February 20, 2005: Mom! Johnny's touching me!!!
You know, I try to make the voice of the people heard, but the powers that be just won't seem to listen (See June 28, 2004: MTB Marxism -- Power to the people!). Today's whipping boy: 24 Hours of Adrenaline. Following is my response to this childish, finger-pointing e-mail sent by 24 Hours to their mailing list.
Hi 24 Hours of Adrenaline,
First off, it might be time for you guys to employ a copyeditor: I think you wanted to say "informed manner" not "informed manor." To that end, I am a professional editor and would be willing to help you guys out for a very low cost (possibly even in exchange for race fee discounts). I have noticed several typos in this and previous e-mail messages, but this one was pretty bad.
Second, I agree with the comment you listed in your message: get over it. I have ridden races promoted and organized by both Granny Gear and 24 Hours of Adrenaline. Both organizations put on excellent events and I found both sets of people to be fine, upstanding folk. The problem is you are both competing in a pretty small pool, and as in nature, the competition for resources and survival is intense. However, as riders, we have our own problems (such as how to come up with $125 per person per event), and we are not interested in hearing about the legal sniping going back and forth between the two organizations. Your two organizations should be working together to grow the sport in a mutually beneficial way, not arguing amongst yourselves while Rome burns.
Really, this kind of bickering highlights my main complaint about the 24-hour events. That is, for all the marketing pieces and the well-crafted messaging, these events have become as much about the promoter's drive to make money as anything else. Don't get me wrong, I too am a businessperson, so I understand the need to meet costs and generate a profit. But seeing the two largest 24-hour race organizations bickering about petty details reinforces my impression of the last several endurance races I competed in: the racers are just numbers on a spreadsheet.
I have corresponded with Laird about this many times (see June 28, 2004: MTB Marxism -- Power to the people!). The last time to tell him why I thought the race promoters were putting the future success of these events in jeopardy. That is, the cost of these events to the average cyclist is just flat-out prohibitive. How do you expect to grow the sport with new competitors at $125 a head? If I'm a recreational cyclist interested in the sport, am I going to gamble $125 (just on entry fees, forget camping, food, travel, etc) to see if I like it? No.
My biggest complaint with the promoters is that they are taking the lazy, easy way out. You are making the cyclists carry the bulk of the financial weight for these events. Instead, I think you should get the cycling industry much more involved. Sure, White Brothers and Shimano and Cliff Bars have booths set up at these events, and sure, every cyclist can expect to get a couple of free pieces of cheap schwag as part of their entrance fee, but it is these cycling-oriented manufacturers that should be underwriting the majority of costs for these events. They are making a lot of money off of us cyclists and you promoters are enabling an exploitative mentality by not holding their feet to the fire in terms of contributing more to these events so that the riders don't have to.
I can tell you that as a very, very enthusiastic rider, and one who plans to do 8-10 races this year, I have no plans to do a 24-hour race (though I love them) until I see the promoters really making an effort to transfer the cost burden to the manufacturers rather than make the riders carry the entire burden.
I know you will respond by saying that 1) the numbers of riders in your events is increasing each year; and 2) you do ask the manufacturers to contribute.
To this, I politely and respectfully say, "hogwash." Maybe your number of riders have increased, but not at the independent-rider, grass roots level. You are not getting a lot of new recreational riders to your events. You are getting more corporate and team-sponsored riders, pro riders, and elite riders. If your goal is turn these events into pro-only events for ESPN, that's fine, but don't try to convince me that Joe Bicycle and his buddies are flocking to your events at record numbers for $125 a head. This could and would happen if you kept entrance fees down to something reasonable like $50 a head.
I understand you have a business and need to meet payroll and even make a profit. Understood. However, I don't believe you are making the strongest effort possible to get the kind of corporate sponsorship or participation needed to make these events more accessible and affordable to the average rider.
Lastly, I also see your lack of committment to the riders in the lack of creativity surrounding your events. OK, you've got several 24-hour events scheduled. But what else? There are almost no limits to the type of events you could organize and promote: time-trial events; team events (where all riders on a team ride together at the same time during the race); nightime-only XC events; hill climbs, and on and on.
My intent here is not to bust your balls just for the sake of busting your balls. I'm just trying to give you the cyclist-on-the-street perpective. Bottom line is I feel that I'm just a number on a spreadsheet that equates to a dollar amount. I know your marketing copy says different, but that's the way that I and many of the cyclists I've talked to feel.
Thank you for listening,
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2005 18:41:45 -0500 (EST)
From: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com>
Subject: cast your vote in an informed manor.
Why are we writing this? Earlier
today we received the following email:
Conceptual ideas for sporting events are all around us (Ironman, Olympic distance Triathlons, the marathon, 10K road races, century running and cycling events too mention a few) and after years we can only come up with F1 who owns the rules and regulations (we realize that we are providing general limited knowledge). To go a step further who owns the rules for football, baseball, basketball or soccer. Federations are in place to oversee their perspective sports but this does not stop us from our Saturday morning pick up game with our friends.
While in 1992 one 24-mountain bike event was held, and with the sharp increase in its popularity more and more events are available for the general public to attend. This is good in our humble opinion. While the USA Cycling association (NORBA) has had declining numbers over the past 3-5 years, endurance style team events and festivals have grown.
We cannot however understand how Laird feels that he has the sole rights to any and all 24 mountain biking events in the USA. We can say this because Trilife came under the attack from Mr. Knight in a lawsuit that drove that company into bankruptcy. The lawsuit included the following:
1. Trademark infringements
2. Copy Right infringements
Think about the above-mentioned items. Can you support someone who wants to control your sport? Trilife could not and fought not only to protect themselves from a half million-dollar lawsuit, but for the future of 24 events. Over the past 11 years, many organizers have copied a great many of the Trilife rules and formats that were set up, yet you didn't see Trilife suing these organizers. Frankly one could say it's a form of flattery.
The commitment has been to grow the entire pie and our brand within it. The more events the betterâ€¦ we need to elevate these events in order to gain sponsors, sponsors that we all understand assist greatly in the overall experience.
Again with over 80 team endurance mountain bike events taking place this year, what stops anyone of these events from being sued? I can tell you it wonâ€™t be us suing.
In closing may we say while paraphrasing the email writer â€œso please focus on event itself, celebrate its participants, the great job you people do putting it on and not legal bickering. It is important that you understand your vote and entry counts. Ask yourself what you are supporting when signing up. Trilife lost a company, think of something that's important to you and see it gone!
We look to your support as we work hard to open 24 racing to everyone -- cast your vote and entry in an informed manor.
Got a comment or question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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