Interview – The Godfather of European BMX, Gerrit Does – Part 3

Parts 1 and 2 here.

Part 3


FIAC also had a World Championship and the way they ran them seemed odd too me. What was your experience if any with that organization? I personally never knew how it all really sat in the big scheme of International Racing?
Another nice question and I can write pages about the time the FIAC existed and started organizing BMX alongside I.BMX.F.

On my website you can read some details, in short I will explain the situation with FIAC.
The Dutch organization called S.F.N. (Stichting Fietscross Nederland) that I started, was of great interest for the KNWU (the Royal Dutch Cycling Federation) which was a member of FIAC and FICP within UCI, at the time.

Two of their board members came to my house in Waalre, to talk about a merge ending 1980.
My principal was, 2 or 3 bicycle organizations in a country competing against each other is not a good thing. Why not make 1 large organization that is a strong organization. KNWU was FIAC (amateur devision) and FICP (professional devision) affiliated and therefore member of the International Olympic Committee. The goal (my goal) of I.BMX.F. was to become finally a member of the I.O.C. Which could have taken many years, but being part of the KNWU such a step would be possible earlier then calculated.

O.K., the Stichting Fietscross Nederland merged with the KNWU in 1981. I became a board member within KNWU and the Chairman for the BMX department. During the 1983 UCI Road Cycling World Championships in Leicester, England, I was invited to be part of the FIAC Annual meeting and I was asked to present the sport of BMX to the members of FIAC. I had a speech prepared, brought a short film on BMX, showed slides and afterwards representatives were able to ask me questions. Within FIAC the main language was/is French. I was able to combine the two, English and French. Important was the fact that I also explained we already had an international organization coordinating BMX world wide, called I.BMX.F. 90% of those present never heard of BMX. The presentation and such went very well and it seemed several delegates were very enthusiastic. At the end delegates could ask questions which I was able to answer well of course.

Instead of contacting the I.BMX.F., the FIAC board had the intention of starting their own BMX department. They appointed an 80+ board member as chairman of a new to be formed BMX section within FIAC. They made their own (crazy) rulebook that looked like a road cycling rulebook, they had really no idea what BMX in fact was all about. The Chairman of the FIAC BMX department was that 80+ year old person with no knowledge of our sport at all. The FIAC organized their first project BMX World Championship in 1984, and it was a big failure. Through the KNWU, the chairman of the BMX department FIAC invited me to Brussels to talk about BMX and about the I.BMX.F.

I had the idea they might be interested in working together or even letting the I.BMX.F. people run BMX events within the FIAC organization. I.BMX.F. had experienced people within their ranks, like the NBL representatives and in the meantime also experienced people from Holland, France and England. The meeting with the FIAC Chairman was a disaster. Since he was THE man from FIAC, they were the decision makers and the people with the power, I.BMX.F. would be gone soon IF they would not work with FIAC. This sounded like a threat almost. They, Mr. Gallé and friends, absolutely did not understand anything about BMX at the time. And that was somewhere in 1983-84. Mr. Gallé and myself did not meet again in Brussels, I refused to go there and talk BMX with people who thought they had the power and we, I.BMX.F., were nothing! I did not want to waste my time and I.BMX.F as well as FIAC went their own way.

However, in 1985 again through the KNWU, the Dutch UCI affiliated cycling organization, was invited to help organize another meeting between I.BMX.F. representatives and the FIAC BoD to talk (so not the BMX community within FIAC, but with the BoD of Fiac). This meeting would take place during the Cycling World Championships in Bassano del Grappo in Italy. Also the first FIAC World Championship of BMX would take place there. Again, on my website universityofbmx.com a report on that Worlds. It was a disappointing WC event.

Anyway, the President of the I.BMX.F. at the time Tony Hoar and myself, Gerit Does went to that meeting. The full FIAC BoD was present, including Mr. Gallé. The chairman of the committee was a Russian man, Mr. Syssoev. Also present was the secretary of that department Madame Juliani. I had previous contacts with her over the mail.

The meeting was a very strange meeting. Chairman Syssoev only spoke Russian, Gallé only spoke French and Madame Juliani was the only one who spoke English. The fact was that board members were telling me what BMX should look like, although they NEVER had seen an event, never had watched races in the USA, where I learned everything about BMX since 1974… this was very frustrating. An again, their attitude at the time was… you guys (I.BMX.F) must join FIAC now otherwise your organization will cease to exist. Tony and myself were able to speak our minds, but it was a one way communication. No sense of going on talking about a merge or something. When Madame Juliani made the next remark, I was done and told Tony, lets go, there is no sense talking any further. She said: But Mr. Does… BMX is NOT a SPORT, it is a PLAY for kids… Well, look where we are standing now in 2019 Madame Juliani!

We know what happened with the FIAC World events, weren’t that great at all. In total FIAC organized 7 BMX Words, their last one in 1990. At that time, around 1989-1990, I.BMX.F. and FIAC were seriously talking with “new” FIAC representatives about working together. My dear friends Louis Vrijdag (at that time President of the I.BMX.F.) did a lot of good work getting an I.BMX.F/FIAC World Championship organized in Norway in 1991. Even though I wasn’t officially a I.BMX.F. board member anymore, I kept good contacts with everybody involved and spoke my opinion on developments, etc. Again check details on my website www.universityof bmx.com section Hall of Fame and then look for Events and Results.

Because I was a member of the KNWU Board I met with Hein Verbrugge who also was a Board member. We became friendly and shared some common ideas, among others “wouldn’t it be great to have BMX accepted into the Olympics”. Hein also was very active within the UCI and was chairman of the UCI reorganization committee. Due to the new ruling, professionals would be allowed to participate in the Olympics. So, there was no need anymore for FIAC and FICP. A new organization form was set under UCI, with a BMX division and among others Hein Verbrugge indeed wanted the I.BMX.F. to join UCI.

He promised me, he would get BMX into the IOC and he did. Of course there were behind the scene politics and hard lobbying going on during around 6 years, from 1990 till the date of merge ending 1995. I kept far away from that, I am not a political orientated guy and for me it took much too long for UCI and I.BMX.F. getting together.

IBMXF merged with the UCI during the 90s. How challenging was this to make happen? And, through the 80s and 90s what kind of politics were happening in the background?
The first combined I.BMX.F. – FIAC World Championship was in Norway in 1991.

I.BMX.F merged with the UCI (after the reorganization UCI, FICP, FIAC), ending 1995. I can tell you this was a very challenging period of 5 years of BMX developing as a world wide sport. I.BMX.F. brought in around 25 to 28 countries organizing BMX, UCI only around 15 at the time. But, they had potential enough of course, looking at the Road Cycling Federations within UCI. Each of them could start a BMX committee now. Now I believe UCI BMX has around 60+ countries involved in BMX and is active on 5 continents, which is great.

Anyway, the first official UCI BMX World Championship was in 1996, Brighton, England. As I told you before, personally I stayed away from politics, I hated that. Especially from the early ’90 I was too busy with running teams and in the beginning the ECC events at Slagharen.

Now everyone was under one umbrella the next first for you came in the UCI World Cup that kicked off in Brighton, England in 1995. How did come up with the idea and pitch the UCI on backing it?
As you know, I always have been active on the side line, even till this day I speak my mind, give my opinion on our sport to the UCI and others world wide. That’s also what I did early 1994. At the time I found that BMX needed a new impulse. The sport of BMX in a way was “formed”, but still not accepted as an absolute TOP sport, in the highest classes executed by professionals riders. People in general still talked about “those adult persons riding 20 inch kids bikes”. The image of the sport had to be changed as well. Since my very good contacts with the UCI and more specific Hein Verbrugge, I wrote a proposal for them to read.

In order to get BMX into the Olympics you had to have a select group of riders, they call them Elite and Juniors now, that executed our sport professionally in all aspects. Important events were needed on all 5 continents and World Championships in the classes mentioned should have representatives from the countries on those continents. Just looking at other Olympic sports, I came to the conclusion we had to change. I wrote a proposal for the UCI called, THE NEW CONCEPT. You can find that CONCEPT on my website – universityofbmx.com – I explained in details what to change to professionalize BMX more then it was up till then.

Among others, we had to start a series of so called World Cup / Supercross events, special for the Elite and Junior classes, more challenging tracks for those groups, since scoring asked for a lot of personal and was not always perfect, a TIMING and REGISTRATION system should be put in place. Transponders, used in motorcycle/car racing and even road cycling already, were needed to do that as well as a new computer program.

We also needed events that would not take all day to execute. If we wanted to attract the outside BMX people, we needed to give a World Cup / Supercross a professional image and serve the public as well, big screens were planned to show lap times, scores , etc. As you know we also added the ATB (All Terrain Bike) class in the beginning to try to get away from the kids bike image and we also tried the 2 lap race as well. All experiments to do something else.

A BMX event called the TROPHY of NATIONS in the setting as execute in motorcycle motocross was suggested. The UCI position was, first get the World Cup off the ground and running. Some things we tried worked, some were cancelled, anyway this was the start of a new development in BMX.

My NEW CONCEPT was well received at the UCI and the BMX Committee invited me during the 1994 Worlds in Waterford Oaks to meet with them and explain my plans. Everybody was exited and I was asked, would you be prepared to bring all of this into effect in 1995. I said YES and officially I was installed as “Project manager World Cup Series” by the UCI Board, more specific by Hein Verbrugge and I started preparing early 1995 for our first “test” event in Brighton England. I was even offered a job at the UCI by Hein, but contract wise wasn’t able to get together since my running job at Ponypark Slagharen as General Manager / Manager Personal was a well paid one.

I started as Project Manager in 1995 and stopped my activities ending 1997. We layed down the basic principles of those WC events. We had to work with almost no budget. To communicate with the riders we/UCI started an Information Bulletin, that was sent directly to all participants in the World Cup series. The first 2 years I was able to get TV involved with the help of sponsors, still we had to really fight to get bigger sponsors interested.

These events really developed when the UCI announced that BMX would be an Olympic discipline in 2008. It took the IOC’s recognition to get things really going after about 13 years of struggling (money became available). Because of the Olympic Games the image of our sport has changed for the better with the outside BMX people. Nowadays I don’t hear ANYBODY say anymore, “Oh… BMX those big guys on 20 inch kids bikes”. We won that battle for sure.

Last thoughts?
Well, I guess this is it for now. It took me too long to get the answers to your questions, sorry, too busy with my other “sport” motorcycle motocross. Got involved in classic events and organized several “reunion” type of events with old friends. And I am talking Grand Prix level reunions and happenings. Beside BMX, MX is important for me. Upcoming weekend Mieke and I go to the MOTOCROSS des NATIONS at Assen in Holland where we will have a VIP treatment. Great to meet old friends again. In February 2020 I hope to celebrate my 75th birthday. Looking back I can say we had a fantastic life with up and downs, as everybody has had I am sure.

One thing I regret and that is the fact that I never have been to an Olympic BMX event. As probably the first initiator through I.BMX.F. who had contact with the I.O.C, in the early 80s, I planned to be in Beijing for the 1st ever BMX Olympics. Meningitis kept me in the hospital at that time. Tokyo 2020 could be a possibility, could meet my fellow original founder of I.BMX.F., Mr. Tadashi Inoue then too, but financial possibilities keep me down here in Holland. Will watch it all on TV again probably.

Well, this is it… wishing you all reading this, the very best in life, in BMX and everything else. It has been my absolute pleasure being able to help develop international BMX and see today what came out of all our combined activities since 1974. Love and Peace,

GERRIT DOES

PS
Jippie… at the Motocross des Nations event, Team NL won the World Championship title for the first time since it’s existence. Coldenhoff, Herlings and Vlaanderen did a great job at a difficult track because of the rain, but… they won.

The atmosphere overall was absolute GREAT during the event. Will sent some pictures by email.

This is an event UCI should pick concerning BMX 100% for sure, they should. Time trials are a waste of time, even now with 3 riders on the track (new try-out!!??). BMX is related to MX, why does UCI take road cycle activities to try to improve BMX… They should look at what is good in motorcycle motocross from were BMX originated and implement that. One thing for sure, that is a BMX TROPHY of NATIONS in the setting as done in MX.

They can use the MANUFACTURER Team Trophy Rules and use the following classes to run such an event: Elite Men, Elite Women, Junior Men, Junior Women and the Masters class. They run for the World title NATIONAL teams.

Probably this week I will write a letter to the UCI and repeat my suggestion from the ending 80s early 9s to get a TROPHY of NATIONS organized soon !!!!!! Will sent you a copy.

Cheers, GD, CARPE DIEM

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