Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Thanks to the USCF

I forgot to mention that I volunteered to help out with the Mutual of Enumclaw Race. My job was to drive the communication car for the category 3 road race.

Accompanying the pack of riders is a set of cars with different purposes. A lead car stays at the front of the pack to protect the riders from traffic, etc. At the back is the communications car as well as a support car. The support car is there for you in case of a flat or other mechanical problem. Riding along and get a flat? No problem, just raise your hand and the support car (which is basically filled with spare wheels) is at your service. They even change the wheel for you.

As I said, I had the job of driving the communication car behind the pack. My job was essentially to drive around a USCF race official and take orders, but it gave me a lot of insight into the support the officials give you. Just a few hours earlier when I was racing I had no idea what they were doing for me.

First, the race official makes sure the riders are safe. When there was a centerline rule in effect (meaning the racers can't cross the center of the road), he was hanging out the window yelling at people and frantically blowing his whistle to keep them on the right side. He was also in constant radio communication with the car at the front of the pack. If there was a breakaway, the lead car would go with the break and we would stay back with the pack. The lead car would call out markers so the official in my car could time the gap between the breakaway and the main field. Periodically we would drive along the riders (lots of driving on the wrong side of the road) and inform them of the time gap.

As in most races, the hills tore the field apart. As riders fell off the back of the pack, we would pass them and stay with the larger group. Every time we passed a rider, the race official would kept track of their number to make sure we didn't lose anyone.

As for my part, I just drove and took orders, but came away very impressed by the hard work of the race officials. That and I got a front row seat to a great race. I saw all of the breakaways, the catches and even a guy urinating as he rode (hey, what else are you going to do?). All in all, a great experience.

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