Thursday, August 20, 2009

A taste of a Moto Referee's Work

This evening, I attended a clinic of sorts for motorcyclists who wished to get a feel for what the duties of a moto referee are within the context of a bicycle race.

We met at the Colorado State Patrol's training track on top of South Tabletop Mountain, near the NREL or National Renewable Energy Lab. There were four of us motorcyclists and Andrew Rosen on his red Honda VFR Sport Tourer. My fellow trainees were Joe with his F800GS Beemer, Tom and his Yamaha R1 Cruiser, Doug with his two year old R1200RT. All very nice motorcycles, I must say. I was riding Maria, my 2004 R1150RT.

There were many bicycle racers newbies there, called Cat4's or Category Four Riders who are just getting into the sport and trying to qualify in terms of points for races and moving up in category. Cat1 riders are national caliber/team members for amateur races. The training for the riders this evening was in the form of Criterium Racing, or closed course racing.

He gave us a briefing on what we'd do, what to look for, the roles of moto referees and safety instructions. This was after he'd allowed us several laps of the training course on our motorcycles to "get a feel" for the track. That was fun!

He led us off as the first training race got underway, showed us correct positioning when in different roles. For instance, one moto referee will be designated to stay with the lead rider and by doing so, designate the lead rider to the judges and chief referee for scoring purposes. This moto referee's job is to ride around 50-150 feet in front of the lead bicyclist racer.

Here's Joe on his F800GS, leading the racers, note his position relative to the lead riders

Another motor referee role is to ride about 100 ft to the rear and outside of the peloton. What's a peloton? Well, it's the main group of riders comprising a bicycle race. I found out, there's actual physical advantages to staying within the peloton until you decide to make your "attack" on the race leaders. Within the peloton, you get to draft off the racers in front of you, and the vacuum created by the racers in front of you aid in letting you keep up while not expending as much effort as the guys on the forward edge of the peloton. I was told the difference can be as much as 40% less effort expended by the racers to the rear of the peloton than what's being expended by the guys at the front of the peloton! As you might imagine, the faster bicyclists in the breakaway group in front of the peloton are working even harder.

Here's Tom "riding herd" on the Peloton

Moto Referees enforce rules such as not crossing the yellow line or illegal actions by bicyclist to gain unfair advantage off other riders, or actions which create dangerous situations. Riders who break the rules, can get disqualified and are taken out of the running for points.

In short, motorcyclists are used to control traffic, ferry photographers at National Level Races, carry Moto Referees who enforce the rules and other roles as mentioned in the examiner article.

At one point, I stood by the side of the raceway and you can definitely feel a strong draft as the peloton whizzes by you. Lots of strategy and physics involved in bicycle racing, I just got a small taste of that while talking with my fellow motorcyclists.

We, the motorcycle riders, took turns either leading or trailing the bicycle riders. It's actually quite interesting and fun doing this. Usually, I'd avoid bicyclists as much as possible when riding around Colorado; today I was riding with them! It almost felt like riding herd on a bunch of really fast moving deer. You really have to pay attention and keep track of where the bicyclists are. Specially when you're leading the leaders, their bikes can corner better than motorcycles usually and if you don't watch it, they're suddenly right behind you and drafting off of you!

The ACA will be conducting a formal clinic for motorcyclists who think they might want to obtain a license as a Moto Referee this fall. I'll put out information on this as I get it from the ACA and Andrew Rosen. He mentioned that moto referees are paid for the mileage on their motorycles in support of bike races plus about $70 for a full day or 8 hrs of race support riding; $50 for a half day of five hours work.

I was the only one of the four motorcyclists who didn't have actual bicycle racing experience and training, the other three had done it or still did it. Now they're exploring doing the referee job on their motorcycles as well in order to help their sport.

So, you're not going to make a living from this, but if doing such things to help ensure safe bike racing for bicyclist while getting to ride your motorcycle interests you; you should contact Andrew Rosen. Email LINK. The ACA can always use the help if you qualify.


Rob said...

Rather informative post! Another great way to contribute while staying close to what we love to do.

Arizona Harley Dude said...

Interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing.

irondad said...

How cool! I've been involved in similar stuff but not as a referee. Mostly traffic control which is exciting enough by itself. You just can't get enough, can you?

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