Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Science of Pitting

I feel the need to address a few issues I had today while being a pit bitch at a local cross race.
At world and national level cross races, a double pit (DP) is par for the course. For those of you not aware of how the DP works, it effectively enables two bike changes per lap by placing the pit area (PA) on a piece of ground where the riders pass at approximately 3rd lap distance.
Here's a basic scribble I did to illustrate.

This does away with the need for two separate pit areas. There are courses such as Koppenberg in Belgium where separate pits are set up, this is due to the topography of the course but we won't go into that.
Most local races have a single pit (SP) for very much the same reason as Koppenberg.

The PA has the following features;
- Entrances
- Exits
- Cleaning/Jet washing area
- Rider transition zones (RTZ)
- Safe zone (SZ)

Here's another scribble to illustrate that bit.
The solid line is the course, the dashed line is the RTZ and hatched area is the SZ.


Entrance and Exit speak for themselves, these are usually indicated by yellow flags and ALL bike transitions should be carried out between the yellow flags. Failure to do so could result in disqualification of the rider.
Cleaning and Jet washing areas are usually away from the SZ and the RTZ.
The RTZ is separated from the course by tape/barriers. Riders will signal their pit crew (PC) when approaching the PA and the spare bike can be readied and introduced to the RTZ in readiness for a swift transition. The dirty/broken bike is whisked away to be cleaned or repaired.
All the while the PC's are not carrying out transitions with their riders, they must remain within the SZ so as not to interfere with the other PC's going about their business.
Sometimes, there are fights.

Things I saw at the race today.
- 2 x Entrances
- 2 x Exits
(these two things indicate DP)
- 1 x RTZ
(this indicates SP)
- 1 x SZ
- A rider coming into the pit at the Entrance (good so far), riding some way along the RTZ, dismounting and handing his bike to his PC, then running backwards within the RTZ (dangerous) and collecting his spare bike from near the entrance, saddling up and rejoining the course via the exit.
- A rider coming into the pit at the entrance, again, this is correct procedure, dismounting and changing bike all by himself (no PC was present), then running back to the entrance and using it as an exit. This is not only a bit dangerous, but also silly as any time spent going backwards in a race is counter productive.
- Many people, including riders who had abandoned the race loitering in the RTZ and therefore hampering the riders trying to change bikes.
- Some bell end standing the wrong side of the bike whilst doing a transition. This resulted in the incoming rider needing to duck under the 'helpers' arm to grab the new bike - idiot!

Now this may seem like a moan and I imagine you're reading this thinking, "get a load of old know it all over there", but I do appreciate the efforts made by organizers and promoting clubs to give the racers the best possible courses and facilities, but, a little research and time would have done away with this near shambles.