The 2015 XC race season is almost here, and we’re stoked. Here in California we have more year-round opportunities to race that virtually anywhere else in the world. At the top of the list of events is the premier series, the Kenda Cup which is run by Tom Spiegal and Team Big Bear. This 7 race series will begin in at the end of February and last through the middle of June. Three of those races will also be rated as UCI events, bringing in world class riders to earn valuable points.
With 25 years in the race business, Tom has seen it all. It’s fair to say he’s an authority on race promotions, where the sport is at, and where it’s going. We checked in with Tom to get some of his thoughts as we all prepare for the 2015 season.
RoE : So Tom, it seems like there has been a merge of Sho-Air Cyling and Team Big Bear. Can you explain how the two organizations operate together?
Tom : The relationship between Sho-Air Cycling and Team Big Bear began about 9 years ago. Scott Tedro, owner of Sho-Air, is a passionate cyclist and a great visionary. He was attending races we were producing, liked what we were doing and decided to get involved.
Scott and the Sho-Air Cycling Group became the marketing entity of the series, a financial backer of the series, and the driving force behind elevating the level of mountain bike racing in the US. The result of Scott’s hard work and commitment to elevating the level of racing in the US, will be on display this year as we will have 5 high level UCI races in the US. That is something that has not happened since the 90’s.
We at Team Big Bear are the operational engine of the partnership. We are the part of the Team that provides the racers with a professionally run series.
Over the years Scott and I have become great friends. To fully explain to everyone what he has done for me professionally and mountain bike racing in the US would take far too many pages.
The same venues will be used for the 2015 season as in years past. Any new course changes or addtions?
In 2015 we will be using the same venues as we did last season. Venues are hard to come by. There is a lot that goes into choosing a venue. We are fortunate to have a number of great venues. Are we making any course changes? I do not see any significant changes for 2015, just some tweaking here and there to keep it interesting.
The Skyline trail in Big Bear has been a great addition to that network. Are parks / land managers responsive to adding in new trails?
The Skyline Trail in Big Bear has been the most amazing addition to the trail network in Big Bear. The Forest Service and the Big Bear Trails Foundation are moving forward with a number of reroutes on existing trails. These reroutes will improve the quality of those trails significantly.
Endurance (50 mile) races were added in 2013. Has this been a successful addition, and do you feel this discipline will continue to grow?
The addition of endurance racing has been successful, it gives racers an opportunity to test themselves at a different level. Yes, I believe it will continue to grow.
What are your thoughts on the quantity of races in CA? There are so many races to choose from, do you feel that negatively impacts our premier series?
Wow, my thoughts on racing in California. Yes there is a lot of racing in California. In my mind, if people are on their mountain bikes, either racing or just riding, it’s a good thing. My only concern with the amount of racing, is the quality of the experience. As long as racers come away with a good experience, then it’s a good thing.
Over the last couple years, some of the bigger promoters seem to be working together - Jason Ranoa for example has been at your events. Are race promoters sharing dates and coordinating more than in the past?
Most of the old school promoters, those of us that have been around for over 10 years, have always worked together. Don Jackson at Southridge, Kerry and Bev Brown at Rim Nordic, Mike Hecker at the Dirt Club and Jason Ranoa at SoCal Endurance, we have all shared dates, shared ideas and been supportive of each other.
How have you seen XC racing change over the years?
Yes, I have seen changes in Cross-country racing. We’ve gone from non-suspended bikes to full suspension. We’ve gone from longer cross-country races to shorter races; we’ve gone from very technical race courses to less technical courses; we’ve gone from an adventurous attitude about racing to a more defined attitude. We have gone from this crazy thing called mountain biking to a sport that is in the Olympics. That is a great evolution.
What’s your take on the current state of XC when “new” formats like enduro are making surge?
Cross-country racing is still the king. As you know, we will be producing the So Cal Enduro Series with Jason from SoCal Endurance. Jason and I believe Enduro is here to stay for some time, so we want to produce a quality series that racers can enjoy competing in.
We can imagine that XC races/courses could become more technically demanding and require more skills. Do you see it going that direction?
I do not see cross-country courses becoming more technical. With so much urban racing taking place, many of those venues, other than Fontana, just do not have the technical terrain, a demographic in our sport of people with real jobs on Monday, they just don’t want to get hurt, and many people being introduced to the sport on non-technical courses, I just don’t see it.
There will not be a stand alone “State Championship” race in the 2015 season. What was the thought behind that? More emphasis on the series and its final event?
The stand-alone State Championship has been challenging. It has not seen a lot of participants, therefore not very successful.
Recently USA Cycling announced that Mammoth would be hosting Nationals. Will you and Team Big Bear be involved? If so, at what level?
There is a good possibility that we will provide operational support and timing at the National Championships at Mammoth. We are looking forward to it.
Anything ahead in the coming years that you can share or is that all top secret?
What does the future hold? Nothing top secret. We will continue to get people to join us on Catalina Island for the Gran Fondo, to me one of the most classic venues and rides you will ever experience.
I believe the best thing for mountain bike racing has been the High School League, they are producing the next generation of lifetime mountain bike riders. That means I can continue to do all of this for another 20 years.
As a parting comment, I would like to say to all of you that have participated in our events over the last decade, thank you for your support and when you see Scott Tedro at an event, thank him for his support of mountain bike racing. He has given a lot.