Yesterday we rode the 2011 Coast Guard Century for the first time. It was the second year for the event. This is tough, because having ridden quite a few organized rides, we were looking forward to it.
The route wasn't compelling. There were great views atop the West Norfolk Freeway bridge and several industrial marshlands as well as interesting waterfront views from the Coast Guard Station and the adjacent APM Cargo Terminals (with the gigantic cranes), two areas not open to the general public. But most of the ride circuited back and forth inside suburban developments and felt more like a training regimen than a special tour. Police manning of the intersections was great.
Communication was loose... there were several 'email updates' in the days leading up to the ride, there were a lot of verbal briefings at the pickup desk -- and one guy was barking instructions at the starting line while 75% of the riders were out of ear-shot. Apparently there had been aspects of the ride in flux up until the day of the event, where rest stops were, the lunch arrangements, etc.
Registration was handled by a third party which seemed to offer little value for a small group (reported as 300 riders that seemed more like 200) while adding $3.00 to the $45 registration. No walk-ins were allowed.
Cue sheets were on 11 x 17 paper, weren't dedicated to each ride, had disparities in nomenclature that made following a particular route difficult, didn't show all the rest stops, didn't give the distance for each leg, and used a Mapquest-like map split into two pieces, that overlapped inbound and outbound legs so you couldn't decipher the overall route or the route direction.
There was a problem with road markings at three miles out that mis-directed a group of 40 riders, myself included, back to the start of the tour -- where no one knew how to correct the problem because no one knew what had gone wrong. We started over, retraced our steps and figured out where we had gone wrong: at a critical intersection outbound and inbound markings were easily confused -- with inbound marking in the center of the intersection, the most dominant and visible markings ready to confuse outbound riders.
Rest stops were nothing special: no food at one stop, no gaterade at another, no cups at another. PB&J's at one of the stops were the highpoint. SWAG was light, we didn't see a single SWAG vehicle on the route, but emergency numbers were on the bottom of the cue sheet.
Lunch at the end of the course was handled by vouchers to local restaurants; it was a cumbersome arrangement (emails, verbal announcements, "come back for a full list of restaurants") that had event riders walking into local restaurants in their steamy, sweaty bike clothes. Otherwise, nothing special at the anti-climactic course end.
We'd have a hard time recommending the event -- hopefully they'll take suggestions to heart and keep improving the ride.