As I think I’ve pointed out before, mountain bike racing, like running or any other endurance sport, is not very much fun to watch, but it’s pretty darn fun (for some of us) to participate in.
The folks who organize triathalons figured this out a long time ago- if you want to pay the “pros” and make money organizing races, you’re not going to succeed by hoping to get a TV contract. Watching skinny people bob up and down among 1000 other swim caps, ride bikes mostly in a straight line, and then jog for 2.5 hours is not appealing to anyone, even other skinny people who like to do those things. Even a “highlights” reel of a triathalon is yawn-inducing.
But triathalons are super popular/fun and profitable, because the organizers have made a conscious decision that the participants enjoying and challenging themselves is their goal. There are lots of categories and age groups so you’ll have someone to race against and can see improvement as you train and gain experience, there are training groups to make friends, there are activities for friends and family to do near/at the race venue, etc. That’s how an endurance sport succeeds as a competitive activity.
The UCI and NORBA (now USAC) have always had a very different idea – which is that people are inherently interested in watching cycling and that they should do everything they can to promote that. Participant-oriented events are seen as a threat, I think, and hence we have rules like the infamous UCI 1.2.09 – which prevents UCI athletes (I was one for about 10 years and violated this rule many, many times) from racing in non-UCI/USAC sanctioned races. That means no Breck Epic, no local Wednesday night 45 minute XC series, etc. Lots of people like seeing JHK or Trebon or whoever at their local race, maybe say hello, check out their equipment, compare times with them, etc. Lots of those racers also depend on making a few bucks at local races to make ends meet (I funded a few summers of road tripping and racing with non-sanctioned race winnings back in the day) – it’s win/win.
The rule is an obvious attempt to undermine grassroots racing and independent races, put in place by an entrenched and corrupt bureaucracy who have only their own interests in mind. This rule, and others like it, are keeping many people from making a living riding their bikes or promoting races, and more importantly, preventing a ton of people from experiencing a really fun competitive or non-competitive cycling event.
So go sign this petition. In an ideal world the UCI and USAC would work for the everyday participants who have a job, a mortgage, and an extra 10 pounds and will never win anything but a plastic medal. And we’d all have a pony.
While we’re waiting for that, maybe at least you can help shame these folks into repealing the rule by signing this petition.
Pictures and semi-interesting stuff tomorrow involving actual bikes instead of just whining, I promise! In the meantime, here’s a mediocre photo of the beefiest CX frame ever.