Thursday, December 3, 2009

Projects, Early 2009/12

When we introduced the ECCC Blogosphere, many prescient commentators (e.g., Ninja Don from Rutgers) obviously but no less astutely noted that a whole lot of blogs would be started up, then quickly fizzle out. That's been true, but I think it also spawned a good number of blogs with real longevity and activity. Mine is not one of them.

However, I've recently decided to put more effort into putting my blog to good use. With the increasing number of people contributing to running the ECCC, we need to do more to direct, organize, and keep track of those contributions. On many levels it would be good to have all that out there where other people can follow along, so I'm going to combine the two and post more up here about what's happening "behind the scenes" in the ECCC.

Recent Projects

Early September to mid November is pretty brutal in the ECCC. Between MTB season, the Local Association/Conference Director/Board of Trustees meeting at USAC, and the ECCC November meeting, it's a long drag. I personally have responded to this by not doing much cycling related in the past few weeks since the fall meeting except crashing my MTB into logs...

That said, things have been happening. Most notably, we had great response to the call for a host housing director. A surprising number of people expressed interest in renewing that important role in the ECCC. For 2010, Arthur Wicks from U Delaware will be stepping up to take charge of that project. Beyond immediately jumping on the call, Arthur had already developed several important thoughts and ideas on that effort. I'm very excited about having him in charge of the ECCC's host housing project this coming season. I think this is a long neglected effort that is going to rebound very quickly, with great impact this spring.

Current Projects

So, this is the current to-do list for the near future:

  • Develop & writeup host housing procedures, forms, timelines
  • Road flyer requirements
  • 2010 budget
  • Women's cycling plans
  • CX final scoring
  • Road flyer requirements
  • ECCC state incorporation paperwork
  • Road permitting notes
  • ECCC website
  • ECCC rulebook
  • Officiating & LA notifications
  • Women's cycling plans
  • Women's cycling: Website section outline
  • ECCC news blog/main site integration
  • Road flyer requirements
  • Road Intro curriculum
  • Team recruitment plans

Friday, May 15, 2009


So, that happened. Nine weekends, twenty seven events, seven thousand two hundred and two individual starts (not including TTTs or USAC Road categories). All in all, the season went well.

Perhaps most importantly, I don't think there were too many serious injuries. That's not to say there weren't tragedies, there certainly were, but I'm not aware of any outrageously bad incidents in competition. A number of collar bones, an elbow, some wrists, a pinkie, a few concussions. I could be wrong, but I don't think there was much more serious than that, which, sad to say, is a positive result in this sport. Collecting incident data and improving course review procedures is definitely on the agenda for next year, however.

Beyond that, participation in 2009 was awesome. The chart here plots growth over the last seven years, the only years for which we really have solid data, as charted by rider starts (i.e., as opposed to unique riders). Note that 2007 featured several weekends canceled due to "weather," hence the sudden dip in participation. That dip probably had large effects on 2008, especially when combined with a general slowing in cycling growth (a dulling of the national Lance Effect). It will be interested to see what kind of growth we see next year. One very reasonable theory is that conference growth has substantial lag effects. For example, dropping five days of racing in 2007 meant that 2008 took a substantial hit right off the bat, and had minimal growth from 2006. On the positive side though, given that so many people raced so much this year, what will next year look like? There was a bumper crop of Women's B, Men's D, and Intro racers this year, which could have positive, long term effects for the next few years.

On that note, women's participation by raw numbers was stellar this year. I don't think any race has been close to the ~110 women that raced at Rutgers/Princeton this year. That said, percentages followed a trend of the last two years and were slightly down compared to a few years ago, averaging 20.47% women each weekend in 2009 with a maximum of 24.92%, as opposed to 25% average in 2006 and a 33% maximum. Given that there was not a decline in women's participation, that means we're not growing women's cycling as quickly as men's cycling, and that's something we need to get back on track.

Overall though, growth seemed solid, and we should all be happy. Our biggest races were not quite as big as the 2007 record-setters, but they were close, and all races this year shifted up a scale. Even our smallest weekends are getting close to what was solidly mid-tier not too long ago.

For those interested, statistics from the past few years have been uploaded to the ECCC website, here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Post-Season Fun

Obviously a lot happened this weekend, and I have not fully processed anything yet other than ECCC Nationals Qualifications. I will say though that I think it was a fantastic season and this past weekend was a great way to cap it off.

While we're all thinking about how to best express how awesome this season went, two weeks from now several of us from Drexel, Union, and maybe some other schools are planning to race at the Tour of Syracuse. It's pretty low key and we had a good time last year. If anyone is interested in joining the fun, let us know! The weekend is a prologue ITT, road race, and crit for $50. ITT is short and fairly flat. Road race has some solid climbs, but nothing out of hand. Crit is returning to a previously used course (not last year's), which is well known & liked.

For those not going to Nationals, make sure to check out the UMass Orchard Assault going on this weekend!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

L'Enfer du Nord

As usual, the Dartmouth weekend was a stunning success. As I had to explain to several administrators & officials in the weeks leading up to the race, the Dartmouth promoters operate in a kind of stealth mode. You get real worried because the permits & flyer all show up at the last minute, but when you hit the ground on race-day everything's excellently prepared.

We haven't used that road course in a couple years, but it used to be a staple of the ECCC calendar. The finishing climb and opening segments were excellent new additions though, improving the logistics and raising the bar for the racers. Previously we staged in the edges of Hanover and finished in Norwich, the small town the course goes through. Thetford Academy was a much better staging area though, and the finishing climb a great addition. The crit has also been used a number of times over the years, frequently in the rain.

Rolling around behind some of the fields this weekend, I thought a lot about some of the great races I've seen and even been in there. The combination of stiff climbing and long flat section make the road race very tactical, and the crit's a surprisingly technical affair. Some of the most epic Drexel Cycling weekends have been up at Dartmouth.

At one point years ago all of the Drexel mountain bikers---15 or so racers---bought road bikes and started racing both seasons, instantly lifting the road team from a paltry 2 members to a regular group of ~13 racers. It was a big change. We had racers, we had new kits, we had no budget... Certainly not enough to support a good baker's dozen of riders doing all of both the ECCC MTB and road seasons.

Absurdly cheap, starving college students that everybody was, we decided to camp. All year. That works ok for MTB season. Road racing is brutal for camping. It's hard to find sites and the weather can be disastrous, as it chose to be that year. Needless to say, we got into a pattern of basically driving to a race and finding somewhere, anywhere, near the courses to camp, then praying fervently that no one caught serious hypothermia. Fortunately, a few weeks into the season EMS had a large sale so a lot of us stocked up on real winter sleeping bags rather than the layers of blankets and summer, boy scout-type bags we had been using. Only one serious hypothermia problem developed that season.

Rolling up to Dartmouth, we had no idea where we were going to camp. Fortunately, it turns out there's a golf course right on campus so we rolled up, threw down our bags, and slept under the open skies on one of the back holes. Let me tell you, no camp site is more plush than the greens on even modestly kept golf courses. I'm sure we would have been arrested if the police weren't so busy controlling the raging keg party going on a couple holes down.

Waking in the morning was breathtaking with the sunrise coming up over the trees before us, shining in the cool air, its brightness only amplified by the excitement of misdemeanor trespassing. That, however, was not nearly as exciting as driving around town looking for breakfast and sighting one of the Dartmouth racers, super popular that year for her habit of walking around all day in blazingly loud ski racing tights matched up with even louder cowboy boots & hat...

A few years later, we still had a solid ~13 road racers, though we'd graduated to staying in ultra skeazy hotels. That year's Dartmouth trip featured lodging in the Days Inn down the highway, its main feature being the FunDome---a large interior, indoor courtyard packed with dead fake plants, greasy barbecue grills, greasier jacuzzis, lots of broken arcade machines, and even more underage prom night partiers...

Just like this year, the crit was a sloppy, awful mess for good portions of the day. I freely admit swinging way too wide and off into the grass not once but twice on the hairpin downhill-uphill corner by the pond, mud flinging everywhere as I spun wheels trying to get off the grass and sprint back into the field. The second time it didn't happen; my only solace was that Erik, the only other Drexel rider in my races that year, also popped at one point and we finished the crit hand in hand, completely unable to see through all the rain and grit.

The road race was really where the action was though. Erik and I were doing well that year, and really looking for a solid result. Early in our race a few marked riders made a break for it on the first set of rises. Knowing that was the gambit, I booked it through the next two climbs to tack on just before they hit the descent. The break worked pretty well for some time, gaining lots of ground over the next lap or so, but I couldn't hold it and eventually fell off just after the hairpin, legs burning, dieing.

Trudging down the flat stretch, blasted by headwind, I was utterly shattered, completely cracked. When the group came by, I was a goner drifting alongside, no hope of latching on. Then I saw Erik, looked in his eyes, and thought "Save me." He started yelling to get in, made space in the line, gave me some of his bars to replace my devoured supply. The next time through the climbs, drained, I couldn't keep up with the group. Erik and I drifted back with the stragglers over the climb until he looked around, looked at me, and said "Follow me." Drawing on all his better technical skills, me following his lead, we screamed wheel to wheel down the descent, passed recklessly, perilously through the hairpin, flew full speed through the short rise afterward and reattached to the field momentarily.

Regrouping, re-energized, we both pulled through to the front of the group and drilled it together for the remainder of the race, fighting a mammoth, fruitless battle to push the pace through UVM's smothering block and reel in the break. Unsuccessful, it was a still an epic, fantastic race for us, both smiling as we rolled through the line behind the lead cluster putting it out for the field sprint. Like many great races it perfectly encapsulated the true beauty of competitive cycling, seamlessly blending individual effort and team strength.

Postscript: In keeping with the true team spirit among the Drexel crew, Erik sprinted right past me as we coasted across the line, ensuring he got placed just ahead of me. Looking back, all smiling teeth with a big cheesy grin, he almost crashed out of shock when I instantly, intensely let out a string of curses upon his name and honor the likes of which any pirate would be proud. It was so bad, a moment later we turned around and apologized to the officials to ensure I didn't get relegated. They professed not to hear anything, but John Frey, whom we didn't really know at the time, said "Oh man, that was you? I heard that! Sniped you at the line, didn't he? Ha!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


One of the things I've really enjoyed this season is watching the bounty of team tactics being put into play by a number of schools.

You can see this in lots of places, in big and small actions. An early, clear, simple example was the Men's A crit at Stevens, with Tom Coupe (UNH) waiting until Josh Lipka (UNH) was well clear of the field, devastated by the brutal climb every lap and unable to match Josh's breakaway, before launching his own attack. Josh then visibly took his foot off the gas just long enough for Tom to join him, then the two motored away to an assured 1-2 placing for UNH.

Another was the finale of this weekend's Yale criterium, where no less than 3 different UVM riders gave an excellent, very obvious leadout from several hundred meters out to put Colin Jaskiewicz (UVM) well ahead of all the conference's strongest sprinters and riders in the final push for the line. It seems to have taken the Catamount's Men's A team a while this season to figure themselves out and get some organized team dynamics going, but now that they're on the ball it's a tough group to beat.

Of course, this is hardly the case in the Men's B field, where the UVM squad has seemingly had their act together the whole season. It's sometimes not been clear when they were using real tactics and when they just had so many people in the field it looked like they were doing something smart, particularly when they've struggled to contain breakout riders and some good team dynamics from UPenn, MIT, and a few other teams, but every now and then they really get it together.

My favorite though has been watching the USMA Men's A squad. Between them and Courtney Rehwoldt (USMA) in the Women's A field, they've done an awesome job at holding onto the lead spot in the ECCC Nationals Qualifications for some time now, an impressive feat for a D2 team. A key aspect of the squad is that any member can do really well on any given day, and each also has their own strength---climbing, sprinting, or covering---that complements the others' well.

One of my favorite races to watch so far this season was the Men's A crit at Army, precisely because it both showed off their strengths and the extent to which they all work together as a group. Early, early in the race Derek Merkler (USMA) and Nick Wheeler (USMA) found themselves in a breakaway with Vinny Scalia (UVM) and Chris Redmond (Rutgers). At first I gave it only marginal odds of succeeding, but the break found a good rhythm and held it together with apparently no infighting until the very end of the race, each member putting in the work to make sure it stuck, especially the USMA guys. There have been very few breakaways this season that Derek has not been involved in this year, covering every serious looking move with seemingly limitless energy, and it was great to see this one pay off big for him and Nick.

Just as importantly, back in the field, the other half of the squad immediately adjusted to defend their guys in the break. Steve Pingree (USMA) quickly switched into the cover role, launching out of the field to bring back any counterattacks or bridging attempts. Erik Wilburn (USMA) meanwhile played a cool defensive role, helping with the blocking and trying to conserve some energy to hedge their bets for the field sprint in case the breakaway was brought back.

All in all, I thought it was a fantastic display of teamwork and group dynamics, each sacrificing and switching around roles a little bit to support each other and bring in some big points for the team. I think it's fitting that the team from the USMA are the ones to really pull together some of the best teamwork and coordinated riding seen in the conference recently.

Hopefully as our fields continue to get bigger and faster and teams keep growing in both size and sophistication we'll see more and more of these sort of coordinated efforts, as that's really what makes crits and road races more than just a mass time trial. Impressively, we've already started to see some slight beginnings of riders looking out for teammates in the Intro races. Next up though I believe is the Women's A field, where we're just starting to have some schools in there with enough riders to really work on a team plan. In particular, I think the MIT Women's A squad now has the numbers, the nature, and the consistency to work some team tactics. More to the point, I think they're going to have to if they hope to cover some of the breakout individual riders in that field, and it should be awesome to watch them do so.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Finish Line Safety

Alright people, another discussion topic: Taking your hands off the bars in sprints. Not acceptable. For example, this is what you should not do:

(photo by ?)

Even if you don't care about those around you, I do not need to receive multiple emails every Monday from Mark Abramson, trying to regulate ECCC finish line safety from the West Coast via finish line photos. I get enough conference email. Chebot, Gurcsik, Whiteman, you're all on notice...

Monday, March 23, 2009


Surprisingly, the majority of officials have never been competitive cyclists. Many don't even ride recreationally. Most got their start because friends or family were or are racers, and they got hooked on the pageantry of cycling, race day logistics puzzles, days in the sun amidst the most beautiful sport.

A key tenant I've been pushing over the last few years is that more racers need to become officials. There are many reasons for this, but one notion is that experienced racers are better equipped to evaluate safety factors. That's not to say by any means that racing experience is necessary to do so or be a good official, but it seems reasonable, modulus some overly gung-ho racers. Without that race experience it's often hard to gauge what racers need and what will work---how far out do they need to know a corner is controlled, how desperately will they avoid that gravel, can they see those lap cards, etc.

But, there are things I've learned that racing experience simply does not provide, and in fact may gloss over. In particular, racers don't generally think about external events and actors. Racers focus on the things they will encounter during their race: Potholes, bumps, sharp corners. They very rarely think about all the things they hopefully never encounter during a race---pedestrians and vehicles being the most troubling---precisely because so many people are working to ensure they don't encounter them.

Any racer can take a quick lap and settle on a corner to worry about that they can't pedal through or take at full speed. Only sharp observers think about mitigating external events, e.g. that doing lap after lap downhill through a blind double s-curve in a heavily trafficked area without total course control would be inviting that sort of external event to happen. Tough corners are problematic; someone may crash, someone may get hurt. That's the nature of the sport. External events are frequently fatal---for the racers if it's a vehicle, for the pedestrians if it's not. That's something to be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, those risks are significantly harder to recognize and judge. They're much less obvious than basic course "features" and the probabilities frequently pretty low. As a promoter, official, director, these are always the hardest decisions. No race can cover every possible contingency and no event can put out more than a finite number of marshals, each with only a very finite ability to control the world around them. Every time a road course crosses an unwatched driveway or tiny side street, every time a crit is held somewhere not in the middle of nowhere, we're all taking risks with gravely serious possibilities. Balancing course tradeoffs, evaluating probabilities versus outcomes, all of that is gut wrenching and definitely the deepest, darkest part of race promotion and officiating.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Introduction to the Future

Opening up the 2009 ECCC road season, the Rutgers/Princeton weekend was a huge success all around. Massive turnout, good courses, solid organization, weather more fantastic than anyone has a right to ask for this time of year.

There were two brief, exemplar moments though where it really shined: The first was when we started the Men's Intro field, and 45 riders and 25+ coaches stepped out onto course. We knew the numbers were high from the time trial and congregating everyone a few minutes early, but that put it all into perspective. Mayhem and bedlam unprecedented reigned for just a few seconds as we tried to straighten out the huge mass of riders and coaches. It was beautiful, and I was actually speechless for a few moments as I simultaneously enjoyed the sight and desperately tried to figure out how to organize the whole affair.

The second moment was twenty five minutes later when we called up the Women's Intro field, and the exact same thing happened---40 riders, 25+ coaches, anarchy and disorder. Amazing. To put that in some perspective, that's more ladies in the Intro race than many races---collegiate or otherwise---have in total. Mere icing on an already delicious cake then to start Women's B and have another 50 (!!!) racers show up.

I think the Intro category has become such an integral part of the scene so quickly that it's worth noting the struggle it took to get off the ground. This is only our third season of Intro Category racing, with a single trial event the year before in the 2006 Beanpot. At the conference meeting in the fall of '06, the motion to mandate Intro categories was a knock down, drag down fight matched only by the push to equalize men's and women's points a few year's before---another disruptive, contentious change quickly shown to be the right direction. The debate wandered around and around in circles for an excessively long time, with firmly entrenched camps on both sides. Clocks were pushing 6 or 7 PM by the time that meeting ended.

Major arguments against the category were and are simple:
  • Racing is supposed to be hard!
  • We don't have time for this in the schedule.
  • Teams already do this on their group rides
The first is so insipid, so shortsighted that I won't even go into it.

The second is easy: We are the ECCC. If it's worth doing, we make it happen.

The third is more interesting. The three counter arguments turned out to be perfectly true:
  • Many riders are still looking for an easy ramp-up into racing, no matter how good the support and guidance from their team.
  • The bulk of the teams out there are pretty small, and many are in areas without well developed cycling scenes. New riders on moderately sized and big teams or in development oriented, cycling-happy areas (hooray for Philadelphia!) may get that kind of support. But most teams aren't big and aren't in those areas. A quick look through the member database makes clear that the majority of ECCC teams have just a few riders. New racers on those teams are often on their own, and many new teams are made up entirely of new racers with no one to show them the ropes.
  • Judging from what we see out on the road, most teams aren't actually doing this kind of development, or not hitting all their riders. New racers are frequently intimidated at coming out with older racers, even with those willing to give them guidance and lead clinic-oriented rides, or just aren't ingrained enough in the team to avail themselves of the opportunity. Even teams that do an excellent job with their new members still have riders showing up in the Intro races that are definitely getting something out of the experience.

When the motion to add the category finally came to a vote, it was close. Mark A, myself, and many others had been fighting for the category by tooth and nail over email and in person for days and hours, and in the end vision prevailed by only a few votes. Few better things have ever happened in cycling.

That first season was pretty rough around the edges. A few events stepped it up with full coaching squads, most notably Rutgers, Philly, and the Beanpot, but at an awful lot of races just Mark A and I wound up coaching, with whomever we could harass into coming along, mostly Drexel boys who failed to come up with good excuses. Racer attendance was generally pretty light as well. We were stoked if we got twelve guys and a handful of women. One sad day in awful, freezing, pouring rain, only one Men's Intro rider lined up for the category.

Having so many people participate is then huge vindication of all the effort that went into getting the category off the ground. I am so happy to see so many riders and so many teams---including clubs originally dead set against the idea---make such good use of the category. Even more rewarding is seeing so many people join in to help guide the races. Having so many team coaches break out their bikes, get kitted up, and dispense some hard won wisdom is a great thing. It is also deeply, deeply satisfying to have so many veteran racers ask if they can help out because they think it's a great idea and a fun way for them to contribute back to the conference, emphasis on the latter. Beautiful.

I believe the success of the Intro category has also been a huge development for women's racing. Women's Intro and Women's B fields were both huge this weekend, many of the B racers having been Intro racers last year. There was even a sudden flurry of discussion among the conference about adding a Women's C category. We're not quite there yet, but at long last it's finally on the horizon.

For a wide variety of reasons, many women have a particularly hard time entering the sport. It's even more difficult for them to find experienced racers to ride with and learn from, and with so few categories there are huge imbalances in skill and fitness within each category that make entry even more daunting. No one gets excited about bicycle racing and learns about it quickly when they spend their race riding alone because there isn't really a beginner's category.

The Intro category goes a long way toward addressing that. Ensuring everyone gets some experience riding in a group and learns some skills both improves their enjoyment and gets them up to speed faster---literally, figuratively. This is the same reason why Caitlin and I have taken to hanging in the back of the Women's B field and providing some guidance back there. The faster our newer women racers can pick up skills and the more they enjoy it, the faster field sizes will grow, categories balance out, and women's racing move toward its potential.

Thank you very, very much to everyone that helped work toward that goal this past weekend. We'll see you out there again, every weekend, rain or shine.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Quiet Before the Storm

Most of you are already on the road and/or getting ready to get up ridiculously early and hit the road for the season opener at Rutgers. I can tell this even without previous experience because my steady stream of incoming cycling email has tapered off. The quiet before the storm.

It's taken a lot to get to this point. For those that are interested, here are the routine conference topics we spend time on day in/day out:

- Race permitting
- Race schedule revisions
- Race course revisions
- Officiating assignments, season ref selection
- Rider upgrades
- Rules and general questions
- Conference meeting plans, coordinating (thx Yale, Bard!)
- Conference & USAC documentation, website updates
- Assisting other conferences as possible

These are all of the non-routine issues we've spent significant time on lately:

- CD oversight of permitting/flyer release process
- CD/LA summit inefficiencies, nationals presence and meetings/workshops
- Race promoter deposits w/ conferences, required USAC infrastructure
- Field limits and collegiate relationship
- Licensing of riders from foreign universities
- Upgrade mileage requirements for Women's B and Men's D racers
- Waivers/liability for Intro coaches
- Categorization verification, student status checking
- Tightening of prime rules for collegiate crits
- CD oversight of season scoring
- CX Nationals category/experience requirements
- Officiating improvement programs
- Waivers, season numbers
- Nationals date selection
- Nationals quality oversight
- MTB team relay format (e.g., new ECCC format)
- MTB Intro clinics (e.g., new ECCC format)
- Points allocation and division policies for triple-split fields
- Pre-registration policies, esp. for large teams
- Pre-season women's racing clinics
- Aero equipment, esp. nats policy (e.g., draconian new ECCC policies)
- DH timing
- Road Intro curriculum, structure, scheduling
- CX season structure
- CX categorization equivalencies
- Track season structure

Clearly not all critical for tomorrow, but MTB season planning basically started three weeks ago. Track and CX better get moving soon as well to keep those seasons on the up-and-up.

So, that's about were we are. Twelve hours to go before we hit the road, about ten hours of work left to do before we go, and a generator to pick up and PA equipment to drop off on the other side of town. Fortunately the weather forecast is magnificent---when push comes to shove it's standing in the sun with the breeze in your hair, collegiate racing all around, that covers all the other times.

Friday, February 13, 2009


One of my guys got hurt last night; possibly a broken wrist, though I didn't hear either way today. As is frequently the case, it was stupid. We were playing Thursday night bike polo as usual and Casey the unicyclist, one of our MVPs, bumped into someone else. He took a low speed, simple spill that looked like any of the countless other times someone's tumbled at polo, except then he didn't start playing again. I didn't think much of it, figured he was just beat, until later when we wrapped and I realized he wasn't moving his wrist.

Standing there in our now traditional, emergent little post-game huddle, I thought for a brief moment about my plan for the evening---thirty second ride home, get changed, go jog, shower, hit bed early, say by 11:30. Watching him cradle his arm, it was clear that instead I'd have to figure another hour into there to get my car, drive to home or hospital, and scour for a parking space on my return.

Driving through the city, I thought about the definition I've long since settled on for "captain" in collegiate cycling: The one who makes sure everyone gets home.

I'm not sure when exactly I settled on this definition, but I'm sure it was at one ride or another of many I can think of, ending cold and slow, coasting home with a new rider hopelessly beyond their comfort zone. The night added a new shade to the concept, confirming its embellishment beyond just the racing set. After all, polo is less of a ride and more sheer anarchy, second only to alley catting in bedlam, and "my guys" no longer the team, but rather a motley collection of racers, alumni, and people wholly unacquainted with racing but devoted to polo.

On the Drexel team I think we've been fortunate that there has always been one or two people who wouldn't leave anyone behind, regardless of any disparity in ability. I gather that's not the case on every team, though fortunately it does seem to be that way for a great many.

Hopefully all of our team leaders have that in mind every time they wind up on a ride with fresh recruits. Looking at it from their eyes, that's what will ultimately win a rider their respect and a team a new devotee. Presidents file paperwork. Stars win races. Captains get you home, and that's much more important than training goals, ride plans, or egos.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Two Wheeled Internet

Directing the ECCC is hard. Stupid hard. Time commitment is one thing; the conference's appetite for hours, seconds, minutes, is voracious and growing, fueled by an unceasing, stupifying, terrifying tidal wave of email and travel.

Much worse though is the endless fighting, arguing, pulling teeth. Promoters you haven't heard from in weeks. Constant unfortunate decisions and unannounced changes from USAC. Staff, officials, riders with deplorable lack of vision, an axe to grind, or simply a bad attitude from somewhere. No matter how much positive energy you put into it, someone's willing to echo back that much and more, negatively. It's insidious, relentless, creeping up as you ride and sucking the life out of every pedal stroke.

So, it's awesome when someone does *something*---takes a positive action, shows some initiative, makes it happen. That's what makes this worthwhile.

Today's special action comes from Steve Hopengarten (Union) and Kyle Bruley (BU). Steve and I have talked for months about pooling and spawning a bunch of ECCC blogs, and Kyle's the talkative sort so he's been on board from "go" as well. Sadly, getting everything up and going has just never made it to the top of my conference to-do list, continually supplanted by something more pressing.

Fortunately, the two of them have decided "Damn that Joe Kopena, we're just gonna do this!" and taken the lead on marshaling the teeming hordes of two-wheeled scribes out there in the ECCC. Check out their new ECCC blog portal at, as well as their own excellent blogs.

A lot of riders and teams out there have blogs, and this is a great way to bring them all together and move some of our fantastic community online. For teams not running a blog, I highly recommend starting one. They're easy to create, easy to update, and a good way to keep the world informed about race reports, events, and just about anything going on in your team. Done well, it can go a long way to recruiting new riders, hooking up with the local community, building team history and tradition, and showing sponsors what sort of awesome group they're supporting. Check out some of the team blogs already linked to see some excellent examples.

See you out there---thirty days to Rutgers!