I am here to address a growing concern of mine, highlighted by some events this weekend at the ESC race at Killington:
Where are all the course marshals?
In the earlier years of racing, at every single race, from Mt Snow to Mtn Creek, there were marshals [volunteers] track side with whistles and radios – both on Saturday and Sunday. Up until 2012 (the year I took off from racing), there was a steady decline in their presence, though they were still scattered along the course. But now, I don’t see anyone out there who would be able to aid me in a time of crisis or concern, and this is not acceptable.
The sounds of whistles and the crackle of radios was as common place as bird songs out on the hill, but now, all is quiet, and this is cause for alarm. After noticing the lack of marshals in 2013 and thus far in 2014, I am bringing this forward in an attempt to make this issue heard. After hearing of an incident at Killington just this weekend, a severe situation in which a course hold and class rerun was instituted, I was shocked to hear that there were only a couple medics there to attend to the rider, and it was up to the spectators and a racer to call a halt to the race.
|Knowing the track ahead is clear is paramount for fast riding.|
Not only is this unacceptable for race day, but this is also an issue during the two days of practice on Friday and Saturday.
With mixed categories sharing one track, making sure that the track is clear for riding should be top priority. With Cat 2/3 racers sharing one ribbon of dirt with Cat1 and Pro riders, there is going to be a lot of discrepancy in ability and race etiquette. Marshals are there to regulate traffic, impose rules, provide guidance, and above all, make sure rider safety is established. I have been hearing too many pit-chats about riders rounding blind turns or approaching jumps/drops/fast/technical sections to find a rider down unannounced, or simply not being informed about an upcoming incident on track, despite multiple by-standers and/or other stopped riders.
I understand that organizing a race is no cake walk, but, more needs to be done about on-track safety in regards to marshaling. I can’t think of any other sport similar to ours that doesn’t have track-side support at regular intervals for all days of practice and race days. After ten years of racing, I have come to expect certain levels of support at races. I can understand a glitch in timing; I get that delays happen. There is no excuse though for leaving and entire (or large sections of) track unattended when 200+ people are out on course pushing the limits of mind, body, and engineering.
If it is a matter of just getting a headcount, all is takes is asking spectators to volunteer their time while out on track to aid in rider safety and course regulation. Compensate them with a bagged lunch and tshirt or something of the like. This was standard procedure for countless years at Mtn Creek, Platty, and Mt Snow – I know because my mom and dad were always volunteer course marshals. There are plenty of WAGs and BAHs who would be game to have a radio, whistle, food, and tshirt while they watch there significant other fly by every 20minutes. It also helps build a sense of community and camaraderie amongst the racers and fans.
My hopes for this piece are two-fold:
1. Just get marshals out there with whistles and radios.
2. Getting people, riders and spectators alike, to lookout for one another out there.
Thanks for reading and being a part of this conversation. If you wish to share some constructive thoughts, constructive ideas, constructive concerns, or anything else that is relevant, please positively add to the conversation.