An interview with Steve Johnson, acting CEO of USA Cycling

In light of the recent departure of Gerard Bisceglia from USA Cycling, the next in command, Steve...

Promoting from within

In light of the recent departure of Gerard Bisceglia from USA Cycling, the next in command, Steve Johnson , was the obvious choice to serve as the immediate replacement. But just who is Steve Johnson? Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski found out, and where he thinks USA Cycling - as well as U.S. cycling in general is headed - along with a few other issues.

Steve Johnson is quickly coming upon his six year anniversary as a full-time employee with USA Cycling. Like a lot of people within the cycling community, he sort of 'fell into' his position - beginning as a consultant for the organisation while he served as a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Utah. He was brought in to develop the athlete side of the organisation as the organisation moved towards professional rather than strictly amateurs representing the country in events such as the Olympics. But like many of us, Johnson is first and foremost a cyclist himself.

Cyclingnews: Tell me how you came to USA Cycling?

Steve Johnson: I have been a cyclist and competitor at the elite and masters levels for thirty years. I have been the director of what used to be called a district, an official and have basically been in and around the sport for a long time. I was a college professor for fifteen years. I was recruited by USA Cycling back in 1998. I was asked to design a high-performance plan and got EDS to fund some of what I thought were really appropriate programs. One was the U23 program and the other was the coaching association. Another was the ranking system that is still in place today. And another was a junior regional program. So I got all of that up and running as a consultant and then discovered at the end of 2000 that EDS was going to go away. In the process of getting all of this going I got more and more involved that I should have - you know how that happens when you are passionate about something - you lose all perspective!

At that point I sat down with Thom Weisel about creating a foundation - a major donor fundraising program to keep the money going into the programs we started. That just grew into these other opportunities over time. Basically it's been a huge component in support of the organisation. It pumped over $4 million into athlete programs in the last five years. It not only kept the programs that I started going but it also ended up funding everything we do in athletics - mountain bike, women's programs and other important stuff. From the beginning I believe the top end of our sport is connected to the bottom - if you look at membership growth and grassroots, you cannot disconnect the athlete performance side of it. And a lot of the membership growth is a result of Lance Armstrong putting our sport on the radar screen for millions of new fans. A few of those buy bicycles and that pumps billions into the bike industry. One out of every hundred decides to become a member, so there are ten thousand new members - it becomes a complex, interconnected ecosystem.

I think that elite coaches are absolutely critical to supporting the whole thing, and creating an industry. Making an association for them to share information and create structure was critical. We have grown from just a few people who had coaching licenses in 1999 to over 1,200 now. That has been a big factor with our growth as well.

Click here for the full interview

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