So, you want to be a big time race organizer?

September 13, 2007

Have you sat in your armchair watching Jean-Marie Leblanc sticking his head out of the top of a car and thought “What a cool job, I’d love to do that!”

Well, I’m here to tell you that like most jobs that look great, there is a side you don’t see. Organizing a stage race is more than interviewing podium girls and getting the best seat in the house.

Take Tour of Missouri organizer Jim Birrell and yesterday’s Stage 2. Part of his job is to work with all the municipalities along the 202km route. If anyone out there has ever tried to do the simplest of home renovations knows that local town are not the easiest to work with on the best of days.

Well, Jim had negotiated road closures and basic security for the peloton as it raced through various towns. What do you do when there is a break 16 minutes up the road? Local towns were not prepared to keep the town closed for that long? Do they open the roads in between? How do you protect the main peloton as they come through unprotected roads going full gas?

That’s just what Jim Birrell found himself wondering as twelve riders rode off the front and opened said gap. After hoping the break would be brought back, Jim turned his attention to the rider’s safety. Frantically communicating with towns and State Police, Birrell tried to provide the closed roads for every rider. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn’t. Fortunately, the stage traveled through roads that see little traffic.

Jim also did not have the ultimate worry. People losing interest in his race after the second stage. A break of this size eliminates every member in the peloton from contention. Here, Jim was lucky that George Hincapie was not only in the break but he took the stage and leader’s jersey. This should keep interest through the finish. When this happened at the Tour of Georgia, none of the fan favorites were in attendance. The advantage the Tour of Georgia had is a growing history allowing such a misstep without worry about the viability of its race. The fledgling Tour of Missouri does not have that luxury.

Finally, Jim had to deal with something Jean-Marie never had. Shortly after the start, an armadillo caused a crash that took out BMC rider Dan Schmatz. Still want the job?