I’ve written repeatedly about my foray into cyclocross recently. However, as of this moment, that foray is yet to actually happen. That is, I’ve not raced yet. I’ve been riding my ‘cross bike* a lot. I’ve even been doing intervals and run-ups. I’m registered for the famed Sugarhouse Cross Clinic. And tonight, I’ll actually race. And it will only cost $10. No number plate. No license. No pretense. Show up. Race. Simple.
*The tubeless set up is working adequately, so far.
But not every event is so simple. And it puts a rather abrupt inclination to what can already be a steep learning curve. I wanted to ride in a certain ‘cross event recently, held at a certain historic park in Salt Lake City. It appeared to be a perfect opportunity to get in a few miles, test out the bike, and learn—on the fly—how to jump barriers and steer through hairpin turns on a skinny tires. Which has been my primary goal lately: learn the ropes before diving into the proper season. Except, I could not find any information about that race. The website said only “tentative”—which is the listed status for next weeks race as well. Of course, the registration link works. My credit card will happily be charged. I just had no idea what I was signing up for. I was, to the say the least, a little hesitant to hand over $47 for an event listed as tentative.
And you read that right: $47.
$35 entry fee and a $12 number plate.
If I had pre-registered, that cost would have been reduced to $37. Except, there was that whole tentative status nonsense. If I am going to spend a day, and money, trying something new** I want to know that the event is actually taking place. I shouldn’t have to have to dig through links on third party websites to find an event flyer, which is, as far as I can tell the only existing list of details about the race. Including start times. Oh, and after that $47 charge, and after racing, I still would not be included in the results unless I am a USAC licensed rider. Which is why the result pages look like this:
**In two ways: A new series, and a new sport.
Now I understand having to buy a number plate for a series of races. I have no problem doing that, if I know I am going to attend several events. But I wonder if more people in my situation would be more willing to participate in a new event if information about the races was easily found, and if there were not some sort of incentive for first-timers? For example: don’t charge me for the number plate until I race for a second time. Or, like the Intermountain Cup Series does, offer a referral discount to anyone who brings a first-timer to a race. At the very least count me in the results, even if there are no points awarded toward upgrades. Bike racers like seeing their names in print.
Beginners are the lifeblood of any sport. And that seems especially true in cycling, as we will always be down the list of sports kids want to try. But since cycling is a lifetime sport, once a beginner is hooked—regardless of their age—they are hooked for life. And they will return year after year.
Now, I don’t mean to single out this particular CX series. I’m glad there is another option for racers to choose. It will keep UTCX sharp, and more than likely swell the fields at those races. This is a good thing. But I’m willing to pay in advance for the UTCX races because I know they will be well organized, well attended, and that I will in fact, be listed as a participant when the race is over. I know the courses will be interesting and well marked. In other words, I know what I am paying for. And that is why I continue to race the ICUP year after year. It is why I return to the 24 Hours of Moab again and again. When I know what to expect from an event, and that event has a reputation for excellence, then I’m willing to pay a premium price to race. But when the only information I can find is “tentative”, then that is also how I will act with my time and money.
Like bike racers, events have to start someplace. And like bike racers, they need to have realistic expectations***. It’s far more important to grow the event—with actual paying customers—than to be USAC sanctioned, or cryptic and exclusive, or overtly expensive.
And that’s why a $10 weeknight series, 60 minutes from everywhere, has a results page that looks like this:
***Yes I know, that’s rich coming from me.
I don’t want to be completeley negative. So, to end on a positive note, watch this video: