The oldest cyclocross race you’ve never heard of
The 24th Annual Outdoors Inc Cyclocross Championships could be the oldest, continuously running `cross race in the country. Its secret to success? Passion, and a paid staff.
Race director Joe Royer is the 62-year-old owner of Outdoors Inc, an independent outdoor sports shop similar to REI. He has run the race since its beginning, with 21 editions of the race also serving as the Tennessee state championships.
Held November 14 this year in downtown Memphis, the Outdoors Inc race has hosted the likes of Ned Overend, Tinker Juarez and Steve Tilford over the years.
As with many low-key but long-standing events, the Outdoors Inc race is fueled by dedication to the sport, not a financial motive.
“I don’t even break even on the race, but I give $3,000 to charity each year,” said Royer. The beneficiary is the Church Health Center, which provides health care for working poor.
“This race for me is kinda like somebody who plays oboe in the symphony; it’s my passion,” Royer said. “Cycling is just a phenomenal sport and I love it. I’m not racing, I still ride. It’s beautiful to watch, to read about. You don’t have to be a racer to be a racing fan.”
Unlike many smaller `cross events, Royer uses all paid staff, leveraging his manpower from his retail operation.
“It’s not Boulder, it’s not Boston, it’s not California,” Royer said. “But it’s one of the races better put on. I try to bring racing to Memphis in a professional race. I want B racers to be nervous when they get there with all the scaffolding.”