A Teaching Moment

Cyclocross promoters and racers for the most part get along fine. But every so often issues arise that have the two parties not seeing eye to eye. If you read the recent SpectaCross coverage posted on In The Crosshairs you are aware of one of those instances. It is far from my intent to have this site be a venue for the airing of grievances, so my gut reaction was to let the controversy quietly fade away. But I believe this can be what the president calls “a teaching moment.”

I have talked to both parties involved and I do not believe either is wrong or misguided. They simply interpreted the situation differently and acted accordingly. I believe this is a good opportunity for you, dear reader, to see what occurred from the perspective of the promoter and the racer. So without further commentary here is what happened. 

In the race interviews I asked the question, “Will you go back next year?” Here is Chris Mayhew of JBV Coaching’s response:

Chris Mayhew: We’ll see. It was a great course but I’m conflicted about supporting promoters that don’t keep promises.

I followed up with Chris to see what went wrong and here is what he had to say:

“An offer was made to get Pittsburgh area riders to the race that said the following:

Half-Price Cyclocross ENTRY FEES!

I’d love to have some folks from the Pittsburgh and “Shogren-town” area to come race at the New Jersey State Fair SpectaCross July 31-August 1. Yeah, it’s a long way—so I want to help with your gas by letting anybody from your area enter for half-price. You can enter one race for half price, you can enter four races for half price. You can even enter the MTB speed trials for half price. If you’re from the Pittsburgh or Morgantown area, you’ll only pay half price to race at the NJ State Fair.

In the raft of emails that went out before the race apparently this offer was rescinded. Neither I nor my travel partner saw that email so we were surprised to be told by the promoter that the offer was no longer open. I realize it’s a small amount but it just about would have covered gas out there and back. Although it’s not that much money in the grand scheme of things, if I reneged on promises I made to my clients and told them it was because I was too busy or some such I would fully expect word to get out. And wouldn’t you be miffed if you hired me as a coach and yet your friend who was a former client didn’t warn you about that?”

After getting Chris’ response, I contacted SpectaCross promoter Ken Getchell to give him an opportunity to respond. Here is what Ken had to say:

“I’m disappointed that Chris feels that way, especially as I refunded a portion of his entry fee through BikeReg before the race to help pay for some of his gas. Let me make it clear, this was a promotional offer, not a “promise”. And the offer was not “rescinded,” it expired. I sent several promotional offers throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K. (and yes, we did have an entry from England, who scheduled a business meeting in New York to specifically to coincide with the race, only to have the client cancel the meeting at the last minute). The offer Chris refers to was emailed on March 23, nearly one full month before registration even opened, and Chris was one of the original recipients; but Chris didn’t respond to the offer until a day or two before registration closed on July 29. In comparison another rider from Pittsburgh, Kevin Wahila, requested the promotion price on July 9 and I gladly gave it to him. Which begs the questions, “does a business have to honor special introductory pricing forever?” and “what other promoter even offers gas money to Cat. 3 and 4 riders anyway?” Riders, from pros to complete novices, from Canada, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, New England, Maryland and Virginia took advantage of the special promotions. In fact, over 17% of the entries to SpectaCross received the promotional discounts on their entry fees.

To hear someone say that I “reneged” on promises is so hurtful that it makes me want to cry. Especially since only promise about this race that I broke was the promise to my wife that this race would be paid for entirely by my company (SpectaSport) and not cost any money from our personal finances. For example, 24 hours before the race, we had only 3 pre-entries for an Elite Masters class that had a $500 purse. Other promoters would have cut the advertised purse; instead I comp’d a bunch of riders from other classes and asked some riders to move up from the B-Masters so we could fill the field—and we paid the entire purse, even to riders who didn’t pay to enter.  That’s keeping a promise and respecting my racers. In comparison, my co-announcer at SpectaCross, Erik Mitchell, was telling me about a recent crit where the promoter announced that he’d cut his purse in half while the riders were standing on the start line. And that was a sanctioned race. That’s BS and I won’t do it. When SpectaSport advertises a purse, it pays that purse.

While we’re on the subject of respect for racers, SpectaSport actually issued refunds before registration closed to any racers who entered but couldn’t come. I didn’t make them jump through hoops. I didn’t make them give me an explanation. I didn’t put them on a waiting list or treat them like they were some sort of criminal who was trying to take my money. It was like Home Depot’s return desk, you asked to return the entry fee and we returned it, done, no questions asked. How many promoters do that? And let me tell you something, we issued some of those refunds after the stated last day for returns because the right thing to do is always the right thing to do.

I woke up on race day knowing that I could have bought a new car for my wife with what this race was costing me because of the lack of local support, but we smiled and held the race anyway—that’s keeping promises. SpectaSport paid full purse, even when we had to fill a field with comp’d entries to have enough people to write the prize checks to that’s keeping promises. We promised a great racing experience, and we delivered on that promise. And we offered promotional discount pricing to help riders of all categories, not just pros, pay for their travel expenses, and nearly one-fifth of our entries took advantage of those discounts. There’s an old adage that says “the early bird gets the worm”, need I say any more?”

There you have it. As I said, no judgment calls on my part, just a good opportunity for all of us—be it promoters, riders, spectators or whomever—to see it from both sides. Read it, digest it, learn from it and let’s move on. Thanks for reading.

Category: Commentary | Tags: , , , One comment »

One Response to “A Teaching Moment”

  1. Michael Dolan

    Here’s my take on Specta Cross 2009, and links to my photos from the race. http://angrycyclist.com/?p=6

    I really enjoyed the race overall, and thought it was different than most other CX races because of the venue and the atmosphere. It’s a shame that the turnout was so thin, but I will definitely race again next year if it goes down (I hope it does). The poor weather, the fact that it was a Friday in the Summer, and because many racers are still doing road rides were all definitely factors why people didn’t turn out for Specta Cross.

    I have to add, that I had some major issues checking in and parking due to the people running the gate at the fair (not the Specta Sport folks). I told Ken about the problems I was having, and he took care of the problems in under 5 minutes, which in my eyes, makes him a great promoter. There are bound to be problems with any race or public event, but the way in which the promoter handles them is what will make or break the day.

    As a racer it bums me out to see a promoter get trashed over $15 bucks in a negative way, because reading the above post it appears this was more a less miscommunication, not a malicious attempt to rip anyone off.

    CX is still a fringe community in the US, and we need all the good promoters and sponsors we can get. It isn’t worth alienating a promoter over a petty squabble like this. Just my 2 cents.


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