Officials at the USA Cycling Amateur National Championships have disputed claims that rider Jon Crowson was fined over complaints he made via Twitter about conditions at the race in Truckee, California.
Chief official Bonnie Walker clarified to Cyclingnews that the $20 fine was for a curse word that Crowson levelled at a volunteer who refused to help shuttle riders to the finish, and the rule which was applied, 8A5(I) "Actions not specifically covered by the rules but bringing discredit upon the sport" was used rather than rule 8A5(b) which specifies unsportsmanlike conduct including foul or abusive language because the former is less severe.
"In this case, the suspension would have been at the discretion of the race jury, if I had chosen to use the foul language regulation," Walker said. "Given this occurred out on the race course, away from large crowds of spectators, I opted for a $20 fine. Since the rider DNFd the race there was no way to relegate or DQ."
Walker also noted that the fine was imposed on Wednesday directly after the elite men's race, but Crowson's Twitter comments came later that evening. "The fine was issued long before the rider's comments on social media and NOT afterwards. I was not even aware of his comments until the conclusion of racing yesterday (Friday)."
Crowson speculated that he was fined for complaints he made on Twitter that there was no neutral feed, mechanical support, and insufficient resources to pick up dropped riders on the 167km out-and-back course from the Northstar resort.
USA Cycling's VP of events, Micah Rice, disputed Crowson's assertions that there was no neutral support. "While the weather conditions were very hot today, it was clearly stated in the tech guide that there was no neutral feed zone. And it was also clear in the tech guide that full neutral support was in place. We had two neutral support cars branded front and back with the words in 4 inch letters “Neutral Support” in his race, along with the team caravan cars," Rice stated.
Although there were neutral support cars, they were not distributing water, but Rice said the medical car did. "We had medical following each race as well as roaming ambulances all day. They had plenty of water and supplies. And there were three feed zones with plenty of people at each if there was an emergency situation," Rice said.
Although water was available, at least two riders exhibited symptoms of heat stroke during the race on Wednesday, a situation which inspired Crowson's Twitter complaints. Rice asserted that the fine was entirely unrelated to these statements, however.
"The rider was fined by the chief referee for making abusive comments to staff working at the race. To be clear, he was not fined for making comments on social media, nor for criticizing USA Cycling – that would never happen. The rider was very clearly was out of line for yelling abusive comments out the window of the broom vehicle while race staff was trying to help him get back to the start/finish line."
Rice apologized for a joke he made, saying if riders were fined for complaining, he'd be rich. "I regret the comment I made about 'fining riders'. It was intended as a joke, but was in poor taste. As a bike racer myself, I know that people put their heart and soul into racing, and my job at USA Cycling is to help them enjoy every moment of that experience," he said.