USAC F#%*’s up the Nationals Championships

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Man, when the USAC (United State Cycling Federation) starts addressing rules, things many times get jacked up way more than they were before. They make bad decisions that don’t represent their clients, us the riders. They change the rules for their convenience, not in the rider’s best interest.

First, let’s address the Pro Criterium Championships held Saturday night. They scheduled the race during the Tour of Alberta, a race that all the “lesser” Pro Teams were racing. So, the race couldn’t attract enough riders to make a legitimate field, so they decided to open up the race to Elite riders. The whole last decade, the USAC has done everything available to make a separate Professional racing circuit. They don’t let the best elite riders participate in any race with a professional sanction, but when they can’t hold a National Championship because of bad scheduling, they just change face and fill the field. Wonder what they would have done if “an amateur” would have won the race???

Now the Cyclocross Nationals in Austin. They made a rule change that says that Masters have to only race one race at Nationals. The rule….riders will NOT be able to compete in BOTH Elite and Masters categories at the Cyclo-cross National Championships. They can only race in one of those two divisions… Man, what a crock.

USAC must have realized by now that cyclocross is a participatory event. And that masters riders make up a very good portion of the total entries. Most of the riders winning, finishing in the top 3, of most the Master’s Nationals, also race the Elite race. So, USAC has made a rule that limits the ability of the best age graded riders to race? That is just stupid and not in the best interest of anyone involved.

The only reason I can think they might have tried to “address” this issue is trying to limit the number of riders in the Elite Cyclocross Nationals. They can do that through a qualification process, which they have also implemented. Only the top 90 rides in the PRO CX standing, plus anyone with a UCI point, will be able to enter the Elite Nationals. If a master’s rider meets this qualification, then they should be able to compete, in my opinion.

Maybe the USAC needs to realize there isn’t a Professsional Cyclocrss circuit. If they can’t attract a big enough group to fill the Pro Criterium Nationals, then they would have zero percent chance to fill a Professional Cyclocross field. There are a total of maybe 5 cyclocross Pro’s in the US. That is men and women combined. So, all elite riders have been allowed to fill the fields, which seems appropriate. Now, they make a rule to alienate many of the very riders that have made the sport very successful​.

Here’s a link to the USAC release on its 2014-2015 “Professional Cyclo-cross” schedule. They boast a prize list of $40000, split evenly between men and women, so $20K for each. Wow, that is something. I’ve personally won more prize money that that at an individual race.

I’d never heard a peep of all this going down. I wonder why that is? Seems like we all would have heard something about it before it became “official”. They still have time to rethink this and fix their mistake. But, that will never happen. Our sport has issues.


48 thoughts on “USAC F#%*’s up the Nationals Championships

  1. Sal Ruibal

    I used to race Masters 50+ CX but often found myself in a mixed category with — get this — girls 12+. The girls national cx champ raced in these events and always won easily. I guess that’s racing.

  2. Bolas Azules

    Seems they need maybe a few active riders to act on an ‘advisory capacity’ to the board You know, people who are active in the sport feeding them ideas on how to improve the sport for everyone’s benefit. …oh I forgot, that would take away the heavy-handed, tablet coming down from the mountain flow of communication that has been the hallmark of the cycling federation for decades.

    I have to laugh at this attempt to split ‘pros’ from amateurs’ (another long-held tradition). I mean come-on. I wouldn’t have raced for more than a year or two on what most of these ‘pros’ make. Get over yourselves. In today’s world if you’re making less than minimum wage on an annual basis you are not a ‘pro’ at anything other than getting by.

    Is there any hard data available stating what US pros make per year? I would love to see it.

  3. Carlo Buscetti

    Let’s get some things straight here. USA makes alot of decisions both good and bad. What you call good or bad depends on your own personal perspective.

    Pro criterium championships? Criteriums are a sideshow to real road racing. There should not be a pro criterium national championship. Pro riders should train and race road races and leave the fast-food criterium crashfests to the track riders looking for a day outside of the velodrome. Get real.

    The one race only rule for elite/masters at national cx championships? Good for USA Cycling! That is a long overdue rule. If you are of masters age and still racing cx elite, then you are an elite rider who happens to be older than others. You shouldn’t be cherry picking masters races where guys don’t have the opportunity to train like a pro. Make your choice- elite or masters. Not both.

  4. channel_zero

    No, not at all. Your preferences/goal are not theirs. What are their goals? It’s not too clear other than developing WT road riders.

    USAC must have realized by now that cyclocross is a participatory event.

    No. When has increasing participation ever been their goal since Thom bought the federation? They aren’t interested in what their members want in an event, so why do you reward USAC by spending money there?

  5. fatmarc

    maybe a better way to address the issue would have been: if you have UCI points you can’t race masters. You have to have a UCI point to race elite nationals…

    I see what they are trying to accomplish, I’m just not sure this change will do it…


  6. spinner

    The USCF and associated cycling organizations exist to promote the development of riders for the Olympics and pro cycling. If you do not believe this then read the bylaws for said organization(s).

    Do they care if good masters riders ride with the elite? No…..Sorry…..

    It is NOT BY CHANCE that there are regional sanctioning bodies that have no affiliation with the USCF or USACYCLING…..

  7. Michael Barman

    It is not very often when I disagree with you Steve. However I feel letting the top seven domestic elite teams into the Pro Crit helps rewards teams with smaller budgets who with a good season and a few good races might be able to attract the right sponsors to jump to continental level.

    Also I believe making racers declare if they are elite or masters for nationals is fair. It should help in the situations where if you do score UCI points in a race you should be an elite. Almost 140 entries on a cross course is a bit much!

    Carlo: I understand some racers don’t enjoy criteriums. However to call out a group of racers as being inadequate to road racers or don’t deserve a national champion is mean spirited!

  8. Steve Tilford Post author

    Carlo-I have to disagree with both your points in your comment.

    Criteriums aren’t sideshows. It is a specific aspect of the sport that is much more exciting, in person, to watch than road racing. The US isn’t Europe. For cycling to be successful in the US, we need to attract the general public to be live spectators. That is going to happen through criterium racing.

    I don’t agree with your opinion about masters racing elite races. Age graded championships, either Nationals or Worlds should only be restricted by age. You don’t want the 2nd or 5th best riders winning those races. The rules that the UCI and USAC have made try to restrict the races by ablility, not age. If you qualify for the race by age, then why shouldn’t you be able to compete?

    There is no Professional cyclocross in the US. That means all the riders, minus maybe the 5 riders I mentioned in the post, are amateurs. So, the Elite race is just abunch of amateurs riding around. I see no reason they shouldn’t be able to race their age group category also.

  9. gerrycurl

    In short track speed skating, you race according to your ability level, not age. And in my case, that actually meant 9-year-olds when I first began. And the 9YOs usually kicked my ass.

  10. Jandle

    I would like to see clarification on the definition of elite categories. Is junior 17-18 considered an elite category and therefore subject to the rule changes or is this just for the senior elites? If yes, that is going to be a field of about 10 at Nationals next year and really sucks for kids like my own son who will have great difficulty traveling to qualifying races.

  11. gerrycurl

    The distinction between elite and professional blurred into obscurity a long, long time ago. My feelings are, if you’re able to get someone to pay you money for racing a bike, then you’re a pro. If not, you’re not. But as far as *most* racing events, they should be open to at the high level. There is no valid reason to run separate events simply based on who has a pro contract.

    We should have ONE elite nationals race for each respective discipline. Open to both pros and amateurs.

    Anyone remember when Davis Phinney won the first USPRO championship in Baltimore in 1983? He didn’t have to wear a helmet. He won $25K, but the first actual “pro” to cross the line was John Eustice (who finished in like 15th place). It was absurd.

  12. gerrycurl

    They exist partially for the olympics and pro cycling. But they primarily exist for betterment of the sport itself. And that means “us”. Who is “us”? All of us.

  13. gerrycurl

    Eddie B used to laugh at the top amateurs (back in 83-85) who wanted to “turn pro”. At the time, anyone with $600 could secure a “pro” license. He would tell guys that the only reason to turn pro was to tell their girlfriends that they were professional cyclists.

  14. Carlo Buscetti

    Steve, you make a good point in your last paragraph. The problem is that even though there is no “pro” cyclocross, I think we can all agree that guys like J-Pow, BJM if he’s racing cross, Page, Wells, and the rest of the top US tier are indeed pros. They all are paid to ride. In keeping with your line of thinking, if they are over 30, then they are good to go for masters racing. Technically that is correct, but in the spirit of the sport and in the spirit of fair racing that is not right. The USA Cycling bureaucrats are making a good call on this one. I will admit that it is a tough call, and your point does have merit, but I’m going to go with USA Cycling on this one.

    On the other points, I agree to disagree.

  15. markl

    Why stop with uci points or elite riders not being allowed to race master nationals, what about those people with no jobs, no kids, lots of money to spend on bikes, and low body fat. That should make it fair for “everyone.” 🙂

  16. Jim Ochowicz

    All those poor, under appreciated Master’s racers. Hanging around doing the same thing for decades past their sell-by date. The dedication they show by reliving their collective youth by doping, traveling, missing out on life, shedding themselves of life’s responsibility in a single minded attempt to race for….absolutely nothing, goes unrewarded. poor geezers.

    For once USAC has it right, a big step in the right direction. I would challenge USAC to go one step further, no Master’s racing period. It wastes valuable time, energy and resources of the promoters, fans and sponsors that would be better spent developing the sport. If geezers want to race there is a great development cycle in place with Juniors and Category 1 thru 5. Earn you place and prove your worth on the same stage as everyone else, geezers aren’t special enough for their own category. How many Master’s races did Tina Pic win this year? None, and she went to High School with Betsy Ross and Laura van Gilder. That is the definition of Boss. Geezers should take a moment to note this

  17. Del Blundell

    If the morons are so good at keeping the sport from growing, we should send them to congress — maybe they could stunt the growth of government too! Btw — love ya Och, but I dig ‘geezer’ racing!!

  18. Bill V

    Steve, my radar telling me that something is wrong was back in Madison when Dan Holloway won the amateur crit championships title. He and his Athlete Octane team are not a pro team despite what the press and marketing tries to make you believe. It’s great that Dan is on the comeback trail but he’s a former pro crit champion and him cherry picking elite nats in Madison made me think that USAC needs to impose a period of ineligibility for former pros being able to compete at elite nats. Same goes for the road race with Emerson Oronte and his past with Jelly Belly.

    Their wins aren’t going to net them attention or a pro contract. They’ve already competed in the pro area and winning the amateur titles really cheapens the meaning of that event. I’d suggest that anyone competing at amateur nats should not have held a pro license for at least 2-5 years. Let amateur nats be for the amateurs and up and comers like it should be.

    Last weekend there was a real chance of Holloway, the amateur crit champ, winning the pro title. If that had happened (which I was hoping), it might have forced USAC to rethink things enough to actually take some action. It makes the state of pro crit racing look pretty piss poor when the only real competition UHC had was a bunch of burnout pros on an amateur team last weekend.

  19. Steve

    Here is the issue: $ vs. quality vs. quantity vs. bureaucracy vs. competence = little has changed + masters = entitlement = change!

    1.) Money coming into the sport has not changed a lot – just shifts around. Different day, same situation. You would think all the rich master boomers associated with big corporations would inject some cash?
    2.) Racing distances and organization at local level events has not changed – gotten worse. Despite honest efforts, compared to Europe – most local clubs could not organize themselves out of a paper bag. Once again, organizers look at cost/benefit. Boomers = $ but can only race 80km before exploding which is great – less time to tick off/disrupt community + less police cost.
    3.) NRC Calender and amount of local races is worse than ever = zero to poor development. We had better NRC calender and more local races throughout the country before the baby boomer masters Lancelot era influx. Organizers/industry got distracted catering to masters. Chasing the $ instead of mapping out what was best for sport long-term.
    4.) The American way is to politicize everything. USA Cycling is a giant bureaucracy which is never efficient. People get payed to produce paper and produce make work projects!
    5.) They say if you can’t teach, you get into administration. This is the same in sport. Yes, we need folks in these positions, but why are they always amateur nerds without experience on a power trip?

    Overall, race scene same as it ever was or worse – different day. Certain masters categories (not all) are a PITA! and make you want to vomit. Most need psychiatric assistance (PED user @ 40) or a reality check for their delusion…I can’t ride in a pack or do a pace line, but my coach tells me to train 8 hours a week on the trainer at lunch and after my wind tunnel session I got 5th in a NRC race and can do a 18min. 10 mile TT…gotten to be insanity! Hate to burst the bubble, but if you are a masters rider you are an amateur age category weekend athlete (usually a poor one at that), not professional and not even in the same universe. Hence, you are not entitled to same benefits. If you are an ex-pro racing masters, keep your mouth shut, lay low, enjoy it for what it is and get a real job!

  20. channel_zero


    Better like less prize money at the continental level? Yup.
    Better like fewer spectators? Yup.
    Better like steeply declining wages for continental pros? Yup.
    Better like counting cross and mountain bike pros earning a living wage on one hand? Yup

    Please explain to all of us what they’ve been doing for the last 25 years to make the sport “better.”

  21. Levi

    “Criteriums aren’t sideshows. It is a specific aspect of the sport that is much more exciting, in person, to watch than road racing. The US isn’t Europe. For cycling to be successful in the US, we need to attract the general public to be live spectators. That is going to happen through criterium racing.”

    This is so old, tired and stupid. Give it a rest. In fact give that last sentence a funeral. Cycling, in any form isn’t gonna gain the interest of the public in this country EVER. The TOC and PRO challenge are held in cycling meccas and most of the spectators are cyclists, that’s not the public. The public, I’m sad to say is at football games, drinking beer. Or Baseball games, drinking beer. Or anywhere other than at a bike race watching skinny, hipster douche bags riding pushies.
    That’s just how it is. Did you see the crit natz. They had the whole course fenced off for spectators. What a waste of money and time that was. It actually made cycling look even stupider. Well ya see we put up these barriers at great expense to keep the rowdy soccer hooligans from rushing the course. HA! There was nothing but crickets and maybe 100 people around the finish. The commentators gayed it up like Robin Williams in the Birdcage. It doesn’t sell here…..DUH! A niche within a niche inside a niche sport. Check out the Xgames and see how many more people are watching 14 year olds do tricks on jumps. That looks cooler to watch to me too.

    Racing bikes is fun for everyone who likes doing it. A few ex racers enjoy watching, but not even many of them really. You yourself often say you don’t like watching bike races that you’d rather be racing. Problem is you’re way over the hill and always busted up, so its watch or nothing. The rest is significant others, family or industry folks.

    The only dude that ever made cycling popular in this country was Lance, and now he’s disgraced and hated. Lemond never got the sport popular. It was just a timing thing I guess. Now we are far removed from the peak of the sport gaining public interest. Maybe theres more racers, but USAC is just using and abusing them.

    Tear up the licenses and go take part in life. Och said it better than its ever been said down below.

  22. Levi

    Oh this comment is just AWESOME!!!!!! Absolutely beautiful Och! Well done! If I was a jock sniffer, you’d be my first chamoix to sniff!

    Keep ’em coming!

    Respect to LVG. One of the all time great work ethics.

  23. Touriste-Routier

    The US and the UCI have a big disconnect on who/what is considered professional.

    First by UCI definition, all women are amateurs (salaried or not); this needs to change.

    In the US, we consider riders on Continental Teams to be professionals. The UCI looks at them as amateurs or perhaps semi-pro. The UCI view is the only true pros are on Pro Conti & ProTour teams. Maybe this is due to the fact that Continental teams are not required to pay salaries, hence many of the continental riders are not being paid to race (thus not true pros), whereas the other 2 divisions have salary requirements.

    While I understand your sentiment regarding an ineligibility period, it isn’t practical, with the instability of teams. Many riders drop down status not by choice, but by situation. If there were more or other opportunities, perhaps they wouldn’t be there.

    Perhaps what is needed is a category (like they have in Belgium) for “Pros without Contracts”. This is similar to the independent pro category that used to exist before the ProTour concept was launched.

  24. Steve Tilford Post author

    gerrycurl-I think the first Pro Criterium Nationals were in Baltimore, but in 1982. I did the race on the US National Team. I’m not exactly sure who won, I think a European Pro, but Eustice was the best placed PRO. I think I finished somewhere close to the top 10.

    Davis won the race the next year, 1983, riding off the front with Steve Bauer, who was also an amateur. Andy Hampsten and I were flying back from the British MIlk race, thru Baltimore and watched the race on one of those little black and white, TV chairs, that you put quarters in, at the airport on our layover to Denver. I think John was again the best PRO, but didn’t finish as well as he did the previous year.

    I never got my prize money from the USCF. Davis got the 25K eventually, I believe.

  25. WC

    Elite vs masters needs to be at the license level. Pick it and ride those races all season. This eliminates elite riders cherry picking masters national and world championships. This also eliminates elite riders sandbagging during races to avoid UCI points. The sport will be purer this way.

  26. gerrycurl

    There is no real reason to have age-based championships when we have ability-based racing already. Championships should be for the fastest top racing talent. But there is a huge market in addressing the ego of the aging warrior. Some of these guys LIVE for the possibility of donning a stars and stripes jersey at their local industrial parl criterium.

    What I’ve hated seeing is the shortening of criterium racing (30-45 mins +2 laps) so that they can fit-in all kinds of master categories (so these ego-hounds can race multiple events).

    Return the crits to the old distances 25-30 miles (50 for Pro1-2) and not so many masters events.

  27. Ethan

    No hard data but I would garner bike shops and the cycling industry as a whole loves “old geezer” racing. These guys buy nice bikes/gears/clothing and have the money to pay without begging for free. Supporting masters racing is a good idea for the sport as a whole.

    This particular line in this thread border lines on silly and is not representative of most of the masters racers I know.
    “The dedication they show by reliving their collective youth by doping, traveling, missing out on life, shedding themselves of life’s responsibility in a single minded attempt to race for….absolutely nothing, goes unrewarded. poor geezers.”

  28. Jim Ochowicz

    Category 1 thru 5, earn the points and toe the line like a real man. Tina Pic and LVG are more man than the whole geezer class combined

  29. orphan

    I have to agree with Ethan but most masters racers I know are not doing nats. They are just trying to stay fit and involved in a healthy life style by doing some local races. They are not traveling to nats for the family vacation.

  30. orphan

    Jim that would be cool if usac wouldn’t let guys downgrade when they start getting to old to win. Before you know it you would have a bunch of 40+ guys winning in the lower cats.

  31. gerrycurl

    And many of these masters racers that you know are riding in multiple events each day. A 46 y/o guy will race a 45 min “cat 3” race, a 45 min “35+” event and a 45 min “45+” race. Often times starting one right after another. A 19 y/o rider can only look forward to a 250 mile week followed by a 45 min event. How about a decent Cat 3 race length to begin with? That way, a younger rider can actually have a decent race duration to help prepare him for the jump to Cat2?

    Why does a masters racer (who has stayed fit) need so many different event opportunities in a day? Racing event quality for non-masters racers has gone WAY down, just for the sake of the masters.

  32. spinner

    While I am a masters age racer I have never been a fan of masters racing! The money that master riders receive from both sponsorship and “winnings” might be better spent elsewhere. Having “national” championships leads to many ego/PED issues. Heck, here in the Midwest we have guys doping for “medal only” time trials! Sad…they did get faster by-the-way. One guy went from never breaking the 40k hour barrier to riding in the low 50s. I actually feel sorry for him.

    Yet, there’s a “hint” of hostility towards masters that might be misplaced. Why do promoters have so many masters races? Follow the money…….(entry fees, etc.).

    Oh well, I just like riding my bike. Sometimes as fast as I can!

  33. gerrycurl

    You think masters riders would “choose not to race” if they didn’t have any other alternatives? They’d adapt. And they’d get a decent-length race event to compete in as well.

    It used to be nice and tidy. If you wanted to race “veterans” (35+), you could. But you couldn’t double-up and race 1-4 as well.

    With just 45-minute events, there’s no way I’ll even consider returning to competitive racing.

  34. Craig

    Just because crit nats had a dearth of spectators does not mean they don’t exist. Come to Tulsa for Friday night Tulsa Tough or even Saturday – Sunday’s Cry Baby Hill is its own wold. There aren’t hundreds of spectators, there are THOUSANDS and most of them are not cyclists. I have friends who plan that weekend out months in advance and they haven’t ridden a bike since they got a license.

    I know nobody who doesn’t ride that watches road racing. A few will watch cross. I know a lot of people who will watch crits. Yeah, they aren’t “pure” but they are a hell of a lot of fun to both ride and watch.

  35. robo

    Would like to see all categories overhauled, but I’ll just start at masters:
    1. Starts at 45+. Just one category. Race fills up? Guess you should have entered earlier.
    2. You either have Masters on your license or a category, and you race one or the other.
    3. Masters racing is for fun. No prize money. No national champs. You race locally, your rank in the big scheme is irrelevant (or it should be).
    4. Former pro’s in the race? Who cares! It’s for fun, because you like to keep in shape and race. Get shelled because you’re closer to 60 than 45, so what, it’s for fun only. If you ego needs more, set the age filter on strava. How about just riding and becoming an official, coach, USAC!

  36. Craig

    What age based championships has done is drive Masters riders away from the sport, not included them. Here is the reality – if you are 40 and have dreamed of racing and get a Cat 5 license, who are you going to race. The open Cat 4/5 field where there may be some horses but more or less everyone sucks like you do or the Masters 40+ where it will be less chaotic but you will be dropped so fast by the Cat 1/2/3’s that you are just time trialing? If you took the prize behind door number 3, you don’t race then you win.

    I get age based categories for 50+ but younger than that, suck it up and Cat down when your age starts to suck the life out of your legs …

  37. Ethan

    Jim – you don’t know me but here ya’ go. 51 years of age, Racing since 1984, Cat 1 – when I race it’s usually still with the young pups. I still dig the thrill. I think I pass your man criteria if that even has any revelance.

    The masters events I race and the masters I race against are hardy, genuine, tough and love the sport. Good enough for me.

  38. Rich

    It amazes me the bitterness that America has for anyone older than their prime athletic years. My father, who used to be a competitive runner back in his day, took up cycling at the age of 60, and only now that he is in his 70’s has decided to do some races and large rides. He knows he will get shelled, and that is why he never wanted to do it. He wants to enjoy himself, but at the same time not have to do a race or ride hanging off the back by himself, or having to defend himself to a bunch of idiots about how he spends the money he earned over his lifetime of working, which has happened when on rides. Assholes like you guys asking how he can justify spending the money on the gear he has just to ride slower than they think he should be going. Most Americans really have a lot to learn about how life works.

  39. gerrycurl

    I’m over 45. If I have hostility towards the old, I have it for myself as well. I just see how much of a farce the continued expansion of masters racing has become over the past 25 years. While it has created more opportunity for masters racers to race multiple events, wear a starts and stripes jersey, etc, it has also hurt the availability of quality racing for the younger riders who need more rigor and quality in their events. 30 minute criteriums for Cat 4 and 5? That’s becoming the norm now. If a guy wants to make it to Cat2, he should have to pave the way with top results in mere 10-15 mile events? There is far more racing opportunity these days if you’re over the age of 35.

    I agree with the guy who said that masters racing should start at 45+. As for myself, if I re-enter the sport, my first event will be as a Cat4. I don’t mind racing against people 25 years younger than me. I can hack that. And my goal will not be a stars n stripes jersey that summer. My goal will be an upgrade.

    I’m pushing 50 and

  40. Steve

    Race your f***ing category, period. Nothing worst then going to a pro/1 category race and having to screw around with masters posers maxed out trying to fight you for a wheel on first lap. If you are ex-pro and doing it for love, race Cat.1/2 and stop jerking off in masters. Masters, juniors, women race in the category you earned! It should be the governing bodies responsibility to organize and provide races for development!!! The priority should be putting on high quality Cat.1, women’s and junior events. The governing bodies in North America will never figure it out, because the majority of them are age group wankers who think they know what they are doing because they have a Kin degree. They have had decades to copy organization methods of European clubs, but they are too galactically stupid! Nothing has changed. If you want to try and make it, you cross the pond.

  41. gerrycurl

    Steve, you have won several P/1/2 races just this season. That’s where you still belong. To argue that you should also be able to sandbag in a masters race (if you so choose) seems a bit weird to me.


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