The Race to Disgrace Part II: Tailwind Strikes Back

May 26 2006

This isn’t a post so much as an update to some previous criticisms I made about Discovery Channel’s harebrained Race to Replace contest.

Much has happened since I first posted on the topic in April, including Joe Lindsey and TDFBlog expanding on (“ripping off”) my original sentiments, but today, word finally arrived in my inbox as to how exactly this disaster of promotion will go down (all quotes following are from this link at the offical Race to Replace page).

Let’s begin with the basics:

1. OVERVIEW: The Race2Replace Contest provides an opportunity for cyclists to compete in a 10 lap/25 mile race for a chance to earn a slot on the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team to race in the Time Trial Event at the US Pro Championships on September 1, 2006, in Greenville, SC.

So this negates the “Fred taking out the field” or “parade lap” scenarios. Any chump can compete in a TT, though the honor is usually reserved for more deserving (second image) candidates. So it’s only appropriate to make this qualifier a Time Trial, then. Should be cheap to run, right?

3. ENTRY FEE: An entry fee of $150.00 must be paid by major credit card at time of registration. Entry fees are non-refundable and non-transferable. Net proceeds will benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Indiana University Cancer Center

…and the major credit card companies. Seriously, though, I’m psyched that the race entry fee is prohibitively high; all charity events should be so giving.

4. REGISTRATION: Registration begins at 12:01 AM Eastern Time (“ET”) on May 16, 2006 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on July 31, 2006, or when 4,000 contestants have registered, whichever occurs first.

And with 4,000 entries, this is a charity everyone can contribute to! Let’s see, 4,000 riders, divided by 8 fields = 500 racers per field. Sounds safe; safer still when you apply a bell curve based on US population demographics and realize that the biggest fields may be nearly twice that size. Of course, that won’t be an issue since this is a time trial, right?

5. MASS START FORMAT: Cyclists race against the clock for time in a mass start format. Groups of racers will go off at intervals throughout the six-hour event; other riders will be on the track at the same time.

“[A]gainst the clock for time in a mass start format.” WTF? I mean, seriously – this “Lance replacer” is only going to race a TT, but the organizers set things up to all but guarantee a sprint finish, along with massive amounts of bloody, debilitating crashes. I sure hope someone gets this sh!tshow on film.

6. RACE TIMINGS: Contestants will be given electronic timing devices that will post their actual time at the completion of the ten laps.

Timing chips? In a freakin’ mass start race? As I’ve noted before, this is a great way to make it so the first guy across the line doesn’t actually win the event. I refuse the believe the race organizers aren’t aware of this.

7. WINNER DETERMINATION AND PRIZES: There will be eight Category Winners (one for each category: Men 18-24, Men 25-34, Men 35-49, Men 50 and older, Women 18-24, Women 25-34, Women 35-49, and Women 50 and older) based solely on best time for the 10 laps. The cyclist who achieves the fastest time overall will be named the Grand Prize winner.

So there you have it. Aside from the fact that this downright nifty format should make for some interested field-overtaking-field scenarios (but on a course as long as Indy, I’m sure that’ll never happen…), it means that if you aren’t aged 25-34 and the proud owner of a twig and berries, you might as well not show up. Wonder why Discovery bothered to put a self-selecting “Category” field on the registration page? Hopefully, they’ll use it to pare down field sizes a bit.

Contestants must not wear any clothing, carry any branding, or adopt any team name, that is considered by the Race Organizers or IMS to be indecent, abusive, defamatory or critical of any person or organization, which contains any political statement or indicates any political affiliation, or which promotes the name, products or services of any person or organization which competes with the Race Organizers or IMS in any part of the world.

So I’d read that to mean “anyone not wearing single color (other than red, which is a Socialist political statement), logo-free jersey, or a Discovery Channel Team kit is immediately disqualified”.

And that’s it. So, unless there’s something in the “Cycling Rules & Safety Guidelines and Track Etiquette” guide that each entrant recieves, looks like bike design is completely unresricted. My advice would be to call up Graham Obree and see if he has any of these kicking around the garage. It’ll be tough to handle in a pack of 500, but you’ll get used to it, I’m sure.

In all honesty, this announcement from the sponsors and organizers of the Race to Replace confirms my worst and most deep-seated fears about the event. At best, it’ll be a feel-good farce, crowning some preselected pro rider (the rules make no prohibitionary statements against professionals) and at worst, it will be a complete and utter circus of mangled bikes, scortched flesh and shattered dreams that will spawn countless cautionary anecdotes for worrywart mothers to pass amongst themselves like drunk coeds at a frat house, thus ensuring that an entire generation of Americans is raised without ever throwing their leg over a road bike.

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