So I got lost – two races in a row! We can all have a good laugh or we can think more seriously about what went wrong and the implications for our sport.
The organizers and Cycling SA are not playing by their own rules and it puts our sport at risk.
Taking a wrong turn in a race is always an uncomfortable matter. After riding your guts out, the bottom falls out of your race. It’s always the riders fault, with some riders developing a reputation of being lost souls, geographically challenged and so forth.
Event 1: I rode the Lord of the Chain Rings from 14 to 16 November 2013 – well let me rephrase, I tried to ride it. In 2010, when I rode the first event of this race, I was inspired to rate it as an event with wonderful potential. You can view my blog post here.
However, the 2013 event was a major disappointment. It started out promising great things. I was riding with Norman Boy, an exceptionally strong East London based Master. We had Paul Furbank (World XC Champ in the 55-60 category) and Chris Brand (SA Marathon Champ 55-60) as opposition and everything was pointing to a great event.
However, four kilometers from the finish on day one, we took a wrong turn, ended up on the Day two route, and hurtled down the mountain towards Alice. By the time we got back up, we had dropped from fifth to 58th, losing two hours or more on Furbank and Brand.
Bang, that was the event over as a contest. Yes, Norman and I were the butt of the jokes about getting lost and so forth and all concerned had a good laugh.
Event 2: The following week, I rode Hopewell trails Amazing Race on Sunday 24 November. With 2/3 of the race done, I was in a comfortable fifth and thoroughly enjoying it. Bang – wrong turn. By the time I got back on track I had lost five positions and the ride induced high became a slog home.
So, us mountain bikers are a care free lot and write these mishaps off – its all in the spirit of the race! Or is it?
The fact is, at both races the wrong turns were a result of infringements of Cycling SA rules by the organizers. The Cycling SA rule book is very clear about how courses must be marked (see http://www.cyclingsa.com/App_Resources/Uploads/FILE00002362.pdf )
At both the Lord of the Chain Rings and Hopewell Races markings contravened section 17.02 of Cycling SA 2013-1 regulations – and lots of other riders took wrong turns!
At Lord of the Chain Rings, markings indicated a left turn (which put us on the day two route), and then did not have a marking (in terms of 17.02.010) to indicate that we were on the wrong route. At the Hopewell race, section 17.02.010 was also contravened.
So, am I being pedantic about the humorous matter of someone getting lost. I don’t think so, for a number of reasons:
1) The rules are there for rider safety and the development of the sport. Both races were sanctioned by Cycling SA, and Commissars were present to enforce rules. We as cyclists pay for Cycling SA to undertake that task through an annual racing licence and a portion of the race entry fee. The fact that Cycling SA is not applying the rules implies that rider safety and the sport of mtb are being put at risk.
2) Cycling SA are often perceived as being pedantic. They worry about team kit and banning sleeveless tops. Yet, they continue to approve courses where riders get lost on routes not marked according to the rules. Is this an Eastern Cape thing, or is it more widespread?
3) If a rider gets lost on a course marked according to the rules, it is the riders fault. However, when a rider gets lost on a course not marked according to the rules, it is still the riders fault. Organizers and Cycling SA need to take responsibility for their mistakes.
4) Riders spend huge amounts of money to participate in racing events and should expect to ride courses which are consistent with the Cycling-SA regulations. If courses do not comply, the event should not be sanctioned by Cycling SA.
5) Where events are marked according to Cycling SA rules, riders do not get lost. It costs money to mark properly and event organizers are skimping, whilst charging full price race fees. Effectively, that means we as riders are getting ripped off.
6) The majority of races are now run by professional race promoters and they need to play by the rules. Events are lucrative income streams and its about time that riders take a stand when promoters don’t play by the rules.
So now for the crux of the question. If I took a wrong turn due to course markings being inconsistent with Cycling-SA regulations, can I ask for a refund on my race entry fees?
I trust the organizers of the two races and Cycling SA will provide an answer.