When the Amgen Tour of California ended in mid-February on the streets of Redondo Beach, cycling appeared to be gathering a following in the Golden State. The event, which expected nearly 1 million spectators, was widely followed in the media and on the roads. It brought cycling into the spotlight and made people more aware of the sport in California.
Cycling has been huge in Europe for years, but with sports enthusiasts focusing on more mainstream sports in the United States, it didn’t seem to have a large following prior to the Tour, or at least a large following was not evident due to a lack of large races, which draw substantial crowds.
Now, just over a month and a half after the Tour of California, another bicycle racing event is ready to take center stage.
The Sea Otter Classic is scheduled to begin today and run through Sunday, April 9 in Monterey.
The event offers road racing as well as a series of downhill mountain bike racing courses, including their staple dual slalom course and the ever popular dirt jump competition, which attracts an international field of competitors. However, it remains to be seen whether or not the SOC will attract large crowds.
Clearly this race has a smaller impact than the Tour of California did based on the sheer number of communities that the tour involved and the fact that the Sea Otter Classic is isolated to Monterey.
I for one did not know about the Sea Otter Classic until I went searching for it. I think that it is here the problem with professional bicycle racing lies.
For a sport with a large fan base across the United States, there is flat- out too much disorganization with the sport. The events are organized individually and lack an umbrella organization, which controls advertising of the events and the teams involved. So, as opposed to having an organization like, Major League Baseball or the Indy Racing League, you have a bunch of sponsors and individual organizers that do not work together cohesively.
The Sea Otter Classic may not be a huge road bicycling race, but it serves as a great example of an event that has been going on for years, yet a majority of the population of the California, let alone the United States probably has never heard of it.
One might say that the success of the Tour of California is an indication of the growing popularity of bicycle racing in the United States. I however, think that the popularity of the Tour of California is more of an indication of the sorry state of professional organized bicycle racing in America.
Yes, there are fans in the United States, but what do you get when you have one large organized race in California, a bunch of little races and a lack of coverage of the sport as a whole? A second rate sport with a lot of potential.
Chris Gunn is a journalism senior and assistant sports editor. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.