Pat McNally spoke to Jon Knouse, the race director behind the Glencoe Gran Prix about planning and preparation for the June 1, 2013 race
PM: Tell us about this new starting grid you keep texting me about
JK: We have always believed the GGP to be a cycling event and not a bike race. To some, that may be a matter of semantics, but we are really interested in providing an overall great experience in addition to great bike racing. One area we thought was lacking was the staging. We generally see it being an inelegant experience. That is to say, some riders do what is asked of them, some hang on barricades, others skip the free lap or enter the course where they see fit, all in the name of getting to the front. It seemed to be the wild, wild West. So we decided to end that by staging the riders like a Formula 1 race, without the qualifying laps. Our qualifying laps are the USAC rankings of the riders.
PM: How will it work?
JK: Ten feed feet behind the starting line will be row 1. There are ten places per row so everyone is spread out and the places are set equidistant between the barricades. Then every five feet another row until we have 12 rows of 10 (120 places) and a 13th row of 5 for a total of 125 places (our largest field size which is the pro men). On the ground, you will see an AT&T Globe with a number on it. A rider will enter the course, look at his/her bib number, match it to the number on the ground and place the front wheel on the decal. All riders will enter the course in the same place. Once everyone is set, the referees will check to see everyone is placed properly. Call–ups will then be done, which will work great as everyone will be spread out so it will be easy for the rider to work his/her way to the front. After call-ups, referees will release the rows one by one to fill in around the start line like a traditional race. The referee will give his instructions, then race!
PM: And how will pre-registration or day-of registration factor in
JK: It will be extremely important to pre-register. All same day registrants start in the back of the field. You may be the best Cat 3 on the planet, but if you register same-day and are rider number 76, you start in 76th position. However, if you’ve pre-registered, you can sign in, get your race numbers and fully concentrate on your preparation and warm-up without having to worry about getting to the starting line. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible.
PM: What made you think about changing the staging process?
JK: I attended every day of the Ryder Cup last fall at Medinah Country Club (two days too many!) When the Americans came out of the clubhouse to head to the first tee, they walked over a bridge, were announced over the PA and the crowd went nuts. It was really a grand entrance. I thought the scene was electric. I immediately wanted to do something similar with the GGP (without the bridge). This is what I came up with. As an aside, we are taking suggestions for entrance music for each race as the riders stage. We’re open to just about anything within reason (and that can be played in front of little ones). We plan to solicit suggestions by race over at the Glencoe Gran Prix Facebook page, but I’ll gladly take suggestions here too. We’ll give preference to those actually in the race, so if, for example, if Jason Knauff suggests something for the 30+1/2/3, we’ll consider that over my eight-year-old daughter who will suggest One Direction for every race. That is, unless he suggests something by Neil Diamond.
More on the GGP: This is the 7th year of the GGP. The race benefits Glencoe Educational Foundation, as well as schools in Chicago, specifically, Holden Elementary and Johnson College Prep. It is hard to believe this is the 7th year already, but time flies when you are having fun I guess. We’re once again part of the National Criterium Calendar and also this year we are part of USA Crits, which allows us for the first time to live stream our event, and elevates the profile of the GGP further as part of a nationally respected crit series. We are not hosting the IL State Criterium Championships this year, but we know St. Charles will do an awesome job with it.