Jon Tarkington - Emerging USAC/ACA Vote

My Turn

By JonTarkington

From my keyboard it appears a lot of racers out there in forum land are pretty caught up with a view of the emerging USAC/ACA vote that is equivalent to staring at your handlebars during a bike race. If you stare at your bars and don’t pay attention to the big picture of what’s going on around you with other racers, you’re going to crash, plain and simple. I don’t like crashing and I don’t want to see our local racing community crash either.

First, some background on my personal involvement. I was lucky enough to find bike racing in the post “LeMond Boom” in Denver in the early 90’s at the age of 13. This was back in the height of BRAC as a USCF District Association. For a time frame in there my dad actually helped keep track of BRAC’s books and kept things going while the Executive Director at that time, Beth Wrenn-Estes, was working at the Atlanta Olympic Games. I was a part of a number of different BRAC and USCF development programs; I raced collegiately for four years at CU and have somehow managed to keep going up through today. Having been to many annual BRAC/ACA meetings growing up I can still vividly remember the tension of the club vote to form an independent association. In short, I’ve been pretty entwined in local racing for a long time. I’ve done WAY more than my fair share of bike races, promoted races, sat on the ACA Board of Directors (BOD), and served as the Executive Director(ED) for 3 years. I still currently make my living off the health of the local racing community as a coach for Fascat Coaching and Boulder Junior Cycling.

In my three years as the ACA ED I always knew that the USAC relationship was a ticking time bomb. We’ve got a very diverse and healthy racing community here in CO and that means money to USAC and of course, ACA. The two previous CEO’s at USAC had shown very little interest in CO but the current CEO, Steve Johnson, was showing interest in our organization and its current state during my transition into the ED role. Mr. Johnson clearly had a better handle than his predecessors on how to manage the USAC BOD and run USAC as an effective business. Realizing this, I knew at some point USAC would likely use its competitive advantage of being the true National Governing Body and push the reintegration issue on ACA. Any smart business would take advantage of such a powerful position and I have been surprised it took so long to get to this point. Reintegration became a significant problem when the Colorado Velodrome Asscociation politely declined to be the USAC Local Association(LA) starting in 2010 in order to maintain their focus on their mission of ensuring a prosperous track racing community in Colorado. The CVA had been serving as Colorado’s LA since the LA program’s inception in order to keep other groups from taking the LA funds for the state and using them to undermine ACA. With the LA funds up for grab something needed to happen and thankfully, it’s happening now.

I’m sure many of you are reluctant to support this change as you’re happy with the current status quo. The problem here is that without a doubt, that status quo will degrade in 2012 without this change taking place. If ACA doesn’t sign the LA agreement there will be another organization that does so and those funds will likely be used to undermine ACA’s current success. In addition there are a handful of races that will be USAC next year no matter what the ACA decides to do. The result is a back door exodus of revenue and a fractioned local racing community. There would be distinct and abrupt changes to what has been a relatively smooth racing calendar for the past few years. A fractioned racing community would eventually recover but not without significant set-backs and casualties. The local organizations, promoters, racers and officials would all feel the negative effects of this competition, and likely feel it for years to come.

At this point I could really start boring you with details on finances and programs. I put together a loose budget in mid 2010 before my departure as ED and I can attest that this relationship can work with our current programs and staff in place and little change to the average racer. Should you take my word on that? Probably not, that’s not my job anymore. And to be honest, people can throw around facts and figures all they want but until there is some actual change the majority of it is based on assumptions of how the racing and promoting population will respond. In reality, we’re all guessing at what the future will look like and it’s pretty easy to paint two drastically different pictures of that.

If you don’t quite like the how some of the proposed financial details look, have your club propose a change on Friday. As long as there is a quorum present, just about anything can happen. Clearly, some of us will pay a little more in fees in 2011, some will pay less. Either way the folks drumming up that there will be massive changes to their pocket book should probably examine that $80 tire they just bought for their $1500 racing wheel. I don’t think this sport has ever been labeled “affordable”.

At times like this it’s key to look to our associations leaders for input. In the conversations I’ve had over the past few weeks to months with both ACA staff and BOD members one thing is clear, everyone is hesitant about becoming an LA. No matter how well prepared or informed everyone is, it’s going to be a change and change is not easy for anyone. This is also pretty evident by 303’s readers’ comments on the issue. Fear of the unknown is difficult for everyone. The fascinating part for me is that despite this hesitance, the ACA staff and BOD support becoming an LA. Why should you care about this? Simple, the staff’s livelihood depends on the organization’s success. On top of that, the BOD has not taken this lightly and has given the relationship an enormous amount of time and energy in the past 10 months. If these two groups are supporting this change, shouldn’t we support them?

I cannot begin to count the stressful and frustrating hours I personally spent on this subject over the years. When you begin to add in the time and energy the current and past ACA Staff and BOD spent on the USAC relationship the figure becomes quite concerning. Independence has really taken its toll over the years. When is it going to be enough? I had always wanted the BOD to take time and really dig deeply into what changes can be made to positively impact the sport in our state. Unfortunately, the USAC topic continued to rear its ugly head and sidetrack those efforts. As far as I know that has continued to be the case in 2011. I think the time has come to free the BOD and staff from constantly dealing with this issue and let them finally focus on what can be done to make racing better for us.

Ultimately, over the past 14 years of independence the ACA has learned how to do a pretty good job of being the sanctioning body in CO. The staff and BOD of the organization do a lot for local development and would like to continue to do so. Right now, the clubs have the opportunity to change the ACA outfit from the ragged, tattered and outdated “grunge” of independence to that of USAC’s corporate suit. Our leaders are encouraging us to try this, even if only for a year or two. I am encouraging you to make this change and try it on for a while. If the corporate suit doesn’t fit our organization after a year or two, our old independent grunge outfit will still be waiting for us in the closet. All it takes is a club council vote to become independent again. Underneath the different outfits will be the same internals supporting and operating it, obviously they know how do it well.

I’ve had one overriding goal in my involvement with the local cycling political scene over the past decade. That goal is to provide my kids, as well as yours and those to come, the option of being part of a great, SUSTAINABLE, local cycling community should they choose that path in their personal development. I fully believe that this change is going to happen sooner or later in order to reach that goal. Right now, the odds are in our favor, next year they likely will not be. Thanks for reading; I hope this has provided yet another view to consider. In closing, make sure you have club representative present on Friday and make sure they strongly consider supporting the staff and BOD of the organization that would like to continue to serve the local community as it has since its inception in 1976.

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I agree with a lot of what

I agree with a lot of what you're saying, but I think you are wrongfully dismissing increased costs to individuals. It's a bit void of reality to state "$80 tire they just bought for their $1500 racing wheel". You can't expect everyone to devote the same percentage of their income to racing as you, your clients, your BCS elite friends or the 35+4 athlete that has one hobby (cycling) and a disposable income. Some spend that much on wheels, some spend more, but many of us get by with a basic SET of clinchers $200 and $60 tires and we win races! It seems using the cost argument against this merger always meets the same old tired response "carbon wheels". Look around the course any given Saturday, you will see a lot of inexpensive bikes mixed in with expensive bikes.

Costs have already gone up. In the last few years registration fees have risen, pre-reg fees have become the norm, $5-$10 late fees are the norm, transponders... It may seem trivial to some, but these costs add up over time and become prohibitive. Adding to this issue is the fact that overall prices of bikes and parts have risen 5-7% over a two year period. Gas prices have increased. Add in this crappy economy, i.e. how many of us haven't received raises recently? I haven't.

Does anybody pay retail? Many "$1,500" wheels were purchased for 60% of that price. So seeing carbon wheels on a bike doesn't mean that person is rich.

No offense to Jon and others poo-pooing the cost argument, but its bull$hit. Like I said I agree with your main premise, I'm just a bit irritated with the cost thing.

The cost argument against this is useless

Tincreased cost argument is BS and you are wrong. Yes one does not need a $5,000 carbon bike and 4 sets of carbon wheels to do the sport, but look around, the large, large majority of people spend thousands on the sport (I often gag at the bikes the juniors events in CO, while getting free entry fees). In the big picture $30 for a timing chip, or $25 for a BRAC license is not material to the members who race. People will complain about it, but it is not material. For the average ACA member $25 to $50 of new fees represents less than 1% to 2% of their annual spending on cycling. Can you imagine how much cycling really costs if you factored in your time? 10 hours per week (training, in the gym, driving to a ride, cleaning bike), 52 weeks/year, $50/hour for your time? Man that makes complaining about a $25 fee look is more stupid.

Everything is the world is getting more expensive (OK maybe not my house, but.....) as you point out. Why do people have this expectation that the cost of a USAC license would be frozen at whatever they charged in 1996 is beyond me, or that race entry fees should still be $20 like the 1990's, or that there should not be a fee for online reg that makes their life easer (speaking of this, you complained about online reg fees. You do know you can mail in a pre-reg with a 44 cent stamp, right? do that for 5 races next year and you have your BRAC license paid for).

"Does anyone pay retail?" I am sure all your sponsors who give you the 60% off you quote would love to hear your attitude on that. All those people who do pay retail support us who gets deals, it would be nice if we appreciated them, not talked about them like chumps. You attitude is so much me, me, me.

No respect

Describing ACA as the "...ragged, tattered and outdated “grunge” of independence". That's choice. Really? Jon, no need to go all Frank Luntz on us and make up phrases designed to paint a false image of the organization you are attempting to portray in a certain way in order to influence your readers. My respect for you just took a nosedive.


I see where you are coming from but you've got to look at it on a national scale. Our little independent local association is really not the most respected organization. In fact, it's mocked in large parts of the country for being so rebellious. That reputation started long ago and it's tough to shake. And really, ask anyone who has been dealing with the USAC issue for years on BOD or staff level, it really feels like being beaten up. So yeah the ACA looks great to it's members, and maybe that's all that matters, but there is also a not so bright side that people should try to see and understand.

No I don't

I also see where you are coming from, and thanks for the clarification. Having said that, I do not "..have to look at it on a national scale". I live and race in Colorado, and most of the rest of the membership does as well. I could care less what racers around the country may think of the ACA. My skin is thicker than that.

But don't just think about yourself

It is clear that you do not have a vested interest past the slight increase in license costs, but there are a number of people who this affects very much. Every male rider in colorado who is trying to 'live the dream' and go pro is severely affected by this, because without professional riders, no result in any ACA race matters.
Also, I think that it is a contradiction that the ACA says that they are invested in junior development, yet once these young riders become category ones and twos, to continue development, they have to leave the state. It would be awesome to get the colorado racing back to the caliber that it was two years ago when everyone was allowed to race.

ACA fear and loathing -2011

I've gotta disagree with this. The bigwigs in COS may disrespect the ACA, but that's not the case in other states. It's admired throughout the US.

I race in several Midwest States, as well as CO and there is no LA half as well-organised as the ACA or who has such a large and experienced group of officials and promoters who truly know what they're doing.

The main feeling regarding the ACA and CO racing is envy, for having a racing scene that has its stuff together. The second feeling is intimidation - because CO racers are so serious and could really lighten up. I know of racers who have moved to CO and downgraded a cat straight away because the felt they weren't up to snuff for CO.

the truth hurts, deal with

the truth hurts, deal with it. ACA is not respected elsewhere and if you ever stepped outside the region you'd have to deal with those issues. Not being able to race your category because you don't purchase a USCF annual, and then having to do a Cat 5 race in another region because the local official won't reciprocate? It sucks.

Granted most people in this region rarely travel and don't care about this but to dismiss others' experiences is pretty disrespectful too.