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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So, it appears as if we're about to be suckered into joining a big bureaucratic organization, with the decision being made by a fraction of the ACA membership. This isn't going to go well. Especially if promoters stop promoting, officials quit, clubs disband, and membership drops. I would seriously consider an end to racing if it happens. Not a threat, just a fact. I'm pretty tired of the "elite" b.s. and attitudes in the road racing scene anyway. Hint: The majority of you "elites" aren't going beyond where you are now. You aren't going to be a pro. Sorry!


you are not a teacher or anyway associated with the youth of today. If you have that "stuck where you are attitude" on biking I am sure you have it toward all aspects of life. I am in the masters category and unsure what is best for the Colo. racing scene; however, I am quite sure your view is unhealthy. Sorry!