An Early Look at Grant's Tomb Criterium Registration Trends
While it doesn’t have quite the same history as the Harlem Crit (nor, sadly, the warm mid-summer weather), the early season Grant’s Tomb Criterium is in fact the biggest bike race in New York City with nearly 800 registrants for last years State Championship infused edition. Looking forward to this year’s race on March 9, 2019, To Be Determined once again has riders deeply involved in the planning process as I was the ‘lucky’ sap to take on Ted’s former role as Director of Open Racing for CRCA (meanwhile he is hanging out on the beach in California so I’m not sure this was a good trade).
With that involvement I have been busy monitoring the initial days of Grant’s Tomb Criterium registration. With almost precisely one month to go and less than 24 hours until the first increase in registration prices we thought we would share a few numbers on how race registration is going. Fair warning: this is mostly a collection of numbers and charts that go behind the scenes on what we monitor and how we plan races. If, alternatively, you want to check out the video and photos that underscore why Grant’s Tomb Criterium is so great we recommend last year’s race recap or the broader Grant’s Tomb Archives on the Journal (check out the Grant’s Tomb Criterium Guide in particular).
We’re also going ahead and calling this the first 2019 entry in a new series that we are calling Race Director Diaries. Throughout the year ahead we’ll be touching on various topics associated with race promotion, all from the perspective of a Race Director. Stay tuned for more from this series in the coming months.
A look at the Early Grant’s Tomb Criterium Numbers
Where are the Riders Coming From?
As you might imagine the Grant’s Tomb Criterium is very much a New York City affair, as indicated by the bright red bubble directly over the Big Apple in the map below. But might what surprise you is the strong showing from Boston as teams like Green Line Velo often make the trip down South. In fact they have walked away with the Elite Men’s title more than once. This year’s edition also sees Adam Myerson from Cycle-Smart make his first showing at Grant’s Tomb. Elsewhere there are small collections of riders from Long Island, Newport and Hartford. Hopefully we’ll also get a showing from the Philly crew - they were present and accounted for last year - as we get deeper into registration.
What do Rider Demographics Look Like?
As for rider demographics, we see the vast majority of early registrants fall into the 25-40 age range, with another 11% from the ‘youngsters’ who are under 25 — many of whom slot into the Juniors fields where CRCA and CRCDF offer 80% off registration fees to riders that represent the next generation of New York City bike racing. Early registration is overwhelmingly male (92%) but with four women’s fields (and a coed juniors field) this mix should approach the ~85%/~15% male/female ratio that mirrors CRCA’s overall membership. Past experience shows that women, on average, tend to register for CRCA races later in the registration window.
What Fields are Filling?
If there is a key theme in registration trends over recent years its that Category 5 and Category 4 riders dominate the registration rolls. Beyond that fields generally shrink - at least when you are able to segment into 12 different fields of racing like we can at Grant’s Tomb. Unfortunately the follow-on to that statement is that the vast majority of these lower category riders don’t last long in the sport - stay tuned for some updated numbers on this front on the Journal Monday. Bearing this background in mind it is no surprise that the Men 4/5 field is already more than half full, with the Men 3/4 and the Men 5 next in line. Despite offering big early registration discounts (that expire tonight at midnight) the rest of the fields are a long way from hitting field restrictions. Most of the higher category fields won’t sell out - so no surprise here, though we still encourage riders to register early to save a few bucks. The Women’s fields are a long way from field limits, but with cycling’s ongoing gender crisis (yes, it is a crisis) this is sadly not a surprise.
How does Registration Compare to Prior Years?
Rather than focusing on field limits the more relevant metric is probably current registration versus 2017 registration. We use 2017 registration because 2018 benefited from the State Championship classification that drove record Grant’s Tomb turnout. In this regard the Men 4/5 field that is highly likely to sell out is performing the best, followed by the Men 3/4. Hopefully we’ll get to sold out Men 4 and Men 5 fields (we need it to balance the budget) but all of the remaining fields are more than 50% below their 2017 levels at the moment.
Of course, as we touched on so long ago in Are Bike Races Broken, riders are registering later and later for races. In fact even with huge registration discounts — fees start at $30 and increase to $50 in the final week — we get a huge percent of registration for a race like Grant’s Tomb in the final 10 days. Given the cost structure of Grant’s Tomb is almost entirely fixed (the only major variable expense is the $4 per rider insurance fee USAC charges) this generates big anxiety as the registration window ticks by. Thankfully we’re slightly ahead of 2017 figures, and if we wind up in the same ~750 range when registration closes on March 7th we will be happy campers.
How Much Does Racing the Grant’s Tomb Criterium Cost?
Lastly, a quick look at registration fees. For many years CRCA’s criteriums have focused on overlapping field structures that allow most riders to participate in two races during the day, with hefty discounts on multi-field entries. Combine those multi-field entries with the early registration discounts and the fact that the course preview and new rider clinic are completely free (and junior fields are 80% off) and the average Grant’s Tomb Criterium registration is paying just $23 per race at the moment. Obviously if you only race once the fee is higher ($30) but in the scheme of continued cost increases throughout the sport (that $4 per rider insurance charge has increased from $3.75) we are excited to keep pricing as low as possible. And as always, CRCA Season Membership has an even lower cost of racing ( < $10 per race with early registration discounts).
In short, it is early days on registration, but at least at the moment we are trending well compared to prior year registration trends and we’re doing our best to keep race registration fees low, especially for early registrants. If anything we may have cut pricing too aggressively this year by taking $5 off the early registration discount. We’re targeting an average registration fee of ~$28.50 this year, but since we’re running at just $23 currently it will take some heavy late registration to get to that target number. But if we fall short on our estimated average registration fee hopefully we can make up for it with more registrants than expected in our budget. We are budgeting for 82% of 2017 registrant number, or 560 riders. This feels conservative but with volatility around early season weather it is hard to know either way until the week of the event.
Further Reading on the Grant’s Tomb Criterium
We have covered the Grant’s Tomb Criterium extensively on the journal including some pretty entertaining video projects. Dig into the Grant’s Tomb Archives for more. If you are new to the event we particularly recommend our Grant’s Tomb Criterium Guide from a few years back.
Also, pricing goes up for the 2019 edition of the event tonight at midnight, so if you are looking to save a few bucks head over to Bikereg now and consider registering for more than one field while you’re at it - it is just $20 for multi-field entries. Juniors don’t forget to use your 80% off discount code, provided by CRCA and Century Road Club Development Foundation.