Thanks for coordinating a Low-Key Hillclimbs! These are a few notes on how to make a climb go super-smoothly.
Legally permits are generally not needed on public roads: cyclists following vehicle code are traffic. However, open space district roads and roads in national, state, or county parks require permits. If you're up for this challenge then you'll likely win coordinator of the year award. But the simplest approach is to stick to public roads.
Some details needed for a start location, which need not be at the actual starting point, as a promenade can be organized between the two. Also, where will registration happen? Picnic tables are a great option, if available. Parking options need to be identified.
Where are toilet facilities? We can also rent porta-potties, if needed, although usually other options are available.
For Porta-Potty rentals, we've used United Site Services (contact: Rebecca Martin).
Will people likely complain about our presence? For example, a school parking lot may be good, unless there is a big event there, as there often is on a fall Saturday morning.
Sometimes local residents may have concerns. The days of the stealth Low-Key, in and out without being noticed, are unfortunately gone. So if we can reach out to a local community group on residential climbs, especially on isolated mountain roads which people tend to think of as their own, that can help. Barry Burr handled this very well on Soda Springs Road in 2012.
We need to determine where the finish line will be, and where the food will be available. Sometimes it's better to separate the two to avoid congestion, although this increases the challenge of getting finishing times. In such instances, a sweeper at the finish is a huge help (see later).
The finish line should be as close to the top of the climb as possible while providing room for riders to slow down after a sprint. Putting the finish at the exact top of the hill can make getting numbers challenging, so sufficiently before a following descent so that there's a few seconds for the rider to shout his number is best. There's often no perfect placement but pick one and go with it. Getting every last vertical foot out of a climb isn't critical, but getting good results is.
We've been great at attracting volunteers. Don't panic if you don't have many with more than a week to go. Most people don't like committing before the week prior. However, it helps to send out emails asking for help, or directly ask friends or family. All expenses are reimbursable.
The series coordinator typically takes care of forms.
It's nice if you're able to pre-ride the course in the days before, or perhaps weekend before the climb, or check with someone who's ridden it recently, in case any unusual conditions exist, like road construction, road damage, etc. It's also good to know if any other big events are occurring the day of the climb which may increase vehicular traffic or otherwise affect bicycle access.
If you have a good volunteer turnout, course marshals are a great addition to an event, and one reason you can never have too many volunteers! Course marshals point out navigational challenges, warn of dangerous road sections, or warn of cross traffic. An example of where a marshal is a must is the left-hander from On Orbit onto Bohlman. We wouldn't use this climb without a marshal there.
Healthy snacks like those sold at Trader Joes are great. Also Trader Joes sells a nice selection of natural juices, which are really good. Jugs of water are also a must if no water will be available near the finish line. Make sure we have an inventory of paper cups. Bananas are also a tradition, around 1 per 2 riders is about right. Other fruits may also be substituted. Pretzels and healthy cookies are both popular. Feel free to be creative!
Thank volunteers, and remind them to be there 15 minutes before registration opens.
At some point, mark key corners with spray-on chalk, which we sometimes have available. This can be done before meeting volunteers, or have someone do it during registration. Multiple small arrows leading to a key turn are good. Also, if it's possible, a chalk line at the finish is nice, although not if you think anyone will object. If we're out of spray chalk and you buy some, we'll of course reimburse you.
So volunteers know where to group.
Get everything set up, get volunteers coordinated, and make sure everyone understands the procedure. For example, certain riders are exempt from the mandatory optional $10 donation: juniors, volunteers with remaining credits, coordinators of other weeks during the year, and grumpy grouches who don't want to pay. Tandem riders register (and pay) separately. Get the forms set up, make sure pens are available, establish who will mind the cash box. Ready to go!
If there are additional vehicle(s) for finish line volunteers, send them up the road adhead of time, to avoid start-line congestion. These cars may also transport course marshal(s), if you have any available. If you wait until the start to send all the cars, if the lead vehicles are delayed for any reason, it can cause a backup which will result in riders swarming the cars.
At around the start time, which is 10 minutes after the "official" close of registration, organize riders for the start. How this is done depends on the type of start, and whether there is a promenade. But it's important to shout instructions to the riders. Key points:
The way riders line up depends on the ride type:
How this happens depends on the event. For a typical mass-start, start the car, then honk the horn indicating riders should start, so the lead riders don't swarm you. Then up the hill you go. Drive safely!
For many climbs it's better to start in small groups, to avoid large groups during the climb which can present a traffic hazard. Small groups start in speed order: fastest group first, slowest group last, to minimize risk of groups merging.
For small groups optimally there should be three people:
The current preferred practice is to pre-assign groups based on Low-Key score history. However, riders can start in slower groups then they were assigned. This should be recorded at the start line. Typically one of the start line volunteers can ride or drive to the summit and deliver the sheets.
Individual time trials have the starting volunteer write the number next to the start time, which is different. Optimally again three volunteers: one to start riders, one to record numbers next to the start time, and one to help organize people to make sure riders are lined up starting five minutes before their start. When we do time trial starts we send riders off on very tight intervals to get through everyone, so organization is really critical. Starting over 100 riders at 30 second intervals requires constant concentration and it's easy to become distracted and make mistakes.
If possible, this should go far enough from the finish line to avoid congestion.
First, the physical set up: put cones on each end of the line, and if you think it will be okay, paint a line with spray-on chalk or with tape. Riders love a finish line! We also have signs, including "bikes on road" to warn drivers, and a "200 paces" sign so riders know when to sprint. The paces in this instance are decent-length strides: one foot = one pace.
Then, the human set-up. You want at least 4 finish people. They have the following tasks:
Of course, on all finish forms, handwriting is key! It also helps to record notes about finishing riders, for example names of those whom are recognized, or other obvious details like "tandem" or "unicycle".
Key for the finish is that volunteers can hear riders shout their numbers so food distribution should be past the line, not just before. If food precedes the finish line, it creates noise which obscures the voices of finishing riders.
Often riders will want to know their time after they've finished but while other riders are still finishing. This is discouraged since it can lead to missing other riders.
Early finishers are eligible for recruitment to help with results if assistance is required. If help is needed, don't hesitate to ask!
Low-Key has been given Google Android phones with Ultrachron timing software! This works extremely well but only if you practice ahead of time, since it's easy to accidently trigger the touch screen and terminate or suspend timing.
Thanks to Pat Parseghian for these fantastic UltraChron tips.
When you're confident all riders have likely finished, do a check of the results sheets for consistency. One set of sheets should include all times and numbers. Check the cards, if possible, to make sure there's agreement with the written sheets. Then give the results to the series coordinator (Dan Connelly) for results preparation. Thanks!!!!
Cash in excess of expense money goes to the treasurer (Patt Baenen) or to the treasurer's assistant (Pat Parseghian) or to Dan Connelly.
The "Climb in a Box" should be transferred to the next coordinator, or to someone who will have the responsibility to deliver it to the next climb.
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Without you, the Low-Key Hillclimbs would not happen. We hope you can coordinate again next year!