Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The 11th Annual Northfield Criterium Report: The Flagger's View

The Archer House Inn, Northfield, MN.
As mentioned in yesterday's post, I was in Northfield, Minnesota for the weekend of the 4th to help my friend Ben Witt out with his promotion and organization of the 11th Annual Northfield Criterium.

This is my event report. You won't get any gripping racing sufferage descriptions, no pictures of carnage, and no reports of glorious winning. Heck, I don't even know who won any of the several races that occurred that day.

No, this is about a grunt helper and nondescript corner flagger. (I hesitate to use the term "corner marshal", as that implies some modicum of higher learning, authority, and position of which I have none of!) Yep! Just a peek behind the scenes as to what it takes to put on one of these here fancy road racin' deals. That's all.

The whole set up for Mrs. Guitar Ted and myself was out of the Archer House Inn, an establishment dating back to 1877. It was recently remodeled, and we had a room reserved for the weekend there. I recommend the place as a great way to escape "corporate motel-suck" that usually passes for lodging these days. You want character? Charm? Warmth? Nice restaurants and a tavern? Go to the Archer House. Nuff said....

The "Central Block" Bldg, Downtown Northfield MN.

The criterium's main drag is right down Division Street, (read: Main Street), where all the historical buildings are, and from whence Northfield derives its charm. It really is a quaint, picturesque little Mid-Western town that somehow didn't manage to get blown away in a tornado, burnt to a crisp, or become blighted by a Mall Wart. In fact, it has a varied, if not somewhat struggling local based economy. The variety of shops was pretty amazing to my mind for such a community.

Of course, being close to the Twin Cites, and being host to two private institutions of higher learning may be to blame for that, but I wouldn't hold that against Northfield! It still seems to be a place where their feet are still firmly attached to terra firma, and not far out of touch with reality. Oh yeah! about the race set up.....(Sorry! I got carried away there!)

The "Orange Crush" in front of the Archer House Inn

Well, after all the gravel riding festivities, and a quick breakfast at Ben's place, we went to fixin' holes! It was a pretty weird deal.

You see, road bikes, what with those skinny tires and all, well they don't really take a hankerin' to cracks, potholes, and the like, what sucks them wheels in, and pitches their riders to an untimely end on the pavement. So, our job was to mix up some "Qwikrete", which is a mixture you simply add water to which turns into a concrete mixture and sets up quickly. Then we took that around in a huge plastic tub situated in the back of a van to wherever we deemed necessary to fill in holes.

This was all done in a manner that was a befuddlement and concern to locals, who are used to seeing their city government take care of those repairs. Here we were, dressed in civies, in an unmarked van, doing street repair. It was as if we were do-gooder hooligans. I mean, what could they say? "Hey! Don't you go a-fixin' that there pot hole, ya flea bitten varmint!" No, they wanted those holes fixed, but they weren't quite sure if this was a good thing, or breaking rules. I thought it was really rad. Taking back the streets indeed!

Well, that task was taken care of and then we had to wait until later on Sunday to set out the parts for the barricades. Those were actually assembled and set up the morning of the event, with a final sweeping of the course, to make sure there were no foreign objects there to cause a cyclist a flat. Once this was accomplished, almost immediately, (or so it would seem to me), the events began. Well, I saw someone at a corner ahead of me waving a yellow flag when riders were coming by, so I picked up a flag, and did the same.

There was some quick learning. I found out we had to watch for some cars and get them through the course at safe times. I had to do a bit of public information with locals, and I ended up carrying water and goodies around by bicycle to the various volunteers on course for a while. Then, Ben and I went and fetched some food for everyone helping out. After that, it was back to manning a different corner.

This was the corner I ended up finishing the races flagging, and where folks were gathering with toddlers and small children for a "Kiddie Parade" that was to be held after the criterium was over. Meanwhile, several youngsters and adults had questions about what was going on in the races.

I gave them the low down on how to spot team members, what they were trying to accomplish, and that there was strategy and tactics being used if you knew what to look for. I guess my explanations paid off in engendering some enthusiasm for the racers, because as I explained things, they got more and more into it, and were cheering by the time the final laps were winding down.

After the event, I had to break down my corner, stack up the parts of the barricades, and then get Mrs. Guitar Ted and high tail it outta town. We had a three hour trip ahead of us, and I was beat down from 12 hours of being in the sun and working the event that day. It was really good though, and I had fun. I just felt bad about not being able to enjoy some time with the other volunteers post race, and enjoy the festivities.

Next time!

1 comment:

rideonpurpose said...

thanks for your time- I had a great time racing! It was sort of cool to see so a bunch of "gravel" type folks out there volunteering too.