• Young and Old … the bikelife in America

    by  • March 9, 2011 • norcal scene, opinionate • 18 Comments

    NCNCA Pres Bill Nicely gets invested in youth

    kill_whitey.pngAs many racers can attest, the price of admission to becoming and sustaining one’s self as a bike racer is pretty damn steep.  I think we can all agree that this is a sport for those of a particular economic strata.

    And if you’re a young woman or man trying to get through college, or working a full-time job at 20’something wage scales … there’s no amount of sacrifice to lifestyle that will allow you to race and train as much as required to chase dreams of going for a career on the bike.

    And why would we want young people chasing those dreams?


    It’s the mega-stars that bring in the marketing dollars … it’s the marketing dollars that get exposure for the sport in local, regional, and national press … igniting interest in our communities to engage more with the sport.  With the bike. And it’s community interest that makes it easier for us to put on races, get better access to commuter trails, and have more visibility/safety for us all on the roads.

    NCNCA Pres Nicely put out a call for input on the subject of reducing entry fees for u25 riders via an email to the NCNCA list serve :

    “In our district we have many collegiate riders that do not participate because of the cost. I have spoken with U25 Cat 2’s that just can’t scrape money together for gas and entry fees and late fees. They do not always have the reserves to commit early. This is PART of the reason you see a lot of same day registration for those fields. Some younger racers depend on prize money and primes to finance next weekend’s races. Some folks will point to teams that support Under 25 racers and believe they are well-supported. While some teams can get sponsorship by way of products, cash is tight. What can we do? What if promoters gave discounts of 50% to U25 Cat 1’s and 2’s and NO late fees?”

    nicely_goes_yutes.jpgI’ve already tossed down my many cents on this subject – in that I believe a reduced entry fee for u25 riders would take huge steps in opening up more racing opportunities for young, developing riders in our area.  It’s up to promoters to consider if this is something worth investing in, I suppose.

    Pres Nicely suggests adding a masters entry fee increase to subsidize youth discounts, however I’m of the opinion that prize money reductions for masters and lower category fields are the way to go to balance out a promoters revenue sheet.   I’m of the mind that there should be limited, or no cash prize lists for fields other than women and men’s pro1/2.   Event sponsor merchandise is how I would hope master and lower category fields would be rewarded for getting on a podium … or, even the return of small, but memorable trophies!

    But – forward your opinion on the subject … comments here are great, or you can voice them to the yahoo list referred to above.  Or better still – send your thoughts to promoters of events.

    Thanks, Pres Nicely for starting the discussion.

    Speaking of the youthful renaissance …

    Obviously, the big story from the MERCO Stage Race this weekend is that we have a new legitimate player in the race promotion business in Norcal.  Topsportcycling.com has reminded our region what a real stage race can look like.  I mean, I love the Madera Stage Race … but it’s got the promotion quality of a girl scout cookie sale … without the hot mini-skirts and berets.


    But the other big story (well, aside from the depth and strength showed by the Bissell Pro team), was the fantastic results of young riders.  John Bennett is part of this new legion of CalGiant youth that are ripping legs apart in Norcal and beyond.   Bennett, Evan Huffman, Nate Wilson, Tyler Brandt, Chris Stastny, Peter Taylor, Ben Swedberg, and Brandon Trafton are too young to frickin’ by beer … but they are crushing it out there in races.

    nate_sam_daniel_ffca_adjusted.jpgBut those are only some of the growing youth movement gaining power in our region.  The Firefighters squad saw a massive performance put in by Sam Bassetti, and his teammate Daniel Farinha is going to be crushing it on the road and track this year.

    The entire Specialized crew are to be watched and emulated, of course.  But also put on the radar was the riding of Andy Goessling, Eric Riggs, and AJ Snovel.  These men all finished the grueling 120-mile road race at MERCO and judging by their resulting thousand-yard stares … will be taking down targets all year long.

    And of course, Logan Loader is a huge name to watch.  But more on him another time.

    winder_dorkhat.jpgAnd it’s not just young men gaining attention and gather results – Ruth Winder is still a junior racer, but is somehow showing even more improvement in her riding.  It’s scary how much better this young woman has potential to become.

    And it’s exciting to see the return of Lindsey Myers to our scene … coming back from injury and showing some renegade spark against the big professional teams at both Snelling and MERCO.  It’s only a matter of time before a big squad sees the rising form of Myers again.

    Another rider I’m happy to see showing fine form this year is Kim Fong for the new Michael David Winery squad.  She has been aggressive, fast, and resilient in races this year and I think there will be a major result for her in 2011.

    “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
    Franklin D. Roosevelt



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    18 Responses to Young and Old … the bikelife in America

    1. gv
      March 9, 2011 at


      Love this thread and its thoughts – a lot. My kid is now racing in the NORCAL MTB series. Why? Over 700 kids showed up last weekend. The crowd was so big they had to split it into two venues; Monterey and Granite Bay.

      Fantastic scene; tail gating, BBQing, rooting, parental involvement (as is in screaming and yelling encouragement). Completely different scene than road.

      Cost: $45 per race plus series entry fee!

      So is it really a cost issue? Will reducing race fees help attract more young riders? Maybe and it can’t hurt to try but i think there’s something else going on.

      The MTB league is expanding nationally and has over 10 chapters now. Bottom line is that the kids find it fun and competitive. Remember fun? They have Teams even!

      As parents we need to make sure that whatever sport our kids are participating in, it needs to be fun and socially engaging. Maybe we need to spend some time thinking about how we can put the fun back into road cycling for these kids?

      Granted we’re talking about U25 vs HS and road vs MTB but i think there’s some interesting lessons to be learned and i look forward to hearing more folks chime in on how to keep our youth fully engaged in the beauty of cycling regardless if it’s on the road or dirt or if you’re 25 or 5.


    2. Contador
      March 9, 2011 at

      Socialism meet cycling. Wherever you have liberalism you have problems. Please leave it out of cycling.

    3. HERNANDO!!!
      March 9, 2011 at

      GV – we’ve had a huge growth of young uber-talent in road cycling over the past 10 years. Right next to that has been a considered focus on developing support structures for those riders.

      In my opinion, the next step is at the race promotion level. Becoming a top road cyclist takes racing … against the best. And offering support structures for young athletes makes a huge difference in a young rider able to make the commitment and sacrifices needed to become great. True, the road scene isn’t the same as the mtb scene, because it’s a different sport. Fun is there, though.

      Contador – liberalism fought and bled for us to have the 40 hr work week, got rid of child labor exploitation, brought us equality in gender and race, public education, etc, etc, etc. liberalism solves problems. problems created by the selfish, the greedy, and the brutish.

      And I wish we could be more socialistic in our support of cycling in America. State sponsored sport programs have been very successful in other countries. And produced many champion women and men racers.

    4. Soda
      March 9, 2011 at

      I agree on all aspects and I just miss that U25 cut!! Stupid December birthday!!

      In response to the above comment about the race only costing $45 dollars… yes most road races are cheaper than that BUT if you are seriously racing at the Cat1/2 level odds are you are racing ALOT (probably around 5-7 races a month) and that adds up fast. Also the last minute I randomly found someone to cover my shift entry fee is higher.

      Some racers aren’t as lucky to have supportive parents who are willing to lend a hand (financially) and thus have to rely on the kindness of teammates or friends or just their own determination and ability to budget pennies.

    5. MarkK
      March 9, 2011 at


      Bennett, Bassetti, Goessling, Brandt….are all NorCal-MTB alum. Ask them how they got their start. Must be a bit more than just some “fun” going on?

      Imagine if someone suggested that the way to bring youth soccer to kids is to promote inexpensive matches. Absurd. Backwards.

      Clubs and coaches come first…then racing against similarly experienced peers. Isn’t the exponential growth proof enough?

    6. Williams Cycling
      March 9, 2011 at

      First, topsport really did a great job with the race. I have seen my share of races….this is an NRC level event. Second, BJM is such a pro. I enjoy watching the way this man carries himself. Third, Logan Louder is the shizzle. Third, we have the best women talent in the US.

    7. Ride WoMan
      March 9, 2011 at

      I think the entire Board of Directors now for the NCNCA gets the picture when it comes to cycling in general. There needs to be grants and contributions from the NCNCA to youth cyclists, both female and male. There also needs to be all types of activities going on related to cycling. Track racing, MTB racing, Road racing, and so on. Lastly there needs to be all kinds of events taking place over the year! Large races that cater to the big guns, and small- grass root- races that may give common folk a place to compete. After all, it is the small races where people start out mostly, and then move up to racing larger events. Youths need a place to begin and get their feet wet in racing, and low-key local races is where this happens! Groups like Nor-Cal High School MTB play a big role in starting youths racing and learning to be competitve on their bicycle.

      One of my neighbors recieved a grant from the NCNCA B.O.D. to race in Europe, and she had a great time and learned very much. Thanks to all for making this possible by supporting the races, big ones & small ones, one race at a time.

    8. Bernie
      March 9, 2011 at

      Are you kidding?
      Do you really think you’ll subsidize juniors by eliminating Master’s prizes? When was the last time you won something worth a crap in Masters? And why are women’s prizes, especially older age groups, exempt? Do they REALLY need the prizes to get by? I say after a certain age, IF there are MONEY prizes being offered, then you could consider your plan. In my experience, the majority of prizes scrounged by promoters are not going to help juniors at all.

      Here are some things that to me seem to be more sensible.

      Join a club that lobbies the promoter for a group junior discount, and start as early as you can. Don’t wait until the day before the race.
      Have Masters in your club VOLUNTEER to “sponsor” you for the year. (help with reg and pre reg)
      Have juniors from different clubs come together and volunteer at races to EARN credits for free race entries.
      Race at one race and get the next one free, or any variation on this.
      Give juniors a questionaire to mail back to the promoters on thier ideas on what they could do to EARN the help.

      I don’t think there are any older riders in the region who don’t want to see help go to younger riders.
      Be careful just handing things to people though. Teach them to participate in and to appreciate what help they receive.

    9. Roman K
      March 9, 2011 at

      Wow a lot of good points here. My 2 cents:

      I don’t think that any group should be obligated to susidize u25 racers. If anything the support should come from the club and team level as others have stated.

      In the last few years races have got more expensive without offering anything extra for the riders. Plus the late fee is terrible, all it does is discourage those of us who are already on the fence about racing.

      8am start times for all the raod races crask me. Look at Snelling, can’t we start at 11 sometimes.

      Road racers race a lot, probably too much for young riders so it isn’t so bad when riders consider cost before showing up to race. Plus if every race is an investment riders will tend to select only the best races which will push promoter to improve their events.


    10. The President
      March 9, 2011 at

      I think folks keep confusing U25 with Juniors in this discussion. Juniors typically have great parental support and I have seen few juniors who are kept from racing due to available funds. Out of the 700 HS MTBers in question last weekend, how many paid their $45 out of their own pocket and how many were paid by parents? Any guesses? But after these juniors leave home and live in an apartment and pay a car payment and utilities off of their twenty-something hourly wages what is their disposable income?

      I drove to Merco to watch and volunteer as an Official. About $60 in gas. Race fees for both days if I had raced? $60. Let’s say I slept in my car or got host housing and begged for food. That is $120 to race the weekend. These young folks don’t have $360 disposable income to race three weekends a month so they DON’T. But this is the future growth of the sport. Should we sit by while talent is wasted? Socialism, puhleeze. This is a sport we all say we love, not government. How about if we can prove the economics that by giving discounts to U25 riders there will be more racers and the same net profit? That’s capitalist. Let’s not use pejorative terms and therefore throw out the baby with the bathwater. We are not talking free, but discounts. Get these kids racing more so we develop the next Taylor Phinney or Tejay VanGarderen or Andrew Talansky. Wouldn’t it be a shame and tragic if someone of that talent just couldn’t squeeze it financially and left the sport?

      There is not a single Masters Cat 1 or Cat 2 over 40 in NorCal that has a shot at the Olympics or European Pro racing. Agreed? Since noone has argued against international stars drawing in the money as Hernando stated then we are really arguing if we should do something and what and why. For the love of the sport. To give back. To see the sport we love grow. It takes seeing the big picture. It takes seeing the dynamics that drive growth. It takes seeing barriers. If I had all the money in the world I wouldn’t pay for all the costs. That breeds contempt and entitlement. But if I am a 23 year old Cat 2 with potential working at a bike shop and scrounging then being able to race two weekends versus one weekend off the only extra $100 I have may be huge for regular racing and advancement.

      Look I intend to approach some amenable promoters and test this out. I do not have all of the answers. I am for prize money going to the Pro/1/2 fields and especially the U25’s. Podium shots and product for Masters, maybe crowd primes because I just love the excitement and suffering it engenders. So should Masters cry if the money goes to the U25 riders? OK, don’t increase fees but do give discounts to U25 and please don’t charge them late fees. Should Masters cry if we try to support these young, struggling riders?

      I will leave you with this. I do not personally know of any over 18, under 25 talented Cat 1’s or 2’s in NorCal living flush and having everything handed to them. I can introduce you to many, many of these young riders that are scraping by.

      Do you want to hear their stories? Should we act or say it is not our problem? How can you possibly fault those that are trying to reach out or solve the problem?

      Maybe I’ll also lean on the teams/clubs to grab one of these guys and buy them lunch after the races. Maybe you can. Do something. I’m very Republican but feeling very liberal when it comes to this topic. I get it now. Look folks, I am volunteering 10-20 hours of my time each week on this sport for all of us. I really believe that this is one of the most important things for us to do for the sport. Help me put these guys and gals on the radar and then put them on the map.

    11. El wattio loco
      March 10, 2011 at

      Hernando or whatever your name is.
      If by the age of 25 you have not created a name in cycling, I am afraid to break the news to you all hopefulls, you won’t. It is that simple. You should by 24 start thinking about having a real job and understand that your odds of making it as a pro are so low that you may want to continue your studies to get your phd at stanford or if you are a sucker, continue to work at the bike shop.
      I wish I would have had the opportunity when i was 24 to have an Internet forum that would “ignight” the thought of paying for my education at college so i could fulfill my dream of becoming and investment banker.

    12. HERNANDO!!!
      March 10, 2011 at

      MarkK – nobody is knocking on the mtb league. but an hour or two on a closed dirt course is just a different world than 100-120 miles out in the wastelands of the central valley. there’s no vibe comparison, at all.

      And we’re talking about how to support these young riders (men and women) AFTER high school. We lose way too many riders after the junior ranks.

      el wattio, or whatever your name is.
      the number of riders who go pro in their early twenties is quite established. and if one considers how many women racers who go pro out of their twenties … your complaint falls flat and impotent.

      American cycling needs to grow it’s domestic professional ranks. Higher quality racing here, makes it possible to prepare riders to go play Euro over there (Mooney – 26, Parnes – 27, Olds – 31, Stevens – 28, etc, etc, etc).

      But really, what is under discussion is a change/alteration in event promoter philosophy … towards a philosophy drawn from Europe and emulated by many American event promoters – one that sees the long term benefits of investing and nurturing the growth of talent in the sport. A sustainable structure for making it cheaper to race as a U25 racer will increase the number of riders, their consistency and commitment.

      I think that people who aren’t in their circumstances just have little idea how impossible it is to race the road with low income. If you do the math, you’ll see that we are alienating a huge population of racers that will STAY with the sport.

      Get them hooked now, and they’ll return the investment later – as masters racers, promoters, coaches, sponsors, etc.

    13. Paul D
      March 10, 2011 at

      I can not resist chiming in on the comments about liberalism by our clenbuterol-filled commentator, Mr. Contador.

      Last I checked, the NFL — built on a model inclined toward socialism with all its revenue sharing (income distribution), salary cap, parity and other supposedly liberal strategies — is a hugely successful league, and one in which all 30-something teams have a valid chance of success.

      Major League Baseball, in contrast, is essentially free of such regulations, so that only about 6 big market teams have a real chance of success each year. The others are all long shots or no-shots. My Pittsburgh Pirates don’t have a snowball’s chance of winning the World Series next year or any year. And their ticket sales, tv revenues and overall finances will suffer as a result.

      The Pirates are essentially the inner city youth of professional baseball.

      In the end, there is no one-philosophy-fits-all-solution as regards public and private enterprise. Liberalism, conservatism, socialism and capitalism each offer tools that need to chosen from and applied thoughtfully, depending upon the circumstances of the individual case at hand.

    14. Tim
      March 10, 2011 at

      What I’m hearing is a plea to Promoters to A) lower their price for a specific group of racers, and B) Shift prize money from one group of racers to another. The ‘losing’ racers of course being the bread-and-butter who replenish most promoter’s coffers after they’ve shelled out for insurance, permits, port-a-johns, police expenses and so on.

      What I’m not hearing is USAC or NCNCA stepping up to that plate and saying “Here’s the money we’re putting down on this laudable goal, can you match (some of) that?”

      Roman K – races have gotten more expensive because costs have gone up. Whether it’s municipalities extracting extra money to grant a permit, or requiring more police/EMT services be on site (and paid for by the promoter). Online Reg has costs, which are often rolled into your fee. If your team sponsors a race, talk to them about what that involves and how costs have changed. One local race weekend has about $20,000 in upfront costs out of pocket BEFORE a single rider starts warming up.

    15. j iannarelli
      March 10, 2011 at

      Not sure if an actual u25 rider has commented on this so I will. Yes I race for Yahoo(oh no!), full time college student, blah blah blah, yes racing is expensive. Usac should subsidize u25 racers in the p/1/2 category, maybe even through cat 3 or 4 racing as those guys are trying to move up as well. This is on usac to help promote cycling for the next generation. we’re lucky to have race promoters do what they do. Maybe an actual promoter could chime in and tell us how much money they would loose if u25 riders were given a discount in the p/1/2 categories. For instance I believe if you are a junior at the local track, racing is free. however, it is unlikely that usac would like this as I have seen them reject any idea collegiate racers offer them for ncca races. believe it or not collegiate racing has been upped from 15 to 20 dollars and I know colleges loose money when putting on races. so fat chance that usac will ever subsidize u25 riders.

    16. Tim
      March 10, 2011 at

      Good Question J.

      I’m not a promoter (but a couple have replied to the same discussion on the NCNCA email list).

      The NCNCA site has demographics (the latest are for ’09). Of almost 4500 licensed racers that year, over 3000 were Masters (35+). Of the 1,458 under 35, 210 were juniors (with their own cheap rates). So my guess is that there’s fewer than 500 who’d fall into that 19-25 sweet spot that Bill’s trying to subsidize.

    17. El wattio loco
      March 13, 2011 at

      Mr Hernando,if that is your real name.
      My point is, race fees are race fees, no special treatment. Let me remind you, in case you went to college, that by 25 you should already have been 3 to 4 years in the American hard working workforce in some sort of fashion. If one by choice decide to pick up bike racing as more than a hobby and try to make it a profession, the cost of doing business in cycling is high. What you are taking about is red communist parlance where working people, like myself, have to subsidence the genetlically privileged elite, that by choice, decide to partake in this sport with no future?
      I suggest you take a trip to Colombia, to see what being an underprivileged pro rider is all about

    18. March 14, 2011 at

      1. Everybody knows that Hernando’s real name is Lance Armstrong
      2. I’m not hernando. I’m Greg Lemond.
      3. Red communist parlance is not my go to expression for anything i don’t like.
      4. Racing outside of NorCal is “Red Communist Parlance.” Unless you are in Vermont. Vermont is cool

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