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Escape Collective goes mountain biking

Welcome to our first cross-country World Cup coverage.

It’s a beautiful sport, cross-country mountain biking. Highly technical, often tactical, with enough equipment optimization to send our tech writers into a tizzy. It’s full of big personalities, fascinating rivalries, and even a bit of road-star crossover. It often doesn’t get the coverage it deserves. 

So, we should do something about that, no? 

Welcome to Escape Collective’s XC coverage. We’re kicking off this weekend, at the first World Cup of the year in Nové Město. We’ll cover the rest of the World Cup calendar this year. This has been a dream since we conceived of this whole project, and we’ve reached it far sooner than we thought we would. 

This expansion is possible because of our members. It’s quite simple when you boil it all down. More members means more revenue means more reporters and photographers means more and better editorial across a broader range of beats. We promised on launch that we would increase coverage areas as membership increased, and this is the first major step in that direction. 

We’re going to start simple. The plan for this weekend is to run a preview (that’s already up), a series of big, beautiful galleries (Piper Albrecht is on the ground shooting for us), as much tech as we can get our grimy little hands on (two pieces are up now – one on a new Pinarello and one on a new Cervelo), and then deeper analysis of both XCO races. There will be GIFs, much like our road racing analysis pieces. We’ll keep roughly this same context mix through the next few World Cups. Later this year, once we reach our next member targets, we’ll hire full-time editors dedicated to off-road beats, slowly layering on deeper, more comprehensive coverage. 

We’re also launching a mountain bike podcast. I’ll hold off on too many of the details, but it’ll include Dave Rome and another mechanic with whom almost any XC fan will be familiar. We’re going to try to kick it off next week. I can’t wait for this – a good XC pod is a glaring omission from my own listening lineup. 

Why cross-country? Most importantly, we love it. I grew up racing mountain bikes, back in the NORBA-series glory days, and much of the staff here ride off-road as much, if not more, than on-road. We’ve always followed the circuit, previously via RedBull and now via GCN. 

It’s hard to make a business case for covering XC under most traditional media models. The total XC audience size is generally considered to be smaller than the gravity/enduro/trail side of mountain biking, which means less focus from the industry and fewer ad dollars to go around. Lucky for us, we don’t operate under a traditional media model. Though the XC audience may be smaller, it is no less rabid. Because our survival depends on members, not ads, providing world-class coverage for a smaller audience is a good business decision. 

Plus, did I mention we love it? 

We know there is a swath of XC stories out there not being told, and we think we’re the right crew to tell them. The goal is to eventually provide the same level of coverage of XC as we do for road racing today. I think we can get there.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with comments, critiques, suggestions, hopes or dreams. We’re going to be experimenting for much of this summer, and the more feedback we get, the quicker we’ll find our sweet spot.