National Elite Road Race 4 am Start

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The title of this post is a bit misleading.  It is only a 4 am start if you happen to be from the Pacific time zone.  Like all the riders from California, Oregon, Washington, plus a few more.  Just think about it, even if they only get up 2 1/2 hours before the start to eat, they are still waking up at 1:30 am their time to race.  What is up with that?  By the time most of you are have read this, I’ve, hopefully ridden 177km.

I really don’t get it.  If you look at the schedule, tomorrow the Elites race at 7 am and the racing is complete by 6 pm.  On Saturday, they are starting the Junior Men 17-18 at 4:45 and they are racing 75 miles.  So they race close to 8 pm.

It is really an insult to the Elite riders starting them at such a crazy hour.  I’ve done just a handful of races that start this early.  Never a Nationals.  And all the events I’ve done, this early, have all been mass start events that start so early because some of the competitors are going to take 10 hours or more.

The U23 races are arguably the most prestigious here.   They scheduled the U23 men an appropriate start time, at noon tomorrow.  But, the U23 women are at 7am on Saturday morning.  WTF?  The Junior Women 13-14 are at noon.  Why is that?

The schedule could very well be so much more correct.  Like starting the 175 + Elite riders at some hour that is sane.

I drove nearly 80 miles yesterday to get my number.  That is because the registration to pick up numbers today opens at 6:30 and the race starts at 7.  The Elite rider right ahead of me in line was mad when he heard that a woman was picking up numbers for someone other than herself. That was supposed to be a no-no.   He said that he had to take an extra day off work to pick up his number.   An extra vacation day to get a number to race a bike.  At Elite Nationals. Go figure.  He said he was pretty grumpy.

I’m feeling a little grumpy myself.  Just because.  Mainly because I’m not going good.  I don’t think I’m horrible, but I am pretty sure I’m not nearly good enough.  But, I’ve been bad before and surprised myself, so I’m going to go through the motions and just see.   I’m going to try to get 3 hours into the race before I make any rash decisions.

I’m not sure if it is because of antibiotics that I’m taking for my tooth, which are working, thank god, or if I’m just in a funk, but something isn’t going right.

The course is pretty easy, really.  I’ve raced here before and it is all big ring.  I only rode one lap and it really is a big criterium course.  It will flow pretty good and should be fairly easy sitting in early.  I’m hoping anyway.  Sometimes after a few hours, I sometimes get going better.

There is a 40% chance of rain at 9am, which would be disastrous I believe.  There really aren’t many straight sections and not really any tight corners.  Just sweepers where guys will tend to overcook when it is wet.  Hopefully that holds off.

I just got up at 5, two hours before the race. I at something fast,  I’m heading to drink some coffee and then go over to the course to line up.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

I saw this little guy warming up at the time trial yesterday afternoon.

I saw this little guy warming up at the time trial yesterday afternoon.

Tucker and I after a short ride yesterday.

Tucker and I after a short ride yesterday.


23 thoughts on “National Elite Road Race 4 am Start

  1. Sean YD

    A 7-kilometer loop – ridden 23 times – barely fits the criteria set forth in the rulebook of what constitutes a “road race” course. Twenty-three laps!

    And USA Cycling wonders why participation at national championships are significantly down from past years.

    Who wants to race on what is basically “a big criterium course,” as you so aptly wrote?

  2. mike crum

    man you bitch alot.. THANK the folks for putting on this race. witout them putting this race on, there is no race..reading your bitching here just goes to show how out of touch you are with NORMAL life. most work, train when they can.. you are soooooooo use to cherry picking everything, that an early start bothers you.. man up!!! every one wants THEIR start time, but there is only one. 7am louisville time.. thank the orginizers for working hard putting this race on, and stop your bitching..

    1. frank

      Yup, if there are 3 words that perfectly describe tilford it’s “Out of Touch.”

      Or God Damn Curmudgeon.

  3. Jim

    Well, I guess I have to play Devil’s Advocate and ask, what would YOUR solution be?
    Don’t just bitch, tell us what the answer should be.

    If the times and races require that “someone” have a 7 am start, why not your race?
    Sure it sucks but why should it be someone else? The Junior women 13-14 you mention deserve a “good” start time every bit as much as you.

    This line really makes me laugh.
    “The schedule could very well be so much more correct. Like starting the 175 + Elite riders at some hour that is sane.”
    Correct for who??

    You drove 80 miles to pick up your number? Is that because you are staying at a hotel that you pay for OR is it because you are staying with someone for free? If it is the later, it is a little hard to feel sorry for you.

    Bottom line is that you chose to contribute to the USAC money grab. I am guessing (because you registered late) that you never looked at the event schedule. Whose fault is that?

    1. Rod Lake

      The junior women 13-14 deserve a “good start time every bit as much as you.” I think you just lost credibility.

      1. Jim

        I don’t think so.
        Are you saying that they don’t deserve a good start time?
        I simply used the age group that Steve cited.
        Everyone deserves a chance to shine in a featured time spot.
        Nice try though!

      2. sillypuddy

        Honestly, this is a stupid weekend to have Nationals or any race for that matter. The weekend of the 4th is about family ,BBQ, and beer( not necessarily in that order ). I guess thats the life of a hardcore racer, but doesn’t sound like fun to me. Yeah 4:45 is a ridiculous time to start any category. 6:00 should de the earliest at any USAC event. Should of just passed on ot and enjoyed some time off with Fucker.

      3. Rod Lake

        Jim: I bet you favor participation trophies, too. I have no problem saying a small group of teenage girls don’t deserve the better starting times. The U23 men, elite men and elite women should be the marque events. Want to be in the spotlight? Earn it. Don’t expect it.#littleleagueparents

  4. I Get It

    Tilford is complaining, but I don’t think it is an unfair complaint. He is fighting USAC’s lack of interest in amateur cycling and struggling to come to the realization that it isn’t the elite men they don’t care about it is amateur road racing as a whole. The crit receives prime billing because they see that as sustainable and marketable, at least more so, to the general public. It is why they don’t care that their costs to run a road race have skyrocketed eliminating many of the races that were once held. They are also doing the PC thing and putting some of the outlier categories in better slots to make groups like your 13-14 years old riders feel more included. I would love to see a study done on the mid to long term commitment of cycling age groups, the current cycling model seems to throw lots of time and effort into groups that could “grow” the sport only to see those riders wash out as soon as they aren’t getting stuff for free. Say what you will about masters riders but they typically accept that they have to pay something to play.

  5. Matt

    Probably related to safety: hotter later in the day, and elites are riding harder and longer.

    1. K

      Yup, one of the major problems last year was riders running out of water. Starting at 7am and using a circuit makes it a lot more likely guys will stay hydrated.

      1. Jason Laidlaw

        Safety first means the organizers are putting forth a plan for rides to stay cooler and not pass out from heat exhaustion.

  6. Brenda Jones

    You’ve probably never been in a break only to get neutralized when a faster category passes. By spreading out the prestigious categories, they have reduced the chance of the U23 men messing up the U23 women.

    Women in Washington know exactly what I’m taking about. I’ve left races wondering why I even bothered. Once had the men pass us and then slow down. We were neutralized for nearly 10 miles.

  7. sillypuddy

    Rod , u r 100% right on the money. They’re jr. racers, The fact that they r n a National Championship is a formality. They are not yet at the level most would consider ” ultra competitive “. The Masters races are agressive, competitive, and fast. Infact Masters races are the 2nd fastest just behind pro,1/2. and therefore deserve a marquee slot.
    Sillypuddy OUT!

  8. Barb

    When I read this post, the idea that Steve is complaining didn’t hit me until I read all the comments. What came to mind is the possibility of a second career after he gets to the point where racing isn’t realistic anymore. Like an efficiency consultant for race organizing. What better person to contribute to the process? The problem is, there’s probably little money for that service on the domestic level unless the powers that be really decide to start promoting racing as a revenue-generating entity (and that might ruin it), and the human ego of the existing organizers may not admit they need help. But once he gears down and gets to the point where he’s racing less, maybe a book, outlining all of the observations (not complaints) on how all the races have been run with a ghost writer’s help, would help the sport. LOL In any case, I hope he does better than he thinks he’s going to do…….stay tuned.

  9. Tman

    To feed developement the Jrs should race when the older riders will be around to support them AND there are some crowds to cheer them on. It does not need to be a “prime time” slot. Nobody should have to race when most folks are still sleeping. I think Steve is right, more thought needs to go into planning the time slots.

  10. Fausto

    Steve can defend himself, but I trust a lot of what he says since he has been to a thousand races in various disciplines, at an international level and seen what works and does not. If you look at the World’s format or cross, they are scheduling the most “elite” category as the center of the weekend. USA Cycling has terrible planning, communication issues and credibility problems. The course is not even a challenging road course to test people. I understand the defense of heat, cost, junior attention, but the Nationals should showcase the best of the US and the event should be on par. This is not some small town local promoter production, it’s Nationals. And guess what, Steve brings it up because it has worked better in the past. ATMO

  11. Conrad

    I don’t envy any race promoter trying to organize a road race with a lead and follow car for 18 categories of racing. Logistical nightmare. Impossible to make everyone happy. That being said, USAC drops the ball more than anybody in my experience. I have not renewed my USAC license (ninety bucks now?) for a couple years. If I want to do a road or track race, I can head down south to Oregon, pay 10 bucks for an OBRA membership and a much better event than USAC can do. Probably not a coincidence that participation in USAC road races are in a steady decline; the few independent organizations like OBRA are gaining ground. I thought about doing masters track nationals a couple years ago when it was in Washington. The scratch race alone was 75 bucks. That is about a dollar a lap! No thanks. Similarly, I can pay 90 bucks for a USAC license, 75 bucks for a state license, and maybe 30 bucks in registration fees to do a short, flat, non selective USAC road race. Or I can pay 70 bucks for a super long, hard, and scenic gravel fondo. All the cats in one bag. The course separates people out really fast. The front end is a full on race. Some people just ride a comfortable pace and enjoy the scenery. Everybody has a good time. Oh, you get dinner and a T shirt for that 70 bucks too. What would you rather do?

  12. sillypuddy

    18 categories is to many. Why do they have to b at the same location, course and weekend? Getting back to the moronic eary morning start times, we should all b thankful for the volunteers. These guys had to go to bed at what, 6:00 pm the night b4 to get there by 3:45 am. Running races have to turn volunteers away, triathlon great volunteer participation, road racing hard to find em. If I where to volunteer and u told me 2 b there by3:45 am. I’d tell u to kiss my ass. Specially on a HOLIDAY. Uh-o, Oh-shit, Damn thats a No No!
    That might make me so mad i might just beat u unconscious with my Weber grill. Chase u back to your Prius flinging beer bottles and corn cobbs.
    4:00 am whos goofy idea was that?
    Sillypuddy OUT!

  13. Jim

    “Jim: I bet you favor participation trophies, too.”
    Rod, you have no idea what you are talking about. Nothing, in anything I wrote, should lead you to that conclusion.

    ” I have no problem saying a small group of teenage girls don’t deserve the better starting times. ”
    You are one tough keyboard cowboy!

    “The U23 men, elite men and elite women should be the marque events.”
    Because you say so?
    Let’s be real, this is cycling in the USA. No one outside our sport gives a crap about us or anything we do.

    Want to be in the spotlight? Earn it. Don’t expect it.#littleleagueparents
    “Earn it”?? By what, getting older?

    BTW, my kids are likely older than most of the people reading this blog so I don’t think I fit your description. Again, nice try!

  14. T-Ho

    Same thing happens when east coast riders head to the west coast for twilight crits. 7pm San Rafeal twilight is like starting a bike race at 10pm for the east coast guys. Basically, if the race is that important, look ahead at the times and travel out there a few days early to get used to it.


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