Race radios, gran fondos, one-day licenses, and more: USA Cycling announces policy and operational changes for 2017

by Neal Rogers


USA Cycling has announced several policy and operational changes for 2017. Among them are fee adjustments for members and event organizers, enhanced membership options, and rule modifications — including reintroducing the use of race radios for elite category road events.

With the implementation of an overhauled IT system, USA Cycling is also launching a new membership platform to manage membership sales, event registration, event permitting, race calendars, results and rankings.

The upgrade, USA Cycling says, will allow for more flexibility to add products and services such as reduced pricing on one-day licenses for its Ride members — aimed at enthusiasts, rather than competitors — and unlimited use of one-day licenses for experienced racers who do not wish to pay $70 for a full annual license, eliminating one of the most common complaints for infrequent competitors.

“Experienced racers will be able to come back as many times as they want with a one-day license,” said USA Cycling CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall. “You can use it multiple times if you don’t want to commit to an annual license.”

A one-day license for beginners will cost $10, or $5 for Ride members; a one-day license for experienced racers will cost $25, or $15 for Ride members.

The national federation will introduce several other rule changes for 2017. There will be a women’s Category 5 field for cyclocross, road and track. Gran fondos may be counted toward upgrading from Category 5 to category 4. Professional mountain-bike license holders will no longer be required to purchase a UCI license.

USA Cycling Chairman Bob Stapleton and CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall. Photo: Neal Rogers.
USA Cycling Chairman Bob Stapleton and CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall. Photo: Neal Rogers.

Bouchard-Hall acknowledged that these changes come as USA Cycling has faced a drop in revenue from traditional racing licenses, although revenue from its Ride memberships — about 7,000 total — has offset that. Since he took over at USA Cycling in spring 2015, Bouchard-Hall has overseen staff downsizing, reduced allocations of membership money into elite athletic programs, and departmental cost-cutting.

There have also been positive revenue stories, he said, including Volkswagen’s renewal as a title sponsor, steady donations to the USA Cycling Foundation, and a successful Rio Olympics — two gold medals and three silvers— that brought in additional funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

For 2017, the race-day rider surcharge for organizers of traditional racing events will remain at $3.75, and there will be no price increases for most event permits.

“Despite the financial challenges we faced a year ago, we are on the right foot,” Bouchard-Hall said. “We are on good financial ground. We will see no price increases, which I didn’t expect a year ago. We are holding things even. Most of our racers will see the same fees in 2017. We’ve seen a slow decline in race memberships, but we have been able to deal with it. It was not without pain to get there, but I’m happy most members will not see any price increases.”

USA Cycling's new, tiered membership plan for 2017.
USA Cycling’s new, tiered membership plan for 2017

The federation is also looking to take advantage the growing segment of gran fondos and gravel grinders, rather than focusing on the traditional models of road, mountain, cyclocross, and track racing. To this end, gran fondo event organizers will no longer need to carry a race-director license or club affiliation in order to sanction their events, and participation in gran fondos may be count toward upgrades from Category 5 to Category 4.

The gravel and fondo rider surcharge will increase slightly from $3.25 to $3.50, but the race-director license requirement for such events will be eliminated.

“Cycling events are becoming increasingly enthusiast based,” Bouchard-Hall said. “We are trying hard to sanction more gran fondos, more gravel grinders… it’s a growing segment. We support it. We want to be part of it. We see tremendous growth, and we have more events signing up with us. American bike racing is seeing challenges, but there are a growing number of events. In 2016, compared to 2015, Racing memberships were down, but overall memberships were up due to Ride memberships. We are pleased to broaden our organization, even when racing is going through a contracting period.”

Elite road racers will take note of the race radio rule change, applicable in national-level USAC-sanctioned events. USA Cycling sees it as a way to emphasize their safety benefits, in order to obtain UCI support for their use in UCI-sanctioned U.S. events.

“Our primary objective with the reintroduction of radios is safety,” said Bouchard-Hall. “We believe race radios can enhance the safety of American cycling events given their ability to improve communication between riders and the caravan, which is particularly important in the United States where we so often use rolling enclosures.”

Several of the policy changes, including reintroducing race radios and gran fondo upgrades, are subject to approval by the USA Cycling Board of Directors at a meeting later this month.

A table of 2017 policy and operational changes is detailed below, and posted here. A full summary of changes will be released soon.

Policy item

2016

2017

Rationale for change

Local Association Rebates $10 per full priced adult race license plus $0.17 per competitive racer day LA rebates expected to remain at 2016’s enhanced levels, but remain TBD* *2017 rebate structure will be finalized at 2017 USA Cycling Symposium with Local Associations in February.
Membership Fees (annual) Race membership $70 for adults; $35 for juniors No change; Adding Podium and Podium Plus tiers Preserves current base pricing level, but offers opportunity to obtain additional value at the discretion of our members.
Collegiate $45 stand-alone; Free add-on to Race membership $45 stand-alone; $10 add-on to Race membership $10 increase for collegiate add-on membership to fund collegiate programs intended to improve safety and quality of collegiate cycling.
International race membership (UCI License) $200 for adults, $100 for juniors; Separate BMX license No price change; BMX Racing and BMX Freestyle now included with other disciplines Consolidating into a single International membership reduces fees for multi-discipline athletes. BMX Freestyle, recently added by UCI, is introduced.
Pro Road UCI license $200 for women; $300 for men $250 for Women and Continental Men; $350 for Pro Continental Men; $400 for WorldTour Men Net revenue neutral, but new pricing structure better reflects the variance in resources applied to different levels of athletes.
Ride Membership $50 No change; Adding Ride Plus tier Preserves current base pricing level, but offers opportunity to obtain additional value at the discretion of our members.
Printed License Free Digital remains free; Waterproof paper $5; Thick plastic credit card style $10 Improves the quality of the physical license options offered by charging a small fee, while ensuring free digital option remains. Note international and professional road members will have printed membership cards included for no additional charge.
One-Day Licenses Beginner Road, CX, Track $10 No change as stand-alone; $5 for Ride or Ride Plus members beginning Summer 2017 Provides added benefit to Ride Membership, which allows enthusiasts to try racing at lower cost.
Beginner MTB $10 with $5 back to event director No change as stand-alone; $5 for Ride members beginning Summer 2017 Provides added benefit to Ride Membership, which allows enthusiasts to try racing at lower cost.
Experienced Road, CX, Track, and MTB One-time and online-only $25 higher Cat. (MTB: Cat. 1; Men Rd/Tk/CX: Cat. 1/2/3/4; Female Rd/Tk/CX: 1/2/3) Remains $25, but beginning Summer 2017, no longer limited to one per year; $15 for Ride or Ride Plus members Introduces option for former experienced racers to participate in racing as often as they want without a full license. Provides added benefit to Ride Membership, which allows experienced racers to participate in racing without full license at lower cost.
Race-day Rider Surcharge Races $3.75 No change Remains at 2016 levels. Race Director License or Club Affiliation still required to permit races.
Gran Fondos and Gravel $3.25; Race Director License or Club affiliation required to permit $3.50; No RD License or Club Affiliation required to permit Small per-rider increase to cover insurance costs, but price remains highly competitive in marketplace. Elimination of license or club affiliation for event directors reduces barrier to sanctioning with USA Cycling.
Rides $2.25 for first 1000 participants, $2.00 for next 1000, and $1.80 for all remaining; Race Director License or Club affiliation required to permit $2.50; No RD License or Club Affiliation required to permit Small per-rider increase to cover insurance costs, but price remains highly competitive in marketplace, Elimination of license or club affiliation for event directors reduces barrier to sanctioning with USA Cycling.
Categories Women’s Road/Track/CX Cat. 1-4 Adding a category 5

(pending Board approval in December)

Creates gender parity in rider category system, provides race directors greater ability to run true beginners-only event and enhances new women riders’ opportunity to experience progression in the sport.
Pro MTB Only available for International race memberships Available for standard or International Race memberships

(pending Board approval in December)

Eliminates need for pros to downgrade to save money when they no longer need an international membership. Eliminates need for Pro MTB license holders to purchase UCI license.
MTB XC Cat. 1 requires two top-5 finishes to upgrade Racers can self-select to race category 1; Annual or Experienced 1-day still required Given the minimal safety concerns in an endurance mountain bike race when skill sets are mixed, racers will be able to self-select up to Cat. 1, allowing new USA Cycling members to race at the appropriate category for their ability level from their first event.
Race Radios Not allowed Allowed in category 1 and 2 road events, excluding juniors and collegiate

(pending Board approval in December)

Allows use of race radios by those who are experienced and skilled enough to safely use them.
Gran Fondo Upgrades N/A Category 5’s may count gran fondos for their category 4 upgrades

(pending Board approval in December)

Provides additional opportunities for new racers to upgrade based on experience gained and encourages participation in enthusiast events that USA Cycling is increasingly sanctioning.

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