The Middle Men.

Thanks to the efforts of handful of people, most notably Justin Neff and Dave Henke from the Beaded Stream team (although the efforts of Revolution Racing and Alaska Velo Sport can't be ignored), the number of female riders has increased significantly this year- especially in the lower and middle categories. These ladies have been mixing it up all season. I'm not sure the exact voodoo Dave and Justin used, or what lucky set of circumstances led to this, but it's something I want to see continue. 
When women see a pack of their peers out there competing, they're less intimidated to jump in and give it a shot. While I can think of a zillion things more intimidating than a bunch of men in spandex riding bikes, I can see where not all women want to jump in the middle of that testosterone-fueled environment. Whatever it is that makes women feel more comfortable jumping into a road race, I want to promote. I bet if you polled every male racing the Tour of Anchorage this year, they'd agree 100%. We may not agree on much, but we all want to see growth in this area.
Open Men had a lot of strong competitors this year at the Tour, which is nice to see because only a few years ago the class had withered away to a handful of the usual suspects beating each other over the head with frame pumps for five stages. Doesn't make for exciting racing.
Despite me not being there to draw in the masses with my charisma, Masters Men filled out fairly well. Actually, seeing the strength of the field makes me almost glad I'm injured. I would have gotten pummeled out there. While "well filled-out" and "Masters" seem like redundant terms, the pack of MAMILs seemed relatively balanced and competitive. Not everyone is a gold-star-gosh-you're-a-special-snowflake winner, but at least it's not one or two strongmen beating up on the mere mortals this year. This year there were four or five of them.
Novice Men had a pretty good group as well. A lot of newer faces mixed in with some more familiar ones. As this is the group that feeds all of the higher groups, it's good to see new names on the roster. I'd like to see many more, as an extremely optimistic estimate is that one in ten will become hardcore road racers, so this is another area for improvement. The more we can attract and retain, the more we grow as a racing community. Not just for the five days of the Tour, but throughout the season.
So, that leaves Intermediate Men. Four racers. The Intermediate and Open Women classes each had more racers. What happened? Where did they go? Anybody know? Is there something in the group dynamic that's contributing to this? Were too many riders advanced to Open? Is the step from Novice to Intermediate perceived as too high?
Looking at last year's TOA Intermediate Men field, it wasn't significantly bigger when compared to this edition. The Novice pack was also small. While a few moved up to Open from Intermediate, few made the jump from Novice to Intermediate- not that there were that many to start with. Perhaps this is a delayed effect, and next year Intermediate will be full again as the riders climb the ladder. I sure hope so, because Intermediate (nee Sport) was where I started learning to actually race, instead of just relying on a relatively big diesel. When riders spend too much time in the lower ranks, that transition just becomes that much more traumatic.
I only watched one race, the crit. Watching each race develop only made me wish I was out there even more. Far too tempting, as this year's courses were tailor made for a wheel-sucking douchebag like me. In my absence, a very sick Chris Knott earned his douchebag wings by winning the last two Masters sprint finishes.
I might have to add a convincing fake cough to my repertoire.  


  1. So I have achieved douchebag status!! Is that something I can put on my resume? Are there any awards? Podium girls? Do I need to thank the academy?

    1. Generally people try not to openly publicize their douchebag status. Basically this means that from now on, no matter how much you're on the front, people will accuse you of always sitting in and not taking a pull. People will actively try to box you in just before the finish. In a break, nobody will work with you because they expect you'll just pip them at the line. In other words, you're screwed. Nobody to blame but yourself. The academy has revoked your membership.


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