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After four years in the post, USA Cycling chief executive officer, GerardBisceglia, was fired last week by board president Jim Ochowicz. Biscegliawas replaced by the organization’s chief operating officer, Steve Johnson,who is also the executive director of the USA Cycling Development Foundation.Bisceglia agreed to sit down with former VeloNews news editor,Charles Pelkey, and discuss his time at the head of the national governingbody, the reasons behind his sudden departure and what he sees as the challengesand opportunities facing the sport of cycling in the United States.
In Part1 of the interview, Bisceglia suggested that his problemsat USA Cycling were rooted in a the lopsided structure of the organizationgovernance and a personal dispute with Ochowicz. In Part 2, Bisceglia continues to outline what he sees as problems at USA Cycling, and the challenges and opportunities the sport faces in coming years.We would like to underscore the fact that we fully understand that this represents just one man’s take on the issues and would like to extend a similar opportunity to speak to Ochowicz or other representatives of the board or the staff at USA Cycling. We expect to publish a comprehensive look at the case in the next issue of VeloNews.
VeloNews: You blamed Jim Ochowicz for your dismissal and questionedthe voting strength of USPRO and the Foundation on the board of USA Cycling.About the Foundation and such, you’ve been replaced by Steve Johnson, executiveofficer of the Foundation. What was your relationship like with Thom Weisel,the president of the Foundation board?Gerard Bisceglia: My relationship with Thom Weisel was alwaysfine. Mr. Weisel never interfered with anything I ever did at USA Cyclingover the four years I was there. Any time we got together in person, bymail or over the phone, he was always supportive.VN: But you’ve even questioned the validity of Jim Ochowicz’smembership on the board of USA Cycling. Why is that?GB: I think it would be very interesting if someone took a carefullook at how USPRO functions, how USPRO is even configured and how thosepeople get on that board, how they stay on that board and why that boardis even part of the governance of USA Cycling. They’re a disgrace.You have six members on the board, who basically represent no one butthemselves. The Foundation gets three seats for what amounts to $600,000a year contribution to USA Cycling, money which is largely targeted atthe under-23 program we have in Belgium. Then USPRO, which contributesnothing and is made up of members who are also members of the USCF, alsogets three votes. The members, the 57,000 members who contribute millionsto the organization get to fight for the scraps. Like I said, it’s a disgrace.VN: At this point, the structure would prevent any sort of reform?GB: Yeah. When you shut it down from the old House of Delegatesto a small group of what is now 14 individuals, it pretty well cementstheir place, as long as they take care of each other.I don’t have any idea how you would change it now, though. It’s onething I never did do much of. I didn’t spend a lot of time on governance.I spent my time on membership and programs.VN: Would you do it differently, knowing what you know now? Maybea bit more effort on the political side?GB: Oh no. That’s not me. I don’t glad-hand.VN: What sort of challenges do you see for anyone – right nowit’s Steve Johnson – who takes over the organization?GB: Maintaining the integrity of the organization, for one thing.We fought hard to get that back. They need to work hard to remember thatit’s a membership organization and we need to operate in the interestsof the membership. They’re the ones that pay the bills, now aren’t they?VN: Are you confident that’s the way it’s going to unfold?GB: I don’t know. I’m gone. I don’t work there anymore. I don’tknow what their plans are.VN: What do you see as the fundamental problem with cycling inthe U.S. right now?GB: I don’t think there is a problem. Look at it. The performanceon the top end is terrific. We have great riders, we have programs in development.I think of USA Cycling in terms of opportunities and obligations. Oneis the opportunities in women’s cycling. I think we have tremendous potentialin women’s cycling. Women’s cycling is a bargain for an NGB looking formedals, because – sad as it is – the level of support for women’s athleticsacross the board is so low. Since the adoption of Title 9, the resultshave been remarkable across the board – women’s soccer, softball. WhenAmerican women are given a chance, they perform remarkably in any sportand I believe American women have done and will do the same in cycling.Even a small investment brings back a huge return. They need the supportjust so they aren’t forced to leave the sport.The second area is track cycling. I’ve said this many, many times overthe past few months. If USA Cycling was to disappear tomorrow, road racingand in particular men’s road racing, would, to a certain degree, go onas if nothing happened at all. There is an incredible infrastructure outthere at the international and national levels. There are thousands ofraces run all over the United States. There are cycling clubs. There areteams. The contribution we as an organization make to road cycling is oneestablishing rules, training officials and overseeing safety. But if wewere to disappear, all of that would continue. The passion for the sportis there and they don’t need USA Cycling to keep it going.If USA Cycling was to disappear tomorrow, I think track racing in theUnited States would die a very quick death. We are the only organizationthat supports track racing, particularly at the elite level. Yes thereis ATRA out there – the organization of the 18 or so tracks in the UnitedStates – but they have a difficult time financing anything, because trackis a sport that really doesn’t have a lot of revenue-generating potentialout there. It’s a necessity for USA Cycling – particularly in our roleas NGB and advocate of the Olympic movement – to be at the forefront oftrack cycling.That’s one thing I was really trying to do, for both men and women,and really push the envelope as far as track cycling, because over thelast decade, we’ve been a non-entity in the sport. Look at what the Australiansand the Brit’s have been able to do with a concentrated effort. I believewe have the people and the athletes who can compete at their level andbring glory to the U.S. Honestly, road racing can take care of itself.VN: Looking back over the years, what do you think your biggestaccomplishment was?GB: I think bringing a degree of credibility to the organizationas the legitimate governing body of the sport of cycling in this countryagain. I think prior to my arrival there was an increasing sense of irrelevancyas far as USA Cycling is concerned. I think people felt if they were goingto accomplish anything, it would – to quote (former USCF CEO) Dave Prouty’sbook title – be in spite of us, not because of us.VN: What was your biggest disappointment?GB: Being terminated.VN: No, I mean what did you fail to accomplish?GB: Not really being able to bring peace throughout the entirecycling community, with groups like the ACA. I think we made strides, butI do believe that we all wasted a lot of energy combating each other, ratherthan all of us working in the same direction, to improve the sport. I thinkthe people in the ACA, Mike Murray in OBRA, they do a remarkable job. Theyare not a lot different than the (USA Cycling affiliated) local organizationsout there. Let’s face it. The sport is driven by thousands of passionatevolunteers; people willing to give up their time on a daily and weeklybasis. I just think we should always be working in the same direction.There were times we were affectionately referred to as the “feds,” andthere were times we were inappropriately maligned for things not in ourcontrol, but I guess that’s the mantel you bear when you are viewed as“the federal bureaucracy.” Let’s face it. At the end of the day, we werea bureaucracy and I was trying to make us less bureaucratic.VN: What are your options right now?GB: Well, I’ll keep breathing.VN: Beyond that, what other options are you looking at?GB: I have retained counsel. I am weighing my options.
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