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Providence Festival Mixes Racing, Kids Fun

Published October 12, 2010

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (BRAIN)—The Providence Cyclo-cross Festival presented by Interbike proved to have a little of everything for everyone—whether you were racing, a spectator, looking to check out product, or just a kid frolicking in the bounce castle.

“The best thing I heard all day was, ‘This is the only cyclocross event I bring all my kids too. They loved it.’ This isn’t your typical cycling event,” said Richard Fries, marketing communications director of the event.

Roughly 22 exhibitors showed up this year to the three-day event at historic Roger Williams Park including the likes of Cannondale, Kenda, Lake Cycling, Downeast Bicycle Specialists and Pedro’s. The racing drew 1,300 entrants.

“That number is really good for riders,” Fries added.

Fries said Interbike has an interest in seeing this event develop. “I think they really see great potential in the market position we have both demographically and geographically,” Fries said. “My goal was to create something that was really cost effective, grass roots and simple.”

Interbike show director Andy Tompkins said Interbike is committed to cyclocross—a category that can possibly facilitate future growth in the bicycle industry.

“Cross is a great spectator sport and we've seen a lot of evidence in the sports world how spectators are more likely to become enthusiasts and purchase related product,” Tompkins said. “So we are trying to support Cross where we can. Of course we have worked to support CrossVegas and we felt Richard's event was a great east coast extension to promote Cross. We definitely want to be part of the event as a sponsor in the future.”

It was obvious, however, that Interbike being the presenting sponsor didn’t pull as much weight as the past two years when it was OutDoor Demo East.

“There were two good cross race days with some great racing, but spectator turnout was light,” said Jim Wannamaker, North American marketing director for Kenda USA. “Industry companies and people were missing compared to the past two years when it was an Interbike event. Friday's dealer day was very light. Many consumers came up to me and asked me where was everyone?”

Wannamaker said, however, that he will continue to support the event because it’s in a “great area, close to major cities and has the potential to be a better event every year.”

People that couldn’t make it out to Providence told Fries it wasn’t about the money, or believing in the concept. “It was simply fatigue, coming so quickly after Interbike,” Fries said.

Other events that took place to coincide with the festival included the New England Bike-Ped Summit organized by the Providence-based East Coast Greenway Alliance. Also, the Retailers Breakfast, where northeast retailers got to learn about the latest developments from leaders of the industry and advocacy efforts to improve cycling in the region.

“We are discussing bringing (bicycle advocates) out of the downtown hotel and into the venue,” said Fries, already looking ahead to next year. “We’d like to overlap the advocacy thing with the retailer meetings.”

Fries also hopes to the raise the profile of the racing to a higher level, while targeting kids and family with more marketing and outreach. Fries said it’s important for the industry to realize how important events like this are in getting kids involved in the sport at an early age.

“All those grass roots events are gone,” said Fries of the Northeast. “My kid grew up going to those things.” If the industry doesn’t develop and nurture events like this, Fries said, “We could pay a very big price.”

Next year’s event is set for October 7-9.

(PHOTO: U.S. champion Tim Johnson, who took both days of cyclocross racing at the Providence Cyclocross Festival presented by Interbike, takes a picture with an adoring young fan.)

—Jason Norman

Topics associated with this article: Events

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