Road is Not Dead Part 2.0: Lou Maltese Memorial registration
Throughout the year our Race Director Diaries Series has analyzed race registration figures associated with CRCA events including criteriums like Grant’s Tomb and road races like Bear Mountain. Now, with the long-standing Lou Maltese Memorial coming up this Saturday in Central Park we decided to compile a journal entry focused on this, the second of three Central Park Open Races.
Starting with one of our usual charts from the Race Director Diaries: event registration over a multi-year time period. By this measure 2019 Lou Maltese Memorial registration looks great. With a few hours left in registration the race is ahead of the last edition of the race and just shy of 2016’s record turnout - a figure that will almost be surpassed, if that hasn’t already happened in the time since I started compiling these charts.
Of course, there are a few caveats when it comes to long-term Lou Maltese Memorial registration data. First, similar to what we mentioned in our look at the 2019 Dave Jordan Central Park Classic registration, the Lou Maltese Memorial field structure was revised in 2016: a high-demand Men’s 5 field was added, effectively boosting race turnout compared to the 2013-2015 timeframe by 25-45 riders. So all else equal the 2013/2014 editions of the race would almost certainly have larger turnout than this year’s event.
In addition, for many years the Elite Men’s field at the Lou Maltese Memorial was run as a team based Invitational Competition - a unique structure that proved to be time intensive to manage while also limiting turnout since individual riders could only participate as part of a composite squad that CRCA had to organize (then other teams would complain when composite squads weren’t in perfectly matching kit). Due to this time intensity the team invitational format ended in 2015 and Men’s Elite turnout has generally increased in the years that followed.
Lastly this year’s Lou Maltese Memorial benefits from a stunning weather forecast compared to the last edition of the race (2017) that took place in a torrential downpour (for reference in 2018 the Lou Maltese Memorial was held as a Club-only race where the weather was also pretty miserable). Still, 358 registrants for the 2019 Lou Maltese Memorial is a great place to be with the race looming in just under 24 hours.
However, switching gears a bit, Lou Maltese Memorial registration data touches on a question that is often on my mind with CRCA Open Races: does racer burnout start kicking in as early as mid-summer? The Grant’s Tomb Criterium that is held in early March is consistently the largest race on the CRCA calendar. And CRCA Club Races often have their best turnout on frigid winter mornings rather than beautiful mid-August dates. Looking at numbers from this year’s Club series there is a very good chance that the March 30th Club race will be the largest of the entire year with 274 racers (huge numbers for a Club only event!).
Do these same trends - early season strength that actually starts to fade mid-way through the summer - hold true for Central Park Open Races? Well, in a word yes. At this point in the week leading up to the 2019 Dave Jordan Central Park Classic, registration was completely sold out for every single field and we had already done early number pickup. In comparison to Dave Jordan, four of the five fields at this year’s Lou Maltese Memorial are smaller (kudos to the strong turnout for the Women’s field!) and not one of the Maltese fields is currently sold out:
Interestingly, this isn’t a one time thing either. Going back to our multi-year registration chart, the Lou Maltese Memorial, which typically takes place just three weeks after the Dave Jordan Central Park Classic, has lower registration every single year despite generally similar field structures:
Charted differently, despite those aforementioned field structures similarities, registration for the Lou Maltese Memorial has consistently lagged the Dave Jordan Central Park Classic by a sizeable 10-18% (2015 was an exception with a difference in field structure driving an even larger drop off in registration from DJCPC to LMM):
Why does this consistent drop in registration exist between the two races? In some ways the Dave Jordan Central Park Classic is naturally a bigger race - it’s the first Central Park Open Race of the year and thanks to support from the Jordan family it is always well marketed and features large cash prize pools as Dave’s teammates and friends come out in force. But at the same time the Lou Maltese Memorial is also a longer-standing race that has been around since before I first joined the club a decade ago. CRCA - with it’s now 100+ year history - might not exist today if not for the hard work Lou Maltese did for many years.
Given all of these caveats perhaps the numbers don’t tell a complete story. But given how much the races have in common - field structures, race distances, start times - it is intriguing to ask whether a few weeks difference on the race calendar plays a role in consistently lower turnout for the Lou Maltese Memorial? Could racer burnout really start setting in as early as late June? The aforementioned Club Race turnout and these Open Race numbers certainly suggest that is one possible explanation. We’ll keep compiling data as the season progresses with the hope of putting some additional numbers around these trends.
In the meantime, depending on when you’re reading this, there may still be time to register and come out for what should be a beautiful day of racing at the Lou Maltese Memorial. Head over to Bikereg if you want register: https://www.bikereg.com/crca-lou-maltese-memorial