A mixed bag at Mt. Pleasant

That’s pretty much the only way I could describe the weekend’s races. At first I decided to skip out on Bonaroo and do Mt. Pleasantso I could visit the family. Turned out my parents were dropping my brother off in NY that weekend and I only thought to ask after I sold my ticket, so after spending the night at an empty house and subsequently raiding all the food present it was up to Mt. Pleasant.

I decided to skip out on the time trial because time trials suck. However the rest of the weekend is a pretty great bit of racing. The whole town of Mt.Pleasant, which really dwindles in size in the summer months when Central Michigan isn’t in session, really comes out to support the event. The kid’s race literally has more participants than all the USAC events combined. The weekend starts off with your standard crit on a 0.8 mile course then the main event’s the 120 single loop road race that has $5k of prize money. But the really great parts of the race are in the support for the riders. Housing’s provided in the CMU dorms for next to nothing. They also give each racer a REAL race packet with a T-Shirt, which is a great tradition of bike racing’s yesteryears…Literally every Michigan racer will wear a Tour of Mt. Pleasant t-shirt at least once a week (bike racing is expensive, can’t be wasting money on silly things like regular clothes). Another awesome part: the “Racer Tent”. What other race not only provides water/Gatorade to the racers, but homemade baked goods and pizza post race?

On to crit racing action! There were some pretty strong winds for the day. The finishing straight was slammed with a headwind the entire length. Going into the race the omnium was dominated by the Michigan Time Trial Team aka Bissell –Nuvo putting 3 of their riders in the top 5. With 10+ riders in the field Bissell would be dictating the race. The Canadian Garneau team also brought a strong assortment of riders with a fast finish.

The plan was to mark Bissell with all their strong guys to see what they were thinking. Turned out Bissell was the glue keeping the peleton together. The only really threatening move came in the last half of the race when Jake Rytlewske got away and built up a straightaway worth of a lead. A Bissell rider was caught in no-mans land for some time. It looked like Jake held up to wait for Bissell, but by then they were within striking distance and were brought back just inside 10 to go.

With 5 to go we got organized behind old teammate Mac Brennan who did a few laps on front for us. With 2 to go I had Bob, Kirk, and Paul still in front. Coming through the finishing straight the last time a few guys started swarming up and required some knee throwing to fend off, but after the first corner it was all Panther. Paul hit it on the back side tailwind section of the course into the 2nd to last corner. I didn’t want to leave it too late like the previous weekend so hit it just before the last corner hoping guys wouldn’t be able to follow me through the last corner, turned out I shouldn’t have worried too much. I got out of the last corner and opened up my sprint, I sneaked a look under my arm since I didn’t see any wheels coming up next to me but there was literally nothing behind. Our lead out had been so dominant we had gapped most of the field halfway through the last lap. All I had to really do was not lay it down in the last corner.

Ok so now that I’ve bored you with that winning the race story it’s time for the controversial bit…the road race and disqualification. I’ll try to keep any disgust I have for the events out so you can make you own opinion. Things didn’t get off to a good start. Just after the race got past the first intermediate sprint (mile 5) the chief ref pulled in front of the field and stopped the entire field and caravan in the middle of a narrow road. He proceeded to scold us for crossing the yellow line and gave us what I guess now was our first and only warning. I can only assume that at that point he was referring to a portion of the course where there was a center turn lane that people might have been riding in (he didn’t specify) and it was a pretty wide road up to that point.

The race continued again. The typical lazy breakaway didn’t really roll off the front, apparently there were more than a handful of people foolish to want to be off the front all day. Attack after attack was brought back. It wasn’t until mile 40 or so that a 4 man group finally rolled off the front. We had missed the move but still had a good 3 hours of racing left so weren’t too concerned. However just before the 1st feed zone we learned that Jake Rytlewski was in the breakaway, this was a problem and it was time to chase. We hit the first feed at mile 60 and got word the break had 6 minutes…more bad news. The entire team hit the front to pull. The guys did some solid work quickly bringing the gap down to 4 minutes with relatively little help from other teams. They weren’t just riding tempo mind you, they were drilling it and the heat was starting to take it’s toll.
 
Feed zone just before we all crossed the center line as one

Approaching the second feed we saw 2 of the breakaway riders coming back. This was signal for hostilities to open up again. Since the Garneau rider had been dropped the Canadians went on the attack. This is when shit really hit the fan. At about 90 miles in everyone was feeling the effects of the heat and guys were going backwards fast. We went through the second feed zone full gas. Things finally settled down at around mile 100, which is where the “infraction” occurred.

 
By that point the field had been reduced to 19 riders on the wide open windswept roads. And everyone was taking a breather. The occasional attack would go but things were sticking together for the meantime. We rolled through the last sprint at mile 110 and Tom Burke attacked and was 20 seconds off the front. That’s when the ref’s car gunned it past up to Tom…he stopped and we all though he got busted for yellow line or something. As we rode past he yelled “the race’s over”. The ref car pulled in front of us and told us we were all disqualified for crossing the center line. No warnings were given, this was the first time we’d seen the official’s car since he stopped us at mile 5.
 
Everyone’s left of center from this angle

Brief caveat on the yellow line rule:

You are not allowed to ride left of center, generally this is a pretty loose rule, you can temporarily ride left of the center line with the natural movement of the field, to avoid crashes, or obstacles. You definitely cannot advance your position left of center. In every other race I’ve done this rule is enforced by the ref coming up next to the field and verbally warning an offending rider and relegating him to the back of the field.
 
We were all pretty reasonably pissed and felt this was very unfair, we agreed to stop at the finish line in protest.
 
After the race we called a rider’s meeting to discuss with the officials what happened. 20 riders gathered all completely dehydrated and crusted in sweat in a town hall conference room that looked like it belonged in Wall Street. The official opened the meeting by reciting to us category ½ racers the rule out of the rule book. We then asked him in his records where we had violated the center line rule.
 
“You all did it at mile 101”We each asked him about our individual numbers when we crossed the line and that was his answer every time: “you all did it at mile 101”. He was never very specific about it.

The other officials sat completely silent.

It became clear that the officials were there to look after themselves and had no desire to take any action or investigate anything. It was the one official’s word against ours and his word was law. When it became clear that they had no desire to do anything about our complaints we left.

What’s terrible about the situation isn’t that a bunch of ½ racers wasted their day. It’s that this hurts the race itself. Mt. Pleasantis a new race only in it’s 4th year. And it’s a great event! This wasn’t their fault! USACycling brought in the national commissar themselves, the race did not pick local officials.
I’ve emailed the USA Cycling Technical Director as per suggestion of the USACycling twitter feed. If you were involved in this and have a minute feel free to contact him as well, he’s out of office until June 15 (automated email response).

Officials / Rules
Shawn Farrell 434-4264 Technical Director
sfarrell@usacycling.org

 

Scott Kroske has a pretty great album of pictures here that I lifted all the above pictures from.
(tell me how many pictures you see where the entire field is crossing the center line)
If anything this is the most well behaved cat 1-2 field I’ve ever seen.
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6 Comments

  1. I can see the USAC side of this story. Totally. They’re ultimately responsible for the safety of the riders and motorists.
    That said, I also see a self-policing side in which Cat 1-2 riders know how to ride as a safe group. On a course like this in which sight lines are over 1/4 mile, I don’t see the need to be so strict in the enforcement of that rule in the 1-2 field.
    In the 3s? Yes, of course.
    In the Masters 35+? No. 45+? Probably not.

    On a different course with blind curves and tricky descents? Yes.

    This was farmland racing on a windy day. I think better discretion was in order. But I think the official let authority get the best of him this day.
    It sounds like he gave them just one warning early on. Then he stewed about it for 100 miles. Then boiled over.

    He’s likely never raced a bike in his life.

  2. Sorry to hear about this!! Sounds like the local Cincinnati officials should have been up there, they are great! I hope USAC digs into this and comes up with some sort of fair resolution.

  3. A similar thing (much smaller scale) happened to Joe Bossemer at Mt Victory RR a month or so ago. The official gave one warning to the field, of SIX 1/2 guys mind you, and then DQ’ed Boz for violating the yellow line rule. He didn’t give a location, but I believe it was in reference to a road where there was no centerline.

    It seems that in both cases the ref went on an uneccessary power trip. Like those above said, hopefully USAC actually looks into it!

  4. per Shawn Farrell –

    “There was a member of the group disqualified who is actually in the Local Association and who assigns officials in a neighboring state who also said that the call was just, even though he, himself, was disqualified.”

    Was this Andys Burns?

  5. could this have been when the field is preparing for a right turn so you swung out into the other lane? i looks like mile 101 is right before you start heading south back into mt. pleasant. this happens all of the time in all categories, but nothing comes from it.

    as the rule says as well, that if you’re avoiding an obstacle or crash, for the better safety of you, the racer, and the group, then it’s okay to cross the line.

    the rule is to avoid people hanging out in the opposite lane of traffic or advancing position when the course is open to traffic.

    from what i’ve heard from everyone involved so far, it seems like an innocent mishap and an abuse of power. the cat 4 official said she was going to sight people for littering if we dropped any of our food packets, accidental or not!

    fyi for racers, it’s the official’s jobs to create a sense of unity amongst them. so, you’re not going to get an official speaking out against a commissionaire in public.

  6. Anon – I got the same response about some people “confessing” to crossing the yellow line from Shawn. The fact is that you can only really account for yourself and the fact of the matter is I honestly have no idea where the official was talking about at mile 101 (since he didn’t warn us when it happened), so I’m not sure how the people who confessed can be sure that that’s when they passed the yellow line.

    If we can’t even remember where/when we made the infraction how can we be expected to improve on our “disregard for safety”?

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