End of the season, thoughts, reflection, seeing into the future....

I finally have the chance and to sit down to write my the end of the season blog. I thought I finished up shooting my last race of the season first before reflecting and looking back on this season. It has been a very active season for me as a NYC race photographer. For the NYC cycling and racing community, the 2019 season, from my perspective, has been very dramatic and extremely eventful. Events and issues sprung up in this year would have a tremendous impact on many of us, individuals who have influence in shaping our NYC racing community.

Karl inspecting the cat4 field in one of the Vie13 weekend series in the Kissena Velodrome, 6/2/19.

We lost Karl Dittebrandt this past August. Karl has been a familiar figure in many of the NYC race series, from our HH Racing Race Series to the Park races. I didn’t really feel like I know him beyond being an USAC official until last year when I did a blog about him. You can read it here. I was fortunate enough that he was able to open up himself and to share his insights and perspectives on NYC racing scene in general for the past few decades. And for him to talk about what was like being an USAC official in NYC, for those years. I have a way with seeing into the future and to act on it even though at times everything is happening on the unconscious level, with little apparent direction. Little did I know that he passed away in August this year.

I spent a lot of time working along with Karl when I was shooting for the Randall’s Island Criterium series this year. Later, I began to shoot more track racing because Karl thought that my photography could help to promote track racing in the Kissena Velodrome. Karl’s heart has always been in track racing and he is hoping one day NYC track racing could once again grow into something bigger. He felt that, in the past, too many good NYC track talents have left the city and not giving anything back. Maybe the newer generation can reverse this trend. He has left us, for me and others, with a very remarkable legacy. He is always in our hearts.

Robyn's last sprint in one of the Vie13 Weekend Series, "Matched Sprint." 6/23/19.

We have also lost Robyn Hightman on June 24th. Robyn’s death marked the 12 deaths caused by “vehicular homicide” in the city. Robyn’s death sparked protests across the city, especially in the bike messenger and track racing community. For me, I was shooting Robyn racing in the Kissena Velodrome the day before and I didn’t know it was Robyn’s last race. Again, like I said, I have a way with transcendental knowing the future and to act on it. In any case, I felt that we in the NYC racing community should have prevented it. Robyn was attracted to our NYC racing scene and yet Robyn’s was killed by the same city. It is very tragic. Although we have different life events growing up, I and Robyn found empowerment in cycling and bike racing. I feel that if riders are attracted to our racing scene, we should have done a better job to prevent them from getting killed in the street of NYC. Who knows, Robyn’s death could have been prevented if Robyn left the house 5 minutes late for some other reasons. Little details in life can change a person’s fate. You can read more about Robyn here too.

I think I have been to Ttown, The Valley Preferred Cycling Center, 5 times already. I was there documenting Alessandro’s and Mike’s training and racing sessions, as well as one time with Carla. Another time shooting for my friend Andrew. It was a lot of fun and my experience shooting in the Kissena Velodrome comes in handy in Ttown. Fortunately, I have the same access shooting in Ttown as in the Kissena Velodrome. I was able to nail shots that I used to get in the Kissena Velodrome. Overall, it is a nice facility and certainly the velodrome is better paved than the Kissena one. Unfortunately, it is a long drive getting there and coming back to NYC in the traffics isn’t fun either. We would be heading out from Brooklyn by 9 am and didn’t get back until 7 pm!!! According to Karl, for the NYC track racers to race and to compete with the best, from cat 3 and onward, they would have to go on either Tuesday or Friday evening since their Saturday afternoon series is only for Masters and Cat 4/5. Unfortunately, the schedules of these races as well as the travel distance and time, many of us can’t make it out there on weekdays…either too expensive to do so or just don’t have the free time.

I have been the official race photographer for 3 race series this year, the Randall’s Island Criterium Series, Ready Set Go Adventure’s Xterra Off-road Triathlon Series in the Wawayanda State Park, and ended the season shooting for the Merrick Bicycles’ Merrick Bicycles Criterium. I am sure everyone knows about the Randall’s Island Criterium Series. Is still a new race series and somewhat low key. Given with the FBF situation, even if you have a huge budget, not many places in NYC are suitable and allowable to host bike races. I am 90% certain the Randall’s Island Criterium series would come back again in 2020, with the long course as well.

The Xterra Off-road Triathlon in the Wawayander State Park was probably the hardest and toughest race to photograph considering that I have to actually ride the trails to get to point A to point B and to point C throughout the entire race, with 3 race events being featured. I was using my 1x hard tail MTB to get around the course. There isn’t any other way to do it. I am happy to say that David Schwartz, the president of Ready Set Go Adventures, won the bid to host the next year, 2020 edition, of the USA Off-road Triathlon Championship in the Wawayanda State Park. Is always good to know that the race you are responsible for covering is getting an upgrade and about to become something bigger.

I was also responsible for shooting the last race of the Merrick Bicycles Criterium Series for Merrick Bicycles, and to prepare for the next year race series. Like I said, I have a way of knowing the future and to act on it. Some of my favorite shots from the race were actually the second last race of the series, when I was out there recon the course. Little did I know that our biggest HH Racing Race Series fan, Avery, scored a huge win that day. And placing him within 2 points to take the overall win. On the same day, Christopher won the race in the cat123 field, with a convincing solo break with 7 laps to go. I know my work flow and work habit. I always recon the course before my actual shoot and assignment. During my actual assignment, I could avoid making wasteful and redundant shots since I would know what I can or can’t do with my photos. Yes, the Merrick Bicycles Criterium Series will continue next year, the 2020 edition.

Avery scored a huge win in the cat 4/5 field in the second last race of the Merrick Bicycles Criterium Series, 10/6/19.

Christopher coming into the first turn a bit too hot in the second last race of the series.

Christopher with 3 to go.

You know, by eliminating the prize pool in many of the local races, like our park races, it would alleviate some of the financial burden for the race promoters. In additions, the race budget would increase and being diverted and reinvested into the race series itself, such as hiring one or more race photographers to provide media coverage for the race. It does not matter how exciting the race is if no one can see it or view it, it makes no difference to anyone not racing in the same field, or riders getting dropped. Good luck trying to convince potential sponsors to invest in your race series when you have no exciting, inspiring photos and media coverage to highlight the race. The race promoter can use the additional budget to enhance the overall racing experience for everyone racing, maybe even putting and adding an additional women’s field. We know how much racers love to see race photos after the race and being shared on Facebook and Instagram.

To Be Determined has written an article on the subject few years back. The general taking point is that there are no legitimate reasons to have a prize pool racing in our local, amateur level. The reason to have it is somewhat silly…..”tradition,” “sustaining a pro racer life style,” or “supporting younger riders to race like a pro.” None of this is really legitimate since most NYC racers have passed their prime to turn pro. Two, we don’t have enough juniors racing at all. Thirdly, the payout in a single field isn’t large enough to offset the risk of crashing and paying for medical bills. The reality is that many local elite cat 1 and cat 2 racers would only race for the prize money because they see it as an another form of income. Especially with our racing demographic, we have plenty of elite riders not from NYC, but came from aboard, from another countries. They have different reason racing in NYC than some of us who have been living and racing in NYC for their entire lives.

According to the To Be Determined article, back in 2017, CRCA has to allocate about $10k budget just for the prize pool for the season. For the Prospect Park race series, is $700 prize pool per race on average. 10 races in a season would cost the race series $7k. All for what? Tradition? To sustain the life style of racers not from NYC? With an additional $7k to $10k, the promoters could certainly do a lot more to enhance the race series for everyone. One thing for sure, once the prize pool is gone, up to 40% of the cat123 field would lose its attendance. From a race promoter perspective, this isn’t an issue because they can now reinvest into the race itself and to increase the race attendance in the cat345 fields..maybe even in the women’s field too.

The only way I can see that having a prize pool is necessary only if it could draw in big teams with big sponsors to the race and the race series. Unfortunately, we aren't going to see this happening in our local, amateur races.....

What will happen to the Floyd Tuesday series? I am not involved in the series in any of my capacity. Based on what I knew about the series from this early March and its complicated financial arrangement to sustain it for the 2019 season, I am not so sure it will come back next year, 2020. Is just too much effort and too many complicated financial arrangement involved to keep it alive this year. I just don't see it as a viable model to sustain it for another year. Also, its race format and its style haven't changed from the past, other than adding a women's field with an OK turn out, I am not seeing any major investors would put their money into the series. On average, it costs the series over $4k per day to sustain the race day operation. Half of the budget goes towards the permit. We are looking at over $30k to $40k for the year. The registration fee would cover half of the expense.

We would still have the Prospect Park race series as well as CRCA open and club races of course. Not sure if there would any future changes in those race series. I would expect CRCA to have some changes than the Prospect Park race series.

My final words for this season is that...get ready to expect some major changes for next year.....remember, my super power is precognition...LOLOLOLOLOL... :) :) I don't exactly know what it is but there will be some major, major changes...."roads everywhere are being repaved..." so I saw in my dreams and visions.

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