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2023 Beer Bike results reveal no sweeps, but contestations

Francesca Nemati / Thresher

By Viola Hsia     4/12/23 12:16am

Rice Program Council released the official results for Beer Bike 2023 on April 5, four days after the races. Hanszen College won the alumni race, the Graduate Student Association won the women’s race and Jones College won the men’s race.

Jones and Will Rice College have submitted formal contestations of the results.

In the draft of Will Rice’s complaint, they alleged “significant errors” in the time calculations in men’s race, and event-wide inconsistencies in judging. They also said there were communication issues between chug judges and bikers.

“Several members of our Chug Team mentioned that our judge was confusing Will Rice with other colleges and vice versa,” Will Rice Bike and Chug captains wrote in the contestation email. “We suspect that the judges may have been confused as to which colleges they were penalizing during each heat.”

Mahmoud Al-Madi, one of Jones’ bike captains, corroborated the timekeeping and judging issues that Will Rice outlined, citing a specific incident during the women’s race.

“There was a chugging judge that was confused and didn’t clear our chugger to go,” Al-Madi, a senior, said. “Our biker has come in through the pit, we are ready to go, we’re ready to chug [but] the chugging judge would not have us start. We have it on tape, multiple angles. That delayed us at least seven or eight seconds.”

Both teams also alleged penalties that weren’t applied in accordance to the racing rules, one of which involved the number of bikers required per team. According to Al-Madi, the GSA women’s team was not penalized for having the same bikers race multiple times, which should have resulted in a 25-second penalty for the first offense and 50-second penalties for each subsequent one.

Olivia Del Guercio, a second-year graduate student and one of the GSA bike captains, said that while the GSA team was proud of their victory, they also acknowledged that only having five bikers impacted their result.

“As bicyclists, we really crushed it,” Del Guercio said. “But I imagine there would have been a different result also if Wiess had Douglas [Hebda, a bike team captain] go twice or three times, or if [Dani Knobloch, a Hanszen biker] went three times.”

According to campus-wide Beer Bike coordinator Anne Wang, dividing the races into two heats affected certain elements of the race, such as race start times and length. Wang said the races finished 15 minutes behind schedule, and that the two-heat structure was the biggest logistical challenge.

“Having every college there at the same time, you need all the bikers on [the track], splitting up the time and doing [a longer race],” Wang said. “[It’s] definitely not something that any of us wanted. It reduces hype.”

Terri-Jeanne Liu, a bike captain at Jones, said that while the two-heat structure was implemented due to safety concerns, there were still issues with sufficient distribution of tents and water bottles on the track.

“[I appreciate] the safety aspect that they were going for, but I feel like [they] need to have a lot more resources like tents, water and better planning in terms of avoiding delays between races,” Liu said.

Jonathan Lloyd, one of the Will Rice  bike captains, said that the two-heat system also affected the racing technique itself.

“Part of being able to race is being able to draft off people in front of you, and get pulled by people in front of [you] who are setting a faster pace,” Lloyd, a senior, said. “If you’re in the middle of the pack team who is going to get put in a slower heat, you don’t get the benefit of racing against faster people who will push you to race faster. So there’s a lot of race strategy that you lose.”

Peter Reynolds, one of the Hanszen bike captains, said the lack of shade and resources on the track presented time and logistical difficulties.

“It was definitely a little bit of a letdown to have two heats,” Reynolds, a sophomore, said. “It was also certainly harder to be on the track in the heat for so long. They didn’t give us any tents. We had to walk to the other side of the track and hide behind the porta-potty to get shade because we were there for almost five hours.”

Wang said that she hopes certain measures will be put in place for next year’s campus-wide coordinators to have an easier time, considering the two-heat system will most likely remain in place.

“To my knowledge, there’s no way … [the administration] will be convinced of going back [to one heat],” Wang said. “I too am very dissatisfied by the heat structure. If I had the power, I would change it.”

Despite the difficulties of the two-heat structure, Knobloch, who tied the women’s track record of 1:19, said that the Hanszen team was pleased about the races overall.

“We can’t complain about podiuming in every race,” Knobloch, a senior, said. “We are really proud of all of our cyclists who worked really hard this year, and it’s really nice to see their effort result in some really awesome times.”

Knobloch said she’s excited to see how Beer Bike is starting to become more competitive across all teams.

“The colleges just keep getting faster and faster,” Knobloch said. “The leaderboard for [the] top 10 times of Beer Bike just keeps getting new people every year, just because more colleges are putting a lot more effort into it. They’re training harder, they’re being really competitive. It’s really exciting to see so many people buy into the race aspect of Beer Bike. I’m glad so many people are excited about it.”

Brandon Chen contributed additional reporting for this story.

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