By Andy Lee, USA Cycling
After selling 54,190 licenses last year, USA Cycling announced yesterday that number had been eclipsed on July 10, illustrating the growth in competitive cycling in the United States and continuing a four-year trend.
American cycling has attracted unprecedented attention in recent years. Much of that attention can be attributed to the success of Lance Armstrong and the growing popularity of American athletes at the sport's highest level. In fact, since Armstrong captured his fourth Tour de France crown, USA Cycling membership has increased by over 27 percent. During that same four-year period, the number of competitive road cyclists has increased from 25,803 to 35,010 - a 36 percent jump amongst those who complete in the same discipline as Armstrong.
"Obviously if you look at the number of competitive cyclists licensed by USA Cycling, it's evident that the sport has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years," noted seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong. "The climate of American cycling at the elite level of competition is extremely healthy and the attention the sport has received has helped stimulate tremendous growth and interest."
Following the retirement of Armstrong after the 2005 Tour de France, Americans have continued to excel in cycling's flagship event. George Hincapie and Floyd Landis became the fourth and fifth Americans in history to wear the coveted yellow jersey in the Tour de France earlier this month, keeping the success of Americans alive and likely fostering similar growth.
"There are a lot of positive things happening in American cycling right now," added Armstrong. "The number of people racing their bikes from the junior level into the U23 class and on up through the master categories is an encouraging sign of where our sport is heading. It's a trend I hope continues."
"We're ecstatic at the continued growth of USA Cycling," commented Steve Johnson, chief executive officer. As the governing body for the sport in the United States, it is ultimately our mission to grow the sport of competitive cycling in our country. From a membership standpoint, we are working diligently on a daily basis to create more value in a USA Cycling membership with the hopes of better serving our existing licensees and attracting new members to the sport."
Of the current licenses, 35,010 are road and track specific and 10,476 are mountain bike specific. Other licenses include USA Cycling coaches licenses (1,071), officials licenses (1,914), collegiate cycling licenses (3,383), BMX licenses (183), mechanics licenses (170), professional cyclist licenses (294), UCI international licences (2,130) and gold and silver premier memberships (171).
At the conclusion of 2002, USA Cycling had 42,499 members, followed by 43,944 in 2003, 48,867 in 2004 and 54,190 in 2005.
Those numbers represent a 3.4 percent increase in 2003, an 11.2 percent increase in 2004 and a 10.8 percent increase in 2005.
Another statistic that points to the marked growth in organized competitive cycling is the increase in USA Cycling sanctioned teams and clubs. As of July 19, USA Cycling has sanctioned 1,748 clubs - a 12 percent increase over the 1,554 sanctioned clubs at this time last year. Of those 1,748 clubs, 257 are new.