Photographs: Provided by James McGraw.
There’s a lot of work that goes into organising a contest that you truly cannot comprehend, unless you are inside of it and have experienced that responsibility for yourself. James McGraw just stepped up to the plate, and in a big way! He had a vision, and rather than just talking about it, he knuckled down with the help of Reklamation Bikes and made Battle in the Rockies happen.
At the age of 44, James’ passion and drive to compete shines brighter than ever, finishing a very respectable 11th place in the 2014 World Circuit year end ranking.
When an individual gives something extra to give back to the sport that’s not just for him, that to me something special, and something that helps flatland grow. As I travel to Denver, Colorado today for the first time, I am excited by the unknown with this event. How will everyone deal with the 6000ft above sea level altitude, what’s the warehouse riding spot like, who’s deejaying? What riders are going to show up and throw down? What is Denver like? It is an exciting time! I wanted to catch up with James before I arrive in Denver to find out what’s going on his mind, read on!
Battle in the Rockies is fast approaching, you are just back from the last two rounds of the World Circuit in Brazil and japan. Did you learn anything from those events that you will bring to your event?
Well I would say I have always had a dream of how I would do a contest. Yes basic format is there, but what I saw at the last two stops on World Circuit was the passion that the rider who put the contest together had. Everyone brings a little different flavor on how things run and the intensity the event builds. Brazil was so fun and you feel confident, because you get a chance to ride the spot and find your line. Japan has always created epic events with a turn out of riders that is unparalleled, but for me and many riders I talk with the stress level in Japan is high and confidence level is low due to very little time on contest surface. The areas are always small and crowded and there is no warm up area. So you stand around for hours and then you go, it is the hardest place to ride, but it separates the men from the boys so to speak. But the after parties and lifestyle is great!!!!
For me contests are no longer about winning or losing it is an excuse to ride with my friends I have all over the world. I know many guys make a living from it like I use to and because of that they take it way more serious, but when all is said and done they reflect on the fun and sessions with everyone. My goal is to have a fairly judged event that is low stress and lots of fun. There are two qualification runs so you can relax if you hit your first, push it in the second you have nothing to lose if you miss you can try again, this helps to really allow riders to shine. So what I will bring to my event that I see in other contest is the passion and love for flatland with a little McGraw twist!
Who is sponsoring the contest and for the record how much prize money are you throwing down for this contest?
Well the sponsors are Reklamation bikes, Redbull, Deco, Flatlandfuel, LLumar window films (product I sell in my auto tint business) Westside tattoo, Cedar Springs Hospital, Quest Bmx, Cemant face clothing, Touch of Shade tint, Colorado Flat Jams, AmFlatland Circuit, some crappy web site called Flatmattersonline, Denver electric, The Mansion night club, London bikes, Sequence, The one and only Terradome where dreams come true, Yellow designs, Pedal action bmx, Sanchos mexican food and Louies pizza, with help from everyone we have great prize packages as well as a large pro purse. Thanks mostly to Fred and Robert as well as my self we have $10’000 for the purse. As it stands we will be paying some out of pocket due to unforeseen expenses that have arose but we are hope full that ticket sales for the finals and t shirts sales will help offset that. No matter what we will deliver in CASH to be clear though this would not be possible to have done the video contest with airfare and everything else if it was not for Reklamation bikes. Fred and Robert have put up alot of money not only to help bring recognition to Reklamation bikes, but truly for their deep rooted love of the sport. I am forever grateful that they have allowed me to run with my somewhat crazy idea.
The location looks amazing, can you tell me about the building, the surface and the work you are doing behind the scenes?
The location was a challenge we had initially had a convention hall that was being donated to the event. The Hall somehow closed up and sold to a church towards the end of the summer leaving us in a very stressful bind. I worked out a deal with my friend who owns almost every bar in Colorado Springs to use space in his bars. He told me sizes and it seemed really good. I waited for a few weeks feeling good about the space to go get photos and upon doing so I discovered that yes the size was good, but the freakin polls in the middle of the floor suck ass. I personally spent the next two weeks trying to secure a spot with no luck. As it turns out due to the fact that Marijuana is now legal here in Colorado warehouse space is simply not available.
In the past two years this town went from a 50 percent vacancy on warehouse space to a 1% vacancy. Every place I looked was rented to weed growers. So after hyping this event up putting my name out there I really was stressed. I drove by a spot on the way to lunch after damn near giving up and saw this spot. I called the number on the building and got the guy listed turns out he was in fact the owner I more or less begged him and explained my situation he then agreed , but I had to rent the space for at least two months so I did, hence unforeseen expense. Is the floor perfect? No nothing is, but I have personally patched any and all chips and holes to make it better. I also scraped by hand spots that had paint to make sure that the surface was the same thru out. I have power washed the floor three times to make sure it is clean and I have no soda on the floor and I can not slip the floor has a smooth finish yet I have yet to slip or slide out. There are a few uneven spots at the seams that as it turns out I have a friend who does cement resurfacing and he is coming down this week to help me even those out. I have rode it and like anything I have found my line and it is really good. I cant see anyone hating this floor. No matter what I know that I have put everything I can into making sure the spot is the best It can be. The actual contest floor measures out at 70-40 foot leaving room for staging and spectators.
Can riders practise at the venue the week before the event?
Because I have rented the spot for several months It will be open the whole time. Riders are welcome to ride all day and night thru out the week leading up to the contest. My only stipulation is respect in the day Monday thru Thursday the surrounding business need to be able to work so music will have to be turned down some and we have to respect other businesses and not congregate being loud. After 5pm all is good. It’s real simple thou I rented this place in my name if someone trashes the place I will have to pay for it. We can ride, have fun, party a little, but we need to respect the obvious boundaries.
Behind the scenes organising a contest, there is a hell of a lot that goes on. Shuttle pick ups, hotel bookings, picking judges, working out format, paperwork, organising the venue logistics, are you offering any of those shuttle type services, riders might not know about?
Yeah as I just said so much goes in to organizing an event like this. We have arranged a couple cars and drivers to try and help pick up riders flying into Denver, because it is 50 minutes north of the springs. If we are unable to get some one rental cars are easily available as well Coloradoshuttle.com who specializes in transportation to and from Denver airport to Colorado Springs. As for the Hotel we listed it several times on the Battle Facebook page, it’s the Holiday Inn Suites, Central Colorado springs discount code is BIT this is located a few blocks from the bar district where after party’s are as well pro finals. The venue address is 3208 N Nevada, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80907, there is alot of surrounding hotels everything is with in a few miles of all aspects of the event and parties.
What contest format are you using?
We will go with standard Amflat format 2 runs best one counts finals for pro and expert. However we will for pro finals have 12 riders and we will do the same battle format as seen in Flatark this format is alot of work, but very fun to watch.
How you going about getting a big crowd at the event additional to the riders that don’t ride flatland?
The town has really got behind me on this event. I am lucky to know the guy who owns all the bars in town and he is helping me out with radio and Tv ads leading up to the event as well as interviews in local papers and on radio and tv. Because I perform alot around town I am well known and have alot of followers that will show up and with the finals being in one of the largest bars in town on a Saturday night with public able to come in for 10 dollars, which is the normal cover charge anyways we will have a big crowd.
Of course, BITR is the AM FLT finals, what are your thoughts on who is going to take the crown in each class?
well AMFlat has had a good year with Real City Spin by Dub this year alot of riders have made the journey to these events. Mine is bring alot of international riders that otherwise have not competed in AMFlat so they will not have a chance to get year end placings. So the year end is the usual suspects I really have no predictions because anything can happen. But I do know that who ever wins expert will be in pro finals.
Anything final I may have missed James that you want to say to all the flatlanders entering and reading this?
I have to say to those of you who have not been to high altitude places before, it is not a joke you will feel the difference. First and for most Drink alot of water it helps and know that when drinking alcohol you will get drunk quicker. Sometimes if you are not use to altitude alot of caffeine like sodas and energy drinks can be bad it is best to really take it easy on the first day until you know how it affects you. I really want to thank everyone who has helped me do this. It has always been a dream of mine to hold a big event and now it is a reality I have brought flatland to my home town. I have to thank my wife for putting up with me on this event there has been allot of extra stress due to this event and all my traveling I am thankful she has reluctantly (lol) put up with me. This event will be hosted by me and my family meaning all of us show up and have a good time my goal is for everyone to maybe not care or remember how they rode when is all over but too remember how much fun this event was and how great it was to be able to ride with everyone no matter if they are one of the best in the world or simply just starting out. See you soon!!!!!
Thank you James, I’m getting ready to board this plane, I will see you and everyone else really soon!