Feature: On The Fence with USA Cycling


Earlier this year, Gravel Cyclist team member K-Dogg expressed his feelings about the negative culture associated with modern road racing. You can read his article, “A Divorce from Florida Road Racing”, HERE.

December 1, 2015: the Gravel Cyclist inbox was blind copied on an email addressed to USA Cycling HQ, written by a long-standing competitive cyclist – now turned to the ways of the gravel. While we won’t reveal their identity, we will share their email with our readers, verbatim.

“I’m a long time competitive cyclist… starting with my first license with the ABLA, then USCF, now USAC. For the first time in many years I am considering not getting a license. I am racing more than ever, but not USAC events. The road race culture has become toxic for lack of a better descriptor. It is a combination of rider entitlement,  promoter practices, and USAC policy that I believe has led to that state. This is amateur racing. Racing at that level should be for fun, for personal challenge, for team comradeship, but not for money, especially at the lower cats, or for masters. It’s delusional on the part of competitors to think the prize list makes an impact on their financial state. At the amateur level, they should not need an incentive to race. Promoters and USAC promote and enable this angry, toxic behavior.

Instead I race gravel and monstercross races. Virtually no prizes except a trophy. It is a pure form of amateurism. More fun, nicer competitors, nicer promoters. No USAC needed. In fact, USAC involvement will likely portend the end of a great amateur culture. Mr. Bouchard’s* scare tactics about insurance is unwarranted and a big turn off. No one should ride a bike at all if they don’t have health insurance. Bikes break, crashes happen on any kind of ride. Most crashes occur in training where there is no event or related insurance.

For several years I have gotten a USAC license without any firm plans to use it, but instead to support the cause. I am wavering on that commitment because of the USAC contribution to the toxic culture. By numbers, the majority of members appear to be masters. Many of us realize that we contribute more than our share and are willing to do so for a good cause. However, the lack of recognition of the different desires of that class, and the lack of recognition of our contribution is driving us away at the time we are most financially able to be benefactors.
I have read Mr. Bouchards “grassroots” language, but he misses the key points completely. It is about the culture, not insurance costs, not promoter profits or cost.”

* Note from JOM – Derek Bouchard-Hall is the CEO of USA Cycling.
Our contributor draws reference to articles such as this one – an interview with USA Cycling’s Derek Bouchard-Hall – and other material.
Thank you for reading.


  1. Avatar Todd Singleton

    Interesting because this article comes from the perspective of a Master, traditionally supporters of USAC from road events. Meanwhile by all conversations and accounts I’ve heard they are also alienating and angering the youngest of bike racers (and their parents) ever since their sanctioning body takeover of BMX, the former American Bicycle Association (ABA). One of their primary complaints is participation cost. I find USAC’s key issue to be their failed attempts to take over as the only governing body in sanctioned cycling from track to MTB and BMX. Not many of the participants in these disciplines eagerly awaited sanctioning from the almighty USAC. Many former officials saw it as a sellout or takeover, new rules in tow.

    USAC could have done themselves a favor and kept to governing track, tours, crit and possibly CX while leaving the other sanctioning bodies to their own culture, rules and agenda. Be very weary of the legal maneuvers they may pull with regards to insurance and safety regulations as they eyeball gravel and monster events for revenue. It’s my understanding that’s how they swallowed BMX.

  2. Avatar Ryan R

    Mentioning the USAC acronym has become synonymous with phrases containing poison. Grassroots organizations are now out promoting the USAC with non-sanctioned events, especially in the MTB world and even more so in the Gravel world. I would not be surprised if these people eventually bury the USAC, unless they go a different direction. USAC recently held a sanctioned MTB event in our community as a national qualifier and they could not even get a third of the entrants that show up to our Monday night series.

  3. Avatar steve f

    I know this doesn’t cover this topic, but…..I’m over the egos, the autistic need for “bling”, the trying to train and look like a young pro, etc etc that I find in the Masters comps.. GET A LIFE
    Also, it seems like officials and governing bodies worldwide are making Masters’ cycling a bitter experience. Here in Australia, cronyism is rife, and has always been. I should know, my grandfather and uncle were very talented riders in their day, and both suffered from very unfair treatment for not towing the “official line” Officials have always bowed and scraped and turned a blind eye to ex pros with known drug offenses, for aggressive and dangerous riding from said ex pros and make you feel like a leper if you make an official complaint. I speak from personal experience, I’ve gone from an A grade masters rider to a disillusioned “leave me alone” solo rider

    I’m over it all,
    SHUT UP and give me gravel, Gravel and MORE GRAVEL!!!!
    (this is “tongue in cheek”)

    Steve F
    The lonely gravel guy

  4. Avatar moose

    well thought out and written statement. the author’s sentiment appears to be one that is growing among racers – particularly masters. i’ve kept my license over the past 2 years because i need one to race cross. the cross races here in north central florida have the feel and atmosphere of the 12 hour mountain bike races a dozen to 15 years ago… they are fun!!
    over the last few years i have also headed in the direction of the author, but mostly because the road scene just stopped being fun. people leaning on me and throwing elbows for 15th place in a bunch sprint has left me not wanting to be a part of it.
    hopefully the USAC and the uber-aggressive first-or-die people will steer clear of the gravel scene.
    long live dirt!!

  5. Avatar Heffe

    Nice article. I can’t see anything I disagree with!

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