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racer competing in the 2019 SilverStar Canada Cup DH mountain bike race
Opinion,  Racing

Want to Support Local Mountain Biking and Have Fun? Watch some races!

Support the next generation of local mountain bikers!

By watching local races we support local mountain biking and racers early in their careers, and that support can go a long way.

That day at SilverStar a friend and I began watching the race as many others did, by riding the gondola to the top of the course and hiking down. As we made our way down the hill, we stopped at exciting viewing areas along the way and over the course of the day we were able to watch riders of all ages and skill levels descend. I hadn’t watched a local mountain bike race in a while, and I had forgotten the importance of these events in helping to shape the next generation of world class racers and riders.

Bring on the crowds!

Young riders will push themselves harder if they know that there are people watching and cheering them on. I know from experience that having a crowd behind you can be a very motivating factor when it comes to performance. Throughout my short racing career it meant a lot to me to have spectators watching and cheering from the sidelines. It creates a sense of community, giving racers the feeling that they have a community of people behind them as they progress through the ranks.

Larger groups of people watching will help racers begin to deal with the pressures of racing at a younger age. It is widely accepted that the mental aspect of racing can have a huge effect on results. Pressures at the top levels of racing can be crushing and many racers, with more than enough skills to compete, aren’t ready for that pressure as they enter the higher levels of racing. Having a larger audience cheering them on will help support local mountain biking by helping to prepare racers for the more intense atmosphere of racing at higher levels.

More attendance means more sponsorship

For racers, part of learning the ropes and progressing toward higher-level races means being able to attend well funded races and concentrate fully on racing. 

As I walked through SilverStar Village prior to the start of the race, I noticed there seemed to be all levels of sponsorship, both for the event and for the riders. But there were other riders who didn’t appear to have any sponsors at all. It’s likely they would have had to travel and train for this race at their own expense. Sponsorships are something that these events and many of the riders depend on, and I wonder how much more support sponsors would be willing to give if the crowds watching the race were larger? You don’t have to look far to see the effect a larger audience has on sponsorship. 

SilverStar Village during the 2018 Canada Cup DH mountain bike race
A bustling SilverStar Village during the 2019 SilverStar Canada Cup DH mountain bike race. (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

Take World Cup downhill races for example. Most, if not all, racers are part of a team and those teams have sponsors. The sponsors contribute large amounts of money to these well-spectated races because the audience is larger. As a result, the racers don’t have to worry about things like travel and equipment expenses; they can concentrate on racing. 

Sponsorship raises the bar

I’m not saying that local races can or should have the sponsorship levels of mainstream professional sports, but even incremental increases in attendance will raise the sponsorship bar and in turn, the level of competition. More racers will have the opportunity to participate; those who can’t afford to train and race at their own expense, but have the skill, will be able to compete. If event sponsors increase their contributions, it will raise the level of things like timing and course marking. This will contribute to making local racers more competitive on the national and world stages.

You also get something out of it!

Supporting up-and-coming racers is an important aspect of getting out to watch local races, but watching them is also fun, entertaining, and good for you!

Over the course of this particular race day at SilverStar Bike Park, I walked the entire length of the course. Along the way, there were people playing music, cheering on their friends, and getting excited about riding their own bikes. At times, the atmosphere was almost party-like. As I watched riders descend it got me stoked to get on my bike and ride.

Accompanying the fun atmosphere was the fact that I was also watching some great racing. This may not have been a World Cup race, but it was nevertheless fun to watch, right from the youngest riders to the oldest. It doesn’t matter what level racers are competing at, there is something hugely entertaining about watching competitors give it everything they have.

Watching this race was fun, yes. Inspiring, yes. It was also good for me. I hiked the length of the course and it hardly felt like exercise! It doesn’t matter if the local race is downhill, XC, or any other discipline. Watching mountain bike races can be a great way to get some exercise. There are always different vantage points on a course that will give you a different viewing experience and as you move around from one to the next, you’re helping yourself by exercising. That sure beats sitting at home watching sports on TV!

Support local and everybody wins!

Getting out to watch local races is beneficial on numerous levels. It helps to support the next generation of top-level racers, it has the potential to increase sponsorship, and it’s fun. The next time you see an advertisement for a local race, give up just one of your rides to encourage more riders and more competition in the sport you love. When you support local mountain biking races, everybody wins!

If you’re looking for other ways to support your local mountain bike community, check out our blog post “3 Not-So-Obvious Reasons to Volunteer Your Time to Building a Local Trail.”

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