Will it be all bark and no bite?
In a recent column published by the Leadville Herald, “New Race Owners Discuss Plans”, it is noted:
Racers will now be lined up according to past performance, with the professional racers at the beginning and the slower, beginner racers taking up the end of the line of the mass start.
Though it sounds good on paper, rather in cyberspace, but there will need to be a way to enforce any proposed changes to the start. You see, in past years, racers were instructed to line up according to past and/or predicted performance.
Some did line up in the correct area. (“Areas” were in one-hour increments such as sub-8-hour performance, 8 to 9 hours, 9 to 10 hours, 10 to 11 hours and 11 to 12 hours.) The areas were marked by volunteers holding cardboard signs on the side of the road.
Here are some of the issues with the past attempts to corral athletes according to predicted performance seed times:
- Overestimation of ability. People with zero experience mountain bike racing believe that 100 (104 actually) miles on a mountain bike can’t be that much harder than a hilly road bike course. Particularly since the rumor is Leadville is “not technical”.
- The Hollywood effect. Some athletes are eager to say they rode on the wheel of one of the big stars of the sport. Others get a charge out of getting their photo taken while standing near some of the name-recognized racers. Still others want work to get a cameo appearance in video footage. These people line up as close as possible to the professional racers.
- Honor system is based on wishes for some. People really do want to perform at a sub-9-hour speed. They’ve trained for it and many believe they are capable. Want and wish is different than actual. Race seeding should be based on some actual performance, not a wish.
- Loosely encouraged. In the past, racers were loosely encouraged to line up according to ability. As a result, racers lined up where they pleased, based on personal justification. In some cases it happened, in others it didn’t.
What to do?
I have some thoughts:
- All racers with past race performance in the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race have established times. Use those times to establish start priority. Since some people have had mechanical issues, and last year’s time might not be the best, look at the last three to five years and allow the racer to have the best time in that period to establish start wave.
- For the qualifying races, there are probably racers that have done both races in the past. Use that data to establish a scaling factor to seed qualifying racers into Leadville waves.
- Assign each racer a color-coded and bar-coded bike plate or in the race chip. On race morning, all color-coded bar plates in the sub-8-hour corral will be the same. All color-coded plates in the 9 to 10 hour corral will be the same, etc. On race morning officials can easily see if someone is in the wrong corral.
- With today’s technology it is easy to track all athletes electronically. Do the wave start any way you please (rolling or staged 30-seconds apart), but any way you choose, it is possible to track if people are in the correct wave or not.
Lastly, if there is no way to enforce the performance-based start, there will be no changes in athlete behavior.
So what if a racer is a beginner and lines up in the 8- to 9-hour corral?
With no bite, there will only be bark.