In news that could not come at a more controversial time, as USAC and UCI backpedal on their enforcement of fining racers for competing in non-USAC sanction events, the crew behind OBRA have announced the creation of a new national cycling governing body, the North American Bicycle Racing Association (NABRA), with the new United States Cyclocross (USCX) under its wing. This body will be in direct competition with USAC to sanction events across the western half of the US.
According to an article on Roadbikereview.com, (from which the following quotes are taken) formation of the organization, started by OBRA board members, including Cross Crusade promoter Brad Ross and OBRA Executive Directer Kenji Sugahara, began as, according to Sugahara, “a reaction to the first time [USAC] came to us and said they would no longer allow dual-sanctioned races or permit UCI-licensed pros to compete in our races here in Oregon. At that point we thought about it a lot and said, our membership loves what OBRA does here in Oregon, we create a lot of value for our customer, we have a good product and a good community, and that is something we feel we can produce across the whole country.”
NABRA plans to offer the same services as USAC, but “to do so with a greater emphasis on reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction.”
The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association, the largest non-USAC governing body in the US after Colorado’s American Cycling Association folded back into USAC, has over 5,000 members and “sanctions approximately 330 races a year.” The new NABRA hopes to capitalize on the good will engendered by the success of these racers and OBRA’s focus on lowering the barriers of entry – particularly cost – into bicycle racing.
“The idea is to lower the threshold that people have to jump over to enter the sport. The lower that threshold is, the more people will jump in and try bike racing. Oregon is a great example of that. We have a higher density of amateur bike racers per capita than anywhere else in the U.S. because it is so much easier to race bikes here,” said OBRA board member Mike Murray.
Brad Ross, whose Cross Crusade series (sanctioned through OBRA) has been a model for attracting all levels of racers into cyclocross, details the desire for a larger governing body based on OBRA’s principles. “We have been getting requests for years, way before all this controversy came along. We’ve been approached by racers and promoters from all over the northwest, Idaho, Washington, northern California, you name it. They wanted OBRA to provide insurance and scheduling for them. But we always had to say no because it’s in the OBRA charter that we only operate in Oregon.”
Following a “smart growth strategy” NABRA will initially offer its services, including “reasonably-priced insurance, event management consultation, and operation of a centralized website that will allow for the uploading and tabulation of results and rankings”, to West Coast states and extending as far east as Utah.
Of primary concern for our readers is the inclusion of the “USCX” name. Though details are scarce, the article paraphrases Ross as stating that he has “a large number of verbal commitments from race promoters wanting to work with the new organization, including most of the big west coast cyclocross series from Washington state all the way south to southern California.”
Bringing much of the western half of US cyclocross under a new governing body will surely exacerbate the issues that OBRA members have long had trying to integrate the two bodies, at least temporarily, but with a larger piece of the pie, will NABRA create enough leverage to address its complaints on a national level? How will this effect our elite racers? Will we see a NABRA-organized Nationals? There are many questions left unanswered, but stay tuned as we interview members of the NABRA board to bring you more detailed information.
Though not in response to this news, USAC recently released a statement defending its position on the “non-sanctioned event” rule, stating USAC “spends more than $4 million per year supporting American athletes in development and international competition programs. Much of that money is generated from the racing activities of our more than 74,000 members racing more than 600,000 racing days each year in sanctioned events. Every time you race in a sanctioned event, a small amount of revenue is generated to support critical athlete programs. Most importantly, virtually every dime USA Cycling generates as a result of your racing activities is reinvested in the sport. However, when you compete in an unsanctioned event, nothing goes to support these important programs that help to maintain our international success and create the heroes and role models that are so important to the sport.”
It is worth mentioning, as well, that it was USAC’s larger purse that enabled it to step in and rescue the 2013 World Champsionships in Lousville, after the event failed to raise the necessary funds. Though the event was far from perfect, the final result had to be counted a success. How a competing body will affect the US’s ability to respond to such issues, and engage the sport on the international level, is an open question.
So, what are your thoughts on this new development? Let us know in the comments below!