Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Black Mass for Masters Bs

Chillin with C-Todd at Noho after the Masters Bs race dmroth photo

"After much deliberation, the organizers and I have agreed on the new schedule for 2009. 

What you will see in this schedule are some new approaches, and some compromises. Our biggest struggle is trying to accommodate growth and support development categories without compromising elite races. We are aiming for the best of both worlds, but at a time of the year where there are limited hours in the day to work with, it's incredibly difficult." -A.M. re the new Verge schedule

So says the executioner....Sounds very reasonable and yes we all must make compromises in life. There has been so much back and forth regarding this topic on how it affects the 3s that I have resisted weighing in (other than a few tweets and comments on friends blogs) on how this will affect the masters. It is hard to process just how bad I feel about the whole facelift Verge gave itself. Kind of reminds me of a local ice cream shop we had in town. Lines out the door, literally a local meeting spot. Was a real tradition to go downtown on a hot summer night or any night really and get a cookies and cream and hangout. It was a cash cow. Then the owner got it in her head Needham needed Gelatto.

She'd been to Italy and fell in love with the Gelatto. Sure she was making so much money a Brinks truck had to make pick ups every monday morning but hey when a business is successful that is the best time to shake things up right? New Coke was a huge hit right? Maybe not so much. I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say she pumped 50k into the new Gelatto store tagged it with an Italian name and no one showed up. No one. Out of business in a year. Ridiculous. But that is business as they say. No one held a gun to her head and said "hey forget this ice cream thing that everyone loves, sell gelatto." Same story with Adam et al at Verge. It is a BUSINESS. They run it how they want period. They "had a problem" they needed to fix. That is hard to believe as in the four years I have been racing Verge races it has grown each year. Fields are big and getting bigger each year (well maybe the elites are shrinking) racing is of a high caliber, so what is broken? Typically a sign a business is doing well is by growth at the bottom right? That's how this whole crazy internet thingy got started remember? 

So what is the big problem they are trying to fix? Is it the sandbagging people have inferred. No way. They could just force upgrades like Obra does. So what is it then? Its a business decision. And probably a bad one. But I digress, this was supposed to be a Post Mortem of the Master Bs which have been in effect killed. Sure they've given up a Masters 4 race as a booby prize with the caveat that if no one shows up they'll cancel it. Consider it cancelled. 30 minutes of racing for $30 no one is showing up. From purely an economic standpoint it makes zero sense. Last year on average the Master Bs had 80 racers. Multiply that by 2 for a double weekend. Then multiply that by $30 a day or $60 for registration. Verge is potentially going to lose $9,600 a weekend. That's not such great economic planning in a recession. Now they probably assume all the Master Bs will roll into the other categories and have at it. That's a big assumption. Especially when you consider in a Borg like fashion how they have multiplied the amount of races by 2 for the season. How many double weekends do they expect us to really be able to afford to race?

The Master Bs were a great category to race in. It split a part the guys whose job it was to race in another lifetime or just were naturally gifted from the regular guys who liked to race. It was competitive but civil. I made real friends in that category and still to this day defend that if you are at the back of the field in any category you are no longer "racing." Below 40th position its just a ride. Especially when you know the 40 guys ahead of you are animals and you have zero chance of getting to that position. It was a true amateur class which is really the whole point of racing. As Fat Mark once said this is Beer League Softball and he is spot on. I'll miss all the characters. I'll miss T-boning Brian and not starting a hockey fight. I'll miss getting heckled by Eyebob, and seeing the joy of C-todd running up a nasty muddy pitch. People were allowed to screw up, aggression was done in a non-pugilistic manner, and sandbagging was self seeding. There was a natural flow to it. If you started winning double weekends you knew it was time to move up no one had to heckle you to do so. Towards the end of the season there were a handful of the alpha A riders who moved "down" into our race. What does that tell you? I welcomed them and don't think they found the racing any less competitive. I do hope a lot of the riders from the master bs move up. Its going to be hard. It will be easier for me as I am a "youngish" 45+. In 45+ I will at least have a fighting chance at the back. My dream of winning a race is dead along with the Master Bs and for that I am pretty bummed. The guys going into 35+ are going to have a harder time. And I bet a lot of them are still 4s on paper. They may not want to become a 3. And I don't blame them. Rant over. I had to get that off my chest. 

Adam probably has a master plan (no pun intended). Elite racing is clearly his windmill. Ok great. Let's build up a cache of riders that can compete at worlds or the world cup...for what exactly? Do you think sponsors will line up to sponsor US cyclo-cross athletes if we win world's? Katie Compton barely got a sponsor this year. Fortune 500 companies could care less about bike racing. This should always be about the masses. In his email he alludes they were considering eliminating the non-elite categories...wow. Maybe he does want to emulate Belgium were it is a pro-only field. I hope he doesn't think people will pay to watch pros race cross in the US, because they don't even stick around to watch them for free. God forbid you compare Cross or cycling to a growth sport like running or triathlon but those should be the business models to emulate not a fantasy league to get a local boy or girl on a podium in europe. USAC doesn't even have the budget to give our best hope ever, Katie Compton, of winning world's with a proper skinsuit.

Rest in piece Master Bs...I'll miss you. Ok only positive from now on. Its off my chest. 45+ As will rock!


  1. I have gone on record in support of eliminating the B masters. My reasoning was that it had lots of overlap with other fields and tended to be attract sandbaggers when they upgraded from the 4's. Obviously, I had no argument with those of you who had chosen to race there as a sanctuary from the aggression of the 2/3 or the pure speed of the A masters.

    After thinking about it more, people who belonged in B masters, cat 2's and lower category women really got screwed in this new arrangement.

    I suppose that it is our job as racers to make our dissatisfaction with the new arrangement known to the organizers of the Verge series. Unfortunately, even if race fee revenue drops in 2009 b/c of the changes, the organizers are shortsighted or single minded enough that they will blame the decrease on the down economy as opposed to their catering to elites at the expense of the rest of us.

  2. you can always downgrade Chip...

    personally i felt racing (and yes i still call it racing) in the back of the A masters field elevated my game, made me work harder, even if i sucked more...

    there's no one saying you can't down grade to a 4 and keep racing till you win a bunch.

    It always felt like there were two races in the B Masters, the faster guys with the skills to be in the A race and then the rear beginners who didn't want to race with the "kids"

    You'll do fine in the 45+ race, you'll be racing and kicking ass with the rest of them.

    Would you rather it go back to starting the B masters behind the cat 4 men?

    Yes it is a change - i don't think it will kill the sport - i'm looking forward to it. Heck maybe even doubling up a Masters and a cat 3 race for the heck of it occasionally.

    I'm excited about it.

  3. if you are at the back of the field in any category you are no longer "racing." Below 40th position its just a ride.

    Seeing a race for 41st as "just a ride" is your choice, but if you have to be at the front to want to ride hard -- maybe you don't like 'cross as much as you think you do.

  4. I love cross. I live, eat and bleed cross. I have been preaching the gospel for a decade. I cut my teeth in Norcal with a totally different scene. A lot of what was taught to me out there was old school cross. Race masters if you are a master. There is no "downgrading" The fact that verge is even offering that tells you they are off on this. I am obviously being a bit dramatic as some of the most well fought battles are the sprints for 47th place. That is passion. I've been that dude at Canton who sprints out of a group of 5 for 47th place and it felt good.

    I had two great teachers out in SF-Pineapple Bob and Dennis McGovern. Both guys are the soul of Norcal 'cross. Dennis showed me so much about racing with style and panache and P-bob? I still remember 2 things from him. First if you are a master race masters. Second when a bunch of promoters were messing with the race series back there he summed it up real succinctly "Love it and Leave it Alone"

    My rant wasn't a justification of why the masters Bs should exist, Colin and G you and I will never see eye to eye on it and its ok. The rant was about the business model and how its makes no sense. Like I try to explain to my 4 and 8 year old every day there is no such thing as "not fair" we all will be racing on a level playing field with the same limiters in these fields. Here me now and believe me later I am over this. I will be racing 45+ and bringing it every race. I love the venues, I love hearing Richard Fries on the mc and yes I love Adam Myerson for what he has done for cross.

    The point was/is if you have no chance of winning in a race is it a race? Marathoners are ok with this as are triathletes I am sure I will be ok with it to.

  5. "Race masters if you are a master. There is no "downgrading"

    Dude we aren't on different pages, we're in different books. In different libraries, In different cities, on different continents, on different planets. And my book is written in Martian.

    At least we care about it!

  6. Well here's another thing. Do the beginner masters really deserve to be racing guys like you and CTodd and BMac? Seriously. If you are going to have two masters fields have one a beginner field and let the beginners get a taste of a win before being tossed in the meat grinder with Bold and Hines and Boivin and Kurt P.

    That and you can always race your category. You don't have to race masters. Jump in the Cat 3 race. it is just a cat 3 after all. No 1s or 2s anymore.

    I think you're being a bit negative and pessimistic. I've been trying to tell you the guys in the 1/2/3 masters race aren't really any different than the 3/4 race. They just go faster. They don't love the sport any less.

    I know jack shit about biz - and maybe less about promoting bike races... Adam and co have been doing it longer than anyone, and sometimes you just have to "trust the experts" and be positive and deal with it.

    After all it is only for the Verge races - i'm sure you'll have the 3/4 masters at a few good local ones.

    Cheer up. Cross is around the corner. Get geeked about the snow pit already!!!

  7. G-that is a good point that I never really considered before. There isn't a beginner class anymore is there? They almost need a 5 cat for true beginners. Because being a beginner in the 4 race wouldn't be a picnic either.

    I am stoked don't worry 45+ will actually be pretty cool. Just fighting for my not so killah Bs...and yes I am putting the zamboni cross race on the books in ink! Is the good dr from your blog Ukelele Girl? She is really rad and a great blogger. Hup will be there.

  8. I made $150 dollars running Northampton last year. $150. I've lost as much as $5000 in years past that came out of my own pocket, and was a credit card debt it took me over a year to pay off. I do not make a single dollar running the Verge Series. Any sponsorship money we get goes back out in the overall prize list.

    If you think I'm running a business here, then you're absolutely right. I should go out of business. I'm already out of my mind for the amount of time I spend on it for free, or worse, at my own expense.

    What I think you're seeing is that in my repeated attempts to accommodate as many people as possible while still trying to help develop the sport at BOTH ends, no one's happy. Compromise is like that. It often means no one gets what they want.

    At least some of the comments here are right on. I've been doing this for 20 years now, since I was 19. Maybe you can trust me a little? The sport is changing, our racing demographic is changing, our fields are growing, everyone wants their own race, and there are limited hours in the day. We simply can not serve everyone to the same degree of satisfaction.