I'm a 45+ mediocre cross rider from Canada, who has admittedly only been riding cross for four years. Prior to that my wife and I lived in a part of the world where they haven't even heard of cross and it was 90 degrees every day. I've rode or raced in three countries, for the last 30 years, on all sorts of bikes. I was riding with the local club here in Canada, (St. Catharines Cycling Club) and started hearing about cyclocross and decided to look into it. With some help from Nathan Chown who tirelessly gives any local advice on cross and after getting my wife hooked, four years later we've been to countless races in our area (both in Canada and US), and we did our Cross Nationals back in 2009 in Edmonton.
Last year our Nationals were in Toronto and there were a few things with the organization that caused concern.
They were painting the start line in the parking lot, 15 minutes before the start of the 50+ men and Master Women race. In the 40-49 race one rider was far out in front and came around a corner and ran smack into a dog walker, there was apparently no event marshall at the far end of the course. During the preparation of the course apparently someone cut down a tree, which has apparently caused quite a bit of an uproar and is likely responsible for this group having a hard time getting a park.
Fast forward to this year, in late August I started watching the Canadian Cycling website for information as to where and when the Nationals were going to be as we had heard that it would be at a new park and we like to get our hotels booked and things done in advance. We heard thru the grape vine that it was going to be at Earl Bales Park in Toronto, Canada, literally a stones thru from the first apartment my wife and I shared. Big park, lot's of parking options, hotels nearby, perfect.
No details though were up on Labour day weekend, none the first race weekend, nothing the second. Then about September 24, six weeks before the event, the following was posted:
a href="http://www.canadian-cycling.com/disciplines/sites/default/files/Canadian%20Cross%20Championships%20Basic%20Info%20Sept%2024.pdf" target="_blank" rel="nofollow nofollow">http://www.canadian-cycling.com/disciplines/sites/default/files/Canadian%20Cross%20Championships%20Basic%20Info%20Sept%2024.pdf>
The venue had changed to a park that is quite a bit smaller, featured a downhill start with a 14meter drop and two left hand turns equivalent to 90 degrees in the first 25 meters, then another full 90 degree turn at about 150 meters in, then goes thru a marshy area and then does seven full 180 degree turns over onto itself all on a soccer field that we are apparently not supposed to ride through according to the tech guide. The course then features an oddly place double-pit another couple of 180s, a ride thru a small portion of parking lot, and then an uphill climb, (the only nice feature of the course), a 180 and another climb up, but the 180 is after a fast descent into a sketchy parking lot.
All of this is visible in the tech guide link above.
Just in case I wasn't reading the map correctly or google earth was lying to me, we stopped at the proposed venue after the latest race in the Ontario S-Cup series and we were shocked to find it was even worse than on the map and walked around the park.
Logistically, there are other problems. Parking being a major one. Last year upon leaving we saw a number of cars getting towed and there just wasn't enough parking to be had. It's to the point where I likely will not attend to even watch much less to race as I think the course is unsafe but it will be a logistical nightmare to even attend. A number of others have voiced the same concerns to me when I started talking about this.
Personally, I found it embarrassing to hold a National level event in a venue that is barely 400 meters x 400 meters with downhill start after attending such a well run even in Edmonton in 2009. People are going to be spending hundreds of dollars (or their sponsors) to come across the country and this is what we provide?
What would you do?
I'm speaking up as best I can, I asked at the provincial level (like state), who to talk to and forwarded my comments to that person. Now I know they've been busy and have likely walked into a bit of a shit storm, but I feel that something has to be done. If you normally attend a race and feel you haven't got value for your money then you don't return next year there are options. But this is our National championships in your back yard so to speak so you really want it to be of high quality.
I know that there have been some optional proposals put forth to move to another park on short notice and to run the event. There are also other fantastic parks outside of Toronto but still near the airport.
In conclusion, while I feel that I'm sticking my neck out and I don't mean to disrespect race promoters anywhere, as I've helped with our local races both in time, sponsorship and setup and tear down so I know how hard it is, but I think Nationals should be a step above the norm and what's on the table here at Nationals in Canada isn't even close to that.
He Neil,I'm a 50+ rider and have been to 6 Canadian Nationals and have the same concerns as you have. Several racers I know have sent email to the CCA and OCA expressing our concerns, we've all recieved the same basic reply that its early and things may change! Hope this post and the emails have some effect because it's not looking good right now!
Peter, thanks for the info. I had a reply from the OCA that did indicate they were concerned but nothing from the CCA, however, I know the person involved was in Belgium so he's likely swamped. I'm sure a number of you are coming from the island, and that's a long haul to come for such a venue. I hope things do change and that we know soon so we can plan our racing accordingly.
Apparently the venue won't be changing but the course is. Apparently the upper part of the park will be used. There is a long thin section near the arena so perhaps that is being used now, and was vetted by Mike Garrigan.
Latest update is that issues are not resolved between the promoter and the parks. Things are still being worked on. Big props to the Ontario Cycling Association and folks at the CCA for stepping in. I think they were blindsided by last minute changes.