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"Downhill doesn't belong in the Olympics!"

"We tried that already! We looked like assholes!"

"Show us definitive figures that will prove profitability."

"Downhill doesn't need the Olympics. Just let grassroots growth be enough."

"Olympic inclusion will ruin the spirit of our sport."

Oh, I've heard it all. I've read it all. I've listened to arguments for snow biking in the Winter Olympics (REALLY?! Ummmm... No) and I've been pushed towards insanity by multi-rider judged event suggestions, costumed Olympic events and people who ask "What's downhill?" mid-conversation.

I've been laughed out of a few meetings and was even hung up on during a phone call. THAT is how strongly a lot folks feel about having downhill racing included in the Olympics. From arguments predicting the ruination of the sport to the utter financial failure of the cycling industry, there's a lot of half-assed logic floating around out there, including my favorite: "But how will they even judge that?!" My answer: the same way we're doing it now... Against a clock. In fact, Olympic inclusion isn't difficult to imagine. It's easy to visualize, especially if you've been to any of the World Cup races or an Olympic qualifying event for any of the speed sports currently involved. But when I bring up Olympic inclusion, I frequently get questions of 'WHY?!?!' and accusations of losing my mental faculties.

Humor me for a few minutes though. Pretend for a second that we're business professionals discussing a theoretical investment in a potentially wildly profitable product.

First, we have to look at the current status of said product: niche. Very niche. Niche and expensive. It's a well-known and much-loved product inside of it's respective industry, but is it the strongest performing product in said industry? No. Mostly because it's up against entire cultures and subcultures. Secondly, it simply doesn't have the kind of exposure that other products inside of its selling group have. However, this product is gaining ground quickly, despite the initial consumer commitment. So quickly that large, multi-national companies all over the world have chosen to invest in said product as alternate means of income as climate change progresses. Theoretically, there is demand. And where there is demand, there is potential.

Downhill is the product. Similar products are freestyle skiing, snowboarding, surfing and skating. The investors are ski resorts and the outcome are the lift-accessed and shuttle-driven bike parks popping up around the world.

Downhill racing in the Olympic Games would not only introduce downhilling to a world that is largely unaware of such an amazing sport, but also create an entire economy within the bike industry for current, former and future athletes, as well as bike company testing. It would pull national cycling federation funding. How? Olympic teams. For example, take a look at the US Ski Team or the US Freeskiing team. Both teams get federal funding from the USOC, as well as outside corporate sponsors (Visa, Audi, etc). Because of those sponsorships and federal funding, coaches, trainers and specialists of all sorts are given jobs, with many of them being former professional athletes. They have junior development teams, private fitness and conditioning centers and have INVESTED in the future of skiing. They've created an entire economy amongst themselves that's based largely on Olympic inclusion, and it works. Cities and towns fight to have a US Olympic team train in their town. Companies proudly broadcast their support of these teams and some even gain tax exemptions for supporting their national team.

The Olympics are the world's largest sporting stage; Downhill is, by action and definition, an elite sport. It's difficult. It's demanding. It's terrifying. It's calculated and strategic. Why NOT give the entire world a chance to watch the amazingness unfold? Better than that, why not give the entire world the chance to watch as single individuals beat the clock? It could be a series of qualifying races for each country (much like world championship teams), and then semi-finals and final races for the men and women. It's easily visualized because our current format fits well inside of an Olympic criteria. Our current athletes fit well inside of a strictly-regimented anti-drug use program and our teams already adhere to a multitude of UCI standards. Olympic inclusion would also give equal parts value to both male and female athletes, as well as the opportunity to proudly ride for a home nation. As an Olympic sport, downhill racing would incentivize growth and performance amongst grassroots events and young participants, as well as being a catalyst for fair, even and accurate race results reporting. It would create a future for young athletes looking to make a living racing bikes, and it would build a road for ex athletes looking to give back to the sport they love most.

Another argument is "Hey, we need mountains! It's mountain biking! Name one summer Olympic venue with mountains!" Sure, we would need a mountain. That's kind of important. But if you look at the next two cities to host the summer Olympics (Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and Toyko in 2020), both are prime locations for an Olympic downhill course fairly close to city limits. After the multi-city 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, it's not unreasonable to ask visitors to travel to different venues (Utah had more than 10 venues that hosted different events). People will go where the events go, especially one as exciting as downhill racing, which brings us to my next point: attractiveness. I'm a bit biased, but I do have to say that downhill racing is uniquely fun to watch. I've never taken a friend to a race who hasn't enjoyed themselves and been fascinated by the varying skills, speed and styles of the individual riders, not to mention line options and technical difficulty. It's an attractive sport because of the risk and skill involved, but also because of the control, focus and athleticism required. It always has been and I can safely say that I'd much rather watch downhill racing than some of the other sports currently on the Olympic roster (hello, speedwalking, I'm looking at you). In all seriousness, downhill racing is one of the only cycling disciplines not included in the Olympics, and while some say that this preserves the integrity of the sport, one can also argue that it costs us legitimacy as a sport. If we aren't sure enough of the soul of our sport to push it forward and invest in it, why should anyone else?

In short, downhillers must be the ones to decide the future of downhilling. Through design or neglect, we'll be the ones who dictate what happens to downhill racing, inside or outside of the Olympics. The athletes, the teams and the companies involved must give ourselves a voice. We have to get involved if we want to control what direction our sport will go, and that includes both the IOC and the UCI. The only people who have control of the sport are the ones stepping up and taking it on. It's no longer a question of 'why', but instead, 'why not?'

Is it perfect? No. It never will be. But is it a step up from what we currently have? I truly believe so.

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