SportsEvents Magazine

NOV 2016

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November 2016 40 t SPORT Report Like many sports with a strong traditional base and long history, cycling continues to look for ways to evolve and roll with the changes. USA Cycling is no different. "I think we definitely have seen some changes in the last few years in the interest in cycling," said Micah Rice, USA Cycling's vice-president of national events. "From a membership standpoint at USA Cycling, we are slightly down. Our membership has been going down slightly the past few years. I think there is a little bit of a move away from traditional bicycle racing." With a focus on competitive races, USA Cycling sees participation more interested in new events than the typical road races and mountain bike events. "We've seen that move away from traditional racing and more interest in Gran Fondos or Gravel Grinders," Rice said. "I think the Red Bull Last Stand is an example for that non-tra- ditional racing — it is fixed-gear racing and a miss-and-out. It is odd and cool and different." Gran Fondos are one-day mass events that are somewhat of a hybrid between a race and a recreational ride. Gravel Grinders are off-road mass events in the same vein. Many of those events do not seek USA Cycling sanctioning, although that is changing. USA Cycling offers rider mem- berships instead of only racing memberships. "We have a ride membership that is cheaper but offers all the cool deals like discounts on Volkswagens and bike stuff, as well as providing insur- ance for any event you do whether it is sanctioned or unsanctioned," Rice said. n GOING WITH THE FLOW Armstrong said. "Everyone should watch that race at least once. I think all sports teams should watch that race at the beginning of their season as motivation to go for it. "If you watch that race and aren't hooked on cycling, then we're never going to hook you. That race, the way that played out, all the tactics, everything that went on — that's why I race my bike. That's why everyone in the peloton races their bikes." As Armstrong's pro team manager, Nicola Cranmer, pointed out, "There are little girls out there who saw that and will just say, 'I want to do that.'" That's the type of pivotal moment wom- en's cycling has been missing. It's one the sport must capitalize on as it moves forward, said Armstrong, who started in women's cycling in 2003 and has seen its gains and losses. The most significant loss in Armstrong's opinion are the major multi-day stage races that once dotted the calendar. In the U.S., that premier race was the Idaho Women's Chal- lenge — the event that inspired Armstrong to race her bike. NEW OPPORTUNITIES For key gains the sport has made, Arm- strong looks no further than her trade team, Twenty16. Cranmer's program provides key opportunities for elite athletes like Armstrong to focus on success in major events while also running a stunning junior program that has produced stellar results. While Armstrong won her Rio gold just a day before her 43rd birthday and all four rid- ers on the USA Road team were in their 30s, she sees young talent on the rise as women's cycling evolves. "I would say there is a lot more develop- ment going on with young riders," Armstrong said. "In 2003, there weren't a lot of high school cycling teams and college cycling teams. Now you can race your bike in college and earn scholarships to pay for college. "So you can get an education now while you race your bike and you don't have to decide on one or the other. That type of development takes years and years before you slowly get results. But then you see what Chloe [Dygert] and Emma [White] did last year, going one-two in the junior road race at World's in Richmond. I mean, Americans going one-two! That's unheard of. But that shows what we can do with the right focus on developing young riders." Dominating the junior world championship road race is foreign territory for American women but a bright signal of the potential. This year junior Skylar Schneider placed sec- ond at World's in the road race. Changing the culture of cycling will be the key to success. "I can't speak for the world where cycling is more part of their culture, but here, change is getting young women into cycling before they are 26 years old and just graduating from college looking for a new sport," Armstrong said. "What is important is that we get young athletes to focus on cycling, and the educa- tional piece of our program is so important." It is no secret that many parents view youth sports as an opportunity to find scholarships to pay for college. More than 7,500 riders competed in the National Interscholastic Cy- cling Association in 2015, and there were 17 colleges that offer cycling as a varsity sport with nearly 400 riders competing, including many receiving scholarships. "The options for young riders today give cycling a chance to be considered, mainly because of the opportunities in education," Armstrong said. "College is getting very ex- pensive, and if parents can find a way to have that paid through a scholarship, they will look into that. It is so important to tie in education to the junior model." n Kristin Armstrong giving back to her community at a celebration in Boise, ID. John Rezell

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