2014 – End of an Era, Call for Help

October 1st, 2014 by sprinterdellacasa Categories: Front Page, News 39 Responses

I know that there have been rumors of the Bethel Spring Series demise and I’m writing to confirm that, yes, it’s true.

There will not be a Bethel Spring Series in 2015.

However, that does not mean there won’t be a Spring Series somewhere in Connecticut. It just means that it won’t be at Bethel. Ultimately the park is getting too busy to host a race series. A one day event is potentially possible but not a series of races over several weeks.

Venue

This means finding a new venue. I may be able to hold two races at one venue (meaning two weeks). However my goal would be to have a total of six races.

I need help finding and securing a venue for two to four weeks.

Comments

If you, your teammates, your friends, your family, if anyone you know has had a good experience at the Bethel Spring Series, please let me know. You can comment here (if you want to keep it private just say at the beginning of the comment “please don’t post this”). All comments get approved through me. You can always directly contact me as well using akira then underscore then sato then the Yahoo mail suffix.

I’m asking for this for a couple reasons. The main one is to try and convince a generic venue commission/board/etc that the Series is a good thing and that they should let us race there.

The second reason is to try and secure a sponsor. With the races losing money sort of consistently I’ve had to rely on cash sponsorship to reduce the deficit, and I need to find new sponsors since the current one doesn’t have need to sponsor a race in central Connecticut. I’ll be releasing numbers (for the first time) at some point this fall to illustrate the need for sponsorship.

Race at Bethel

I do want to hold a race at Bethel but I don’t know how to make that work. I’ll have to figure it out but it may be that it has to fall on a major holiday, like July 4th or Labor Day. Hopefully the retail stores will be closed and this will allow us to use the course. With the Markus Bohler Memorial, the history of the race, I don’t want to leave it behind. However to make a race happen will be very hard and I realize that the turnout will be smaller than normal for a national holiday.

The Town of Bethel Has Supported The Race, Always

Finally I want to point out that the Town of Bethel has been extremely supportive throughout this decision process. They encouraged me to finish out the 2014 Series before making any kind of decisions. They said that the race helps define a part of Bethel – the Spring Series has been a trademark race for over 20 years, and it’s one of the biggest Spring Series in New England. They’ve been supportive of the races from the beginning and they’ve never been difficult, and in fact I think they’ve been very forgiving.

At this point this is what I need from all of you that enjoyed the Bethel Spring Series over the years:

1. Comments/notes about what you found enjoyable about the Series. This is for venue application processes and sponsorship search stuff.

2. Thoughts on alternate venues. Ideal locations are in Connecticut, close to highways (5-10 minutes max), have a closable loop with just one entrance/exit, decent pavement, parking, and a less challenging/technical course. It should be plowed in the winter by someone (town if a road, by land owners if private like a mall access road). I need them to be between Bethel and Hartford. I can’t afford to go further away from home (I live slightly north of Hartford).

3. Thoughts on sponsors, including if you want to be a sponsor.

4. Opinion on July 4th vs Labor Day for a race at Bethel. If one date seems to make sense more than another let me know. I really don’t want to compete with the retail traffic, if you will.

Ultimately I want to recreate a Spring Series, even if it takes a year or three. In the meantime I want to get something together for 2014, even if it’s a bit more limited in terms of weeks-of-racing.

Thanks,
Aki

  1. Jeffrey weaver says:

    My family and I always enjoyed the great atmosphere at the bethel spring series, with the short loop, even my 2 young children had fun watching. The town of bethel is so nice and there are plenty of places to go after the race. As a racer I love doing the same circuit week after week to watch my fitness gains. The bethel circuit was also very safe.

    I would enjoy a July 4th race, most of the family are in town that day and would enjoy watching.

    The only place I think would be great is new Brittan for the spring series. Although the rent or even the Yale bowl could work

    • sprinterdellacasa says:

      My inclination is a July 4th race for Bethel. I’m usually in the area visiting family so that’s a help. No sand to sweep. Hopefully no businesses open. I’d want to have a BBQ for all attendees (free), relaxed race categories, and a bit more of a party atmosphere. It would be a little less “nose to the stem” kind of thing.

      Memorial Day is out because NJ has a really strong set of crits that deserve 100% attention. Labor Day… not sure. July 4th would conflict with a stage race I think but for those of us that don’t do hills, don’t do stage races, a Bethel race would be nice. I know I write off July 4th every year because the races don’t suit me in schedule or terrain.

      However, if the town would allow one week of racing in the Spring, that would be possible as well and tie in well with a “Connecticut Spring Series”. It’s just that I’d worry about weather, traffic, etc.

  2. John says:

    Wow! It’s sad to hear, but I guess all good things must come to an end. The Bethel Series meant so much to me personally and to so many area riders. It was more than just a race. It was the motivation to get on the trainer during the dark months on Winter. It was a jump start to the outdoor season when the weather may have kept me off the roads until the end of April. Perhaps most importantly, it was the most social, collegial, and unintimidating race around. Many new friends were made and old acquaintances renewed there. It was the go-to recommendation to new riders looking to start racing.

    Many thanks to you Aki, the Town of Bethel, Mike, and everyone else that made all those years possible.

  3. Daren Casey says:

    I am new to bike racing and everyone I spoke with on how to get started all said, Bethel! Great venue, location, well organized and allowed all abilities to enjoy an early Spring race. I enjoyed every second other then not dressing correctly the first time. I learned so much from the other racers, befor, during and after the races but even more from the mandatory Cat 5 clinics. I am grateful for the Bethel Series and was excited to return. I am willing to help if I’m able. I will look for new locations. Thank you for all that you do for the cycling community.

  4. Doug Levens says:

    Although I only made a few of these races over the years, I am disappointed to see them going away.

    The Junior races this year really helped my youth triathlon team with their bike skills. They compete in draft legal triathlons and need criterium race experience. We were looking forward to again competing in 2015. If/when you find a location, we will be there!!

    Doug Levens
    Head Coach
    Nutmeg Youth Triathlon Team

  5. Jonathan Lowenstein says:

    I’ve gone to the spring series for years. It’s always well run, and made as safe as can be. There are police on the corner to control trafic. It’s sad that it won’t happen again this year. I would have gone to more races, but it’s a two and one half hour car ride. I hope you’re able to get something together for next year.

    I think you’ve described the New Britain course in Walnut Hill Park for a new venue.

    • sprinterdellacasa says:

      I’m in discussions with New Britain but at this point they will not approve of a 6 week Series at Walnut Hill Park. This is due to concerns regarding local residents relating to other events that take place there during the year (cycling as well as non-cycling).

      At this point my best case scenario is a Spring Series that takes place in multiple venues, maybe 2 races per venue. There’d be a learning curve for each venue so for us that would be tough, and we’d have to clear sand/etc from two or three courses, not one. Unfortunately I have no secured venues at this point, not even Walnut Hill Park.

      My absolute deadline is mid-January, which is about when I made the commitment to hold the 2014 Bethel Spring Series. However, obviously, it would be much less stressful to permit the races earlier.

      Goal is to hold races the five Sundays in March and April 12th.

      In all cases the races would take place on Sunday.

      • Jim Lasak says:

        First of all, thankyou so much for all of your hard work over the years putting these races together, I and a great many others are very grateful! I know there would be a lot more work but I like the idea of two events each at three venues. Say one in Westchester, one in New Britain and East Hartford? I personally prefer longer courses like New Britain or Bethel and would like to see that format in the future if possible. As far as the extra volunteers needed for course work some of that, I hope, would be offset by the different locations attracting additional local racers. You can count on my help in the spring, just say the word. Thanks again for all you do for racing.

  6. Etsu Taniguchi says:

    Aki, I am very sad to hear that I no longer have the Bethel Spring Serie to look forward to in March come 2015. And I think I speak for many racers not just in that region but also from the racing community in NYC area.

    We really enjoyed the relatively short drive or train ride to Bethel course. We loved pulling up to the Sycamore Diner before/during/after the races. We loved getting to know the local shops there as stopped for food, gas and occasional stroll in the town.

    The race course presented a wonderful Sunday experience. The course was safe, the volunteers akways greeted us with smiles and police officers were cordial and professional. As a racer from NYC, I looked forward to meeting riders from the local area and often establishing great friendship with them. Your sponsors were always accommodating with our needs bad provided so many prizes and support throughout the series every year.

    In a nutshell, though often freezing and rain/snow in the ground, many of us looked to your racing series at Bethel one of the highlights of the season. We appreciate all the work you and your staff do ensure we get to race on a safe circuit – for clearing snow/sand on the road, to setting up proper marshals to guide cyclists and car traffic safely.

    Above all, we appreciate the long multiple day series that allowed the teams to unite as we pursue to win the series and create healthy competitive environment for cyclists all over the tristate region.

    I am very disappointed that you will not be able to host us with your enthusiasm and organization at Bethek next spring. I hope there will be other opportunities for us to race together, and I look forward to it.

    Sincerely,

    Etsu Taniguchi

  7. Amazingly, I only ever did this race once. I suppose it was because I lived in Northern New England for so long and then was racing a bit less in the spring by the time I got down to CT. However, that ONE TIME I did it was awesome. Thanks to your hard work Aki, It was extremely well organized I really enjoyed the course. There are so few crits with a decent little climb in them, and having the course completely closed made the race feel very safe. I also thought the level of competition for a race series in the fall was really good. It is always sad to lose an event or set of events that are an institution on the New England calendar. Losing the Longsjo a few years ago (which is now thankfully back) left a gaping hole in the schedule. That said, I think this will represent a great opportunity for you, Aki, to do something else that is really cool. Thanks for all your work for the New England cycling community. -B

  8. Mike Conlan says:

    So, where do I begin? I can remember the first races up there in 1992. I raced them on a fixed gear. When I no longer raced, I started officiating there, and I never stopped officiating there. In 20 years I think I missed maybe 7 races total. Meg and I always looked forward to a new season.
    We watched new riders show up every year and watched their progress through the ranks every subsequent year. Our daughters grew up at the races, literally. From babies to working registration for you. We had good days, bad days, miserable days, and the worst day. We would never trade any of them.
    We loved going to the Sycamore after the races, or to Giovanni’s to get sandwiches, or Tonellis if we weren’t too tired.
    We recall the businesses up there too. CD Onestop, O’Caramoody’s cookies, the environmental emergency trucks, Cannondale, Bethel Power.
    We were able to secure a viable sponsor in the last 5 years with the Outdoor Sports Center, with both parties seeing value in the exposure.
    It’s a shame that the racing will no longer take place on what is arguably the one of the safest and best course. Not just in the area, or New England, but in the country.
    Yes, the last couple of years have been challenging, but we always found a way to make it work. Not so that it was convenient to you or I, but to the racers who we wanted to hold a competitive and safe race.

    There are people to say thank you to. Rit Gorman, Mike Hartley, Kevin, Gene Pringle, Diego, Jon Morales, David, Melissa, Jonathon, Adrienna, the Cote’s, John Romano, Delaney, Erin, and Meg.

    Thank you Akii, and Anne and Koichi

    Mike

  9. John Hirsch says:

    Great event, I will miss it. You can tell it was done as a labor of love and it built a cycling community that i always enjoyed.

    Thanks for all your work!

  10. Omri Roden says:

    Aki-

    This is really sad news. I hope that the extensive network of riders who have been part of this series will step up. If there is anything I can do please let me know. The spring series has been a in my calendar for all the years I biked in the US. I loved every minute of it.

    The series is the only one like it in the area. It provides the ability for strong riders to get the racing legs going, while new comers get everything they need to start pedaling in a peloton.

    I have gotten sucked into your mandatory clinics, just passing by. They are an amazing way for folks to pickup racing, so much quicker, and safely.

    As an individual we have also talked, and your knowledge/excitement about bike racing has inspired me. If anyone is to put together a race series that people will love to be part of its you, and the past 20 years show it. You are extremely thoughtful with everything you do from the perspective of the folks helping you organize the series, to the community in which its in, and the riders that show up.

    Omri

  11. Matt Stuart says:

    I’ve been racing at Bethel for as long as it’s been a series. It’s an excellent venue, and with the location it attracted a great crowd. I’ll miss the series a lot.
    As for suggestions on where to have an event, New Britain was a spring training series long before Bethel came into being ( I raced there in 1986). I would also suggest an alternate venue could be Where the present Plainville series is on Saturdays. This may help you get your 6 days in.
    Thanks for always putting the riders first- It’s what made your series so popular.

  12. Bryan Haas says:

    Aki:
    Thanks for the many years of a safe and well organized event. I have no doubt that your next event will be as well organized and safe as this one.
    Bryan J. Haas

  13. guy poirier says:

    thanks aki for putting on a very professional and extremely well organized event
    i started my first race 4 years ago at the summer series;
    i have raced the last three years in the spring series; love the course ; the safety of the course due to the hill and the challange that the hill created.
    there are so many memories of that course from the different summer series and the spring series.
    alot of great racers have raced there including joey roskoff;
    hopefully you will find a suitable replacement.
    and also thanks to all the people that made the race what it is the conlons; david bailey;
    john romano and many others that i am not mentioning

  14. Cedrick Gousse says:

    Aki, I’m very sorry to hear this but feel super fortunate I got to race in the last few years at Bethel. I always felt like it was the northeast’s best kept secret when it came to spring racing and will definitely leave a huge void. Hope you find a venue.

    I’ve moved out west this year and become familiar with velopromo who put on the Red Kite series in locations all around SF. Might be worth contacting them to bounce ideas about this sort of mobile format. For racers though it represents a good level of challenge and variety, potentially bringing new complexity to the Spring Series, wherever it is. Good luck!

  15. Rich Kelly says:

    Where to start?

    While I had been racing for a couple of years before doing my first Bethel race in ’94 I really learned HOW to race there. I had no clue what to do until I met Aki and started racing at Francis J. Clarke.

    A few of the best things about Bethel: The back-to-back-to-back racing each weekend that was great for learning and trying new strategies and tactics. Bethel was like a stage race played out over six weekends – I loved the team tactics that made the racing more fun than the one-day-only crits. The care and effort that went into making the course safe for the racers – from sweeping the sand after every storm and covering the gutter grates to hiring good marshals and the police to tame the seemingly endless parade of cars going to work on a Sunday morning.

    Some non-racing memories that stand out: racing for Carpe Diem vs the BRNO guys in the mid-’90’s. Chopping away at the ice in turn one with Aki’s Silca pump (a great ice pick in a pinch, btw. until it cracked). The year it dawned on us to bring leaf blowers to help sweep the sand. Scrambling to find a place to buy 1,000 safety pins on a Sunday morning. Trying to reason with the grumpy Sunday morning shift workers at CD OneStop when marshaling turn one. Waking up at 6am for Bethel was sooo much better than meeting at 4:30 to head down to Prospect Park. And, the best memory: laying eyes on my wife Julie for the first time ever at registration one year.

    There may be races on the calendar that get more attention, but what Aki has done with Bethel for the racing community in the area is priceless. He has been so generous with his time, effort and boundless passion and enthusiasm for the sport of bike racing over these 20+ years and he always sought to make Bethel even better every year for the racers. Bethel was always about the racers and never about making money. A big thank you to Aki and all of the other volunteers who worked with him over the years to make Bethel such a fun, safe, affordable and awesome fixture on the racing calendar and for all the friendships that were forged there.

    Best of luck with what comes next, and let me know what I can do to help from a distance, Aki!

    • Vassos says:

      Rich Kelly hit a nerve: BRNO Velo vs Carpe Diem! That says it all for me! 20+ years of racing at Bethel and loving every minute of it! Great memories and tons of great stories will stay with us for ever.

      I don’t even know how to start planning my training for 2015! In recent years, the goal has been to “get in shape for Bethel”. Hopefully, you will be able to put something together. Whatever it is wherever it ill be, we will be there!

      Aki, thanks for all the great years of racing at Bethel!

      Vassos

  16. Ross Baldwin says:

    Sorry to hear this. This race was a great chance to have fun getting a hard workout in to get some form early in the season, and very well run. I found it to be a critical piece of my journey from a Cat 4 to a Cat 1 racer. I got more comfortable crit racing in a pack, then could take advantage of the pricing that encouraged doubling up on a 3/4 and a pro/3 and ultimately emerged a stronger and smarter rider as a Cat 1. I always enjoyed coming to these.

    Good luck with securing a new venue. My only suggestions would be to find a course that is still “a crit with a hill,” and trying not to get further northeast from NYC. There is a wide variety of flat field sprint circuit and crit races in the first half of the season and always found Bethel unique with the hill. I also observed, as I moved from CT to NYC, that the location was a good compromise between the greater NYC region and New England. I think if it went further away from the city it might discourage some attendance from here (I’d still go here and there, but would predict many people couldn’t make the journey). Whereas races further north were a solely New England gathering, and races south were PA/NJ/NY, Bethel was a good chance for those crowds to mix which was cool.

  17. Rebecca H. says:

    Aki, thanks so much for all the work you did over the years. Bethel was a special race and I’ll miss it. But there are many racers who will follow you wherever you decide to go next. Many thanks also to the Conlan family.

  18. Sammy Moseley says:

    Hi Aki,

    The Bethel Series was a fantastic series. I loved using it as way to start up the road racing season. I hope that you will find a suitable venue. I would like to second that hopefully you can find a venue with a hill to make it more challenging. This might be too far from Hartford, but SUNY Purchase has a 3mi loop with only one driveway for access. It includes a small hill and is generally pretty quite on the weekend (I go there to train).

    Sammy

    • sprinterdellacasa says:

      Thanks for the suggestion. SUNY Purchase – do they still have speed bumps up the middle road? Meaning would just half the loop be usable? Also how full are the parking lots on a Sunday?

  19. Alessandro M says:

    Aki, it is unfortunate that such a successful race has to come to an end, but at this point you may want to look at it as an opportunity to organize the race event elsewhere. I would recommend a crit where the safety conditions are satisfied while finding an appropriate financial support from the businesses on the circuit. The financial success of the operation is critical to attract racers and provide them with all the amenities and requirements of a professional event.
    Bars,coffee shops, bicycle stores, restaurant could all of them enjoy the outcome of hundreds of people coming to your race if given the opportunity

    Good luck

    Ale

  20. Don whaley says:

    Aki. It’s a shame to hear that the bethel series will end. We started my oldest son racing there as a 14 yr old and that series is what really.ignited his love for bike racing and ultimately his progression to a top regional jr racer. He’s now attending College and racing at division 1 level while studying engineering with the goal of landing a job in the cycling industry.

    I know a number of other young racers that “cut their teeth” at that series. It’s created life long cyclists in the process.

    It’s a true shame that it will no longer happen

  21. Dominic Gillen says:

    My first road race was in bethel in 2001. We are/were very luck to have this in our neighborhood. I recommend checking out the decommissioned IBM campus off exit 15 in southbury. Look for it on google earth. It’s a huge loop with 2 controlled entrances and I don’t think anyone works there anymore.

  22. Eli Curt says:

    Aki,

    First and foremost, I’d like to mention how happy I was to see how many responses there are here. Not sure where this was posted (I assume facebook, paceline, etc. – I saw it by way of the CRCA facebook page), but it looks like the Bethel SS has many fans and supporters which makes me happy.

    Next, what’s great about Bethel. Personally, I didn’t take the fullest advantage of the slotting of times and fields, but I know of several others (close friends and rivals) who would race Central Park in the morning, then come to Bethel and race twice more. There aren’t many (any?) other races that allow this kind of competition and that was one thing I’ve always loved. Basically, as a 3, I could race the 3/4 and the 1/2/3 if I was feeling up to it, after having raced the 1/2/3 or 3/4 that morning. Which meant I could target whatever race I wanted, and adjust my mental game accordingly.

    The small-town vibe is great. The racers are great. The atmosphere is great. The promoters and refs are great. It’s just a friendly series with lots of personable interactions.

    It will definitely be missed. Maybe a location in North Jersey or NY State? Just spitballing here…

    Keep doing what you’re doing, you have my support,
    Eli

  23. Kenley Gonzalez says:

    I my first road race was at Bethel but the summer training series.
    After seeing so many videos on Youtube about the series, I got out to the spring series. Way better than the summer series, very cool vibes and well ran. Was planning on doing the 2015 series.
    Sorry to hear it’s canceled. If a single race is held next year I’m there.
    Good on a new location for the series. Hopefully this series can find it’s way back to Bethel.
    Thanks again for all the hard work and helping out us new comers to racing.

  24. Sung Pak says:

    Hey Aki,

    When cyclist new to racing would ask what race would be a good introduction, without hesitation, I would recommend Bethel Spring Series. The course was ideal for first time racers and user friendly, plus the first time racer orientation made for a gentle introduction to racing. The user friendly attitude also spilled over to all the race & course officials, police officers, and especially all the racers. The family like atmosphere was truly a joy.

    It is truly sad to hear that the Bethel Series is ending. I want to thank you for all the years of organizing the race and purposely keeping the race fees low.

    There are couple of locations, which have been mentioned. SUNY Purchase and FDR Park in Yorktown. I believe parking will not be of any issue in either locations. I recall SUNY had installed some cobble section in one area, but that area may be avoidable. It is really quiet at SUNY on Sundays.

    I would participate in a July 4th race.

    Sung

  25. Kirsten says:

    FYI – Bethel already has a big(ish) event on July 4th – the Firecracker 5 mile Road (running) race. Held in the downtown area. Not sure if that would make it more prudent with police being tied up with that to go for the Labor Day w/e.

    • sprinterdellacasa says:

      I had a short discussion with the First Selectman and he seemed positive on the July 4th. However I haven’t committed to anything at this time.

  26. Kirsten says:

    Also, forgot to mention it before, but thanks for all your work and efforts to make BSS an annual event and to get people excited about the race season.

  27. Joe Straub says:

    Aki,
    Sorry to get this bad news. Have many fond memories including my first ever race being at Bethel. I was that annoying guy throughout the Winter who would remind fellow riders of how many more days until Bethel. The venue was 70 miles away and a new site, much further away would have me considering other options. My own selfish interest would have a shorter series (4-6 races) and held on Saturday vs. Sunday. I would pay more money to know you were finally profitable, your professional event deserves that.
    Best of Luck,
    Joe Straub

  28. Chris Crowell says:

    Aki,
    I just found out about the closing of the Bethel Series. I am disappointed to hear that. I want to thank you for all your thankless, hard work over the years to promote this series. I know for a fact that it meant a lot to the New England / Connecticut racing community. I hope another site is found that offers the same safe and fun course that Bethel did.

    Have you given any thought to the old Cheshire Crit course in the Cheshire Industrial Park, Cheshire CT? This race hasn’t been run in 20 years but it was a nice venue, right at the interchange of I-84 and I-691. Very little traffic on Sundays but it would require a minimum of (3) officers which may be too cost prohibitive.

    Anyway, good luck with your search and thanks again for all your hard work.

    Chris Crowell

    • sprinterdellacasa says:

      Thanks for the kind words. The Cheshire loop is a bit long and I think it’d have to go in the opposite direction to avoid the fast finish to the line. However if it came down to it that could be a good circuit race course. Right now I’m looking at low hanging fruit and am waiting for word from one venue.
      Aki

  29. Larry Merling says:

    Aki,
    Thanks for all your work and sacrifice pulling this series off over the years. I always remarked how well run, safe, organized, and officiated it was for a “training series”. I’ve been to plenty of “big” races that couldn’t hold a candle to what you were doing.
    Big thanks as well to Mike and his family for all the work they did.
    -Larry

  30. Miguel Torres says:

    Aki,
    Thank you so much for all the hard work you and your crew did every year to put on a great series. My family and I for many years have looked forward to the series and to catch up with fellow riders we have not seen all winter. It is sad to know that another well run race is disappearing. I hope a new venue can be found that will be more conducive to racing.

    Thanks again.
    Miguel Torres

  31. John J says:

    I really enjoyed the spring series, great early season training and awesome atmosphere, I really hope an alternate venue can be found, will really miss the early races if they don’t happen. The early spring crit series is something myself and I am sure many others don’t want to see disappear, so let’s hope something can get worked out to hold it somewhere else, I for one would happily volunteer to help the events happen.

    I am all in for a race at Bethel on any holiday weekend, and would circle it on the calender!

  32. Ted says:

    Loved the series and much of that, because it was run in a totally pro fashion. Liked having a coffee shop there, and that is something to consider for the future vis-a-vis sponsorship and location. Not sure if there are any local roasters or similar.

    Would love to keep it at Bethel or west as I’m coming from Rye, ny.

    Good luck with the search and as another poster stated, I would pay more for your series so you could turn a profit. Totally worth it.