Constructive Criticism: Stevens’ Criterium
Sigh. There’s a lot to say about Stevens’ hosting their first race in the ECCC. Even before the race, there was widespread concern about the course,
The attendance for this event is already going to suffer because of the logistical issues (parking) imposed by the venue and well known concerns among the officials, other teams, and myself about earlier course designs. ~Anonymous
On race morning, it was clear that these concerns did not fall on deaf ears. This was the smallest ECCC race I’d been to in years, maybe even in 7 years. Deserved or not, half of the conference felt obliged to slap Stevens on the wrist for promotional transgressions.
I’ll say the good before the bad. I think Stevens did a fine job putting on the event. The running of the races was smooth and the corners were marshaled well. This is not easy for a new team with a small crew. For that I thank the Stevens team.
The course was the problem. This was a course designed by someone who was unfamiliar with road racing. It was dangerous, too small, too short, and too hard. This is not my subjective appraisal. There was proof in the racing this was the case. In almost every race, fewer than half the (already small) pack could finish. Riders were lapped all over the place. Spectators could not tell whom was on which lap. There were potholes and speedbumps on every section. There was no time or place to recover after climbing the hill. It was a mess. To stay in the A field required you to take a turn at 28 mph into a string of potholes on a 15% grade. Derailleurs were rattled into oblivion. I wont even start on the 3 speedbumps on the run into the finish line.
These are not the signs of a “hard course.” These are the signs of a dangerous course that was too small. “The field was blown apart by the end of the neutral start,” said one rider from another team, whose name I withhold. That’s not attrition, that’s stupidity. My girlfriend Stacey (who has seen more racing hours than the entire Stevens team put together) knew the course was wrong the moment we turned on 8th street. A course that is okay for a 20 mph intro race is not good-to-go for a 26 mph A field.
The officials are as much at fault for approving the course as Stevens for thinking it was “Beanpot like” (side note: the Beanpot crit was stupid. Sending riders to the hospital because they wrapped their torso around a parking meter is stupid). There were few crashes, but that was because the fields were narrowed down to 10 people 3 laps into the race, not to mention the lack of any formation even approaching a peloton. To put it in engineering terms for the cocky Stevens lads (“remember we are engineers and actually work in school,” says one of them), the probability of crashes is a function, perhaps with exponent >1, of the number of riders in the race.
Would I attend another Stevens race? Sure. Will I attend one on the same course? That’s about as probable as a humble blog post from a Stevens rider.