Tour of Anchorage 2015- Aftermath II

Now let's hit on some subjects that are a little closer to home for me. Me. ME. MEEEEE...
Masters Men is an interesting story. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone that would say that the strongest riders didn't stand on the podium. The big diesels ruled. However, tactics did affect how the top 5 racked and stacked, especially on the last day. I was on the wrong side of that race, but I recognize and applaud those that saw the opportunity to use their gifts and put the spurs to my lady parts. That's what racing is all about. I took my shots with what I had, but I brought a Super Soaker to a gunfight. This wasn't a sprinter's tour by any means. It never is.
Despite being steadily pushed down the GC rankings by my betters, I enjoyed this edition. The time gaps between the Masters 45+ GC rankings weren't completely obscene, indicating that the field was relatively balanced. When we got to the road stages, people were racing instead of just riding to preserve their GC position. I got to admire it all from the back, and there was a lot to admire. This pack enjoys racing for the sake of racing. A lot of Open and Intermediate Men said they wanted to race Masters next year for that reason. I tried to discourage them, because I want my shot at 6th Place glory next year. I don't think I was successful.
Masters 60+ is another story. Pete Johnson can destroy riders half his age, and he obliterated the small field. I like riding with Pete, but he is head and shoulders above anyone in that class.
My suggestion to correct this is to split Masters along ability levels rather than ages. There were more than a couple regular-season Masters 45+ racers who weren't present that might have fit in well with the 60+ field, but been shelled by the 45+ pace. Masters A/B grouping would make for relatively larger and more balanced fields, allowing racers to compete with those that are somewhat matched. Upgrades from A to B would be decided by similar criteria as upgrade among non-Masters categories, and downgrades would be at the discretion of the race director based on results and other field-balancing criteria. That would probably put me dead last in the A group, but would make the series more interesting for a greater number of old-fart racers.
Stage Composition. My biggest issue with this edition was how the stages were ordered. Think back to any stage race, ever, and as a general rule of thumb, where were the biggest time gaps opened? In time trials and hill climbs. Let's set aside the fact that I tend to suck at these two disciplines for the moment and look at the big picture. The prologue/first stage was a short time trial. The second stage was a long hill climb. The third stage was a 25K time trial. You just front-loaded three stages where the GC was pretty much defined within the first couple days. Sure, people still moved up and down a slot or two, but overall the race was formed before the first road race. If I'm out of contention for a decent place within the first couple days, you're relying on me being blindly stupid for even showing up for the stages I can't win- or even showing up at all. Granted, that's a pretty sure bet when it comes to me, but that logic can't be applied universally.

I realize that scheduling plays a large role in where we place stages. Starting races at 7:00 PM during weeknights means anything that will take an excessive amount of time to pull off is out of the question. Some people work. Shorter, more compressed races like crits and short hill climbs make sense here. Mixing up the more individual disciplines (hill climbs and TT) with the mass-start events keeps things interesting. People don't just mark other riders during road stages to protect their GC ranking, and are compelled to actively race. A few characters lit up the last couple stages with some unexpected fireworks, but they had no reason to except for the sake of racing. They could have sat in and rode to protect their podium position, and the configuration of stages would have backed up that decision. That they didn't was more of a credit to them as racers (and idiots) than to the race itself.
Primes. Jens called me a sprinter, so I guess I'm supposed to like primes. This year they were far too small to play much of a role. Blowing my brains out for a five second intermediate time bonus or a whopping 10 second finish bonus doesn't make much sense. Yet, I tried. Out of stupid pride, I tried. With larger bonus primes, the GC guys have to stay on their toes to keep others from chipping away at the gaps. When they're small, they just have to sit back and laugh while the competition blows themselves up for nothing.
The addition of swag primes on the MLK road race was a nice bonus, and one that should continue in future editions. I didn't go for any, but it kept the pack racing.

Cash Prizes. An interesting addition this year, and I'm sure the guys that got them appreciated the beer money. However, I would suggest that there's a better use for the money. Especially in the lower classes, winners/podium finishers are expected to move up to the next level the following year. Rather than money or swag, throw in a paid entry to the next year's Tour of Anchorage for the winner. Second place can get a five-race punch pass. Third could get an annual ABC membership. The goal is to trick them into coming back. Return customers is what we want. Throughout the season, none of us race for anything but bragging rights. We are such douchebags that we happily pay for the chance to brag, with no other chance to recoup our investment. We're not racing for money. We're not racing for trophies or swag or anything else, although we'll gladly accept anything you're willing to throw our way. We're racing because... racing.
The more I travel around the country and ride with other groups, the more I realize how unique and awesome our little pond of competitive fungus is. I'd like to see that continue and grow, and the willingness of the Road Division to experiment to try to make it better is a sign that it ultimately will. I'm not saying I'm right on all of these issues... no wait. Scratch that. I'm right and you should listen to me and only me, because I'm me. I'm the holder of the 2015 Tour of Anchorage 45+ Masters Men 7th place title, and that demands respect wherever Discover cards and food stamps are accepted.


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