by Ken Getchell
Ask a bunch of race promoters, and most agree that, at some point, they wondered whether their race would bomb financially while anxiously waiting for the pre-reg numbers to climb past financial breakeven. When TJ Turner, promoter of the on Thanksgiving weekend, thinks about bombing, the stakes are a little higher. Among other distractions, he recently had his planning for this year’s race interrupted by a rocket attack. TJ Turner is full-time military, and this year he’s promoting his race long-distance – from his current home in Afghanistan.
The race, the 13th race of this year’s Zipp OVCX Tour presented by Papa John’s, continues its tradition of also serving as the Ohio State Championships. Turner has been the promoter of the race since its inception in 2003. And while he is unable to discuss his military role in Afghanistan, other than to say it’s pretty much eliminated any chance of him personally competing on the cyclocross circuit this year, he hasn’t let a war, an eight-hour time difference or 7,000 miles interrupt his race planning. “The race must go on!” he said recently via email. Fortunately, he’s scheduled to return stateside by the end of October and should be able to attend his own race.
So how does an officer in Afghanistan promote a race in Ohio through a publication based in California via a press agent in Philadelphia? “It’s pretty easy, actually,” says Turner about his long-distance operation, “with e-mail and a scanner.” Turner also has teammates in Ohio who can take care of anything that needs to be handled hands-on, in particular Phil Noble, who designed the course, but he’s directing even them from a third of the way around the globe.
In truth, it’s as much a story about the rapid and universal adaptation of internet communication as it is about personal persistence. The internet is so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget that it didn’t even evolve into the widely-used and commercial entity we know today until roughly the same time that a certain Lance Armstrong discovered he had cancer; and kids who were born in the internet age are still racing as Juniors today. Things we take for granted, like following live coverage of races on www.CXmagazine.com, daily Tour de France updates, finding out what the friend of a friend’s friend had for lunch on Facebook and other commercial use of the internet weren’t even permitted on the network until March, 1993¹.
Of course, the irony is that the technology that military officer Turner is using to organize his bike race was first conceived in 1969 as a method of maintaining military communication in case of a rocket attack or the detonation of nuclear warheads¹. Today, universal online communications have rendered time zones and geography mostly irrelevant. While communicating with Turner, I didn’t even realize at first that he was on another continent. Still, you have to give him credit. TJ Turner clearly isn’t “just another promoter,” and it’s entirely possible that he may be more bad-ass than anybody else in American cyclocross this year.
1. “A Little History of the World Wide Web”, http://www.w3.org/History.html