This blog post has been kicking around in my head for a few weeks now. I don't think that the subject has really percolated enough to justify a well thought out post, but in the spirit of creating more questions than answers, I'm going to take a shot at it early. If Fox News doesn't need to get their facts straight, why should I care? Perhaps the Jon Stewart of cycling blogs will intervene and set me straight if I get too far from the truth.
Here's what I know: USA Cycling is effectively raising the cost of an annual license for most of us by $10. On the plus side, we can now race USAC sanctioned MTB races with that same license, which kind of sort of saves us $20. On the minus side I haven't done a local MTB race that required a USAC license . . . ever.
USAC is increasing the cost of a 1 Day license for road and CX by $5, so it will now cost someone $15 to race with a 1 Day license. I know this is where someone will chime in and say that with the cost of gas and a Starbucks on the way to a race, what's another $5? Well, it's another $5, and as far as I'm concerned ANYTHING that discourages new racers from trying out our sport is stupid. As some of you know, I co-run a Wednesday night "Training" series during the summer. For the last few years we've covered the cost of someones first race. I've personally eaten a bunch of $5 dollar bills in the interest of growing the sport. If I can afford to eat it, so can USAC. Every year, someone gets hooked and takes a deep dive into racing. There's a reason your first hit of Crack is free. If it's good stuff, you'll be back for more.
Every year, someone locally starts an e-mail thread suggesting that we ditch USAC and find a better way. As a racer, race promoter, and generally speaking, middle of the road guy, I usually read the dialog with interest, but sit on the sidelines. This year I finally took it upon myself to go the extra mile and do some research. At the end of it I was as confused as ever. I read up on OBRA, tried to figure out why Colorado went back to USAC after going it alone, tried to figure out who USCX and NABRA were, and listened to a 30 minute podcast interview of OBRA Executive Director Kenji Sugahara. He made some really good points, and they definitely have their association dialed in. At the end of the day, there are many reasons to go their route, but it would be a tough sell in a small market. Most of us would end up with two licenses locally, because most of us will still need to do USAC races.
I'm definitely going to tread lightly here. We are really fortunate in Central NY to have some great officials who are very generous with their time. I have great respect for these people both on and off of the bike. I have enough respect for them, that I even defer to them to some extent and I believe that if they believe in USAC, maybe that's enough for me. The Gen X'er in me is very cynical by nature though, and sometimes it's tough to overcome nature.
The cynic in me struggles with the fee increases. The cynic in me understands why they won't allow beer hand ups in a CX race, but thinks that it limits growth and fun in the sport. The cynic in me thinks their "Race Clean" program is great, but doesn't really apply to grass roots CX. The cynic in me understands why a weeknight training series can't be a "race series," but again limits the growth of the sport. The cynic in me also understands that a racer that isn't attached to a USAC sanctioned team isn't supposed to wear a piece of clothing with sponsor logos on it, but I also think that if a Cat 5 newbie wants to dress like Peter Sagan or wear a polka dot TdF jersey who the heck cares. Trust me, the other racers will sort it out through shame. I also think that if a racer wants to wear a kit with sponsor logo's on it, they should be able to without being associated to a USAC member team.
Anyway, I'm rambling now and I really don't have a point. I do know this though, an annual CX license for OBRA is $15. Their 1 Day license is $5. It's $35 to promote a race, and it's only $30 if you pay in cash or check. The per racer fee is cheaper, and they seem to generally do a better job of fostering Grass Roots racing. I understand that USAC is trying to create a legitimate feeder system to allow talented racers to find their way to the big leagues. My question is, is that for the greater good? Is it better to have a feeder system for a few, or should we be looking to grow the sport? I know that Steve Johnson would argue that they are growing the sport, and he's been quoted as saying that "good role models" i.e. fast Pro's do grow the sport via their visibility. Cough Cough, like LA did.
Well, as I said, I don't have any answers. If I didn't have a day job, I'd take a serious look at alternatives. Since I do have a day job, I'll just sit on the sidelines. For now. I love racing my bike and sour grapes won't prevent me from getting a license or promoting a USAC race, but USAC does have a knack for making one think about alternatives.