In The Saddle With John Gatch, Race Announcer Extraordinaire
John Gatch is a do-it-all-er when it comes to cycling. A long time racer, both in road and cyclocross. Announcer for some of the biggest races held here in Cincinnati. Promoter and organizer for the OVCX race, Gun Club CX. He even has a podcast. I was excited to have the opportunity to interview him. Despite his busy schedule, John took the time to answer some of the questions I have always been curious about. He is somewhat of a legend around the cycling community and I hope you enjoy his answers as much as I did.
Judi LoPresti: You are a roadie. How did you get into Cyclocross?
John Gatch: I started ’crossing a long time ago when I was a Junior as a wintertime diversion/training option. My first cyclocross race was in Colorado Springs, Colorado in January, in the deep snow with USCF Coach Eddie B. screaming at me to keep going.
JL: Tell me about how you got roped into organizing an event like Gun Club?
JG: This will be my tenth year promoting and producing a cyclocross race. I started because it’s a heck of a lot less hassle putting on a ’cross race than a road race or criterium. I was burned out on the road race promotion front.
JL: How did Gun Club become the venue for this race?
JG: As participation grew I started to look for a venue with multiple course options, parking and a building for registration, food, etc. The Gun Club fits the bill with its massive lodge, fireplace, kitchen, bathrooms and over 100 acres. It’s owned by some brothers who I know from church.
JL: What’s up with the skirt?
JG: Skirt? What are you talking about? I did wear lederhosen at the race last year. [see picture above] I figured the promoter should be easy to spot. This year I’m looking for a matador’s outfit.
JL: How do you go about setting the course up each year? It is always so brutal, but my personal favorite of the OVCX series.
JG: I do a lot of riding out there leading up to the event. My ’cross training buddy, Mikey, and I tweak it every year. I am especially proud of the “valley of death” section we came up with last year where riders could choose one of two ways across a creek before a steep-ass hill.
JL: Tell me about what all it takes to organize an event like Gun Club CX, how far in advance do you start?
JG: I actually start the day after the race. I’ll sit down and make a list of what worked, what didn’t work, course notes, total the receipts, list ideas for next year, etc. I then put all that away until mid-August when I’ll pull a race permit, solicit sponsors, design a new logo, inventory my equipment, and start to get my volunteer crew assembled.
JL: Does it get in the way of your own training? How do you get it all done?
JG: Not really. I try to stay organized. As long as I don’t procrastinate I can stay on top of it OK.
JL: The race is set for early October this year. How do you think the race will differ from years past when it’s usually in November?
JG: Other than starting the planning earlier I don’t think so. I suppose it could be a bit warmer. Also, we gain a little daylight in the morning. That will help with set up.
JL: Which do you like better, announcing at a race or organizing a race?
JG: I like racing a race best. This year I’ve been able to double up and announce and race some crits. I am super psyched to announce the UCI3 Cincinnati Cyclocross Festival with Dave Towle. I’ve know Dave for a long time but have never announced with him. The organizing bit is a big job but the payoff is race day when everyone arrives, registration is humming, events start on time, the grill is fired up, the marching band is playing, and the crowd is pumped.
JL: Would you consider racing the event anytime soon? I think you’d kick ass at cyclocross.
JG: The Gun Club is getting too big for me to take the time to race it. The last time I raced it was three or four years ago. I did get fifth in the A race, but guys are getting faster and I’m getting older and slower!
JL: Tell me about your podcast. How did you come up with it?
JG: It was my wife’s idea. I’d just come back home from a weekend of racing and immediately got on the phone with one of my teammates (the other John) to re-hash the events. She was like, “Lord! You guys just spent the weekend together racing and your still talking about it. Do a podcast or something!” And so it was born. She even came up with name. We like to think the podcast is the kind of conversation you’d have in a car with a bunch of buddies driving home from a race.
JL: How did you get the announcing gig? You do such a good job! You make us all feel like rockstars.
JG: Thank you. I’ve never met a microphone I didn’t like and I have no fear of speaking in front of large crowds. I love the challenge of educating and entertaining a crowd at a bike race no matter what the category. Plus, I know the feeling of being in a race and hearing your name over the PA. It’s pretty cool. I like to recognize who’s putting out the effort regardless of age or experience level.
JL: You won the Tandem Championship Nationals last year. Do you plan to go to Bend to compete again next month?
JG: Sadly no plans at this point. My tandem partner’s wife had a kid recently. I don’t think it would go over too well. Life always intervenes in bike racing.
JL: Name your favorite belgium beer.
Wow, now that’s a good question. I’d have to say Westmalle Abbey – Tripel, but for an American Belgie-style beer the Ommegang Abbey Ale is an excellent Dubbel at an awesome price.
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