Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thoughts on USAC putting down the hammer on OBRA and the ACA

Having recently perused this investigative piece on Cyclocross Magazine's website about USA Cycling (USAC) putting down the hammer on the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) and the American Cycling Association of Colorado (ACA) I thought I'd take the chance to point out a few facts about nation's governing body that I've learned over the years.

One major factor for the USAC enforcement of rule that International Cycling Union (UCI) licensed racers are barred from racing in other sanctioning bodies is well founded on insurance concerns. When a rider from the US races abroad on a UCI license issued by USAC they need to request permission from USAC (See USAC rulebook Appedix 3). What does that have to do with OBRA and ACA? Well, a lot. Allowing UCI riders to compete in OBRA and ACA events is undermining the insurance agreement USAC has with the UCI and transitively all other cycling governing bodies associated with the UCI. For example, when a US based rider decides to head on over to say, Spain, they show the permission to ride letter from USAC along with their UCI license to the fine folks at registration. Which is essentially saying, "Since the Spanish Federation is permitting this race, and the Spanish Federation is part of the UCI, I have insurance." Alternatively, if internationally licensed domestic riders were to continue racing in OBRA or ACA events, it is setting a precedent for riders from outside the US to race without insurance as they likely won't hold OBRA or ACA licenses and in this all undermines USAC's insurance agreement with the UCI.

An additional insurance concern comes from amateur riders, which is why USAC has some grounds on the basis of standardizing upgrades and categorization of riders across the country. By allowing category reciprocity from USAC to OBRA/ACA and vice versa, USAC is taking a big risk. This comes from how stringent USAC's upgrade process is, (or at least how stringent USAC believes the process is). That is to say USAC simply doesn't trust the upgrade process in OBRA or the ACA, and I think understandably so, as the process may be softer/weaker in OBRA or the ACA. Now, one could make the argument that this could be true for any local association (like NYSBRA, NEBRA, etc...) but at least local associations across the country are using the same rulebook and overseeing the process from top to bottom. And as far as USAC is concerned a category 2 road rider from OBRA or the ACA may actually be more like a USAC cat 3 and their lack of experience, pack riding skills and the like could present a great safety risk to other riders in a USAC Pro/1/2 field (such as a USACrits event), which is why we have categories in the first place. By removing category reciprocity USAC is making sure that they are covered for any event under a USAC permit.

One last note is on USAC's perceived lack of support for cyclocross because as USAC is prone to saying "cyclocross isn't an olympic sport," which it isn't (yet, hopefully). And while disappointing to many, it is a partially justified statement, this is due to the fact that USAC just like many other athletic governing bodies in the US is a subsidiary of the US Olympic Committee, which means two things. First, this sets the principal under which USAC operates, which is to win Olympic Medals. Second a good portion of the funding comes from the USOC, around $900,000 for fiscal years 2010, and 2009, making it the largest direct contributor outside membership fees, permitting, etc... for our governing body. Now, full disclosure, the second largest direct contributor is the USA Cycling Development Foundation, bringing in about $800,000 in 2010 and 2009. Now, as of July 13, 2011 delivering Olympic medals was removed from the official purpose and bylaws of USAC, but there is still a culture of olympic success in Colorado Springs, with the USAC and USOC offices being less than 7 miles apart.

In summary it's pretty easy to write off USAC cycling based on it's actions, but before getting out your pitchfork and regional flag declaring your independence from the tyrants in Colorado Springs, take a minute and think about why the governing body is making the changes you see.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Downeast, Beacon, HPCX

OK, NEED TO CATCH UP ON BLOGGING.

Downeast Weekend
Nothing to say, courses had lots of running due to mud, I don't do that so well..... Ho hum. One day I had an epic reverse holeshot... um.. I did not get rad, I did not get verge points... I don't want to talk about it anymore.

Beacon Cross
I have to preface this race report by describing the conditions. They were amazing and awful. How you might ask?

Well, it was 36F and raining. Which is the best type of weather, because .... it's epic. I am prone to epic condition bike races. Because now I have a story to tell.

So, the "warm up" for the day consisted of sitting in the car, hanging out on twitter and doing 1 pre-ride lap in full rain gear and rain boots.

I do have to say that the course was actually pretty awesome. Fast, flowy, sandy, turny, twisty, muddy. I would describe it as rad.

Anyhow, I started last row, because the MAC doesn't believe in Crossresults and I got staged by order from registration.

When the whistle blew I moved up quickly into the top half. I pedaled hard for a while and blew past people. But after the first muddy section the field strung out on the wide and fast course and I resigned myself to riding high tempo for the rest of the day trying to stay in the top 20. From there I got cold and wet. Also, there was the famous ampitheater of pain, with mud at the top and a long beach run. Both of which are not conducive to me having a good bike race. These two course elements caused me to fade a bit and I fell back into the 30's. I then rode with a couple of guys I don't know and sprinted for 30th.

It sure was a lovely day (photo: Hudson Racing)

From that point onwards I was focused on putting on dry clothes.

HPCX
After the previous day's storm I was super excited for the snow on course at HPCX. The only problem was that it wasn't a good snow. It was the kind of snow that sits on top of damp grass and turns the entire bike race course into a bog. A bog with lots of running if you are a scrub, like me.

But, that's ok! For it was sunny and pleasant out and I can deal with that.

For the second day I was staged in DABACK with the scrubs and rolled off the start.

The start was rather intriguing, because we went up a hill on pavement into a muddy bog. Which meant it was time to run with my bicycle and throw some bows, and that is always rather exciting. Especially when I am down in the MidAtlantic and nobody has a clue who I am, thus I have no reputation to protect. I was throwing out my elbows, getting all up in dudes' lines and then I recalled... I hate running.

I decided to ride conservatively and save some energy for the running parts, this plan was foiled by the fact that the entire course was mud. Which meant pedaling hard the entire time, which requires being fit, which I am not.

'twas rather muddy (photo: Lauren's Mom)

After a few laps of this agony I recall passing Andrew (AKA Roommate X) as he had punctured his tire. Which meant it was time to try again! My glorious time as the alpha roommate was not to last however, as after he ran half a lap to the pit, he got a wheel from neutral support and then blew past me like I was standing still. He claims he did it because of this thing called "training" I think it is because he sacrifices kittens to the Evil Mud God on Mount Olympus... So he may of beaten me, but he also kills kittens! MORAL VICTORY.

Anyhow, I beat some dudes and rolled in for 37th of 64.

Another not terribly exciting weekend.