Off the Back and Pulled

BC Superweek is a great week for racers and cycling fans. A pro level race almost every day for 9 days with criteriums, road races and even a short time trial. For us slower types, there are even a couple of 'big' Cat 3/4 races.

In previous years, there have been two, the Brenco criterium in Ladner and the Tour de White Rock criterium the following Saturday. This year, the organizers of the UBC Grand Prix elected to also run a Cat 3/4 criterium at the somewhat unorthodox time of 1pm on a Tuesday.

Despite huge turnouts at the local Tuesday and Thursday night criteriums, Delta and White Rock have not been overly well attended. For example, Ladner in the last 3 years has had 36, 45 and 43 starters respectively.

The UBC Grand Prix had 60 starters. This for a race that a sizeable percentage of the racers had to book off time to attend. This is a 38% larger field and is significant.

So why? It's hard to say for sure, but I suspect it is in part due to the length of the race. Delta is 25 minutes + 5 laps. That works out to a 30-32 minute race. White Rock is 30 laps for the Cat 3/4's, which usually works out to somewhere in the 35-40 minute range. UBC advertised and delivered a race that ended up a bit over 50 minutes.

There are other factors. White Rock is a notoriously selective circuit with a sizeable hill that discourages a number of riders, likely decreasing the registrations. 30 minutes vs 40 minutes vs 50 minutes, all with the same entry fee $40-50.

So where am I going with this? The UBC race is a somewhat technical and tight little circuit. Gaps open often and sometimes take a while to close, especially if the main field is in full flight. Let's be honest as well, those gaps often turn into a trip to Offthebackistan and out of the race.

Lapped riders get pulled, if you see that lead car, you are off and out, that's the rule of criterium racing. Unfortunately, the officals at this race were pulling riders with gaps as small as a few seconds back of the main field. Single riders off the back may rarely rejoin, but groups sometimes do. Groups may also ultimately not get lapped either and finish out the race.

This is impossible if every single rider dropping back is immediately pulled from the race.

Why is this a problem? If length of the race does have some effect on racer's value judgement, then things that can shorten the race will also be considered.

The dominant discussions I can find among the Cat 3/4 riders is that it was a fun, hard circuit and that they were pulled too quickly. For a first time event, that isn't a problem. It will need to improve in future years. If this becomes known as a race where most people only ride for 20 minutes due solely to overzealous officiating, pack fodder may well register in smaller numbers.