Grant's Tomb Criterium: The Latest Registration Trends
A few weeks ago we analyzed the early registration trends for the upcoming Grant’s Tomb Criterium as part of a new series of Journal entries that we are calling the Race Director Diaries. With just a handful of days left until the Grant’s Tomb Criterium kicks off we are anxiously watching the weather and monitoring registration trends for this year’s race - which to date remain quite strong. We are going to dive into the numbers in detail below, but if alternatively you want to check out the media content that underscores 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).
The Grant’s Tomb Criterium Registration Numbers
From a high level, registration trends remain quite strong as CRCA’s Open Racing numbers seem to continue bucking at least some of the participation challenges we discussed a few months ago in our State of the Sport Series. As of Saturday morning when I started crunching the numbers we had 593 registrants for the 2019 edition of the Grant’s Tomb Criterium (all numbers discussed herein exclude race clinic, course preview, and wait list registrants). This is down from 762 registrants last year but with 5 days left in registration we are actually 70 registrants ahead of where we were at this point in time last year. Of course last year’s weather was reasonably cooperative and we saw massive last minute registration. With a more mixed forecast at the moment getting to last year’s numbers may still be a stretch.
At CRCA we have a massive spreadsheet filled with registrations for every field going back to 2013. This data is invaluable when it comes to analyzing and developing field structures. For example a few years ago we experimented with a Category 2/3 field at Orchard Beach and saw massive turnout, which led us to standardize that field in our non-Central Park Open Races. Of course these trends also change over time: as charted below the Men’s Category 2/3 field has gone from one of the biggest at the 2017 edition of the Grant’s Tomb Criterium to just the sixth largest thus far at the 2019 edition. The Men’s Category 4 field at this year’s race is also lagging far behind where I would expect to be while one area of strength is the Master’s field which trails 2018 (which was boosted by a 35+ baby Master’s format as a State Championship field) but is performing extremely well compared to 2017.
If you looked closely at the above chart you might have noticed that unfortunately every single Women’s field is seeing significant participation declines compared to last year’s race. In fact, the percentage of women registrations at the moment is below 1/3 below the past two years with just 57 registrants compared to 120 last year. Of course, there is rarely risk of women’s fields selling out so we do typically see a lot of women register in the final week - hopefully this metric improves in the coming days.
Here is another look at this year’s registration trends that compares YTD registrants to 2017 registration. For this year’s race I generally focused on 2017 for precedent as the 2018 edition of the Grant’s Tomb Criterium was boosted by State Championship standing. As called out above this paints current Master’s field registration in a positive light, while three of our four women’s fields are currently at just ~50% of 2017 registration. The Juniors field comparisons are not entirely accurate because the structure of our juniors fields has changed over time, but I will acknowledge being perplexed that moving the Juniors to a mid-day time slot and implementing an A-B Field Structure (with extra length for the A’s) still leaves the race with just 22 juniors racers.
A few weeks back our State of the Sport Series looked at the ‘Abbreviated Lifecycle of a Bike Racer’. If you read that Journal entry this chart is probably no surprise, but if you map prior racers and whether they have registered for the 2019 race you’ll see massive churn in the registration base. Just 33% of last year’s Grant’s Tomb Criterium participants has registered for the 2019 edition of the race and the numbers drop off pretty dramatically from there if you go back any further. For instance only one in five 2017 registrants are signed up this year. Clark, who wrote our massive Road Is Losing. Gravel Is Winning. Here Are the Numbers entry is going to be exploring this topic in more detail in the coming weeks.
Lastly, we touched on the fact that we increased early registration discounts for the Grant’s Tomb Criterium in our last look at the registration data. With the last of our early registration discounts expiring a few days ago (pricing started at $30 and increased to $50) the average registration fee for the 2019 edition of the race is currently running down 7% compared to last year’s race. That may not sound like a lot, but bike races are expensive to host so the increased discounts involved some risks for the Club - for what its worth, the race hasn’t quite reached breakeven yet. But helping early registrants to save a few bucks in an already expensive sport while also offsetting some of the huge financial risks CRCA is exposed to in our Open Races by locking in some level of early registration is a trade-off that seems to work.
There you have it: the most recent look at Grant’s Tomb Criterium registration. TL:DR total registration numbers are healthy but we’re seeing significant declines in our women’s fields (which is distressing for the overall growth of the sport), and the average registration fee is is down pretty significantly compared to 2018 at the moment. At least from a registration and planning perspective with several days to go I think we are setup for another successful event, but I do truly wish we were seeing better rider retention and improving women’s field participation. But even after nearly a decade of work behind the scenes those are tough nuts to crack.
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.
If you are looking to race the Grant’s Tomb Criterium 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.