The first thing to understand is that there is no formal 'system' for filling / selecting riders for the race. Remember that the race never filled up in advance until 4 or 5 years ago. For that reason it's never been an issue until the last couple of years. Even two events ago (if we discount the 2007 foot & mouth year) the 2006 event was full in record time of 29 days !
John Rawnsley is one of those salt-of-the-earth good people with a strong sense of morality. He fundamentally does not like to let people down. Bearing this in mind, after what is rumoured to have been 1400 hits on the entry form in a little under 11 hours, John was in no quandary about taking the form down from the site.
Leaving it on there would have also given john the nightmare of opening perhaps 2500 envelopes and sifting through as many entries to try and make a decent field. That in itself is several days' work on top of what is virtually a full time job for John.
However, it's important to remember that the entries are not closed until the final list of accepted riders is published on the site. It doesn't take much to work out that there is a complex and ultimately manual task for John in balancing the right field for the event. This means balancing the race demographics
- old / young / (and juniors!!)
- newcomers / seasoned riders
- male / female
- people who will genuinely turn up, be fit, and finish !
My blog post yesterday was packed to the brim with my usual flippancy - and over-simplifying things here doesn't help. Yes - it is a race - and yes - there is a selection process taking place alongside a first-come, first-served system. But there is no 'system' and there can't really ever be. As soon as there are rules about who rides, you'll need to bend them. First-come, first-served is fair to an extent, but imagine the race without Rob Jebb or Nick Craig in it. It's equally unsustainable.
So, once again, hats off to the likes of John and Keith Parkinson (the official website's webmaster - who voluntarily published his phone number on the site when he took the form down and lost another day and evening of his life to this race as a result ) - doing this nightmare of a 'job' for the love of the event and the sport.
I hope you get in - and if you do I bloody well hope you turn up and give it your very best shot !!!