At Fully Sussed, we tend to live our lives by the words and genius of Mike Skinner, with 'don't conform to formulas' being a personal favourite.
So now that the dust has, quite literally settled on the National XC at Newnham Park, are we any further forward? Nope. As Blackadder said, "we've advanced no further than an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping". We've had a pat on the head from the great and the good of UK and European mountain biking, given ourselves blisters on our blisters and full heads of silver fox hair, earned only slightly more than our (admittedly awesome) caterers but feel that the sport now just resorts to its default setting.
'Owzabout everyone involved in the sport doing one positive thing to push things forward, and by this I don't mean buying yourself a new widget, entering another race (although this is vital) or doing yet another blog. I mean more like choosing one thing you think is missing / lacking from the sport and doing something pivotal to improve it. Can't think of anything (leading question!) - here's our not-exhaustive list.
"Geezers need excitement".
Let's start with British Cycling. What you can stop doing is stupefying me with endless anecdotes of what wonderful things you've all done in the past, how much better things were back in the day and actually look to the future. If you made a concerted effort to actually give a sh#t, everything else will just fall into place. Simple.
Riders. Smile. How's that for a starter? I'm sure that you want to pull your best gurning face for the event photos so that your long suffering family and spectators think you are working really hard like a hero, but in reality we know that your facial muscles are probably doing all the work while your legs are soft pedalling. So smile. Make it look like a sport that is actually enjoyable and that the spectators(!?) would like to take up. And wear something stylish. No-one enjoys a public sausage-fest (well, almost no-one) and if you chose some of the myriad of decent, and functional riding attire rather than your team skinsuit stretched over your pot belly, you won't have strangers shouting "TREE FROG!" at you and coupled with a nice smile you'll have a race photo to be proud of.
Spectators. Yes, you at the back. We got the chance to wander round the course at Newnham and watch the technical bits. What we were really surprised at, was that apart from anywhere near the boys from Plymouth Uni, there was a deathly hush from the folk gathered to watch. Now, this isn't a rugby match where a ripple of polite applause is appropriate, and the occasional chorus of "swing low sweet chariot" can be ventured; this is a cross between a local football derby and a Sex Pistols gig, so conduct yourselves correctly. We want some noise, people! The riders are on their physical limit, doing their very best not to smash their faces into the rockery but if they do, they fully expect you to rip them to pieces, like gladiators being slung into the lions' den. Everyone (except one notable South West rider who will remain nameless) loves a bit of banter. Prepare it before you get there, do some research and write a script so you don't have to resort to the usual staples of 'Looking Good', 'Go On .......' or 'Keep Going!'. All of which are appreciated and well meant, but how about something more adventurous? Take a note out of Rob Warner's book of quotes and choose from 'more snap than rice crispies', 'or 'letting it all hang out like a fat bird in a bikini'. Give 'em some grief, blow those vuvuzellas, ring those bells and make the riders think that all those turbo hours were worth it.
"Just try and stay positive".
Organisers. We've learned a lot during our years as race organisers, and while we like to impose our will on the MTB community, you do have to listen to their needs occasionally, even though they are misguided and usually wrong. We love developing truly gnarly courses because it it the sort of stuff we love to ride (badly) but we have realised that for every rider that loves that sort of stuff there are twice the amount that soil their lycra at the thought of it. But they have as much right to a fun course as the rest, so we've had a Damascus moment about investing time into making the 'B' lines as much fun as possible rather just a humiliating time penalty. Folk clearly think that our course design has some form of higher thinking and we spend time on the algorithm needed to devise lines of a certain length / duration, whereas in reality we do what looks OK, ride it, alter it and ride it again until we can't be arsed to do anything more. There has been the same few organisers in the UK for some years now, and we all know who they are. It might be time for more folk to step forward and either offer to do some course design for the existing organisers, or approach your local B.C. Regional Event Organiser who will hold your hand through the process. Keep it simple, keep it fun, you won't lose your house and you'll give the current complacent crop of organisers (us included) a shot across the bows.
"Shut up, I'm the driver, you're the passenger."
OK, it's not quite a Jerry Macguire moment, and as election manifestos go, it will be about as effective as UKIPs. But spend some time thinking about one thing you could do, and if you ever find yourself saying "when will someone......" or the classic "I think you should......." to one of the MTB grafters, have a stern word with yourself and update your to-do list.