Web Extra for Dirt Rag #143: Jeff “Frosty” Frost Interview

If one name is synonymous with the US National Mountain Bike Series, it could be Jeff Frost. “Frosty” was a key factor in the series, making sure the events ran smoothly even under the most trying of weather conditions, as well as taking care of his riders’ most urgent needs on every level. His was an often-thankless position at the helm of the National MTB Series. Yet, after watching him and his staff work tirelessly all weekend at the USA Cycling MTB National Championships to ensure the quality the event deserved, seeing Jeff enthusiastically cheer on the kids and beginner racers reinforced to me his depth of passion for this sport. During his tenure, some of the best races and athletes in the world had emerged from under his start banner. Jeff has seen it all, from the legendary battles of the sport’s beginnings, to nurturing the heroes of tomorrow.

DR: What was your title/job description and tenure at USA Cycling/NORBA?

JF: Jeffery Frost, currently owner, BlueWolf Events. I managed the NORBA National Championship Series/National Mountain Bike Series for five years. In addition, I worked as race director/technical director at NORBA NCS venues from 1993-2008 in association with Mount Snow and Galeforce.

DR: The NORBA National Series was the first and used to be the absolute most prestigious off-road racing series in the world. You were involved since the heyday of the late ‘90s at the height of mountain biking’s popularity. To what do you attribute the success of the series during your tenure at NORBA?

JF: Sponsorship dollars and riding the wave of mountain bike popularity in the United States.

DR: Where has USA Cycling been weak with mountain biking regionally, nationally and internationally? Could they have done more with resources or general attention to slow the decline?

JF: Weak is not the right word—the role of USA Cycling is very different than most understand—they are first and foremost a membership organization. Their support of racing has been tremendous through the years. Every organization has its critics, but by and large USA Cycling has done the best it could with the resources available.

DR: A lot of people have many opinions on what USA Cycling did not do for NORBA/NMBS, particularly the gravity focus (coverage, resources, etc.), to the point where some top riders even boycotted our national series. Care to comment?

JF: Boycott is an interesting choice of words. I prefer stating it that the top riders choose to race on the international level and with new events domestically. The NCS/NMBS has long struggled with the balance between professional and amateur racing, particularly with the gravity discipline.

DR: What lessons has or could have USA Cycling learned from the past regarding this operating model?

JF: It would appear, with the creation of the US Cup Series, that the “national series” is working on a model that may succeed in the the years to come. Energy and passion have never been short on the national series, and the new leadership at USA Cycling, Kelli Lusk and Scott Tedro from SHO-Air, seem to have things well in hand.

DR: The model at the time was very successful in generating interest, breeding U.S.-based competitors and champions on an international level, seeding local and regional riders to national level competition and building a culture. What elements of that model are workable in today’s cycling competition, culture and economic climate?

JF: The same things continue to apply—the national series needs to be the goal of each and every local/regional rider to compete in. Resources always are the key…back in the day the National Series had little or no competition for funds, both from riders and sponsors. Now there are so many events, activities and opportunities for both riders and sponsors to spend their limited dollars with.

DR: Though race participation has somewhat declined on the national level, the riding public has grown and matured, with a lot of diversity in riding styles and cultural identities. What do you see as the possibilities of tapping into the new breeds and how might these diverse interests be corralled for the greater good of the racing public?

JF: I do not know…I think the riders will decide which events work and we need to continue to develop those.

DR: You and I had talked about a slightly different model for events incorporating more urban venues, events and focus. Festival atmosphere, slopestyle events are huge internationally and draw from all aspects of the off-road riding and racing culture. Capturing this and offering events for racers (competition) and riders (seminars, demos, festival atmosphere) at resorts close to urban population centers seems like a win-win situation. Granted, this takes tremendous effort and collaboration from USA Cycling, the local organizing committee and the riding populace, but it is possible (Crankworks for example). An all-inclusive collaborative package held at a suitable venue near a population center with entertainment and promotion could be a great value. Your thoughts?

JF: This certainly is a question that continues to be asked…since I started in this sport. Crankworx is a bad example—it was created and funded for many years by the local government, and subsidized with tourism dollars. Now that it has moved to private ownership we will see how it goes. USA Cycling is not responsible for funding events—we as promoters are, and those dollars are scarce right now. Could an event work under those circumstances you outline above? Absolutely. We have yet to find the perfect convergence of all those things you mention above—we will, just not yet.

DR: Looking down the trail, where do you see USA Cycling’s National Mountain Bike Series in the future?

JF: It has survived for twenty plus years—the brand is strong. It will continue to be the Series that all of us choose to race in when we want to test ourselves against the best of the best, both on the amateur and professional level.

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