Perspective on Cross Vegas Sep 16, 2014

2014 Cross Vegas

Let me begin this by saying this is by no means a pitty party post (PPP), it’s more of an open letter, or apology – the latter of which I’m still not sure I owe to anyone, but it’s easier to make mends than it is to carve a soap box from stone. And I suck at using a chisel.

2014 Cross Vegas

This perspective is from my photo spot for the evening, at the Giro VIP tent, the epicenter of it all. Coincidentally, Giro issued a statement on their Facebook.

Cross Vegas, year after year, is a giant event where people from all over the USA come to enjoy an evening of racing. Yes, it’s also a party. Beer and alcohol are served, people get drunk and have a good time. Each year, racers air the flyover, take beer handups, get heckled and best of all, race bikes. I can recall beer being sprayed in some capacity every year I’ve been in attendance, during the Wheelers and Dealers event…

This year, it was elevated and not in some insignificant metric. It was exponentially elevated, even during the pro race. Beer was thrown, “hooker cards” were thrown, words were thrown. Even trucker hats from a components company were thrown at the pro field.

It was disrespectful and looking back on it, I’m not happy with my behavior either. While I didn’t throw anything, I certainly engaged with the behavior by encouraging beer handups, joining in with the shouting / heckling and yes, documenting it with my camera.

Initially, I didn’t think I did anything wrong. I’m just there, shooting photos, documenting the race. No harm done, right? Well… right and wrong.

My modus operandi for the Radavist is about having fun and trying to not take cycling so seriously, but even this went over the line, considerably. I think Dan Chabanov’s perspective is spot on. People want to party at cross races and people want to race. Don’t push the party on people who want to race and vice versa…

“I know of no racer, not one, who’s going to begrudge anyone the right to have a great time at a cyclocross race. We want you to come out and have a swell time. But don’t show up if your goal is to force the party on the racers. The flip side of the super-serious bike racer is the ass yelling at that racer to have more fun.” – Dan Chabanov

So, where am I going with this? I’m not sure exactly. As I said, I didn’t throw anything all evening, except for some high fives, but I could have done less to encourage the beer throwing. Part of growing a community is nurturing it and making it a positive environment.

All I want is for cycling to be a positive community and I know that I’ve got a reputation in the industry for being a party animal, but I’ve never been accused of being disrespectful. Not like last week. It bums me out, but I can’t say that because I’m sure Sven and Lars were pretty bummed out as well.

All the phone calls, emails, comments, Tweets, Instagram comments from anonymous trolls, (mis)directed at me had me in a deep, dark place. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way and I needed a solid few days on the bike to clear my head and gain perspective.

It’s tough to even comment on it, but I can say that if I could relive that evening, I would have handled the situation a lot differently and in saying that, I’m admitting wrong doing. Encouraging raucous behavior at a professional race is in no way cool, or acceptable, so for that, I apologize.

Please, please, please, let’s all take a moment to learn from this and move forward into the rest of the season with a positive perspective. Partying is great, taking racing seriously is great, just don’t push either on people. Having fun is important to me, but being responsible takes precedence.

Love you guys,


  • Richard Sachs

    Nice. I’d carry your water anytime atmo.

    • dan chabanov

      What that guy said ^

  • Ted Arnold

    Good words. Nobody can try to sweep your legs when your willing to do it to yourself.

  • Hope Cyclery

    remind me next year at interbike to hand you more than a couple of swigs of bulleit at the end of the day… you sir deserve a bottle

  • Manny

    I agree with what your saying I was there with you. I was sprayed with beer as I was documenting too, not cool. Throwing stuff and spraying beers on professionals just isn’t right. Wheelers and Dealers are a whole other story. Don’t forget about the drive by fruitys.

  • Josh Patterson

    Nice words, John. I left the Giro party before things got rowdy and somehow missed the whole debacle. As a journalist, I think you were right to shoot and publish images of the over-the-top shenanigans. It seems like the issue most folks had was that your images were framed with captions that lead people to believe you were part of the problem, or that you were condoning the behavior. It’s very easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment, but much harder to step back and admit when the party has gone too far. I think this whole episode will set the stage for a better 2014/2015 cyclocross season. Party on — behind the tape.

  • grayson

    A post featuring basically just a bottle of whiskey as the thumbnail. Another featuring a dude grabbing the beer during a race (not uncommon during cross) and then a post featuring a bottle opener. Then a post about losing weight and thanking it partly to Whiskey. I’m sure I’m projecting, but… Be careful dude.

    You’re a good photographer, business owner and journalist.

    • John Watson

      I live life in moderation, thanks for your concerns though! xo

  • Eric Hancock

    Thanks for posting this. The incidents and the reactions post race made me really uncomfortable. Here’s to hoping this starts clearing the air.

  • quesofrito

    love you.

    • John Watson

      love you, too.

  • Area45

    Good post John. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’.

  • L.A. Dave

    I’ve never been a big fan of the whole heckling thing in ‘cross, either as a racer or a spectator, not judging – just not my thing. But this race was the first time I can actually say that I was embarrassed by it. I’m glad to see that respected (and rightfully so) journalists and brands such as yourself, Giro and Dan Chabanov have taken the time to step out and speak up. Props to you.

  • fyxo

    @danchabanov:disqus is wise beyond his years.

  • Broken and Coastal

    Humble. Reflective. Positive. Good words John. It’s time for Interbike to move on. Move on from Vegas that is. Why not host a cycling convention in a place that actually cares about cycling?

  • Gerben Gerritsen

    Well said John.

  • Hollis Duncan

    John you should go to Belgie cx nats and drink in the atmosphere one year.

  • aradilon

    BTW, the beer throwing and heckling (the other stuff doesn’t) happens in Belgium to but alot less and riders have to ride most races because of several classifications. But they don’t have to be in Vegas if Sven goes there it’s to promote te sport in the USA and it’s fairly easy to just not go to Vegas at the start of a new season. This post is a great insight in to what should happen in a cross, especially the “Don’t push the party on people who want to race and vice versa…” line is what should happen.

  • Simplicityofjoy

    Thanks for that, I think its great, I think you are great and I think yes it sucks if someone spoils your party. For some this party is called racing and for some this racing is their job. I do think that people should get over it quickly, it happened, it wasnt that nice, most will regret it so lets move on. I’m having a beer now.

  • Frank

    Nicely said sir John.
    Like it or not … you are a spokesman/role model for a very wide audience. And with this power (and potential to educate and inspire etc) comes much responsibility. Much like a teacher, or a policeman … you are held more accountable because of your status and profile. But that’s okay … you’ve got the head and hands and heart for it.

  • campirecord

    Adbusters was right, we hadn’t reach bottom yet.

  • evilgordon

    Thoughtful as ever.

  • fiddleback Snyder

    I appreciate your humility in approaching this as something you took part in and in no way endorse this behavior. BUT as a cyclist who feels the often shitty side of cycling industry gets swept under the rug I also appreciate seeing photo journalism of a less than wholesome affair.

  • David Schindehette

    I knew I was going to get sprayed this year and came prepared with a full bottle of electrolyte drink. Still had a great time but all my gear is stuck to the floor of the garage because of all the beer

    • John Watson

      You killed it!

  • FF

    “it’s more of an open letter, or apology – the latter of which I’m still not sure I owe to anyone”

    Firstly you are responsible for your friends, whether you wanted it or not. This goes beyond cross racing into life in general. Also it’s not a very good apology letter if you start it with not being sure if you actually think you need to apologize anyone.

    Secondly: “So, where am I going with this? I’m not sure exactly. As I said, I
    didn’t throw anything all evening, except for some high fives, but I
    could have done less to encourage the beer throwing.”

    You encouraged your friends or the people around you act crazeeey by taking the pics. I was watching the stream and the worst place I saw throwing beer was just after the shimano over pass. The point where you took most of the pictures you published. I was actually really disappointed. Not mainly because of your behaviour but that the photos were not that nice. Pics of people drinkin beer and throwing it onto cat 1 competition racers. Not that the beer throwing on world class athletes is too nice either.

    You take great pics and they are the only reason I come back to your site. Not the product reviews or what should people buy at the next pre order.

    You could have done less to encourage your beer throwing by doing nothing. What you should’ve told your friends is pour the drink down their throats. Shotgunning beer would’ve been fine and photogenic.

    Having fun is great but once your share the stuff you take with the rest of the world you’re responsible for it.

    Take this as a letter from a disappointed viewer of your blog.

    • John Watson

      Sorry to disappoint you.

  • Los Falcon

    Great words John. Appreciate you sharing them.

  • btdubs

    Yeah, I mean would you like to have beer dumped on you if you were racing, professional or not? I dunno. Enthusiasm is good… on the other hand it can be downright disrespectful.

    Cheer on them, not beer on them!

  • mhughe13

    I’m fairly new to your site and cycling so I don’t have a whole lot of knowledge on the incident. But you run an awesome site John, and I think that your willingness to be humble even if you don’t feel like it’s your fault is great. Keep up the good work, stay rad!

    – “The New Guy”

    • John Watson

      Thanks man, means a lot.