Get Cross! (Part 1)
Stu Thorne Interview: The Guru of Cyclo-cross in the USA
Stu started racing cyclo-cross in 1988 and left active racing in 1998 when family and business demands made training very tough. Today Stu manages his own highly successful bike shop, Bay Road Bikes, in Hamilton , Massachusetts with cyclo-cross as his primary focus. The unique extent of Stu's inventory has made him the go-to guy for anything and everything cyclo-cross with national and international customers. As an extension of his business Stu sponsors riders like Tim Johnson and Lyne Bessette. You will also bump into Stu at major races like the National and World Championships in his role as certified team mechanic. Visit Stu's web site at: www.cyclocrossworld.com.
Cyclo-cross in New England and USA
Graham Jones : New England is known as a major area for CX in the US ?
Stu Thorne : New England as well as Seattle , and No. Cal. are all major areas.
GJ : What do think made it so strong in New England ?
Stu : It's strong because we've had it for a while. New England was probably one of the first regions in the US to have an organized CX series. I think Tom Stevens is one of the people to be credited with that. Paul Curley also. When I first started racing CX in 1988, Tom ran races weekly in Wampatuck State Park .
GJ : What about the current US CX racing? Why is it great?
Stu : I think there is a lot of energy in it now. The US Grand Prix is great for the sport. It gave us National level legitimacy. We've always had a region series but the USGP gave everybody a chance to shoot for a National level title. We have all the best riders on the course at the same time.
Last winter Jeremy Powers had just come back from Europe , I was talking to him in RI toward the end of the New England series, and he had just done two New England races. He was very impressed with the level of cross here. Certainly Europe is the best place to gain experience and in some cases get faster, but (in the US ) putting all these guys in one place has been great.
GJ : As with road racing, most sponsors come from the cycling industry. I always find it encouraging when you see non-cycling companies come in. When Liberty Mutual came in to sponsor the 2005 Nationals, it was huge.
Stu : Huge! It's unfortunate we don't get more of it. But it's a great start. To continue growing the sport we need to get big sponsors so the USGP series can keep going. The USGP will probably keep going regardless, but it would be nice to get a little more money behind it. In which case they could start paying more prize money, which in turn would hopefully bring out some of the bigger riders. There are riders out there that the cost of travel to one of these races if you're not a fully supported rider is tough.
GJ : What about the next level, bring over the big boys from Europe ?
Stu : Unfortunately the UCI has created a World Cup series that gets bigger every year. With the Super Prestige series and the GVA series, they have so much. Once that series starts up over there it is almost impossible to break that rhythm and fly over here to do a race. I think if we had a World Cup event they'd come.
I talked to Bart Wellens and Tom Vannoppen, who were here several years ago racing for CCB (local NE team); they'd love to come back for CX. Sven Nys said in an article he'd love to come over. These guys are big stars and to get them here needs the appropriate incentives.
Barry Boyce : Let's have a World Cup in Gloucester ?
Stu : A World Cup is a tough thing. The issue with the WC is that it has to be televised. Also the organizational logistics and dollars involved to promote that event is more than a lot of people can handle.
BB : How about local TV, Comcast 3 ?
Stu : Unfortunately not. It has to be an international feed so the avid Belgian fans can see it. But it has to be on TV.
There has been talk of doing the Elite Men's Race at 1pm eastern time and shown in Prime Time live in Belgium and Holland . That would probably go over pretty well in Europe but to promote it and get the TV rights; it takes a lot of money.
Cross rider on the Road schedule
GJ : What do you think of the Paris-Roubaix? Some people think it's a long CX.
Stu : There are a couple of sections where bike handling skills play out in it, but I don't know if I can compare the two.
GJ : Rabobank's Sven Nys should be riding it.
Stu : He's done it. The team use him for early sections, to lead Dekker through he first few sections. But I don't think it's his cup of tea.
GJ : In the past Classics riders like Roger De Vlaeminck and Rolf Wolfshohl were serious CX riders as well.
Stu : Yes, Wolfshohl was on the podium 11 times at the CX Worlds.
Then there was another guy out there, I can't believe the reign on the podium. ( Note : Andre Dufraisse (Fra) 11 podiums in 13 years, 1950-63 )
GJ : Actually CX was going on in the early 1900's. When you go back in TdF history, guys like Eugene Christophe were CXers as well.
BB : In fact it was 1910 TdF champion, Octave Lapize, who started the technique of “shouldering the bike” while running over barriers. Then Eugene Christophe in 1913 or 14 perfected the technique.
Stu : A lot of guys give back to the sport. In modern days one of the de Bie brothers runs the Belgian program. Adri van der Poel is part of the UCI's spectacle delegate and was a World Champion (WC 1996).
GJ : How does your sponsorship of Cyclo-cross affect CyclocrossWorld.com?
Stu : Sponsorship gets me much more exposure. We sponsor the US Grand Prix Series; we are the official merchandiser of US grand Prix product. For the 2006 season we are sponsoring teams with Tim Johnson (Cannondale/CyclocrossWorld.com) and Lyne Bessette and Ben Jacques-Maynes (CyclocrossWorld.com). We have also sponsored riders such as Todd Wells and the TIAA-Cref team for 3 years. The count for all the people we've helped in 2005 accounted for 12 podiums, 12 medals. Tim and Lyne had 18 UCI event victories in 2005/2006. We also sponsored the Alaskan CX series last year. When you see somebody from Alaska creating a CX series, they probably get 50 riders a week but there doing it. That wasn't there 2 or 3 years ago.
GJ : Does it get you more business?
Stu : I would have to attribute our growth to the sponsorships that we've done.
GJ : Does that visibility get you international business?
Stu : We get a lot of international business. I can't exactly tell you where it comes from or how they found us but that type of sponsorship does translate into international business.
GJ : Where do people find you?
Stu : We've been in business for five years and most riders find us by word of mouth. We have placed ourselves very well with search engines, so if you type in the word cyclo-cross you'll probably see us on the first page.
GJ : What the actual web address?
Stu : www.cyclocrossworld.com
GJ : Do you have CX equipment that people can't get anywhere else?
Stu : We are one-stop shopping for anything cyclo-cross. You can't walk into a bike shop and get 25 different choices of tires. We have our own branded products. We have chain guards, Wetzikon brand. We carry every size there is and carry it for every configuration there is. Products like this are not available anywhere else.
GJ : Focus on the uniqueness of the operations?
Stu : People are impressed by the amount of product we carry. If you live in Iowa and you walk into your local bike shop to order a popular CX tires the odds are they won't have them. So people come to us and they see not only are we selling product but we sell the entire sport of CX. We sponsor teams, have products, news and information, how-to articles, etc. All we do is CX.
NEXT WEEK: Log on to CyclingRevealed for Part 2 of our interview with Stu Thorne.
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