While the Kelly Benefits Strategies Cyclocross at Rockburn last Sunday was an overwhelming success - good racing on a great course, and a beautiful autumn day spent with family and friends of the Mid-Atlantic cyclocross scene - two issues arose which need clarification, one lighthearted and fun and the other a bit more serious, and one every local amateur (read; neo-Cat. 4s like myself) should read.
1. This is the lighthearted issue:
The new energy supplement company I discovered at the race, CeraSport - producers of energy drinks with a kosher certification from the OU - should not be confused with CERA, the new drug of choice for soulless pro racers who cheat. CERA is for pros who like to win every time trial and and mountain stage in a Grand Tour by means of injections, oxygenated blood bags, and evil doctors who like to turn pro riders into ticking chemical timebombs. CeraSport is for local amateur cyclists looking to put in their highest possible race results or take the sprint to the top of the hill on the Sunday morning shop ride by means of a funky citrus-flavored drink in their water bottles to replenish nutrients and fluids.
2. This is the more serious issue:
As you read in the previous post (you DID read the previous post and not just look at the pictures, right?), you saw their was a serious issue with the posting of my race result. As always, the results from the Cat. 4 race was posted less than an hour after the race. As with all initial postings, they were not fully complete, and there was a protest period for the top riders. The emphasis in the initial posting is to sort out the "money riders" and the riders eligible for upgrade points. The riders outside those placings simply wait and hope the organizers get it right.
So after what I felt was a good race, and I was sure I was once again a top-30 finisher, somewhere in the mid-20s, I was shocked to see myself listed at the bottom with nothing; no DNS, no DNF, or no DQ. I was simply there on paper, but no where on the results (by that posting, some 70 riders - pretty much all of the finishers - were listed). It was a flashback to the fiasco of the 2007 Charm City Cyclocross, where the organizers listed the top ten riders, and then botched the results for the other 90 riders. I was taken aback (read: pissed) and was not going to let this stand. Knowing that this is not too uncommon - rider's results being lost or misstated - I was not going to accept this. Next, I was listed at 14th in the next round of results, again, completely wrong, and now even more difficult to deal with because I did not want to be stuck with a false finishing position, which would've deprived the riders who beat me and possible cost somebody an upgrade point. Here is how I dealt with it, and how I eventually got my proper (more or less) result posted:
A. Knowing who I finished with.
Not that this is always possible with the mayhem and fury that is cyclocross, but in this case, I got quickly familiar with the rider I finished with. I found myself at the end battling with and eventually losing to a BBC rider on a LaPierre. Seeing a BBC rider listed in the results near where I finished, I tracked down the first BBC rider I saw, inquired about the guy who raced Cat. 4 on the LaPierre, and was quickly introduced to him. He turned out to be John Scott, a very good rider and a good person, who offered to vouch for me to the officials.
B. Knowing where you are on the course.
On the next to last lap, I heard the officials call me out as being in 28th position, and in 25th position on the final lap. Granted there is a lot to focus on in the final moments of a 'cross race, but knowing to keep an ear out for the officials calling out positions of riders on the lead lap was helpful not only to my race, but also to helping the officials figure out my position afterwards.
C. Civility and Professionalism.
This, I believe, was a key factor in stating my case to the officials. In the chaos following the race, I quickly realized that the officials and judges deal with chaos. They have to deal with close to 100 riders for the Cat. 4 race, then figure it out before dealing with hundreds of other riders throughout the day. This being local cyclocross and not the Tour de France, there are no electronic chips, no video replay, and no army of photographers and referees to check and triple-check the standings. At most, it's a handful of judges comparing handwritten notes, simply lots of numbers scrawled on paper, of riders sprinting by, some with numbers crumpled, ripped, or covered in mud. Here is how it worked:
I approached the officials with a plan. It began with waiting patiently, apologizing to them for distracting them from the work they need to do diligently. I extended my hand, introduced myself, and stated my case as such:
"My name is Jason Pearlman, I was bib #167 in the Men's cat. 4 race, and I finish right behind John Scott, bib #131 in 24th position"
This is much more helpful to the official than "Dude, WTF, why am I not listed?". It also establishes a civil and respectful relationship to which the judges are willing to work with. Unfortunately, it took me two hours, trips all over the race venue, tons of patience and restraint, and deliberations with three different judges to do this. In the end they said they couldn't promise anything, but seemingly appreciated my honesty, respectful tone, and persistence.
In the end, I did receive my finishing position of 24th, but seeing as the rider who beat me listed as 22nd, I was content to take my 24th instead of a possible 23rd.
D. Lessons Learned.
First of all, you'll need to stick around after your race and for the results to be posted. If you leave before hand, then there's nothing you can do. Second, after you affix your race number to your jersey, ask an official if they can read the number. It may be too high or too low on your side for them to read. Finally, if you do find yourself in a position where you need to contest your result, take a moment to calm and compose yourself, and make a plan of attack. After racing for 40 brutal minutes after countless hours, days, weeks, and months of training only to see a DNF is enraging to say the least, but the officials are strained people doing a difficult task, and making it as easy for them makes it easy and inviting for them to hear and help you.
For a local amateur like myself, a weekend warrior with big dreams and realistic expectations, a USCF judge can be an intimidating person. They need to be concerned with the top finishers and the prize/points winners, and less concerned with the guy who finished 25th or 37th or 61st or 78th. One official told me that I wasn't a "money rider" and wasn't as important as the prize winners, and I responded that as a paid entrant, I was indeed a "money rider" even if I part with $20 and come home with nothing other than good memories and sore muscles. In the future, I would like to see a little more respect paid to the lower placed riders and to the efforts and results of all paid riders. In the meantime, I do acknowledge and thank them for taking the initiative to do so, such as they did at this year's Charm City Cyclocross by beefing up their numbers and scoring all of the Cat. 4 riders, and in particular, to the judges and officials and Rockburn for taking the time to listen to and working with me to correct my standings, and I look forward to only good racing and good interactions with them in the future.