June 28, 2004: MTB Marxism -- Power to the people!
Granny Gear Productions, promoter for the 24 Hours of Tahoe, has been soliciting input on the venue for this year's August race. Following is my response:
This course sounds great to me. The camping sounds a little iffy, but how much worse can it be than an unlevel asphalt parking lot? As for other amenities, I think most people can tough it out for two days without restaurant food.
That said, I feel compelled to pass along a major complaint from all of my team members. Let me preface this by saying that 1) I totally understand the overhead situation and know that these races are not cheap to produce; and 2) I want you to know that this complaint is not directed at Granny Gear productions specifically, but at all adventure and endurance events like 24-hour events.
That is, though my team, Sweep the Leg, Johnny! has competed in numerous 24-hour events over the last couple of years, we are basically being pushed out of the races by the cost. I've got four regular people with regular-paying jobs on my team, and even though I've done my best to rally them, they basically told me that due to cost, they can only do one 24-hour race this entire year! Because we prefer the Granny Gear races, we've decided that we'll do just the 24 Hours of Tahoe this year. However, when I tell them that the cost is going to be an additional $15 (though I understand why), I am quite sure at least two of them (both with two small children) are going to balk, and Sweep the Leg, Johnny! is not going to be able to compete.
I don't know what the answer is Laird, because I do understand the logistics, overhead, and personnel required to pull off an event like a 24-hour race. The thing is, I believe this problem has to be solved somehow in the next year or two, or else the popularity of these events is going to wane. It's certainly going to be hard to convince people who've never done it before to give it a shot for $140.
My only idea is one I have also expressed to the 24 Hours of Adrenaline organization and to Bicycling Magazine. That is, the industry, I think needs to offer a little more support to race promoters and the racers. I mean, we're buying $3000 bikes, $800 wheelsets, $250 cranksets, etc. from these manufacturers and I'm not seeing that they're giving much back. Yes, I see Shimano, Gary Fisher, White Brothers, and Nite Rider tents at these events, and yes, they may be offering something to promoters in terms of swag or services, but these manufacturers are making money off of cyclists and I feel pretty strongly that they should be subsidizing these events in a more substantial way so that the promoters don't have to charge so much for these events. It truly benefits them in the long run, because the more events that people can afford to do, the more events will be scheduled, and that will lead to increased interest in the sport, more sales, and on and on. Right now, I'm as avid a rider as there is, and I would love to do an event every weekend, but there aren't enough events and the events that are available are just too expensive to do more than one or two a year. The sport is not going to flourish when people can only do one or two events a year.
Recreational mountain bike racing should not be just for the rich or connected -- it should be a sport that novices and experts alike can afford to participate in. Unfortunately, until the manufacturers start investing in their consumer base instead of letting the racers carry all the costs, I think it's going to be very hard to grow the sport.
Sorry to be such a negative voice, but I want to race and I don't know any other way to have my voice heard other than through a respected promoter such as yourself.
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