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.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Damn you Nemeses! It will be 9+ long months before I get my chance to do battle with you again. Ah, but during that 9+ month wait, I can at least take some satisfaction that my Victims must also agonize over their place behind me this season.

Thank you Colin for giving me some motivation (and frustration) until the next season.