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JeffOYB 12-03-13 08:06 AM

Growing 'Cross?
Anyone like this topic? : )

I see it discussed over at CX Mag in their editorials and such. But they don't seem to have as good of a Forum in terms of structure.

They are now running a blog column by Steve Tilford about pro pay and how Euros make so much more.

One thing not mentioned is: Do our US road pros make any decent money here in the US or even in Europe?

So there are other factors to compare to before trying get on TV or to be like NASCAR. Steps in the ladder.

I think CX is popular here because it can be urban and its venues can be fun. So those factors need to be built on even more to get to a new level.

Cyclists themselves can be as boring as any athletes. But CX tends to be more fun because it's taping into the indie culture of young urban hipsters who are also using bikes a lot more these days.

What makes for a fun venue? A neat course, sure. But far more than that: *music, food, crowd diversity.

The microbrew connection has to be really played up. Tilford talked about sponsorships for the next step up. That's too generic. The KIND of sponsor is critical at this stage in the US scene. They can have laundry soap sponsors in Europe. Our success, such as it is, is because CX is tied at the hip to microbrews! Its next step up is to make that tie even stronger! Do NOT attempt to ditch beer for soap because you think the $'s in soap are so much bigger. Sure, they are bigger, but it's too big of a jump. Would a soap sponsor help take Lollapalooza or SXSW to the next level? CX needs more microbrew and more indie music to draw even more urban hipsters out to the city-center parks.

Urban hipsters would totally pay $10 to get into a party park with a race going on. In our local city hundreds pay every weekend of the summer to get into beer-tents. Maybe they get a token for one beer. There's music and beer and they pay a premium to get in. Sure, in Europe the adults will pay $20-30 to get in, and it's like their NASCAR. Well, it's not like that here and can't be. But it IS definitely something here and that needs to be recognized and can easily be built up.

And the courses shouldn't be dirt crits. The success of the urban hipster CX scene isn't that it's educating them into being sports fans. They are already spending a ton of $ every weekend. CX is giving them a diverse outdoor experience that includes a bunch of their values -- it can easily tap into the urban hipster purchase plan. A CX race is a like an expanded Beer Garden -- another thing growing big among urban hipsters now. It won't make these people sports fans per se any more than Roller Derby is (another popular fun new urban hipster sport). So the courses should be fun to watch. And I doubt that the crowd will really be caring so much who is winning. That's what is neat about CX: something interesting to a layman can be happening way back in the pack and in a lot of places around a course. So, sure, build up the heroes and champs, but build up every other aspect, too, coz it's all working to please the demographic. Too much emphasis on the pros and on making courses "pro" and predictable is a bad idea. Courses can be interesting and diverse without being silly or dangerous. ...Or too complex. I'm thinking that SIMPLICITY and LOW OVERHEAD and GREEN/sustainability are values that need respecting. Huge lighting and massive live-screens and lots of extra structures might NOT be the answer, unless a crew can whip 'em up and down. Sure, if they work, use em. A carnival has a lot of machinery but it's quick set up and gone by Monday. I suppose this is obvious to any promoter: they'll include a feature if it pays off. But I'm concerned that too much glitz will start turning off the urban hipster in an attempt to go bigger.

So my two bits is that the urban hipster market might be a "small niche" but really it's pretty darn big and it's the core that CX should lean on and build on and cater to.

...And the music should include a lot of brass.

ljrichar 12-03-13 01:40 PM

They just linked to Tilford's blog, he didn't write that for CX Mag. Urban hipsters? Kids with skinny jeans & fixed gears don't wanna race in the mud with freewheels. Also, in Europe CX is like Nascar. Big sponsor $ & the fans pay to be there. Here it is participant based & that's fine. Most races have a couple of hundred people racing & watching.

JeffOYB 12-03-13 02:34 PM


Originally Posted by ljrichar (Post 16297749)
They just linked to Tilford's blog, he didn't write that for CX Mag. Urban hipsters? Kids with skinny jeans & fixed gears don't wanna race in the mud with freewheels. Also, in Europe CX is like Nascar. Big sponsor $ & the fans pay to be there. Here it is participant based & that's fine. Most races have a couple of hundred people racing & watching.

Right, they linked. Fine.

I'm not talking about recruiting hipsters so much as entertaining them. Of course "hipster" is a corny generic term. By it I mean any younger urban person who considers themselves relevant and up to speed on cultural things. Many ride bikes. Quite a few are already racing and somehow engaged with CX type cultural things. They are the demographic to build up and they have the location that has potential for crowd and popularity growth in the USA.

I already said that in Europe CX is like NASCAR.

You're also right that participation is how US CX rolls right now. Participation is also part of the young urban thing. Anything else that is part of the young urban scene that CX could include or take advantage of?

It sounds like you're content with the way things are. Fine. I'm trying to discuss the ways for possible growth here in the US. But "no growth, things are fine" is a legit view, of course. Or do you mean to say "let's get more participation"?

We had a hard-bop jazz band at a local race recently -- they added a lot of fun pizzazz. Lotta hipsters at the race. It was in a park near the city. The young folk really support cultural events in that area. Maybe just better PR coulda doubled the crowd. Maybe more food'n'beer tents. Another band. Bonfires. Oh, and at that point such people are used to paying an entry fee -- like to the microbrew beer-tent parties right downtown where they pay $12 for admission and a pint token. I disagree that CX could never do something like that in the US.

It's true that a lot of bike racers are cheap. Or, cheap in some ways. That's their rep, anyway. Yet even they cross over to normal hipster culture more than they realize. They're among the people who pay to get into beer tents. CX could make that crossover. What's more: the success of CX is happening BECAUSE it's reaching beyond the USUAL roadie type of cheapskate biker. And even bikers aren't the same thing they used to be. Considering the thousands they spend on bike gear and how into microbrews they are, they're not actually as cheapskatey as we might think. I think there's potential there. But that's just my view. Someone who really knows could set me straight.

Andy_K 12-04-13 01:57 PM


Originally Posted by ljrichar (Post 16297749)
Urban hipsters? Kids with skinny jeans & fixed gears don't wanna race in the mud with freewheels.

Obviously you haven't been to Portland.

What I don't get is the association between "taking CX to the next level" and who's making money. Is that really the next level?

There are a few pockets of high CX participation in the U.S. but my understanding is that it isn't entirely ubiquitous. To me the next level would be that everyone near a significant metropolitan area anywhere in the U.S. would be able to race CX every weekend from September to January if they chose to do so.

I've raced 30 times this fall and I only had to drive more than 45 miles twice (and one of those was because I chose the Cross Crusade races in Bend over a more local option that weekend). I'd like to see that be possible all over the country.

BTW, Deschutes Brewery is one of the major sponsors of the Cross Crusade series here. Three of the nine races in the series this year were/will be held at the brewery, and you can't even imagine how much beer they gave away.

Anyway, regarding growth of the sport I think there are two opposed approaches competing right now. Tilford seems to be approaching it from the side that sees success of elite level athletes as an indicator of the health of a sport. That's natural enough. He's an elite level athlete. When you listen to the rhetoric coming from USAC it's all about how they need money to develop elite racers (at least that's what I get from it). The other approach is to make the sport more accessible to the average Joe. I like this because elite athletes are, by definition, a very small group. If the growth of the sport depends on convincing a lot of people that they could be the next Jeremy Powers, we're in trouble.

I guess it's a question of what the goal is. If you want to see cyclocross become the kind of sport that fat guys all around they country sit on the couch and watch on TV every weekend, I guess the USAC approach is the way to go. If you want to see cyclocross become the kind of sport where fat guys all around the country squeeze into spandex and race every weekend, then check out this link:

JeffOYB 12-04-13 02:16 PM

Good thoughts! Thanks.

I also like the idea of growth equaling "everyone can find a race." I also see this kind of racing as contributing to urban health and fun. So to me it's not just racing everywhere but good public interface with this racing. I suspect that stars will be part of it. No problem. I love seeing the great superfast guys and gals ride. They're important. American cities seem poised for making comebacks in places where their cultures are weak and for stepping up even higher in places where they're doing well -- and it really seems like bikes can be part of this. And for sport biking it seems like CX has a lot to offer due to its park setting and closeness to the action. I think the key for this public integration is inclusion of microbrew, food, music. At that point it's a cinch to charge admission. And this still doesn't mean a "fat guy TV" scenario. It describes a mode that is already used in lots of urban renewal projects.

Andy_K 12-04-13 02:34 PM

Food, drink and music do add something. Our local races usually cover the music by playing stuff over the loudspeakers. We had a drum corps come out and play at one race, and that was very cool. Food trucks are all the rage in Portland these days so it was a small step to see food trucks start showing up at the races. Waffles and frites are still the favorites. Now that the season is wrapping up I'm going to have to figure out where The People's Pig is normally parked so I can get my weekly porchetta fix. Beer is mostly BYO, except for the Cross Crusade where Deschutes has a beer truck at non-dry venues.

A lot of the venues for CX races around here are alcohol-free. We race at a lot of high schools, so you can see why that would be the case. Other land-owners (specifically Alpenrose Dairy, who are absolutely fantastic) just want to provide a family-friendly atmosphere. There's definitely something to be said for that. I think our biggest growth right now is coming from juniors, and once you have the kids out there it's a small step to try to talk the mom's and dad's into giving it a go too. There were some problems for a couple of years ago because the beer and cyclocross association was so tight, but I think people are starting to get it and they're finding out that cyclocross is fun even if you aren't drunk.

JeffOYB 12-04-13 03:02 PM

Live music is far cooler than tinned music. Just like live racing right against the tape is cooler to watch than live sports from the bleachers much less on TV. And live BRASS music (and drums) seems to fit 'cross. Maybe someone can explain it. ...Cycling is a strong rhythm? Involving a contraption? Whatever the reason, live brass/drum music WORKS.

Do kids come watch CX races in Europe? Yeah, I've wondered about the beer/family connection, too. My hunch is that the US has to get over its alcohol phobia and embrace its inner drunk. Ha. Or the US has to learn to drink and not get drunk. (Or maybe just go Muslim and forget the booze?) Kids and beer seem to go together pretty well. Is baseball kid friendly? Beer in a park doesn't bring on grind-dancing or hooker-attire. It might be possible to socially spin it as just refreshments. (Places that freak over the chance that a kid would drink a beer are the places where the kids drink the most beer *because* of said puritanism.)

Food trucks ROCK! ...Carts, vendors, tents. Equipment expos. Bring it on!

High schools for venues? Sure. But...the key to the future? Why not. But I still see Urban Parks as venue #1 . Where the people are. I think of high schools as where the cars are.

An urban crit can be rockin' for the public because it's close to so much cool other stuff. But you can't charge to see a crit. You could charge access to a park. Crits can be great, too. But they can also be scarier and less spectator friendly. And less racer-friendly, too. You can get really hurt. Can't get as close to your heroes when they're going 30mph. It's more like a prizefight. But when a town runs a crit past all the bars and restaurants with the tables outside along the course: they're doing it right. Of course, even then the biz community needs to be ready for it.

Our local city crit went past a dozen bars -- and they all complained rather than exploited the chance for live sports in front of their tables.

Part of the Next Level for CX will just be plain old PR. Get a great central urban venue then let THE CITY KNOW, both in front of the scenes via media and behind the scenes via meetings with all stakeholders -- to get em psyched and show em how it works -- and get the general public to turn out. Music, food, drink will bring the Hipsters and the Normals out to check out the racing. ...And even to pay for admission (if they get a pint voucher).

At some point a biggie sponsor might come in. Let 'em. (Subaru is cool with the Iceman mtbike race.) But we gotta build the socially well-integrated base. A base isn't just racers. For the next level it's their peers, their town, city, and wider-but-related demographics.

JeffOYB 12-05-13 12:02 PM

If CX could catch a vibe like HS CX running meets have, or the big HS meets in general, then I'd be all in favor of a "dry" event now'n'then. Obviously you don't *need* beer to have fun. Actually, isn't CX like what CX-running is SUPPOSED to be like -- technical and challenging and easy to spectate -- only it's for older folks whose joints aren't what they were so they do the course on bikes instead...

What if we blended a CX bike race with a CX run race... Those CX runners are FAST FAST FAST. Not like regular 5k-ers. They run a 6-min mile out there on the twisty dirt -- that's about CX bike pace.

I dislike demographic separation. Is the US worse with that than elsewhere? Like if an event was intended to attract hipsters would they not show up if younger and older folks were there?

Andy_K 12-05-13 03:03 PM

The cross races around here draw people from 4 to 70. In the past couple of years there have been discussions about why kids under 12 could race the full course, but at the other end of the spectrum a 60+ category was created (because there were enough 60+ guys already racing to justify it!). We're also having so many women turn out to race that they aren't fitting into one time slot anymore.

A few years ago there was a distinct impression that the local CX scene was a sort of adult league thing and even though there was a junior category it wasn't doing as well as people would have liked. Back then the juniors raced at the same time as the Master B's and the 50+ guys. The local organizers made a distinct effort to change the culture. They created a Junior CX series, run within/concurrently with the existing races but with its own time slot. They made some effort to reach out to the local high schools. And there was some effort to stop emphasizing beer so much. The results have been great.

ljrichar 12-05-13 03:47 PM

I just don't want it to get too dumbed down. This is bike racing not a freaking mud run. I'll hit ~25 races this year all within a 2.5hr drive. To me, that means the sport is healthy. I'm all for music & food trucks but mainly because I like that stuff. I don't need it there to double the crowd. We barely have enough parking for the racers as it is.

fietsbob 12-05-13 06:51 PM

Speaking of mud offered for your entertainment..

Andy_K 12-05-13 09:17 PM


Originally Posted by fietsbob (Post 16304973)
Speaking of mud offered for your entertainment..

I'm not in any of those pictures, but I did endo there.

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