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Old 2016-08-07, 10:06 PM   #61
johnfoss
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Originally Posted by Vertigo View Post
The marathon was cut short. Apparently the police decided to open the roads before the event was scheduled to be over. I did 21 miles before the course was open to cars and tons of pedestrians crossing the roads to get to the beach. I was well within the posted cut off.
From my vantage point(s) along the main drag (where the start and finish were), I have an idea of what happened. San Sebastian is a densely packed, very popular city in the summer. It's filled with tourists, traffic, bicyclists, buses and pedestrians going every which way. As the race thinned out, with less and less riders it became harder and harder for people to see what was going on, so they were probably crossing the road more and more.

I "guarded" a few intersections during the course of the race. The last one was on the eastern end of the bridge going over the river, right near the start area. VERY busy intersection with people trying to get to the beach, or wherever. Stressful! Trying to keep old ladies from stepping in front of approaching unicycles, some of which were going very fast. I was thinking it might have been easier to be in the race (not counting being in front of constant potential step-outs in my path).

Anyway that main road was open to traffic in one direction the whole time, but then around 12:15 it started coming from the other direction as well, a little. I think that may have just been a gap in the police redirecting traffic, because then I think it stopped again. But the pedestrians kept getting thicker and thicker. But I think our section otherwise remained closed to traffic until 12:30 like it was supposed to.

However, on other parts of the course I think the pedestrian/traffic pressure was much worse; namely around Alderdi Eder Park (where the opening parade started). There the course had 4 right angle turns, all near the beach with people crossing. To properly "guard" a course in such a densely packed place on a Sunday morning would probably have required hundreds more people along the course, literally sticking their arms out to provide a visual block for pedestrians. And others to stand in the road for errant cars that would come out of driveways or ignore the cones and drive on "our" lanes.

In 2010 we did the Unicon 10k race along the waterfront in downtown Wellington (New Zealand), but that was a much more mellow, course-friendly area without tens of thousands of people trying to get to beaches on the other side of the course. Sight lines were much better, and we didn't have any of those problems.

This was not a typical environment for a Road race, and not typical of Unicon organization. With the much smaller amount of riders (about 250 vs. over 600 for the 10k), and a much longer race with multiple laps, it wasn't like the bicycling and running events they also hold there, with much greater amounts of riders.

Usually Unicon suffers from too few volunteers, but not to where it leads to races not working. And chip timing still seems to have its problems as well, apparently. Not sure why so many chips didn't seem to read.
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Old 2016-08-08, 05:12 AM   #62
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It was scheduled to go until 1:30pm. The booklet said cut off was suppose to be 12:30 on the third lap. I was on my last lap. Would have finished at the three hour mark.

Yes the pedestrian traffic was getting bad. My husband was helping one crossing point. Many of the locals were ignoring their direction and he speaks Spanish fluently.

So far no email has been sent out by the race director or the organizers.

I'm not sure I'll attend another Unicon but my suggestion would be that participation should depend on being a volunteer for another event.

Last edited by Vertigo; 2016-08-08 at 05:12 AM.
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Old 2016-08-08, 12:20 PM   #63
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I "guarded" a few intersections during the course of the race. The last one was on the eastern end of the bridge going over the river, right near the start area. VERY busy intersection with people trying to get to the beach, or wherever. Stressful! Trying to keep old ladies from stepping in front of approaching unicycles, some of which were going very fast. I was thinking it might have been easier to be in the race (not counting being in front of constant potential step-outs in my path).
I've done every marathon+ distance road races at Unicon, and this was definitely the scariest. Aside from keeping it together on the bumps, I was dodging cars, a bus in our racing lane, and yelling every time I saw a bunch of pedestrians in case they stepped out.

It was a really fun event from the technical and danger aspect- full on concentration for 1hr 40mins.

We started with a pack of 7 of 8 riders. I was a bit stiff with my seat a fraction too high, but managed to hang on to the lead group. Luis took a tumble right in front of me, and I went down on the same bit of road, followed by Gert-Jan when he took a drink bottle. A big effort but we all dragged ourselves back to the bunch. From there we tried to stay out of trouble and hoped the group would whittle down as riders got tired or made mistakes (/get taken out by pedestrians/cars/other riders)

That didnt happen. Going into the penultimate lap, we still had a very evenly matched group of 5 riders. I was worried about the race coming down to a sprint finish, so I made a break for it in the final lap on the only 'safe' stretch of road along the beachfront. We managed to pop off a couple of riders, but Rolf and Gert-Jan caught me riding like nanny on the twisty corners. I hung on until the finishing straight but they sprinted for the line with less than a second between them. I rolled across a few seconds later.

I enjoyed the race but it was more exciting than I wanted it to be. The standard class riders finished less than 20 min behind the unlimited, and it felt more like a bike race.
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Old 2016-08-08, 01:00 PM   #64
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In 2010 we did the Unicon 10k race along the waterfront in downtown Wellington (New Zealand), but that was a much more mellow, course-friendly area without tens of thousands of people trying to get to beaches on the other side of the course. Sight lines were much better, and we didn't have any of those problems.
That was set up as a criterium style race, although the course was bigger than a typical criterium. It was still only 2.5km; easy to marshall, but publicity/spectator friendly.

I hope we get similar courses to bike racing in future. Drop the 'marathon' label and just call it a road race. Measuring a 42.2km distance is pointless in bicycling because they don't run races exclusively on the flat.
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Old 2016-08-08, 07:26 PM   #65
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vertigo View Post
It was scheduled to go until 1:30pm. The booklet said cut off was suppose to be 12:30 on the third lap. I was on my last lap. Would have finished at the three hour mark.

Yes the pedestrian traffic was getting bad. My husband was helping one crossing point. Many of the locals were ignoring their direction and he speaks Spanish fluently.

So far no email has been sent out by the race director or the organizers.

I'm not sure I'll attend another Unicon but my suggestion would be that participation should depend on being a volunteer for another event.
Don't judge one Unicon on just attending one Unicon. I've been to 12 now (think I'm the 5th most person) and they are all very different cause they are organized by different people and of course some are better than others. IMHO this was the worst organized one yet. Beautiful city but many mistakes by organizers. Montreal was one of the best organized and it went so well they are thinking of having it there again in the future.

[start rant]
Here is my list of things that went wrong;
-cx wasn't marked well at one point and should have had a volunteer at one junction
-more volunteers and better marking needed on beginner xc
-school was terrible..no kitchen..no showers (well one ice cold one)...60 people in my room...and no toilet paper or soap in the bathrooms!!!
-marathon and 10km race issues with traffic making it a very dangerous race
-data issues with the timing chips in almost every raced
-no workshops (probably my biggest disappointment)
-none of the directors were mentioned or thanked at the final party (WTF?!)
-DH wasn't that technical and only had manmade obstacles
-Uphill was too short and not very hard
-medals looked cheap and if I showed one to someone stating this is what I got for being 1st in the world I would be embarrassed
[end rant]

Of course they did many things well but won't list them here but I especially liked the live streaming.
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Old 2016-08-08, 10:09 PM   #66
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I was in the cross-country and got lost as well. I noticed that there were people on the track mountain biking, hiking and also unicycling.

As to directions i would suggest that placing a road marker with an arrow pointing in the right direction may be better than blocking portions of the road with tape. These marks can be nailed to trees or put on a stick and hammered into the ground.

A second problem with this race was that the sections were crossing each other so once you went the wrong way there was no indication that there was something wrong. I include my gps track for reference. The dot indicates the spot where i took a wrong turn going right where i should have gone left (uphill).

anyway, i enjoyed myself regardless of getting lost and think that it was a nice event.

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Old 2016-08-08, 10:31 PM   #67
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Did they make a decision on the host for Unicon 19 or does that come later?
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Old 2016-08-09, 12:12 AM   #68
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Did they make a decision on the host for Unicon 19 or does that come later?

South Korea.

They have been looking to host since 2014 but apparently Donostia got some grants or government help if they hosted it this year so Korea gave up the 2016 UNICON to them.
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Old 2016-08-09, 04:04 PM   #69
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Unicon's issues are structural. It's impossible to effectively run an event of this scale in the way it's being run now. Among the issues:

Lack of mission
What is Unicon for? Ask five different people and you'll get five different answers. It's trying to be too many different things to too many different people. Is it a world championship? A social gathering? A spectator event? A place where people can learn about unicycling? It tries in different ways to be all these things, but you can't be all of that at the same time. This problem is exacerbated by:

Inexperienced, volunteer directors
Unicon is almost entirely organized by local unicyclists who have never run a similar event before. IUF provides little assistance other than the rulebook itself. There is talk of writing an event guide which would help organizers avoid some of the common pitfalls, but every set of organizers has different ideas about the event, and there will always be issues.

The local organizers also take on all the financial risk of the event, and a lot of the IUF requirements have financial implications. The concerns of the IUF rulebook committee seem esoteric to people not directly involved with that effort, which leads to conflict between local organizers and IUF over how the event should be run.

Effective organizations have strong alignment between authority, responsibility, and accountability. With Unicon, most of the authority lies with IUF, most of the responsibility lies with the local organizers, and accountability is nowhere to be found.

Mutually exclusive venue requirements
Many of the disciplines require expensive large-scale sporting venues generally found in urban areas. MUni requires appropriate terrain, which is usually not expensive, but getting permission to use urban trail systems (if they even exist) for race events is quite difficult. So MUni courses usually wind up being well outside of town, which makes logistics challenging, and because of terrain requirements (and organizer inexperience), setting appropriate courses is nearly impossible. Road races also suffer from permitting and logistical problems.

In addition, contention for the indoor venues causes friction between different competitors. Freestyle, hockey and basketball all need approximately the same facilities, and because of the expense involved, there are never enough to go around for competitions and practice. I've been to four Unicons and I know the basketballers felt screwed out of gym time every year.

This problem is exacerbated by:

Too many people of different skill levels

Getting back to the mission question: Is Unicon a world championship or a convention?

A MUni course that's appropriate for the top competitors in the world is wildly inappropriate for a freestyle unicyclist who is riding because it's the MUni day. A road race with speeds upwards of 30kph that the top competitors will finish in 1:20 needs different logistics than a race with riders averaging 11kph for four hours.

In no other sport do the world championships include people who don't normally participate in the sport. Unicon has dozens or hundreds of people doing MUni, road racing and track who don't practice those disciplines. That's fine if it's a convention; it's a problem for a championship.

Sociodemographics

Unicon is a great place for (roughly) 16-30 year old riders who like the idea of hanging out in hostel-style housing with other 16-30 year olds. It's also pretty good for large family-based clubs where the parents can support their kids who are participating. If you're not in those demographics, you are likely to feel marginalized at the event. You can do what I did, which is to get a place in Centro with some friends and spend more time sightseeing and drinking wine than participating in Unicon. It can't be all things to all people.


As a strategic consultant, the first question I ask clients is always, "What are you trying to accomplish?" It's important to have a clear mission that everyone's on board with. That's more important than what the mission actually is.

In my personal opinion, MUni weekends are a better venue for MUni than Unicon, and the French and German basketball and hockey tournaments are better competitions than Unicon can ever provide. I'd focus the event on a limited number of championship-level competitions (flatland seems to work well, for example, because of sociodemographics), and address the marginal disciplines as workshops rather than championships. Make it clear to people what they're getting when they sign up.

That's my opinion and it's worth what you paid for it.
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Old 2016-08-09, 04:28 PM   #70
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Very thoughtful and well put, Tom.

Regarding this issue:
Quote:
Originally Posted by tholub View Post
Too many people of different skill levels

Getting back to the mission question: Is Unicon a world championship or a convention?

A MUni course that's appropriate for the top competitors in the world is wildly inappropriate for a freestyle unicyclist who is riding because it's the MUni day. A road race with speeds upwards of 30kph that the top competitors will finish in 1:20 needs different logistics than a race with riders averaging 11kph for four hours.

In no other sport do the world championships include people who don't normally participate in the sport. Unicon has dozens or hundreds of people doing MUni, road racing and track who don't practice those disciplines. That's fine if it's a convention; it's a problem for a championship.
I wonder if having preliminary heats and qualifying trials would be useful to narrow the field of finalists. Do they ever do that? That's fairly standard procedure for other big sporting events. (I've not attended a Unicon yet, so I'm a bit ignorant of the details.)

Thanks!
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Old 2016-08-09, 05:02 PM   #71
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Very thoughtful and well put, Tom.

Regarding this issue:


I wonder if having preliminary heats and qualifying trials would be useful to narrow the field of finalists. Do they ever do that? That's fairly standard procedure for other big sporting events. (I've not attended a Unicon yet, so I'm a bit ignorant of the details.)

Thanks!
Generally, qualifying has not been a requirement for competitions at Unicon. Many participants aren't coming from places where potential qualifying events occur. For example, how could a potential new hockey or basketball team from the U.S. qualify for Unicon 2018 in South Korea? We could run competitions at U.S. nationals in 2017, but the players who can show up to Seattle in 2017 will likely not be the same ones who show up at Korea in 2018. And most countries don't even have an organized national competition.

If you look back at the stated purpose of IUF, which includes attempting to make unicycling an Olympic sport, it might make sense for IUF to encourage countries to have qualifying competitions, and make Unicon a real world championship. That would make the event much smaller, and different than what it's been. That's why being clear about what you're trying to accomplish is important; if you don't have a strategy to align to, those kinds of judgement calls will be made based on politics and whimsy.
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Old 2016-08-09, 06:35 PM   #72
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My opinion is there needs to be attempts at putting in qualifying times and a push towards more competition and less convention.

When UNICON was smaller and got few riders everyone could take part in track races and it would be over quickly. Now that we have great numbers people competing in events who don't take train for them takes up time for volunteers and makes it harder to get volunteers for events where they are needed.

I don't compete in an event I don't take seriously at UNICON as I believe it's a waste of volunteer and event coordinator time. I volunteer for my own events as it helps run them.

We either need every person attending to volunteer in a similar number of events that they are competing in, or people to only compete in events they actually take seriously.
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Old 2016-08-09, 10:20 PM   #73
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If you look back at the stated purpose of IUF, which includes attempting to make unicycling an Olympic sport, it might make sense for IUF to encourage countries to have qualifying competitions, and make Unicon a real world championship. That would make the event much smaller, and different than what it's been. That's why being clear about what you're trying to accomplish is important; if you don't have a strategy to align to, those kinds of judgement calls will be made based on politics and whimsy.

Will Unicycling ever be an Olympic sport? I think it is unlikely. In 2020 climbing as a sport will have a ticket to appear as an additional event in the olympic games. One of the arguments was "It is also the recognition of the tremendous growth of Sport Climbing in recent years. Worldwide, the sport counted 25 million climbers in 2013, while in 2015, figures are estimated at 35 million. 50% are under 25 years of age, thanks to the latest trend of urban/action sports." 1)

Will unicycling ever be this big? I doubt that. It is not that the sport is any harder than for example climbing. i think that the difference is that unicycling is not even recognized as a (cool) sport by the general public and will therefore not attract as many people. Also someone who can climb a little is admired more than someone who can unicycle a little.

So should it be the goal of Unicon to promote the sport of unicycling? I think it should, but a larger focus on the expert levels will not promote Unicon as an event. I think the current setup is a reasonable compromise.

The reason is financial. I wonder how many people would be willing to travel all the way around the world and pay for an event if they are not allowed to compete, not even in a beginner competition. I think this number is considerably less than the current number of competitors/non- competitors. So with less participants, what is the price the expert unicyclists are willing to pay for exclusive, expert only competition? Not that high i bet. A post Uncion opinion pole may be a good idea.

1) http://www.ifsc-climbing.org/images/..._Tokyo2020.pdf
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Old 2016-08-09, 11:04 PM   #74
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My opinion is there needs to be attempts at putting in qualifying times and a push towards more competition and less convention.
There was almost no convention at this Unicon. I've been to seven and organised one, and this had the fewest workshops and non - competitive events of all UNICONS I'd attended.
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Old 2016-08-09, 11:51 PM   #75
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Will Unicycling ever be an Olympic sport? I think it is unlikely. In 2020 climbing as a sport will have a ticket to appear as an additional event in the olympic games. One of the arguments was "It is also the recognition of the tremendous growth of Sport Climbing in recent years. Worldwide, the sport counted 25 million climbers in 2013, while in 2015, figures are estimated at 35 million. 50% are under 25 years of age, thanks to the latest trend of urban/action sports." 1)

Will unicycling ever be this big? I doubt that. It is not that the sport is any harder than for example climbing. i think that the difference is that unicycling is not even recognized as a (cool) sport by the general public and will therefore not attract as many people. Also someone who can climb a little is admired more than someone who can unicycle a little.

So should it be the goal of Unicon to promote the sport of unicycling? I think it should, but a larger focus on the expert levels will not promote Unicon as an event. I think the current setup is a reasonable compromise.

The reason is financial. I wonder how many people would be willing to travel all the way around the world and pay for an event if they are not allowed to compete, not even in a beginner competition. I think this number is considerably less than the current number of competitors/non- competitors. So with less participants, what is the price the expert unicyclists are willing to pay for exclusive, expert only competition? Not that high i bet. A post Uncion opinion pole may be a good idea.

1) http://www.ifsc-climbing.org/images/..._Tokyo2020.pdf
I'm not saying what I think the mission of the event should be. I have opinions about that, but I'm just one person; others have different opinions.

I'm saying that the event should have a clearly defined purpose, so potential participants know what to expect. If the purpose is expert competition, great. If it's a convention for participants of all kinds, great. If it's a way to showcase the sport to the general public, great. Just make a choice about what you want to accomplish so you have some hope of getting there.

The current state isn't a compromise. It's the result of history and inertia. A sizable number of people in almost every discipline complain about the situation, every time. The organizers get blamed when it's not their fault. Specific problems may be the organizers' fault, but the fact that there are problems isn't. There will be problems every time because the way we're running the event is organizationally insane.
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