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Rectify Beer Bike results, or do away with them

Photo courtesy Mahmoud Al-Madi

By Mahmoud Al-Madi     4/18/23 9:15pm

Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked to the best of our ability and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors. 

Editor’s Note: Parts of this opinion piece rely on eyewitness accounts and are, as a result, subjective. The Thresher could not independently verify any claims made about the events of any Beer Bike race.

In Beer Bike 2021, when there were four heats of three teams each, the Jones College men’s bike team finished with the fastest time of all the residential colleges, a net time that was at least three seconds faster than the Hanszen College men’s team–which was affirmed by the original results produced by the Rice Program Council, the entity that organizes Beer Bike – earning Jones men the uncontested first place finish they deserved. However, the Hanszen race was fully recorded from one Rice Athletics camera while the Jones race was recorded using two Rice Athletics cameras which had a three-second lag between them when aired on the livestream that recorded the races–as fully documented and proven in an email I sent to RPC on April 20, 2021, which is still available today. Hanszen took advantage of the lag in the livestream and contested the results to claim that Jones and Hanszen times were equivalent, and RPC responded by editing Jones’ and Hanszen’s times, tying them to the millisecond, earning Hanszen an unfair win. When I emailed RPC with proof of the lag which should have invalidated its flawed adjustments to the results, it evaded its responsibility to maintain integrous results by simply saying “RPC has historically not allowed any petitions to be re-petitioned.” Here we are in 2023 finding ourselves in a very similar situation with the women’s Beer Bike results, except that we still have the capacity to rectify the flawed final standings for the women’s race. 

At this year’s Beer Bike, Jones women completed the race with the fastest time of all the residential colleges, which should have earned them the uncontested win they deserved. However, during the women’s warm-up, as a Jonesian woman was slowly passing a McMurtry College biker on the inside of the track, I witnessed from a few feet away  the Murt biker panic and swerve slightly into the Jonesian’s rear wheel. Since bikes are more susceptible to losing balance upon contact with the front wheel, the Murt rider crashed. Based on an appeal that not even the McMurtry bike captains claimed to have submitted, Jones women were penalized with an arbitrarily assigned 25 seconds for “excessive weaving” placing them third in the final standings–even after getting back 10 seconds from their own appeal for other errors. The only penalty related to “excessive weaving” in the RPC rules is a 10 second penalty. If Jones women were to deserve the penalty, which they absolutely did not, they would still be in first place. RPC not only failed to properly investigate the events that led to the crash, but they unjustly assigned a fully arbitrary penalty, which is questionable in and of itself.

Let’s consider this: what is the point of results if the final standings are heavily influenced by arbitrary and poorly reviewed decisions? If Beer Bike was purely in the spirit of a campus-wide celebration and standings did not matter at all, then we could do away with the results altogether. However, I am not sure that Beer Bike is solely a campus-wide celebration, as demonstrated by the fact that virtually all the residential colleges on campus trained and prepared for race day, which hints to me that there must be an element of athletic competition in Beer Bike. Instead, we need integrous results that fairly capture the performance and events of race day. If the current RPC leadership is unable to produce such results, then I propose that they delegate that responsibility to a separate committee that is willing to do so. Otherwise, a lack of such results is a complete disregard of the weeks of time and commitment that bike teams across campus dedicated towards preparing for Beer Bike.

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