With Cross of the North coming up this weekend, November 11th and 12, YGR decided to catch up with Race Director, James Scott. Although the 1st City Cycling Team sponsored race is in its 7th year, it definitely wasn't turn key. James and crew are at a brand new course in the heart of Fort Collins at the New Belgium Brewing campus. They've got a much later weekend on the calendar promising much more cyclo-crossy conditions. Above all else, James and his leadership team are in their first year promoting COTN. They had their work cut out for them but by all accounts things are coming together for the biggest race weekend on the NoCo calendar.
*consults rider orientation guide* 1st City Cycling Team p/b Noosa Yoghurt
46, in cyclocross years
Years in the Fort
Columbia, MO by way of Canton, MA. We could probably devote a whole 20-ish questions to “where are you from?”
Type of Racer/Strengths
My strong suit in bike racing is making everybody else look a little bit better.
YGR: James, how's it going? No, for real, how’s it going?
: We have had some bumps along the way, naturally, but I’m very pleased with the course, and how the event has come together overall. Our sponsors have been extraordinarily supportive. New Belgium has given us a lot of latitude to build the course exactly how we want, and Otter Products has enabled us to do a couple of cool things that I think people will remember.
YGR: How did you come to be the race director of this weekend’s Cross of the North?
: When the founders stepped down last year, I realized it was “put up or shut up” time for me. I had hoped to ease my way into COTN promotion, and maybe take over as promoter in a few years, but that option was no longer on the table. If the race was going to continue, I had to commit. I reviewed the numbers, and identified a few changes that I thought could give COTN a chance at continuing. Jay, Tim and Tommy were willing to support me, and Jason Gugelman and Paul Bass jumped in with me to round out the core promotion crew. That gave us enough to move forward.
YGR: Has Tim been helping you out or is he sabotaging your work?
: All of the original promotion crew has given generously of their time and expertise. We couldn’t do it without their full support. There’s no substitute for that kind experience.
YGR: What other races have you directed?
: I was director for the Blue Hills Classic in Canton, MA, and also was involved in producing the Canton Cup for the last couple years that it ran. *
* I used to complain about how bumpy that course was, and then I moved to Colorado and discovered a new level of bumpy
YGR: How is promoting a cross race in Colorado different than in the Northeast?
: I don’t know that there’s much difference in the preparation tasks themselves: you need a venue, a course plan, officials, racers, entertainment, and every volunteer you can get your hands on. A couple of things strike me about the Colorado market as distinct from New England, though. First, the race calendar here is relatively flat, for want of a better term. We have one UCI weekend, and just about every sanctioned race in the state is part of the BRAC CX Cup, which has individual and team points competitions for virtually all categories. NEBRA-land features four UCI weekends organized into the Vittoria Series. Those are distributed from mid-October to early December. In addition to UCI points, those races have series points for a variety of categories, but not everyone. In between the Vittoria weekends are grassroots races of varying size and character, including a handful of Wednesday night races under lights. Some of those form the Zanconato single-speed series, which has created a fun and competitive SSCX scene. There’s a lot of variety in race character, and a packed schedule.
Second, venue access and security seems to be more of an issue here than in the Northeast. Public schools and parks are frequently used for cross races in the northeast, and I get the sense that public venues are harder to come by here. Of course, private property is highly prized there as it is here. Whether public or private, most of the well-known races in the Northeast have been able to hold onto a venue for the long term. My sense is that Colorado races tend to hop around more. Not only does that provide a source of stress for promoters, it also causes uncertainty for racers.
One thing is true in both regions: participation has been on the decline since 2014. There’s probably not a single cause for that but it’s a problem that we need to tackle as a community, and see if we can change up the formula a bit to generate more interest.
YGR: Who designed the 2017 course?
: That was a team effort. Jason came up with the general outline and flow early on. Paul contributed his mad bobcat-driving skills to build a couple of new features on the course. We divided the course into sections and identified a handful of key volunteers who each took charge of the detailed layout of a section. That allowed us to harness the creativity of a bunch of people who know what a good cross course looks like.
YGR: Who else is helping you out?
: It takes more than a village to produce Cross of the North. I won’t try to name everyone here, because I will inevitably forget someone. To give you a sense of scale: by my count we’ve had about 30 volunteers involved in various aspects of race prep, including course work, merchandise design, marketing, and building a new podium and barriers. We will likely have 100 individuals volunteering on race weekend, many working multiple shifts. These people come from every bike-related organization in NoCo. That kind of community passion is what keeps me going.
Ciclismo Youth Foundation has been a strong partner this year, contributing their labor, materials, and expertise in building the course. New Belgium has also been a fantastic partner, contributing their own labor and equipment to help us prepare the course.
YGR: Will it be the same course as the New Belgium Cyclo-cross races that Ciclismo hosted this year?
: If you raced CYF last month, it will definitely feel familiar. But we’ve held back a couple of things for the big show.
YGR: How can YGR readers help make the race more successful?
: Come race! Bring your friends! We love cyclocross, and we love seeing big fields filled with other people who love cyclocross. Even if you don’t have a cross bike, bring your MTB out and give it a whirl. And when you’re done racing, get yourself a beer and high five everybody else who had a great day, especially the volunteers.
If you don’t want to race, come out and watch. We will have plenty to keep you entertained. And if standing around watching isn’t your thing, how about volunteering? We need a lot of help to make sure that the course is safe, to run the registration and results process, and to help people get where they need to go.
YGR: What's your favorite part of the course?
: It’s hard to pick, and in fact we have pet names for the various sections of the course. Dogtown, east of the fence line, features a cool set of whoops. Privet Drive has a series of off-camber turns that can catch you off-guard, especially in the wet. Betty’s Berms presents a handling challenge and will likely be a popular spectator spot. There’s more turny fun in Dixon’s Dive and the Orchard.
YGR: How will #COTN2017 be different than previous years?
: As I’m sure most people have noticed, we cut back to two days this year and eliminated the night races. We did not make that decision lightly, but it helped us adapt to the new venue, reduced our expenses, and eliminated a source of operational risk.
Second, it’s at New Belgium, very close to downtown Fort Collins. We expect this is going to draw more spectators to the race and encourage racers to stick around, creating even more atmosphere.
YGR: What type of rider will excel at #COTN2017?
: I think we’ve come up with a pretty balanced course. All-around riders with a balance of handling skill and brute power will come out on top.
YGR: What is this week’s weather going to do to the course?
: Only good stuff. The moisture should tack everything down and, if we’re lucky, we will have a few mud spots on the course. I’m looking out the window at snow as I’m writing this, and that’s encouraging
YGR: What can spectators expect?
: We will have Corndoggies and BuzzThru coffee in our expo area, and the Lickskillet burger cart will be out on course. We will also have another food truck each day in the usual location at New Belgium. LAZO will be at the front of the house on Saturday, and Mac’n will be there on Sunday. Target will be accepting donations for hurricane relief - see our Facebook post for more info on that. And we will have a cool race-involved drawing to go along with the donations, with prizes from Topo Designs and New Belgium.
Kids race: yes, kids race! 12:05pm on both days, on a separate course, for free, with medals for everyone. This is designed for kids under 10. Register on-site. Kids age 10 and up can race on the big boy course, with no race fee.
YGR: Can we have burn barrels?
: No open flames, please.
YGR: So, no fire, is that what you're saying?
:Only the fire in your belly, Dan.
YGR: Who’s on the mic?
: Larry Grossman has been with COTN from the beginning, and we’re very happy to have him back this year. He knows the racers and knows racing. Georgia Gould will join him, and I can’t wait to hear what the two of them cook up.
YGR: Is Georgia racing?
YGR: Your thoughts on the best tire for the course?
: Everybody’s favorite topic! It’s hard to judge until we see the conditions on the day of the race, and we all know that the right tire in the morning may not be the right tire in the afternoon. That said, I think only the ninja-est of riders would enjoy file treads on our course. An intermediate tread will probably be best for most riders, unless this moisture sticks around until race day. Then a mud tire might be the best choice. You’ll just have to come take some laps and find out!
YGR: You got goatheads?
: We spent a lot of time finding and carefully removing goathead vines. We can’t guarantee that we got them all, of course, but we don’t like them, either. (YGR Note- I raced 4 weeks of New Belgium CX on the course and had no goathead issues)
YGR: How has New Belgium been to work with?
: Their enthusiasm greatly exceeded my expectations. They love bikes, they know racing, and they want COTN to succeed as much as we do. They helped us develop ideas and gave us very wide latitude for setting up the course. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
YGR: Where else can we get info?
Facebook race page: https://www.facebook.com/CrossOfTheNorth/
Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/147663885836752/