Race Directing Isn't Easy (it Takes a Village)
As we wrote about last year, hosting a race like the Grant’s Tomb Criterium involves nearly absurd amounts of work. And more often than note unexpected hurdles emerge - like last year when Ted was serving as Race Director and was ticketed for a tent that was setup as part of the race. This year To Be Determined is once again deeply involved in the race as I am filling Ted’s former role as the Director of Open Racing. And once again all sorts of unexpected hurdles have been thrown our way as we have faced new permitting requirements (hence the no team tents rule) and new expenses. But despite those challenges we are just a few days away from the race and as such I wanted to express some early gratitude for the people working behind the scenes to insure this race will somehow, despite all the challenges, happen again this weekend.
A Very Non-Comprehensive List of the Volunteers and Staff Required for the Grant’s Tomb Criterium
Race Director (RD): this year we finally realized that the Club’s Open Racing operations were no longer viable and we needed individual Race Directors for each event on the calendar. For Grant’s Tomb we were fortunate to have Liz Marcello, the former CRCA President and the longstanding unofficial boss of Grant’s Tomb Criterium, step forward to lead the charge as RD. This entails everything from chasing down permits and coordinating with NYPD to leading operations from start to finish on race day. It’s an absolutely massive job and without her as RD I don’t think this year’s race would be happening. If you see her on race day give her a big, hearty, thank you.
USAC Officials: with 13 fields of racing throughout a long day our USAC Officiating team is absolutely vital in insuring the Grant’s Tomb Criterium is safe and well run. Unfortunately, as we have written about recently, there is an emerging shortage of USAC officials that threatens the New York City race calendar. But for Grant’s Tomb we have one of the best officiating teams in the business led by NYSBRA President Jeff Poulin as Chief Ref and Mike Conlan as Chief Judge. It may seem like a small thing, but the officiating crew touches just about everything on race day - insuring results are accurate, especially for lapped riders, insuring races start and end on time and that the course is safe and well managed.
Race Staff: Jimmy Washington and Alex Rodriguez are familiar sights at any number of New York City bike races. For CRCA Open Races have become our ‘race day fixers’ for lack of a better term. From escorting cars off the course, to running registration and podiums, and managing all of our marshals they fill in numerous gaps throughout the day. Whether you’re racing on Saturday or marshaling, you’ll almost certainly encounter Jimmy or Alex at some point during the day. Say hello as you’ll likely be seeing them again at Orchard Beach and Bear Mountain.
Clearing and Setting Up the Course: it’s not always clear to me whether racers realize this, but clearing and setting up the course is perhaps the biggest stress point the week of the event and the biggest risk to starting racing on time (or at all). Being New York City, the course is constantly occupied by vehicles, some of them parked long-term like the RV’s that seem like a mainstay on southbound Riverside Drive. As a result we have to sent teams out (FIRE for this year’s race) twice during the week to post flyers. Then on Friday night we have another team (Kruis) managing early barricade deployment before spending THE ENTIRE NIGHT at the venue working with NYPD to tow cars that are still on the course. It’s an exhausting and thankless job (no one is at the venue at 2AM to express gratitude) but one that is essential for the race to happen. Seriously, a major thanks to all of the teams working with Liz to insure we have a course to race on come Saturday.
Motos: as part of the officiating crew we have four motos working throughout the day at Grant’s Tomb led by Karl Dittebrandt as Moto Captain. This team will be working as lead and follow vehicles throughout the day to help insure races are run safely and scored accurately. As experienced racers know first hand, the weather at Grant’s Tomb can be cold and unpredictable but our moto crew is out there for 9 full hours of racing. It’s a tough job and we’re fortunate to have experienced motos on hand.
NYPD 26th Precinct: without the support of NYPD the Grant’s Tomb Criterium quite simply could not happen. From assisting with community coordination to providing the barriers that actually give us a course to race on and of course managing traffic on race day, the 26th Precinct serves an absolutely vital role. A big and specific thank you goes to Detective Jason Harper for leading this effort. IF YOU SEE NYPD ON SATURDAY, SAY THANK YOU FOR THEIR HELP IN MAKING THE EVENT HAPPEN. Without their support Grant’s Tomb Criterium simply does not happen.
CRCA Board: the all volunteer CRCA board is involved in Grant’s Tomb in ways large and small. Marshal director Tony Pletcher coordinates all of the marshals that are vital for a safe event, Director of Teams Sean Hill coordinates the team duties described below, Treasurer Ken Edwards tracks all of the finances, VP Of Rider Development Tara Parsons leads the course preview and rider clinic, Membership Director Randy Locklair will be on site selling CRCA memberships, Director of Public Relations Jeff Young secured the race sponsorship… the list goes on. And of course CRCA President Lucia Deng oversees the whole process.
Equipment transportation: another small but vital duty is farmed out as a CRCA ‘team duty’ as a plethora of supplies need to be transported from car free Central Park to the race venue. This year’s task was made more difficult by Central Park going fully car free but thankfully we were able to secure permits for (very limited) vehicle access and Dave Jordan will be loading a van full of supplies late on Friday night (we only get Parks access at 9PM) and then doing the same in reverse 24 hours later.
Announcers: to bring the hype throughout the race day the Club has relied on Ace McDade in the past and this year we are expanding our announcing duo to have a trio of Ace, Tara Seplavy, and Stephanie Kaplan. They’ll be on the mic throughout the day, interviewing riders and livecasting all of the action. If you’re up for an interview or a post-race recap make sure to swing by the trailer.
Registration and Marshals: just like with equipment transportation, our registration table and all of our marshals are volunteers spending the day working in service of the Club to help make this event possible. Please give them the courtesy and patience that they deserve!
Bikereg Customer Service: Brian Sullivan serves the often times thankless task of responding to all Bikereg inquiries from the Club. From field changes to license issues Brian deals with a little bit of everything, which allows the rest of the race staff to focus on the massive amount of work required to make the race happen. He does it all for marshaling credit and I’m quite certain that over the course of the season his time on Bikereg far outweighs working two races as a marshal - but I’m glad we have him.
Results: everyone wants accurate and timely results and for that service CRCA leans heavily on Tom Mains and his crew. They work the CRCA Club Series in Central Park and our entire Open Race schedule and have been very helpful in the massive coordination effort that goes on in advance of race day.
Somehow all of these pieces are hopefully going to come together in just a few days for the Grant’s Tomb Criterium. It’s a massive team of staff and volunteers but if we pull off another great day of racing at one of the last bike races to use closed New York City streets we’ll call it a success. Hope to see you there.