Brook Watts has been a busy man. In addition to heading up the last CrossVegas held in Sin City, Watts has been involved as the race director for the new World Cup Waterloo. I sat down with Brook in the atrium at Trek Headquarters in Waterloo to talk to Watts about his Midwestern experience thus far.
Brooks Watts on World Cup Waterloo
Cyclocross Magazine: You’ve done CrossVegas for a number of years, how did you end up getting involved with Trek?
Brook Watts: You know, it was kind of a mutual approach. The guys at Trek were talking about elevating their race, I was looking at doing something a little different with CrossVegas. I had already done two years of World Cups. The first World Cup in the U.S., so I had the epitaph to put on my gravestone.
I was looking for something for different, and they said, “Yeah, we’re thinking about elevating the Trek Cup to a World Cup.” I said, “Gee, you ought to let me do it.” And you got to be careful what you wish for because suddenly here I am doing it. I say that kiddingly, I am just jazzed about it.
CXM: You did all the work to take CrossVegas from the start [with former partner Chris Grealish] to being a World Cup. Has it been a challenge taking that step back to the pre-World Cup phase?
BW: It’s kind of liberating. Really, it’s liberating from the standpoint that it’s no secret the bike industry is in a bit of a slump, it’s a constant challenge to keep that bar raised high. To be able to step back from that is okay. I’m absolutely okay with it. We’re in a transitional year. CrossVegas is going to Reno next year with the trade show, but it will remain a [UCI] C1, and a number of participants from the international side will probably change a little bit, but for this year we have a pretty nice roster.
It’s transitional. I never expected to be a World Cup forever. I view World Cups kind of like Tour [de France] stages or major golf tournaments. They move from city to city and that sort of thing. I’m absolutely okay with it. We may jump back in at some point, but right now I am really having a fun time bringing another event up to the World Cup level.
“Right now I am really having a fun time bringing another event up to the World Cup level.”
CXM: How’s it been doing both of them at the same time? When you’re talking about CrossVegas do you ever find yourself referring to cows and corn?
BW: Cheese curds. I’m trying to find a cheese curd vendor in Vegas. That’s been the most difficult thing. It’s two times the work, maybe three times, but there’s also some synergies. Also, I’m an ADD person, I have always been. I think creative people are. It’s been my experience that all creative people are like that. So it’s great to work on CrossVegas a little bit, now I need to shift over here to work on World Cup Waterloo, then I swing back over here. It’s just the way I’ve always operated. Multiple projects, it’s never been two big events like this, but there’s always been a whole bunch of irons in the fire.
CXM: What about Waterloo and Trek here are you liking? What are you stoked about?
BW: I am just so jazzed by the energy within these four walls and the way people have rallied around this event. They own this event. It’s just amazing. Everyone says, “Oh, you’re the guy who’s helping us with the race.” It’s their race. They absolutely own it. It’s not like, oh there’s a race coming over and making use of our property. They own this thing and it’s really exciting. That’s the one thing.
Look, there’s no such thing as a limitless bucket. Yes, they have financial resources that other groups don’t, but they’re not unlimited. So within that, there’s a lot of creativity about how can we make things happen. That feels really neat. You feel a level of support. Everyone’s rallied around it. They’re using the energy they’ve got. Financial resources. Connections, whatever the case may be.
More than anything we’re talking about the Midwest. And the Midwest is a whole bunch of can-do people. There are no limits. We can make this thing happen. I like working with Midwesterners. They’re solid people, you give them a goal, you give them a task and it’s going to happen.
“The Midwest is a whole bunch of can-do people. There are no limits. We can make this thing happen. I like working with Midwesterners. They’re solid people, you give them a goal, you give them a task and it’s going to happen.”
CXM: You’re from Texas, right?
BW: I’m a Texan originally and ended up in Colorado when I figured out there is no humidity there.
CXM: Do you have any specific examples of things you are excited about for World Cup Waterloo? Something for potential visitors and participants to get excited about?
BW: We’re just finishing a site survey today. Both a UCI and a television survey, so I am excited by some of the television production elements that we’re going to be able to bring to the table. And I mean that both for the TV and the webcast. I don’t think enough cyclocross fans in the U.S. realize they’re going to be able to watch World Cup Waterloo for free at trekbikes.com.
CXM: Maybe after we publish this, they’ll have a little better understanding.
BW: This will be the first time ever that a U.S. World Cup is available unfettered. You don’t need to be a subscriber to a cable system. You’ll be able to sit at home and watch it in the same way you’ve been able to watch the DVV races during the past season. That excites me, that we’re going to be able to create some great television and we’re going to be able to bring it to anyone without issues.
CXM: Are there any aspects of your involvement with CrossVegas that you’ve been able to bring to World Cup Waterloo? I’m sure you’ve learned a lot about putting on a World Cup.
BW: I can’t come up with a specific example. It’s these little tweaks that we usually make. As I have had [folks from the UCI] saying, “Try this, try that,” as I’ve gone to European races and peaked behind the curtain, which is what I do when I go over there as a spectator, 10, 15 races a year. I’m literally looking at the production, what’s going on over here, more than I’m looking at who’s leading the race. So I steal with my eyes, and I’ve brought a lot of those ideas here to World Cup Waterloo.
And, I guess, just a sense of what’s involved from a time standpoint. I think what most race organizers don’t understand is that when you get to that race week what’s involved. There are only 24 hours in a day, so it’s how do you make effective use of that time to create a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Where you show up at the blank, open field and create that course, you need to understand what are realistic expectations. It’s going to take two hours to do this, three hours to do that, whatever the case may be.
CXM: What are your thoughts about cyclocross growth in the U.S.? Obviously, things are going well on the World Cup front, but what about in general?
BW: I’d say we are plateauing. We had an era of exuberance, and that’s cooled. A lot of people who thought ’cross might be for them participated, and maybe we’ve had a pulling back somewhat. I tend to think in the U.S. we’re probably reaching a level of stabilization, and that’s come with a certain drawback in numbers, whether it’s racer days, permits with USA Cycling. I don’t see us stagnating, I don’t see us hitting bottom, I think we’re just reaching some happy level where we will probably remain for some years to come. Those numbers of the last, I don’t know, three, four, five years were probably artificially high because people said, “Wow, what is this new thing? I think I’ll go try it.” Now having said all that, we may see a CrossFit bump, which I’m absolutely cool with.
CXM: We did our best to give that full coverage.
BW: I thought I was watching a Swiss cyclocross race because the course was 40 feet wide. A great big, wide grassy course.
CXM: It was super fun. They were gassed. Regardless of what people say, it was cool to see and it exposed people to the sport.
BW: No question.
CXM: Are we going to be seeing more of you here in Waterloo? Are you going to be taking up residence here? How is that going to work?
BW: Maybe I will do a VRBO for the summer. I could see spending the summer here. I don’t think you’re going to see me here in January.
CXM: But over the next month?
BW: I’ve been here a half dozen times, but my next visit will be race week.
CXM: Well thank you for your time. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me.
BW: Sure, it’s been a real pleasure.
For more on the inaugural World Cup Waterloo, see our ever-growing archive of coverage.