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by Neal Rogers
December 6, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
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.
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
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.
Rationale for change
(pending Board approval in December)