Make enemies quick!

January 18, 2016 § 10 Comments

The SCNCA board of trustees election is underway, and you can’t vote. Isn’t democracy great?

What you can do, however, is lobby. The way you lobby is this:

  1. Find out who on your USAC-registered club is the SCNCA “team representative.”
  2. Pester that fucker to vote.
  3. Pester that fucker to vote for the people you want to see on the board.

At some time in the future the SCNCA may allow direct elections, where the actual racers get a direct voice in the organization they fund. This will be about the time that you can buy unicorn farts out of vending machines. Until then, let’s lobby.

This election is an important one because the entire 9-person board is up for election. The candidates have all self-nominated and posted their statements here. Your team rep must vote by January 27, so please begin pestering him or her now. Below are my recommendations.

  1. Chris Black. He has raced, coached, promoted, and officiated. He’s a thorn in the ass of USAC but has the tools and the vision to improve SCNCA. Plus, ex-cop.
  2. David Huntsman. He has raced, is an expert in non-profit governance, is a lawyer, believes in transparency, and has played a huge role in getting the current board to resign, hire a lawyer, and hold new elections. He’s also a board member of OC Bike Coalition and has a kid who races.
  3. Omar Lozano. Omar has promoted some great races, has actual skin in the game, and is a crucial bridge between the mostly white SCNCA/USAC status quo and the massive potential pool of US/Mexico Hispanic bike racers. His Adrenaline GP events are super. Without the needs of promoters taken into account, there are no races.
  4. Armin Rahm. SCNCA and USAC critic. German bad-ass. Intelligent and has been around the SoCal racing scene forever. Incredibly accomplished athlete. Strong voice for riders and an articulate voice for what it is that riders want and need.
  5. Matt Wikstrom. Great bike racer. Smart dude. Makes his living in the arena of professional sports management and athlete agency. In other words, a highly accomplished amateur bike racer who works with the finances and mechanics of professional sports for a living. Could we use that at SCNCA? Uh, yes.
  6. Justin Williams. Young. Great bike racer. Respected voice for athletes and a fantastic bridge for the woefully underserved African-American community, which has huge numbers of recreational cyclists in LA who need to view bike racing as something that is available, welcoming, and a great opportunity for them.
  7. Dorothy Wong. Racer and promoter. She’s the single force behind the entire ‘cross calendar in SoCal. Incredibly accomplished, puts on an entire season’s worth of races, friendly, deadline-oriented, pro in every respect.
  8. Sean Wilson. Life-long racer, huge promoter of junior racers and junior racing. Junior team director and advocate who has pulled together numerous statewide events to try and build consensus for solutions that will increase junior racing and therefore secure the future of the sport.
  9. Jan Luke. Jan is committed to implementing the reforms that were begun when SCNCA hired an attorney, held an election to successfully revise its bylaws, and put the current election process in place. She’s running for a 1-year term and would be a good choice to see the reforms through.

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If it’s broke, fix it

January 6, 2016 § 26 Comments

Two things you can do to help fix the broke-down, dysfunctional mess that is the SCNCA:

  1. Vote to approve the amended bylaws.
  2. Nominate yourself or some other poor sap for one of the nine board of directors slots.
  3. Post this info on Facebag or your club website.

Of course nothing is that simple. YOU can’t actually vote to approve the bylaws. That can only be done by the designated representative of your club, and your club has to be a USAC and an SCNCA member. Sound complicated? That’s because it is.

So here’s what you do:

  1. Send this link to the boss man or boss woman of your club.
  2. Although your club should have already received a ballot, if they have not, contact Tom Fitzgibbon at tfitz1@me.com.

Voting on the amended bylaws is super important and has to be done by January 9. That’s Saturday. What is the amendment? It will allow SCNCA to communicate with its members (who are clubs, not individual racers) electronically, and will allow them to vote electronically. This means that going forward the SCNCA can reorganize without having to spend huge chunks of its budget on mail notifications as required by current bylaws.

If the bylaws are amended, SCNCA will have an electronic election for its new board of directors. The timeline for this, however, is super short. Fortunately, the self-nomination process is working. Many people have self-nominated, and there are now more candidates than have ever before run, but the deadline is January 10. So here’s what you do:

  1. Send your name to perfectday4j@gmail.com and announce your candidacy. You can even put “I’m a dope” in the subject line.
  2. Include a brief description of why you want the job and what your qualifications are. (Example: “I like to get screamed at by people; 28 years of marriage.”)
  3. Your club will receive an electronic voting link after the nominating period closes.
  4. Wait for election results on January 23.

In case I haven’t made it clear, please make sure this is brought to the attention of your club president. The deadlines are upon us and voting for change is desperately needed at SCNCA.

How badly is it needed?

This reform movement began when local cyclist and attorney David Huntsman sent this letter to the SCNCA. The issues raised in the letter, which basically centered around whether SCNCA’s trustees have been acting in a legal manner, and whether or not they have been fulfilling their fiduciary duties to the organization, led SCNCA to hire a lawyer.

And don’t come pissing and moaning to me about “wasting your money on a lawyer.” If SCNCA had been advised properly in the beginning we wouldn’t be where we are today. And if you don’t like lawyers and law, then there is a spot for you on the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Racing Team. And … there’s money at stake. SCNCA has spent (frittered away?) hundreds of thousands of dollars since its inception in 1998.

The attorney retained by SCNCA for peanuts, Tom Fitzgibbon of Velo Club LaGrange, has been racing for decades, served on VCLG’s board for years, and is a person for whom I have a lot of respect. Since he’s been hired by SCNCA, he represents the organization, not the individual interests of the trustees. This means that issues about how the organization is run and how its finances are managed will be examined by someone whose job it is to help make SCNCA better. And if things aren’t being done legally or properly, it’s Tom’s job to deliver the bad news so that SCNCA can start doing what it gets paid to do.

Nimble decision making and a new board of directors are crucial first steps if SCNCA is ever going to fulfill its mission of advancing racing in SoCal. David Huntsman is one of the nominees for the board of trustees, and he’s got my vote; I hope he gets yours.

See-through is best

The current SCNCA way of conducting business is opaque. There are no publicly available financials aside from a drop-down link on the web site’s “About” tab that says “Financials.” I dare you to click on it.

In addition to a steamed-glass approach to finances, which in my mind equates to shoddiness at best, chicanery at worst, SCNCA doesn’t make the records of its meetings public. Although it’s been around since 1998, there are only two meeting minutes posted under the “About” section; both of them from late last year, just around the time that Huntsman began asking pointed questions about the board’s operations.

My estimate is that with about 7,000 licensees in the district, SCNCA should be getting somewhere between $35,000 and $70,000 from USAC every year. Now although that may not seem like a lot of money, oh, wait, YES IT SURE FUCKING DOES.

How that money is spent should be transparent. With Fitzgibbon as counsel and a new board coming in, we can expect transparency. In fact, we should demand it.

Thanks where thanks are due

Although it’s easy to poke holes in the mismanagement and glaring failures of SCNCA, it’s important to also give thanks. There are many board members over the years who have given heart and soul to making bike racing here a fun and exciting sport. People like Greg Aden have done their level best and deserve our thanks.

Don’t ever call me an optimist, but as far as the upcoming changes at SCNCA go, I can say that it’s absolutely headed in the right direction. Now, please go vote. Even though, technically, you can’t.

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Bike Racing Survey Analysis

October 19, 2015 § 17 Comments

It pays to have friends in high places, and barring that, to have friends who are really, really, smart.

I got an email from Heidi Christensen the other day offering to analyze our bike racer survey. The survey had been put together by Joe Camacho at Velo Club La Grange, and although we had the canned Survey Monkey results it was gibberish, which is mostly what you’d expect from a bunch of monkeys.

Heidi, however, is a pro, and she took the raw data (I’m still not even sure what raw data is … uncooked? Does it go with a Paleo Diet?) and put together this eye-popping analysis.

Thank you, Heidi, and CHECK IT OUT HERE!!

2015_bike_racer_survey_analysis_heidi_christensen

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The root of all evil is not enough money

October 16, 2015 § 35 Comments

People wonder why masters racers have hijacked SoCal amateur bike racing, as shown by the incredible explosion of anger over the burning question of the day:

  1. Should masters categories be 35/45/55? OR
  2. Should masters categories be 40/50/60?

Wrinkly trinket-hungry cyclists went ballistic over this life-or-death issue and forced the opaque, shifty-eyed, self-serving SCNCA board to hold an emergency late night telephone conference, reverse their earlier vote, and then come up with a new vote that satisfied the angriest of the old people who, by the way, were angry indeed.

So now bike racing has been saved. Horrible declines in participation, non-attendance by anyone other than angry S/O’s and resentful children, fewer races, and a smaller pie to squabble over are all going to be remedied because the needs of several hundred greedy trinket hunters have been shifted down five years. Riiiiiiight.

Showing how inane the whole thing is, one upset fellow posted that since he’s going to soon be thirty, “WHAT ABOUT ME?” This perspective perfectly defines the modern masters racer: The unfairness of it all! 30-year-olds having to race with 20-somethings! Pretty soon the 12-year-olds will be outraged that they’re racing with the thirteen-ers, and so on down to swaddling diaper pre-racers.

None of this is surprising because the only thing on offer in bicycle racing nowadays is  the faux glory of a few seconds on an ugly podium, hands raised in a stupid salute, a quick posting of the photo on ‘Bag and ‘Gram, and a 5,000-lb. bag of entitlement.

No one’s fighting for money because there is none. The best racer in America, Daniel Holloway, goes from year to year without any long term security even though he wins more big races in a season than any other elite US pro will win their entire career. What would Rahsaan Bahati’s pro career have looked like if he’d made six figures as a bike racer? Why is Hilton Clarke looking for work?

If there were money on offer for actual bike racers, cycling would be a different game. People who could make a living at bike racing would throw the dice and try it as a career, the pool of athletes would grow, and the ripple effect of more races, more spectators, more sponsors, more fans, and more junior racers would grow the sport. It would take several years, but a million dollars on offer in prize money each year in SoCal would turn the region into a global center of cycling.

“A million dollars????” I can hear the screeching laughter now. What a ridiculous idea! What an absurd amount of money? For prizes that go to actual BIKE RACERS? ARE YOU FUCKING CRAZY?

Yes, but that will never happen of course. The people who have a million dollars to invest aren’t about to put it into the checking accounts of cardboard box-dwelling bike racers because it’s not an investment, at least in the sense that they’ll ever get their money back. It’s more of a Bernie Madoff type investment, and they’d rather have a new beautiful second home, a new airplane, a new boat, or a new investment vehicle that will turn the million into multiples of a million. And no group of ten affluent cyclists would dream of kicking in $100k each to revolutionize the sport. It’s not for a shortage of dollars, though, you can be sure of that. We ride with stock brokers, real estate moguls, millionaire lawyers, independently wealthy businessmen, super rich doctors, and a variety of people for whom a hundred thousand bucks would mean absolutely nothing at all to their big picture or even their small one.

As a case in point, the suckers who dumped $19 million into the USA Pro Challenge wound up with the same raw assholes of everyone else who tries to fund the sport through the well oiled USAC graft machine. The money goes everywhere except to the one place that matters most: The hands of the men and women who turn the pedals. As soon as you pump money into an event or a team, it gets hoovered up immediately by everyone except the riders, who are expected to ride for free or close to it, and be damned glad of it.

The sad thing is that the donor/investor always has good intentions; he wants the sport to prosper. But as long as the employees who make the show happen are starved, insecure, broke, living at home, and paying for health insurance through Medi-Cal, it never ever will. There may be a sucker born every minute, but they play the lottery or go to Vegas. Hardly anyone is a big enough gambler to stake a career on bikes.

And why should donors pour money into the sport they profess to love? What has cycling as an organized activity ever done for anybody? Because of USA Cycling’s pervasive and long-term support of doping, cheating, and shunting rider funds to programs run from Colorado Springs, the governing body is toothless, stupid, greedy, lazy, and mean. It hates grass roots wankers with big bellies (the guys who fill the lower ranks and pay the salaries in ‘Springs), and it thumbs its nose at any pretend racer who doesn’t hit “the right numbers.”

And that’s why Strava is so devastating. It provides competition and it provides value; USAC provides limited competition, and does so at ridiculous cost with zero financial reward. Our recent survey showed that, surprise, people are afraid of crashing. No fucking shit? You mean people are afraid of falling off their bike at 30 and getting their balls run over by ten other riders? Who’d be afraid of that? Worst that can happen is that you die, dude. Man up.

By choking development, ignoring obvious problems, and by creating a culture that makes any potential investor loathe them, USAC is now having the rotten, digested fruits of its corrupt labor shoved down its throat in the form of lower numbers, lower license revenue, lower salaries for the staff who grew up living on Lance and who are now finding out that in addition to being petty and greedy, the masters racers now calling the shot are all that’s left and they happen to be the cheapest most cantankerous bastards alive. I know I am.

And now the new godfather of USAC has declared that the organization will never hire another doper, but he’s silent about what really matters: How is he going to put money into the hands of the people who race bikes? How is he going to make any rational person want to take a chance on the sport? No answers there, sorry.

So it’s left to a handful of leathernecked race promoters to develop a profitable system with no support, no investment, no safety net, and no incentive to hang onto the few races we do have. The reward from USAC? Paying more fees, of course. Bet you didn’t know that the bigger your prize list, the more the promoter pays USAC, did you?

The other reward is having their paying customers, the cranky and greedy and perennially dissatisfied old farts, clamor and complain when races are set up that don’t revolve around them. Young racers are filled with loathing at the actions of us, their elders, and they either smarten up and go back to school (always the best choice, by the way), or they wait to age-grade up and become the overlords.

Sane parents on the sidelines shake their heads in disbelief and encourage their children to chase his dreams anywhere but in cycling. All of the junior summits and SCNCA board deliberations and age category machinations won’t mean shit until there’s enough money in the sport for athletes to make a living at it. Until then the economic engine will be retail sales of high-end bikes to mid-40-ish people who can afford them, and as long as that demographic powers the engine, USAC and race promoters will do as they’re told.

This bankrupt policy is why so few new riders are coming up. The day’s not far off when the fight over how to split the tiny little masters pie will be a fight over who’s going to promote the three races left on the calendar.

Half of any given masters race has people who make their living through “the industry.” We know where they stand on age categories. What about the same level of activism, backed with money, when it comes to putting dollars into the hands of the young men and women who actually have something called a future?

/END RANT/

Junior gearing

October 12, 2015 § 17 Comments

The sad, dysfunctional fact about USA Cycling in general, and SCNCA in particular, is that they have failed at their mission to build racing participation for so many years that today no one expects anything less than complete failure. Excuses, finger pointing, and the status quo have become hallmarks of our local racing association, and we have fewer races, declining numbers, and the terrible race turnout to prove it.

On the one hand that’s a great thing. Dedicating your youth to bike racing is like dedicating it to meth without the thrill of a prison sentence and the reward of several coat hanger tattoos on your butt. On the other hand it’s terrible, because in some remote galactic parallax of red-shifted wormholes, bike racing is a good thing. Don’t ask me to locate it on a map or in any known episode of Star Trek.

The latest full blown collapse of representation, transparency, honesty, and democracy came (fortunately) in the one arena of bike racing that is the most meaningless of all: Masters racing. To make a long and boring story into a short and boring one, I would explain it thusly:

Old people got angry about trinket distribution. They are still angry.

The more interesting question for me is not how/when/and at what age the wrinklebags can compete for trinkets, but rather this: How can we lure more unsuspecting kids into bike racing? Everyone can identify the problems and no one knows the answer, except by the process of exclusion, to wit:

WHATEVER THE SOLUTION IS, IT WILL HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH USA CYCLING OR THE SCNCA.

So, to help get the junior gears rolling–and it’s a small start–I’m going to donate a monthly Best SoCal Junior Girl Racer award in the amount of $200.00 cash, and a matching award for the best SoCal Junior Boy Racer, courtesy of the $2.99/month subscriptions that come in via this blog. It feels better using the money that way than on the beer I’ve quit drinking.

You can nominate your racer (so far there are a whopping total of two, proving that it’s harder to give away money than you think) by going to my law firm’s Facebook page and adding your nomination as a comment to the post announcing the awards, which is pinned to the top of the page. Include as much detail as you want; the more you include the easier it will make the decision. And yes, self nominations are fine!

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We want your two cents, they want your fifty

June 23, 2015 § 28 Comments

The most telling part of the SCNCA web site is its section on financials.

You go to the “About” navigation on the home page, select “Financials” from the drop-down menu, click on the link and get nothing at all. It’s succinct, and brevity is the soul of wit!

The financial opacity is fitting because SCNCA taxes the race promoters and racers fifty cents every race (if you do two crits in one day, you pay twice) and then does something with the money. Something that helps us all, doubtless.

SCNCA gets the rest of its budget (How big is the budget? How is it spent? Who spends it?) as a kickback from USA Cycling for each in-district license registration. SCNCA isn’t funded according to results, meeting stated goals, customer satisfcation, or even for wearing nicely coordinated belts and socks. Talk about incentives to improve!

So when we asked the Internet for some data about why racers race, and why licensed racers don’t, no one held their breath for help from SCNCA. Instead, Cameron Scott, Joe Camacho, and Robert Efthimos immediately stepped in and designed a survey.

Here it is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3R5KGQZ

Please take a minute to fill it out; the survey will stay open for four weeks. We’ll tabulate the results and share it with the Internet, race promoters and, of course with SCNCA. I’m sure they will put the data to excellent use in their round file or in their ongoing quest to increase race turnout while they also practice learning to walk and chew gum, but not at the same time. Baby steps.

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Superb racing in the 805

June 22, 2015 § 23 Comments

I attended Saturday’s Avenue of the Flags Criterium in Buellton. It was the best crit of the year by far. We can leave aside the prize money for now, which was substantial — $32,000 in cash prizes for three days of racing.

The course is the most challenging crit course in SoCal. It isn’t super technical, but it’s technical enough that you must be able to corner well or the accelerations out of the turns will devour you. The wind is a huge factor; it’s mostly a strong crosswind that ensures you will get no respite on the two long straightaways. There is also a significant finishing gradient, which guarantees that your legs will be toast when it’s time to sprint.

Buellton has resurfaced the entire course since last year so the paving is smooth, grippy, and very fast. The infield between the two straightaways is lined with booths, food vendors, and spectators. The races go off on time, and if you’ve traveled with an S/O, as soon as the race finishes you can jaunt off to any of the numerous wineries — or the legendary Firestone Brewery — that are minutes away. And if jaunting away isn’t your style, you can belly up in the beer garden right across from the announcer’s stand.

And did I mention prize money?

I got more finishing sixth place in the masters 50+ category than is on offer to win many crits. Top finishers got lots more, and those who won their category for the 3-day omnium received $1,000+ paydays. Oh, and he weather was beautiful.

You would think that with a great, safe course, huge payday, professional execution, and lots of other activities for fellow travelers, fantastic vibe, and classy central coast scenery, the fields would be full to busting. You’d think that a race like this would fill up online and waitlisted riders would be standing around on race day, trying to buy slots off racers who had pre-registered, or wheedling the promoter for a special favor.

But, well, nope.

Only 18 riders showed for the final day in the 50+, 23 riders in the 40+, and 36 riders in the P/1/2 field with thousands and thosands of dollars on offer. The promoter, Mike Hecker, was rewarded for putting on an incredible event, huge prizes, and great courses with a collective yawn from the amateur “racers” here in SoCal. Entire teams that sport about town in wrapped team vehicles and the trickest equipment were absent; other clubs that have hundreds of members showed up with one or two racers, max.

Whether Hecker will put on the event next year is open to question, and if he doesn’t all the people who didn’t bother to show up will bitch and whine about how “there aren’t any good races anymore.”

That’s right, dumbshits, BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE YOU DON’T SHOW UP.

However, it’s easy to blame all the lazy, hypocritical, whiny, spoiled, frosted-cupcake race poodles who parade at the coffee shop but are always “otherwise engaged” on race day. And it’s easy to be sympathetic to Mike, who is a promoter’s promoter — puts his heart and soul into it, does a superlative job, and at the end of the day loses money.

What’s harder is to figure out the problem, and harder still to solve it.

The reason licensed racers don’t show up to races is because we don’t know why licensed racers don’t show up races. That’s right … we have no data. We know how many people hold licenses, we know how many events are held annually, and we know attendance numbers. But we don’t have the data that matters, i.e. the customer feedback about why they don’t race, and more specifically, why they didn’t show up for this race.

In other words, race promoters for the most part are running a business that depends on customer satisfaction without knowing what satisfies their customers. And when we do know what satisfies customers, because occasionally they tell us, we still don’t know if their answers are representative of others, and crucially, we have no idea whether they’re representative of the customers who have licenses and who never show up.

I don’t think that Toyota works that way. I think that before they roll out a new product, they find out what their potential customers think about it. Everyone with a racing license is a potential customer, but with a few exceptions we don’t know what makes them decide to race or stay home except on an anecdotal basis.

And here’s where everyone has an opinion: Some say it’s cost, or training time, equipment, the fact that it’s a dirty sport, danger, distance, time away from family, the list is endless. But until we can rank the reasons that people stay home, and as importantly, rank the reasons that they show up, superb events like the 805 Crit Series will struggle.

SCNCA of course has the resources to do this type of outreach, and of the 18 “services” they claim to provide, only two bullet points address member growth and retention, and they’re buried in the list. Can you imagine Toyota putting “customer growth and retention” in between “maintaining the web site” and “maintaining a presence on Facebook”?

I’d argue that nothing SCNCA does is even remotely as important as customer growth and retention, with the possible exception of “increasing race participation” which, of course, they don’t even bother to list as a goal. And why should they? SCNCA is primarily funded by licenses, not race participation. As long as you have a license, SCNCA gets funded.

Individual clubs could really help out here, but they won’t. All it would take is an email survey of members to find out answers to these questions:

  • Do you race?
  • Why or why not?
  • Do you want to race?
  • Why or why not?
  • How many races do you do each year?
  • How many have you done in the last five years?
  • How many would you like to do next year if you could?
  • How many years have you held a racing license?
  • How important are these things to you in deciding whether or not to race:
    • Distance from home
    • Cost of equipment
    • Hours of training required per week
    • Entry fee
    • Risk of crashing
    • Prize money
    • Course difficulty
    • Course distance
    • Technical nature of course
    • Race reimbursements by your club
    • Field size
    • Type of race–crit, road, TT, SR, omnium
    • Category upgrade points
  • How often does your club send out race information?
  • How easy is it to find another racer with whom to carpool?
  • Do others on your team encourage you to race?

If ten clubs did this and aggregated the results, it would certainly be a start, and we wouldn’t be guessing quite as blindly. If the top 50 clubs did it we would be on our way to a real database. Ultimately, we desperately need promoters like Mike Hecker and events like the 805 Series. But if we can’t even be bothered to find out why our peers are staying home and why the’re making the effort to race, well, this is another great event that people will look back on fondly and say, “Remember when … ”

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