Entry Fees run Amuck

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I’ve entered 9 races this year. And I’ve paid a little over $425 entry fees. That is a little under $50 per race average. It seems to me that the entry fees for racing has escalated out of control.

The silliest entry fee is that of our National Championships. Bobby Lee told me what it was to enter Track Nationals, each event, and it was stupidly expensive, something like $75 a race. Back when I started, when I was a junior, we got paid a travel stipend to come race the Nationals if we were ranked in the top 10 of the country. No entry at all. And the stipend was pretty good, a couple hundred dollars. The entry later was something really small.

I’m not sure when the sport became bingo and the races are funded by the entries of the participates? It used to be funded by the sponsors and the local communities that wanted the event in their area. It amazes me when I only pay $36 for a race and I think that is a good deal.

I probably average around 80 race days a year now. So that would be close to $4000 in entries. That isn’t counting the $1000+ entry fee that many stage races are charging now for each team.

Everyone tells me that all these other sports, triathlons, running, ski races, etc. have much higher entries. But the difference here is the number of races that a bike racers attends. As a sport, we should want our riders to participate in as many events as he/or she can manage. That is one of the main ways for an athlete to excel and learn the sport. When each and every local event costs at least $25 to race at a minimum, that is over $50 for the weekend. That is too much for a college student, bike shop employee, etc. to be paying to learn how to race bikes. And that is what local events are mainly for, learning how to race bicycles.

I don’t really see a way to reverse this trend of escalating entries. It is the norm now. When something gets established, I’ve noticed it is nearly impossible to put it back on a correct course. I hate being so pessimistic here, but it is what it is.

Below is what the 2011 Junior Track Nationals Entry was. I don’t know how many events each rider competes in, but this isn’t something that we should allow. This isn’t a good way to develop the sport and encourage young riders to compete.

2011 Junior Track Nationals Entry Schedule

Entry Fees and Registration Timeline

May 10 — Registration opens. Cost per event: $60 for ages 10-14; $75 for ages 15-16; $45 for ages 17-18; $120 for the omnium

June 16 — Entry fees increase to $75 for ages 10-14; $90 for ages 15-16; $60 for ages 17-18; $150 for the omnium

June 30 — Online registration closes at 11:59 p.m. EDT

On-site registration will be available for $90 for ages 10-14; $105 for ages 15-16; $75 for ages 17-18; $175 for the omnium.

Maybe the local races should charge these guys $10-15 dollars to race the kids race. They could make a little extra cash doing that.

36 thoughts on “Entry Fees run Amuck

  1. kaimi

    In the Netherlands you pay pay 35 euro to the KNWU for your license and all your entries are covered for the year.

    With 3-4 races every saturday and sunday within 2 hours drive my 8 year old son road about 80 races last year.

  2. orphan

    How many races have you promoted in the last 5 years Steve. It’s dang hard to find sponsors that will pay $.

  3. Jody Prummer

    Funny you wrote this post today. I was just thinking that a few weeks ago when I was signing up for some local races and again yesterday for another series race. Then you add the price of USAC licensing. I could have had a down payment on a nice set of wheels.
    The price of the races doesn’t bother me as much because it’s hard work for those folks and most of them do a great job. Paying USAC so much pisses me off because they really do nothing for grass roots racing. I do love OBRA $20 for a full license and very involved organization at all disciplines. I think OBRA proves your point about sponsorship funding help keep prices lower for the racers.

  4. jim sully

    Insurance costs,road access fee’s(police escort for intersection controls?)
    Official fee’s
    USA Cycling $ surcharge per every participating rider.

    Not saying the current state of evo re the cost of bike racing is pos or neg, but just like racing itself,until one does it(try being a promoter Tilly) …..
    Bein from both sides of this discussion,
    I found that actually expecting to make a buck for our club (whimps.org)after events(MB racing in Wash State) was mostly a pipe dream.,

    Bottom Line- I-We put the events on out of passion for the bicycle, breaking even or bank woulda been a perk.
    And I’d do it again, w/o too much reserve…mainly not wanting to actually lose too much $ doing so.

  5. John

    Absolutely like your takes on cycling and especially tuning in and seeing where you are riding/racing from day to day – very interesting!

    You do realize you are the 1% of racers in the world and the ‘Average Joe Racer’ Perspective (IMO) would lend toward ‘local’ racing IS our racing; not just a place to learn but our ‘playing rockstar on two wheels’ release.

    Race registration is high per event it seems, but it appears to have kept track with inflation (think about how much cycling clothing/gear/bikes cost and especially gas to and from events these days and it’s not that much out of whack.

  6. James R

    Unfortunately you are exactly right, it is the racers funding the races. Sponsorship is down or non-existent and expenses have gone up and up. I promoted a small local race for 10 years and when I started I could count on several hundred dollars of sponsorship and could get the venue by giving a bike (team sponsor provided) to the park rangers. My last year promoting the race I got zero in sponsorship money, had to pay the fees for online registration (which everyone demands), cost and number of required officials had gone up significantly, and for the venue I had to pay over $300 to rent the entire park, pay the hourly rate for two rangers to be on site the entire time, and pay 15% of the gate to the county. Not worth continuing.

  7. WildCat

    Promoting a race is a thankless job. So is officiating. Thankless, long hours, lots of work, little pay, lots of complaints. Actually making a buck or two is very welcome when it works out.

  8. Just Crusty

    For a long time, I’ve been the accountant for a couple of race promoters. Any “profit” made on one single event will be offset by losses on the next two events due to bad weather etc. I put “profit” in quotes because it’s figured before the promoters take-home. When figured on an hourly basis, the promoter would probably make more money flipping burgers at MacDonalds.

    The people making money are the one’s providing insurance, porta-potties, land owners and so on.

  9. Jon Holcomb

    Come race in Sheboygan at WORS # 12 this year. 35$ gets you in the race (pro/cat1) 25$ for Cat 3/2 plus you’d have a shot at the 1500$ 1st place take home. Wisconsin still tries to balance the cost with development potential for riders/racers.

  10. Mike Brown

    Simple example of why race fees are up:

    I promote a race one year that is part of a city sponsored festival. It is a combo road/ tech single track mtb or cross bike event. As city sponsored, police support for traffic management was free.
    Next year, for a variety of reasons, city sponsorship ended. Police support is still a required part of parade event/ permitting. Cost: 1400/dollars.

    I stopped promoting the event rather than have to pass that cost on in registration fees for what was supposed to be a simple, grassroots fun event put on by a local club.

  11. AC

    What gets me are the online registration fees, bike reg, active.com, etc., the ticketmasters of the bike world. 5 – 10% added cost, for very little benefit.

  12. chuck martel

    So it turns out that a minor-league bike race is a rentier opportunity for the cops. It’s only going to get worse.

  13. Chris Hayes


    It’s also interesting how it seems that prize lists have dropped. Almost inversely proportional to the rise in entries. It makes me wonder if the costs to put on a race haven’t drastically increased. I certainly don’t race for prize money anymore but in the DC/MD/VA area an average race will have $300-500 in prize money for the elite race. And these races are easily taking in $2-3k in entries just for that class. Other forces at play or just a shift in priority?

    I do believe the prize money is way better in the Midwest than out here.

    Enjoy your posts.


  14. Chris Skogen

    Been putting on FREE, 100 mile gravel road bicycle races here in Minnesota since 2007. This year we’ll see more than 2,000 racers in a seven event series. Also expanding our events to endurance foot races. It is possible and we’re living proof. What it takes is the right people in the right place at the right time. Stop paying to enter the big ones and things will change.

  15. John

    +1 It used to be a a sport for all. Now it’s a rich old white man’s sport. Clearly the current usacycling/promoter model isn’t aimed at developing our next gen of young riders. It’s goal is to serve the faux old bike racer population since they are large in numbers and dollars. No junior or U23 rider should have to pay entry fees.

  16. CM

    I don’t know what you guys are doing in this country but back home in Australia most track races are $5-10 and there is a small amount of prize money in every grade. Championship events are a bit more but not that much more. We race crits all the way through summer. You could race 5/week if you wanted to. These cost $10-$20 and pay up to $200 for the win. Cash, not shitty t-shirts and last season’s tires, with money for places as well. There is money in the lower grades too. 80% of the local race’s entries goes into prizes and is paid straight back out in cash. Local shops contribute tubes/socks/etc for sprint primes.

    OBRA proves you can do this. It seems to me it could be all the ancillary stuff that makes cat 4’s feel pro but doesn’t contribute to the racing (eg… race announcers, online reg, podium setups, etc) that contributes to the cost. You can just set up a desk and a few bollards in an office park on a weekend and have ridiculously good racing. But no promoter is willing to do a budget race because everyone wants to feel like a pro.

  17. jpete

    I think our team is planning to do all the junior races for free this season. I don’t know what the prize list will be for those, I imagine medals. I think Juniors appreciate those in the long run more than the little bit of money they blow before they get home. I still have a box of medals, placques, and trophies as a sign of my accomplishments. I think kids need to race for fun and experience, primarily, not for money. Those Juniors will turn into paying senior racers and hopefully will begin getting friends and parents involved if they have a sense of some accomplishment and success. Change needs to be at a grass roots level. I still think as a category three racer, my favorite prizes are still cool trophies and medals, rather than a little prize money that covers my entry and most of my gas. When I start thinking about that equation, I get a little depressed because I know over the season, I won’t come out ahead. just my two-cents.

  18. cl

    I think the promoters are caught between the racers who need low entry fees to race, and municipalities that have a hard time providing the needed services, if they aren’t outright hostile to holding the event in the first place.
    I’ve lived in Downers Grove, I think you’ve been here, just a few blocks from the old course for over 20 years. I don’t know how much you heard when you raced here, but many of the merchants downtown hated the event. It would cost the Sansa-belt selling clothing stores and tiny hardware stores tons in sales every year. They complained loudly for years. It took one penny pinching administration to raise the stakes so high the promoter couldn’t afford to hold the race any more. And it was deliberate on the part of the village. They wanted it gone.
    The ironic thing is that now the downtown is filled with restaurants, wine bars, gourmet grocery and coffee houses that would thrive if the event was held here.
    Bottom line is, it’s not always the promoters jacking up the costs.

  19. Monika

    I put on a race series that happens every second Tuesday of the month and it costs only 10 bucks! Checkout http://monikasraceseries.blogspot.com/
    I really do not make money doing this with all the other expenses, however, I am committed to supporting grass roots racing. This is how we bring in new emerging talent. I don’t give out money for prizes. Beer, specialty foods, locally roasted coffee, wine, gift certificates, those are our prizes and they are fun.
    I agree with others that have posted, that it is extremely difficult to get good sponsorship. But I will only do this if I have racers show up, so…please consider a fun 10 miles of time trial for ten dollars. 🙂

  20. Anthony Geller

    It seems Steve’s point is it should be the promoters responsibility to generate sponsorship so the athlete doesn’t have to pay the full cost of participating in the event. If he thinks the athletes presence is so valuable, what about the idea of having the riders find their own sponsorship to cover their entry fees? If they can’t convince someone else to pay, then they pay for themselves.

  21. Steve Wathke

    Orphan is right. Good luck finding sponsors who want to shell out big dollars for an event nobody comes to watch. Steve you should promote a race and see it from the other side. If it weren’t for race promoters you guys wouldn’t have anywhere to race your little bicycles! If you don’t want to pay then win the race so you come out ahead. Most people don’t race for a living an if they do they got to be dirt poor.

  22. devin

    My daughter is racing here last year as JR and is bumping up to 19+ age group just so she can be in it for prize money in WORS. So between the two of us on a weekend of one race each we can top out around 75-80…. and that is on top of the license fees.. that aren’t cheep.. I got turned off my cross when the cost there went +25 buck a race.
    All we are ever looking for is to brake even and maybe have enough to get an ice creme after the race. Racing is a good time for the family and gets around like minded people,, but if it all got put on a spread sheet the numbers would hurt to look at.

  23. jp

    how about battenkill, that guy must make a killing, i’d like to see the cost of putting that race on itemized and see what he profits. And it somehow it has caught on to be one of those races that thousands of cat.5’s feel the need to swarm to, no offense, but most have no clue how to even ride a race like that. i love chris thater, the prize list is healthy for all the races and they still have managed to keep the entry fee down, and have always had lots of primes. I guess putting on bike races is more of a business now.

  24. Thad

    Funny, I got my new Excel Sports catalog and was once again shocked how expensive this great sport has gotten. Bib shorts for $300, road frames for $4500 and helmets for $300. Those were on the high end but the low end wasn’t any great deal. It still was too rich for my blood. It was not that way when I started racing 20 year ago. My $600 Schwinn Circuit was plenty of bike. The sport was affordable and was easy to get in too. Now things have changed, entry fees included.

  25. Jim

    I do a weekly TT series and it costs nothing. Of course, you get nothing except for a good hard ride whenever you show up.
    OTOH, while I feel the costs are far out of line with reality, the racers can vote with their feet. Don’t go to races where you feel the entry fee is excessive. Organize your own rides/races. Most (all?) of us are NOT making a living at this so why are people willing to spend $50 to go and get beaten up?

  26. JB

    While I think actions do often speak louder than words, the threats of not attending races to protest high RFs will have a very negative residual effect.
    If we stop showing up, what will happen to that race? It will go away and as a promoter I know once you lose a location even for one season, it is difficult and often more expensive to get back the next.
    So in this spirit, i would write/call the promoter and let them know that it is a “burden” to either attend or not attend. We often fly in the dark as to why attendance is up one year and down the next, even when everything is equal. We speculate on higher gas prices, another race being held on the same weekend, etc..
    Back to Steve’s point- It is quite a shock to sit down and look at the pricing for races. What has been pointed out is that municipalities are struggling for cash and they see these events as a way to generate revenues.
    higher off duty police fees
    higher facility rental fees
    higher “miscellaneous” fees
    and the list grows.
    In this economic climate sponsors, if you can find any are more willing to donate merchandise or product/services than cash (they don’t have any extra).
    So what can we do? Help the promoters by telling them why you can’t attend. Or if you do, how they can offset costs. Contact the the sponsors you do see at races and just say a simple “thank you”. Believe me, that goes a long way.

  27. channel_zero

    The current situation in competitive cycling is over a decade of USAC policy designed to maximize revenue for the federation/UCI, and discourage any notion of a domestic racing economy.

    USAC’s current mission is to develop riders for the UCI’s doping show at the highest possible cost to the parents and the sport’s participants.

    Until you USAC members force fundamental changes at USAC, it’s more beatings until morale improves for the members. You’ve got OBRA as the example of how a bicycle racing federation is supposed to operate.

  28. flyn' pharmacist

    A few thoughts for promoters–
    Most cities and towns have a promotional budget that is funded by things like hotel and alcohol sales in the town. A simple proposal to the committee can generate dollars. (their purpose is to bring money to the town)
    If some of the cities are getting out of hand with the fee’s, you may find that other communities may welcome a bike race and the money that it brings. I’m not sure how they do it in Tulsa, but what a race weekend at Tulsa Tough-reasonable entry fee’s and a big purse for all!!

  29. Bob

    Collegiate races have an entry fee cap of $15, including USAC per rider fees (this may vary somewhat by conference). Yet clubs, which often have little or no external funding, still manage to put on high-quality races and often make a profit. Admittedly, there is no prize money, but I don’t really think that’s what is driving the entry fees up in the average race.

  30. Seis_Pendejos

    I see several trends that have triggered the increase in entry fees:

    As we all know, racing ages in the US have shifted to older racers over the past two decades to the point where we proudly point out (as a determinate of legitimacy and sponsor target market) that the average racing cyclist/fan has an income >$75 k .

    USACycling does not seem to be overly concerned with the shift in the age demographic.

    It’s kind of hard to bellyache about entry fees when you look at the cost of people cycling equipment purchases. (Let it be known that other than the consumable parts on my bike, everything on my racing bike was bought used and I have about an $1200 outlay in it, carbon wheels included. And yes, I bought all of it, no sponsor or team issue bits or even “team discount” bits).

    As mentioned, things that used to be freebies, like police services are now often often required and charged to the organizer

    Society has cultivated an expectation that races are now “events” where a participant expects T-shirts and goody bags and other perks. Thus, a formerly purely competitive event now has become blurred with expectations of entertainment. The idea of value has changed.

  31. Bobby

    This season I did quite a bit of work for SoCal Cross.

    After seeing how much time and effort it takes to put just one race out of an entire series together I have a new found respect for anyone who steps up to the plate to throw a race.

    The “payment” for race volunteers was a season of free race entries. Only took advantage of that once because every dollar helped the general good.

    Just think of race entries of a convenience fee for not having to do any grunt work before or after.

  32. Seis_Pendejos

    The obvious question that has been ignored is How is the KNWU able to do this? Clearly the US races can’t mirror the Dutch model, but parts can be used?

  33. Mark

    Everything costs money. Insurance, course marshalls, insurance, officials, insurance, on or off-duty cops, etc. These days, people are less likely to volunteer there hard-earned free time when they can and rightfully should get something for it. Insurance costs, whether that which is included in your USA Cycling membership, or that which is added to the entry fee at the race level, have all gone up significantly due to the increasing burben put on our healthcare system by those that don’t have insurance. Back in the day, USCF has different entry fees for attached and un-attached. They should re-instate something like that, but call it self-insured and non-insured. That will never happen of course, so every racer will pay a little higher entry fee to cover the cost of the 1 un-insured racers ambulance ride.


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