Last month there were a few news articles (see note) discussing reduced racing days in the second half of the 2017 National Road Series (NRS). Opportunities in road cycling to showcase your talent and your sponsors have become more limited in recent years and many teams have resolved this by travelling to race in Europe or America. However, overseas travel is not an avenue available to everyone. The decline of the NRS is a multi-faceted problem and I can’t offer a solution for this. However, for riders and sponsors feeling disenchanted with the NRS, here is my solution:
Consider expanding your 2018 calendar to compete in both road and cyclocross.
Team sponsors – adding cyclocross to the race calendar provides new opportunities to showcase your brand and here are a few of the positives:
- Accessibility: Cyclocross races are usually held in city parks on short circuits and this makes them spectator friendly and much cheaper for a team to attend. The demographic of riders and spectators is broader than NRS, offering multiple men and women’s grades and even kids races, which makes it family friendly. Teams can set up their marquees at the course all day displaying their sponsors and equipment. This time for interactions makes riders available rather than just super-fit elite athletes you follow on Instagram. No amount of social media content can compare to having your team out there, speaking with their fans.
High Quality Content: Cyclocross is a photographer’s dream. Being so close to the action draws the spectators and also photographers hoping to capture that perfect shot. It doesn’t matter if a rider is coming first or last, they are still likely to get great a great shot of them racing. Cyclocross is reflecting the way sports are shifting – it’s less about besting other riders and more about each rider overcoming the difficulties of the course. There can only be one winner on the day, it is much more desirable to share your riders’ stories rather than waiting for that occasional win.
The Cyclocross Image: Cyclocross has its own quirky personality – capturing the excitement and physicality of small bunch road racing and the laidback atmosphere of mountain bike events. As a new sport in Australia it has a fresh image and is inclusive where road cycling is sometimes considered elitist. Cyclocross offers equal opportunities and prize money for men and women and I believe that it is a great image for a brand to associate with. Cyclocross is still growing in Australia, particularly in the women’s fields and there are still only a few teams racing so acting now would make you an early adopter.
Riders – the National Cyclocross Series runs from June to August to fill the winter break in the NRS season. Here is why you and your teammates should compete:
- Skills to pay the bills: A road-focused rider has lots to gain by dabbling in cyclocross. To be competitive a rider needs to learn to apply power and brake smoothly, to pick their lines and to use their upper body. All these skills carry over to the road. Aerobically a cyclocross race is full gas from the start to the finish with multiple accelerations per lap. All riders learn to ‘suffer’ and push through in a cross race. It gives you motivation to keep training through the winter when road training is miserable and you’re sick of Zwift. If Marianne Vos, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, Lars Boom, Zdeněk Štybar and many more professional road riders also race cyclocross, it must be good!
- Equal opportunity for women: Cyclocross has always offered equal prize money and opportunities for women and men at all races. At the last National Round in Brisbane it was really moving to hear such positive feedback about the excitement and the quality of the women’s race. This culture is why more and more women are moving away from other disciplines and choosing to focus on cyclocross. Every year more women start racing cross in Australia and every year the competition steps up again.
- Fun! Most importantly – cyclocross is fun. I challenge you to race a cross race without smiling at some point. And a great reason to get another bike!
Just like the revelation of Old el Paso allowing us to choose both hard and soft tacos I hope you now feel empowered to speak to your road team about adding some great cyclocross racing to your 2018 season. Let me know what you think.
Cover image by Andrew Sleeman.