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5 Tips for Hosting Your First Bike Race From Long Time Race Director Bruce Dunn

By: Katherine Santos  March 23, 2023

Hosting a bike race can be a very profitable and rewarding experience.

Hosting a bike race isn't for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of time and preparation to make sure every detail is ironed out before the big day. We sat down with Bruce Dunn, Race Director of the Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race, to understand what it takes to put on a successful event.

USA Cycling: How long have you been hosting races?

Dunn: I have been volunteering at races for over 30 years, but I've been running All Sports Productions Inc. for about 20 years.

USA Cycling: How’d you get into the business?

Dunn: Great story – The amateur version of the Joe Martin Stage Race (which was named after Joe Martin who passed away in 1989) was promoted typically by one of the local cycling teams and generally the president of that team. I took over as president of one of the main local cycling teams and then as an event promoter in the late 90s. I was working as the Director of Development for one of the colleges at the University of Arkansas. It was a great job with tremendous benefits and opportunities, but I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and was restless. At the same time, a good friend of mine who was also a part-time event promoter suggested that I look at going full-time into race production. There was no one in the area doing events for a profession and he had been watching how I was trying to make JMSR a little better each year. Long story short, I left a great job and flew out to USA Cycling to see about putting JMSR on the National Race Calendar. I knew in order to make a living, I needed to have a marquee event. That first year I promoted a triathlon and a criterium in addition to the JMSR and the rest is history!

USA Cycling: Your event has turned into one of the most iconic stage races in America. If you could offer 5 tips for hosting a bike race what would they be?

Dunn: Tip #1: Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer at as many races as possible. You can volunteer at bike races, triathlons, or running races, it all counts! Race production has the best professional development in the world and it’s free…going to other events. You get to learn from what other people are doing and find out what works and what doesn't.

Tip #2: Bike racing in my opinion takes someone who has personal knowledge of racing, and that doesn’t mean there aren’t great promoters who’ve never turned the cranks in anger, but it does give a promoter a better eye for the details. Sign up for a race, learn the sport, and start devising a plan to host your own.

Tip #3: Hire other race directors to work your race with the one caveat…they have to give you a full and potentially painfully honest debrief after the race. Everyone learns from their mistakes and inviting someone to your event that's hosted a race before, will be able to give your a refreshing perspective once the event is over.

Tip #4: Hire a USA Cycling official to work on your crew. An experienced official has seen it all from almost every perspective. I will forever be grateful to the hundreds of men and women who have officiated our events, especially Dorothy Abbott. Her attention to detail and giving us a roadmap for future success many years ago were game-changing.

Tip #5: Listen to your athletes, and let’s be clear that can be extremely painful, but don’t take it personally. They've raced their bike, they know what to expect at a bike race.

USA Cycling is actively working on building a portal that offers additional resources to individuals interested in hosting a bike race. More information will be provided in the coming months.

Photo By: Wesley Hitt