DH1 IS Coming in 2012

nsmb – Would you please tell us a little bit about your background in racing and action sports?

Raymond Dulieu – I have no background in DH racing and actually first stepped on a DH bike right after Crankworx when Rob McSkimming first took me on a few trails and when I got the opportunity to ride couple of trails with Cam McRae in North Van (for the record Ray killed it on a borrowed bike). My background is triathlon, adventure racing and road cycling. I’ve been working in sports marketing since 1986. In the early days for IMG (the worlds largest sports marketing company) thereafter as marketing director at UCI and later the Tour de France. I’ve also been global sponsorship director for Red Bull International and operations director for the UEFA Champions League (the world’s largest club football competition). I created Freecaster back in 2004 and we have specialized in LIVE webcasts since in 2006. 

raymond Dulieu, freecaster, dh1, uci dh world cup, steve peat, greg minnaar

Freecaster gave a huge boost to DH racing world wide. The fanbase and overall exposure of these events has increased dramatically because of your hard work. Did you feel betrayed by the UCI?

No of course not. We had a contract with UCI that comes to an end now. UCI, as a business, is trying to maximise their revenues and if they see an opportunity to generate more revenues from the LIVE webcast, then they should pursue that. The conditions they offered us are not realistic from my point of view. There is no way we could afford to pay 3X more than in the past. But I’m sure other parties could structure it differently e.g. do the commentary from a studio rather than on-site, charge more to sponsors, have economies of scale because there are a broadcaser (Eurosport). In any case, I’m sure UCI will find a streaming partner, but I’m not sure they will, at the price they hope for.

Was it a challenge working with the format and restrictions of the UCI? At times they really seem to have no idea what is good for the sport.

I wouldn’t say that. I’m not the right person to assess their management of the sport. My concern is the marketing and media coverage. There our visions differ. I intend to demonstrate with DH1 that things can be done differently and hopefully better.

What will you be able to do with DH1 in terms of filming and coverage that you weren’t able to accomplish with the World Cup?

First I want to offer more coverage on the top 20 riders. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to show the others, we just want to focus better, show more from the top riders. These are the ones the public wants to see and that other racers can learn from. In order to achieve that we need more cameras, better placement and above all enough time to cover each rider. Take the worlds for example. The production had 23 HD cameras (if I remember well) and we captured Danny Hart over a minute into his winning run because prior we were still covering the rider that started before him. If we can determine the start intervals based on each course on a given day and on the number of cameras available, I think we will have done great progress. Having HD cameras is just icing on the cake.

How will the camera set up and production differ from the UCI coverage we’ve gotten used to?

It will be a Freecaster production that works hand in hand with the event organisation, whereas UCI contracted a very competent TV production company that could not influence key aspects that would have allowed them to do a better job and we had to make due with the pictures supplied.

It’s been reported that you’ll protect the top twenty riders for the final. Does that mean that only 10 riders who are outside that group are able to qualify for each final?

Indeed. The top 20 riders are protected, as are top players on a tennis tournament. These riders can do training runs while others have to qualify to make it in the top 10 of the small final on the Sunday morning. These 10 riders are then part of the main final on Sunday afternoon.

Why protect the top 20 rather than having a free-for-all?

We want to protect the top 20 riders because we anticipate that those are world cup riders. We want them to focus on performing on one run rather than having to go through a qualification process. That will mean less stress for the world cup riders and hopefully will make racing DH1 even more compatible with racing the world cup.

Rob Warner will be back covering DH1. How important was he to the equation?

Through his work at Freecaster, Rob has become world-wide “the voice” of mountain bike. Our success is partly due to his signature colourful commentary. He gave the coverage spirit and identity. Rob is also known as the Freecaster voice and I’d like to further keep it that way.

What do the fans appreciate about Rob?

Rob is very professional. He prepares his race commentary more than most could imagine. Then once behind the mic, it’s all loose and fun. Just like a pro who trains and then seems so easy, so lose when he races and wins. Rob is a mix of knowledge and fabulous entertainment. He has quotes that would inspire Winston Churchill. He is passionate and listening to him LIVE, is like attending the event with your mates. I believe the audience feels as if they were on-site thanks to Rob. That is a unique gift.

You plan to offer a lot more prize money. What was the philosophy behind that?

DH1 is the unproven concept, the underdog. Prize-money means we’re serious about setting up top pro MTB DH racing. It is also my firm conviction that the ones who perform and allow the sport to exist and appeal to an ever-growing audience should also be compensated accordingly. Prize-money in DH are nowhere near what you find in surf or snowboard. Is that normal? I don’t think so.

Freecaster has a great reputation and many fans all over the world – but it’s still a small company. You’ve made a huge leap by committing to this series. What is the plan to allow you to follow through on this commitment?

Yes Freecaster is a three man show. Our business is to produce LIVE webcasts in sports but also in fashion and other industries. DH1 is an opportunity to no longer be amongst those who talk but actually do something. I’m a man of action. My commitment is to give it my best shot. We will have world-class event venues. I’m confident that we will raise the required sponsorship. There are two things that can kill DH1. One is a dispute with the UCI who could prevent riders to compete. The second is if the teams just don’t embrace the series and don’t compete on a regular basis. DH1 is set-up as a PRO series and the concept will thus live and die with the team’s participation. They wanted an evolution in the sport, I’m providing that. Now it’s up to them to come on board and do something about their sport. I have a life outside of MTB, they don’t. I just create an opportunity. Will they seize it?

Can you tell me what teams you have confirmed thus far? Venues?

Two teams have immediately confirmed. Santa Cruz Syndicate and CG brigade. The others have asked for more time. I understand and respect that. They are waiting to see our calendar in order to calculate their race schedule, their race budgets and firm up their sponsors accordingly. 

It’s my understanding that the UCI essentially pushed Freecaster out of covering the World Cup. Do you think they will find a new sponsor/production team to offer something similar to what you did – free universal coverage of each race on the web?

I wouldn’t say that they intended to push us out. They saw how successful we were in terms of audience and coverage and thought it must make a lot of money. They genuinely believe they can raise three times the budget they got from us. I’m sure they will find someone to take over from us but I’m certain it will be at more favourable conditions than the ones we have been offered.

What do you think motivates them? The UCI has been accused of accepting bribes in the past. Do you think something underhanded may be going on here?

I guess your question refers to the reason(s) why UCI made us an unrealistic offer, one they must have known I couldn’t accept. There is nothing suspicious going on, that I’m 100% sure! It’s just a mix of pushing their luck, naivety on what the value of their property is (from my point of view), lack of knowledge on what it takes to webcast the World Cup live. As a result, it’s a missed opportunity to further work with us who have been involved in covering MTB as early as the World’s in Les Gets in 2004.

Is it your feeling that the UCI acts in the best interest of the athletes?

I’m not an athlete/team manager. So sorry, not that I don’t want to, but I’m just not qualified to answer to this question.

Why do you think there is an appetite for another series? Who is asking for this?

No one is asking for another series per se. The general feeling I have when listening to team managers is that they would like to be more involved in how DH racing can be developed and improved. What the teams expressed is probably partly inspired by what lead the snowboard industry to create the TTR, a separate tour not controlled by the FIS as they felt that the FIS (ski federation) was not the most appropriate governing body to manage snowboard, a younger and more progressive discipline than ski. Where the teams expressed a wish for evolution, I decided to act to offer them this opportunity. But that action is not the result of a long concerted process with the teams. It’s an initiative by Freecaster to remain involved in PRO DH mountain bike that I run as an open project inviting teams to actively participate and take leadership in. It is not a crusade nor a feud against UCI but a low cost opportunity to actively test new ways of developing the sport.

What do the racers think about the prospect of adding 6 (or more) races to the calendar?

Steve Peat wrote to me “It will be great to add the DH1 series to the calendar for 2012, this is something the true fans and riders alike have been waiting for” and Greg Minnaar wrote: “Another series is always a positive, especially a series that has the wisdom of working with the Teams and the UCI on there venues and schedules. There has been room for more racing, and its nice to see someone stepping in and getting involved. I’m really excited to get 2012 season underway”

Is the idea to mesh with the UCI calendar so that the races might alternate UCI/DH1?

Absolutely. We want to offer a virtual “13 stops” world cup. Don’t get this wrong. DH1 is not the World Cup but if the teams participate, knowing the course we will ride, our races will be of world cup level and that, I think, is great for the sport.

Do you think a harmonious relationship with the UCI can be forged?

Absolutely. There are people within the sport’s team at UCI who are very engaged and passionate for DH MTB. My intention, following a clear opening from UCI towards DH1, is to register our 6 races as class 2 UCI events. That way, we are on the calendar and the riders can compete at DH1 events without any tension with the UCI.

Obviously the next step is securing a sponsor. Can you tell us how sponsorship conversations are going? How confident are you that you’ll find the right fit?

Conversations with sponsors have not started per se. I know of one or two brands who are clearly seeing DH1 as a great opportunity for them, especially if they come on board early. DH1 has quickly created high expectations amongst the fans and in some cases, the fan support is passionate. Which sponsor wouldn’t want to be associated with a project their target audience feels passionate about? I’m confident we can find the sponsors even if, once the race calendar is known, the main question for sponsors will be whether or not the pros will participate. As DH1 is pitched as a pro series, I anticipate that sponsors will want a cut-off date for the teams to confirm their participation and if the teams are not on board the project could fold.

The UCI’s new sponsor is a strange one – rockyroadsnetwork – a Web site that nobody seems to have heard of.  They claim to have 221,000 visitors per day but they don’t even register on traffic ranking web sites. What do you make of this?

A lot has been written about it. I’m happy that UCI got money from a new sponsor. Beyond that, I’m not willing to comment …

Can you give me the best case scenario as an outcome for 2012?

Dear father Christmas … 😉 I wish that 20 world cup level riders compete injury free in stunning races on the 6 amazing DH1 tracks, and that we raise enough sponsorship to see this through

What is your end goal? What do you hope to accomplish?

Short term: webcast LIVE on Freecaster the best DH racing in 2012. Mid-term, contribute to the development of DH racing with an “open source” philosophy and leave solid foundations for the sustainable development of DH competitions inspired by DH1’s innovations

I can say personally that the excellent coverage and the personality you have brought to the DH circuit has been a revelation.

Thank you but let me first deliver DH1, than we can sit together on your terrace with a fresh beer after a ride on the North Shore, look at the Vancouver bay, and feel that this was yet another great year worth living for.

raymond Dulieu, freecaster, dh1, uci dh world cup, steve peat, greg minnaar

If you’d like to see more and better top level DH racing support DH1 on Facebook by clicking here.

I have enjoyed the hell out of Freecaster’s World Cup coverage – and with DH1 they should be able to do an even better job (no pre-taped sections like they had to do with UCI).  What’s your take on all of this? Roll it out here…

Posted in: News

Trending on NSMB


Please log in to leave a comment.