SpectaCross: One and Done? A Chat With Ken Getchell

The SpectaCross cyclocross and speed trials races took place July 31 and August 1 at the New Jersey State Fair. Being the only show in town this time of year, we have lots of good stuff to share. But before getting to rider interviews from this past weekend’s races we are going to start our coverage with the man behind the curtain.

Ken Getchell

Ken Getchell’s SpectaSport LLC spearheads publicity for several cyclocross race series including MAC, OVCX and MABRA, as well as the Gravity East downhill series. Getchell can also be found as a race announcer for many events on the CX calendar. He has been at the publicity game a long time. Ken started SUPERKARTS!USA (now SKUSA) and was the publicist for future three-time Tour de France champion Greg Lemond’s first race as a professional in Wildwood, New Jersey in 1980.

He had to call on much of that experience to pull off two days of cyclocross in the middle of summer and at a state fair. Now that the dust (or mud) has settled, we caught up with Ken to get his thoughts on the weekend. 

CXHairs: This was an ambitious undertaking.

Getchell: Oh boy, was it ever.

CXHairs: Overall, how do you think it turned out?

Getchell: Friday was fabulous. But we needed more riders, especially local riders. The Saturday program was designed to accommodate a “normal” cross entry of 200-300 entries, so the entries were thin in a few races. That didn’t help keep a crowd in the stands.  

CXHairs: What do you think worked best over the weekend? What will you change for next year? Is there going to be a next year?

Getchell: If the Fair has their way, there will be a next year! The Fair was outstanding in their support and the Fair Manager was very happy and invited us back before we even started breaking down the course. But, the lack of local racer support put us in a deep, dark hole financially. I’d love to do the event again, though my wife wishes I wouldn’t; but I’m certainly not going to let a bike race wreck my marriage.

Right now SpectaCross isn’t going to happen again without more local support. It can’t. We lost too much money because the local racers didn’t support it. As a publicist, I want to put a positive spin on everything, but the reality is that riders from less than 3 hours away accounted for less than half the entries at the New Jersey State Fair SpectaCross. We had nearly as many entries from the Midwest as we did from New Jersey. And we had as many entries from Virginia as from New York City, which is just an hour down the road. We actually had fewer local racers than two years ago when Bob Cary last ran a club cyclocross race during the fair here.

And when you hear that a lot of local racers skipped a race with international publicity and a national field so they could do a local time trial, you’ve got to wonder what they’re thinking. Maybe they were ducking the competition, huh? Thank God the people from New England, the Midwest and the South were willing to take a chance on a really cool, artistic race. And, if you ask the racers that came, I’m sure they’ll tell you we took real good care of them.

If we are able to pull the financing together to do the event again next year, and in reality we only have about a month to do that before the fair starts signing contracts for next year, we’re definitely going to shorten the races to half an hour. The unanimous feedback, even from the pros, was that with the heat and all the accelerations out of tight corners, 30 minutes is long enough. That will also allow us to cut back to two sessions of racing on Saturday, which in turn will give our staff a break and let us races under the lights.

CXHairs: What were the highlights of the event for you?

Getchell: The highlight of my summer was seeing the smiles on people’s faces, and hearing the many, many “thank yous” and “well dones” I received. To have racers who so believed in this event that they refused prize money or refunds—that’s a huge compliment. The two pro men races were some of the most entertaining races I’ve ever seen. And then there was Jennifer Franko’s crash and 15 yard belly slide through the puddle, and the trials guys, and the pulled pork sliders, and the look on my son’s face while doing one of the midway rides.

CXHairs: A question I always ask racers is what their pre-race routine or ritual is and what they ate for a pre-race meal. So what does a promoter eat pre-event? Any rituals?

Getchell: I eat corn flakes with fruit every morning.

CXHairs: Anything else you would like to add?

Getchell: People said that you can’t have real cyclocross at a State Fair, but one rider wrote about SpectaCross in his blog, “This was more “pure” than all the grass crits you will race in September.” We were organized, even in a pouring rain, because we relied on preregistration though BikeReg. We tried to be first-class and stress free for the riders. We treated riders with respect; if it turned out you couldn’t come, we issued you a refund without making you jump through a bunch of hoops. When the Elite Masters could only muster three entries, we didn’t cut the purse; we paid the full purse even though two-third’s of the class was comped. Who does that?

People responded and came from more than half way across the country to compete in a non-sanctioned race and they seemed to a really good time. And we had as good a field for the men’s race as a lot of UCI Cat 2’s have had recently. But you can’t take anything for granted. The Northern New Jersey and New York City area isn’t the only place we can do this, and it’s certainly not local to me. There are over 1,400 fairs in America. We can take this program to any of them.


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