I’ve been involved in helping plan, organize, and run various types of mountain bike races for five years now. I’ve assisted a local bike shop with a small time trial series and helped my local advocacy club host a 13 hour endurance race and a metric century race.
We’ve taken several approaches to timing the events. For the TTs, we always used two stop watches (one as a backup in case we hit the wrong button) and pencil and paper. Very low tech, but its cheap and works. However, it could be a bit cumbersome, especially when it was time to calculate lap times when we sent people off at 30 second intervals. Math is hard when you’re sweating, swatting at mosquitos, and surrounded by racers peering over your shoulders who want to know their time! We’ve made errors before that changed who was on the podium, and that’s not cool.
For the 100k, timing wasn’t difficult, since people slowly trickle through the finish area, so we simply wrote down the order they finished and what time they finished.
For the 13-hour race timing was a bit more complicated. We had to keep track of lap counts and times for each team, all day long. The club had previously used some sort of manual punch card system–it was highly labor intensive and took several people to run it, all day long. So basically, it sucked.
The next year, we decided to pony up some money and hire a professional chip timing crew, which was excellent! They provided the guy to run the timing and all the equipment, so we didn’t have to worry about race times at all and could just focus on having fun. He could print results out every hour, so folks could see how they were doing as the day went on. The problem was, it’s expensive: over $1,000. Our race is fairly small, and that ate up a big chunk of the profits.
For this year’s Canal Crown Time Trial Series I got to thinking, “I wonder if there’s a better way to handle timing… is there an app for that?” And of course, there is! Several, actually. But Webscorer is the app you want to use.
Webscorer – What It Is
Webscorer is a downloadable app that is only available for Apple devices (iPhones and iPads), and is available in the App Store. The app is free, but there is a cost to unlock certain features, which I’ll discuss in a bit.
I’m not going to go into too much depth on all the various features in this blog post because, well, there’s just too many of them, and I don’t know the details of each one. This will be a brief overview of what’s available, and if you’re interested in finding out more for your specific style of race, hit up the Webscorer website and take a look. If you have any questions, their customer service is great: I emailed them a question and got a response the same day, so if you’re not sure how something works, just ask!
Webscorer has several “types” of races you can time with the app. The app can time mass start races, interval/time trial-style races, wave starts, pursuit-style races, multiple distances, multiple laps, relays, races with team scoring, and add penalties and/or handicaps. It will let you enter all the racer data (name, bib number, category, age, team, and gender) in the app, or you can download the start list from the Webscorer website, meaning you can enter all the preregistered riders info on your computer, then download the data into the iPhone/iPad. I haven’t tried this myself, but I imagine it’s easier to enter all the info on a computer than it would be on a mobile device, especially for a large event with lots of participants.
Once the race is running, you have the option to post results live to Webscorer. People can view the current real-time results while the race is in progress, either with the free Webscorer app or on the Webscorer website. This is pretty slick, especially for longer races like a 12-hour event. Racers can check and see where their team is in the rankings at that exact moment, without waiting for the race promoter to print out the results. Of course, the promoter and racers would all need internet connectivity to use this feature, so if the race is in an area with no wifi and little or no cell signal, you’re out of luck.
You can post the results straight to the Webscorer website at the end of the event or anytime thereafter, such as when you get home and have wifi access. It’ll show overall results as well as results within each category. The results list place, time, and time difference. Basically, any information any race would want to know is right there–here’s an example. You can also upload a photo to go along with the results, and it even has a map showing where the race took place. Once the results are posted, you can then download the results as a .txt file and do whatever you want with them – like drop into an Excel spreadsheet for formatting or further analysis.
One area that Webscorer could improve here: when searching for results on the Webscorer website, there is no way to just type an event name and search. You can only filter results by event type and/or date, and you can search the map. If you’re looking for a race, you can still find the results that way, but it takes longer than it should.
Webscorer also allows more than one device to be used to time the same race. One device can be used at the start line when sending riders off one at a time (time trial style) while a second device is at the finish line recording their finish times. Or, multiple devices can be used somewhere out on the course to record split times – you could time each section of a triathlon, for example, or record the downhill or uphill sections of a mountain bike race. The devices are then synced at the end of the race to get the final results. I haven’t done this myself, so I can’t comment on the difficulty of the process.
To read about my personal experience using the Webscorer app to time races, stay tuned for Part 2!
Special thanks to Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse for the pictures.