune to the scoring problem either. I saw a guy lose a podium a few weeks ago and get graded to near DFL, while a friend who was actually darned near DFL due to a mechanical was awarded a top 15 finish. Shoot, I was probably in 70th or 80th at Hyattsville, got lapped, rode it in the last 800 yards slow to stay out of the way, and pulled myself on the last lap (because I'm not a total dick). Yet I had to go argue myself out of a 13th place finish. Whooooaaaa!
This is getting to be the norm, and pulling people seemingly arbitarily (particularly whacking people in points contention) to thin out the fields for ease of scoring makes it worse, not better.
So I'm done waiting for the learning curve to go up. I'm officially becoming an advocate for timing chips and video cameras, and no pulling. I know that isn't perfect and it would be at least $5-$7 per race extra per rider per race. But I don't see an alternative. As it is, we're encouraging people to walk away from the sport and go ride somewhere else on the weekends.
This will probably be interpreted as an attack on the refs and promoters. It's not. Somebody has to raise this issue, air it out, and get the issue addressed. Give it another year and the regular B race (M 3/4 will be as packed as the first two, and the M 1/2/3 35+ will be trending that way. It's only going to get worse unless we start working right now to make it better. Chips aren't perfect, but they'll help a lot. Shame we have to go that way because it's more costly at first (big capital costs) but we're going to have to pay more money if we want to hang on to the sport we know. Otherwise it becomes a dirt version of the basic industrial park crit. That would suck.