With one week to go before the minimum entry deadline, organizers of the two-day New Jersey State Fair SpectaCross on August 6-7 are hoping racers start making some decisive moves quickly. The cyclocross races are meant to be one of the highlighted entertainment attractions for the opening weekend of this year’s New Jersey State Fair, but without a minimum of 212 entries by 11:59 pm on Wednesday, July 28, the innovative cyclocross races will be cancelled, probably forever, and replaced with monster trucks.
Last year’s SpectaCross races at the New Jersey State Fair drew rave reviews, which has promoter Ken Getchell perplexed at the slower-than-expected entry rate for this year’s races. “After last year’s success, we certainly didn’t expect that we’d have fewer entries this year, but we’re down 30%. My contacts at the Fair think we may be a victim of the economy because the trend in all forms of entertainment this year is for people to wait until the last possible minute before making their purchase. Unfortunately, there is a lot of money at stake with SpectaCross, and both the Fair and my backers need assurances that there is enough interest to justify their continued support on this non-traditional fair event. And frankly, in this day and age, if we can’t get 100 people to spend fifty-four bucks to enter both halves of a two-day cyclocross race, then the handwriting is on the wall. But we’re still working under the assumption that the event will happen.”
There has been some internet debate and criticism concerning the timing of the event, with some stating, strongly, that cyclocross should remain an autumn sport. For his part, Getchell is weary of defending the timing of his race. “The race happens in August because that’s when the Fair is,” he explains. “What? There’s some unwritten rule that says you can’t have fun in the summer? Not too long ago, cyclocross was the left-of-center, punk rock party child of cycling. When did it start rigidly conforming to anything? I mean, the NFL plays its first pre-season game the day after SpectaCross, the boys of summer play the World Series in November and the Stanley Cup Finals have ice hockey being played in June. And SpectaCross is only five weeks before the first UCI cyclocross of the year, which would seem to be about perfect timing for a first pre-season race.”
Perhaps more damning has been criticism that the event’s unique class schedule is too complicated. Getchell bristles at the topic, “We got so tired of hearing about it that we added a second registration page on BikeReg called EZ Registration that boils everything down to four options. Basically, it’s people with an uptight, conformist attitude saying that every cyclocross race, even a pre-season non-points cyclocross in a monster truck arena, must adhere to a pre-ordained class structure. I’ve even seen FaceBook posts that essentially advocated boycotting SpectaCross because the class structure was supposedly too complicated. But novice riders haven’t had any problems with it, so it can’t be all that complicated. We have step-by-step instructions on our main BikeReg page and we have an extensive website with detailed explanations of every race. I mean, before you start spouting off about “all those classes”, read the damn instructions first so you don’t look like an idiot. Then you’d realize that “all those classes” are in one, 30 minute, fun race that’s a satire of the excessive number of one-or-two person classes we have in cycling and the people who, based entirely on their own excuses for not winning, relentlessly lobby promoters to add even more new classes.”
Getchell’s mood brightens, though, when the topic turns to another unique aspect of SpectaCross, the Friday Night cyclocross poker run. Dubbed “PokerCross”, the format of the poker run boils down simply to riders getting a poker card for each completed lap during the 45 minute time limit, and with the rider holding the best poker hand at the end of the time limit winning a set of wheels from Revolution Wheelworks. While Elite riders can increase their odds by completing more laps and obtaining more cards, there is enough randomness to the event that a completely novice rider from drawing a royal flush in his or her first five laps. “I wanted to do something on the East Coast that had the same kind of competitive, but irreverently fun attitude as the Single Speed World Championships,” explains Getchell. “Years ago, I had read an article in a powerboat racing magazine about offshore powerboat poker runs, and was struck by how popular they were. Guys literally build 2,000 horsepower, million dollar boats specifically to do the poker run circuit. When I remembered that story, I knew it could be a fun event.”
Getchell says that PokerCross also fills a gap that Fair Management wanted filled. “Last year, we ran 20 minute sprint races because we had to be done in time for the scheduled start of the fireworks later in the evening. The Fair was impressed enough with us last year that they moved the fireworks to a different weekend and told us they wanted us to fill the entire evening. We’re keeping the Cyclocross Magazine Friday Night Sprints because everybody liked the shorter race as a way to start the season, and we’ll run the PokerCross afterwards so that everybody gets a chance to race twice and race at night under the stadium lights for a single entry fee on Friday. I just hope enough people enter in the next week to justify the Fair’s decision to step out on a limb and be the first State Fair in over 100 years to schedule bicycle racing as an entertainment attraction.”
In order to meet the July 28 entry deadline, Getchell has imposed a “no questions asked” refund policy until August 1 and his company, SpectaSport LLC, is also temporarily paying the transaction service charges on BikeReg.com.