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Postponement of US 'cross nationals cost riders over $250,000

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Racing was held a day late after the mud of Austin forced a post-posing of events

Racing was held a day late after the mud of Austin forced a post-posing of events (Image credit: David McElwaine)
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Sara Hensley director of Austin City Parks and Recreation, and Micah Rice of USA Cycling

Sara Hensley director of Austin City Parks and Recreation, and Micah Rice of USA Cycling (Image credit: Emory Ball)
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There was plenty of mud at Zilker Park.

There was plenty of mud at Zilker Park. (Image credit: David McElwaine)

The actual cost of the one-day postponement of the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championship may never be known, but one informal survey estimated the impact at more than a quarter million dollars.

Amateur racer and fan Matthew Montesano watched the drama unfold from his home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and created the online survey, which drew 122 responses, making up 44% of the racers who stayed for the final day of racing.

81 racers failed to start the rescheduled junior, U23 and elite races, which were moved from Sunday, January 11 to the following day after the Austin City Parks and Recreation department (PARD) put a stop to the event citing unexpected damage to the park.

Montesano's data estimates that 22% of the racers registered failed to start. USA Cycling results show 81 riders as DNS between the eight different fields. Races on previous days showed an average of a 4% attrition rate, indicating that most of the riders who failed to race on Monday did so because of the date change.

Those who remained bore the brunt of the additional costs to reschedule flights, for hotels, car rental and lost wages. Responses to the question of how much the change cost averaged $902 per rider, 90% of which was not covered by their sponsors.

Montesano estimated that, if the statistics bore out in reality, the cost to the 278 racers who competed in the rescheduled events would total $250,756.

Donn Kellogg, manager of the Raleigh-Clement team, confirmed the estimate to Cyclingnews. "We believe our additional costs were in the $3,500 to $4,000 range for the extra day," for his four riders. "The cost is just part of the story as we had the parents of Laurel [Rathburn] having to leave that night. There is much more than the fiscal cost to this fiasco."

When asked by Cyclingnews what motivated him to create the survey, Montesano said, "I have a career in public health, which is a field that works with evidence-based decisions. So, generally, I'm often more interested in aggregated information about large groups of people than I am in individual stories.

"When I started the process on the Sunday morning of the postponement, it wasn't clear who was making the cancellation/postponement decision or why. The only thing was clear was that there was a great burden that was being shifted largely to the racers - and I wanted to quantify that burden."

One comment in particular from attorney and elite women's racer Arley Kemmerer, posted on Twitter which read, "I have a real job. I have a trial on weds. Postponement is NOT 'good news'. I don't get paid to race my bike" struck a chord, and inspired the creation of the survey.

"It often seems that pro women have very different experiences from pro men in this country," Montesano said. "They seem more likely to have (and, probably, to need) a full career outside of bike racing... So it felt really precarious and painful to me that the cost of this postponement decision was being shifted on to racers - and, possibly, onto some of the racers least able to easily afford it."

Younger racers also suffered heavily in the date change, with the majority of the DNSs coming from the U23 and junior ranks, but the survey did not take into account the costs to family members, support staff, vendors or spectators who either travelled to Austin and missed the races, or paid extra to stay another day. One vendor estimated the cost in the $7-10,000 range.

Although USA Cycling refunded the entry fees for riders who were unable to stay, when asked by Cyclingnews if it would provide any additional compensation, VP of Events Micah Rice indicated that it was unlikely.

"USA Cycling is not in a position to make up these costs and we are also looking at tens of thousands of dollars in incremental costs including BTB TV, officials, vendors and staff," Rice said. "While we wish we could find a way to compensate everyone for their costs on this delay but we are not sure what avenues we have through the City of Austin at this time."

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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.