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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Women's Cherry Pie

... i think i'll just repeat that in my mind a couple times.

- - -

The promoters decided to run an open women's event for the Cherry Pie crit. It's not a decision I'm in favor of, but ... when you do all the work to put on a race, you get to decide how it's run. I just have to wonder at the mentality, though. Category 4 guys who are 45+ scream and complain that they shouldn't be forced to race with some former-pro 50 year-old.

And yet, we ask total newbie cat 4 women to jump into, arguably, one of the harder crits on the circuit, and fight it out against current professional riders.

Right on ... do what you think is best. demographics n' all.

- - -

Anyway, the racing was intense. The initial laps saw 3 groups forge together: the lead pack of Professionals and some of NorCal's elite, and two chase groups of strong NorCal hotties who worked damn hard to coordinate and stay out front of that lead pack for as long as they could.

Fighting it out for the win were about 10 Colavita riders and a handful of Cheerwine, PROMAN, ValueAct, Aaron's, and individuals like Tibco's Brooke Miller and Velo Bella's Mary Maroon. Colavita would send rider after rider on the attack, but not in a very organized or efficient manner.

For example, the first few laps saw Alysha Powers thundering off the front in a huge solo effort. But on a course with as much wind and climbing on it, a solo rider against a fresh field is sheer folly. The pack split chasing duties between the teams and individuals, either making pace or launching accelerations up the hill, always keeping Powers within spitting distance.

As the race progressed, more attacks would go off the front - but Colavita would never really commit to making a break stick, often times shutting down moves one would think might have suited them well. The hum of the crowd tilted towards the thought that Colavita would be relying on their Goliath of a sprinter, Tina Pic, to win it straight up. Sound reasoning, usually.

But, David wears baby blue nowadays. In the final lap, Colavita kept the pace high and the leadout was a country mile long. Rider after rider would burn off the pace, stretching the field thin as they powered towards the long finishing climb. Far down the hill, Brook Miller in Tibco's distinctive kit, with her unmistakable form, could be seen launching away from the leadout to start her sprint.

Cherry Pie is a fitness sprint - and Miller is showing to have superior fitness as we approach the NRC openers. Her slightly higher, more open body position on the bike was clearly noticable versus the traditional field sprinting form of Colavita's Pic - hunched low over her bars, even while her hands on the tops pulled harder and harder in search of that few more ounces of torque.

It was a close sprint between the new Tibco rider and the decorated veteran from Colavita. I couldn't help but leave the race with the impression that a team riding in a one-dimensional fashion, even with a superstar sprinter like Pic, is flirting with danger. But, that's what February bike racing is for ... figuring it all out.

well, that and the wine.


Ippoc Amic said...

Good race reporting and nice pics OV. Norcal racing could freelance you to VN.

Velo Bella said...

Its one thing to throw them (new cat 4s) in with current (not retired 20 years ago)national and world caliber racers, its another to take their money and not warn them that they might only get to race for ten minutes because they will be pulled.

In this case, it might have been better to have a Women's 1/2/3 race only.

I just hope any new racers don't think thats how it will be for them. Pay $30 to get spit out of the back and then pulled off the course.

Each promotor has to face difficult choices. And I can more than relate to that. We just need to make certain we (women racers) speak with how we choose to spend our racing dollars. Thankfully there are plenty of races in our region that offer a decent racing experience to beginner women. Each one of those will get a lot of rah rah and some entry fee moola from me. (Did I hear someone say "Kern"?)

And Brooke was every kind of impressive in that race. Congrats to her.

marscat said...

Nice report.

They should post a sign at registration letting people know they may get pulled.

that's the time to do it, before they hand over their cash, not after they've paid and are lined up to start.

Velo Bella said...

I actually asked at registration and was told no.

I totally understand why the officials did it. Its the promotor's responsibility to know this likelihood and to consider its impact on a mixed category race like open women.

BUt many people don't really have a grasp of the difference in abilities in women's racing.

Would anyone even dream of throwing a brand new Cat 5 racer dude in with Freddie Rodriguez?

Anonymous said...

You know, that really sucks! Beginner women really get the smelly end of the stick. The race flyer said that the cat 4 women would be picked separately, with their own prizes, but that doesn't mean much if they all had been pulled by the end of the race. As Archie Bunker said, "It's easy to be generous if it doesn't cost you anything..."


Ippoc Amic said...

Along with VB comments, here's a plug for VeloGirl's race coming up March 10th.

Even a women 4 35+, now that's cool.

And a plug for Wente RR and Crit that often has a women 45+ and Women's 35+ 4 field.

bbElf (a.k.a. panda) said...

I'm planning to race in the men's category at Menlo Park to support the fact that beginner women will have many categories to choose from. And I plan to send my entry fee in for Kern even though I know I can't race it this year, because I want them to know that I support what they're doing for women's racing.

Velo Bella said...

whatever the reason is that you can't race Kern, blow it off.

Olaf Vanderhoot said...

kern is the party not to be missed!

jeninsb said...

you tempt me, you tempt me...

lame about the 4s. either give them or race or don't. but taking their fees then pulling them from the 1/2/threefourall is stupid.

Marco Fanelli said...

Great reportage OV! Best thing about blogs... local coverage babay!! ...and pictures too.

trac said...

would it be worth it to write a letter to Eagle Cycling asking them to consider a seperate 4s field next year?

I was in a group with the lead cat 4s, trying to help them race smart (since my race was all to the shits). They were soooooo upset when they got pulled without even a lap's time warning. Basically, whoever happened to be pulling up the hill on that lap "won" the race.

Those girls were working super hard and deserved better than that.

I personally, would be willing to race a 5 minute shorter race as a cat 1/2/3 in order to accomodate a seperate race for the 4s. I think the other categories would, or at least should, feel the same way.

velogirl said...

If Jess Rafael is the race director, I don't think a letter-writing campaign would help. About a month ago the topic of open women's vs adding a W4 field came up. on the ncnca forum He polled the forum about which field to add (he removed the HPVs). There were more votes for W4. He chose another masters field instead. Jess is the same race director who instituted the mentors and prowess prizes at Albany last year. He seems to know more about women's racing than Sabine or me or any of you lovely ladies do. Or at least he thinks he does.

I had half a dozen women who wanted to race Cherry Pie who decided not to because of that decision.

Grey said...

Geez, what's with all this bike race talk, Olaf? Did you try the wine? I love that label. I've had a few bottles of their Cab. It's delicious and not spendy. I recommend it.

Glug, glug.

Anonymous said...

I plan to race in two or three of the womens races at the VeloGirls crit. to show my support for womens racing and try to win my first crit. at the same time. Ok, I need to go to Kinkos to craft a fake Cat.4 license.

Nome Agusta said...

I planned on racing several Cat 4 Women's races this year too, but my team captain said he would reposes my jersey.

X Bunny said...

they actually split all the prize money equally between the four cat 4s in trac's group and gave each one of them officially a first place finish

and i agree that we need to vote with out entry fee money

X Bunny said...

not 'out'

and i think if they told me they wouldn't pull me and then they did that i'd ask for my money back...

PAB said...

Do I see a pattern forming?

It seems like crit promoters are either offering a separate womens' cat 4 (or 3,4), or they are offering one or more junior races. Juniors and women4 are often two of the smaller fields on a given day, so I can see why they are the two fields that tend to get left off of a schedule. Finances and all. Hence the "either/or" situation I seem to keep noticing with those two fields.

This time the Cherry Pie offered extra Junior fields so that the younger kids didn't have to race with the older, stronger kids. But he had to shorten all their races to fit them all in. And people complained about the shortened races. Do juniors need longer races? I dunno. If it was me, I would want them longer.

The fact is, it is very hard to fit races for everyone into the day at a crit. I think the individual races are too short already. 1/2/P races used to be considerably longer, back when there were fewer people racing. I remember when the norm was 35 miles, not 60 or 70 minutes. And 40 minutes in our Masters' races is often way too short for tactics to fully play out.

But to try to lobby for longer crits when some fields are already being excluded doesn't seem like a good idea right now.

I think the only answer is going to be to have multiple races at multiple venues on the same day, each offering a different selection of categories, like Apple Pie did on Saturday. Like Velogirls is doing on the same weekend as the Fresno NRC races.

Good for them. Let people vote with their dollars.

I hope more clubs step up ad promote some races that "conflict" with existing events. I think our district has enough riders to support them all...

le petit lutin said...

I too asked at registration if they were going to pull the cat 4 since they were going to be picked separately and I was told that they wouldn't. That was the reason I decided to do the race!!! He took the money and said "thanks" with a big smile on his face... I should have gone on a long ride instead!!!

Velo Bella said...

And I do not have a problem with the choice of categories that a promotor must make. They are the ones doing the work and so, they get to choose.

What I have a HUGE problem with is thinking that its okay to invite Cat 4 women to race with professional women at an event like Cherry Pie. And to think that you are offering them a valid race experience.

To take their money and then give them only ten minutes of not very fun racing.

To decide that there are 4 first place finishers because you just pulled them without warning or a chance to even pretend to sprint.

Given the nature of the course and the obvious likelihood that there would be lapped riders and that officials can (and rightly so) pull lapped was just plain wrong to take money and think you were offering someone a valid racing experience.

You don't see anyone throwing Cat 5 male newbies into the Men Pro 1/2 events...why do promotors think its okay for women?

if they were limited for time, they should have just offered a 1/2/3 event and at least be honest about what you are really offering.

PAB said...

yes, total agreement here.

they should offer refunds to those that got pulled...

i think the promoter did everyone a diservice by trying to please, er, well, everyone....(or, by trying to bring in as much entry fee revenue as possible, I don't know what the motivation was)

Anonymous said...

Trying to serve a group and doing so badly usually does more damage in the long term than simply not serving them at all. I just wonder how many of the first-time racers won't return because of the negative experience which they may think is typical. Everyone loses.