Race Directors...The Other Side of the Race
We love ultra-bicycle racing. But we should all remember, there would be no sport, no racing, without the races. Every race in which we participate we thank the race organizers, owners, directors for their efforts. Putting together a successful event requires an incredible range of talent, hard work and passion. We decided to introduce you to those who make the RAAM Qualifying races happen. This is the first of two articles - here we focus on the Road RQs. In the next Newsletter we'll focus on the 24-Hour TT RQs.
RAAM was fortunate to capture a large audience early on by virtue of its agreement with ABC Wide World of Sports - cutting edge sports TV at the time. With several million viewers, it should not be surprising that a large number expressed an interest in entering RAAM. But few understood the true difficulty of the race, and there was no system in place to test their readiness. In 1983 John Marino, founder of RAAM, created the John Marino Open (JMO) - the first RAAM Qualifier.
Over the next 25 years RQs came and went. Most were road RQs - there were never more than a handful at any given time. The event business is tough - few survived.
Events don't happen by magic, they are the result of hard work by the organizer, the race directors, their staff and volunteers. Planning for any given race begins a year or more in advance. Just to lay down the basics - a course has to be designed, ridden and refined, rules developed, there are many meetings with regulatory agencies, law enforcement and emergency service providers, permits filed, insurance secured and much more ... just to get the ball rolling. Then there are volunteers, event officials, merchandise, marketing, equipment evaluation and purchase or rental, etc. Then, of course, the unforgiving and thankless job of setting up, breaking down and cleaning up after the race.
After every race, the race director evaluates that year's race, looks for places to make improvements, evaluates post-race comments, and makes changes as deemed necessary. Throughout the year between races, the directors continuously monitor developments in the areas in which the races take place, again making changes as required. This process is never ending for the race director.
Fast forward to 2006 - there were about a dozen events - mostly domestic and European. By then there were many familiar faces directing the races - RAAM veterans Chris Kostman (Furnace Creek 508 - originally the JMO), George Thomas (Race Across Oregon), and Peter Lekisch (Fireweed 400), as well as Deb Caplan (Hoodoo 500), Dan Driscoll (Tejas 500) and others.
We began to build the RQ System from the established races. New faces emerged at about the same time. Those included Dex Tooke (NCOM), Joko Vogel, Hape Narr and Gunter Wagner (Tortour), Andrej Berginc (DOS-RAS Extreme), Jacob and Christoph Zurl (Glocknerman), Michael Nussbaumer (Race Around Austria), Alan Heary and Emmet Roche (Race Around Ireland), Tony Lonero (Race Across Italy). These races fueled the global expansion of the RQ System and ultra racing.
More recently, new Race directors have taken over at some of the established races as well as some of the newer ones. Rob Panzera took over the Silver State 508 from long-time director Chris Kostman. Panzera has an event production company, Cycling Camp San Diego, and in 2015 he crewed for Solo RAAM finisher, Matt Hoffman. There were others - Dajan Gorenc (DOS-RAS Extreme) and Paolo Laureti (Race Across Italy).
And, of course, there's been a new wave of races - with a diverse group of directors taking on the challenges of producing an event. Women are taking on the role of organizer, owner and race director.
Divya Tate and Saran Preeti (India) - Tate was one of the driving forces in the development of the Indian randonneuring scene. She crewed and officiated RAAM. She then put her experience to work organizing the first of her three races, the Deccan Cliffhanger. Later, she added Ultra Spice and, new this year, the Great Himalayan Ultra. Preeti volunteered as a RAAM official and then took her experience back to India to start the Shivalik Signature. This was her first foray into race directing and she is looking to expand into other races.
Roberto Picco - In 2013 Picco decided to start the D+ Ulracycling Dolomitica. He designed one of the most challenging and beautiful courses on the RQ calendar. The first race was in 2014.
In 2017 Raw and 508 finisher, Dany Bonneville (Canada), started the Bonneville 808.
In 2018, a pair of 2015 Solo RAAM finishers, Peter Sandholt (Denmark) and Arnaud Manzanini (France) each organized new RQs in Europe - the Race Around Denmark and Race Across France, respectively. Both were successful in their first year.
Over the past decade, organizing races has become increasingly complex. Race directors face many challenges - regulatory hurdles, legal issues, politics, sponsorship. Our participants must share the road with motor vehicle traffic. Increasingly we must deal with conflicting viewpoints, the blessing and curse of social media. All the while we work hard to produce the safest race possible and the best overall experience for our participants.
We know we have not covered every Road RQ race director - they all deserve recognition. We will continue to highlight the directors and their races throughout the year. Remember without these dedicated folks, and their staff and volunteers, there would not be events in which to race. Most of the race directors are not in the game for the accolades and high praise. They do it because they love it. Whether they do it part-time or full-time, remember it's a lot of work. Please give them a tip f the hat or a pat on the back. Tell them thank you for everything they do for our sport.
Next week ... the 24-Hour TT RQ race directors - new races/new faces.
Race Directors...Time Trials
In the last RAAM Newsletter we introduced you to the directors of the RQ Road Races. This time around you'll meet the directors of the RQ Time Trials.
We said it last week, we'll say it again ... we love the sport of ultra-bicycle racing. Every race in which we participate we thank the race organizers, owners, directors for their efforts. Putting together a successful event requires an incredible range of talent, hard work and passion. We should all remember, there would be no sport, no racing, without the races.
Time Trials have become extremely popular for many reasons ... low cost; little or no support crew required; races are shorter - 24 hours or less; races are highly competitive; activity is focused in the pit area and around the start/finish; and although highly competitive, the atmosphere approaches that of a big party.
Old Races/New Faces
When we think of RQ Time Trails, the first thing that comes to mind are the older, established events - Sebring 24 (Sebring, FL) and Texas Time Trials (Glen Rose, TX). Both event directors - Dave Andrews (Sebring) and Dan Driscoll (Texas Time Trials) retired in recent years, replaced by Steve "Buzzy" Roberts and Andrew Willis, respectively ... established races/new faces.
Beginnings of Growth
Not long after taking control of RAAM we began to building the RQ System. Over the past decade we've grown the RQ System from a dozen or so events to 40 events with 50 races in 15 countries. Back in the early stage of that growth Ken Jessett organized Bessie's Creek (Brookshire, TX). Melissa and Alvin Maxwell organized the Mid-Atlantic 12/24-Hour (Washington, NC).
New Races/New Faces
In the last few years we've seen a host of new races - Pace Bend (Austin, TX), the Revolve24 races (UK and Australia), Helnaes 24 (Denmark), Cycling RAAMpage 24-Hour (Philippines) and IL24TE (Israel). We've seen a once popular race, shut down, and brought back to life - Calvin's Challenge (Springfield, OH). Race organizers include both men and women.
Huw Bunn organized the Revolve24 events at Brands Hatch (UK) and Tailem Bend (Australia). David Fell is the race director at Tailem bend. The Revolve24 events are run on motorsports tracks. Bunn has followed the 6-12-24 hour race model that you see at several European tracks, including Le Mans and Nurburgring. Bunn is an aggressive promoter and is planning additional Revolve24 events.
Andrew Willis, an experienced bike racer and event organizer, recently dipped his cleats into the ultra-racingworld. In addition to taking over the Texas Time Trials from Dan Driscoll, Willis organized the Pace Bend 6-12-24 Hour (Spicewood, TX). Willis is an experienced event organizer and is backed up by a solid team. He puts on the Driveway Series, an extremely popular series of crits in Austin, TX. In the last few years Willis has raced numerous RQs, including NCOM, Texas RAAM Challenge, Race Across Oregon, Race Across the West, Mid-Atlantic 12/24 and WTTC.
Peter Sandholt is a RAAM veteran. Recently, he started the Race Around
Denmark - you met Sandholt in our last Newsletter. When the Xtreme Melfar 24-Hour Cycling Challenge ran into organizational problems and suspended operations this year, Sandholt responded byorganizing the Helnaes24 (Eberupp, Denmark).
Tal Katzir organized the IL24TE (Israel).
Maria Del P. Vazquez, a talented athlete in her own right, recently took on the ambitious task of reviving a race that had been shut down. She jumped at the opportunity of bringing Calvin's Challenge back to life. After she officiated at the 6-12-24 Hour WTTC, she inquired about becoming a RAAM Qualifying race. That meant adding a 24-hour race onto Calvin's traditional 6- & 12-hour schedule. This was her first year as a director.
Carmela Serena Pearson, an experienced cyclist, recently jumped into ultra-racing.
Her palmares include both randonneuring and road racing. She recently posted a photo on FB of a couple of her Singapore Cycling Federation IDs ... 2012 - UCI Women Elite Road ... 2018 - Women Masters. This year she organized the first RQ in the Philippines, actually the first RQ in SE Asia/Western Pacific - the Cycling RAAMPage 24-Hour (The Village at Global Clark, Philippines).
RAAM President/CEO, Fred Boethling, was lucky enough to make it to both Calvin's Challenge and Cycling RAAMpage. According to Boethling, "Both were great events. Maria and Mela are both high energy. They represent a breath of fresh air in the ultra-cycling world."
We are pleased by the growing role of women in the sport of ultra-bicycle racing.
The 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships
For the first 3 years, the WTTC was held in Thermal, in the Coachella Valley, California. In 2014, the race was moved to Borrego Springs and WTTC participation took off. This year's race is sold out. Jeff Magnuson was brought on board as race director last year. Rick Boethling, RAAM Executive Director, explained, "Borrego Springs is the perfect setting. The weather is perfect for the WTTC. Borrego is on the RAAM route at the base of Montezuma Grade. This year we moved RAAM TS-1 from Lake Henshaw to Christmas Circle in Borrego. We've worked very hard to build our relationship with Borrego."
RAAM management has worked hard to build the RQ System. More events, new races, new faces. The event organizers, race directors make it all happen. They work hard to produce the safest race possible and the best overall experience for the participants. We know we have not covered every RQ race director - they all deserve recognition. We will continue to highlight the directors and their races throughout the year.
Remember, without these dedicated folks, and their staff and volunteers, there would not be events in which to race. Most of the race directors are not in the game for the accolades and high praise. They do it because they love it. Whether they do it part-time or full-time, remember it's a lot of work. Please give them a tip of the hat or a pat on the back. Tell them thank you for everything they do for our sport.
There are a lot of great race directors. We are very enthusiastic about the future of our sport.