Monday, November 14, 2011

ACA-USAC Reintegration: Collegiate Perspective

This Friday, November 18, the American Cycling Association (ACA) will convene a meeting of its clubs to discuss potentially reintegrating the local Colorado-based governing body with USA Cycling (USAC), the National Governing Body. The Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference  (RMCCC) is in favor of this reintegration and would like to share our perspective.

If you are looking for the heart and soul of cycling, look no further than collegiate cycling. You'll see reigning national champions training, travelling and having fun alongside rank beginners. Riders astride outrageously dilapidated bikes from the 1980s will take the start alongside rivals on bikes that would make ProTour racers blush. None of these extraneous factors matter to collegiate cycling. It's about the sport in the purest sense, and as we all know, the essence of cycling is fun. The spirit of collegiate has little regard for ancient squabbles between governing bodies. While the RMCCC could continue to endure the ACA/USAC dichotomy that exists in Colorado, there is too much at stake to ignore the opportunity that reintegration offers.

Collegiate cycling and the RMCCC are healthy in ways beyond the spirit and attitude, which is why the RMCCC should be nurtured by a local association, not ignored, as has often been the case with the ACA. The RMCCC has 459 licensed riders, 20 percent of those being women (compared to the national figure of 13 percent of all racers), and as a whole, collegiate cycling has grown 15 percent in the last five years. The numbers indicate strong growth, as well as greater parity, relative to the broader world of competitive cycling. The sport's long-term health and growth will come not from the aging demographic that currently makes up the majority of competitors, but rather, the young riders who are finding a life-long sport and passion.

We need an organization that encourages continued growth of the collegiate demographic. It should support its members as juniors, collegiates and beyond. The system must be simple, easy to navigate and interconnected, which is primarily why the existing situation in Colorado is ineffective. Benefits of reintegration will likely include:

Development: Reintegration will maintain continuity for juniors from the local development programs as they look ahead to collegiate teams. They will all be under the same licensing and development system and will be less likely to slip through the cracks. With many other activities competing for their attention and time, it's essential to provide juniors with a clear path to make cycling a life-long sport.

Non-Collegiate Racing: A standard license and governing body will facilitate student participation in summer racing, which will increase race participation, bolster non-collegiate club rosters, and, more importantly, cultivate these riders and their passion for cycling.

Race Promotion: In 2011, RMCCC teams promoted 37 races, but because the region currently does not have a USAC local association, these event promoters—mostly students—had little support. Reintegration and the creation of a new USAC local association will give collegiate organizers more resources to run better events, many of which offer non-collegiate races as well.

Cyclocross: Currently in the RMCCC, it is nearly impossible to develop one of the most vibrant and growing disciplines of cycling. This is due to the fact that we cannot officially run collegiate events in conjunction with regularly scheduled ACA cyclocross races. Offering true collegiate categories at well-established 'cross events will further boost attendance and provide another opportunity for young riders to enjoy the sport.

No, the USAC is not perfect, but neither is the ACA, and from my experience, I can tell you that everyone I have worked with at USAC has been helpful and genuinely committed to the betterment of the sport. It won't be a easy or simple transition; there will be growing pains, but that's the reality of working with a true National Governing Body. The bottom line is that this change will facilitate better development of our young riders in Colorado.

As alluded to in the beginning, collegiate cycling is not defined by the specifics of governing bodies, and truthfully, neither is the broader sport in all of its diverse iterations. I can say however, from my five years experience as RMCCC Director, that it is severely hampered by a lack of continuity between its small world and the broader world of local cycling, currently under the auspices of the ACA. Let's merge our two worlds together, put these headache-inducing organizational challenges behind us, and have some fun on bikes.


Spencer Powlison

Former Collegiate Racer
Current RMCCC Director
Lifetime Bike Racer


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