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Declining # of Spectators at DC Stop on US Pro Circuit

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Declining # of Spectators at DC Stop on US Pro Circuit

Old 06-15-15, 01:03 AM
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Declining # of Spectators at DC Stop on US Pro Circuit

Past weekend had the annual Air Force Cycling Classic in Arlington VA with Saturday & Sunday races. Saturday's Clarendon Cup always had the most spectators...a few years ago so many that it was tough to walk around parts of the criterium course or get a good viewing spot near the start/finish line. Now crowds are thin at the Saturday race & nearly non-existent at the Sunday race in Crystal City. Ironic considering that DC/Arlington folks are fairly fitness-oriented; on bike paths one see's plenty of middle-aged folks twiddling around on their carbon racing bikes.

Most current US pro riders are basically amateurs. The bulk of US pro teams are under UCI rules that don't mandate a minimum wage. Now I even read that some of the Pro Continental teams cheat on the minimum salary requirement by forcing some riders to return their salary. Air Force Cycling Classic has a cheapo prize list: in nominal $$ only a bit more than old-time amateur National Capital Open that used to be held on the White House Ellipse course. & in adjusted dollars, current pro prize lists are a joke. AF Classic sponsored by the likes of Boeing & Booz-Allen that rake in $$billions from Uncle Sam.

UnitedHealthCare team budget surely dwarfs the other US-circuit teams, past 2 or 3 years they simply crush the competition. UHC can at will send all 5 riders to the front to freight-train other teams & set up their designated sprinter.

& the DC/Arlington spectators are a blasÚ bunch that can't be bothered to clap or holler much for the hard-working cyclists. Unlike the Philly fans who aren't afraid to cheer on the riders. Especially ironic that Arlington VA (next to DC) is a cycling haven with lots of bike routes/paths etc--there's even a little DIY bike-repair stand in Crystal City with various tools connected by cables.
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Old 06-15-15, 04:50 AM
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Odd. Did they do anything in the way of promoting the event? Were the Nats in town?

I have a suspicion that with the casino going up at National Harbor, you're going to see the race happening there in a couple of years - and given that setting, possibly on TV with MGM prize money. I think that would solve a lot of problems, not least exposure for bike racing other than the Grand Tours.

Last edited by rudypyatt; 06-15-15 at 05:00 AM. Reason: Added text
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Old 06-15-15, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan
snip
you are tackling so many issues as to lose focus in your main point. Maybe there are fewer spectators at Clarendon; i'm not sure. BUt it was quite packed when i was there two years ago. I wasn't out there because I had to be at work; otherwise i'd have come out and perhaps do the 2/3 race had i not been sick. Also having web telecast really helps as I wouldn't need to stand in the sweltering heat.

You can't really compare these two crits with Philly as the latter is on the UCI calendar. That said, it does stink that quite a few of the domestic teams (Optum and Hincapie) aren't represented here.
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Old 06-15-15, 10:40 AM
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1. it was hot
2. DC mindset is very different from Philly
3. From a team perspective, having it the same weekend as Tulsa Tough probably isn't ideal
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Old 06-15-15, 05:57 PM
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Not just Tulsa Tough, there were other big races around the country. Bad timing.
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Old 06-15-15, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by rudypyatt
Odd. Did they do anything in the way of promoting the event? Were the Nats in town?

I have a suspicion that with the casino going up at National Harbor, you're going to see the race happening there in a couple of years - and given that setting, possibly on TV with MGM prize money. I think that would solve a lot of problems, not least exposure for bike racing other than the Grand Tours.

Local newspapers/tv did little/no notice--a few years ago the WashPost featured the race on cover of Weekend section. National Harbor would be a pretty site for crit, they could even use the hill that goes up from the harbor. Plus National Harbor has fairly wide streets; Clarendon Cup crit has a couple of dangerous corners including a high-speed hairpin. Podium finishers often bleeding from crashes
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Old 06-15-15, 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by ips0803
1. it was hot
2. DC mindset is very different from Philly
3. From a team perspective, having it the same weekend as Tulsa Tough probably isn't ideal
Warmer than avg but not exceptionally hot for area/date, actually got some nice cloud cover during the races. Philly race had a huge crowd even with scorching sunny 35░ C temps.

There's so much cable TV coverage of Pro Tour now so I don't keep up with the US domestic scene & hadn't heard of Tulsa Tough. Sounds sorta like the old Milwaukee race week. In Crystal City the announcer (discussing UnitedHealthCare dominance) noted they have a huge squad that can do 2-1/2 big races at the same time.
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Old 06-15-15, 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by echappist
you are tackling so many issues as to lose focus in your main point. Maybe there are fewer spectators at Clarendon; i'm not sure. BUt it was quite packed when i was there two years ago. I wasn't out there because I had to be at work; otherwise i'd have come out and perhaps do the 2/3 race had i not been sick. Also having web telecast really helps as I wouldn't need to stand in the sweltering heat.

You can't really compare these two crits with Philly as the latter is on the UCI calendar. That said, it does stink that quite a few of the domestic teams (Optum and Hincapie) aren't represented here.
Trust me, far fewer spectators 2 years ago then 5 years ago. Sorry to hear you missed the race. But formerly there were many spectators that weren't bike people who wouldn't want to watch it on TV/internet anyway. Race organizers face the sad fact that folks nowadays spend less time outdoors.

Surprised to read that Philly is still on the UCI calendar. Course AFAIK got shortened a couple of years ago & race almost disappeared until local activists managed to get the new casino to sponsor it. But in the 80's/90's Philly was a much bigger deal; they imported some big Euro teams, crowds were bigger than some Euro big-name races.

OTOH most race spectators are not race fans so having strong teams not the biggest factor in attendance. Would be nice if races held earlier when it's no so hot though. DC's biggest race used to be the National Capital Open held on the White House Ellipse. Usually got pretty good if not huge crowds & April weather more comfortable. NCO got cancelled after a big sports agent company wangled their way into buying the race rights to promote (IIRC) Greg Lemond. Greg couldn't make it to the race actually so the crook agent firm cancelled the race from then on.

Actually in re the Air Force Classic it was kinda nice to have less of the big teams--it gave some local riders some time to shine--about 3 of 'em rode in some good breakaways. Scored a discarded water bottle from local ace Ryan McKinney--his name marked on the bottle. Was gonna return it but organizer's mobile site didn't list the entrants. Then later that evening I read about how top racers are struggling with finances so I semi-seriously looked up Ryan's address to mail the bottle home. Didn't find the address but he posted some nice training routes on Strava.
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Old 06-16-15, 03:41 AM
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I'm confused as to the purpose of this thread. Are you a promoter? Racer? Clueless fan? You've never heard of Tulsa and you insist on comparing this race to philly so your knowledge of domestic cycling is sufficiently limited as to make this exercise all but useless.
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Old 06-16-15, 05:45 AM
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I only learned this weekend that there are ever multiple NCC events on the same weekend. I always thought that was sort of the purpose of having a, you know, national criterium calendar?

TOAD is next weekend (UCI but not NCC) and afaict there are no NCC/UCI events the following 2 weekends, so it seems like either Tulsa or Air Force should have picked a different date.

FWIW Tulsa was absolutely packed with spectators, literally thousands for all three days. My kids had to fight to keep their spots at the barricades on Friday night and they weren't even at the finish line.

Last edited by globecanvas; 06-16-15 at 05:49 AM.
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Old 06-16-15, 06:14 AM
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That is certainly the intent, however the bidding and award process happens the prior year, and promoters have to make changes sometimes. You may also we races drop NCC and pick up USA Crits and vice versa.
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Old 06-16-15, 07:32 AM
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lol, i dont think Ryan is going to miss the water bottle much.

back in the CSC days, clarendon was the CSC invitational and used to get guys like magnus backstedt, bobby julich, lars michaelson, servais knaven, etc., it had huge crowds in those years. it's diminished somewhat since then. i was at the beach so missed it totally this year and cant compare.

I can say with certainty it's the hardest criterium i've ever done, so technical, and so demanding it requires one to be totally engaged throughout and there are no recovery spots, it's game on the whole time.

crystal city has never had the same cache as clarendon, although it's gone through a few iterations like starting as a crit, going to a circuit race, now back to a crit, and it's added the "challenge" which is a closed road circuit for a timed event that anyone, not just usac licensed racers, can do. the challenge has had big participation #s since it started and certainly has borrowed spectators and put them on their bikes instead of watching.

Timing is what it is. The calendar is pretty full so teams are always forced to make decisions on putting riders where they put them.
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Old 06-16-15, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan
Race organizers face the sad fact that folks nowadays spend less time outdoors.
Actual data on the ground are pretty convincing that this is NOT the case. Engagement of the U.S. population in some kind of physical activity has been ticking steadily upward since the turn of the millennium. Not the same as "time outdoors," but probably a good surrogate. Maybe it's because there are more alternatives available. I don't know. But you sure as hell aren't going to find a solution if your diagnosis is based on incorrect assumptions.
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Old 06-16-15, 06:12 PM
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I grew up maybe a half mile from National Harbor. That area has some very interesting hills.
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Old 06-17-15, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by mike868y
I'm confused as to the purpose of this thread. Are you a promoter? Racer? Clueless fan? You've never heard of Tulsa and you insist on comparing this race to philly so your knowledge of domestic cycling is sufficiently limited as to make this exercise all but useless.
The main purpose of thread to discuss declining attendance at races. As I noted, I don't esp keep track of domestic scene BUT OTOH I've been to almost all the Philly races since it began & 3/4 of the Clarendon/Crystal City races plus all the big pro stage races that have been in the general area like Tour of America, Tour de Trump/DuPont, & the big Baltimore pro crit that was held for a couple of years etc. So at least I have a fair grasp of trends (ie basically downward) in spectatorship in mid-Atlantic area...which is a bit puzzling since recreational cycling is quite popular in both DC & Philly areas.
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Old 06-17-15, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by globecanvas
I only learned this weekend that there are ever multiple NCC events on the same weekend. I always thought that was sort of the purpose of having a, you know, national criterium calendar?

TOAD is next weekend (UCI but not NCC) and afaict there are no NCC/UCI events the following 2 weekends, so it seems like either Tulsa or Air Force should have picked a different date.

FWIW Tulsa was absolutely packed with spectators, literally thousands for all three days. My kids had to fight to keep their spots at the barricades on Friday night and they weren't even at the finish line.
I guess multiple events on same weekend helps to cut down on travel costs for lesser-funded cyclists. At Crystal City the announcer encouraged spectators to get involved in hosting riders at home, something I hadn't heard them mention in previous years. DC area hotels pretty expensive nowadays after all.

Nice to hear Tulsa Tough gets a big crowd. At Philly (when the attendance was big) I toted a milk crate on the rear rack just so I could get a better view over the throngs at Manayunk & start/finish. That way I didn't have to shove any kids aside Kids seem to naturally like bike racing--the speed, color, kewl bikes etc. Clarendon/Crystal City kids' races have lots of riders; this year more than ever it seemed like.
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Old 06-17-15, 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby
Actual data on the ground are pretty convincing that this is NOT the case. Engagement of the U.S. population in some kind of physical activity has been ticking steadily upward since the turn of the millennium. Not the same as "time outdoors," but probably a good surrogate. Maybe it's because there are more alternatives available. I don't know. But you sure as hell aren't going to find a solution if your diagnosis is based on incorrect assumptions.

I don't trust surveys much. Everyone knows they're supposed to exercise but it seems like it's a decided minority that does regular exercise. Half the locals own dogs but on local bike path I see less dog walkers esp in past 2 years: only about 1% of dogs get 30 minutes walk/day. 5 years ago I did a 20-mile ride on the path on a nice summer day, it goes past thousands of suburban houses: I saw exactly one small group of kids playing outside. When I grew up 90% of kids did daily unstructured outdoor play.

Yes, on weekends one can see many cyclists on the path, often with fancy bikes. But one can tell most of them aren't "real" bikers--they don't venture off the bike paths; they don't respect pedestrians by moving all the way to left side to pass etc. I've toured in spots like Blue Ridge & DelMarVa & South Florida A1A that are world-famous for great bike touring & seen next to none other tourists. Back in the 70's the Mt Vernon Parkway (from DC neighbor Alexandria to Mt Vernon) closed half of the parkway for cyclists every Sunday (despite that there was already a crushed stone path). Crowds were huge; National Geographic Magazine even had a photo of it once.

Busy folks who do work out often go to gyms where they can do cardio/strength/stretching all in one convenient indoor spot. In winter the local bike path nearly deserted despite availability of comfy weatherproof clothes--only a few die-hard runners & bikers despite that DC winters are not that harsh.
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Old 06-17-15, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by shovelhd
Not just Tulsa Tough, there were other big races around the country. Bad timing.
Once again the cult sport shoots itself in the head.

NorCal and SoCal masters state track championships are on the same weekend. Again. Last year some age groups had...one person entered.

Lay most of this at the foot of USAC. The major pro sports in this country are bright enough to avoid overlaying big events and they are COMPETING FOR DOLLARS. If USAC was presented with a scenario where they would kill cycling by sanctioning two events on the same day, but make a bucket of money, they'd piss all over themselves expediting the paperwork.

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Old 06-18-15, 04:15 AM
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I can't argue with you, Ex. The Calendar races should be cast in stone the year before so that states can plan their championships and USA Crits and other promoters can plan around them. However NCC races are still run by promoters, not USAC, and promoters can have issues. Do you want USAC promoting Calendar races?
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Old 06-18-15, 05:25 AM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan
I don't trust surveys much. Everyone knows they're supposed to exercise but it seems like it's a decided minority that does regular exercise. Half the locals own dogs but on local bike path I see less dog walkers esp in past 2 years: only about 1% of dogs get 30 minutes walk/day. 5 years ago I did a 20-mile ride on the path on a nice summer day, it goes past thousands of suburban houses: I saw exactly one small group of kids playing outside. When I grew up 90% of kids did daily unstructured outdoor play.
Oh right, so I shouldn't trust actual data but I should trust the random grumblings of a grumpy old man with an axe to grind. Okay.
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Old 06-18-15, 05:29 AM
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I'm not sure what the point is, or why it's here and not pro. compel me before it gets moved or locked.
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Old 06-18-15, 07:24 AM
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who let doge make a sock puppet?
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Old 06-18-15, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex
Once again the cult sport shoots itself in the head.

NorCal and SoCal masters state track championships are on the same weekend. Again. Last year some age groups had...one person entered.

Lay most of this at the foot of USAC. The major pro sports in this country are bright enough to avoid overlaying big events and they are COMPETING FOR DOLLARS. If USAC was presented with a scenario where they would kill cycling by sanctioning two events on the same day, but make a bucket of money, they'd piss all over themselves expediting the paperwork.
from what I understand NorCal wouldnt let you race at their track if you were from SoCal anyway!
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Old 06-18-15, 08:23 AM
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Thread did make me think about course layouts at National Harbor...
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Old 06-18-15, 11:07 AM
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I don't know what the point is, but the discussion is as much about amateur racing as pro.
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