On Bandit Cross Prizes…
Lately, with the growing popularity of the Bandit Cross Concept™ we've been receiving a number of requests for sponsorship of said events. So far I've pretty much just applied the same formula we use for sponsoring alley cats, but the other day I felt compelled to write a blog post on Bike Jerks about what I called "The Tennets of Bandit Cross."
You can read it at the link above and if you're thinking of organizing an unsanctioned cyclocross race you might want to. Now I'm not claiming it's some masterpiece of pontification, it lays out the formula in exceptionally simplistic terms, but during it's creation it did give me some time to think about what I felt was the most important rule: No Prizes.
I certainly did not invent unsanctioned cross racing, nor would I ever claim to. It's been going on since forever, hell in the Bay Area the dfl'ers have been doing it for 20 years I'm told, but I do very much feel a steward of it and after having organized 16 of them can claim some level of experience.
So today, I was hit up by a very good friend with an offer to have All-City sponsor an upcoming race in a very large fashion. I'm told other sponsors are lined up and things are being put in place. While it would be a total dick move to tell any race organizer how to conduct their affairs, I can't help but feel a pang of guilt about betraying my own beliefs regarding the topic.
Before I go any further, you need to know what Bandit Cross means to me. I tend to get all emotional about shit and you'll have to forgive me for that, it's simply the way I'm built.
(baby, I love too much)
Bandit Cross has consitently been a source of inspiration, and a constant reminder of man's innate goodness. It has restored my faith in humanity (or at least in my cycling community) over and over, and anytime I doubt the positive nature of the world. All it takes is one race.
I'm sure you are skeptical of all that smoke wafting up your ass, but I'm telling it true. It's the most repeatable and purest positive vibe generator for the two wheeled set. It just feels so right.
The crux of why I personally believe that prizes are counterproductive to the whole thing, is that in my experience, people behave way better to each other when the only things on the line are pride and having fun.
Again, after having put on over 30 alleycats in my career, I feel that I can claim some expertise.
The bigger races I throw (All City Championship & Track or Treat) always have multiple sponsors as that's sort of what makes them a "big" race. I do this without any regret, as that's just how alleycats are done and I like working with my friend's companies and hooking people up with sweet shit after they've ridden their faces off. It's expected. But Bandit Cross, as more of a nationwide movement along the lines of what's going on with gravel, is still a maleable thing. We have the power to shape it and make it whatever we want.
Join me for a second while we take a critical look at what is hoped to be accomplished by having prizes.
1. More people will show up
If somebody wasn't going to come to your race, but is now because they have a shot at winning some Knog Lights, or a t-shirt, or whatever, that person is probably a dickhead and should be avoided. I'm sure you want "top talent' to come to your event, but seriously, what does that say about that person? They should be into it to have a good time, it's the camarederie that makes the experience so damn uplifting not some stupid trinket. Shit dawg, that's what's wrong with our society, the value of the thing over the experience.
2. People will be motivated to race harder
Again, total bullshit. You know what pushes me to go hard? Attempting to be the baddest mofo on two wheels, beating my buddies, beating my rivals, beating that guy with carbon fiber wheels, etc. Then after we're done, I'm going to have a beer with them and cheers the effort we all just put in. If a person is a racer, and I mean a real racer* they're going to race. Period. If a person just likes to cruise around the course and that's what they find to be the most fun for them, don't attempt to mess with that. Shine on you crazy diamond.
*real racer defined as someone who loves to turn themselves inside out, to push harder than they thought possible, to take it to the limit, LIMIT (standing on the razor's edge, don't look down just keep your head, and you'll be finished)
3. The race will look more legit
Perhaps I'll give you that one, if you have a bunch of sponsors it does make the flyer seem more like something you need to get to, but one thing I firmly beleive is that prizes have never affected the turnout of any alleycat I've ever thrown. People show up and a thing grows because it's fun. When something is fun more people show up next time. It's a simple formula that has made the races here in Minneapolis what they are.
Nobody's whining about not winning, nobody's throwing temper tamptrums at the finish line, there are no disputes about the results or who gets what, there are no hard feelings to be found. You know you've seen that type of behavior at alleycats on the regular. I'm not knocking them, I love the rawness of street racing and fucking love alleycats. They're what made me fall in love with bike racing again after being a burned out teenage and college mtb racer. They're the purest expression of street brilliance, but often people tend to be assholes at the finish.
It's a whole different vibe at Bandit Cross, it's Woodstock to an alleycat's Altamont. Peace and love brothers and sisters. Cumbaya and such. And I believe a big part of that is the fact that it's all about pride and having a great time. No money involved, no prizes, no bullshit. It just doesn't need shiny baubles to get over. Show up once and you'll show up again.
In the end I'll probably just go along with the organizer's wishes, because the last thing I want is for AC to not support such a positive thing as Bandit Cross happening in their area. I just urge organizers to take a hard look at why you feel prizes are important to the success of your event.
P.S. Trophies are exempt from the prize rule, trophies are totally sweet.