Tour of Bright – Victim of Its Own Success?

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Without a doubt the Tour of Bright is one of the best competitive events on the Victorian road racing calendar. Cyclists from all over the country come to race in some of the most stunning terrain in Australia. It’s got it all; real mountains, a time trial, a beautiful little town, summer weather, and a social atmosphere like no other. The Alpine Cycling Club does such a remarkable job at running this event that it’s become a victim of it’s own success.

Last year entries sold out in about a month. The Alpine Cycling Club would have never expected that most categories were sold out in half an hour yesterday. It was worse than trying to get tickets to that Lady GaGa concert you’ve been so wanting to see. If you weren’t at your computer at 12 noon, you probably missed out. The race can only accomodate 550 riders due to time constraints with running the time trial on Saturday afternoon.

One of the things that makes the Tour of Bright so special is that it’s organised by riders (i.e. the Alpine Cycling Club) for riders. It’s not a race promoter with commercial interests looking at the bottom line. I found it disappointing to read a comment yesterday saying, “At $142 a pop let’s hope we get two KitKats in the showbag this year!” (it gets my blood boiling when I hear stuff like this). If these guys wanted to make money out of this race (remember, it’s actually 3 races) then they’d scrap the time trial and put on a massive crit around a primary school. Everyone loves the TT, so I’m happy they’ve stuck to their guns and are not changing it. Traffic management, police, ambulances, sanctioning, etc present huge costs for the Alpine Cycling Club and I can assure you than nobody is lining their pockets. The race is run by volunteers from the Alpine Cycling Club which is has only 100 people strong. These people are also cyclists and most of them obviously want to ride in their own race.

A few possible solutions that have been looked into by the Alpine Cycling Club to help get more competitors in, but nothing has proven to be workable for this year.

– Have a qualification system. Perhaps the top 20 in each grade gets an option to enter for the next year, and the rest of the entries goes to a lottery system. This is a good option because it will give incentive to riders to race hard which will increase the competition. It will also give the race a huge amount of prestige for winning. However, if I don’t make the cut, this isn’t such a good idea…

– Look at running two TT starters ramps, alternating starters every 10 seconds. (eg 20 sec gap on each ramp so 1 ramp goes, then the other 10 secs later). Doing so would mean a field of 1000 could be started in under 3 hours. Time from first starter to last finisher in this size group would be about 3 hrs 15 mins. Unfortunately the commisaires didn’t like this idea (presumably because of the difficulties of timing, possibilities of drafting, and the course being too congested).

– Look at running the event over three days staring with a Friday Time Trial. I like this idea because I always find it a shame to leave after only two days of being in Bright. It would also allow for more people to compete and stay in the town which would hopefully be beneficial. Again however, the event is run by volunteers and for them to take an extra day off work can be a big ask.

The Tour of Bright is only a one weekend race, but it’s much more than that to the competitors. It’s a goal which gives you something to train for and helps motivate you through the Spring. It’s one or two “training camps” in Bright a few weeks before. It fuels the coffee shop banter and lifts the competitive spirit. It’s the best weekend of the year for aspiring and competitive racers and I feel like I’ve won the lottery by getting an entry!

As a final note, I was speaking to the ToB race organiser today and he mentioned that they are looking for sponsors (cash and prizes). If any potential sponsors are reading this, please email to enquire.

Click here for more information on the history of the Tour of Bright.

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