Tuesday Coffee Talk - Are road races going extinct?

This week's coffee talk focus's on the possible extinction of the road race from the Colorado cycling calendar. What can we do and how, if possible, can we change to adapt to our own version of climate change

Every year people can hear a low mantra chant by many cyclists, "more road races please, more road races please..." Obviously this higher being they are chanting to is not listening as the existence of RR on the Colorado racing calender is getting slimmer and slimmer year after year. Like the potential extinction of the Polar Bear due to global warming, there might not be much that can be done to change this trend unless something changes. Currently getting permits for RR are challenging as many counties like Boulder already have so many county events going on every weekend they need to limit it for the sake of the residents of the rural area. There are very high and rising costs of RR, ask Chris Grealish of DBCEvents he'll tell you the thousands of dollars he is forced to pay to off duty officer to manage every major intersection (20 years ago that wasn't required). Then you need a flood of volunteers, and in the end you have to hope for good weather as on bad day by Mother Nature can keep nearly 50% of the field away hence putting that race in the hole as had happened to the Boulder Roubaix years ago.

It's been ask before with polls on 303 how much you would be willing to pay and rising prices doesn't look like it is an option for many racers and the cost isn't going to drop even if the prize list was set to zero. The only logical option seems to go east like Deer Trail or restart Hugo RR but even that seems just like a band-aid to the problem.

Is it time to change to format of racing up some? Why does a crit/curcuit have to be just 45min or 60 min? What if we turned a curcuit into a RR by extending it to 2hr for longer circuit courses with fewer technical corners? Yes, this would eliminate categories or require combining categories which some would not find acceptable. But where do we go, can road cycling evolve a little and try something new? One can look at the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series to see where evolution has occurred and racers are voting with their registrations as that series is growing very well. One could say, those events are a alternative to a road race... at least it works for me.

Now that we can look past chip timing and who got 35th place in race x maybe we can talk about items that some say are core to what road cycling is all about road cycling, or at the least find ways to evolve into something new and fun to try out like the roadterium -;)

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85 Comments

An idea

As I stated in another thread, road races are a dying breed, for al the reasons you suggest and more.

The trouble is that they are being replaced by events that, I would argue, are stripped of the essence of what makes bike racing fun. Crits and hillclimbs have their place, but they are specialist races that are largely void of the tactical & endurance elements that make road racing fun to do and watch. A few of these is a great thing, but more is definitely not better.

I actually think your roadterium idea is a great one and I believe they already have a name for it: a Kermesse. A 2-5 mile circuit race with the same basic tactical elements as a road race: a little more distance, some punchy climbs, etc. Koppenberg is probably the best example we have locally and that race is a blast (though I would love to see a couple laps added to the lower cats).

A couple things you would need to have, IMO, to make it successful:

- It has to be a quality, local course, where strong guys can make the race but less-strong guys still feel like they have a shot in hell (is this not why cyclocross is becoming so popular?).

- The categories do have to be consolidated in some manner. Races are so abridged these days in order to fit every cat in, or worse, you end up with a cluster F on the course with cats running into each other at critical moments of the race. I think we can agree that either of those scenarios suck the fun out of it. I do not pin the woes of the calendar on BRAC but this is one area that they could step up and stop the madness (e.g.-there simply should not be three 4's categories...). I know that this is on the plate for next season, but sooner is better!

Close but no.

Koppenberg is not an example I would use... But if you could take that race and cut the distance in half than maybe. I was thinking of Wheels of Thunder or the OLD Coal Miners classic done out on the old Storage Tek grounds. Basically new course would most likely have to be found but at least it's not a crit and neither would you have to drive 2 hours to do it. Categories would be wrecked because of this so maybe this is an A, B C category solution like the short track series does.

The classic "kermesse" course

The classic "kermesse" course we have in Denver / the Front Range is the Federal Center "crit" / circuit race. The old Sarah Kay course in Golden was a good example too (does anyone recall that one? it was in an office park and had a decent amount of climbing per lap).

The days of a single club being able to go out and hold a backyard/grassroots road race out of the back of someone's pickup truck are long dead. We used to do just that in rural areas in Ohio in the early-mid 90s, and sure it was great, but those days are over. The modern realities of what Kris alluded to up above ^^ - increased traffic, liability issues, legislation and police requirements, residential logistics, competition from other events, etc... have made that old-skool, laid back mentality a dead business model twenty years on.

My suggestion, and this is just spitballing, would be for would-be road promoters in this region to look at successful road events and really internalize what makes them successful. 2 examples that come to mind are Superior Morgul and Mead. What do these events both have in common? They are well promoted events that have really gotten the community on board, to the point that they ASK to have these races come back.

Is there any way for our LA and local promoters (I mean professional promoters who have the experience, time and marketing background) to collaborate more with community leaders, and maybe even take a page from the BMA book where they actively advocate in local government for more access for recreational activities. Maybe even, I don't know, look at cooperating with other sports promoters (multisport, running, etc.) on holding concurrent events rather than trying to compete with them in our own little silos?

I think there's a major perception by the general public that road racers and roadies in general are just a plague of rich white guys on fancy toys cluttering up the roads. It's a complex issue, and one that is not mitigated by the tendency of road race promoters to treat bike racing like some kind of secret society. I think one path is to somehow turn that perception around and make road races viewed as a positive source of entertainment / charity income / positive recreation.

my problem is that I'm a quality administrator and have zero skills at marketing or I'd try to write something up articulating this better.

Those are perfect examples of "roadterium" or "kermesse" course

100% yes to the old Sarah Kay and the Fed Center course as ones that could be changed from crit style to road style and do it ON THE SAME COURSE.

Getting the course would be easier than the category cluster but short track promotors can do it so it is possible.

Just do one, this year is probably too late but why not get this ball rolling and have one take place in 2014. Test the waters.

Kris

Road Race vs Circuit/Long Crit Course

Yep, big difference between road races courses and circuits like Sarah Kay, Wheels of Blunder & Fed Center. Those are not anywhere near a road race. They are really long course office park crits. Who wants to go around them for more than an hour? Not anybody I know.

Is Salida Road Race, with a 5.8 mile loop, a road race, kermesse or circuit race?

the classic "circuit race"

the classic "circuit race" format that we used to hold a ton of in SW Ohio / Northern Ky was 3-5 miles, typically in some little farm community that was close enough to the major metro areas to avoid the 2 hour drive scenario, but remote enough to have low traffic and good community support.

I'm not sure the Front Range has the right demographics / infrastructure to do this unless you go to more "dirt road / gravel grinder" formats, but western Weld County comes to mind, as do some of the big, low-traffic housing developments (like Candelas) that are looking for ways to promote active lifestyle pursuits. Erie and the area around the northern terminus of Sheridan Parkway both have some potential.

It would take some creativity, community involvement and some good course design, but it could possibly be done.

I would absolutely come down,

I would absolutely come down, I loved the old Andy Finch circuit and did it every year they ran it. Too bad the road finally fell apart completely.

The catch with holding road events is making them desirable enough for the Boulder Bubble group to travel to, with enough advance warning for them to plan, plus maybe accepting that a first year event will have low-ish numbers until word gets out that it's legit. Whether that means holding more categories or bigger prize lists or what, I don't know. Also you have to be really in your face with the promotion, and manage not to conflict it with something else big that's going on in the region.

idk, I guess all this is why I no longer bother trying to hold bike races.

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