This open forum letter from Chad Sperry of Breakaway Promotions really speaks volumes.  Breakaway Promotions has put on some awesome events for many years, so hearing his prospective says a lot.  I’ve copied it below… it’s a bit long, but worth a read.  He hits the nail on the head with some topics that were actually driving forces behind the conception of the Dialed Cycling Team and Dialed Cycling Club.  In short, we need to grow cycling, we need protect cycling, we need to promote cycling, and we need to give back to cycling.  I’m excited at the prospects of Dialed Cycling and I vow to do my part… will you join me?  -Jake

[Chad Sperry – Breakaway Promotions / Posted on OBRA Chat – January 26, 2017]


Ok so a lot has been going round and round about why cycling is declining,

why events are going away, and what can be done about it. For the last

month I have been contemplating how to best write this email and best lay

out my humble opinion while creating productive conversation. So here is

my attempt and giving insight and background. It is up to everyone to come

to conclusion on how to fix it however.


For starters some of you may not know me or my company Breakaway

Promotions. My name is Chad Sperry and our company has been putting on

races in Oregon and across the country for the last 20 years. We had

humble beginnings cutting our teeth with the OBRA Hillclimb championships

as our very first event, were with the tremendous help of Candi Murray,

were able to pull off a successful event back in 1997. Since then we have

run everything from small grass roots events like Gorge Short Track to some

of the largest in the country like the Tour of Utah, Cascade Cycling

Classic and 20+ national championship events for USA Cycling, such as Mt.

Bike Nationals, Collegiate Road Nationals, Masters Nationals, Amateur

Nationals, Junior Nationals, Para Nationals etc. So I have learned a few

things over the past 20 years about races, rider behaviors, and the market.


For starters lets talk about races and why they are disappearing. Races

are not solely funded by your registration fees. Unless you are drawing

over 300 riders and offering little to no prize money, your favorite local

races are being funded by local sponsors and occasionally a national

sponsor. Local sponsors sponsor bike races in the hopes that you will

shop, eat, or stay at their establishments when you come to the race. So

when you do NOT stay at the official race hotel, eat at the local

sponsoring resaurant, or shop at the local bike shop you are jepordizing

the race by not supporting the businesses that helped you race that day.

Period. Most of the time funding will be between 25%-50% covered by

sponsors. I have always maintained that if I wanted any kind of paycheck

from a race it had to come through finding sponsors as registration fees

did not 100% cover the cost of the race.


Putting on races has gotten very very hard in the last 5 years. In some

areas down right impossible. Finding a large single loop road race course

today is like finding a unicorn. Seriously. Why you ask (or maybe you

didn’t) because of limited growth and expansion of new roads coupled with

major population growth tying up all the existing roads. When was the last

time anyone can remember a brand new “road” being built and paved in your

area. Not talking the 1/4 mile piece of road into a new housing division,

I am talking full fledged several miles road. I personally can not think

of a new road in the past 20 years! So as our existing paved roads

continue to get more and more traffic agencies have clamped down and said

no to permits. This is not just your local roads but also includes Forest

Service and state roads as well. For the past 3 years the Mt. Hood

National Forest has allowed NO new event permits for summer events and

there is no plans to open that up in the near future. Deschutes National

Forest is implementing new restrictions just this year for no new events

between July and September. So if I were to try and create the Mt. Hood

Cycling Classic and Cascade Cycling Classic today it would be impossible.

I can remember doing the Blue Lake Triathlon back in 1992 were the bike

course went from Marine Drive through Troutdale and out to the Corbett

Overpass on Interstate 84. We were actually racing our bikes on I-84!!!

All of you that have been racing 20+ years have a similar story about a

race that no longer exists because traffic no renders it impossible. If we

still have access to roads and city streets the cost to put on an event has

sky rocketed. To put on the Stumptown criterium in downtown Portland two

year’s ago cost over $40,000 to put on. We had $30,000 in sponsorship

money (which is rare we see this much) and $3500 in entry fees. Some of

you smart accountants just did the math. That means I personally lost

$7500. The cost of putting on the Cascade Cycling Classic Criterium in

downtown Bend has literally increased by 10 times. No that is not a

mistake the cost is literally 10 times what is was to put on 10 years ago

when adding all the new permit fees, required engineered traffic plans,

signage, barricades, man hours, detours, etc.


Another big one is liability. Our sue happy country is strangling us with

frivolous law suits. New legislation in Oregon is pushing to eliminate

caps and render standard release waivers useless. A number of permitting

agencies are now requiring double the limits on insurance certificates or

just plain denying event permits do to risk. Our sport is one of the

riskiest sports out there. Compared to running, triathlons, or any other

endurance sports it has way higher risk of injury. At a large criterium

you can expect 30-40 medical occurrences with 4-5 of them resulting in

broken bones. Now compare that to the large marathon we own and operate,

the Columbia Gorge Marathon, were in the past 8 years we have seen 7

medical occurrences such as, bee stings, and small abrasions and sprains.

By the way the marathon has 1500 people a year participating compared to a

large crit that has 400.


Here is one more thing to consider when discussing races. 90% of race

organizers are volunteers. The remaining 10%, who are professional race

organizers, live very very modestly. They do what they do because they

love the sport and have a huge heart for giving back. Only one company in

the country that I know of is making a strong 6 figure salary for putting

on bike races and that is because they are putting on the largest,

televised, races in the country. Everyone else is scraping by. Wondering

how to pay the mounting medical bills, insurance, feed the kids, and

support their families etc. If it was not for my company’s half marathon’s

and marathons we own and operate I would have filed bankruptcy year’s ago.

I use the runs to subsidize my cycling habit. So next time you decide to

write out that smart ass, snarky email intended to flame a race promoter I

ask you please reconsider. If you think your frustrated and disappointed

you have no idea what that poor promoter is going through. Nothing is more

discouraging than to donate huge amounts of time and stress for peanuts and

get ridiculed for your efforts. It is a lot of times a thankless job and

those kind of responses have definitely factored into my decision to move

away from promoting more bike races. I have a tough skin and can take it

but why should I when there is little to no reward.


Now the big topic is why are we in such a huge decline. Here is my humble

theory. Actually I have two theories. The first is our society as a

whole. We are seeing more and more people moving to inactive

entertainment. Back when I was a kid (yep I am an old dude now) our thrill

was to ride our BMX bikes. We lived for that. We would build sketchy

jumps and bomb down crazy trails. Nintendos and Atari’s were just coming

onto the market. The baby boomer generation and the one just following it

embraced this outdoor physical exertion and excitement. We have seen a

huge portion of riders who in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s were excited

to endure long painful races. The challenges were embraced and enjoyed.

That cross section of riders we have watched cycle through the ranks (sorry

for the pun). In the early 90’s they were the 25-40 year olds that came

out in droves. In the 2000’s they were masters racers complaining there

was not a 50+ category but still coming out in force. That group is now

retiring and moving on as they hit their mid to late 50’s and 60’s. There

is no large group coming up to fill in and take their place. Today’s youth

as a whole want to entertain themselves with video games, virtual reality,

and other electronics as opposed to getting out and finding entertainment

in nature. I have 4 boys three are in high school. I have coached

wrestling, and cross country for the past 12 years. Numbers in these

sports have seen a continued decline. We see only half the number of kids

turn out compared to what we did back 20 years ago. I am taking this

reference from my time coaching in the Gorge and Central Oregon. Portland

may be different, but I kind of doubt it.


The final reason for a decline is Lance Armstrong. Yeah I know once again

Lance is the root of all problems and a slime bag. But before he was a

slime bag he was a national hero. He was in movies (Dodgeball!) on TV,

winning Espy’s, dating Hollywood stars and he was the biggest billboard the

sport has had probably ever had (Greg was a stud but never made it so

mainstream). When he raced the tour a nation watched and followed. That

is gone. Now coverage is a fraction of what it was to the national

audience. There is no longer a professional athlete in the sport of

cycling on par with Tom Brady or Lebron James that is motivating and

inspiring people. You can not deny the impact that it had in inspiring

people to try the sport.


Final thought is early season races and bad weather. To conclude that

weather is a cause of diminishing numbers is a little skewed. All you need

to do is look back at historical data to come to this conclusion. Back in

2005 there were no less than 12 road events on the calendar before April

3rd (there are now only 12 events for the entire year!). In fact all three

Banana Belt events were completed prior to March 13th!!! That same year

huge numbers turned out for the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic and Elkhorn in

June and the Cascade Cycling Classic in late July! Granted it is way more

fun to race in nice weather than in snow, rain, and wind in March but that

would take serious self control by the average cyclist to NOT attend that

early March race but wait till May to begin racing. Which I will admit is

really hard to do after investing 3 months riding trainers and in crappy



When it has come to our all of our events we have always placed them in the

best time of year for the region and really never paid attention to trends

or rider numbers. Our focus was providing the best quality experience for

our participants. So whether is was the Cherry Blossom Cycling Classic and

Gorge Roubaix in The Dalles in April, when weather is sunny and temps are

moderate (you do NOT want to race in the summer in The Dalles), to the Mt.

Hood Cycling Classic in June to Cascade Cycling Classic in July it is has

been about the best conditions and weather for participants. If you look

at the 5 biking events we are putting on this year you will see this

continued trend with Gorge Gravel Grinder in April in The Dalles, High

Desert Gravel Grinder in June in Bend, Mt. Hood Gravel Grinder in July up

at elevation and Cascade Cycling Classic in July also up in the mountains.

That said I completely understand why promoters will chase early season

participation especially with numbers being so low now days.


My sincere apologies for the length of this email. I am not trying to be

insensitive of peoples time but to give folks a peak behind the current of

putting on races. My last words of wisdom to all of you. When it comes to

your local race promoters always remember hugs not slugs go a lot farther

in getting the races you want!