Friends and family of mountain bike racers will attest to the boredom that comes right after the start of a cross-country (XC) mountain bike race.
Once the mass-start roars by and all the riders disappear into the tree line, the only thing left to do is sit and wait — sometimes over an hour — before the bib number you are waiting for makes a quick appearance.
Then its back to reading that book or chasing that butterfly for another hour before they return again.
For a spectator, this is yawn city!
To make matters worse, most race promoters use low tech timing gear (e.g. stopwatches, clipboards, and bib number hand-tracking) which means you will most likely have no clue where your rider is until after the results come out long after the race is over.
If only there was a mountain bike racing format that catered to spectators too.
Enter Short Track Cross-Country (Short Track or STXC) Racing!
This very short XC style event takes a course roughly 1- to 1.5-miles and creates a short, sharply exciting event that is designed to be spectator friendly from the ground up.
Sometimes raced on trails only a little wider than the usual single-track mountain bike trails, short track mountain bike racing combines elements of a road criterium, cyclo-cross without the dismounts, and quick paced BMX.
A good Short Track course will have riders returning to the start/finish line every 2- to 5-minutes.
This not only keeps the pace red-lined during the entire event but gets the crowd excited as they see the drama of the race unfold before their very eyes.
The excitement is additionally primed by the understanding that the pack leading the race is truly the front-runners, making Short Track easy to understand, simple to follow, and continuously entertaining.
Cross-country mountain bike riders are also challenged by Short Track courses.
Most riders find themselves testing their speed skills against peers in this elbow-to-elbow slug match that often consists of multi-heat, anaerobic throwdowns.
Not unlike MTB Enduro-style events, Short Track XC can include either dual heat formats, endurance grinders over as much as 60-minutes, or power laps that include 15-20 laps during a single race.
Additionally, because STXC is so quick, races can be run back-to-back without little downtime, keeping the audience entertained for hours.
When thinking of this kind of event as a race promoter, a happy audience is an audience that will stick around for awards, stay for other events, and even buy things from vendors.
All things race promoters like to see.
In an age where every dollar counts, race promoters owe it to themselves to consider including Short Track XC onto their race calendar.
The short courses, quick turn-around times, and spectator friendly format provide all the ingredients needed for a festival-like atmosphere.
Which is exactly what you’re is looking for in your next event.
Spectators might only come to your race to cheer only their own racer, but the speed of a Short Track event might get them to stay to cheer on the other racers too.
You just might create an experience that keeps both racers AND spectators coming back again and again.
If you’re looking for something easy to build, promote, start, and direct, consider a Short Track Cross Country event.
It just might be that special something you’ve been looking for.
And now you know.