USA Cycling Responds: Cyclocross Support and Independent Sanctioning Bodies

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Yesterday the Cyclocross Magazine website featured a report, “USA Cycling Pressures OBRA, Independent Organizations and Events,” that generated quite a bit of attention and feedback. Rumors have been surfacing about USAC no longer permitting dual-sanctioned events (where another sanctioning body runs some of the categories, as in the USGP in Bend, Oregon) as well as preventing officials from working for an independent sanctioning body in addition to USA Cycling. Yesterday, Kenji Sugahara (the executive director of OBRA) and Brad Ross (who directs several high profile events under both USA Cycling and OBRA) both weighed in. USA Cycling, via its communications director Andrea Smith, told CXM, “There simply haven’t been any discussions between USA Cycling and OBRA on this and it is the first we’ve heard of it.” Today Sean Petty, COO of USA Cycling, chimed in with his perspective and input. Go back and read the interviews and perspectives from Sugahara and Ross on USAC and cyclocross for more of the background, and as always, we welcome your comments below.

by Josh Liberles

Cyclocross Magazine: Do you want to start off by responding to the comments in our previous article by Brad Ross and Kenji Sugahara?

Sean Petty, COO of USA Cycling: [USA Cycling] is a national organization that provides structure for five disciplines. USA Cycling has an obligation to the US Olympic Committee and the UCI, which is the international cycling federation, and our policies are in concert with those organizations.

In terms of officials, and about them having to choose [between working for USAC or an independent sanctioning body, like OBRA]: That’s never been discussed as a policy and is completely untrue. It’s a completely false accusation. Steve Johnson has never spoken to Brad Ross on either of these topics [dual sanctioning or race official exclusivity].

As far as enforcement of UCI rules: At the beginning of 2009, the Tour of the Gila got the UCI’s attention when Lance and some of his Radio Shack teammates lined up [for the race]. After that, the UCI was more adamant about enforcing those particular rules [specifically UCI Rule 1.2.019, governing which pro riders could participate in what level of events]. In 2011, [the UCI] asked for even stricter enforcement. This had nothing to do with OBRA or ACA. [UCI trade team] riders cannot ride an unsanctioned event. In spite of the phrasing of the rule with “UCI exemptions” – there’s no variance. The “exemptions” are meant for gran-fondo-type events, not competitions.

[Note: The UCI rule reads "No license holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognized by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI. A national federation may grant special exceptions for races or particular events run in its own country." The rule can be found in PDF form on the UCI website, here. This applies to racers who compete in OBRA, ACA and many NorCal events including the SSCXWC.]

CXM: So what about the future of events with dual sanctioning, like the USGP races in Bend that have OBRA sanctioning for the lower categories? Will there be restrictions placed on this in the future?

Petty: The dual sanctioning discussion has come up as a result of input from our insurance agencies. Contrary to what Brad Ross thinks he knows, that’s a fact. We do discuss annually with our insurance agency how to minimize liability. If a non-USAC sanctioned event happens in the first part of the day, and there’s a USAC event in the afternoon, there’s bound to be overlap on and off the course between racers, officials, etc. It’s not clear where [the jurisdiction and liability] of one ends and the other begins. We renew and revise our policy annually; we haven’t made a final evaluation yet for next year, but we already do expect our insurance premium to increase.

There has been no discussion with Brad or Kenji on these points, and the comments are nothing short of inflammatory; they serve little purpose to the sport.

CXM: What about the ACA reintegration?

Petty: It was the ACA clubs and its members who voted to return to USAC. To say that USA Cycling had a desire or a goal to put them out of business is patently false. The same people who ran the ACA before are still there, they’re simply now under the USAC umbrella. The ACA does a lot of great programs, just like we do with the 34 other Local Associations throughout the country. We want to foster and support the growth of grassroots around the US.

As far as whether USA Cycling is better at supporting Elites vs. grassroots, we have 600,000 racer days per year, we sanction more than 3,000 events, and there are more than 2,700 USAC clubs which are in every way grassroots and at the local level, week in and week out. We also offer a rebate every year to Local Associations. Between 2004 and 2010 that amounted to $2.4 million, and it will be $3 million by 2011.

Eighty percent of our members are over the age of 30, and there are only 60 UCI events out of 3,000.

The ACA and other Local Associations develop the local calendars, manage competitions like the “Best All-Around Rider,” manage the series and determine how money is used and how best to support racing in that area. That’s what OBRA does — determine the needs of the community. The idea that we’re coming after OBRA is silly; they do a great job. Right now they choose not to be associated with the national governing body, but we have no desire to take them over.

CXM: Can you expand upon the relationship between USAC and the US Olympic Committee? Since cyclocross is not an Olympic sport, does it get less support than road, mountain biking, BMX … the sports that are in the Olympics?

Petty: Looking at cyclocross, in 2005 we had 237 events. This year so far there have been 508 events. There’s been growth throughout the country and in new markets, and the ridership has increased. Cyclocross gets the same level of support in terms of licensing, officiating, permitting. Olympic sports receive more money for athlete development because we are also the national Olympic governing body. We spend quite a bit of time and effort supporting the national [cyclocross] team – but it’s not as much as in the other disciplines.

We also run the Cyclocross Promoters Summit [See our attendee reports of the 2011 event], and Brad Ross has been a part of that in the past. The purpose of the summit is to grow and manage the calendar, and there are many more UCI events in the US than in any other country in the world.

CXM: Two areas are tough for riders who predominantly race non-USAC events: the lack of category reciprocity and the new results ranking system for cyclocross, which determines start order at Nationals.

Petty: Because of the growth of cyclocross, the National Championships have become much bigger and better attended. We had to get away from the [seeding] system by order of registration – had more to do with random luck than anything. Last year the time trial [to determine the start orders] added tremendous logistics and costs, and caused a lot more issues. Using rankings from 500 events is a much better structured system for assessing the strength of the racers from around the country. That system has nothing to do with OBRA or ACA. But if [their riders] are not part of the national federation, but then they want to benefit, then we’re at odds. They don’t want to support and fund the national body, but they want to get the benefits.

Like Kenji said, we get along great with him. But Kenji’s comments that USAC is focused on Elites are silly; he knows better. We’ve grown by 6% per year for the last several years. We’re creating a better experience for bike racers, period, and we’re developing new and better ways to serve our members. The vast majority of our staff time and resources are directed to supporting grassroots and all of these events. We’re very interested in growing our pool bigger and supporting our members and race directors, and having a robust insurance product for race directors and riders.

As far as reciprocity, that’s evaluated every year and agreements expire 12/31. There have been no discussions about that yet this year, and Kenji hasn’t asked us about it at this point for 2012. For 2012, all of the ACA racers who join USA Cycling will have their categories honored, including the Cat 1s.

We’re all in this together, and we all want to grow the sport of bike racing. What goes on at the state and local level is important, and there are things that don’t link up when a group isn’t part of the national organization.

In light of and against the current economy, with over 500 events already this season, the discipline of cyclocross couldn’t be more healthy. That’s a great thing.

Chime in with your thoughts and responses below. You can be sure that USA Cycling will see them, and hopefully will respond.

 

 

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38 comments
ColoradoMastersince97
ColoradoMastersince97

To be fair, how is OBRA helping jr’s and U23 get to Europe? Is OBRA paying for them to get to the Europe CX camps? It appears to me that OBRA is not really supporting the transition form Local racing to National or international. Who do you thinks pays for USCF cx camps for jr’s and U23? It does not appear OBRA is. And how are the US cx racers going to complete at the International level if we follow the OBRA model? I think that yes some of the money from everyone's entry should go to fund the delvelpment camps for Jr’s & U23 in europe and at the national level.

Spending a few more buck per race to help support CX racing at all level is need. Sorry if it cuts into your BEER fund.

ZacDaab
ZacDaab

I'll also offer the observation that it seems, at a high level, there are two different priorities going on in the sanctioned vs. non-sanctioned scenario: Liability vs. Accessibility.

If find it ironic that the two largest series in the country based on average participation (Cross Crusade first, MFG second) are non-sanctioned, and purely by numbers alone, have a greater mathematical chance of an incident happening.

Yet, even given the higher exposure to liability and risk, both series seemingly put accessibility very high on the list of what's important.

ZacDaab
ZacDaab

I will mention that for 2011, Terry and I attempted to again lower the "barrier of entry" to cyclocross, and created a true Beginner Men and Women's category of racing. Our reg guru Ken also created a pre-reg system, with the racer in mind, where you could check in via your phone.

So, in reality and practice, one could show up to an MFG event, check-in via their phone, and race a Beginners race with a free demo bike from Raleigh, and pay $10 for the race, and not need a license.

There are so many elements in the above-mentioned scenario that are possible when we-the-promoter have control to make things happen. It's scenarios like these that are creative, fresh, and in the end, with the end-user in mind. It's my opinion that this is good for the sport.

ConradKornmann
ConradKornmann

Its my understanding that participation-wise, the Cross Crusade series is the largest in the USA and the MFG series is right up there. Remind me again of the turnout at Woodland Park this year? Is it a coincidence that the races with the highest turnout numbers in the Northwest are non USAC sanctioned? The numbers seem to speak for themselves. I don't see how a USAC takeover can be a good thing for the sport of cyclocross. Even at the elite level. Those elite racers have to come from somewhere and start out in the entry level categories. If cyclocross wasn't such a backwater sport in the eyes of the general public, maybe more of the elite racers could actually make a living at it.

BrandonSequoiaRothauge
BrandonSequoiaRothauge

I'm sure I'm not the only reader of Petty's response who, without knowing him at all, think he's a pompous and arrogant asshole. The way he slanders and demeans Brad Ross is unprofessional and shows the lack of respect the heads of USAC have for the "grassroots" organizations.

(Not to mention the condescending comments he throws Kenji Sugahara's way.)

I'm brand new to the politics of bike racing at a local versus national versus international level, and therefore can remain unbiased.

However, with that objective perspective, I'm not afraid to say it sounds like Petty and the USAC are being bullies.

mbrunelle
mbrunelle

Is the issue of category reciprocity in play with concerns to road? I just moved from Oregon (cat2) to CA and I'd hate to be back in 5's.

mfgcross
mfgcross

Our non-USAC series grew almost 33% from 2010 to 2011 while the USAC series in Seattle seemed to shrink. We averaged near 800 riders per race doubling in size from our first year in 2009.

Candi
Candi

I don't have the numbers for the entire year. But the Cross Crusade alone had just short of 10,000 riders in the 8 days of racing. I believe that we saw just short of 10% increase.

JakeRosenfeld
JakeRosenfeld

I could guess that the 6% growth for the last two years was simply OBRA members buying usac annuals so they could race CCX nats close to home. Wonder where thier growth next year is coming from.

Brad Ross
Brad Ross

Racerguy, That rule only applies to riders on UCI trade teams i.e. Garmin, United Health Care, etc. For now.

Racerguy
Racerguy

So if I got this right USAC is not permissing its riders to race in non USAC events?????? If that's true way to ruin the grassroots of the sport. If I am mistaken please correct me. I think as a License holder I should be able to race in whatever the hell I want!!!!

no_use_for_a_name
no_use_for_a_name

I'd like to know what factoid he's referring to when he claims 6% growth. It's not membership or number of races.

Where are all these 600,000 race days?

CXmagazine, you aren't helping matters by not checking out some of the blatant misinformation from USAC. Is whomever owns Velonews acquiring you soon?

KarlMikkelson
KarlMikkelson

" we have 600,000 racer days per year, we sanction more than 3,000 events,"

Is that all in 34 "markets"..??

What is OBRA numbers? and/or Washington's for that matter.

Mike, Brad, Kenji and all of OBRA land thanks for all you work.

mmurray
mmurray

There are several inaccuracies in Sean’s statements:

“UCI exemptions” – Despite Sean’s ascertain “The “exemptions” are meant for gran-fondo-type events, not competitions” the rule specifically states that exemptions can be given for races. USAC could, if it desired, give blanket exemptions for all OBRA events or any other race they wish. In fact, USAC has granted a blanket exemption to both ACA and OBRA in the past. They stopped doing that for reasons that were never communicated to OBRA.

Dual sanctioning – USAC’s intention to cease dual sanction has been communicated to OBRA in writing several times over the past few years. To date they have always backed down from this position. Stating “There has been no discussion with Brad or Kenji on these points” is inaccurate. They have been recipients of these written communications. Although USAC’s insurance company may have concerns OBRA does not. In fact OBRA insurance extends to provide coverage during the USAC portion of dual sanctioned events.

Elite vs. grassroots – I think that the readership can accurately form their own opinion about the merits of the respective organizations in this regard.

Reciprocity – Sean states “that’s evaluated every year and agreements expire 12/31”. I don't believe that USAC has a current reciprocity agreement with any racing organization. The contract that OBRA had with USAC did not have an expiration or reevaluation date attached to it. OBRA has held to the agreement while USAC has unilaterally walked away from it. Several years ago USAC presented OBRA with an initial contract that was extremely biased towards USAC. After considerable negotiation an agreement was worked out both organizations could live with. Several years later OBRA was presented with the initial biased contract again. OBRA indicated that this was not acceptable and that we wished to maintain the current contract. OBRA has continued to follow this contract but USAC has stepped away by not following the terms of the contract.

no_use_for_a_name
no_use_for_a_name

Kenji and others,

USAC has zero interest in sharing competitive cycling. None. Interacting with Wiesel's coffee boy Johnson at all is a recipe for disaster.

They forced ACA out of business and then plainly lie about it.

They forced CRA out of business. CRA was a sanctioning body active in Southern California.

That said, many of the regional USAC groups have some well intentioned people that actually share the same goals as an OBRA.

mfgcross
mfgcross

We were told today by Kelli Lusk of USAC that dual sanctioning will not be allowed at UCI Cyclocross races.

BrookeHoyer
BrookeHoyer

Why don't we use a fair seeding system for Nationals? Crossresults.com ranking index. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Brad Ross
Brad Ross

I'm glad Sean responded to this. Now we at least have a few things in writing that we can hold them to. I will say I was a bit inflammatory when I stated that I wanted USAC out of CX altogether. That isn't true and I take it back. What I meant to say was that I want them to to what they do well and let us do what we do well.

With regard to Sean's statement that OBRA wants it both ways, I think he's trying to change the subject a bit. I know for a fact that the vast majority of cross racers in Oregon (and I would imagine in the whole U.S.) couldn't care less about their national ranking. They just want to go out and race their bike and high five their buddies when they are finished. There are however, many racers here in Oregon that do hold USAC licenses and wish to be treated similarly to racers in other regions. This is why OBRA and USAC have in the past drawn up a reciprocity agreement wherein the two organizations recognize each others upgrades, downgrades, suspensions, etc. This year, USAC members in Oregon got completely screwed because USAC refused to re authorize this agreement.

The Time Trial format at 2010 CX Nationals was an idea that I championed. I'm sorry that it cut in to USAC's profit margin on that particular event. But I feel (as did most racers) that it was the fairest way of seeding riders for the mass start event.

Brad Ross

spencer.bushnell
spencer.bushnell

Full Disclosure: I'm an OBRA member. That said, I've raced with Kenji for years and I know him personally. I've raced Brad's Crusade for years. Both of them do a fantastic job promoting increased ridership and participation in cycling. NO-ONE does it better, PERIOD. There is more behind the scenes here that's not being reported. This response appears to obscure the issue at hand.

slowbike
slowbike

"We’re all in this together, and we all want to grow the sport of bike racing." ORLY? Because recent moves by USAC make it seem more like "...we want to grow our turf and coffers for the sport of bike racing."

rockdude
rockdude

Petty: "It was the ACA clubs and its members who voted to return to USAC. To say that USA Cycling had a desire or a goal to put them out of business is patently false." This is not the way they made it seem. It was the ACA Board who had been trying to work with USAC that suggested if the ACA didn't go under the USAC that they would continue sanctions and start with new orgaization to pull riders out of the ACA. In other words, USAC said come play with us or we will do what we can to take your business.

no_use_for_a_name
no_use_for_a_name

@ColoradoMastersince97

Maybe you need to talk to some of the Junior's parents because a trip to Europe to race is not free. The privilege of being selected requires payment for use of the house and staff on top of the air travel. And the house is no bargain either!

How exactly does the USCF pay for cx camps? Again, it's not free to the rider's parents. Does traveling to some far away camp develop better riders? You are assuming it does. Is there a study to give us some insight?

As for OBRA's contribution, OBRA graduated one of their best to the UCI's road show. That's as good as it gets and they did it at a *major* discount to USAC's program.

mmurray
mmurray

@ColoradoMastersince97

Getting riders to Europe is not really OBRA's mandate, although OBRA riders seem to be making it to Europe just fine. OBRA's mandate is bike racing in Oregon. USAC's mandate is international competition. They should use the competitions supported by OBRA to identify talent but they have decided to ignore them. OBRA has paid for riders to go to USCF camps. Your question is really a bit like asking if high school basketball is helping players advance to the NBA. High school basketball does not give money to the NBA but nearly all NBA players competed in high school.

no_use_for_a_name
no_use_for_a_name

@ZacDaab Liability is another excuse. This excuse is defensible unlike the other Petty misinformation.

If there product is so awesome, why did they have to kill the ACA? Why did they walk away from reciprocity?

Bottom line, USAC hasn't been interested in grassroots racing for at least a decade. The graying membership and stagnant number of races has been the trend for years.

cyclocross
cyclocross moderator

@ZacDaab thanks for your perspective and hard word on @mfgcross, Zac. We're curious to know how much more would the beginner race would be if you had to do it through @usacycling? Would it be $20 due to the one day license fees, or more or less?

JoshLiberles
JoshLiberles

It would/does. If you have a prior USAC license, you should be able to race at that category again, and maybe you'll have luck with your local rep helping you to race as a 2? But, yes, an OBRA Cat2 who never upgraded on the USCF side would theoretically have to start over as a Cat 5 if there's no reciprocity. @mbrunelle

AlexAccetta
AlexAccetta

@JakeRosenfeld

Agreed Jake. I am one of those -- a mid-pack master's A rider who just wanted to see what it was like to race at one of these fancy-dancy national level races -- I used my USAC license just once and I am sure that I am in the 6% - wait, that could be our new slogan - "We're the 6%" and then we can occupy some USAC races dressed like mini-Brads or Kenjis or Candis...

JonMaule
JonMaule

@JakeRosenfeld Maybe the growth is from the hostile takeover, I mean "re-integration" of Colorado offsetting declines in other areas?

spencer.bushnell
spencer.bushnell

it was exactly that. everyone from PDX drove over the hill to race Nats. i might add that many didn't participate due to the decreased quality of the shared OBRA/ USAC events. There's a reason our local pros stay in Oregon and race a crusade race. @JakeRosenfeld

JoshLiberles
JoshLiberles

You bring up a good point re: the growth number. We've been trying to get hard data on unique racer numbers for a couple of years (see the excellent article we ran by Kenton Berg on The Growth of Cyclocross in CXM Issue #13!). As far as 600,000 racer days, that's actually not such a big number. If a really active racer does between 20 and 60 events, then we're talking a few hundred such racers per state, right? The picture's not that simple, and there are boatloads of racers who do 1 to 5 events, but those numbers don't sound crazy. As far as not fact checking, we were giving Mr. Petty and USAC the chance to voice a response. We are interested in continuing to pursue this story, and we hope that helps to push things in a positive direction.@no_use_for_a_name

no_use_for_a_name
no_use_for_a_name

"The contract that OBRA had with USAC did not have an expiration or reevaluation date attached to it."

That's a strategic blunder on USAC's part...

What have we all learned about USAC today? Johnson and Petty have no problem spewing boldface lies to meet Weisel's goal of complete control of competitive U.S. cycling.

Why do USAC member continue to support these liars when they haven't grown domestic participation in the sport in any meaningful way in the last 10 years?

JoshLiberles
JoshLiberles

@mfgcross Thanks for the comment from Seattle -- there you have it, that's a really interesting addition!

no_use_for_a_name
no_use_for_a_name

@Brad Ross If you check this thread again, I suggest you consider motocross style starts where the course layout permits it. Nothing like a one-wide drag race for the first obstacle/corner for spectator drama.

Brad's method was much better than nothing, and for a first-try it was good. crossresults has a number of problems too. IMHO, no clear winner between the two.

ZacDaab
ZacDaab

Yes, a one-day license is $10. Though, it's purely my opinion that if the premium for USA Cycling goes up, the 1-day fee might be an area that gets increased. Though in fairness to USAC, if you purchase a license for $60, it only takes 6 races to break even. But again, it's my opinion that even if it's perceived to cost more, and raises the barrier to entry, this should be noticed. @cyclocross

no_use_for_a_name
no_use_for_a_name

@JoshLiberles@no_use_for_a_name

C'mon Josh,

Check USAC's annual reports. They break down membership by State by year. From there, you tell me how they get to over half a million. The VAST majority of USAC's membership is in NorCal. And racing there is Saturday/Sunday with rare exception.

Maybe a better way to do it is to explain how one recreates this Race Days statistic.

JoshLiberles
JoshLiberles

@no_use_for_a_name Sounds like you're misunderstanding the metric. It's Racer Days -- so if 100 people do a local race, that's 100 racer days right there. The data we haven't been able to get is how many unique cyclocross participants there are in a given year for USAC and whether this number has shown growth. Because there is no specific CX license, USAC has told us they have been unable to track this.

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