I have an article that I have been working on for almost a year about short track mountain bike racing (here in the States) and cross-country eliminator racing (in the rest of the world). I may or may not ever finish it, and even if I did, I am not sure who would read it or care. But I digress…
The gist of the article is that while many mountain bikers and media types think XCE is not “real mountain biking” and is “bad for the sport,” I see it a little differently and in the unfinished article I blather on at length about why I think short track, XCO and fat tire crit events ARE good for mountain biking (or at least could be) and why more promoters might want to follow the lead of Epic Rides promoter Todd Saddow (24 Hour in The Old Pueblo, Whisky 50 etc.,) and offer events such as the Whisky 50’s fat tire crit as part of a race weekend.
In the midst of my research (which has consisted mostly me on the couch drinking beer and watching Red Bull TV coverage of UCI XCE races) I came across the Prague Stairs Mountain Bike Race. The race is a 1 hour crit (+ one lap) that takes racers–including many world-class pros and Olympians– on a sub-mile circuit through Prague that goes up steep cobbled streets and down the steep stairs of Prague Castle and adds in some wooden obstacles.*
I am in agreement with some of the pundits that say such events are not “real” mountain biking (in that there is no dirt, mountain or trail), but events like the Prague Stairs Mountain Bike Race do draw thousands of folks to spectate. Folks that may or may not have the want or means to haul their asses out into the middle of nowhere or up to some mountain ski hill to watch a race “real” mountain bike race (although they should because it’s pretty fun).
One reason events like cyclocross and road racing are popular amongst spectators is because of their accessibility. With most races taking part in nearby local parks, having start/finish lines in cities and towns or directing the course through various towns during the race. Spectators have ample opportunities to see the action.
Believe me, as a mountain biker and racer, the idea of racing around a paved circuit is NOT that appealing, if it was I would race road bikes. However, if it was part of a larger race, or race weekend, it might be a hoot to do, watch or just drink some beers at. I talk at length about all this in that unfinished piece that may or many not ever see the light of day. I really don’t even know what I am trying to convey to people (that might be why the piece remains unfinished), all I know is that sometimes you have to bring the mountain to the people if you want to try to get ’em hooked on our sport.
You can check out some sweet video coverage of the 2013 Prague Stairs Mountain Bike Race at www.ceskatelevize.cz and clicking the graphic below. Stay tuned, maybe by this time next year I’ll have that article done.
*Note: Some of the information on the Prague race was in Czech and translated as best as possible. There may be some errors.
Top photo: Michal Červený, mtbs.cz.
Middle photo: UCI, Facebook
Bottom photo: Marketa Navratilova, kolopro.cz
Video graphic photo taken from ceskatelevize.cz video screen shot.