Just when you thought that road season was over, that we were moving forward to fall weather and CYCLOCROSS, we want to tell you about another road race. In just over a week the city of Boston will host the 2013 TD Bank Mayor’s Cup Criterium. Now in its fifth year, the Mayor’s Cup is the final race on the USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar, attracting pros and amateurs alike to Boston’s Government Center Plaza. The race has always supported equal prize payout for the men’s and women’s pro fields, giving away over $30,000 in prize money. This year, the race has brought Sara Bresnick onto their staff. For the first time in the race’s history, Sara has added an amateur women’s field to the lineup. We got a chance to catch up with Sara to hear more about the race and her involvement with it.
L: Tell us about your role in putting on the Mayor’s Cup race?
S: I am the competition director for the Mayor’s Cup. I wear many hats, but I am basically in charge of athlete recruitment and act as the liaison for the teams and athletes coming to the race.
L: So can you tell us about some of the pros signed up so far? Whom can we expect to see out there?
S: We have a lot of great talent signed up. On the men’s side, the 2011 and 2012 champions will be back: Ken Hanson of Optum and Luke Keough of United HealthCare. Ted King of the Cannondale Pro Cycling team has just signed up as well. We will have a full team from United HealthCare, and a full team from Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis. We will be waiting on others to trickle in. Local legend Mark McCormack has signed up, too. On the women’s side we have Laura Van Gilder of Mellow Mushroom, Robin Farina of NOW and Novartis for MS (2011 National Road Champion), the Schneider sisters from Team Tibco, and four women from Colavita. I also heard that past Olympian Nicole Freedman is going to make an appearance.
L: There’s some great talent so far. And of course we always love to see Nicole (the Director of Boston Bikes) out there! In addition to athlete recruitment, you also handle race promotion, correct? How do you think social media has changed race registration?
S: Yes, I do. Social media is extremely important for both disseminating information and creating “a buzz” around the event. People are all over Twitter and Facebook these days. If an event is not out on those types of social media, it really detracts from getting racers to sign up.
L: What makes Mayor’s Cup unique?
S: The race is in its fifth year running, and is supported by the Mayor’s office as well as by TD Bank. With the city of Boston behind the race, we are able to run it right through the center of downtown Boston. It carries a huge (15k!) and EQUAL prize purse for the men’s and women’s Pro fields. Last year, amateur fields were added so that amateurs now have the chance to race in the center of Boston. The race garners huge crowds as well. I’ve raced it a few times, and the atmosphere is amazing!
L: So there is a huge incentive for the pros to come out and race—big money on the line! Tell us a little about the course itself, since you have raced it! (How’d you do?)
S: There is big prize money for this race, and especially for the women. The Mayor’s Cup has always given equal payout to the men and women. This is unique for such a big money race. There is $15,000 on the line for both the men and the women when you take the prize purse and primes into account.
The course is FAST. It is really fun to be able to race around the streets of downtown Boston, especially since I grew up here. The course is a four-corner crit. It starts with a sweeping downhill corner, flat back side (through Faneuil Hall), and a sweeping uphill to a finishing straight. Positioning is VERY important going into the final uphill corner. I raced the Mayor’s Cup two or three times. I always loved it. My best finish was seventh place—not bad for a mountain bike racer.
L: Many people are not aware of the challenges that race promoters face. What are some of the ones you have faced so far, and how have you dealt with them?
S: Race promotion is tough, and it is really a labor of love in many respects. This is a big-budget race, so it is run a bit differently. With smaller budgets, promoters are always agonizing over whether people will sign up because most of the funds come from race registration. Sponsorship is difficult right now and cycling often doesn’t show enough return for a sponsor to stay in the game. There isn’t much press, TV coverage, etc. Without outside money, promoters are often sweating it out till the last minute. Racers don’t like to sign up early, so it is always a question as to whether a promoter will even break even. Additionally, promoters have to worry about insurance, permitting, road closures etc. There are many obstacles to overcome in promoting a great race.
L: Holding a race in a prominent downtown location like this is obviously a costly endeavor. Do you think there is a way to encourage athletes to sign up earlier, lessening some of the risk and stress placed on promoters? Pre-registration always seems to be an issue in cycling, but less so in other sports or events (even look at triathlons, for example). Do you think there is a way around this?
S: I wish I had a good answer to this question. Race promotion is tough, as racers usually wait until the last minute to sign up. This is understandable, as racers are often worried about weather, injury, and schedule changes. From a race promotion standpoint, however, this is very stressful. For many races, the bulk of cash flow comes from racer registration. The only way I can think of to incentivise early sign up is to raise the registration fee by an appreciable amount a month to weeks before the event.
L: Why is the Mayor’s Cup such an important event for not just the pro race circuit, but for amateur racers, as well as the Boston cycling community?
S: The Mayor’s Cup takes place during “Boston’s cycling celebration weekend.” There is the Mayor’s Cup Pro/Am, which draws top-level pros from all over the world, as well as giving local amateurs the chance to race the same course as the pros through the heart of downtown. Additionally, on Sunday there is a big “Hub on Wheels” ride. Thousands come out to bike through the city — including down Storrow Drive! This weekend gives cyclists the ability to use the city and see it by bicycle in a safe manner. It also gives Bostonians the chance to see bike racing and cycling in the heart of their city. Hopefully it helps educate Bostonians about cycling and helps to make the city safer for everyone.
We hope to see you at the 2013 TD Bank Mayor’s Cup Criterium Saturday, September 21st. For more information on the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup or Hub on Wheels, please visithttp://bostoncyclingcelebration.com/. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Racers, to sign up please visit Bike Reg, registration closes Wednesday, September 18th at 5pm.