Letters to Cyclingnews – February 22, 2002

Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.

Please email your correspondence to letters@cyclingnews.com.

Shortly after Tuesday's letters went live we heard from Valley of the Sun Stage race organiser Timothy Bolan, and from several other riders who were involved or who had opinions on this race. Rather than wait till next week's letters page, and at Mr Bolan's request, we thought it useful to allow opinions and explanations to be aired now.

Promoter Explanation

Hi Chris and all other VOS racers,

As the race promoter for the Valley of the Sun Stage Race I can only assure you that you were not singled out solely. Unless you host an event of this size, you most likely have no idea what happens behind the scenes. On that given day I must support the officials on what they were trying to enforce. Being an elite athlete myself, I do understand the cyclist's frustrations, however can you really say you did not cross the yellow line. Chris you stated you did. What I don't understand is how the cyclist's say they were not warned:

  1. We published it visibly in our race bible.
  2. The chief official announced her intent before the start of every race.
  3. USCF had officials following race packs and warned all cyclist's by car horne and yelling once again.
  4. Every rider that was eventually disqualified was listed by two separate officials at different times. Which means all disqualified riders actually crossed the yellow line a number of times.

If you were one of the athletes disqualified I can only pray you realize it was done so for safety purposes only. Most do not realize that when you require a permit for road closures with DPS (Department of Public Safety) along with the associated city being The City of Casa Grande, we as race promoters MUST follow all permit restrictions or we lose our race course. This year was so bad that on the first and second lap DPS threatened to shut it down right then and NEVER permit our race course again. That's when USCF had to take action.

I would also like to state that several riders were asked to drop out of the race but did not, they kept riding which in turn effected the race in two ways:

  1. What should have sent a statement early to the rest of the pack, meaning less DQ's but also
  2. Could have changed the entire race results for others who were following the race rules.

If you're angry because you were DQ'ed, then realize you were not following our race rules. I'm sorry if you don't understand that we spend 7 months out of the year trying to host this event, and we would prefer to keep our race course, and keep all of our riders out of harm's way. My wife and I volunteer to promote this race, we do not get paid, we do so because we love cycling as do you. If they were to neutralize the RR then we just spent 7 months for nothing. We just want our racers to be safe and have fun while doing so. I guess after letters like these and comments all day at the criterium is why Janell and I will never host this event again. Good luck in the future and I hope you can lead by example by following rules.

Timothy Bolen
Tuesday, February 19

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Keeping the course open

In Chris' letter he stated how the officials warned of disqualification for crossing the line. This is not just to randomly punish, but to keep the course open for future races. The injustices he speaks of are actually quite childish when you consider the recent events in the world. So, my recommendation to Chris is to pay attention during pre-race announcements and give someone a hug today.

D. Maxwell Jr.
Tuesday, February 19

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Rules have reasons

Get a clue! This rule is in place for a very good reason: your life is more important than a bike race (or maybe not)! We have all read about lawsuits won against the USCF by the survivors of some bonehead who thought he was invincible and above the rules as well. I too have done this race many times and did it this year. Myself and a majority of the field managed to stay on the right side of the line. If it comes down to being trailed off of the pack in the echelon or crossing the line, maybe you should have made sure you were far enough up in the field that it wasn't a concern. It's about time the officials started taking the rule seriously.

Christopher Sproul
Tuesday, February 19

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Take responsibility

True to our "American Standard" someone else must be to blame for our actions. No one is willing to take responsibility for their own actions.

The rules are there to protect one and all. If the course is open to traffic, then it only makes sense to enforce the yellow line, for the public's safety and that of the riders. And the organization should be held responsible because "everyone else did it?" Really? The old adage goes, "you will race like you practice..." and training rides, where there is no money or reward offered are performed the same way. Silly people doing stupid things, irritating the motorists, putting others in the group at risk, etc.

I don't know where the idea of "independent thought" was lost on cyclists, but it's gone the way of the buffalo. I can't count the number of times our group has been removed from Camp Pendelton because they echelon across into the other lane. Be a leader. Stick your nose in the gutter and ride up the right. It's hard, but it will make you stronger (plus you get to finish the race). And you may be surprised at those that will follow you.

I suppose we should all follow suit with the pros and not wear helmets and then blame the city because we crashed and ended up in rehab?

So, write your letters. Maybe USA cycling or USPRO will step up. Maybe they'll suspend you for a couple of weeks.

Erik Bender
Tuesday, February 19

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Everyone should have been DQed

It sounds like the only thing the officials did wrong was not to disqualify the entire field for Center Line Violations. It is embarrassing that Pros have to break the rules at an amateur race to be competitive. It is also a bit embarrassing that our best American Pros got caught by a bunch of Cat.
2s! Sounds like this race should be an Amateur only event with smaller field limits that the officials can handle. Having a bunch of Pros clogging the open roads does nobody any good. Here is Colorado we have lost a number of races because the Pro, 1, 2 fields can not follow the Center Line rule.
Have them stick to crits and give the road races to the categories that can follow the rules!

Stephen Haydel
Boulder, Colorado
Thursday, February 21

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Sympathy and reality

As a Category II racer myself, I have experienced the same in regards to disqualification for yellow line violations.

On one hand, you the racer, are at XYZ event and paying a lot of money to race, you love the sport, and train hard to race against the top competition in this country, then you get DQ'ed for something like a yellow line violation. Some of this is out of your control because you need the shelter from the wind. The best enforcement I've ever seen when the whole pack was over the yellow line was the official stopped the race and EVERYONE was DQ'ed! However, this is a stage race and you should have some people finish, otherwise how can you promote the race for next year?!

You've been DQ'ed and your really mad, and some of the Pro's are mad too, this really sucks!

On the other hand, and I'm going out on a limb here, why can't we racers get the idea of an echelon? How many races have you been in where you are either in the gutter, with no protection, and hurting to stay on the wheel ahead of you, or you are all strung out across the yellow line? If there is an echelon, there is only one at the front (the smart Pro's and Amateurs stay in the shelter and fight hard for it!); everyone else is left to die in the gutter. Why? There has to be a better way! There is a better way, and you try and get a second echelon working for a couple of rotations and somehow racers think that the gutter is a better option and must try to squeeze into the lead echelon. Arrgghhhh, that makes me just as mad as a yellow line DQ because now, only the top 20 or so (the lead echelon) are in contention! We can race smarter than that...

I wasn't there at the Valley of the Sun, so I can't say that the officials were right or wrong or were not fair to everyone involved. However, if you cross the yellow line in a race, you know it is against regulations, and it is going to be a big gamble whether or not the officials disqualify you or not. Officials usually tell you before the race that they will disqualify for yellow line violations; every racer has had to make that choice because sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you don't. If the whole pack is in violation, then you can only hope the official's judgment will be fair to everyone involved, but the VOS is an example that this is not always the case. It is a fine balance because if we can't get people to officiate, then we don't have races. Maybe changing how officials rule disqualification is the answer, or maybe it is part of the answer. The other part may be changing how we race.

B. LeMaitre
Denver, CO
Thursday February 21

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Aerobar error

I too was at this stage race this weekend. While I was not disqualified for crossing the centerline, I was not allowed to use a legal set of aero bars during the individual time trial on Friday.

As I approached the start ramp, and was waiting for my number to be called, the race official at the start ramp told me that my bars were illegal, and that they would have to be removed or she would disqualify me from racing. Having travelled from North Carolina for the race, and only have several minutes until my start time, I rushed back to the car, performed some minor surgery and removed the offending bars from my bike. Leaving me to time trial, in the wind, on an open road, with a standard road bike and no special equipment. During the time trial, as I approached, reached, and turned around at the far end of the course, coming back, I was passed by another rider who was using the same equipment that they made me remove from my bike before starting. The bars I was using were Cane Creek Speedbars, and not only are they legal for time trials, they are also legal for any mass start road race. As I said, limited time to protest before my start.

Upon finishing near the person that had passed me by during the race, I pointed out to the same official that he had the same equipment as I, and how come he didn't have to remove his bars? The only response she could give me was, "Oops, I made a mistake". Thereby ending any hope I might have for making the GC. I was now down on the leaders by over 3 minutes. Not that I would have made up that amount of time with some aerodynamic equipment, but it would not have hurt my chances. I had to ride the 20K time trial with my forearms on the tops of my bars, hands out in front to try and minimize my drag. As you can imagine, this was an uncomfortable position to try and hold for 20+ minutes. The official screwed up, huge.

A story I heard from the road race on the pro side of things was that Gord Fraser did not indeed cuss out the officials, or use bad language against them. Ask pretty much anyone that was around him at the time of the incident. A story that I heard was that Mr. Fraser is an outspoken kind of guy, and the officials in Arizona have taken offense to this in the past, and kind of thought it as retribution. The disqualifications, as far as myself, or anyone else could tell that was there, were totally arbitrary, and out of line for what happened. If someone next to you swerves, the best thing to do is to swerve also, to avoid hitting the brakes, and possibly causing a serious crash. Several people were disqualified from my race as well, yet I don't recall anyone going over the line at any point in time from what I could tell. Once again, it seemed arbitrary.

Also, they disqualified the racers, but did not tell them about it, either until they went to review results (results were posted at the sponsoring bike shop and host hotels, not at race venues), or when they showed up to ride the criterium the next day. Funny how the USCF rule book states that results need to be posted at race venues for protests and such. By the time a lot of people found out they were disqualified, it was too late to lodge a protest (you only get 15 minutes from the posting of results), and also, they let everyone who was disqualified finish the race without notifying them of being disqualified.

The officiating was the downside to the weekend. The race was good, except for that the officials didn't seem to know the rules, or really knew what was going on most of the time. The courses were great, the racing was intense, and the weather was beautiful. Maybe they should import some officials next year who know what exactly they are doing.

Tom Arsenault
Chapel Hill, NC
Tuesday, February 19

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Another DQed rider

I too was DQ'd from the "Valley of the Sun" Cat 2 road race for a centerline violation. I however, was informed of my DQ while in the race, at which time I stopped to talk to the head official about her decision. Once I confirmed her decision, I left her with several choice words. My response earned a recommended 15 day suspension. Three of my teammates finished the race, although one found out that evening that he too, was DQ'ed. Our four man team was down to two.

The Cat 2 riders caught the Pro/1 field on the second lap and proceeded to mesh together, the 200+ man mayhem that ensued left some riders on the ground and all others on the "entire" road fighting for position.

The entire cat 2 field was at one time or another on the "other" side of the road. The inconsistencies exhibited by the head race official were extraordinary and downright unsafe.

Peter Randelius
Tuesday, February 19

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I am a cat 1 rider that also did that race. I am 19 years old and have been doing that race since I was 16 years old. I have won there and I have lost I have seen many weird things go on in that race. But when I woke up Sunday morning and went to look at the results I was about to faint when I saw the DQ list for pro,1 that was a whole page long. There were 126 riders that started on Saturday and only 73 that were allowed to start. These officials are being ridiculous, I understand that they are out there to take care of us but there are some people out there that do not travel hours by car and spend lots of money at a hotel to get DQ'ed. There needs to be something done to prevent this from happening again.

What do the officials expect from the biggest field in the whole race? It is impossible to hold 126 riders in a 12 foot space with out someone crossing the line. In reality the demise of Vassily Davidenko, who was seriously injured in a crash, was caused by riders who were trying to follow the rules. If we were just given a little bit more space to move things like this wouldn't happen. I was racing in Spain for the 2001 season. There is no way that cycling in the U.S. is going to improve if situations like this are going to e caused. Yellow lines were not the only thing that the officials had in mind for grounds of diqualification. I was told by the Chief Ref that I could not use my Cane Creek Z bars for the Individual Time Trial. I asked why, and her response was that she did not like them. What is going to happen to U.S. cycling.

Jaime Gandara Jr.
El Paso Tx.
Tuesday, February 19

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