So now that everyone is clear on what the Nor’Easter is, and why you should go, I thought it would be fun to share some behind-the-scenes perspective on the event from its Mastermind and Grand Poobah, Pete Ward of NE2C productions, and Adam Myerson, ‘cross race promoter par excellence, of Cycle-Smart.
What follows is a joint interview with Ward and Myerson on the background and potential future of the event; the challenges and hopes involved; and both men’s general thoughts, both sport-specific and not.
While 2010 will be only the second year of the festival, and the first year to include cyclocross, according to Ward, “the Nor’easter idea has been germinating since 2007 when we ran some of our first big professional bouldering events out West.” Following those successes, and having earned the respect of the outdoor industry, Ward and NE2C have grown steadily in size and scope, as has their partnership with EMS. Ward explains, “Eastern Mountain Sports was pumped and wanted us to bring our model for an event back East and… here we are! ‘Cross got involved basically as a no-brainer that was, I believe, introduced to me as a concept by my ‘cross-racing brother. He turned me onto the sport and the amazing community of folks like Adam Myerson and Cycle-Smart. Bikes are a great fit with what we do.”
This willingness to roll with the punches, and let opportunity serve as inspiration is echoed by Myerson, as well.
“Quite often success is simply about being prepared for and able to recognize opportunities when they present themselves. Some people call that luck, but I see the key as being the first part of the equation: the preparedness and recognition. The fact that we have a 20 year old ‘cross event in Northampton, where Pete is based, allowed us to show him what we could bring to his event. And for us, it was a great opportunity to expand the audience for ‘cross.”
Apart from the ‘cross race—which will be epic, no doubt—the event is absolutely one-of-a-kind. There is nothing new under the sun, of course, but as a hybridized music festival/professional sporting event featuring two growing-but-still-fringe sports/eco-conscious conservation happening, the Nor’Easter is definitely breaking new ground in terms of what is possible in a recreation-sporting-entertainment event.
Speaking to this Ward reflects, “I haven’t been to too many ‘cross races out there, but between the music festival, the pro-bouldering competition and the crowds of folks who wouldn’t have otherwise been there, I think it will have a flavor all its own, which is really what we’re after anyway. Adam, Al Donahue, and the Cycle-Smart crew have really pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in a ‘cross course, bringing the race right through the middle of the festival and around the Main Stage area. So do crowds of people and live music to serenade you while you race sound good?”
Myerson expounded further on the unique nature of the course and setting, and what competitors can expect: “From the ‘cross side, people can expect a very challenging course. Because it’s in the basin of a ski area, there are long flat sections connecting some very steep, difficult climbing and descending. This, added to the combination of music and climbing, all packed into the same venue, is going to make every racer, down to the beginning categories, feel like a true performer, part of a much bigger show.”
When asked what they each saw in terms of opportunities for each sport, given proximity to the other in an event like this, both Ward and Myerson were overwhelmingly positive.
Ward: “For my money, I think that once you’re an athlete or an active outdoors person, it’s not hard to appreciate others doing their thing at a high level. Our goal with the entire Nor’easter is to put together a collage that is an accurate representation of the active outdoors community. I see Climbing and ‘cross as big parts of that picture. More parts will be added in the future and hopefully we’ll keep things growing.”
Myerson: “I think one of the exciting things about this event as an organizer is breaking the mold of what we do, and what we think a ‘cross race should look like. To have to balance a music and climbing festival on top of a bike race required me to throw out a lot of my expectations or ideas about how things have to go. It’s quite scary, in fact. What I hope, though, is that the folks coming for the bike race also have their eyes opened to what this event encompasses, and take advantage of everything it has to offer. It may take a year to really achieve that.”
Myerson’s last comment obviously hints toward things to come, and when pressed on the future of such collaborations, both Myerson and Ward were optimistic, if a bit reserved in true, cagey New Englander fashion.
Ward: “We get to work with all sorts of folks in our travels and very few of them are as professional and dedicated to their sport as Cycle-Smart is, so I certainly hope we can be good hosts to the Cross community. But that said, I dunno. I think I may need more tattoos, I can’t compete.”
Myerson: “There are always big risks in the first year of an event, but we wouldn’t have signed up for it if we didn’t see long-term potential. Working with Pete and NE2C has been good for our organization, too, because it’s helped us raise our game and see the areas where we can improve what we do. The collaboration has really benefited both groups, and I’m really hoping we can have Pete get more involved in our other events.”
Music festivals are nothing new, and obviously neither is ‘cross racing or bouldering competitions. I asked both of these guys what their respective hopes are for the future of this type of event, and got enthusiastically similar responses, both of which are evidence of hopes for growth in the future.
Ward: “That’s the trick right? Keeping things fresh and energetic. You don’t have to do something new necessarily, you just have to do whatever you do well and you have a good chance of success. That said, I see ‘cross, climbing, and the entire active outdoors community as a passionate bunch of people and if we do things right I think our passion for what we do will be easy to communicate and be sustainable in the long term.”
Myerson: “For me I think success would be in the crossover between athletes and attendees. I want to bring my ‘cross community over to the rest of the festival as fans of climbing and music. And I hope the folks there for music and climbing see cyclocross and have their minds blown. If that happens, I think the possibilities at the event are limitless in terms of bringing in more sponsorship, better athletes, more spectators, and creating a bigger show.
Beyond the focus of this immediate event, both Myerson and Ward are regionally based entrepreneurs who have managed to figure out a way to make a living through participating in, and promoting their respective sports. Both men are uncompromising, arguably even polarizing characters; both are considered lightning rods and barometers of change; and, most importantly, both are highly regarded by their respective communities.
As a closing question I asked them both about their core values as entrepreneurs, athletes, and business owners; and to reflect on how they incorporate those values into an event like this.
Ward: “That’s one of those questions that can be a real long sermon about a ton of stuff. I guess the simplest way I’ve been able to look at our work lately is to pay close attention to the way I felt the first time I laced up some rock shoes, to hold onto that energy and to make sure that I leave the office every day feeling like I did right by the people I worked with that day. You have to do right by the people around you and you have to remember why you’re doing what you do. It sounds cliché, but we all know clichés are cliché cause they’re true.”
Myerson: “I consider myself an evangelist for the sport I love. I don’t want to hoard it: I want to share it with everyone and watch what it does to them when they fall in love with it, too. I’ve been trying to turn that act into a job for the past 10 years, so I suppose you could say I’ve been attempting to build a mega-church for cyclocross!