December 05, 2006

MCF & related topics

So there's quite the discussion going on about the MCF on some of the local blogs. At the risk of opening myself up to much ridicule, I'm going to chime in on this discussion here at Got the Bonk, but before I do, I'd like to list a few of my qualifications for the skeptics out there - my resume doesn't quite look like Skibby's or Smithers', but it's better than nothing:

  • I am a MN Cat 4 bike racer on the new Grumpy's/LGR club
  • I volunteered for a plethora of races before I even started bike racing, and I have volunteered for a bunch since I started racing
  • I am the co-founder of the local Velo Bella club and I promoted the State Crit/Campus Crit for two years as part of that club (and helped promote a third race, the Withrow TT)
  • I attended almost all of the MCF meetings while on Velo Bella (~ 3 yrs), and never once left early (not that I have a problem with that)
  • I helped start Midwest Women's Cycling Made Real (MWCMR) last year, and I kept track of all of the points for that series throughout the season
  • I am involved with planning for MWCMR for next year
  • I was part of the 3-person committee who started (and I created the original website which is now being updated by StevenCX)
So I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I think I'm entitled to an opinion or two, and I'd like to share a woman's opinion since it seems most of the people posting comments on this MCF topic are men:

  1. While I agree that the MCF should do more to help race promoters, specifically first-time promoters and/or new clubs, I think that promoting/encouraging new racers, especially women and juniors, still deserves some attention from the MCF.
    • Women's racing here in MN is not like men's racing. Imagine rolling up to the line for your very first race, along with only 10- 15 other women, and when the race starts and you're trying to clip into your pedals newbie-style, Teresa attacks. Your race is done before it really even started, and this is not uncommon for a women's race here. Women's Open races do not promote growth in women's cycling. Or imagine doing an Opus race with only 6 - 12 other racers - there really isn't any such thing as "sitting in", and "tactics" rarely come into play (unless 5 women on one team are ganging up on the other 4 women who are all on different teams). The MCF was involved in helping start MWCMR which provided Cat 4 only races for women. Like Cat 4/5 races for men, women's Cat 4 races are an integral part in growing women's cycling, and while MWCMR has made some progress and hopefully will continue to make progress, the MCF has helped make that happen...both through funding and support.
    • While the initiative hasn't gone as far as we originally planned, I still think there's more that can be done with it, and it could eventually serve it's original purpose - to provide general cycling information (e.g. licenses, rules, types of races, etc.), to provide information for new racers to make racing less intimidating, and most importantly, to connect new racers with local clubs. We did recognize that getting people on local clubs will give them the support system and encouragement that they need. The initiative has also been funded and supported by the MCF. (note - sometimes it's difficult for a lot of the experienced racers to remember what it was like to be a newbie)
    • Juniors - I'm no expert on juniors racing, but there are currently very few racing in MN. Why is that? I'm not sure what the answer is here - but I do know that I was a very athletic kid, yet I wasn't exposed to serious bike racing until I was in my mid-to-late twenties. Cycling is expensive, it's not a high school sport or even a club (with a few exceptions), and very few kids get exposed to it. The junior discussion used to come up a lot at MCF meetings, and the bottom line was just that there were no "adults" willing to volunteer their time to help out with the juniors program (after Banning left). Dag has done a great job this year, but I'd like to see the MCF sink something more into a juniors program - any ideas?
  2. Race promotion
    • I think it's great that the MCF is willing to consider the "First Time Race Loan" that Super Rookie had proposed. When we first started Velo Bella and wanted to promote the state crit, we had $0 in our bank account (like Cat6, VB doesn't have membership dues). A few teammates and I had to front a lot of the money with hopes that we'd be able to get that money back. Amongst many costs, the police for the race (which is required by the U of M) cost $600. We were lucky enough to have a big cash sponsor (which was awesome, but is obviously not the norm), but we didn't get that money until after the race. That first year, I was truly amazed/overwhelmed by the costs and efforts that go into race promotion.
    • I didn't know what the hell I was doing the first year I promoted the state crit - but I was lucky enough to have one of the previous promoters hold my hand through the whole thing. I think it would be great if the MCF did more for promoters, but what are your ideas? They've been doing the "Promoter's Clinics", and I attended one of those before promoting the state crit the second time around, and I thought it was really I'd like to see the MCF continue that, but what else? If you think that race promotion is the biggest thing the MCF should be working on, what are your ideas?
    • I don't have any great ideas (just yet anyway) for doing more for race promoter's, but I'd love to answer any questions about race promotion.
Personally, I'd like to see the money that is spent on the MCF banquet go towards other initiatives - race promoter clinic(s), juniors, MWCMR,, etc. As I mentioned above, a lot of these things have been funded the past few years and I think the MCF is on the right track, but could do more. Do we really need a MCF banquet every year when there's other seemingly more important things to fund? It seems like the banquets are just for those people who feel strongly about ROY, CRY, TTOY, and TOY...but I admit I could be wrong about that. I have been to the last few banquets, and while Bob Roll was awesome, I think one really good speaker every 2-3 years (if that) would be sufficient.

One last thing - I know this has been said before, but if you've been to the MCF meetings over the years, you know there's one common theme - there are not enough volunteers to help make all of the great ideas come to fruition. Say what you will about the MCF, but remember that everyone on the MCF board is a volunteer - and most of those people have been volunteering for years. I'm by no means saying that there's not room for change/improvement...of course there is, but cut these guys some slack.



Skibby said...

excellent, I've always thought that you would make a great MCF president. However, I wouldn't wish that job on anyone...

Anonymous said...

A well-done post Strats. The men experience the same thing in the Cat4/5 races. I hear over and over again how much it sucks to be pulled after 5-10 minutes because you're getting lapped by Cat4s that should probably be Cat3 or higher. And I'm sure there are many more we never hear from that never race again after that experience. Hopefully I can do something about that from within the system before I get too jaded. Strats for President!

redBeard said...

when are you launching your 'run-for-president' campaign? There's a good chance the MCF will hire a PR firm; you'll get your face all over the local media....

Gilby said...

I was working on an entry on the same topic, but you put it much better than I could've. I don't think people realize how the negative discussion floating around is in and of itself incredibly discouraging to new racers. If I had been aware of the prevalent "eff new racers" attitude while I was first considering racing, I think I might've been guilted right out of wanting to participate! Who wants to get involved in a cycling community that is so resistant to attracting new racers, or to take advantage of a beginner's field when you feel like the promoter is losing money because of you being there? IMO, the message is that it's a good ole boy's club, and you're not welcome until you're ready to compete against the 1/2/3s. How long could it potentially take for a beginner to feel confident enough to do their first race? Maybe one year? maybe three? By that time, it's far more likely that those potential racers have moved on to a more welcoming, come-as-you-are sport, such as triathlons. Yes, it's a risk for promoters to offer separate beginner's fields, especially with these attitudes being so prevalent; but if the cycling community continues to support the status quo model, that's a lot of potential entry fees that promotors are missing out on down the road.

Strats would make a great MCF president...but first we have to get her out of cat 4!

(dis)pencer said...

i've sad it before, and i'll say it again, mwcmr is the best thing to happen to the mn scene in years.
i think it was a huge success, and those who helped make it possible should be very proud.

the mcf should consider a similar program for men's cat 5 only...

Anonymous said...

By that time, it's far more likely that those potential racers have moved on to a more welcoming, come-as-you-are sport, such as triathlons.
Hmmm, another Gilby/triathlon reference. I hope you don't give up on bike racing altogether, you're an inspiration to other women getting into the sport!
(dis) I think the ball's already rolling on separate Cat5 fields.

Gilby said...

Hmmm, another Gilby/triathlon reference.

Don't worry--I don't even have a tri top or a MTB to clip aero bars onto. :P But I do think that promoters & naysayers within the local cycling community could give a little more thought to why multisport events are so much more popular than cycling.

Thanks to people like Strats, MWCMR was a huge success, and I think that Steven picking up work on is equally commendable!

Anonymous said...

However, I wouldn't wish that job on anyone...

I wouldn't wish that job on anyone either...including me. But thanks for the support!

AdamB said...

I completely agree with all that.

It certainly adds perspective. Next time I feel like complaining about how tough the 4/5 field is, I will remember how much it sucks to race in the women's fields!

Thanks for a fresh perspective.

Lynne said...

Wow, am I behind on Blog-reading! Thanks so much for the post, really excellent points (speaking as a woman newbie). It's hard enough racing against 3's in CX; if there weren't a separate Cat 4 race for women, I wouldn't even consider any other type of racing! And Gilby, also really good points. You know how a newbie person feels and did a great job of expressing that. I have no problem handing over my money and coming in long as I don't step off the course feeling like no one wanted me out there or I was just in the way (I saw some comments from another state mentioning that...I haven't felt that here, which is great).

Anonymous said...


we are in the tonk, and you have a flat... but the bonk has been avoided!