Race Director Diaries: First RD experience at Orchard Beach 2019
I am proud to announce that we, the bike racing community of NYC and surrounding areas, survived The Great Drizzle this past Sunday at the CRCA Zach Koop Memorial Criterium at Orchard Beach.
It was fun. It was wet. It was my first time being a Race Director.
For this event, I shared Race Director responsibilities with TBD teammate Jonathan Trevett, who also was a first time RD. We both shadowed Liz Marcello as she directed an absolutely awesome day of racing at Grants Tomb a few months ago, and now it was our time to shine. Or, you know, catch our reflections in the many puddles all around Orchard Beach on Sunday.
This all started a few months ago, when Matt Vandivort asked around if anyone was interested in helping out with CRCA racing on our team slack. I raised my hand (via emoji ✋🏼) for a few reasons:
I love this sport. It has given so much to me, and I have lately been wondering how I can help give back to it.
Road Racing is dying, and that makes me incredibly sad. I only recently found this sport and I don’t want to let it go, not without lending a hand myself.
I have only raced Orchard Beach once, two years ago. I got dropped so incredibly hard that I needed a legitimate excuse not to race it this year (since last year I was actually injured).
So I decided to help out, having no idea what I was signing up for, but knowing that it was a good cause with good people. Also, I didn’t have to worry about watching the field ride away from me and then come back around..
Race Directing is really all about the prep-work. - Liz Marcello
Liz said this to me at Grant’s Tomb, and I learned it with OB. Preparations started in February, with permit applications with parks and the local NYPD precinct for everything from sound permits to tents to parking, you name it. Honestly, it was all pretty straight forward thanks to CRCA Board of Directors, who has kept everything from years prior. We mostly had to repeat all of the same motions that we had in previous years, or so it seemed.
I can now say that I have gotten a small glimpse of just how hard it is to put on a bike race. At times it seemed like no one we were working with wanted the race to happen. Sometimes it looked like no one was going to even sign up. As we got closer and the weather looked bleak, we were pretty scared to not only have a wet, washed out event, but lose a lot of money in the process.
To put it subtly, working with public officials can be difficult. There are a few angels in local government for whom we are incredibly thankful for, but that is certainly not the norm. It takes multiple attempts to get people’s attention. Most paperwork has to be handed over in print. You will get redirected multiple times to find the right person or niche department. And nothing is going to happen unless it’s being paid for directly. Putting on a bike race in NYC is incredibly expensive in both time and money.
To add to that stress, there is an alarming shortage of USAC officials in the Northeast region (a good, unfortunate story that we’ll write about another time). Then there’s registration: no one signs up for a bike race until the last minute. I for one entirely understand this, but wow it is stressful on the RD side! How ironic is it that we dish out thousands of dollars in redundant cycling equipment but we don’t want to risk losing a $20 reg fee because we got injured, sick or just didn’t feel like racing. But I digress. The last piece of the stress puzzle is the weather: it’s going to do what it’s going to do and we just have to deal with however the bike racing community reacts to it.
I must say though, that it was all worth it.
What Orchard Beach Crit lacked in ideal weather conditions, it made up for with great racing. The conditions made for some epic pictures, and watching all of the races play out from the sidelines was very cool. OB is one of the rare races where you get to see everything that happens, and it is very cool watching all of the fields, how they differ, and what ultimately makes the winning move.
I got to see my friends race. I got to meet the USAC officials that really run the show. One of the coolest things by far was calling up results and giving medals to close friends. It was a unique day in my life and it was an incredibly satisfying experience.
I would like to give an enormous thank you to everyone who registered, everyone who raced, and more importantly everyone who was involved in planning. Matt Vandivort and Lucia Deng especially, since the bulk of the work with USAC officials and public officers was done by them, along with management of a lot of things that Jon and I really didn’t even know where to begin with. I would also like to thank Liz Marcello, Sean Hill, and the rest of the CRCA Board, along with all of the USAC officials and CRCA marshals that helped out.