schmalz What is Velotooler Spring Series and why in the name of all that is holy would someone volunteer to be a race promoter?
Mitchell The Velotooler Cup spring series is a series of 6 races on consecutive weekends (1 per weekend) from late March through late April. We know everyone in the Northeast is eager to race after a long winter of training, so we thought that we would give people an extended focus at the beginning of the season to channel their excitement towards. The series is sponsored by Velotooler, which is a new online service and app that connects bike mechanics with customers for all sorts of convenient services for the busy individual; think of it like Uber/Lyft but with bike mechanics. The series really is also about trying to bring together the New England and greater Northeast cycling/racing community. By trying to bring together a consistently high level of rider at every race, we feel that we can bring up the growth and development of all the riders in the region. As they say, “a rising tide raises all boats,” so we hope this continues to push the level in the region not just for one big one-dat race or stage race, but for the whole first part of the season as it gives everyone an extended focus.
More specifically about the series though, we also wanted diversity. There are other spring series, or crit series during the year, but we wanted a diversity of race types, and to give all different types of riders something that they can shoot for during the series. We have two criteriums, a circuit race, a long flat road race, a road race with some punchy climbs, and a road race that has a fair bit of climbing and is 200km long. All of those races meet minimum upgrade distances for the included categories in the series, and each of those races also have intermediate “sprint points” towards a separate series competition. So there really is something for everyone in the series. There are three competitions in the series. Each category in the series (Womens Pro1/2/3, Men Pro1/2, Men 3, Masters 40+, Masters 50+) has an overall leader competition (Velotooler yellow jersey) that is scored on points based on placings, and there is also an “Aggressive Rider” competition (red jersey) which uses to referred-to intermediate sprints to score points; this is a bit different in that some of the sprint spots are true flat sprints, and some are on small hills and others on bigger ones, so it is more about being “aggressive” and going out on the attack after these, rather than just waiting for a sprint… Finally, there is a Best Young Rider competition (Sicleri blue jersey) that is awarded to the top U23 in the overall standing in the Womens Pro1/2/3 & Mens Pro1/2 fields. Jerseys are awarded after each race for the various competitions, we have a podium and backdrop to give riders the “full experience”, as opposed to just walking up to registration to pick up prize money in a semi-anonymous fashion… Leaders in each competition wear those jerseys in the next series race, of course.
Basically, to sum it up, the Northeast has great riders who could really benefit from increased depth of competition and longer/harder races. We want to see our riders succeeding in whatever there goals are; upgrading from Cat3 to Cat2, or competing for the series title, or using the longer/harder races to prepare to race PRT/UCI races later in the season. I guess that’s the main reason for why we are putting on some new races and tying these races together in a series. We are racers and for so many years we would always have the conversation that would start with: “wouldn’t it be great if so-and-so race was longer, or if there were good races every weekend, or if the racing were more aggressive, or if the fields were bigger/deeper?” So we finally got around to doing something about it, or at least this is our attempt to do something about it! Now we just need all the riders in the Northeast region to buy in to the idea. We have put the framework in place, and if the riders show up and race hard, it will really be an amazing series that we hope we can continue to grow and improve; but its success really all does lie with the riders now. So I guess that’s my plea as one racer trying to do something for our cycling community, please show up and race and have fun!
schmalz That’s a coconut shell-sized “in a nutshell” answer. Where are the races located?
Mitchell March 25: Coastal Classic Criterium; Charlestown, RI
April 2: Michael Schott Memorial Circuit Race; Marblehead, MA
April 8: Brumble Bikes Kermesse; Westerly, RI
April 15: Chris Hinds “Sunshine” Criterium; Charlestown, RI
April 23: Monson Road Race; Monson, MA
April 29: Quabbin Resevoir Classic Road Race; Ware, MA
schmalz There are roughly a bazillion spring race series in a 90 miles radius of New York City, what would be the draw for NYC area racers to take part in this series?
Mitchell The races meet minimum upgrade distance lengths. There’s a higher chance for quality fields with enough riders to maximize upgrade points. A chance to compete for something over 6 weeks in a variety of races. Points go 30 places deep, so even someone that is consistent, but maybe not winning or in the top 5 every race can still place/win the series. A unique points structure for those that might upgrade categories mid-series, allowing them to still have standing in previous category, but may have also been able to score points in new category in some races; check out those details here: http://vtcup.com/velotooler-cup-jerseys/
For NYC racers specifically, they often race against the same riders most of the year. There are some great riders in the NYC area, but it adds a dimension and some unpredictability when competing against new/different riders on new/different courses. It helps everyone grow as a rider.
schmalz Those are all good features, but the idea of six straight weekends of driving five hours roundtrip is pretty daunting. For someone like me, with kids and a demanding job, the travel alone eliminates me from participating. This feels more like a cool North Eastern series that racers from New York might try out for a race or two. Did you consider expanding the geographic radius of the race? Maybe partnering with a race or two in New York or New Jersey?
Mitchell Yes, for sure it is a bit of a drive to get up from NYC for some of the races. We were thinking about approaching a couple different races closer to the NYC area, but in our first year of running the series (and already promoting 3 of the races ourselves), we didn’t want to “over reach” and try to do too much in year one. We thought it would be a good idea to do something we were certain we could manage, and then ask for feedback from the riders and try to expand/evolve based on that. I realize that not all of the NYC racers will be able to do all the races, but I think some will buy into the idea of longer races with deeper fields. And hey, if some only come up for a couple races, then we are still achieving part of the goal of diversifying the group of riders we have. I do expect that we will have a bit further geographic reach in 2018 though, but we are still hoping people will give us a try in 2017.
schmalz Yeah, I’ll think you’ll get some roadtrippers for individual races. You should give a jersey for any NYC racer that makes every race in the series, as that nutjob will deserve one.
New York racers are an odd lot, it’s hard to predict what races they’ll travel for, and not a lot of them have cars.
Mitchell Right, the lack of cars thing is something we thought about actually. we have several ideas for next year, but really want to wait and see how this year goes first. like I said, we’d rather start smaller and do it right, and then work on expanding, rather than try and do too much and have it be a shit-show… My hope is that for the Cat3’s and 2’s in the NYC area that are ambitious and want to upgrade, this will provide them with a good opportunity to do so. We will see though (cue nervous race promoter constantly refreshing the “confirmed riders link” on his event’s BikeReg page…).
schmalz I think that starting small is a great idea. I really feel for promoters, because it seems like putting on bike races is a sure path to poverty. Do you think there’s a way to lessen the potential financial risk for promoters?
Mitchell Yes, and its something we are trying to implement. I think looking at the Belgian kermess model is very instructive. Do a road race on a 5-10mile loop, mainly right-hand turns, preferably all contained within one town. You may not be able to select your “ultimate route”, but some careful Google-mapping will help you find plausible courses like this. This is exactly how we came up with the Brumble Bikes Kermesse. I mean, its a great course, and we aren’t going to put on a crappy race just because its easy to do, but it needs to be low risk and easier to pull off. Belgian kermesses are typically a tough course, a little technical, exposed to wind, maybe some punchy little hills; but always a 7-15km loop in one town. that way you are dealing with one set of authorities, one permitting process, etc… Again, its always about not over-reaching… Keep costs low so you can keep entries reasonable with the goal of having a high level of participation, which is what ultimately makes a race really great. courses can be hard or easy, but the racers are what makes the race… right?
schmalz Aw man, why do all the fun races have to happen so far away?
Mitchell I’m working on it, I’m working on it. Rome wasn’t built in a day…