UCI interview with Gerrit Does by Jane. Since the 2014 UCI BMX World Championships are coming up, the UCI wanted to do an interview with among others, Gerrit Does. The official registered interview can be found at the UCI website as well. Here the complete interview. Interview not edited what was done with the UCI published interview, due to lack of space at the UCI website. June 24th. 2014.
2014 UCI BMX World Championships. Questions for Gerrit Does, interview by Jane
UCI: When you first saw BMX in the USA in 1974 you were immediately seduced. Why?
GD: At the time I planned to stop with my own career in moto-cross and started already coaching and training young and upcoming riders. I also saw very young kids of about 4 / 5 years riding small moto-cross machines at tracks and I did not like that very much. Too many crashes back then. Kids had no co-ordination ánd the power of the engines were too strong to handel for these youngsters. When I saw a BMX race in the USA, instantly I thought, THIS it thé way to prepaire young kids for motorcycle moto-cross. A lot of coordination is needed to ride a BMX bike and its better to do that at a speed that fits the rider. When kids get tired, they stop peddling. On a MX machine they can keep the throtel wide open. When tired, that can cause crashes and injuries.
BMX is coordination, power, stamina, mental attitude, "reading" a track and technicaly riding a bike, perfect teaching school for future motorcycle moto-cross riders. So, that's why!
UCI: At first you saw BMX as a training school for moto-cross. At what point did you start to see it as a sport in itself?
GD: Officialy I started getting BMX organized in 1978 in Holland and in around 1983, during the I.BMX.F. Worlds at Ponypark Slagharen in Holland, I realized myself for 100% that this sport could be a sport in itself for sure. It's potential was shown during this worlds.
UCI: You already contacted the IOC in 1981. What made you think that BMX could become an Olympic sport?
GD: Pure enthausiasm, being an idealist and ofcourse I was ingenuous in this field at the time. After I received a letter back from the I.O.C. Switserland, telling me the criteria a sport had to meet to be able to apply for Olympic recoqnition, I woke up directly. First goal was now to promote, market and expend the sport of BMX, let the sport grow and maybe in the far future apply for Olympic recoqnition with the I.O.C. again.
UCI: How did you feel when BMX finally became part of the Olympics in 2008?
GD: After 1981 it became a dream to get BMX into the Olympics. What helped a lot was the fact that the Olympic Committee wanted to modernize its organization and have new, spectacular modern sports into the the Olympic Games, that appealed to the youth of the world. A big change was also that pro's were allowed to compete in the modern Olympic games. All of this happened during the '90 s and to realize this change it would take several years.
I was absolute stoked when I learned through Mr. Hein Verbruggen that BMX would become an Olympic sport in 2008. I would have loved to be present during the 2008 Olympics and the first ever BMX event in the Olympics in Beijing – China. Sadly I became ill in July, meningitus and after 2 weeks in hospital, on the first day I was back home again, I was watching BMX at the Olympics from my bed, in the middle of the night here in Waalre – Holland. Tears in my eyes watching the event, fantastic!
UCI: You have worked tirelessly for 40 years promoting, organising, managing BMX. Can you name 1 or 2 of the highlights?
GD: Now that is kind of difficult. I do have several highlights. I will just mention them, o.k.?
– International BMX started by founding the I.BMX.F. In all modesty I am proud to have been the motivator to start the I.BMX.F. and afterwards being the General Secretary pulling the wagon and setting goals. Ofcourse with the help of my dear friends George E.Esser (rip) – USA, Tadashi Inoue – Japan and several others.
– Another highlight was organizing the 1983 I.BMX.F. Worlds in Holland, which event was unique for that period of time. Those present then, are still talking about the professional organization, the number of spectators (15.000), the fantastic promotion and shows of all USA Pro's present at the time. For many years the Worlds in Slagharen has been an example for other organizations, how to organize a worlds.
– An important highlight was the merge of I.BMX.F/FIAC into the UCI in 1996. New Olympic rules and policy forced UCI-FICP-FIAC to reorganize. The amature division of UCI called FIAC, seized to excist, as well as the professional devision, FICP. BMX became part of the UCI and BMX was now under one worldwide governing body for cycling. By the way, my dear friend Louis Vrijdag, I.BMX.F./FIAC Chairman and later on UCI BMX President has done a great job, getting I.BMX.F. to merge with UCI in the '90 s.
– Last but not least BMX becoming an Olympic sport in 2008, was absolute top and more then a highlight, I think. Because of this, BMX could make a big step profesionalizing the Olympic classes, Elite Men and Elite Women.
UCI: Any regrets?
GD: Absolutely NO regrets. All I have done came from the heart and with respect for people in general. Honestly has been key for me, I hate politics. No regrets what so ever.
UCI: You organised the World Championships in the Netherlands in 1983. Do you have any statistics from these (number or riders, countries participating etc)?
GD: Yes ofcourse, already then I knew statistics, how simple ever, were very important. On my website you can find several statistics over the years as well on events, number of riders, countries participating and so on.
1983 I.BMX.F. Worlds in Slagharen - Holland: 2 day event, 1031 entries, 633 races, 17 countries representing 4 continents, 15.000 spectators, finals broadcasted on one of the 2 main National TV stations at the time, AVRO TV, 1.5 milj. viewers, AVRO TV did sell this one hour program to 4 other countries at the time. + tons of newspaper articles Nation wide etc.etc. Again, we talk 1983 !
UCI: The World Championships come to Rotterdam in just a few weeks. How will they differ from those in 1983? Do you help / work with the organisers?
GD: The general experience for riders, supporters and spectators will be about the same. However, BMX racing itself changed a lot since the early days. In the '80 s racing was fierce. BMX is a contact sport and that is what you saw in the old days. Sometimes out of a group of 8 riders, about all of them were in a pack till the last corner. At an around 400 meter track and a 3 meter high starting hill, the Pro's finished a lap in about 36-38 seconds. Not so many obstacles as today and therefore realy close racing and a lot of power peddling. Accidents happened, like in any sport were speed and contact is involved, but in general no career ending injuries. Only flat pedals were used.
What changed is that we do have now 8 meter high starting hills (Elite classes), top speed at the bottom is around 60 km per hour in Elite men and around 58 in Elite women class and after the first turn the speed is about the same as in the '80's, average around 35-38 km per hour. All Elite riders are clipped in and many more obstacles on the track then in the early days. So instead of pure power and technic, now technical riding is most important.
I believe physicaly Pro riders from back then and the present Elite riders are about the same. Mentaly I believe the old school Pro's were stronger then the present Elite riders, generaly speaking ofocurse. That has also to do with changes over the years in our world, if you know what I mean. Specialy the old school USA Pro riders were great promotors of our sport, today the accent lies more in concentrating on racing and less in being outgoing and promote/ market your sport. There are exceptions ofcourse like Caroline Buchanan from Australia.
Technicaly the present riders improved a lot, all though several old school Pro's still race at top level in the Master class, racing the same track (except for the starting hill) as the Elite do. Most impressive progress has been made by the Women BMX racers. Were Elite men made an about 5 till 6 % progress in about 15 years, I think Elite Women made a 15 till 20 % progress, specialy in the field of technical riding (jumping).
Because of the fact Eilte riders do use click pedals and BMX is still a contact sport, due to the danger of crashing when hitting eachother, one sees more carefull riding then in the early days. Often I do see so called “train trailing”, so not a compact group of riders fighting for their position, but racing behind one and eachother, after around turn 2 till the finish. Sorry to say, but due to the click pedals, over the past years more career ending injuries occurred and that is a bad development, I think. Still I want to state, that I love to see riders race these new Supercross tracks, just looking at the riding technic. Since 2011 and specialy within the World Cup / SuperCross events I noticed a tendency by trackbuilders of making more extreme and difficult obstacles.
The idea was to make the sport more spectacular. However, it also became more dangerous and it caused many bad accident to happen. I can say I am more then happy to see UCI giving exact directions now on how to built a BMX track (standard and World Cup tracks) for the coming years. UCI should keep safety as there number 1 priority ánd it is also better for publicity not having realy bad accidents happen. We must find other ways to make BMX more attractive for the outside BMX spectators.
Pitty to say, that it is not possible to built an outdoor track (400 mtr) indoor so far. As in New Zeland, I think this track in Rotterdam will be too short too, sorry to say. It should be a 38-40 sec.lap track for Elite class, it will probably be around 25 max., which is a pitty. A good start and being a sprinter is essential now. UCI should work in this topic too (and they do, I understand). I can tell you much more about all of this, but my quess is, no space !!!
YES, I will be involved in the side-events of this 2014 UCI BMX Worlds, more specific the BMX MUSEUM and the REUNION of BMX WORLD CHAMPS.
UCI: Does it give you a sense of pride to see the Worlds return once again to the Netherlands? How do you feel?
GD: Ofcourse it gives me pride. This is the 4th Worlds in Holland since I.BMX.F. started organizing World Championships in 1982. It's fantastic to have the Worlds back and show Holland spectators the development of the organization and riders. At top level it's a professional sport now since the Olympics (the American Pro's were already professional in the early days, now the rest of the world is too).
UCI: Do you know the current stars of BMX?
GD: Ofcourse. I still follow the top class events like the European Championships, the World Cup/SuperCross events and the World Championships. I also go to these events when close by. One of my favorites is Latvian rider Maris Strombergs. His country with only about 2 million inhabitants holds a 2 times Olympic Champ, Strombergs. There are around 400 riders in Latvia and they have very strong riders. Lots of respect for their way of living the sport of BMX. I am so proud to have been kind of a teacher/advisor for those who started BMX in the late '80 s in Latvia, Mr. Aldons Vrublevskis and Mr. Janis Silins.
UCI: The first bike you imported in 1976 weighed 15kg. Technology and technique has evolved…. For the good? Is it still basically the same sport as in the 1970s?
GD: Personaly I never got involved in business concerning BMX products. I wanted to have a neutral position in the sport, so I was not involved in selling products or anything else in the early years. It was my brother in law Pierre Karsmakers, who was a professional moto-cross rider for Yamaha in the USA, who imported the first BMX bikes, parts and clothing into Holland in 1976.
For sure technoligy developed, mild steel, became chromoly, aluminum, titianium etc. Frames became longer and much stronger. They (frames, forks etc.) must be able to stand a lot of pounding when raced on at a SuperCross tracks. But basically the bikes are the same as in the early days. In ATB/MTB development was much stronger if you compare 1980's bikes with todays ATB/MBT bikes.
And YES, basically BMX today is the same as in the '70s / '80s. Even the money Elite make are not that spectacular. That's the only thing that has to change too now, I think, even to get the attention of the mass media: big price money. At a Worlds Darts, winner goes home with 500.000 euro's. A World Champ in BMX should at least win around 50.000 euro's, just for that race.
A lot of time and effort is put into the sport by top riders and I don't see them benefit from all that work after they stop their career as a BMX race. Exceptions are there ofcourse, but it concerns only a handful of riders. It has been the same though with the old school Pro's that “formed” our sport. Not many have become “rich” during there activ period as racers.
UCI: Could you have imagined back in the 1970s that BMX would be as popular as it is today: a World Cup series, an Olympic sport…
GD: It sounds crazy maybe, but I have always believed in the potential of our sport, absolutely. We had World Cup events too (1995 and on) in the early days, but ofcourse, now all is much more professional organized, also due to the fact we are an Olympic sport in the meantime. I dreamed of BMX being an Olympic sport, but I doubted for a long time, it would become an Olympic sport. Thanks to new Olympic policy ánd hard work of among others Mr. Hein Verbruggen, BMX is an Olympic sport now.
Still I am somewhat worried about the future. We must maintain our status, improve the quality of organizing events, have international events world wide on at least 5 continents, so still a lot of work to do. The sport of BMX has finaly become an adult sport since 2008, now we must make sure we keep the balance and expend even more.
UCI: And the future of BMX. How do you see it? What is in store?
GD: As I said above, still a lot of work to do. BMX did get a boost from being an Olympic sport. During the London Olympics 2012, BMX got the respect from athletes from other Olympic sports and BMX got the impulse to upgrade BMX tracks to the present levels not only in England, but also in the USA, South America, Australia, Europe and elsewhere. For many years, tracks stayed like they were 20-30 years ago, maybe some small changes. Since 2012 it looks like everybody is upgrading their BMX tracks to the new standard, which is very good. Another step ahead. What disappoints me is the fact, that I expected a larger growth of the sport in numbers of riders. It's also very difficult to find statistics on numbers of license holders per country and even world wide of organizations affiliated with UCI.
We must focus on development in that sence too.Too much focused on BMX racing, organizing events etc. per country, more attention should be given to promoting and marketing our sport, even today. Although being an Olympic sport, BMX in Holland is considered a “small” sport. We do have around 3000 licenseholders (within 2 organizations that is, KNWU and NFF). Around 2006/2007 this number was about 1200, so the Olympics did have an impact alright. To compare, hockey has 400.000 players, soccer even much more. In 1987-88 we did have around 6000 licenseholders, so still a lot of catching up to do. My experience tells me, that this kind of development has been going on in ALL countries worldwide over the years. The famous “up and downs”. Again, still a lot of work to do.
The future? I hope UCI will make BMX at the highest level saver, bring back the starting hill for Elite ánd Junior riders to 6 meters and for “standaard” tracks to min. 3, max 3.5 meters. I would love to see tracks built over 400 meters minimum long, were stamina, endurance, power/sprint, riding technic (skills) can be seen on a track. Not only spectacular racing is interesting, but specialy close and fierce competition is exiting for spectators. Hopefully a mix can be found. BMX Racing must come back and it should not become BMX STUNT Racing. Insiders know exactly what I mean.
UCI: Did you ever imagine at that point that BMX could become an Olympic sport?
GD: I think I kind of answered this question already somewhere above, didn't I? Again I dreamed of BMX becoming an Olympic Sport. Did not expect it to happen that quickly, but again, the Olympic Mangement Committee decided many years ago to include modern and new sports in the Olympics and BMX was lucky to be one of those sport. Ofcourse the fact BMX being under the wings of the UCI, which organisation was already inside the Olympics, made it a bit easier to realize. Anyway it's fantastic being an Olympic sport for sure.
One thing should also be clear to the outside BMX people, the difference between BMX Racing and BMX Freestyle. The name “BMX” is used for both disciplines now and it should “BMX Racing” when you talk racing on a track and “BMX Freestyle” when we talk Vert, Street, Ramp etc, doing all kinds of cool tricks. BMX FRESSTYLE in the Olympics through the UCI should be the next step. Wouldn't it be great to have BMX Freestyle in the Olympics too? I am 100% in favour of that.
Note: picture Gerrit Does together with former USA pro's Eric Rup (l) and Greg Hill (r) during the UCI BMX SX at Chula Vista, Cal. - USA in 2011.
Here the original interview taken from the UCI website
Title: UCI BMX World Championships: A look back in time with “Mr BMX” Gerrit Does
Description: When the UCI BMX World Championships come to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in July, few will be more proud than the host nation’s own “Mr BMX” Gerrit Does.
For if cycling’s youngest Olympic discipline has reached the status it enjoys in Europe today, it is in no small part thanks to the man who has worked tirelessly for the last 40 years promoting, organising and managing the sport.
It all started back in the 1970s when Gerrit Does was on a motocross training camp in the USA and first set his eyes on a BMX bike. Seeing it as an excellent training ground for his main sport, he brought the BMX fever back to Holland. He organised demonstrations, lectured and visited local clubs, staging the country’s first official race in Veldhoven in 1979.
“BMX is all about coordination, power, reading a track, mental attitude and technique – a perfect learning school for future motocross riders… but it was around 1983 during the I.BMX.F Worlds that I fully realised that BMX was a sport in itself.”
The I.BMX.F? That’s the International BMX Federation that Gerrit Does founded in 1981. The 1983 World Championships? They were the ones that Gerrit Does organised at Ponypark Slagharen, the Netherlands, and which already attracted more than 1000 athletes from 17 countries and 15,000 spectators.
This history of BMX is long and rich and minutely recorded in Gerrit Does’ dedicated website www.universityofbmx.com.
The evolution of racing
So how will the 2014 UCI BMX World Championships differ from those over 30 years ago in Slagharen?
“Although the overall experience for riders and spectators will be the same, BMX racing has changed a lot since the early days,” observes Does. “Back then the riders rode a 400-metre track with a three-metre starting ramp. There were not as many obstacles as today so racing was very close and required a lot of pedal power.
“Now with the eight-metre start ramps for the Elite classes, the top speed at the bottom is around 60kmh for the Elite men and 56km/h for the women. There are many more obstacles so instead of pure power, technical riding is most important. Technically, the riders have greatly improved. The most impressive progress has been made by women,” he adds.
While in general athletes today are less outgoing and more race-oriented than before, Gerrit Does applauds certain stars such as World Champion Caroline Buchanan, who invest time and energy in promoting and marketing their sport.
He is also a fan of Latvia and its two time Olympic Champion Maris Strombergs. “Latvia has only around 2 million inhabitants and 400 riders but they are very strong. I have a lot of respect for their way of living the sport of BMX.”
BMX at the Olympics: a dream come true
“Mr BMX” saw his dream come true in 2008 when the discipline became part of the Olympic programme. Although he would have loved to be in Beijing for this Olympic début, illness meant that he watched the racing from his sickbed in the Netherlands “with tears in my eyes. It was just fantastic.”
“I had dreamed of BMX becoming an Olympic sport and it has certainly received a boost as a result. During London 2012, BMX got the respect from athletes from other Olympic sports.”
But it is by no means the be all and end all for a man who will never rest on his laurels: “Now we must maintain our status, improve the quality of event organisation and have international events on five continents. There is still a lot of work to do.”
And a last word….. “wouldn’t it be great to have BMX Freestyle at the Olympics too?”.
Material for another chapter on the University of BMX website!
Photo: Gerrit Does with former USA pros Eric Rupe (left) and Greg Hill
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