You hear his voice from the venue of the UCI Cyclocross World Championships broadcast you find a way to stream, and at Nationals and other UCI races he’s the one with the microphone interviewing winners. Today we turn the tables on Richard Fries and ask him the questions. Chris McIntosh caught up with the promoter, announcer bike advocacy leader and former publisher, Richard Fries.
Cyclocross Magazine: You’ve been pretty busy with things over at Massbike – How do you manage your time between bike advocacy work as well as organizing and promoting races, announcing races, riding your bike, and family life?
Richard Fries: Sadly I don’t do it all very well. I’ve scaled back the announcing and our KMC CrossFest team is fantastic. So I’m leaning heavily on them this year. Running a statewide bike advocacy group is massive job. One good thing with the move is much of our ancillary events – such as the Champions’ Dinner – are in Massachusetts, so we’re making MassBike a beneficiary.
CXM: What changes are you most excited about in this coming cyclocross season?
RF: American cyclocross is moving into the big time, as modeled by CrossVegas and Iowa City, which is hard to call Jingle Cross in September. But all the events are raising their game. Rochester, Baltimore and others. And every year I look forward to watching our young riders getting better. I think Curtis White is going to smash the sport this year.
CXM: How has organizing the KMC Cyclocross fest been going? Do you think the new location will draw crowds from even further down the coast?
RF: I believe our first year will be a lateral transfer. We’ll hold about even. But the good news is that we’re already planning 2017. This venue affords us the ability to really plan and grow. We’re adding a Belgian Beer Festival component this year. And the Builders’ Ball will be on site and open for all three days.
CXM: There was talk of Providence being World Cup-worthy, or becoming a potential stop of the Superprestige or Bpost Bank Trofee series. Any progress or developments along these lines?
RF: Yes. The problem was that Providence simply did not have the cultural capacity to host an international event. With the new venue, the track is a full partner with us and they want to see it grow. But in year one we were grateful to keep our Category 1 status. I think having two World Cups and the Superprestige opener in America could be a huge win for the sport.
CXM: Besides accessibility benefits, do you think Thompson Speedway will provide a course on-par with Zolder and other race-track cyclocross venues?
RF: We have an off-camber that is tougher than what you saw in Asheville. We have a drop-off that terrifies me. It is similar to Zolder in that we have a few things that we will use repeatedly. But the track management is open to allowing us to build things. So each year we hope to add a new feature…or two.
CXM: Do you think Roger Williams Park will host cyclocross races in the future? Is there anything you’ll miss about organizing there? They just installed a public pump track and there was talk about a permanent cyclocross course…what happened?
RF: There is a reason most event promoters leaves Providence. The X Games, The Gravity Games, the Suzuki Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, the Amica Triathlon, the Cox Charities Criterium and now us.
After the Nationals in Austin, Texas – where they races for seven days with six full fields a day in heavy rain – the landscaping bill was $8,000. Last year in Providence our landscaping costs ballooned to $22,000 for just 2.5 days of an event.
CXM: Most people don’t realize you used to publish a regional cycling publication in The Ride. What do you miss most about those days? What do you miss the least?
RF: Wow. You are digging. We are very proud of what we achieved and ran for 14 years. I miss having the voice. I miss the great contributors. I miss the work. But I don’t miss the stress…But MassBike has me back in a similar track of constantly working to raise funds.
CXM: What can you tell us about improvement in equality in women’s cycling? Seems like most local races here in New England have equal payouts, but can we expect the UCI to follow in this area? What’s your opinion on the push for equal pay?
RF: It’s the right thing to do, but promoters that are solely dependent on entry fees may struggle. In ‘cross, however, the women’s fields are sizable to create some equity even at the regional level.
CXM: With the increasing popularity of the sport, do you anticipate increased television coverage of American cyclocross?
RF: I think the cost of production is coming down along with the ease of distribution. But people need to remember that all media is writing and all business is sales. Good TV requires good storytelling.
CXM: What new races this year are you most excited about?
RF: Let me help get ours done and I’ll get back to you.
CXM: How do you go about preparing to announce a race like the Cyclocross World Championships?
I watch World Cups and online highlights and listen to Renaat Schotte commentary for pronunciations. I’m getting some coaching from a Dutch racer here in Boston! Too many announcers focus on rider statistics and they never really study how a rider moves. But I do study the junior and Under 23 results as we never get to see them in video.
CXM: Will you be announcing any of the U.S. World Cups this year?
Yes, I’ll be doing Iowa City!
CXM: Do you think the sport of cyclocross is still growing? Have your own events, and the ones you’ve announced, grown in unique riders?
RF: I think it continues to grow not just in participant numbers but especially in cultural absorption. By that I mean those charity riders are starting to show an interest in the sport as spectators and mixed-terrain riders. Gran Fondo New England, which is held on the Sunday morning of KMC CrossFest, will feature some dirt sectors just for that purpose.
CXM: Thanks for the time. See you in Iowa City.
RF: Thank you!