Race Director Diaries: If You Build It, Will They Come?
In recent weeks, our Race Director Diaries Series has been focused on the upcoming Zach Koop Memorial Crit at Orchard Beach at the same time that several TBDers have been working with CRCA behind the scenes to prepare for the race - we are proud to have Alvaro and Jonathan are RD’ing with Scott as an Assistant RD. Now, with the race less than a week away and most of the planning complete, we have come to that anxiety inducing moment where we have to ask: if you build it, will they (racers) come? Looking at the registration data as of Saturday afternoon, the simple answer is - it is too soon to tell. As the chart below highlights, with less than one week left to register, there are 326 registrants for this year’s race. This leaves us down 219 registrants from last year’s race and 307 registrants down from the 2017 edition:
Which isn’t to suggest that the news is all bad. In fact the situation is quite the opposite: registration to date is actually blowing last year’s numbers out of the water - as of Saturday afternoon the 2019 edition had 50% more registrants than the 2018 edition had one week out. Part of this reflects the more aggressive early registration discounts that we offered this year, but either way we are pacing well ahead of last year’s numbers which is great. The challenge is that last year’s race saw a massive 313 registrants in the final 5 days - well over half of last year’s racers registered in the final five days. So as I sit here writing this, it truly is too early to tell whether we will have 450 registrants or 625 registrants. Going back once again to ‘The Bear Mountain Pricing Conundrum,’ budgeting for these races is oh so difficult with this huge range of possible outcomes just a handful of days before the actual race.
But at least the headline numbers are setting up well thus far - we’d definitely rather be in that position than the opposite and have a bunch of ground to make up in the final week of registration. But we also closely monitor how individual fields are tracking as we strive, over time, to optimize field structures. As we wrote about in our last Race Director Diaries post, turnout thus far at Orchard Beach is strongest from the lower and middle categories. This contributes to the middle Men’s fields being the largest by registrants — we have an impressive 55 racers signed up for the Men 3/4 and more than 40 registrants for each of the Men 4/5, Men 4, and Men 2/3. On the opposite end of the spectrum our free Juniors and Kids fields remain on the small side but hopefully those numbers will see a last minute uptick.
Presented as a percentage of last year’s numbers - which is how we construct our race budgets - most fields are tracking above 50% of last year’s numbers. As the chart below highlights, at the moment we are seeing particular strength out of the Men 3/4, Men 2/3, and Elite Men. Only the Elite Women and Women 2/3/4 are running below 50% of last year’s numbers but the reality is that with Woodstock scheduling over our race date we wouldn’t be surprised to have those fields fall short of last year’s numbers. Otherwise hopefully all of these fields will fill nicely over the coming days. For the parents out there, don’t forget that our Juniors and Kids races are completely free. We’d love to have good turnout for those fields!
Putting this all back into budget terms, CRCA’s average revenue per registrant (after the $4 USAC fee) is running just over $22 at the moment. And after $2,000 in Elite Prize money the race has collected roughly $5,000 in net revenue — that net revenue figure is how we budget our races as it dictates how much revenue we have to cover all of the event overhead including staff, services, supplies, and permitting. For the Zach Koop Memorial Crit this does leave the race running at a several thousand dollar loss at the moment, especially as we had some last minute cost inflation on the NYPD and officiating line items. But as long as we have decent final week registration trends, we should be able to get back to breakeven and possibly even turn a little profit on the event. As always, if the final registration numbers turn out stronger than expected we’ll look for opportunities to invest in rider amenities, be it drinks, food or whatever else we can dream up within our budget constraints.
So the final answer is: no, we don’t know if we build it, whether the racers will show. And yes, the race is still running at a loss with one week to go. But we’re feeling optimistic about registration uptake with the early registration discounts - running 50% of last year’s numbers is a decent place to be at this point. And we think we have a really great day of racing in store at the Zach Koop Memorial Crit. If you’d like to join in the fun head over to Bikereg to get registered: https://www.bikereg.com/crcaorchardbeachcrit