Monday, April 29, 2013

How To Guide: Running A Successful Mountain Bike Event

In late 2012, the Team Mount Beauty Mountain Bike Club hadn’t even planned to host a 6-hour race in 2013. Then enter Turi Berg, a TMB committee member and recently settled Mount Beauty resident (apparently it takes 20 years to call yourself a local). Skip forward to April 2013 and the Mount Beauty 6-hour Race (part of the Victorian Enduro Series) went off without a hitch under blue skies, on great trails, with great racing and an excellent atmosphere that people are still talking about, even days later – which in this age of online social media is something to be quite proud of.

So what does it actually take to put on a successful club-level mountain bike event? Here are a few essentials to help you make that next club-level event a triumph.

Make a Splash with a Sash
If you are going to have a race, then it’s good to have a trophy…and what better trophy than a sash. While the sash is usually associated with road racing, it can also make an elegant and distinctive trophy for a mountain bike race.

Just some boys and their sashes…and Elvis.

Pimp Up The Prizes
Cross Country Time Restricted Multi Lap Endurance (XCTRMLE) events include categories for solo 6 or 3-hour and teams of 2 or 3 in a relay format. When you add up the male, female and mixed (trans-sexual, hermaphrodite & gender non-specific) categories, you end up with a very large quantity of prize bags, and they do not fill themselves. Get your local community involved. The following local businesses generously donated prizes for the Mount Beauty event:

Local Mount Beauty trailbuilding legend, and resident stonemason Bernie McArdle also made a generous donation of his time by offering to host a free MTB Clinic for the two junior teams that competed in this year’s race.

This man is responsible for the building and maintenance of most of the trails in the Big Hill MTB Park (Photo: Russ Baker)

These are the types of gestures that make club-level, grassroots mountain biking accessible to young riders and help make you feel good about the future of the world despite the state of the environment, ongoing war, famine and Oprah Winfrey.

Of Course It Will Be Hard
While generally a laid back and friendly bunch, mountain bikers also love to complain about course design. “Too much climbing”, “Too rough”, “Too many roots” are often overheard at the end of these races. Last time I checked, Mountain biking was meant to be hard, so if you don’t enjoy hills, rocks or challenging terrain then perhaps Social Charity Rides or Bike Polo would be more suitable pastimes to indulge in.

No hills, rocks or roots…just don’t wear the wrong jeans!

Mount Beauty local Jenny Kromar put together a great course and also had a stellar race to pick up 3rd place in the Women’s Solo 6-hour category at this year’s event – top effort Jenny!

Be #1 in First Aid
Inevitably, crashes will occur in a mountain bike race. Thankfully though, most of the time the result is something that a good First Aid team can easily handle:

Dr Kelly Linden getting the healing process underway.

While, in a road race a good crash can often end up stretching the resources of a local hospital:

Make a Good List
The ‘to-do’ list for an event like this quickly becomes quite extensive when you include race timing (thanks to Tim Rowe), P.A. system (thanks to Big Hill Events), food & coffee vendors, event applications, race marshall volunteers and an official Race Commissaire (thanks to Anthony Cheeseman from the Albury Wodonga MTB Club for taking on this role). You can see how quickly a simple, local, club-level mountain bike race can take over a race organiser’s life. Turi Berg had to deal with all of this before she even had time to consider a fundraising plan for Paul van der Ploeg’s appearance fee…which brings us to one of the most important roles at any MTB event – race announcer.

Announce Your Event to the World
Paul and the rest of the van der Ploeg clan live just outside of Mount Beauty (nobody is actually sure just how many of them there are) and as a combined family unit have a measured total maximum power output of around 9000W – which, if harnessed, would be enough to power most of Mount Beauty and Tawonga South at peak load. Paul shot to mountain biking stardom in recent years with a World Cup XC Eliminator victory in 2011 and an 8th place at the 2012 World Championships. Due to a recent collarbone injury sustained in a road race (see above), Paul was out of action for the Mount Beauty 6-hour, but was brought on board in an official capacity as event emcee…and he did not disappoint…and from all accounts did not stop talking for the full six hours.

Create a Buzz
Perhaps it was the van der Ploeg influence that led to the decision to hold a free XC Eliminator event on the Friday evening prior to the main race in order to generate a bit of excitement. For those unfamiliar with the concept, XC Eliminator is to XCTRMLE Racing what 20-20 is to Test Cricket - shorter and with less meal breaks.

Tea Break in a 24-hour race. Unfortunately no scones and jam are on offer. 

Do it for the Kids
Nothing gets small children’s attention like the chance to race around on their balance bikes…or videos of cute animals. So if you want to keep those kids under control while mum & dad are out racing, make sure to hold a kids race at some stage during the main event!

If you want kids’ attention then it’s one or the other.

The Mount Beauty kids race was a great success, but it wasn’t for everyone. This little guy, for one, wasn’t having a bar of it. Having only recently graduated from the stroller he was keen to view life from the other side of the seat.

Outnumber Yourself
There’s nothing funnier than race numbers. So make sure you don’t forget to throw in a few gags wherever possible. Alan Tregidgo from Big Hill Events was responsible for this ‘personalisation’ that takes a cheeky swipe at one of my previous blog entries.

It’s comic genius like this that keeps people coming back to MTB races.

More Gaming, Less Complaining
Because XCTRMLE events can be contested as part of a relay team, it’s important to provide some good recovery options for riders who are in between laps. While stretching or gentle riding can help get the legs feeling good for another lap out on course, Backgammon has become a very widely adopted form of ‘active recovery’ in recent times. While the standard of racing at Mount Beauty was definitely top-notch, unfortunately the same could not be said for the Backgammon, which was being played on a board sized for pygmy chipmunks. So remember to do things properly and upsize your gammon game!

Backgammon played on this scale is hard to take seriously.

So that’s about it. Follow these simple steps and make your next club-level MTB event a success!

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