Friday, November 5, 2010

The National Championships....a story that I only wish I could say was fiction...

Too bad nationals wasn't televised - it's harder to sweep things under the rug when they can be witnessed by spectators.  


Setting - a major bike championship at the end of a 'series' with lots of prize money and status.  

Two riders in a breakaway, one of whom is a great rider who didn't compete in the series but decided to enter the championship when organizers opened it up to all comers in an attempt to 'fill' the race (after all, it's a business, right?).  Right away he's not exactly popular among some of the other riders a few of whom voice opinions that he shouldn't be allowed to race nationals without racing the series.  

The course contains a section that is very narrow, only allowing riders through single file, with lots of twists on cobblestones.  We'll call it 'the gauntlet'.  The lead two make it through ahead of the pack and so don't have to slow down.  Some of the other 'favorites' have had various issues (lets say mechanical ones) during the race and are unable to get to the front of the field before these technical sections and so are majorly slowed down. they lose further time and virtually any hope (if they'd had any at all) of catching the two leaders.  They're able to pull away and finish ahead of the rest of the pack, but still significantly behind the first two riders, who both had nearly flawless races.  

Prior to getting to the 'clusterfuck' as the top racers caught in the bottle-neck call it, there was a section of the course where the map/directions were somewhat vague - "you must complete three laps around the 'mountain loop' and traverse 'the gauntlet' before proceeding along the race course.  Confused, the two riders in the breakaway came up next to one of the race organization's cars and asked for clarification - "do we have to do the gauntlet first and then the mountain loops, or can we do it the other way around?"  The answer was that they could ride these sections in any order.  The route they chose navigated the gauntlet first and then the mountain loops, and then made it's way back to the main race course.  This route was slightly longer (due to construction) than the route taking in the mountain loops first and then the gauntlet.  

The top riders that were caught in the bottleneck were justifiably upset - while they might not have won the race without the delays, the delay's pretty much left them fighting for the third spot on the podium.  The delays, keep in mind, were caused by the race course design, and bad luck (mechanical issues) for the top racers not involved in the breakaway.  

Upon finding out that the breakaway riders had gone through the gauntlet first, the top riders, assuming some overall advantage had been conferred to them, protested.  Other riders who were not in contention for the podium positions had also chosen this route, but had no protests leveled against them, as is expected.  In light of the protests by these 'top riders' who had had a high presence in the series itself, the race management decided to level a penalty on the two breakaway riders as if they had skipped the mountain loop section of the course.  This effectively placed them well back in the field and off of the podium.  The race organization did not provide all of the relevant information to the protesting teams (ie that no actual advantage had been incurred because of route choice, that the ambiguity in the rules played a role in their decision, that other teams made the same decision, and that attempts by the breakaway riders to clarify the rules had been made, on multiple occasions, and that the answers given by race staff/volunteers had indicated that their chosen route was within the rules) and allow them to retract their protests or offer suggestions as to what, if any, penalties should be levied.  No outside or impartial source was consulted as to how best deal with the matter - all decisions were made 'in house', by the race directors, event promoter, and celebrity guest (cycling superstar floyd landis, lets say) - all of whom had at least some interest in the outcome beyond simply what was most fair to all involved given the entire set of facts available.  There was no attempt at mediation and no forum was provided for the filing of grievances by the breakaway riders.  No mention of the 'problem' or ownership of any of the factors that contributed to the controversy was hinted at by the race organization.


What would have happened if folks had watched this race on television?  if the breakaway riders had had a camera in their face after the race and then after they were booted from the podium?  If they had an audience for their side of the story on equal footing to that of the race organization?  Certainly then the top riders (who are all good athletes and want to 'earn' their accolades as national champions) would have said something, right?  Certainly the organization itself would have come under some sort of external pressure and had to significantly face the realities of loss of support from sponsors, etc, and perhaps more importantly had pressure to critically examine the discord between their decision making practices/competitor relations and their stated Organizational Goal of creating as fair of a race as possible.  

It's ok to admit mistakes.  yes, it's hard, but it's important.  When is CP tracker going to, in the very least, take some responsibility for the clusterfuck that affected the 'official winners' as well as those breakaway riders? I'm hoping the answer is 'soon', but i'm not about to hold my breath.....


  1. Maybe you should have clarified the rules before the race started instead of asking volunteers during the race. I am sure it was a cluster and the course was not designed well but you can't break the rules in a national championship and not expect a penalty if caught.

    Besides your logic is flawed. If breaking the rules as you chose by using a route was longer, why would you choose it if it didn't confer you any advantage?

  2. When were we supposed to clarify the rules? At a non- existent pre race meeting, or with a race director we never met?

  3. As a fellow participant in Moab, I really have to agree with the YogaSlackers here: the race communication was either wrong or didn't exist. There was no opportunity to clarify information as the series director took pride in avoiding a pre-race meeting and anything related to the course. He didn't inform volunteers to provide racers with information to make decisions.

    The course itself was pretty cool, but the event was terrible. Count me out for any events organized by CPT in the future. Also, local teams had a huge advantage, as previous races had gone through all of this course before. I'm not sure how you get around that though.

    YogaSlackers: why the analagy? I see no problem saying what really happened without naming names (very honorable of you).

    A lot of teams and participants got screwed on this race. No one comes out ahead. In fact, if the sport of adventure racing had a flag, it would be at half mast after this debacle.

  4. Couple thoughts - the analogy was actually written by me (andy) of team yogaslackers as an alternative way of considering what we feel happened to our team and Team Osprey at nationals. we have indeed presented a more specific account of what, in our eyes, transpired. I know there's two sides to every story and in truth, the recent post by CP tracker on their website (titled 'CP tracker redux') would go some way to making amends, although coming as it does on the heels of some posts on prominent sites such as Gear Junkie, i'm not sure if it's too little too late. My thought is that some such statement ought to have been made immediately, or very soon after the event, rather than seemingly as the result of pressure from outside the organization. To anonymous - neither team in question made a decision to 'break the rules'. We were unsure about how to interpret them, inquired to the event coordinator himself, were told specifically to ask race staff, did so, and thus felt that we were acting in accordance with the rules. Other teams made the same choices we did, however protests were not filed against these teams (and therefore penalties not levied) because they were not 'in the lead'. I'm not bothered by this fact, as it's typical - top teams are always going to be the target of protests when they are deemed to have some advantage. I completely understand why teams filed protests, and would likely have filed a similar protest had i been in their position and felt, as they must have, that we had chosen a route that conveyed an advantage and was, according to their reading of things, against the rules. We chose the route we did because we thought it didn't matter and were close to the ropes and thought we'd get them out of the way. If the rules had been 'crystal clear' as CP tracker feels they were, i am 100% confident that we would have showed up at the ropes first anyway, or at least first among the teams that were aiming to clear the course.

  5. Hey guys, thanks for being so vocal on this. I think it will result in some very positive changes in way future adventure races are organized. All controversy aside, congratulations on a phenomenal race. The battle between you and Osprey was epic and is what I will remember most from our time in Moab... you guys smoked the course!

  6. outstanding reddit net Last year