An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Fat Man Speaks: A conversation with Gary Crandall, Part 2

You will recall that we were talking with Gary Crandall, race chief of Wisconsin's legendary Fat Tire 40 mountain bike race. Let's get back to it, shall we?

A couple years ago, you were nominated and accepted into the MTBing Hall of Fame. How did that happen, and were you surprised?

I had been nominated by Gary Sjoquist at Quality Bicycle Products - and he along with some other industry associates at Trek really went out and beat the bushes to encourage people to join the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Crested Butte and to get their votes in for the annual induction into the hall.

Imagine my great surprise when the email came in saying that I had been selected for induction into the hall. It was a most satisfying experience to have what some would consider my life's work (or at least many years of it) recognized by a sports hall of fame. I definitely got more than my 15 minutes of fame out of that one.

My induction at the Interbike Show in Las Vegas that year was a real treat - never been to Vegas, never been to the big bike show and of course I hadn't met most of the industry luminaries that attended the induction ceremony. What a team to be on - check out the url of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, I'm included with some pretty major company.

The Fat Tire 40 is famous for being friendly to roadies... With lots of fire roads and doubletrack. The dirt bikers all wish there were more technical singletrack. How do you balance the two competing interests?

Every race course is different - the size of our race field, the rolling glacial terrain and the available trail network lends itself to a power course rather than a technical course.

If I ran a race with a couple hundred elite riders I could put together a great single track - technical trail - but with 1700 in the 40 and 800 in the Short & Fat the responsible choice for trail selection dictates that we stay off the narrow technical sections - too many people in too cramped of an area.

If you look at [other races in the area, like] the Cable Area Off Road Classic in May or the Seeley Lions PreFat race in August you'll find smaller races with much more technically demanding courses. The trails are out there but the type and size of race will determine the course that is offered in each case.

Both the Chequamegon point to point races are a challenge to any type of rider - if a racer is looking for a more technical challenge then perhaps the Chequamegon 40 is not the right choice - if a racer is looking for a great aerobic effort physical challenge in a mass start point to point format then there is nothing finer than the Chequamegon 40.

You've said before that all you need for an event like this is the three P's -- pasta, porta-potties, and parking. After 25 years, is that all you've learned?

Actually, I've added a few more P's in my event management menu - phones, promotion, prizes, personnel, power and the list goes on. I have always told people who ask about events that large or small in size event managers have to address the same issues - just on different scales. In my many years I have written quite a few job descriptions, operational outlines and put together many spreadsheets as an aid in event management.

One main thing I have learned is no matter how much time you spend putting together and executing the plan - you always have to be ready for the quirks of fate that impact your event weekend - say a huge wind storm that comes in and drops a couple hundred trees on your race course a week before the event, or the torrential rainstorm that causes a last minute course change. After 25 years we have it pretty dialed in as far as how the event is to run - the excitement comes when the unexpected happens and we get to problem solve the unpredictable in a short amount of time and continue the event without missing a beat - its very satisfying to tweak the
operations to the point of being smoother than smooth - hats off to my long time low turn over race staff for that.

Aside from the insane strides in technology, what other changes have you noticed in the past three decades of mountain biking?

The big thing is not the advances in technology it's the fact that individuals that I have known for many years, get married, have kids and then their kids are riding the children's events and eventually find themselves up on the podium. The consistency of the family fun aspect of mountain biking in general the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival in particular has survived through all the advances in technology, training, nutrition, clothing and the like. Through it all the over riding motivation is the
adventure and thrill of riding through the woods under your own power.

What's the goofiest thing you ever saw happen during the race? For a few years there, bandits were a big problem. Then it was public urination at the start line. What's the big challenge for the next few years?

Goofiest thing ever in the race? Well after 25 years it's tough to narrow it down to the most outrageous but there are many great memories that would make the highlights list - for instance the time Greg LeMond showed up in the peak of his career to race and ride in the Chequamegon 40 or the year that Bill and Suzie got married at the finish line to make good on the pledge they made in the 50 Ways to Ride the Chequamegon essay contest, or the torrential down pour years of 1990 and 1991 that challenged our ability to be flexible and survive some of the worst weather imaginable or of course my induction into the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame. The list goes on - making memories is what it is all about for the participants, sponsors,
staff, volunteers and community.

Our legacy for the sport and in the local community is that we put forth a great professional effort to see that everyone enjoys themselves, that everyone feels they got their moneys worth, that everyone wants to come back and do it again next time and that everyone looks at the Chequamegon as a prime example of doing the right thing in the right place in the right way.

Next time we see you at the Sawmill Saloon, we're buying... What'll you have?

I'm liking those local brews like a Fat Squirrel or Spotted Cow, then again the Blue Moon is a tasty malted beverage too.


Gike said...

I've know the fatman for all of the 25 years of the festival....he is one class act...kudos to you for highlighting him....his ego needs this every now and then

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