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Thursday, July 18, 2013

USA National Championships. Usac brings children to tears.

What's become of our sport? For years and years usac, the governing body of cycling, has neglected the sport of mountain biking.  At Nationals usac typically treats the 12 and under racers as incapable of riding trails.  It may seem like a minor issue, but is a big deal for those parents and kids involved.

The young kids ride the adult race course lap all season so are used to whatever trail conditions are present, and are more than capable of managing any course their adult counterparts can handle.

The purpose of a National Championship is to crown the best of the best.  It is a time when the top racers from across the nation converge, and for juniors might be the only event all the top racers in their category are together.

Every year, without fail, usac advertises the juniors event as it should be run, but changes everything entirely one or two days before the event.  They change it for the worse.  They say it is for safety reasons or that the course is too hard or too long for anyone of these young ages.  They hear from first-time racers present that complain, but hear nothing from able racers who ride and are fine with the original course.  This is not a place for first-time racers or those unable to complete a normal lap.  The laps were advertised and the distances were set.

usac hosted a "riders meeting" two days before the kids races.  They announced the course changes and explained there were safety concerns about "kids being out there for hours".  In short, all their reasons were bogus and kids and parents at the meeting voiced their anger, outrage and complaints.  Many of those who spoke out against the "dumbing-down" of the race course received rounds of applause.  

One particular 14 year old girl who traveled quite a distance explained that she had trained for this event, purchased expensive equipment for this event, and had been practicing on the original course all week.  Almost in tears she asked why she, a very capable and talented rider, was expected to race through the grass and around some cones at the National 
Championship.  The usac official conducting the meeting, err press release, explained that that was the decision handed down and was final.

The highest level of junior racing, Cat I 15-18, was not forgotten about.  Per their own rules the junior races should last between 60 and 75 minutes.  All reports indicated that the top juniors would be doing about an 18 minute lap.   Usac decided for them to do 3 laps, breaking their own guidelines giving the racers a race less than 60 minutes when a 4 lap race would put them right at the normal finish time as the sport has always seen.

The usac official continued to insist this is what is in the best interest of the racers and that there is nothing she could do.  She would take these concerns back to the board.  The angry crowd requested that the board attend the meeting.  The board meets in "secret" and will not bother to attend the meeting.  People started to get the feeling that usac felt they were almighty, but it was clear that usac's opinions did not reflect the racing publics expectations.

In the end some changes were made to return the course to something more resembling the original advertised route, but people were soured on usac and only satisfied on a mediocre level.

Usac was unwilling to admit mistakes.  Perhaps the only mistake they will admit to is offering a public forum for people to voice their concerns. We will see if there is ever another meeting, or if the meetings are changed to "announcements" in the future.

Even after the races, when mistakes were found, usac was unwilling to admit there could be mistakes.  They stand their ground and announce they are flawless, without error and that their systems could never allow a mistake.

Attendees walk away from their National Championship disgusted, but trying to find the good experiences they had rather than let the dirty underbelly of usac ruin their enjoyment of a sport they love so much.

Mid-week there was a internet radio talk show aired.  In it issues with usac of another topic were raised.  Quite a bit of insight was revealed about the problems with usac.  The radio show left hope that things will change very soon.

Mountain biking is a great sport and there are many, many great people with big hearts and a passion for the sport that are doing great things.  This sport thrives despite usac.

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