Race Director Diaries: Zach Koop Memorial Crit Registration
The journal entry below takes a more scientific approach to examining the numbers underlying the upcoming Zach Koop Memorial Crit at Orchard Beach. However, setting aside the race budget, for a proper sense of what is truly important about the race we urge you to read this interview with Zach’s friend and teammate. Zach was an awesome human and a ferocious racer which is what makes his namesake race special, regardless of any eventual profit or loss on the event.
In an earlier entry in our Race Director Diaries Series we looked at the budget for the upcoming Zach Koop Memorial Crit at Orchard Beach - highlighting the somewhat lofty financial breakeven point for the race due to the modest average net registration fee ($18.18 at the time that post was written). Since then registration has been ticking along nicely but unfortunately we have also faced $1,000 of incremental expenses for NYPD coverage and USAC officials. All of which leaves the race running at an approximate $6,000 loss at the moment. Thankfully as the chart below indicates, registration for this year’s race (the blue line in the chart below) is running well ahead of last year’s event (the red line). However with fully half of 2018 registrants signing up for last year’s race in the final five days before the race, it’s tough to accurately predict where this year’s race will end up — a dynamic discussed recently in The Bear Mountain Classic Pricing Conundrum.
We’ll walk through some of the data for the Zach Koop Memorial Crit in detail below - including our particular focus on Category 5 riders - and if you’d like to register for the race please head over to Bikereg.
Consistently strong turnout for the Zach Koop Memorial Crit
On the plus side, the Zach Koop Memorial Criterium has seen consistently strong turnout. Last year’s numbers dipped to recent lows, but the past five years would clearly suggest somewhere between 550 and 650 registrants show up to race on this tightly packed circuit in the Bronx, making Orchard Beach consistently one of the biggest races in New York City (only recently surpassed by early season turnout at the Grant’s Tomb Criterium).
Was a very small M5 field at the 2018 race a warning sign?
Replicating the analysis from that same Grant’s Tomb Criterium Registration overview, it’s no surprise that the most popular fields at the Zach Koop Memorial are the mid-level Men’s fields - the M 4/5, M4, M 3/4, and M 2/3 have pretty consistently seen 70+ registrants each over the past few years. However, there is a bit of a concerning data point in last year’s lackluster M5 field turnout, which was down to just 36 riders compared to 59 the year before.
Due to the shockingly short lifecycle of the average bike racer, bringing in new Cat 5 racers (and finding a way to improve retention) is vital to the health of the sport. Seeing just 36 M5 racers at last year’s Zach Koop Memorial Crit at Orchard Beach is a definitely a concerning data point. The early morning start time for that field probably doesn’t help and we toyed with the idea of shifting the calendar around, but with the overlapping field structure designed to allow racers to do multiple events it really only makes sense to start with lower categories and work our way up over time.
On the bright side, relative to last year’s final registration numbers the M5 field is actually in the best shape this year (other than the Juniors A field where we made racing free to all participants and have seen a resulting boost in registration). Otherwise all of the Men’s categorized fields are running a touch under half of last year’s turnout, with Masters and Women trailing further behind. Women’s fields tent to fill later than Men’s, on average, and there is a new schedule conflict with Woodstock moving to a Sunday race so turnout for the Women’s field may be a bit light at this year’s race (we’re still giving equal prize money either way because, duh).
Lower categories dominate registration
To expand on the point above on the Men’s Category 5 field, it’s worth highlighting that even with somewhat lighter turnout than we would like from that field, lower category Men and Women represent by far the largest portion of registration to date. Category 4 and Category 5 riders are more than half of registration, while the two highest category fields - Category 2 and Category 1 - are just 15% of registrants. This underscores the fact that the Zach Koop Memorial Crit at Orchard Beach, like most bike races, succeeds or fails based on the turnout of lower category riders. As such we’ll continue to focus on trying to improve the race experience for all racers, not just the Elites. It’s not easy at Orchard Beach given some of the logistical and permitting challenges that CRCA faces, but the Club is aiming to add a food truck to the mix at this year’s race one small enhancement. And CRCA is always open to other ideas for improving the new(er) racer experience - hit us in the comments if you have ideas or suggestions.
Better racer retention than the Grant’s Tomb Criterium
Lastly, a look at the same retention curve that we highlighted in our Grant’s Tomb Criterium registration piece - at this stage just 33% of last year’s Zach Koop Memorial Crit registrants have signed up for the 2019 edition of the race. That said, with registration at less than half of our final goal, this is actually well ahead of an apples-to-apples comparison with the Grant’s Tomb data. Said differently, while the Zach Koop Memorial Crit is a slightly smaller race, it has better rider retention statistics.
Come play bikes with us on May 5
If you made it this far, congratulations. There are not many people who spend the amount of time I do staring at registration data and building bike race budgets. It can be a bit boring at times, but the TL:DR version is this: there is a long way to go on filling the race roster and getting to breakeven on the budget, but with two weeks to go registration is looking strong for the Zach Koop Memorial Crit at Orchard Beach and we’d love to have you register for what should hopefully be a fun day of racing. To sign up, head over to Bikereg. And in the meantime, if you have any ideas or suggestions for how to improve the race within CRCA’s budget and permitting constraints, drop a note in the comments!