Coffee Talk Tuesday - Measuring Growth in the sport of Cycling

Today's Coffee Talk Tuesday Discussion deals with measuring the growth of the sport of cycling. This is a hot topic these days with all the categories and possible USAC merger.. Give us your 2 or 3 cents on this topic!

This weekend I had an awesome time of not driving 60 minutes to watch the USGP race but instead saw the live streaming from cyclingdirt.com. While watching, one of the commentators (not Peter Webber, but the other guy) mentioned something about how you can see how the sport is really growing when you see riders like Yannick Eckmann be such a successful rider at only the age of 18.

Yannick is a great rider, he finished 5th on Saturday beating big names in the field and coming back on Sunday to also do well. If Yannick continues to improve like he has then I very much believe he could be the next Ryan Trebon, J-Pow or Tim Johnson.

But does Yannick's success = growth?


USAC says yes! Here is a diagram I got from Steve Johnson, the CEO of USAC, a few years ago as he was explaining to me the value of USAC. At the top of the chart you have heroes like Lance Armstrong, Tim Johnson, Levi etc. These heroes inspire younger riders and they grow, compete and become the next set of heroes. These heroes not only get the youth involved but they get all ages and genders inspired to ride and race. I believe their pitch but not all the way

But what about the ever expanding 35+ & 35+ cat 4 fields? Obviously the sport is growing when you have 35+ cat 4 fields over 100 riders. And of the huge cat 4 and 35+ cat 4 fields how many got into the sport because of cycling heros? Or was it just for the love of the competing and the sport?

See where I'm going with this? Which group is more important to cater to, the current and future heroes of cycling or the new riders (regardless of age) who are just entering the sport?

Cast your vote and take our poll

Maybe growth isn't the metric we even need to be measuring, maybe it's that catching phrase everyone is using these days... "sustainability" Which growth can provide a sustainable future in the sport of cycling for say the next 5 years?

Lastly I would like to say Yannick is awesome! For me he does make me proud that some youth of today do value the sport of cycling... wish I had his drive at such a young age. Good Luck Yannick and hope to see you on the podium soon!

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35 Comments

Observation #2

Interesting that around 40% of the comments on this piece are centered around nailing down Eckmann's age.

The use of Yannick as a success story for USAC, or even ACA for that matter, grossly overlooks the fact that both he and Robin have a strong family support network. Not to mention that both Jurgen and Hanna (I think that's right) were both elite level cyclists themselves. Just a comment there, I know USAC & ACA create the opportunities.

So is he 17, 18 or 19?

So is he 17, 18 or 19? Current USAC Men CX rankings (http://www.usacycling.org/rankings/points.php?state=&sex=M&disc=Road%3AC...) show his CX racing age as 19. So if he hasn't had a birthday yet this year, he's biologically 18. If he has, he's biologically 19.

Gotta be mindful of the difference between biological age and racing age, and then between road racing age and CX racing age. Look up his rider results on USAC though and that says his racing age is 18, so they may only go by road racing age, same with ACA link.

coffee-talk vote

I only know ONE woman that I ride with who got into the sport because she had cycling heroes. These heroes, are mostly men. Maybe it's just a generalization, but I would say that women race because they love the sport and the camaraderie that goes with it. I would love, love, lovity LOVE to see a cat 4 women's field of 100 plus riders. Sadly, it's more like 8-20. Bummer.

not heros

If it were soley the "heros", especially for road cycling, I would have stopped riding and racing years ago. I'm in it because I love it, and my kids are interested because they see my love for it and enjoy it as well. I have a very good group of friends that I ride with that also make my kids feel welcome and at ease - that will get them into cycling long before any "super elite" pro ever will.

H.S. MTB Race League

The new High School MTB racing league is doing more to grow the sport, than USAC or ACA has ever been able to do. No "Heros" left in Mountain Biking, but they are getting over 200 riders per race. (Are there still any MTB Pros left in the U.S.A.?) They make it cool and with each school having their own team, they have some peers to hang out with.

CycloCross to grow Juniors? Not when they are heading off at 8:00 am on a Saturday morning for a 20 minute race. I'm waiting for a H.S. CycloCross League to come about in a few years. Ask somebody outside of Cross racing to name 5 Pros...

Every year we have a few phenomenal kids come through in Colorado. It's great to see, but usually they are connected with cycling through family.

The ACA and It's clubs are growing Jr. Cycling

While I agree that HS Mtn Biking is a great addition in the efforts to grow youth cycling, the statement that "The new High School MTB racing league is doing more to grow the sport, than USAC or ACA has ever been able to do." is pretty inaccurate. The ACA junior cross camp had over 100 kids this year, up from roughly 60 last year. About 30-40 of which had either never raced or were in their first season. Virtually every talented Colorado rider under 25 years old has been attended one of the ACA camps ( Danny, Brady, Taylor, etc.) and Colorado kids virtually clean up at nationals. Every Colorado kid that I've seen on a National Podium has been to multiple ACA camps. Many of which have parents that race a bit because their kids race, not the other way around.

In addition, the ACA legislation to lower the starting racing age to 8 instead of the USAC age of 10 is a huge step in the right direction in terms of getting kids off the couch and growing bicycle racing. Personally I'd like to see the age brought down to 6, with more restrictions in terms of course layouts, lengths, barriers, etc. But that's another topic.

The other thing to look at is the size of the fields in cross especially in the 8-9, 10-12, and young girls categories. These numbers are up significantly over the past few years. It goes to show that there are many great programs and teams locally making big steps to grow participation.

Next time you are at a cross race at 8am, look at the size of the fields, the level of competition and the quality of technical skills in today's juniors. Afterwards take notice of the camaraderie and smiles that kids share with each other regardless of which team they are on. Then chime back in and tell me what the ACA and it's members are doing to grow the sport isn't working.

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