GOLDEN, Colo. (VN) — Following a near-four-hour meeting on Friday that at varying times was caustic, contentious and a little confused, the American Cycling Association’s club members voted to reintegrate the organization with USA Cycling.
The 185-to-100 final tally ended a near 15-year division between the two organizations. Starting in 2012, the ACA will re-brand itself the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado — the name the group bore in 1999 when it broke away from USA Cycling over a variety of grievances — and serve as the USA Cycling Local Association for Colorado and eastern Wyoming.
The biggest change most ACA racers will see next year is an increase in costs, both for their annual license and in race entry fees. Right now it’s hard to say exactly how much entry fees will go up, but license fees for seniors will rise from the current $45 for an annual ACA license to $60 for a USAC license, with the option of spending an additional $30 for a BRAC membership. Junior licenses will rise from $15 to $30, with BRAC membership costing an additional $15.
While not a requirement to race, a BRAC membership will provide a variety of benefits, including discounts on operational surcharges at all Colorado events, discounted access to the transponder timing system, eligibility to participate in Rocky Mountain Road Cup and Colorado Cross Cup points competitions, and perhaps most important, the knowledge that you’re doing your part to keep the ACA alive, as much of the organization’s slimmed-down operating budget will derive from membership fees.
In 2011, the ACA had 2,911 members and by the end of the year will have sanctioned approximately 110 races and 25,000 racer days.
Outgoing ACA Board of Directors president Bill Barr seemed to echo the sentiment of many in the room, saying that neither reintegration nor continued autonomy was ideal.
“It’s just a matter of which is worse,” he said. “Bike racing is too small to be fragmented, and in order to grow the sport we need to find a way to work together.”
Still, despite the ACA board’s recommendation to approve reintegration, Barr was firm with his criticism of cycling’s national governing body, looking directly at USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson as he outlined his concerns.
“If we go back there are a lot of things that bother me,” said Barr. “I think USA Cycling gives a lot of lip service to local racing. Right now the revenue we generate goes to support racing in Colorado, and we are careful with that revenue. If we go back that sucking sound you hear is our money going to Colorado Springs.” He added that the local association budget would shrink and racing would become more expensive for athletes and promoters alike.
But not rejoining USA Cycling would likely have meant the formation of a competing local association with the backing — and potentially, the financial support — of the national governing body. Over time, that almost certainly would have spelled the end of the ACA.
“We were already hearing that some of the big (ACA) races were going to over to USAC sanctioning next year,” added Barr. “If we don’t go back, ACA will slowly waste away and there is nothing we can do about that.”
CEO Johnson, who at times seemed visibly dismayed at the level of distrust and lack of faith in his organization, did his best to sell the move, outlining a variety of benefits that come with USAC membership.
“It’s a cost-versus-value question and value trumps cost,” said Johnson, the lone USA Cycling representative at the meeting. “We want to increase value.”
That value, said Johnson, includes items such as no longer needing two licenses if you race both ACA and USAC events; category reciprocity between the two organizations; access to a national ranking system that’s used for call-ups at events such as cyclocross national championships; increased anti-doping efforts in the amateur ranks; and the return of pro racers to area events following a year in which USA Cycling began enforcing a heretofore-overlooked rule that barred UCI-licensed racers from competing at raceas not sanctioned by the national federation.
Johnson denied that the seemingly out-of-the-blue enforcement of the license rule was a strong-arm tactic to weaken the ACA, instead claiming that the UCI had become upset when racers such as Lance Armstrong started occasionally competing in non-fed-sanctioned races, and had asked that USA Cycling start stringently enforcing the rule.
“When you take out a UCI license you agree to their rules,” said Johnson. “If you break the rule we pull the license. You can’t expect to continue to receive value without some kind of association.”
Additional pressure on the ACA’s ability to function was imminent. Johnson said dual sanctioning and category reciprocity would have been discontinued.
“With dual sanctioning it’s an issue of who is covered by whose insurance, and we wouldn’t have been able to do that anymore,” explained Johnson. “With reciprocity, it’s been a long time since the separation (between USAC and the ACA) and there is something called genetic drift. We have no confidence in what you are doing here because it’s something we have no control over.”
Johnson’s case failed to move many in the room, and even some supporters weren’t overly impressed.
“Steve, as a salesman you fail,” said Pete Webber, rep for Boulder Cycle Sport, the largest ACA team with 97 members. “But I still think we should do this. It means unity for the sport. It will make it easier for collegiate racers to race in our races. It will give us a common race calendar without event overlap. We’ll have pros back at our races. And it will give us inclusion in the national ranking systems.”
Indeed, a day after the meeting the ACA announced that 2011 results from its Colorado Cross Cup cyclocross series would be incorporated into USAC’s national system, which is good news for Colorado racers gunning for a call-up at the U.S. national championships in January.
Other prominent figures in the Colorado cycling community couldn’t overcome their trepidation. DBC Events founder and president Chris Grealish voted against reintegration.
“It just felt like a super-rushed effort for unknown reasons,” said Grealish, whose company promotes the Boulder Cup cyclocross race. “I don’t know that we have to bum rush into this. The ACA is doing incredibly well without USA Cycling. We don’t need them. We do our own thing and we keep the money here. They want to take all the money. It’s unbelievable. I may sit out a year. We do a great job on our own without their blessing or their help.”
Adam Rachubinski, who runs the 51-member Alpha Bicycle Company team and also voted no, cited the rising costs for juniors as his major concern.
“We just think it’s going to end up costing junior racers and their families too much in the long term,” he said. “The fact that a junior has to be a local association member and the promoter has to be a local association member in order for the junior to race free, on top of the increase in license cost, is going to be too much for a lot of families.”
After the vote, Johnson lingered at the front of the meeting room, as several club reps walked up, offering handshakes and words of encouragement and accord.
“I think that from the perspective of growing the sport as much as possible, and growing the pie for everybody, that the national organization is positioned to do that,” said Johnson.
“How do I convince someone who doesn’t feel like we offer them anything? That’s the major question here. I think at the end of the day everyone here has to decide what they get out of the sport and what is the value they want to pay to do it. It’s incumbent on us to deliver that value, and the proof is going to be in the pudding.
“There is no right or wrong answer today. They will see the answer in a couple years if it is successful. If it’s not successful they have the option every year of not renewing the contract.”