In 2016 the Once Again Nut Butter Multi-Sport Race Team will embark on its 5th season of amateur racing with a 50-athlete roster, amazing local sponsorship support, and a depth and passion that is second-to-none. ... Continue reading
Remember the races at Windsor, Whitney Point and the LDA Cycles Classic? You should. They haven’t been gone that long.
When I first started racing about 10 years ago, these races were an important part of the calendar, especially for me as a beginner. Windsor and Whitney Point in particular were among my first racing experiences. Both had low entry fees of $15-$20, and if I remember correctly offered A/B formats.
There weren’t too many Cat 1/2/3 guys showing up, even for the A race, but for the rest of us, which actually makes up the majority of racers, (although that might be contrary to what many promoters believe) had a race that felt challenging, accessible, and came at a reasonable cost.
Oh yeah, and these three events had one other thing in common: none were sanctioned by USA Cycling.
Even though all three of these races had several years of good turnouts, all seemed to drop at once.
I can’t say for sure why all three no longer exist, but I know that at least one could not continue to insure the event and did not want to deal with the costs and red tape required by USAC. In that case (and at least one of the others) the goal was to raise money for charity, and given the costs that come with USAC, I’m sure the organizers saw that bike races, unlike 5Ks or other similar events, don’t yield much profit but take plenty of time and coordination.
Enter North American Cycle Sport (NACS). This new organization announced it’s coming out a few weeks back and has raised a stir among race promoters. NACS claims it will be an alternative to USAC with lower insurance and permit costs to race directors mostly for “grassroots” events.
The announcement resulted in more questions than answers. Many seem adverse, especially racers who worry about category upgrades and the threat of paying for two licenses. Promoters also have questions about the quality of insurance coverage and a lack of uniformity in the sport.
All are reasonable concerns, but in most cases, they seem to be concerns that function in the idea that there is only room for once sanctioning body, and I am not sure that this is the best approach.
USAC does some things very well, in particular, insurance costs used to be pretty reasonable (before they added an additional $500 fee to get enough coverage to use a NYS road and upped the per rider insurance). The category system is also a huge plus as it provides challenges to racers while breaking fields appropriately.
However, USAC restrictions have driven a culture that makes it hard for race directors to cater to beginners. Small events, especially in road racing and crits, often combine the 4/5 fields, creating a large gap between the beginner cat 5 and the cat 4s on the brink of upgrades. These cat 5s also get hit heavily on the costs as race fees continue to rise along with one-day licenses; charging a rider between $50-$60 to get dropped and finish a race solo isn’t terribly appealing even to a rider who with a little training and experience could be competitive.
Correspondingly, USAC has refused to provide insurance coverage for internal club training races, which also hurts the development of new riders. Currently, clubs that wish to hold internal events must sanction them through a similar system as weekend races, forcing new riders to invest somewhere between $150-$200 in club fees and licenses to try racing. For many clubs this creates a culture where new riders are few and the ones who do show up are racing mostly experienced racers.
These barriers send many newcomers back to running, triathlons, charity tours or just riding their bikes solo with the message that competitive cycling isn’t for them.
The question then becomes: can NACS solve all these issues? Probably not. At least not right away. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for them in cycling.
It’s perfectly possible for NASC to dig out a niche if the organization is willing to do a few things.
1. Focus on gravel and mountain events by offering a sound insurance with little to no cost of licenses or extra red tape for promoters. The people organizing and riding in these events are the non-conformists of the cycling world. Offer them an option that makes their lives easier rather than making them pay for things they don’t want or need.
2. Focus on assisting small events that want to put on A/B races for charity or club fundraisers like Whitney Point, LDA and Windsor used to. There is no reason a bike race shouldn’t be a small community event rather than a large production. There use to be a time where riders participated in a race for the race itself, not for upgrades and cash. I still think there is place for these types of events and a resurgence of them would be refreshing.
3. Provide only what restrictions are necessary for insurance and legal purposes and let the RDs deal with enforcing rules at their races. Let them create the culture that they want at their races, and if that is unsuccessful, it’s on them.
4. Don’t worry about breaking into large scale events or dealing with pro and even elite amateurs. USAC already over caters to that level and too often forgets about the rest of the racers even though they make up the majority.
5. Provide club level support that helps clubs bring in new riders, particularly by insuring internal race training programs that help development at a reasonable cost. If clubs are run well, this is the best place to get new racers. Right now, this is a large scale failure for most USAC clubs.
Addressing these five points will not only give NACS a good shot creating a place for itself in amateur cycling but it may eventually push USAC toward some improvements. After all, there is nothing like a little healthy competition to aid progress.
As the 2015 cyclocross season comes to a close, The Once Again Nut Butter Multi-Sport Race Team is already gearing up for 2016 as it renews its roster and prepares to unveil a new team kit.
With a healthy mix of new and returning riders, the team will again support more than 50 area road racers, triathletes, and mountain bikers not the least of which comes with four new faces who bring a wealth of experience and ambition to our ranks.
Jen Reschke - As we continue to build our women’s racing program, we are excited to announce the addition of Jen Reschke who is a two-time Ironman finisher and a highly accomplished runner with a grocery list of impressive results. In 2014 alone, she was 125th of more than 600 female racers at Ironman Lake Placid and the 2nd overall female finisher at the Oak Tree Half Marathon.
For 2016 Jen will continue racing triathlons and running, as she also looks to make the leap into road bike racing. We are excited to welcome Jen to the team as she will without a doubt make some noise in women’s road racing as well as continue to build her resume in tris and running events.
On the men’s side we have three exciting new additions, including two racers and one racer-coach.
Jake Castor - As a former Cat 2 and junior racer, Jake was one of the top riders the country in 2009 when he last raced. A Livingston County native, Jake began racing as a teenager and worked his way through the ranks with GVCC last competing for MVP Health. His accomplishments are vast as he raced in some of the biggest events in the country, including a 2nd place finish in a stage at Green Mountain and a 6th place finish in a stage of Fitchburg.
After taking 5 years away from the bike, Jake is looking to rekindle his passion for the sport while becoming a mentor to our younger riders. We are excited to see him back on two wheels and thrilled that he chose to start racing again with Once Again.
Ian Cramer - As a Cat 3 racer, Ian joins the OANB crew with an impressive list of accomplishments all his own. Ian last raced in 2014 in Georgia where he put up strong finishes including two top five spots in The Greenville Spring Series and a 6th place finish in the Rouge Roubaix. In 2015, Ian moved back to WNY to take a job at his alma-mater, Alfred University, and dedicated his season not to racing road races, but to finishing the Race Across America (RAAM) with this team Oxford Autoimmune.
After many months of hard training, Ian and his crew accomplished their goal and finished the epic race. We are thrilled to add Ian to the roster and excited to see what he will accomplish as a member of the team.
Coach Matt Dougherty - Coach Dougherty joins the 2016 roster as both a coach and racer. With the goals of improving the team through his coaching expertise, Matt has both a rich coaching background and an impressive racing resume.
Matt is a former professional triathlete and adventure racer who raced for the USA National U23 triathlon team and the EMS team. He is a seven-time Ironman finisher and a world record snowshoe racer. With a young family at home, and a business to run, Matt hasn’t been racing too much the last couple of years, but he did race Battenkill last season as a members of the Once Again team. We are excited to add him to the program as both a coach and athlete who will no doubt offer a wealth of experience. See more about Coach Dougherty on his website.
Check back in a few weeks for a complete team roster, new and returning sponsors, and the new team look for 2016!
Tony Sylor is the Founder and President of the LCC and the Race Director of the OANB Team.