American 'cross promoters hit by USA Cycling fee increase

Promoters of the top cyclo-cross races in the USA are scrambling to pull together the fees to USA Cycling to earn their spot on next year's calendar after the governing body increased the charges for permits and anti-doping programs that nearly doubled the costs over 2013.

Shortly after the conclusion of the Jingle Cross Rock cyclo-cross event on November 17th, organizers of the Pro CX races received the updated payment schedule and race fees for the 2014 calendar. The new fees covered the 2014 permit fee and Race Clean anti-doping program, and were originally due on December 5th, but that deadline was extended to December 10.

For the Race Director of the Jingle Cross Rock, John Meehan, it was a tough pill to swallow, since in previous years the inscription fee was only required 60 days in advance of the race. The fast-tracked timeline meant a portion of the money that was earmarked for their fundraising objectives - the race is organized in support of the University of Iowa Children's hospital - would be needed to guarantee the race for 2014

"It won't affect the race, but it did affect our ability to pay this bill upon request since we got it right after our budget had been closed for the year," said Meehan. "If we had known about it in August, that would have been more helpful."

In 2013 permit fees were 7 per cent of a races prize list, and the Race Clean payment was $800 for the entire weekend. For a race such as Jingle Cross Rock this amounted to a total of approximately $2400. In 2014, USA Cycling is converting to a flat fee of $1950 for a C1 event, and $950 for a C2 event. The Race Clean program fee also increases, and will now run $800 for the first day of racing, and $400 for each subsequent day of racing.

Multi-day races are eligible for additional discounts if promoted under the same permit. After the multi-day discount this would raise the Jingle Cross USA Cycling inscription fee to $5050, double their 2013 USAC costs.

In an effort to explain to the race community why registration fees may increase, the Jingle Cross team took to social media. The post, which appeared on Facebook, projected the frustration the volunteer organization felt at the increased fees and fast tracked timeline. The post struck a chord with their Facebook fans, and was shared over 100 times before it was deleted, with USA Cycling incurring the brunt of the criticism.

The reaction amongst fellow Race Directors was less critical. Several expressed their support of the new fees and payment schedule, which are intended to secure and professionalize the level of events on the Pro CX calendar.

"My view is racers should welcome this. Certainty, and predictability in a race calendar allows riders, sponsors, and teams, all of the stakeholders, to plan in advance," said Brook Watts, the race director of Cross Vegas. "If you ask any of the juniors who got stuck with non-refundable tickets to the event that was cancelled in California [Spooky Cross operated as a non-UCI race after budget issues, but organisers say juniors were compensated - ed.], if race directors would be held to their commitment, I think those juniors would say, 'If somebody says they are going to put on a race, by god they should put on a race.'"

Mitch Graham, Race Director of Cincy 3, has a similar, positive, take on the changes. "There was initial concern over the 50% fee increase and the timeline for payment," Graham wrote to Cyclingnews. "After letting it sink in, we looked at the support we get from our local association in Ohio, the support USAC put into our weekend by subsidizing Behind the Barriers TV, their $40,000 invested in the Pro CX overall, Euro Cross Camp, etc. - it takes the sting out of our new fee."

Though race directors have been inconvenienced by the timing of the revised fee schedule, recognition of USA Cycling's investment in the sport seems wide spread. "USAC's been putting a lot of money into 'cross now. They are finally putting their money where their mouth is," said Paul Boudreau the Race Director for the Gran Prix of Gloucester. "Personally, would I rather not pay this money right now? I'd rather pay for it later. My event is in September. But the truth is we can do a payment plan if we need to."

Still, even with a flexible payment plan, the large up front cost puts a strain on regional races that depend on large volunteer networks and race entry fees to fund their event. "It's greatly appreciated [payment plan option], but it's still a challenge for us," said Meehan. "The announcement the fees were due came two days after our event concluded, and we won't have further income till next August. It's helpful in theory, but doesn't help until we can open up registration, which won't be till August." Regardless of his misgivings, even Meehan feels that the changes will have long term benefits for his event, and the sport.

Micah Rice, USA Cycling's Vice President of National Events, was disheartened to see the conflagration on social media, but feels the upside of the revised program will only benefit the sport. "The fact is with the $40,000 we are putting in for the overall of the Pro CX, and the large chunk of money we have put into Behind the Barriers to get them up and running, and create some really good content surrounding cyclo-cross in the US, the amount of money we actually gain as profit from this group is substantially lower than anywhere close to what we are spending," explained Rice.

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