The Incredible Production Value of Rainey Park Cyclocross
Photos throughout by Scott Rettino (@wheresscott)
I've had this feeling all season that the amateur bike racing/promoting scene is becoming a winner-take-all marketplace, where the cumulative advantage of the big, well-funded race weekends steals all the energy and attention from the smaller, grassroots events.
If I'm right, in a few years, all we'll be left with are big-deal events like Rasputitsa, Charm City, Elmhurst, and Radsport, and the small events will run at a loss if they're able to stay alive at all. This might be controversial, but I'll say it anyway: I love the big events; they're big events because they are transcendent experiences that have been fussed-over by teams of motivated folks; they deserve their place atop the food chain.
These great, big events get the attendance they get for a few reasons:
Location. The venue makes spectating easy, and/or is a worthwhile attraction in its own right. Ease of transportation to and from the race a big plus, but obviously not a requirement. We drive eight hours to Gloucester for 90 minutes of racing, after all.
Course. The physical racecourse is rewarding competitively and aesthetically.
Attention to detail/production value. When you show up at a cross race on Saturday and the course is comprehensively marked by taut two-high rows of tape, you know you're in for a great weekend.
Community. Elmhurst gets it: their whole town shuts down for the night to party. Charm City gets it: they kicked out asshole hecklers and told them to never come back. Go Cross gets it: women raced for free, and got top billing. Inclusivity, accessibility, and engagement count.
But big events have to start somewhere, and Rainey Park Cyclocross is on its way to big things. And the experience bested many of the big, weekend-long events.
Keith Garrison stuffed the same number of stakes they used to mark the Supercross course into Rainey Park's eight acres, producing more than 75 turns, each of them a miniature puzzle to be solved at speed. At least seven of the corners would be in my "top 10 corner list" for the year – truly amazing stuff. Racing with the Manhattan skyline looming across the river is a perfect NYC experience. The food truck was on point. The custom, laser-cut barriers, Belgian steps, and medals matched the baked winners' sourdoughs. The Noguchi museum is across the corner, and there's a Costco right there if you need to make a Sunday of it.
And in my informal day-of and day-after surveying of participants, Rainey Park Cyclocross got universal five-star reviews. We are all still glowing about it, hanging up the cross bikes with smiles on our faces and bruises in still-to-be-discovered locations.
Rainey also provided a better introduction to cross (on the last day of the season, for most!) than our other "big" area races. Some of this is thanks to the weather, but I'll also attribute some of this to Keith (and King Kog/Sun and Air in general) and his knack for organizing a community. The race drew 94 beginners to the sport (38 cat 4 men, 41 cat 5 men, and 15 cat 4/5 women), more than HPCX and Supercross, both of which have history, race series support, and UCI billing on their side. Impressive stuff.
Anyway. Sweat the details. We participants (and our friends) notice when you do.
As for our race report – TBD had a great day all around. Despite a ripping hangover (we had our annual team holiday party the night before, and had been referring to Rainey as "Hangover Worlds"), I pulled off my best result of the 'cross season, with my fifth second step of the year. Always a bridesmaid, I guess. Daghan almost had me in the last lap, and Clark barely missed out on fourth due to a dropped chain. Cullen and Corey managed DNFs, and Cullen gets bonus points for his comedy of mechanicals. Special mention for Jun Sugai of Chari & Co – this guy was in a class of his own, and crushed us by over a minute and a half (his lap times would have had him in the top few of the elite race, if he could hold them for three more laps). Travis represented us well in the 1/2/3, defeating arch-nemesis and everyone's favorite Regional Director of Sales, Mark Steffen. But it didn't really matter, because Dan Chabanov managed to lap all but 7 of the 25 who started. Better luck next year, boys.
Folks, it's been a great season. Steve is off to CXNats, and the rest of us are hunkering down for base. Say a prayer to the weather gods for a drier 2019, and pour one out for the brake pads and bearings we lost along the way.
They will be missed.