Usually, when people talk about mtn. biking, they talk about how it used to be, how it is way worse off now. Back in the 90s there were lots of pros making $$, and lots of races that had tons of participants with awesome prizes. Some say road and cyclocross took away part of the mtb racing success.
Road might have healthier following, but I'd argue that mountain bike racing is way more healthier than road, and maybe even cyclocross on the national scale. I don't mean local kc races. In KC we are fortunate to have one of the best cx race scenes with 100-250 participants at each race with a full calendar.
With mtn. bike racig, so many variables play a part in the success of the events, most of it being the weather. A mtn. bike race in kc with over 80 participants would be considered a big success while if a cx race or local crit had only 80 participants for the day, it'd be a complete failure. Its a really tough discipline to promote regionally.
Back to why I think mtn. racing is healthier for Regional races.
Look at registration for all big races. Look at Ouachita. People set their alarms early, and it filled up before I had breakfast. I wasn't registering, but most races like this are super successful and fill up in minutes. Look at leadville 200. You have thousands of riders signing up years in advanced with 20,000 riders on the waiting list.
This was just an observation I made, when I got an email saying that the best stage race in the midwest had their registration open. I checked the confirmed riders, and...click.
Organized racing has jumped a lot of hurdles, it has sustained sustainable success over this "tough economic period." I'd still argue that it will be worse. Even if the economy improves. It isn't because Strava is stealing all the weekend warriors, and it isn't pirate mtb racing, alleykats, "Worlds" style group rides are fulfilling everyone's competitive drive.
I think it has to do with Fun and Community. Races that maintain these attributes should continue their success.
Its been really good weather this winter. I went for a short 30 miles ride on sunday, I saw tons of riders out. Hopefully we'll see a lot more participants at races this year since everyone is able to get out and ride.