USA Cycling’s Explanation of Austin’s Cross Nationals Issues on Sunday/Monday

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I’ve known Micah for a while.  He’s a hard worker and good guy.  I bet he had no desire to try to explain this whole mess. He probably should have given Dot Abbott credit for explaining the junior men/women deal, instead of “borrowing it”  from her Facebook page, but I’ll give him a get-out-of-jail card for that.    Since I really wasn’t around for the races on Monday, I only know what is out there on social media.  We’ve probably all addressed it more than it needed to be and should just move on now.  I’d hope that everyone involved learned some valuable lessons. He did list his number if you want to call and talk it over personally. Anyway, here’s the official explanation
In light of the events of this past weekend at the 2015 USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships, I wanted to take time to address a few of the circumstances, decisions and reasons for those decisions that went into the timeline of events from Sunday morning until the competition’s conclusion on Monday. I hope that the information below will answer some of your questions and provide you with a better understanding of what exactly happened in Austin this past weekend, particularly regarding the Sunday postponement and the decision to have the women’s 15-16 juniors ride with the 17-18 divisions.First and foremost, we would like to apologize. The situation of postponing an event, especially on the final day with no time following the postponement where we could reallocate various divisions, is frustrating for all involved. We know how hard all of you trained and that you spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars to travel to Austin; and that you took time off of work and/or school to be at our event. Regardless of whether or not you were able to stay or you had to get back to work or school—or if arrangements were too expensive to justify—we are truly sorry that this happened.While unexpected circumstances, which will be further outlined below, did arise, this event has the USA Cycling National Championship seal on it and is thus our responsibility. Anything that happens at our events, good or bad, ultimately falls on our shoulders.For those riders who picked up a number but were unable to race on Monday due to the change in schedule, you will see a full refund shortly.As a National Governing Body, we do all that we can to account for any situation. We spent hundreds of hours on the phone, exchanging emails and doing course visits and walkthroughs with the Austin city officials and the Parks and Recreation Department in the three years leading up to the event. In that time, we assembled contingency plans for weather, parking and any and all other imaginable circumstances that could strike Austin before or during our five-day event. We even had a backup venue selected from the time the original bid was submitted in the event that we could not run the championships at Zilker Park. We shared with the local government the extent to which the park would be damaged and made it clear that USA Cycling has monies budgeted to go into repair any damage to the grounds, a process that will begin this week.

Our first interaction with the Heritage Tree Foundation was during the course build out where we informally walked the course. These course surveys were based more on how to protect the roots with mulch. Yes, there was talk about critical root zones, but the course was very dry and specific adjustments were not formally required. However, as we discovered after the amount of precipitation and subsequent course being compromised with mud, divots, etc., the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation felt that the course ran too close to the root systems of these trees, threatening the trees’ health. Unfortunately, during the 36-month preparation for these championships and numerous discussions with the city, there was never mention of this concern. We performed a course walkthrough several months out as well as during course construction, and we did numerous walkthroughs during the event. These walkthroughs included Parks staff and their own forestry and tree expert. We were always told to work with our liaison with Parks and Recreation and we made all changes to the course based on their recommendations. Had we been asked to make additional changes at any point, we would have happily routed the course farther away from these root beds and done our part to stay away from these prized trees.

In fact, the first signs of concern we heard outside of making sure there was enough mulch over the root beds came last week when events were already underway. At that point, there was no indication that the Austin Parks and Recreation Department would consider pulling Sunday’s events. They let us know there was some apprehension among some citizens, and we reminded them of plans to repair park grounds following the Championships, but the city never informed us that we were at risk of shutting down for Sunday. Their only shared concern was parking—if we had too much rain we may be forced to move to our Plan B for parking (for which we were already prepared with maps and communication created weeks before).

When we arrived at the course on Sunday morning for the final day of competition, we started receiving reports that police were turning riders away around 7:15 a.m. The confusion was abundant across the board since we had not received any communication from the Parks Department that they wanted to shut the event down, which was in response to concerns raised by the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation. I can assure you that from the moment we first received reports of police turning competitors and fans away, we began calling and emailing Parks officials. When we did finally reach someone, the department was adamant about closing the park for 48 hours to allow crews to lay mulch over exposed root areas and re-asses the course. Obviously such a position was an impossibility in our eyes because we were adamant that racing had to happen.

As discussions and negotiation continued with the city over the next two hours, police began threatening to arrest USA Cycling members who were in the park waiting on further word from us, citing that the park was closed and cyclists were loitering. We felt at that point that it was in everyone’s best interest to make the announcement that the event was cancelled and for all to disperse at the instruction of law enforcement. After this announcement was made, we still continued to press city officials to see what, if anything, could be done to get our last day of racing in.

During this time, I also met twice with the pro teams to discuss our options and hear their preferences moving forward. With Sunday now an absolute impossibility, we discussed riding on Monday with the teams, which they unanimously favored over other options that included finishing Nationals after World Championships or having the last day at a separate location in the coming week or so.

We came to an agreement with the Parks and Recreation Department around 10:30 a.m. to let the park settle for 24 hours, lay down mulch and soil on exposed root areas and rework zones of the course under scrutiny—all compromises that we would have been happy to make at an earlier time.

Sunday afternoon, we did a 90-minute walk-through with the Parks Department and two arborists from the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation, and all sides were pleased with the changes.

Please keep in mind that during all of this, we had to be deliberate in what was said and not said publicly. We absolutely did not mean to show a lack of transparency or to keep any of you in the dark; our No. 1 goal was to ensure that the competition happened, and we couldn’t afford to burn bridges along the way and risk losing the park on Monday. Since then, we have been in thorough discussion with all organizing parties involved to make sure that everything we share is accurate and not speculation because, as dues paying members, you deserve nothing less than the truth and the facts.

With the negotiated start time of 12:30 on Monday, we were obviously short-handed on time, which forced us to make some difficult decisions. The 12:30 p.m. start only allowed us five slots in which we could hold races. The final three of the day went to U23 men, elite women and elite men, which left two slots for men’s and women’s 15-16 and 17-18 juniors divisions.

The decision was ultimately made with the Chief Commissaire to race the men’s 15-16 division solo at 12:30, with the women’s 15-16 riders on course with the 17-18 men and women. Unlike a local cycling event, our goal at a National Championship is to protect the integrity of the podium, especially World Championship classes where UCI points are on the line. We want to make sure that the front of the race has no obstacles to overcome so that we have a deserving winner and the podium riders have as little traffic to run through as possible. The riders in contention for the medals would have fewer slower riders on course that they had to pass—had the women’s 15-16 riders been forced to start behind the men’s 15-16, the front of the women’s race would have been riding through much more traffic on lap one.

Also, given the mandated course modifications, the shorter juniors course was no longer available for Monday’s racing. However, even if the 15-16 women had been afforded their own individual time on the course, the outcome of the race and number of laps for the winner would have been the same. Because they were turning 13-14 minute lap times for the 30-minute race, this category would always have done a total of two laps (winning time 26:12) rather than three laps (approximately 39:18). For those riders turning a slower first lap, in accordance with the way the events were run throughout the week, anyone turning a first lap time that would result in a projected total race time of over 36 minutes was pulled from the race after the first lap. On Monday, this accounted for riders placed 15th and farther back. Possibly seven additional 15-16 women would have been able to do one more additional lap in perfect circumstances. Was this an ideal situation? No, especially considering that our goal from the beginning was to showcase this women’s group on the final day of Cyclo-cross Nationals along with the elite riders. This was an unfortunate and unavoidable byproduct of a delayed and condensed schedule.

While I know that it does not begin to resolve the situation, I hope this information at least helps explain where we as an organization came from in our decision-making. Like you, we are also very frustrated in this chain of events that led to the postponement of Sunday’s races in Austin. Our membership and riders are our No. 1 asset and priority, and we feel terrible that all involved experienced this postponement.

If you have any further questions or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to me personally at mrice@usacycling.org or at 719-434-4283.

Kind regards,

Micah Rice
Vice-President of National Events, USA Cycling

 

Not that this has anything to do with the above statement, but I received a few of these stickers in the mail a little while ago.  There were made in response to the UCI’s regulations of frame stickers for UCI approved racing bikes.  What a crock.

fuciucistickerReal UCI sticker.  Pretty good, huh?

 

 

24 thoughts on “USA Cycling’s Explanation of Austin’s Cross Nationals Issues on Sunday/Monday

    1. BR

      Though there are legitimate concerns, unfortunately, AHTF tried to sensationalize it:

      “These races are based on mud. They need mud to make it more challenging. We feel that if it hadn’t rained, the organizers would have wetted the course to make it challenging. We think that the event was scheduled intentionally during the time when it typically rains in Austin”

      As to deep soil compaction, they are again guessing and sensationalizing. Compaction is measurable… they do it in construction all the time. I would love to see soil densities measured 6 to 12″ below the surface under the course track compared to densities just outside of the course in the same locations… bet there would be no significant difference.

      Clearly trees should be protected, especially in parks, and course design should be sensitive to environmental issues. But lets all work for positive change instead of intentionally trying to alarm and anger folks.

      As to the Junior Women issue, same thing. Lets evaluate and work for positive change. If the goal is to retain and attract young female riders, don’t systematically discourage them, even at Nationals, if its not necessary. The leaders of both junior women’s fields had to ride through one (in the case of 17-18 women) or both (in case of 15-16 women) of the fields in front of them. None of the junior women had a clear course to “protect the integrity of their podium”. So why pull girls earlier than necessary to “protect the integrity” of the mens 17-18 podium? Isn’t passing part of racing? Especially for the 15-16 and younger age groups, lets try to let them run the full race going forward. If you have to pull a very slow rider to avoid impacting the start of the next race, fine. But otherwise, let them ride.

       
  1. Bolas Azules

    Great.

    “This is what happened and a time line as to when it all went down…sure we made some novice decisions but hey, we thought them through.” “As for moving forward, it’s business as usual with the City of Austin and a door-mat organization we will continue to assist them in any way possible in pumping millions of dollars into their local economy. We are here for them and we would hate to upset the great things they do for us.”

    Dude, you’re paid to represent the interests of THE RIDERS and THE SPORT. Earn your pay.

     
      1. Bolas Azules

        Anti-Bolas – please keep your personal attacks to a minimum. I didn’t have anything to do with the poor decision making, the mistakes made or anything else to do with what happened last week. However, I have over 40 years of watching the Federation stumble over their own feet at every turn and countless examples of questionable behavior. Yeah I’m a big bad ‘internet troll,’ whatever.

         
  2. Evan

    I have a genuine question here, I’m not trying to be snarky or anything.

    Why does USAC occasionally want to have relatively new locations host nationals? I’m sure Austin had held some local races, but had they been of a larger caliber, bringing in 500+ racers, taking place over more than one day, held in poor weather? It seems like due diligence and planning can only account for so much before the high stakes of the actual event will bring to the surface all the true interests you have to account for. And in a few years the race will be held in Reno – I race in the mid-atlantic so I can’t say for sure if there are already legit races being held there, but a quick search through bikereg didn’t turn up much. There must be a goal in mind when selecting these locations, but what is that goal and how does it compare to the interest of going with a tested location?

    It doesn’t have to only be a location that’s hosted nationals before, or even a UCI race before, but one where it’s clear the promoters have established relationships with not only local officials, but area interest groups whose attention is only focused when the pressure is high, and the event is running. I acknowledge that a test event wouldn’t have produced this exact response, but it might have caught the attention of the HTF, prompting either them to be more forceful, or the Parks and USAC to be more cautious, in the planning stages. And even if multiple test events don’t fix every problem, it certainly doesn’t hurt to do it, so why isn’t it a necessary part of due diligence?

     
    1. channel_zero

      For a national championships location, there has to be a test event. The higher the ranking, the better. But, now the economics of doing that AND operate a National Championships comes into play. My understanding there’s little to no money made producing USAC’s nationals anyway. Again, we’re back to the generally broken ways USAC operates.

      This was an unfortunate and unavoidable byproduct of a delayed and condensed schedule.

      They refuse to acknowledge it was their decision to have the event at an untested location that got them into trouble. They are sorry we all had a problem with their event. Typical USAC. They are set to repeat this mistake.

      On the ground, that day, it seemed like they did the best they knew how. Which, BTW, means making a hash of a couple of Women’s events in favor of preserving Mens events. But, they got it done despite the NIMBYs. Not all good, not all bad.

       
  3. gary

    Just read the tree foundation’s rebuttal. Wow. The smugness and self back-patting is enough to do more soil compaction than thousands of bike tires. Their rebuttal will be bought 100% by their followers, and they seem like the type of fanatical group you shouldn’t even bother arguing with.

    This comment was especially disturbing, and shows that the group made little attempt to understand what was going on, but fathered to focus on their ‘war’:
    “These races are based on mud. They need mud to make it more challenging. We feel that if it hadn’t rained, the organizers would have wetted the course to make it challenging. We think that the event was scheduled intentionally during the time when it typically rains in Austin. ”

    You won the battle, Heritage Tree Warriors. Surely no CX event will be held at Zilker Park again. Ever.

     
    1. channel_zero

      Typical NIMBY thing. USAC wasn’t prepared for the NIMBYs.

      You know what makes NIMBYs go away? A bribe. USAC could have made a donation to the foundation in exchange for them to ease up a little and let a modified event run on Sunday. That’s how it works in the real world.

       
  4. Mark Weber

    Anytime one is dealing with a group that has chosen the name “Heritage Tree Foundation” common sense has already been discarded……

     
  5. MS

    AHTF tree huggers sure have a lot of time on their hands. I like to preserve trees as much as the next guy but these idiots border on crazed lunatics. I always wondered what it looks like over there on far left cliff edge. I don’t buy there bullshit anymore than I’m buying Micah’s. The truth of the whole matter lies somewhere compacted in the middle.

    …now where’s my chainsaw.

     
  6. Jim Ochowicz

    Sounds like the Historic Architectural Review Board in my town. Bunch of old ladies (guys can be ladies, too) sneaking around and peeking in windows then filing craziness over the types of windows, doors, siding and roofing material used to maintain 150-200 year old row houses. They also show up at Council meetings in period garb and cry when they don’t get their way. absolute insanity, they would fit in with the Lorax people in Austin

     
  7. Bill K

    Wasn’t there a contract with Austin Parks and Recreation Department?? If so, couldn’t the Austin Parks and Recreation Department be held responsible for losses by Cycling USA members?????
    If you add up all the losses for all the members, it could be quite a large amount.

     
  8. DStudley

    The whole Austin deal reminds me of something Tim Rutledge said about selecting a park for a cross race like nationals, “If there is any Friends of type of group, take a pass and move on to the next location, because that group is going to cause issues.” I guess this Heritage Tree group qualifies as a Friends of type of group.

     
  9. Bolas Azules

    Bill K yeah let’s see this contract and see who signed it and if the terms were adhered to. Let’s see it posted on the USAC website.

    My guess is it’s time to say goodbye to Austin. Move on, the party is over. They let some do-gooder fringe group flex it’s muscle and they pissed right into everyone’s face. The last thing the cycling community should do is to keep them as a spot for training camps, races and national events. As Gramps once said, “That’s water under the dam!”

     
  10. H Luce

    The “soil compaction concerns” are a bunch of malarkey. In Lawrence, we have the Riverfront Trail, running through an established forest with many old trees. The soil is sandy clay and on the trail is thoroughly compacted to the point where if you wanted to dig a hole, you’d have to use a pick and a mattock to break up the soil. There are plenty of exposed roots. None of those trees have been killed or harmed by people riding on the trail, and I’ve ridden on that trail since 2002. The main cause of tree loss is bank erosion, followed by lightning strikes.

     
  11. Jack Mason

    As a utility worker I have on numerous occasions dug and installed water lines within 3 feet of old growth trees to depths of 8 feet. Been doing it for close to 25 years. Never once have I seen a tree die from it. Trust me people will let you know. Heritage Tree Foundation get a fucking life. Try being proactive and plant a fucking tree!

     
  12. Bolas Azules

    Anti-Bolas – please keep your personal attacks to a minimum. I didn’t have anything to do with the poor decision making, the mistakes made or anything else to do with what happened last week. However, I have over 40 years of watching the Federation stumble over their own feet at every turn and countless examples of questionable behavior. Yeah I’m a big bad ‘internet troll,’ whatever.

     
  13. Charles Dostale

    If USA Cycling ( still want to type USCF ) wants to move forward, it needs to get legal protection from future claims from the Heritage Tree Foundation. It is possible any damage done to the trees or tree root systems was done as part of previous festivals allowed in the park, or other festivals allowed in the park after CX Nationals. Since USA Cycling complied to all requests by the Heritage Tree Foundation, if some type of damage is discovered that requires money to repair the damage, USA Cycling should get an agreement that they are free and clear of any legal action that could be taken against them to obtain money towards those repairs. USA Cycling needs to get a legally binding agreement that any tree damage is not their fault.

    There is a lot of Bad all around on this, USA Cycling needs to make sure it doesn’t come back and haunt them or bite them later.

    Sorry that is the reality of life in the US of A these days.

     

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