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The Future of 4x?

It’s all kicking off over the pond with a “heated debate” as Mrs Merton would say on RideMonkey over the future of 4x.

The “against” crew want a return to the Dual Slalom format while the “for” crew are trumpeting a 4x revival.

I was present in Schladming this year when the 4x Alliance held their first meeting and think it’s a very positive move to make 4x racing a better experience all round.

Check out the 4x Alliance website for their news.

I’ve jumped on the debate bandwagon and started a 4x thread on the Dirt Forum so why not get over there and share your views.
Here’s the latest RM pro post by 4x Alliance founder member Scott Beaumont.

4X is the only World Cup mountain bike event that is shown live on Eurosport. This show, for the European World Cups, is shown for 1.5 hours live, and then repeated 3 more times during the week which is condensed to an hour show. That is 4.5 hours of tv coverage per race on Eurosport alone. Downhill is normally shown 1 day after the event for 1 hour and repeated only once for 30 minutes. Obviously that makes 1.5 hours. Now Eurosport do not have any passion for ‘Mountain Biking’. They simply show sporting events that receive interest from people sitting in their chairs at home.

Quick question for you to consider. How many times have people on forums commented:
1. That downhill tv coverage sucks?
2. It needs more cameras because the coverage is really bad?
Maybe it is the same people who moan about downhill camera coverage, that moan about a lot of other things on forums????

Anyway, the cameras on downhill are placed in locations where the camera can get the maximum amount of coverage. This is usually a long flat straight. The general public watch this and get bored very easily.

We, as mountain bikers, love watching any race coverage, but people who do not ride mountain bikes, skipping through their tv stations will stop and watch 4X because it is action packed and you get to see the whole race from start to finish. These ‘same’ people will skip on from downhill after only a couple of runs by riders who are normally something like 5 seconds apart at the finish. The truth is downhill is exciting to us – mountain bikers, but 4X appeals to many more people outside of mountain biking.

I think downhill is amazing, but a big root section does not look particularly impressive to anyone who does not know what they are looking at. Whereas 4X provides that amazement to Joe Public, because mountain bikes flying 40 feet in the air is something that looks amazing to them.

As for Dual Slaloms appeal on tv……..well seriously, why do you think slalom at world cups was replaced by dual and ultimately 4X. Because slalom did not make for exciting tv. Yes it may be exciting at the venue for the 1,000 die hard mountain bikers, but the 50,000 sat at home find it confusing and boring.

Everyone reading this has passion for mountain biking. But….tv companies and coverage figures gives us a no BS account of what is popular to people outside of our little bubble.

Like Jared said earlier, I love riding my bikes. Anything. 4X, DH, XC, BMX, Road – whatever. I do love slalom races, but I love 4X more. The 4X tracks in 2009 have been epic, and the vast majority of riders have enjoyed every one of them. Believe me, the skill level that the riders in 4X have on hardtails on these tracks is phenomenal. It is sometimes hard to see on tv or freecaster just how rough some of these sections are. The rock sections at fort william and mont st anne in 2009 were severe. Likewise the jumps in Schladming and Maribor are big.

My points above are to do with the presentation of Mountain Biking to the general public. Without TV, there are few or no sponsors. Without sponsors there is no World Cup or elite level. Without that there is no aspiration at grass roots level and therefore just a bunch of people riding bikes.

Finally, the issues that alot of downhill team managers and ‘industry’ people have with 4X is that mountain biking has now found itself with a small problem. The beautiful swan (DH) now reluctantly needs it’s ugly duckling (4X) for tv coverage and it has ruffled more than a few feathers within the industy…….

So beware of some derogative comments about 4X on here, because quite a few of them are from people involved in the industry who do not want to see Downhill overtaken by 4X in years to come…… The way this has been presented and packaged over the past couple of years, is that 4X should be replaced by dual slalom.

I will always remember the RIDERS meeting in Maribor a couple of years ago, when Claudio Calouri (the rider rep back then) hosted a meeting with the RIDERS to find out who wanted to change 4X back to Slalom (at this race a rumor had circulated very quickly that ALL the riders wanted to race slalom not 4X). A vote was taken and 2 riders from 90 put their hand up voting to re-vert back to slalom. An embarassing result for slalom that day……

Since then 4X has come a long way and now stands firmly on it’s own 2 feet.
It’s too late for 4X to go away and that bugs some very influencial people in our sport. Who would have thought it….. 4X….. The Saturday night side show…. being loved by tv companies and starting to go in the direction we knew it could one day…….

Cheers,

Scott Beaumont.

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