Tuesday, December 8, 2009

the mud is not even dry yet

That's it. The races are over and the cx bike will shortly get rebuilt with fenders, bottle cages, and some meaty winter tires. Sure, there is still Ice Weasels but that's more of a party with a side order of cx racing. Some fools are off to nationals but my budget, time, and interest do not allow for the long trip to cold, snowy, Bend, OR.

I can't help already looking forward to next season. Will I run the same gearing? Will I pick up some different tire options? Which 19 year old will win the series title?

Also on my mind are opportunities for improvement to the cx scene. This article on velosnooze.com is actually rather interesting. The title sponsor and race organizers of the biggest mtb series in America are thumbing their noses at USA Cycling and the UCI. Instead of spending extra money to achieve UCI accreditation, they are re-investing that money for the benefit of their sponsors and participants:

"The whole concept of the US Cup is to subsidize promoters with assistance in marketing, prizes and funding to help bring their event and the sport of mountain biking to a higher level in the U.S.,” said Kady.

“We do this by adding value to their event in the form of venue and course development, rider swag bags, event T-Shirts, number plates, onsite support and additional marketing,” said Kady. “I feel it makes sense for us at this time, to take the money we would spend hosting and subsidizing UCI events, and put it back into the races, riders and venues.”

Although 10-20 elite riders might suffer from the decrease in UCI events on the American mtb calendar, the goal of the promoters is to add benefits for the hundreds of other participants.

As I read through the article it was easy to recognize the similarities between mtb and cx events in the USA. You've got promoters all across the country trying to provide opportunities for racers to score UCI points in hopes of boosting those riders further up the international rankings. At the same time, you've got a greater concentration of higher ranking (UCI C1 and world cup) events taking place in Europe. Although cx racers are not chasing UCI points for an Olympic spot, this statement still mirrors the challenge for American cx promoters and the select few who need those UCI points:

“The entire model is built around getting points so that riders have a stronger starting position at the Olympics,” said Tedro. “But the model is flawed, in that riders in Europe have so many more opportunities to rack up points on a weekly basis. So we end up promoting an event for the benefit of a small number of riders, who still can’t compete in terms of points with guys who can jump on a train and score 60 or a 100 points over a weekend.”

In the current model, it is nearly impossible for an American based cx rider to score the number of UCI points necessary to rank in the top 15 world wide. Eventually a rider will max out the number of UCI C2 points they can earn and there will be no more upward progress in the rankings.

So I wonder, will the American cx promoters come to the same realization? Is it still worth the financial burden to host so many UCI C2 events across this country? Promoters are investing a large portion of the money from their sponsors and participants to benefit 20-30 riders (only the top 10 riders in a UCI C2 event score UCI points). Is that the best use of those dollars? What improvements could be made to an event if the UCI money was available to be invested elsewhere? Would a series like Verge New England or the MAC diminish greatly if they were no longer C2 events?

I'd like to see North American promoters work together to organize a national calendar of UCI C1 events. There are plenty of quality promoters and venues around this country that can accommodate that. Sure, those races will be more costly, but they will also draw the best fields and provide the biggest audience for the sponsors. The 10 racers who really need/want the extra UCI points will make it to these events and as a result the spectators and participants will increase.

In the meantime, those racers who want to succeed internationally currently need to race internationally before the World Championships. Yeah, it will be expensive and time consuming but if you are among the 1% of participants that actually have the talent to race internationally, that's the sacrifice you currently need to make.

In the future, reducing the total number of UCI C2 events in this country while increasing the number of C1 events would allow North American cx racers to head to Europe with a better international ranking. It may even draw some of the top European talent to North America (in lieu of a US-based World Cup) on a more frequent basis.

There are a lot of moving parts to be coordinated, but it needs to start with American promoters and sponsors focusing their resources on the majority, those who financially support them. As Tedro says:

"the company is developing a new series designed to offer racing opportunities for both professional and amateur racers across the country, redirecting financial resources from UCI licensing requirements to 'where the money really belongs, namely the riders.'"

Let's watch and see whether Scott Tedro's move to create the US Cup Mountain Bike Racing League pays off and let's learn from it.


RMM said...

Is Rosey attempting to host an internet fight in the comments section of his blog?

rosey said...

'crazy, we know you have lots of opinions. what's yours? will fewer UCI C2 events allow promoters to enhance the experience for the majority or will it cause the demise of the big regional series (Verge NE and MAC)?

RMM said...

My original comment included a short description of my ambivalence towards the UCI C2 events. I deleted it, hoping someone else would kick off the debate.

On the one hand, I like the “bigness” of the UCI C2 events. On the other hand, I feel that the $30/35 race fee for lower category riders is excessive (not quite prohibitive). And I realize that the higher race fee is used to subsidize the “bigness” of the events (including UCI payout), thus my ambivalence.

But as a soon to be minted cat 2, I will not enjoy being forced to race UCI elite. As a race customer, I don’t think that I will derive much value out of a $45 race where I am more likely than not to get lapped and pulled.

While this issue is seemingly separate from the issue of UCI C2, it is not, as Verge has chosen to use cat 2’s as a way of beefing up the registration numbers in the elite race, which increases revenue and also creates the appearance of a more competitive elite race.

As an “elite” next year, I will be using Verge races as training, while focusing on getting decent results in the non-UCI New England classics, such as Sucker Brook, Canton Cup and Shedd Park. And unless a paying sponsor says otherwise (unlikely), I’ll be skipping large chunks of the Verge calendar

rosey said...

what about racing master 35+? same $35 entry fee as the 3 race but stiffer competition. some day the rest of your friends will be old enough to join you there. in the meantime, you'll be done early enough to heckle the 3 field and the elite field.

RMM said...

I will eventually race master's 35+ But for now, I enjoy racing with/against my younger friends. If the rest of my racing cohort (you, Cary, Alpha Colin, PVB), were not moving up to UCI elites, I'd not bother with UCI and go straight to the master's race.

RMM said...

Oh, if you didn't know, my season's goals in CX are always beating certain members of the LCC in a non-mechanically delayed race.

Greg said...

For MTB, I think moving away from UCI is bold. USA Cycling made a big mistake, making only UCI races count towards a Pro USA Cycling license.

Increasing costs for amateurs while essentially subsidizing the pro's is not such a great idea. More sponsor $$ is probably the answer, but where is it going to come from? Maybe if CX grows enough we'll see that.

mike said...

anything that gets us "bigger" mtb races here in new england. for mountainbiking, we pretty much have to move to california or colorado to do more than one nationally ranked event. if i can get to do some well-run, competitive races with more than 15 people in my field i would be willing to pay a bit more.

for example, i am planning on doing the trans-sylvania epic next year. expensive? yes. but it is a 7 day mountain bike stage race within a 6 hour drive. there is a good alacarte registration system if you want to purchase lodging, transportation and food. it looks like these guys know how to set up a big race (and more importantly, they seem to care about the experience of the racer).

usa cycling seems to be trying very hard to kill pro-level xc mountain biking. my root 66 results dont count? winning a state championship isnt a ticket to nationals? ill still race my bike because i enjoy it, but i will still shake my head in disbelief at the complete disconnect between racers and race administration.