Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nats Pre-qualifiers

Or, why I hate and USAC.

For those of you unfamiliar, the Cyclocross National Championships are being held in Bend, OR for the next two years. With Nationals being so close to home, one of my main goals for the season is to have a good result in the Masters 35-39 race. Of course, to have a good result, you need a good starting position. And that is where my hate for USAC and comes in. The USAC determines start order for the National Masters races based on order of registration through an on-line registration program. So a podium spot at nationals could be determined by your internet access and registration savy. There-in a race with-in a race, or e-pre-qualifiers if you will. Welcome to the virtual generation

A couple months ago, it was announced that registration for Nationals would be done through sometime in October. For two months there was no additional word on when registration would open, until, out of the blue on Friday they announce that it will open that night at midnight Eastern time! Yeah, the national governing body for cycling decides registration will be a pop quiz! It also just so happens that Margi and I were traveling to Denver for a wedding on Friday. Luckily I brought my laptop and happened to check the OBRA e-mail list Friday afternoon when we landed. I was also lucky in that I had already set-up an account with sportsbaseonline (a warm-up lap if you will) so I felt ready for it. I got back to the hotel in time, and with a few minutes to go I was all logged-in and one click away from the registration page. I even got so geeky as to have the Atomic Clock website up so I knew exactly when it was 12:01 eastern standard time. So at the exact moment I click the “masters” button and voila……nothing……still nothing…..nope still nothing….five minutes later still nothing. Waiting….waiting…..I open a new browser window and go to Sportsbaseonline and get a “cannot reach the server error”…yup, the rush to register crashed the site. I spend the next half hour refreshing and clicking, to no avail. At one point I actually get to the registration page to be told it won’t open until after October 10th! WTF? I check all the interwebs sites and I hear the same thing from all over, seems no one can get in. For the next two and a half hours I keep trying. I tried it all, pulling up page visits from my history, fresh browser windows etc..nothing. Eventually I just had to go to bed. After about an hour of sleep at 2am Mountain time I wake up to go to the bathroom and decide to check the site. Finally, I am in and registered. In the morning I take a look at the registered riders page and, assuming they are listing riders in order of registration, I am listed around 25-30th on the list. Throw in the automatic front row call-ups of the last years top 7 and that puts me around the 4-5th row. Not so hot.

However, I may have one ace up my sleeve, I hope. With this system in the past years, a Cat 3 or even Cat 4 rider could register first and get a second row line-up. So for this year they are still doing order of registration, but by Category, all Cat 1s before Cat 2, before Cat 3 etc… So my ace is that last week I had requested and received (barely) my Cat 1 up grade from USAC. I could be wrong, but I don’t think too many Masters have a Cat 1 license as it takes some work to ask for it, and besides Nationals there really isn’t much reason to request it. But I could be wrong. I guess we will see in December.

No matter where I end up, the whole thing just ticks me off. USAC is the National organization that is supposed to promote and manage our sport. I think it says a lot about an organization that only provides 12 hours notice for a National Championship series event registration that can determine your placing. And on top of it, chooses a vendor that isn’t capable of managing the registration. And since this has been the format for the past few years, there is no reason why USAC and Sportsbaseonline couldn’t have known that there was going to be the response there was. But in the end, I and 99% of the rest of the participants, are really just amateurs participating in a hobby. Luckily no-one’s life is relying on this and probably none of the racer’s careers. So it really isn’t worth getting too worked up about, it’s just a race. That said, it still won’t keep me from being a little pissed off all day though.

Completely unrelated, it has been snowing in Denver all morning and the airport was shut down for a while this morning (note: there was only a dusting, so it isn’t just Portland that shuts down at the sign of a flake). While it is nice to see some snow, we are flying out at 8:30 tomorrow morning to try to get home in time for tomorrows race at Rainier. It’s gonna be close.