Richard J. Cunningham

Bagging on people isn’t the primary reason that I decided to become the editor of MBA, but it’s a hazard that comes with the job. If and when I choose to bag, I try to bag in the most constructive way possible. Any loyal
reader could tell you that MBA has been harsh on Team Big Bear’s invisible
promotional efforts and consistently unimaginative courses–at least when it
comes to World Cup and National events.

My gripe isn’t focused on the organizational skills of Team Big
Bear–they rarely get it wrong and their show consistently goes forward on
schedule. My frustration with these guys is that they put on very good
races–but never great races. Team Big Bear’s venue at Snow Summit is next
to the largest population center in the country. The weather is near perfect
and the altitude isn’t high enough to scare off the Euros. All of us–the
press, the racers, the teams and the Expo vendors know that the venue in Big
Bear Lake, California has never been exploited to its true potential.

It is with great pleasure that I saw some big changes at the NORBA
national there last weekend. The cross-country courses were well thought-out
and more interesting for competitors. The three-stage “King of the Mountain”
event had a short course, a long point-to-point, and a brutal hillclimb. It
was layered in between the Pro features to keep the amateurs rocking and
rolling throughout the weekend. There were two downhill courses: a smooth,
fast show-boat pro version with giant jumps; and a more enjoyable, and
challenging version for the paying customers. Overall, I overheard more
positive comments from racers about Team Big Bear’s new competitor-friendly
format than I can remember.

On the promotional end, Instead of a limp, inflatable beer can with
“welcome racers” printed on it, there were numerous signboards on the main
drag sporting key sponsor’s logos and race information. The weekend of the
National, I heard radio spots about the venue on the local channel and a
full-page color shot of Tinker in action graced the Big Bear variety
newspaper. Sure, there were no banners across the road in town, and nobody
reported hearing radio spots about the Big Bear races in adjoining San
Bernardino, Pomona, or Los Angeles, but it was a commendable improvement
over Team Big Bear’s previous efforts.

Sadly, however, the attendance at last weekend’s event was down. Vendors in the expo area were wringing their hands about the shrinking crowds, but I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised the next time around.

Team Big Bear has pumped up their format, created an interesting mixture of courses and compressed their national show into an action-packed, three-day “circus de mountain bike.” Once that news is disseminated throughout the local racing scene, competitors will return in greater numbers. If Team Big Bear keeps pumping up its promotional efforts, we may even see spectators lining the course too.
Good job!


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