Echelon Racing Promotions has stormed into the virtual world and helped to grow the sport of cycling during this past year. The company works with in-real-life (IRL) race promoters to host their events in the virtual space on RGT Cycling. This has created a never before realized dynamic in the virtual sports space where IRL and virtual amateur and professional athletes can come together and compete at the highest level, all while promoting the foundational roots of the sport and injecting some new energy and innovation into its marketability and outreach.
We talked to two of the Echelon Racing League’s partnering event promoters from the Joe Martin Stage Race and the Tour of the Gila and here is what they had to say:
The Echelon Racing Promotions virtual platform gives cyclists of all levels the opportunity to experience the actual courses of our IRL events. The long-term potential and one of the major benefits of the RGT Cycling system is that its features allow cyclists and spectators to virtually experience the actual roads and amenities of the communities we host our events in.
For example, the Tour of the Gila is a nationally known road bicycle stage race attracting hundreds of participants to Silver City, New Mexico each year. It is sanctioned by USA Cycling, the official governing body for all competitive cycling in the United States. The race is listed on USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour, which identifies the top races in the country. The Tour of the Gila is also listed on the UCI America Tour Calendar, as a 2.2 category race. The UCI is the International Cycling Union. The UCI sanctions the top bicycle races in the world.
Jack Brennan, the Tour of the Gila race director, said “the goal, for us, each year is to make the experience of those racing the Tour of the Gila the best it can be. Racing Gila is going to be hard. We know that. The courses demand that a racer be in top physical condition. And we are going to do all that we can to give each rider a professional racing experience, whether racing in the UCI race or in the amateur fields. Michael Carter, an American cyclist who competed in the 1991 Tour de France and still races as an amateur, wrote to us after the 2019 Tour of the Gila. He said “Thank you again, for putting on what in my opinion, is THE best stage race in the world for Masters! I think I am somewhat qualified to make that claim after racing all around the world, not just at the World Tour level, but as a Master’s rider for 35 years. You and your staff are just fantastic. You really make racing in the USA a blast. Now, with the advent of virtual racing and the support of the Echelon Racing League, we can make that experience available to anyone in the world!”
Bruce Dunn, the director of the Joe Martin Stage Race, and the Experience Fayetteville economic development center saw huge benefits for both the race and the Fayetteville community by hosting the virtual event. Together, they noted “e-racing has been adopted by other professional sports as an additional way to engage fans and sponsors. Cycling is one of the first non-ball and stick sports to enter the virtual world. Amateur cyclists and fans already can compete and participate in real life on the same playing field as professional cyclists. Bringing cycling into the virtual world is not a big leap for our stakeholders unlike some other professional sports could face with their partners and fans.”
“The Echelon Racing League introduced cycling fans from around the world to not only the Joe Martin Stage Race, the Pro Road Tour and other top level bike races, but also to local communities. People who may never know about the communities which hold these great events now have a chance to experience some of the local culture through the interviews, photography and videos which are featured during the virtual events. The potential for advertising and promotion of state and local tourisms is endless along with the very real possibility of cycling fans traveling to the local areas to recreate and take in the culture.”
According to Brennan, the decision to work with Echelon Racing Promotions and RGT Cycling was a no-brainer. “Eric Hill and Frank Cundiff approached me this past summer and told me their thoughts on their upcoming Echelon Racing League. After their presentation, I was all in. I take the position that I will do everything I can to promote the Tour of the Gila and to promote Silver City, New Mexico. The Echelon Racing League provided that opportunity.”
The other exciting component of the virtual events is the live broadcast. The minute-to-minute happenings on the racecourses were covered. But there was a lot more going on. Brennan said that he arranged for local community members to be a part of the live broadcast, providing in-depth historical, cultural, and scenic knowledge as to why southwest New Mexico is such a wonderful place. “The whole point for doing the Virtual Tour of the Gila and the live broadcasts was to have this opportunity to reach a national and international audience. And we achieved that through the Echelon Racing League. Over 56,000 viewers watched during the 3 days of the Virtual Tour of the Gila.”
The Echelon Racing Promotions mission statement is “to enhance the sustainability, scalability, and visibility of bicycle racing through e-sports.” Bruce Dunn believes that objective has been met and hopes that in-real-life bicycle racing can return sometime soon in 2021 bigger and better thanks to the support of Echelon Racing Promotions and the opportunity they provided to our partners.
Both the Tour of the Gila and the Joe Martin Stage Race are looking forward to being a part of the second season of the Echelon Racing League.