How Do I Promote the Florida Cyclocross Event?

On August 5, 2014 by Christian

For the 2014/2015 Florida Cyclocross (FLCX) Season, there is no longer an actual FLCX points series. There is the Florida Bike Racing Association (FBRA) FRS-CX points series, which will award points to racers at each CX race in the state. So anyone who wants to promote a USA Cycling Cyclocross race in the state is now part of the points series. As far as I’m aware, the final race of the season will be State Championships in Tampa around the second weekend in December, at which time I presume all FBRA Season Series prizes will be awarded.

We’d like to provide some simple guidelines for all promoters to use to make their events as successful as they can be, as well as to provide a certain level of quality for each event, to ensure a consistent level of excellence during the race day experience, to continue to move the sport forward, to increase participation, to make sure each event is first and foremost, fun, but also safe, profitable, and not a giant ball of suck for the promoter and his staff. You can use as much of our recommendations as you wish, or you can completely ignore us and do it the way you want to do it, there’s no one way to promote a CX race. We’re not setting out a mandate or demanding that you follow anything we say, specifically. These are simply the steps we learned through trial and error, to be the best, the easiest, the most profitable.

Do’s and Don’ts:

Do

beg, borrow, or steal a laptop. Download Cross Mgr. Practice using it, then find 2 or 3 volunteers to run it during your race. It is the same FREEEEEEEE timing software that Jason Guillen used in past seasons. It makes your entire race day experience go exponentially smoother than relying on a USA Cycling official to do the results by hand. We had USA Cycling officials doing results by hand at Tampa and at the State Championships in 2013, and results at both of these events were a complete mess, in the sense that it took the official 30-45 minutes between each race to tabulate the results by hand, before they could be announced after an event with 15 or 20 racers. I’m not saying this to insult anyone. I don’t think anyone could or would dispute this assessment. Don’t make your race a mess. Use the software, or pay a timing company to run timing at your event. Don’t trust the USA Cycling officials to do it themselves. They aren’t equipped for it, they’re there to make sure your event is run safely and disputes are handled fairly and no one is giving beer to juniors.

(Jason Guillen wants out of the timing business for next season, so he can actually focus on his own racing. You can ask him for advice, but as far as I know he won’t be running timing at many or even any events.)

Do

make the schedule of your race pretty close to the schedule of everyone else’s race, because you’re gonna get a better turnout if you do. We have several years of data that suggests that the best schedule is something pretty close to this:

Wave 1: Masters 35/45/55 – 45 minutes
Wave 2: Pro 1/2/3 Men – 60 minutes
Wave 3: Pro 1/2/3 Women/ Mens 3/4 – 45 Minutes
Wave 4: Men 4/5 – Women 4 – Juniors – 30 minutes
Wave 5: Kids race – 10 minutes (or so)
Wave 6: SS Open – 30 Minutes

Put 15 or so minutes between waves. Each wave technically ends when the last finisher crosses the line.

You can always do whatever schedule your little heart desires as promoter, but you should at least keep the wave structures intact, for FBRA points series purposes. As we get more and more racers in FLCX, we will have to add waves so we don’t have 200 people on the course at the same time, but we’re still several years away from this problem, so we won’t concern ourselves with it at the moment. A six wave schedule like the one above will take about 5 hours from start to finish, meaning if you start your first race at 10:00am, you’re last race is done by 3pm, so you can be heading home before 6pm, which is pretty good for a promoter.

Do

use pre-registration. Either use the USA Cycling system, or BikeReg, or FirstPlaceRacing, but definitely one of the three, and definitely not Active.com, because no one has time for all of the emails Active.com sends you. But use pre-reg, and encourage it’s use by charging a $5 day of registration fee. What should you charge for your race? $25-30 for a first race, and $10 for each additional race each day is pretty reasonable. If your venue is truly spectacular, or you really want to do an event t-shirt, then you can charge a little more, but if it’s more you better be certain that the event will be worth it.

Do

understand the economics involved. Last year, FLCX averaged roughly 60 racers on Saturdays, and 110 racers on Sundays for races in central Florida. 60 x $30 = 1800, 110 x $30 = $3300. $5100 is a lot of money, but almost $1000 of that is going back to USA Cycling, and another $500 to $1000 or so to rent the park and pay the permits. You should probably pay at least $249 to both the Pro men and the Pro women each day (The USA Cycling fees go up if your prizes are over $500). You might need porta potties, that’s $2-300. Prizes/Trophies are another consideration. You’ll need to make some barriers, and acquire some stakes, maybe dump a couple of truckloads of playground sand. Stakes are expensive, try to borrow or at least rent them- Jordan at Velo Champ has a bunch of wooden stakes, Dan Milstead at Little Everglades has even more plastic stakes, and I believe John Hovius at AAA Tri Camp has a bunch of them too. If you have to buy them, well, that’s going to cost a lot. You’ll need a generator and a PA system and a couple of ten x ten ez-up tents for registration and scoring to stand under. You’ll need a PA system for your announcer to talk on. Luckily, if you hire me to announce, I work for entry fees, so that at least won’t cost you much. You need a few tables and some chairs, pens and safety pins and race numbers and prizes for the kids race and water jugs and coffee and breakfast for your volunteers and it just never ends.

Notice, I still haven’t mentioned t shirts, pint glasses, or other promotional tchotchkes. Because they cost even more money, and unless you have a buddy that owns a tchotchkes company, you’re gonna have to pay for them, too. And that $5100 is getting pretty close to being spent.

Bottom line, you’re not going to get rich doing this. If you want to get rich, promote a color run.

Don’t

offer pay-outs to any fields other than P123 and W123, unless you have a bunch of sponsorship dollars burning a hole in your pocket. Otherwise, you won’t really draw too many extra riders, and you will lose money.

Get unique trophies/plaques/medals made. I still have trophies from industrial park criteriums I won back in the 90’s. I don’t have a dime of any of the prize money I won. People are buying memories out there, give them something to remember. Paying Master’s racers is almost as foolish as dropping $1500 on Tshirts for a first year event. Masters will show up either way, as long as they know they aren’t going to break a hip.

Do

Go out and get sponsors. Got a local brewery or brew-pub or bar? Yes, you probably do. Ask them for a few cases for the winners, or a keg for the after party. Food truck/Restaurants/bars near your venue? Don’t be scared to ask them for bar tabs or gift certificates. Then hit up local bike shops. All of them, even one’s you don’t normally shop at. At the one’s you do shop at, ask them if they can hit up any of their suppliers. Garneau, Cannondale, Specialized, SRAM, and Specialized have all contributed at the least course tape in the past, and will most likely do so in the future. Sponsorship takes effort, but it can literally pay for your race, making all the entry fees profit. Think about it. Be creative. Be professional, come up with a package you can email to people describing what you want their money and or product for. The package needs only a cover letter describing the race, the demographics of most cyclists (upscale, eat a lot, like beer), and the numbers you think you’ll attract (approx 100-150 racers, and an equal number of spectators, more if it’s a central location). Mention the comradery of CX, the fun, the disposable income in the parking lot of your event, the spectator friendliness of being able to walk right up to the tape and hand a racer a twizzler or a strip of bacon.

Do

follow these basic guidelines in choosing a location for your event.

1. Pay as little for it as you can get away with. Free is best. Cheap is almost as good. Parks in cities like Orlando, Tampa or Miami are expensive, unless you know someone. It’s good to know someone. Parks in towns like Winter Garden, Alachua, or Ocala are cheaper. Private land can be expensive or cheap. Remember, you’re going to have to send a big chunk of money back to USA Cycling. Spending much more than $500 or $600 on your venue and the associated permits to go with it will make your profits slim.

2. Your course needs to be 8-10 feet wide and roughly a mile and a half in length. There can be a couple of choke points, where the course narrows to one rider’s width, but they better be far from the start, and there better not be too many of them. This doesn’t mean that a section that narrows because one foot of it is solid ground and the other 9 feet are mud isn’t kosher, but you can’t make that your entire course, unless there is a weird weather rain for-three-days-beforehand-thing, but we rarely have those during the FLCX calender. The ideal lap time for the Men 4/5 wave is about eight to nine minutes. They are the slowest wave, and since they only race for 30 minutes, it’s nice to get them 3 to 4 laps. You don’t want your pro men doing 5 minute laps, however, because 12 laps (60 minute race) is a lot, so you have to find a balance. Watch videos of other CX races around the country to give you some ideas.

3. Use any elevation change you can find. Ditches, mole hills, sand dunes, stair cases, handicap ramps, and cliffs. Anything that goes up or down. Off-camber sections are excellent. Sand Volleyball courts are almost a must, if available- I can think of three or four courses last year that had vollyball courts we used off the top of my head.) There is a line between challenging and stupid, and by and large we’ve stayed on the challenging side of the line on our courses. Remember, we have 10 year old kids and 60 year old grandparents out there racing, and while we want to challenge the 33 year olds, we don’t want to kill anybody, or include course features that will damage equipment.

4. Don’t be scared to make people run. They will hate you for it on race day, but they’ll love you for it when they’re telling their friends about the race later. The run-up at Josh’s Dade City course was as perfect as it gets, as was the first run-up off the beach at Key Biscayne a couple of years ago, and the sand steps section at State’s right before the line was pretty perfect too. Force people to dismount at least once per race, and preferably more than that. Two or three times a lap really isn’t out of hand, especially on an otherwise non-technical course. CX isn’t supposed to be easy. The only races in Belgium that don’t force the PRO’s to dismount for barriers are so friggin’ technical that there are running sections anyway.

5. Get the fastest racer you know, and the slowest racer you know, and have them consult and advise you on your course design. Listen to both of them.

Don’t

put a damn pinwheel of death on your course. It’s so lazy, and so 2011.

Do

recruit as many people as you can to help you promote your event. Find a local graphics student to make your flyer and facebook page. Find a couple local go-getters to find local sponsors for you. This includes race day volunteers. You should have a couple people patrolling the course all day repairing course tape and broken stakes, a couple people doing registration, and at least a couple people scoring your event, as well. This is in addition to USAC officials.

Do

make your pits as close as you can to the start/finish area, and also make the pits with at least two entrances. This means your course has to be shaped something like an 8, with the start finish and pits near the intersection of the two circles. The pits have a lot of interest for spectators, but so does start/finish. Keep them within a few minutes walk of each other. Use Jordan at Velo Champ for neutral support, he works for beer and maybe dinner. Good dood.

Do

remember that CX is a spectator sport, too. Make as much of your course visible from start-finish as possible. The Ocala Race, Josh Thornton’s race in Dade City, and Dan’s State’s course, and Dybdhal’s brilliant Mt. Dora course were all fantastic examples of a spectator friendly course. Make sure your spectators are behaving themselves, as much as you can. As race promoter, you’re something of a den-mother to everyone out there, so you can growl at some naughty cub scouts if they get out of line.

Do

follow the Zach Fout promotional method and promote the shit out of your event. Take a flyer to every bike shop in town that will post it. Repost the event info 6 times a day. Rent out the side of a bus or two. I’m not busting balls here, Zach promotes his events as hard as you possibly can, and his high registration numbers are a reflection of that.

Do

Ask other promoters and racers and all of us at flcx.org for help if you need it. We all want to see the sport get bigger. We all want all the races to be awesome. We’re here for your assistance.

These are the basic ideas that we’ve found to be effective. There are certainly a lot more ideas out there, I’m sure people will contribute them on the facebook thread I will add when I publish this, and I can steal the best ones to add to this page. This is a living document, I want it to be of use to every promoter of a race in Florida.

I am not an FBRA or USACycling officer or official, these are not rules, they are guidelines. In case anyone feels that I am demanding you promote a race they way we’re prescribing, let me be the first to assure you that anything I say is completely unofficial. All that said, it is researched and considered. Use it or ignore it as you choose.