UCI Wants Growth for Cross – It ain’t gonna happen

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I read this article this morning about how the UCI says they would like Cyclocross to grow as a world sport and the domination by the Belgians is bad for the sport. The article goes on to say about the growing number of participates in the US, how it is becoming more popular here and that the Worlds being held here the next two years is very good for the sport.

I hate to burst Peter Van den Abeele’s(UCI guy) bubble, but cross here in the US is barely a niche sport at best. Granted, more people are participating, but for a sport to flourish, it has to have an economic base. And cross has no economic base. It is a closed system with the only money going into the sport is the money of the participates. Very little sponsorship, no spectator funds, no TV dollars.

I doubt there are 5 riders, here in the US, that make a living racing cross. And that living is meager at best. There is no professional sport that has 5 professionals as their base. Everyone else is just trying to cover equipment and expenses.

If cross is going to succeed here in the United States, there needs to be a economic way for the best riders to exist. And that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. It would be cheaper for an American to move to Europe and race there completely unsponsored than to try to do the US racing “circuit”. There isn’t a circuit. You can say anything you want about the Gran Prix Series, but it doesn’t constitute a race series. It is a bunch of races that try to add prestige to their events by designating themselves something special. They have the same bullshit prize list, that the UCI supposedly mandates, and the same high entry fees. The prize list at an UCI C2 race is $2068 for 25 places. Divide that out and you get an average of $82.72 per place. About like a good prime in any local criterium. Then subtract the $45 entry fee and you’re getting close to nothing.

In Belgium and most everywhere I’ve raced in Europe, the riders are paid by the races to come and compete. The start money is much more than the prize money. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sven Nys makes somewhere between 5000-10000 Euros everytime he suits up. There is very little, if any, start money ever paid to start an UCI race in the United States. Some races offer riders some travel money and waive their entry, but that is the extent of their generosity. With that being said, there is an exodus of the best cross riders leaving the sport for the road. Lars Boom a couple years ago, now Stybar is going to focus solely on the road. The cross attraction, even is Belgium, is not enough to keep the best riders in it exclusively.

Paying $75 plus to ride our National Championships at the Elite level seems like robbery. Same for the Masters Worlds. I think I paid 10 Euros, maybe a little more, to race the same race in Belgium last January. That is less than $15. I really don’t understand why the promoters of our sport are the only ones that seem to be able to make any money from it.

The sport of cyclocross is succeeding here in the United States because the participates have a passion for the sport. If that is going to be sustained, then everyone involved, that is the industry, USAC, the race promoters, everyone, has to have that same passion and desire to make it viable. That isn’t happening here. I hate to say it, I doubt it ever will.

Below are a couple shots I grabbed off the screen of the GVA Loenhout this morning in Belgium. Each spectator probably paid at least 10 euros to watch. It is self sustaining at that point.

47 thoughts on “UCI Wants Growth for Cross – It ain’t gonna happen

  1. forrest

    I think cross is actually losing talent and momentum. How can anyone say Lars Boom and Stybar going to the road is good for cross? Seems like all the superstars want to leave for a greener pasture in my opinion. I predict cross will peak and simmer out just like mtn bike racing did in the 90’s. I remember at a NORBA National race there being 3 expert classes for ages 18-34 plus your master experts and a semi pro field with over a 100 racers in each of those fields, now its like 10 racers per field. I see the same thing happening in cross, big excitement, big fields, etc… but what is Cross and USA cycling going to do to keep the enthusiasm going? There will come a point where the average racer says this isnt worth it to me anymore. Paying these fees to race and driving 500 miles only to get pulled after a few laps. These type of things are going to keep cross a niche sport in my opinion. Cycling seems to be its own worst enemy so much lately. Kinda a bummer.

  2. e-RICHIE

    “You can say anything you want about the Gran Prix Series, but it doesn’t constitute a race series. It is a bunch of races that try to add prestige to their events by designating themselves something special.”

    ^ this ^
    [X] like atmo.

  3. channel_zero


    ‘cross and most of the other disciplines are all development feeders for the UCI road show. Unless most of Elite ‘cross becomes their own federation, nothing will change.

    I was around NORBA when it was big too and USAC is simply not interested in a large membership. Their domestic goal is complete control of all sanctioning. That’s why they killed the ACA and CBR and are still after OBRA.

    Note well that USAC has the domestic Pro peloton that best serves their goals. As Steve rightly points out, they are dirt poor unless they
    head to Europe. That’s intentional. UCI’s tightly controlled elite events become the only way a Pro can make cycling pay. I think it is not controversial to suggest there’s lots of corruption at the UCI at that level.

  4. Chris Black

    Brooke Watts has made a good start with Cross Vegas. Lots of paying spectators. Big fields with pros from Europe as well as the US guys. Look at Chicago this weekend. Less than 20 pre-regestered for the elite races both days, men and women.


    ” I really don’t understand why the promoters of our sport are the only ones that seem to be able to make any money from it.”

    …..wow….I guess I am doing it wrong.

  6. Adam Myerson

    Just as an FYI, the Shimano NEPCX Series paid $10,000 overall to men and women. It’s not enough to make a living off of, but it’s a start, and we hope makes it more than just a collection of races for promotional purposes, but a series worth chasing, with minimal travel expense from race to race.

  7. Brad

    Might be my stage in life, but I’ve held a USAC license for 10yrs and have a 7 yr old son that loves to ride his bike and would race if there were opportunities. We also ride and race motorcylces. Where I live there are 5 mx tracks to ride at within a 1hr drive that encourage kids to race and be involved. To race bicycles, with the exception of 1 weekend, I have to drive 3+ hrs to race, and there are NO events for kids. Entry fee for the average moto x is $25/adult $10 kids. Last bicycle race I did cost me $75 and I had to have a $100 license to compete. IMHO this is whats wrong with cycling.

  8. e-RICHIE

    ps would it be incorrect to posit (sic) that in nearly all big series events, the under-card body count is the only reason the elite race(s) can even take place? i mean, since the providence nationals, it seems like the fees from age-graded and category races are what allow the main events to happen and stay in or near the black atmo. can anyone address this?

    hey – have a nice day.

  9. tilford97 Post author

    Adam-I saw that overall prize list when I was looking for an UCI prize schedule. That is pretty great. The prize list is short, but goes down super even. And, like you said, you don’t have to fly half way across the country to compete.

  10. Rad Renner

    I would agree that the current high interest in cross is likely to fade, although the numbers of younger (20-30yrs) participants is encouraging. I would agree that, without sponsorship, racing bicycles in any discipline will only become more expensive for the participants, and I’m not sure how that’s going to change in the US, given current market situations. Getting advertising dollars in a fragmented marketplace is very difficult, and with cycling’s relatively low participation and audience numbers, I just don’t see much outside (non-cycling related) money coming in. Unfortunately, our sport continues to become older and more insular and isolated. The UCI and especially USAC need to have a long-term plan which addresses these realities, but I’m not sure they do.

  11. e-RICHIE

    okay so maybe adam knows the answer atmo…

    could any of these series work at all if they did not have the many participants that they do leading up to the 2:00 races?

    hey – thanks.

  12. John

    A solution might be making it an Olympic event, Best of all a winter olympic, Other suggestions made by Sven Nys in the UCI-rider comission are to make the UCI-cross points count for the road-serries so pro teams would be intrested to sign pro-cross racers. And an other was to combine MBK with Cross to make like an Off-Road competition.

  13. channel_zero


    USAC has no interest in expanding participation. None!

    Brad’s anecdote is the embodiment of USAC’s policies. USAC does not want more races. Otherwise the number of events would have grown over the years. They don’t want to fund a Junior program, the parents still pay for most of it.

    To be fair to many of the local USAC associations, some of the race revenue eventually goes back to subsidizing Juniors.

    But beyond that, the parents/racers are on the hook for all of it. Invited to the Belgium house? Gotta pay. Italian house? Pay. Qualify for MTB Worlds? Gotta pay USAC for the privilege of attending. Pay, pay, pay and pay some more. All the while, the federation actively discourages the development of a domestic Pro economy. It’s Pat’s Road show or starve for most.

  14. Brad

    Channel, I agree, it sure seems like they are happy milking the current membership. You can’t tweak things at the top to build a stronger, more active base. Interest, and involvement starts at a grassroots level. How many of us played cricket in highschool? How many of us played football, bastketball, soccer? How is cricket as a sport fareing against those other sports in america? It is cheaper to buy, maintain, and race MOTORCYCLES than bicycles in the midwest right now, and likely about anywhere else. Good racers will naturally emerge with the right opportunities.

  15. Bruce Fina

    Way to go Steve. You know, you are one of the many that has passion but certainly not the only one. I volunteered and payed my own travel to be the Manager of the US National Team for 7 seasons. I did it because some of the riders then asked me to do it as there was no one stepping up. After that I helped found the USGP based on the success of the Super Cup. It has been 7 years now I think and the Series is trying to be something it sometimes is not. We are striving to make the sport bigger and better. We spend the money we bring in to try hard to make good courses. To put a stake in the ground every 10 feet on each side of the course for all 2.5-3 kilometers. To make a series that gets enough press to make it worthwhile for sponsors to be involved. We have now had 2 great non endemic sponsors come into the sport. Both Exergy and Greenware are pleased with the result. It does not mean that we do everything right. Anyone who thinks we are getting rich at it and wants to jump in and work with us for a cut of the profits, please apply, we would be happy to have you. Most importantly here is the fact that we are trying. Are we going to be like football or even soccer? No. Are we going to be like road racing? Maybe, I hope. But come on, lets face it. How many guys in the US make a more than subsistence level income in Road Racing? 50? To speak about Peter Van den Abele, I think he saw the mistakes in MTB and does not want the same in Cross. The US has a passionate a growing cyclocross scene and it should continue on that path. There were no professional cross racers in the US 10 years ago. Now there are at least 7 or 8 men and women that make a substantial part of their income from cross. You talk about $82 per rider. When in reality the best men and women make most of the money. Just like in any other sport or occupation. Powers and Nash obviously took home the lions share of the prize money from the USGP, more than $7500 for Powers and $8900 for Nash. Yes, the USGP through the support of Exergy pays equal prize money for men and women. That is just the take for the top 2 riders. The USGP paid out more than $80,000 in prize money this season.
    I personally believe that many cross racers can and should do more than race cross. Sven Nys races both MTB and cross successfully. Jean Gadret raced the Tour, the Giro and is a great cross rider!
    Finally Steve, I do not think that cross will ever be in the US, what it is in Belgium. Cycling will never be in the US what it is in Belgium. Lord knows if it was you would be Merckx or at least Maertens. Does that mean we should not try? I think not. I am not one of those that thinks that being like the Belgians is the goal. We can have our own cross scene without being like the Super Prestige. Lets face it, there are usually only 30-40 guys at the SP that take the start. That is because now all of the money goes to the top 5 -10 guys. That is why Heule came to the US this season. Even after being a Top 10 guy in Worlds he could not get decent money to start the races in Belgium. That is not great. It reminder me of the old New York Cosmos of the NASL. Super stuff for a few. Not so sustainable. Anyway Steve, I appreciate your passionate rants. But what do you propose for a solution. There are many of us out here trying to do our best. But you must know better. Please enlighten us to the better way.

  16. channel_zero


    As it is right now, OBRA and a few non-sanctioned events in Washington State are clobbering USAC’s participation rates.

    The model for success is there. OBRA is on track to support a professional class of racer. It needs to be replicated for it to work. It’s happening slowly with ABR cyclocross events all over the country. But, it’s still too spread out. If New England’s bike racing could go independent, I think it would help.

    USAC is actively pursuing eliminating racers and racing.
    -They told the ACA in Colorado to either give up being an independent federation or be eliminated. ACA will be a USAC region for 2012.
    -They walked away from their eternal reciprocity agreement with OBRA and continue to snipe at OBRA at every given opportunity.

    So, don’t ever look to USAC/UCI for a grassroots or domestic pro economy.

  17. Blower

    As bad as it is, and as right as most are on this page, the whole situation is far, far, far worse for anyone who’s not an elite, or aspiring elite male.

    Throw a stick, and you’ll hit a sport or activity that supports the ‘kids’ and women better than CX, or than bicycle racing in general does (take note of the Cross-Stitch series Michelle and Sydney – others too? – pulled off this year around these parts).

    And, uh, if you don’t get the women and children behind it, it’s dead. That’s why they get them off the sinking ship first!

    YES! Motocross racing is cheaper and more accessible in the KC area. Year-round, there are more events, better events than any CX race including Cross Vegas, and the whole thing costs less. This isn’t a new thing; anyone figure out how they do that?

  18. Mark

    Cycling in general (Cross in particular) will never be what it is in Europe. It’s 2 completely different cultures. One simply holds cycling to a much higher regard than the other. Your typical inner-city youth here in the States would have no idea who Todd Wells (or Lance for that matter) but every kid living in Brussels has a poster of Sven or Bart on their wall. Aside from that, the U.S. is simply too big to support a real “national” series so regional series work well as Adam indicated. Bart Wellons commented that he spent way too much time on planes while he was here getting from race to race, as apposed to just driving an hour from one big race to the next.

  19. Adam Myerson

    +1 what Bruce said. The bottom line is the each person who’s interested has to choose that part of the sport they want to improve. If someone wants to grow women’s racing or that’s what they’re interested in, then that’s what they should go after. If someone else wants to focus 100% on grassroots, that’s great, too. We need that. Some people want to run regional races, some people want to run national ones. So much of the criticism I see comes from expecting an event or organizer who’s successful in one aspect for not being all things to all people. It’s not possible. Bruce has an amazing product, they’re landing bigger and bigger sponsors, and things are improving. Isn’t that enough? Does he have to everything?

  20. Adam Myerson

    @ Richie, no, not all of them. Some of the races do well on sponsorship, some are dependent on entry fees. But it’s not reasonable to say they the elite races are run on the back of the amateur classes. Each race has an overall budget, obviously, with contributions from many places. You know from racing in New England that when we put on a UCI level event, every category benefits from the production level, and just as much attention is paid in that regard to the amateur classes. I think most people at our races feel like they get their money’s worth. If they didn’t, I assume they’d stay home.

    This is kind of an old topic that was discussed over and over when we were first putting on UCI events. I think at this point, over 10 years later, we’ve shown that there’s a trickle down effect when you run elite races.

    At the same time, who can argue with the success in the NW, where they’re working from the ground up? Each scene knows it’s customer base and is serving them well, as far as I can see. People have been saying the sky is falling and we’re going to end up like NORBA before long, but when people say that, they apparently don’t realize that we all watched what happened there, some of us have been putting races on for a long, long time, and there’s a lot of institutional knowledge here. None of us plan to go down that path again.

  21. Craig R

    I raced the GVA in Loenhout today and the crowds were huge despite the 15 euro entry fee.
    Cycling in a main stream sport in Belgium and as a result Cyclocross riders and races are obviously going to have it financially easier than in the US.
    With that being said the cross races in Belgium are run as a for profit businesses and they are paying Nys a lot of money to start but the mid-tier riders and most foreign riders are seeing little to none of that start money.
    I spent 5 weeks racing in New England before heading to Europe and I would say that racing in New England was more financially viable for me than racing in Europe.
    I think Cyclocross in dominated by Belgians because if you look at today’s Junior and U23 fields at the GVA they were primarily Belgian. With 70+ riders fighting it out every weekend on the hardest courses these young guys really learn how to race cross. By the time they are 25 they have raced 500+ UCI races in epic conditions and the 2-3 riders that make it as pro’s each year are the best of a huge talent pool. It is going to take time for Americans to be able to compete with that.
    The US is headed in the right direction (hosting Worlds is huge) it is just not going to happen over night.

  22. H Luce

    There’s a cross race in Kansas City tonight. There are two cash prize lists, Men’s and Women’s Open, which pay three places each: $50 – $30 – $20. That’s $200 in cash paid out. The rest of the prizes for all of the other categories are merchandise. There’s a $25 entry per person per race. If 100 people show up, that’s $2500. Figure $500 total for prizes, the promoters get $2000.

    Now, if you’re coming from Topeka, you’ll spend $25 on gas getting to and from the race and $25 on the entry fee. If you come out with your bike in perfect shape, no wear or tear or broken components, if you win the Open category, you break even. 2nd place, you lose $20, 3rd place, you lose $30, anything else, you lose $50.

    If you’re in this for the money, you’ll never make it … the only way to even contemplate making any money is if you promote the race, and even then, you’re not raking it in if 100 people show, given the costs of paying officials, license fees, insurance, park rental, and so on. Probably the most money is made from the advertising by the sponsors.

    If there’s a predatory organization just sitting around sucking money out of an already money-poor sport, then the answer is to quit supporting the predatory organization. No one is making a living out of this, it’s not like there’s something to lose here, so perhaps the solution is to set up local groups which put on races, use volunteers to set up and officiate at races, set reasonable entry fees and have reasonable prize lists, where the profit motive is absent. That’s the best I can figure.

  23. Pete Webber


    You make some good points, but you mainly focus on pro/elite racing and the role of the UCI in the USA. Sure, there isn’t going to be huge dollar pro racing in the USA in the near future. HOWEVER, cross is undeniably healthy and growing and economically and socially viable right now in the US. There are many people who make a part of their living from cross. In addition to various racers, there are shops, manufacturers, promoters, coaches, team managers, mechanics, media, and others who make some or all their living from cross. You don’t have to look far to see that cross numbers are way way up in almost every way you measure it.

    You wrote: “The sport of cyclocross is succeeding here in the United States because the participates have a passion for the sport. If that is going to be sustained, then everyone involved, that is the industry, USAC, the race promoters, everyone, has to have that same passion and desire to make it viable. That isn’t happening here. I hate to say it, I doubt it ever will.”

    The passion I’ve seen over the past 20 years is growing and it is sustainable. How can you deny it?

    Cross in Belgium is totally different. It is awesome, and I love it, but it is mainly about the pros and the big races and developing new pros. The local races are awesome, but much smaller than in the regional races in the US. Heck, many local races don’t have any women categories at all and the masters fields are only 20-40 riders. There are exceptions, but generally that is the case.

    Contrast that to the US where we have many, many more participants of every age and ability, and many many more people benefiting from the awesomeness of cross.

    Given a choice, I’m not sure if I’d rather choose what we have over what they do in Belgie.

    For the other comments bashing on USA Cycling, I’d like to hear more about your criticisms. I don’t think they are perfect, but they are getting better.

    One person writes: “USAC has no interest in expanding participation. None!” and “USAC does not want more races. Otherwise the number of events would have grown over the years.”

    That is a ridiculous statement and I’d like to hear your reasoning.

    Finally, I give major props to the folks who are responsible for the growth and improvement of US cross. Bruce, Adam, ATMO, and many hundreds of others do tons of work to make things better. For those who would like to see cross continue to flourish… get involved!


  24. e-RICHIE

    thanks, adam ^ .

    your explanation regarding the synergy between the elites and the trickle down an event aimed at them brings to the rest of what is a very long day of racing makes sense atmo.

  25. channel_zero


    I respect your determination and your success, but USAC will surely find a way to ruin the groundswell of enthusiasm for ‘cross. Pick a discipline and Wiesel has sucked it dry

  26. tilford97 Post author

    Guys-This thing kind of took a life of its own. The point I was trying to get across is how disassociated the UCI is from reality when it comes to cyclocross throughout the world.

    Peter Van den Abeele is saying that Belgium dominance of the sport and the success there is bad for the sport. I had to disagree.

    I love our local/regional cross scenes. But, that is what we have, local and regional races that are of different sizes and shapes.

    The way the US is trying to abide by the UCI rules, thus promoting UCI races doesn’t really do anything for the health of the sport stateside. The only reason that any rider, other than a handful of US Pros, to have any UCI points is line up at the front of other UCI races, especially the National Championships.

    I talked to Joan Hanscom, the promoter of Masters Worlds and the USGP for a long time today. I think (know) she was insulted by the post above. It wasn’t meant to be a slam of any individual race/ or series, but obviously was. Anyway, she has lots of good ideas and is optimistic on the future of the sport. But, that being said, the numbers she was throwing out about how much she pays in fees to the UCI and USAC is ridiculous.

    Numbers certainly count. No doubt about it. We have more participates in cross than the rest of the world combined. That is a fact. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean the sport is healthy here.

    One of the definitions of whether something, mainly sports, is successful, is if there is a means to make a living doing it. It’s not the only definition, but it is a major one. Like I stated, there isn’t a means for that to occur here in the US.

    Bruce, you obviously thought I insulted your race series. I did, I admit it. But, for a series to have meaning there has to be a reward other than the meager prize you receive for competing. I think the UCI’s standard payout for prizes is a joke. Other than local events, I virtually never race a race with such low and top heavy payout ever during the season. You state how much Jeremy made doing all your races. Why don’t you say how much say, Troy Wells made? Embarrassing. If Jeremy would of had to pay for his own expenses, he would have lost money going to the Gran Prixs. Sven Nys made more start money at the GVA Loenhout today than Jeremy made in your series. That was the point for the post- My questioning why the UCI is criticizing the Belgium cross environment when it supports dozens of the best riders better than any other place on this planet.

    I very much doubt that, ever in my lifetime, there will be a series of cyclocross racing in the US that comes close to that of today’s cyclocross racing in Belgium. It is not going to happen.

  27. Bruce Fina

    1.) Yes Steve you did insult the USGP and I really have no idea about the logic behind it. We are proud of what we do and I think most participants also enjoy it. As Pete Webber said, they all have a choice to decide to race and we try our best to make it worth their while.

    2.) I am with Adam. I think we have a better cross scene in the US than what goes on in Belgium You think we have a tough time between promoters and riders etc. Go over there and see the back stabbing and strong arming. We are downright proper.

    3.) I truly think Peter VDA at the UCI knows what he is doing. He was a rider when the MTB World Cup crashed. He saw the error. When I was young and you were Pro, Steve, I went to Mt Snow and Mt St Anne and raced 3 laps on the same course that you raced a World Cup that same afternoon. It was great. I got to see Daryl Price crush everyone on the same course I raced in the Morning. It was inspiring and made me ride more. I think it is the same in cross in the US today. Did you know that in Belgium it is forbidden to have a masters race on the same course/same day as a UCI race? Good thinking eh? I have no idea why but I think you might enjoy a season there racing with and in front of no one.

    I think juniors and masters and everyone in between racing on the same day as pros is a great thing. We are a participation sport. Brad Ross made me understand and believe that and focus on it. It is important to us all. It creates more riders. Both Junior master and everyone in between.

    I can go on and on Steve but I think this is enough in one post. I think we have a healthy and growing scene in the US and I am proud to be a part of it. I think we will have great results in the future and I think we have the greatest athletes in the world. They do not always win. But we strive and try hard in difficult conditions. The US is large and broad and faced with very different challenges than some other European countries. It is a fact. If someone does not like it they should relocate. Live outside of the US for awhile and you will soon understand and value all that the US has to offer. Both good and bad.


  28. e-RICHIE

    “Did you know that in Belgium it is forbidden to have a masters race on the same course/same day as a UCI race? ”

    ^ this ^

    what is the back-story on this? does this country have its own rulz ‘n regs that some others don’t? how do they “get away” with it AND maintain a good standing with the UCI atmo?

    and, hey – have a nice day.

  29. Touriste-Routier

    The difference between the US and Belgium is huge; in the US, CX is a participant sport (an activity for all ages and abilities) and in Belgium it is primarily a spectator sport (where people pay to watch the elites), albeit there are grass roots races as well (there needs to be a base to support the top of the pyramid).

    The situation in the US won’t change until there are mass spectators, and aside from CrossVegas (which has a large paying audience only because of Interbike). Spectators are a source of direct revenue (gate fees and concessions) and who sponsors are marketing to. Popularity is what garners TV and media coverage, which improves the ROI for sponsors. In Belgium, this is what allows for start money, prize money, and for people to make a living putting on events.

    The situation now in the US is largely industry sponsors marketing to participants. It doesn’t matter if you have 1000 participants at an event; it is small potatoes in the eye of sponsors, compared to a live audience of 15,000 spectators and a world wide TV audience.

    And to the point of promoters making money, well they are entitled to (they put their capitol at risk), but as Bruce, Joan and others have pointed out, there isn’t much money to be made. The costs for organizing events in the US is astronomical.

    As to blaming USAC for lack of support, well I don’t like them, but really, it isn’t their fault. USAC is a governing body. Need more races? It isn’t USAC who organizes them; clubs & promoters do! USAC merely provides infrastructure and organization. Bash them for their policies, bash them for calendar conflicts, bash them for not paying for riders going to Worlds, but there are a lot of races that they sanction.

    You can dislike the prize lists, even those that meet minimum UCI standards, but raise the minimums, and what you’ll have is fewer UCI CX races outside of Belgium, as many organizers won’t be able to afford to meet the payouts.

    As for Belgium being too dominate in the results. I tend to agree with Peter Van den Abeele. It is less interesting to casual spectators when one country dominates (typical is for Belgium to represent 7+ of the top 10 in GVA & WC races). People like to see riders from their nation do well. Success tends to trickle down, and adds support.

    CX used to be huge in Switzerland and Czech Republic, as well as Belgium. Now Swiss riders receive poor support from their Federation (almost as bad as the US). Even poorly ranked amateur riders used to get start money in Elite Swiss races. Now their races struggle for support. If some more Swiss riders get into the top tier on the world stage, maybe the sport will make a comeback.

    Globalization has been successful on the road and track; there is more interest and support in these disciplines than before. No, it isn’t like the support primary sports receive, but there are burgeoning professional scenes throughout the world. Compare this to CX, and it is a Belgian thing.

    What Joan and Bruce are doing with the USGP is fabulous; it brings a level of production value and prestige to a fledgling niche. The other domestic UCI races also help raise the bar.

    The UCI needs to understand that the sport (all disciplines) is different outside of Europe, and need to create policies that help the individual nations develop their own scene and tie it together with the UCI’s vision of the world stage in a progressive fashion. This will take time; not one or two years, but decades…

  30. Jeff

    I totally get what you’re saying about racers and earnings, comparing the Belgian stars to the number one rider here Steve. You’re right on. But since this got off course on U.S. promoters, I would like to say this. Those guys totally have a right to make some money. Locally, they are usually a well known shop owner or semi-pro type guy. They usually do one event each year, especially for cross. It’s “their” race and they start preparing several months in advance, do a lot of set up and break down, and actually run the race registration and such. Some of them probably count on that to be part their annual income. All we sometimes see is the guy grabbing $2000 for a few hours of work. They go to series meetings, make who-knows-how-many calls to prize sponsors and god knows whatever else. All problems and complaints go to them. I’ll never go near trying to put on an event. That’s jmho since watching them from registration lines after all these years.

  31. Sean YD

    Thanks for sharing your opinion, Steve. There aren’t many people who can talk about both the U.S. and European cyclocross scene from the standpoint of being a long-time competitor.

    More race organizers should reach out to you (as some have actually done through this blog) for your insight, expertise and perspective.

  32. Zach

    I think people are misinterpreting each other some.
    I believe the point he was making is we are not belgium, and in order to grow and become something bigger, we need to rely on what makes US racing work well. It isnt necessarily abiding by USAC/UCI rules etc..
    Lets do what works for us and its likely regional and whatever is going on in the NW. Once it does become bigger we can play with UCI/etc…However, trying to do that as a startup might be suffocating any real opportunity of growth.

  33. channel_zero

    There’s no end of rules segregating elite everything from the rest of the categories. Enforcement depends on the officials’ disposition at any given moment.

    USAC’s policies have a direct effect on the number of events and members and whether or not there is a domestic Pro economy. Witness OBRA sanctioned attendance clobbering USAC’s equivalent participation rates. note well, using equivalent statistics. USAC loves to pretend they are measuring the same thing when their stats are an “apples-to-oranges” comparison.

    USAC is the UCI’s American proxy. There is no scenario where working with either one at any time allows the sport to flourish. Witness the ACA takeover as evidence of this. Steve understands this and is less willing to call out USAC’s pivotal role than I am.

    BTW, lots of well-intentioned people at USAC. The problems at USAC are at the Executive level.

  34. e-RICHIE

    hey and PS the sport will never grow at the elite level as long as the starting time for these cats is closer to sundown than it is to noon atmo. there are few things as pathetic as watching the best the region or the country has to offer, and doing so in the company of their families and the other mechanics in the pit. does the term “spectator” mean anything? hold these races at mid day or die. that last part was a turn of words based on the license plates in new hampshire.

  35. Adam Myerson

    Well now we’re really off-topic, but Richie, do you remember when we did this in NE? It doesn’t actually get you more spectators. For the non-racing local spectators, they’re more likely to come out in the afternoon than they are mid-day. And for the racers who turn into fans, the masters, generally, go home no matter when their race is. Whatever race follows the elites, those riders are now warming up and focused on their own races, and not spectating. The best fans come from the Cat. 3 and 4 men and women’s fields. If their races are first, and finished, they stay and watch. When we put the cat. 3 race at the end of the day, we lost them as spectators, AND it was an even worse ghost town for their race, which they hated. So we changed it back the following year.

    You don’t put your opening bands on after your headliner for a reason.

  36. e-RICHIE

    “You don’t put your opening bands on after your headliner for a reason.”

    ^ this ^

    okay – how do we get more people to watch the races that at issue in this thread, the elite events? actually i a more agnostic about it all than not, but if the goal/issue is to grow the sport, shouldn’t having someone watching the main event be part of the equation? how do we get to that line in the sand atmo?

  37. Adam Myerson

    We’re asking ourselves that a lot for the Northampton event, and essentially we think the answer revolves in local promotion, and in the bait and switch approach. So first, we’re putting a new effort into tying the race in with the local community and families. Getting the kids from the summer grass crit league to continue for ‘cross and bring families. Really focusing on our kids race being bigger. Partnering with the local alt weekly again for ads and articles. We do fine in the cycling media. We need a bigger tie-in with local, non-cycling media, to get them to recognize this as a special event, worth spending your weekend afternoon on.

    Then for the bait and switch, we’re looking at expanding the expo area to focus on food, and food trucks in particular. Northampton is a huge dining destination, and has always had a large summer food festival. With the recent trend toward food trucks in US cities, we’re working towards focusing on a fall food truck festival, and ideally more beer.

    We know that once people see ‘cross, they love it and become converts. So we need more than just the ‘cross race itself to get new spectators out there.

    Steal my ideas and I will kill you all, by the way.

  38. Touriste-Routier

    Channel_Zero: While I understand rules and policies affect the constituents, which particular USAC policies are stunting the growth of CX?

    Adam Mererson: I think you are hitting on a few key ideas to bring in non endemic spectators. An important consideration to all organizers is, if you can’t get those with a declared interest (other cyclists) to watch, how can you get outsiders. The only way is to think outside the box, like what you propose for Northampton.

    As for spectators in general, key problems are the locations of the events (are they close enough to where likely spectators reside?), and the lack of knowledge that they are happening (have you done a good job of informing the community that your must see event is occurring?).

  39. jt

    Stealing your ideas would be the greatest form of flattery, Adam. Some regions just have a hard time making inroads with their local cities to get approval for use of city parks and public land. I have spent a little bit of time in Portland, OR. The vibe is just different than my KC area. Its not just a ‘cycling’ thing. The culture is so different. The difference in the amount of racers on any given weekend in portland or in the New England area compared to SoCal, KC, Chicago, Tx….all are lil mole hills compare to a Mount St. Helens’ in racer turnout. It is Amazing when i look at sheer numbers on the results pages of the OBRA website or the NorthEast cx results. This is just another example of the different needs from region to region. We here our officials complain and want to pull riders when the size of fields get to 30-40 racers…yet OBRA gets the results without pulling riders with field sizes nearing 100 as a commonplace. So many differences of needs, expectations and wants of promoters and racers alike from so many ‘healthy’ Cross scenes in our country. Guys like Myerson, the guys doing it out in the front range in Colorado and the peeps in Portland…Thes are the models the other communities should look to for help and ideas to continue the growth of our sport. As a cx fan and racer i ask, what benefit doew USA Cycling provide to us(other than insurance)?? Its an honest question. they seem to do nothing to help grow the sport. how can cross still be a seemingly afterthought to them? that what is seems like to me as an average racer. Our quality little race scene here in midwest is due to a great group of promoters, the people who help them, the cycleing clubs, the racers and their families. The USAC seems to be a hinderance alot of the time. I readily admit, I am not in the ‘know’ because i dont promote, but i talk and listen with promoters. Just some opoinions i have drawn i guess. I would just love to see the numbers of my little region even halfway approach the huge numbers in the NorthWest, thats all.

  40. H Luce

    If you want to see cross racing get big in the Midwest, just wait until gas prices double – where people are riding bikes as transportation on a regular basis

  41. Brad Carvey

    Wow, did this topic strick a nerve.

    I don’t think it’s possible to predict the future of cross in the US, but it’s unlikely to every be big enough to support lots of professional riders.

    It has come a long way, since I raced cross in Northern California during the late 70s. In 1979, I designed and setup the Northern Cal Cross Championships, all by myself. I think there were less then 20 people total. Dr Joe Ryan, won on an early Joe Breeze “Mountain Bike”.

    Cross may not be a mega sport, but compared to when I started, it seems incredible.

  42. Zach

    Kind of what i was alluding to. If you want cross to grow your likely better off regionalizing series, and maybe have that funnel into a nationals, etc…The expanse of the US does hurt the sport, and yet it makes it awesome as well. Here is USAC’s vision. They are clearly in existence to produce international competition from the US. I think that grow the competitive cycling in the US is a new addition as well. They have long been regarded poorly because of their views toward the domestic scene (age limits, etc…) they just never cared if they didnt think you were going to europe. Thats fine if thats their goal and drive. Just dont snuff out orginizations that are in it just for their local scene.


    The vision of USA Cycling is to make the United States of America the most successful country in the world of competitive cycling.


    The mission of USA Cycling is to achieve sustained success in international cycling competition and grow competitive cycling in America.

  43. ringcycles

    Steve: I hate to disagree with you because you are one of my long time heros in the sport, but I have to based on long range historic perspective. There was a time that bike racing was more popular in America than football & basketball combined, when the top pro cyclists earned 10x what the best paid baseball player did. That time however, was 90 years ago. What changed? Promoters stopped putting on big pro track racing circuits, TV came along in the 50’s, football & baseball took advantage of TV’s need for easy programming, and the crowds followed the tube. Cycling withered to almost nothing in America by 1960 while other sports have grown exponentially. But the future may be different, the present is not destiny in sports culture (witness the decline of horse racing, boxing, and tennis while NASCAR, golf, and basketball have grown).

    The question is does growth in American cyclocross mean growth of the pro/elite sport, or growth of amateur grass roots racing, or both? We can have a thriving pro sport with minimal amateur participation (like football or auto racing) or we can have a thriving grassroots sport with out a pro league (like triathlon or skiing) or we can have both (like golf or baseball or basketball)

    In order to grow the pro/elite ranks I don’t think we have to copy the Belgians in everything, but we do in two things, TV coverage & payout. Nissan doesn’t sponsor the Super Presitge series because 15,000 people lined the course at Loenhout this week, it’s because 600,000+ watched the race on Sporza in Beglium alone. Moreover, if we want 20,000 spectators at a USGP or NEPCX race, the way to that is to put on a high quality network TV broadcast of the races every weekend during the season. On-line streaming will only reach the already converted fan. If NBC can put free style skateboarding on a Saturday afternoon for an hour every weekend, I don’t see why they can’t put on a US cyclocross race. More TV = more spectators = more sponsorship = more money for pro atheletes = more interest; this is true for every sport in the US for the past 50 years. Fundamentally, this is also why road racing has the most money in cycling now, it has the most TV audience. You do realize that for the salary of one starting NFL or NBA player, you could likely fund the entire USGP series for a year. If cyclocross got significant TV audiences, sponsorship would easily pay a living wage for 50-60 US based pros through start money. Is this going to happen over night? No; but could it happen in 10-15 years? Maybe.

    In regards to growing amateur grass roots cyclocross in the US, I don’t think we have a problem. Both non-USAC regions (Colorado & Oregon) and USAC regions (New England, Wisconsin, Mid Atlantic) seem to be growing alot. New races and more participants at existing races = growth. Can we do more? perhaps. Is there a limit to how much we can grow? I don’t think so. I understand the fear that US cyclocross will go the way of NORBA, but it doesn’t have to. We have an advantage that NORBA did not; it is easy to ride mountain bikes with out a race, it is hard to replicate cyclocross without a course or event. As long as enough promoters, club organizers, coaches, and fans have a passion for cyclocross, the sport can keep growing. But that passion must be directed into putting on better races, or new events, or organizing clubs to draw new athletes.

    Ultimately its upto the promoters, coaches, and clubs to grow the sport, i.e. it’s upto to us to make the sport grow or let it fade.

  44. PSIMET

    This topic struck a nerve because of timing and the audience. You’re looking at a bunch of people who have just gotten done destroying themselves since August.

    I’m still building wheels and gluing tubulars for our NYR race, Natz, and Masters. I’ve been doing it since June. Personally, I have gotten sick of the armchair quarterbacks late in the season. (…a family burnout that led to being given an ultimatum to not house Adam’s teammates this weekend – sorry Adam).

    Our cross season in Chicago dwarfed Road this year. Superweek attendance was a joke yet we averaged 500-700 racers every single week for 12 weeks in the Chi cup. We race with 2 separate cat 4 races at the END of the day and it drives a ton of spectators. My own CCC race was the only race I promoted this year that was solidly in the black…only to disappear 2 weeks later when I went out on a limb to run a race at the ski jump. Meh.

    Do I deserve to make money promoting my races? No. This is America…no one deserves anything – they earn it. Yes, I get po’d when I see small promoters bring in a big reg and don’t even cover the entries on the podiums. At the same time my skin crawls when I see some masters cruise in, podium, poopoo a race/course/number of porta potties, pick up their cash and then complain it wasn’t a couple a hundred bucks only to turn around and get in their car and leave before 11am.

    We love our sport. We love our own internal high achievers. No one outside of this little group knows who any of them are and they don’t bring anyone in. For the discussion earlier about the elites building built on the backs of the lower cats – it’s so true.

    So yes, this touched a nerve.

    The problem isn’t the UCI. The problem isn’t USAC. The problem isn’t ungrateful elite racers. The problem isn’t money laundering promoters. The problem seems to be that we are all in love with ourselves, throw parties for each other that we call “races” and then get upset when we don’t hand each other enough of our own personal money at the end of the day.

    …good thing none of us make a living doing any of this…..

  45. channel_zero

    You guys keep referring to USAC/UCI as two separate organizations. There is no such distinction. Rules/strategy come from the UCI and USAC does them.

    You are wrong about ‘minimal participation’ in the sports you mention. Amateur motor sports is far bigger than cycling. NORBA as some here can recall was ample evidence that a thriving amateur scene comes the money to support a pro cycling economy.

    Also, ‘growth’ is relative. Competitive cycling participation has been flat and members aging for over a decade. For once some niche is growing and it’s growing the most outside USAC.

    Look at USAC’s fee structure for offering a large purse at a USAC event. There’s a steep progressive tax taken off the top of the purse. Want to sponsor a team? Pay another progressive tax. I understand USAC cannot operate without some revenue coming in, but those fee structures keep a professional class destitute unless they get to Pat’s ‘Big Road Show.’

  46. channel_zero

    Here’s a little test.

    USAC members should get some a rule together revoke the prize purse tax for Pro-Elite fields and offset the revenue through slightly higher 2-3 reg fees. Watch USAC executives then create every manner of excuse and legislative kill tactic to see that this rule does not ever get passed. They are great at legislative dirty tricks.

    If USAC was actually interested in what their membership wanted, this should be no problem to implement. But they aren’t and this kind of rule runs opposite the core of USAC’s strategy.


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