How is the CRCA Grant's Tomb Criterium Shaping Up?
We are unabashed fans of the CRCA Grant's Tomb Criterium. For those unfamiliar the Grant's Tomb Criterium is both the largest race of the entire year in New York City and the traditional season kick off for many riders in the area. The weather can range from bleak to beautiful but either way the race is always memorable as it cuts through the upper Manhattan streets that surround the Grant's Tomb National Park and the Riverside Church. As we prepare for the next edition of this New York City classic we take a brief look behind the scenes at how the race is shaping up. Don't miss out and head over to CRCA.net for the link to registration.
Registration to Date
As of Friday afternoon when this was written registration trends were quite strong. Despite registration opening a full month later than last year current trends are roughly inline with 2017, which was the best turnout in the history of the CRCA Grant's Tomb Criterium. In fact 2018 registration has already exceeded 2015 turnout which speaks to just how much this race has grown in recent years.
As always though the final turnout will depend on registration trends in the final week before the race. In fact last year 85 racers registered for the 2017 edition of the CRCA Grant's Tomb Criterium on the final day of registration (despite very significant early registration discounts). Hopefully the weather forecast will cooperate and we'll have another big batch of last minute registrations.
Looking at registration by category to date it is the Men Category 4 and 5 riders that are dominating trends - no surprise given the Men Category 5 and Men Category 4/5 fields are the first to sell out every year at the CRCA Grant's Tomb Criterium (in part due to the 75 rider limit imposed by USAC on fields with Category 5 riders). From there the turnout by category gets progressively smaller all the way up to the elite fields that will be fighting for the New York State Criterium Championship on March 10.
Finally from a geography perspective the CRCA Grant's Tomb Criterium remains the New York City race that best draws in out of town riders. There is once again a large Boston contingent traveling south to renew a longstanding NYCvsBOS rivalry that has featured at this event for several years as Green Line Velo has slugged it out with NYC's fastest riders. In addition a number of Philadelphia riders, including a variety of former CRCA-members, will be heading North to race on March 10th.
The Cost to Race the Grant's Tomb Criterium
In the past CRCA received some flak for implementing significant early registration discounts with fees that ramped as the race approached. As discussed in Are Bike Races Broken the goal has been to incentivize early registration as an offset to the huge financial risks derived from the fixed cost nature of promoting bike races.
CRCA has stuck with that pricing methodology and it seems to be paying off for both riders and the Club. In fact the average price paid across all CRCA Grant's Tomb Criterium racers has decreased every single year since 2015 with the most substantial decrease coming last year as riders paid an average of just $28.83 compared to $33.16 in 2016 (significant multi-field entry discounts at all CRCA criteriums play a role in lowering the average cost). With early registration for the 2018 edition starting at just $30 for the first field and $20 for additional fields the average registrant to date has paid just $26.71, a 20% decline from the average fee paid in 2016. So if you want to save some money on CRCA Open Racing registration fees definitely get registered early!
And from the Club's perspective, as discussed above early registration trends have been quite positive in recent years, which helps reduce the Club's financial exposure going into the final weeks ahead of the race. This works great for races like Grant's Tomb or Orchard Beach though as noted in Are Bike Races Broken the Bear Mountain Classic carries far greater overhead costs so the financial risks there are significantly greater even with improving early registration trends improving.
From Prize Pools to Rider Benefits
Last year I wrote lengthy diatribes on prize money in amateur cycling (Part I, Part II). This year CRCA is seemingly taking this message to heart. Elite fields still feature healthy cash prizes for those competing at the top-end of the Club's grassroots oriented events. But for other fields the prize pools that would have gone to a small collection of riders are instead being allocated to broad based rider benefits.
For Grant's Tomb this means the club is focused on finding a tent rental (hopefully heated) to improve racer comfort in case we are faced with 2015 or 2017 style weather conditions. In addition all racers are going to receive free coffee from an onsite vendor. In the end these rider benefits will likely be more expensive than the prize pools they replace but hopefully they contribute to a more enjoyable experience for every racer.
Don't Miss This Race
We are now less than two weeks away from the 2018 edition of the CRCA Grant's Tomb Criterium. To be on the start line on March 10th make sure to head over to the CRCA.net Race Page to get registered.