open letter to usac on the topic of bicycle racing


Open letter to USAC on the topic of cyclocross racing.

My name is Molly Cameron and I am a bicycle racer. I happen to live in Oregon and did the majority of my racing in Oregon and Washington this season. I traveled internationally, raced some UCI races and am preparing to fly to Madison, Wisconsin to race the US Cyclocross National championships next week.

I registered for the 2013 Cyclocross National Championships the day online registration opened. I signed up for the Elite race, the Master’s 35+ race and a “non-championship” race. These were, I should note, individually the most expensive races I have ever paid for.

I’m not complaining here, bike racing has never been cheap.

A few days ago, it was brought to my attention that I am listed in last place on the start list and “race predictor” for all of the races I registered for. Apparently I have no “USAC points” so I am listed in dead last place. I kinda chuckled about it to myself, my goals for the Elite race are reasonable, my UCI points should start me mid-pack and I’ve generally entered the Master’s race as a warm up and to pre-ride the course a bunch at race pace.

While I have a decent shot at winning the 35+ race, it has never been a target for me. (I have finished in the top ten every year I’ve done an age group race at Nationals, which is infrequently). I’ve always tried to focus on being the best racer I can be and race against the best I can in the Elite race. I’ve never liked it when legitimate professional talent (not me, obviously!) cherry picks age group national champ races. Not naming names but it happens, UCI licenses or not. I’ve always held the belief the age group races are for the riders with real jobs and stuff other than bike racing to focus on.

So when a bunch of racers also registered in the Master’s 35+ race sent me notes/tweets/etc voicing how my lack of a call-up in the race was “BS” and “ridiculous”. I put a little more thought into it and, yes. Yes it is ridiculous.

I emailed a few people at USA Cycling today (December 31st) to inquire about my lack of USAC points. I’m not going to name any names as everyone I have ever dealt with at USA Cycling has been responsive, helpful and professional. I’ve raced all over the world and only had good experiences with the UCI and USAC representatives and employees. I’m not writing this to incite or perpetuate any anti-USA Cycling sentiment. I don’t think USAC “sucks”. Though maybe some of their policies do.

The response I got from USAC was what I expected. I have read and know the rules myself.

“We have some fairly rigid policies regarding call ups. If you are riding in the elite men race, then the first criteria will be UCI points, so your call up would be based on that. For masters, we use the returning 8 places from last year, followed by USAC rankings.” Which is completely fair. My racing and results should speak for themselves this season!

Here is the catch: USA Cycling is my national governing body yet, USA Cycling does not recognize ANY of the racing I did this year (except CrossVegas, where a mechanical in the last lap ended my race) and that affects my USAC ranking; I currently don’t have one. Zero points. Even though I am internationally ranked by the UCI, I don’t officially have any USAC points. Not a single point. This year, I had a great season. I won races, was rarely off the podium and consistently raced against International caliber competition at every race.

Many of you may know about the non-reciprosity between USAC and the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association. You might have read this article on Velonews detailing the current state of affairs, if not, give it a read for some context. Read the comments too. There is a lot of the “blah blah USAC sucks” type but, you can find some intelligent exchanges in-between the USAC bashing. Here is another article.

People jokingly comment to me; “move to Colorado!” or “move to New England” suggesting that, I would not have this problem if I was in a region that had USAC reciprocity and there is a bunch of USAC sanctioned racing. That is not a realistic solution to the problem. If anything these are pretty selfish recommendations, from riders not caught up in this power struggle.

I’d like to also note that I’ve never felt like the USAC or UCI is “evil”. My intention here is not to vilify the USAC or UCI. I’ve never felt the need to trash talk either governing body. Like I said, I am a bike racer, I show up, play by the rules, race clean and do my job the best I can against the best competition available.

I’m not writing this looking for sympathy, special favors or to bend the USAC rules for me. I’m writing to point out how flawed this system is. If USAC is supposed to be my national governing body why don’t they recognize any of the racing I’ve done this season? This is, of course, a rhetorical question.

I represent everything that USAC should be supporting. I am a 30-something year old bicycle racing “consumer”! I love bike racing, I put lots of money into the sport and race consistenty. I travel to races, I’ve been going to US Nationals yearly since I started racing cyclocross. I buy my spendy UCI/USAC license every year and pay my entry fees with no hesitation. I represent many, many of us cyclocross racers; we work full-time jobs, have a lot of other responsibilities in our lives and still dedicate ourselves to being the best cyclocross racers we can be.

But, because of some political power plays between the governing bodies of our sport, my racing does not count. At least not to USA Cycling.

When I asked about my UCI points and UCI ranking superseding any USAC point system for ranking in the master’s race. And, to be fair, I was just pointing out how silly it is that I am ranked internationally but not nationally.

“No because most of the people with UCI points are professionals and not allowed to ride the masters events anyway. If you are on any kind of UCI team, or you have ridden world cup events this year, you are considered an elite and not allowed to ride masters events at any level. That takes care of most of the people who have UCI points. The philosophy is that if you are good enough to earn UCI elite points, you should be riding elites and not masters.”

I’m sorry, you are incorrect. Most of the people with UCI points are not professionals. Not even close.

While I agree with the philosophy; and I too think that if you are good enough to be getting UCI points you should be racing the Elite race but, not necessarily to the exclusion of any age group racing you are able to do. I also like the rules about UCI team members and World Cup participants not being able to race age group races. Makes sense. But in reality it is because the cyclocross community is largely self-policing that most professional-caliber riders with any self respect or self awareness know better than to cherry pick the age group categories at nationals. It is not because the USAC rules are so well written that the categories work them selves out.

You (USAC) are wrong about most of the people with UCI points. The overwhelmingly vast majority of racers in the United States racing UCI races are not professionals. There are hundreds of UCI licensed riders racing UCI races and NOT getting UCI points. And the vast majority of racers getting UCI points in those races are not professionals. Of the currently 87 UCI ranked US riders with UCI points right now, about a dozen are professionals. Maybe. The other 75 something US riders with UCI points, (while some are very well sponsored) are bicycle racing consumers. Grass roots level bicycle racing consumers, that put a lot of money and heart back into the sport.

Let’s consider for a minute: What if my season goal was winning the Master’s National Championship 35+ race? I don’t see why it could not be, I’m 37, I work 2 full time jobs and still managed a competitive cyclocross season. I’m the stereotypical masters racer. If I trained hard and maintained my form through the holidays just to find out that USAC does not recognize any of my season’s race results and that I have to start in the back row of the most important race of the year, I’d be pretty devastated.

Just because I live in Portland, Oregon and race local races.

In addition to all of the race results, I asked about the chance I’ll be fined for holding a UCI Elite license and racing non UCI events this coming season:

“The penalty is a 100 fine the first infraction and a 30 day suspension for subsequent ones. Last year it was only the professional riders but I have heard discussion of all international license holders but am not sure when/if that takes effect”

While this is pretty unlikely to happen to me, it very well could. Again, USAC is just enforcing a UCI rule that has been around for a while. But I hope they pick up on the public outcry. It is a rule that makes no practical sense and bums out everyone.

No one benefits with these kinds of rules. Well, maybe the UCI does.

Where does it leave us in 2013? UCI cyclocross racing is very important to me, important to my sponsors but, the bulk of the racing I do is in Oregon under OBRA. I already have both my OBRA and UCI/USAC 2013 licenses. USAC can potentially fine/sanction me for racing non-USAC races as soon as the local season starts up. I can race as many master’s cyclocross races in Oregon and Washington as I want to and I’ll still never earn a USAC point.

It is a broken system. One would think, that USAC, looking to actually live up to their namesake and represent every cyclist in the USA, would just be gracious and acknowledge OBRA races and results. If anything, just do it for the racers. This kinda stuff only makes our lives complicated and does not in any way improve our racing experience or benefit the national racing scene.

I know the USAC representative I emailed back and forth with about this will eventually read this and I apologize for just copying verbatim your emails here but, I know you are just dictating the current policy and it is nothing personal. I appreciated the quick responses to my questions. I have a lot of respect for every race official, race promoter and everyone involved in the various bicycle racing sanctioning bodies. While I may not always agree with you, I could not race my bike without all of you doing what you do.

I’m really not concerned with my call up at Master’s nationals. It is the damn principal here. USAC does not appear to have a real grasp on what bike racers are actually doing, what is actually important to us. Maybe one of these years I will actually show up with some fitness and contend for the win. But if things stay the same, I’ll still never earn a single USAC point in 2013 regardless of how much racing I’ll do, UCI, Masters, Elite or otherwise.


3 comments for “Open letter to USAC on the topic of cyclocross racing.”

  1. Molly,

    Well said. I’ve been experiencing a similar issue with a Cat 2 to Cat 1 road upgrade request. After winning Stage 1 at the 2012 Cascade Classic Cat 2 stage race and finishing second on GC (by three seconds) I requested my USAC Cat 1 upgrade. Unfortunately the 28 points I earned at Cascade (capped at 20) could not be considered. In spite of beating 107 of the 108 racers (USAC riders from 14 states and some BC riders) in one of the most competitive Cat 2 stage races in the US – the points could not be counted because it was an OBRA event.

    I agree with you that everyone I’ve spoken with at USAC has been quick to reply and courteous, but it’s frustrating that a process which is supposed to ensure the quality of the Cat 1 license has instead become a way to punish riders who happen to live in non-USAC sanctioned states.

    I still have goals of becoming a domestic pro, and I’ve continued training this winter with that goal in mind. It’s extremely frustrating that the national organization which should have an interest in fostering athletes instead has rules that hinder advancement.

    I am 21 years old and a full-time engineering student. Like you I think that we represent dedicated racers that USAC should be supporting.

    I honestly don’t expect anything to change and am trying to work around term schedules to find races outside Oregon to earn my remaining upgrade points. But hey bike racing is a tough sport and isn’t always fair. Turns out that if you live in Oregon it’s even tougher.


    Posted by Ryan Miller | January 2, 2013, 10:03 pm

  2. I agree! This happened to me in the Elite race at Kansas City in 2007. I had enough UCI points to net me a mid-pack call-up, and I was lined up dead last, then caught behind a crash at the start. I had flown all the way to MI to get my UCI points. And raced under a UCI license. I think it’s just brutal, and they cannot have had that pro vs. masters vs. any female Cat. 1 cross racer excuse for me in the women’s race, because at that time it was all the same.

    Ever since then I STOPPED buying a UCI license. It was an easy decision for me. They don’t even abide by their own rules, why should I be paying them a dime?

    Posted by Sami | January 14, 2013, 5:08 pm

  3. Excellent letter…although it could be condensed into the following six words; quit playing politics with our sport! Instead of bicycles, which I ride, I’m into racing beach catamarans, like Hobies. Same thing there, however, with different groups vying for control. Sorry it’s such a hassle for you but kudos for such a well-written letter that addresses all aspects.

    Posted by Bill Groesz | January 17, 2013, 11:33 am

Post a comment