Is Road Racing dead? How can we ressurect/build cycling as a niche sport?


Excellent questions! I’ve always thought it was a bit of a maze to find road events on the USAC site. Not to mention upgrades, license info. Getting better but, I’d imagine a barrier for prospective new racers. Sad. It should be three clicks: click on state, click on license, click on list of upcoming events/registration. Go race.


It sold out 1/2 in less than 10min. I’m choked.
Website errors and load delays and couldn’t even get in except for wait lists. There’s goes A race.


NICA and Little Bellas (proud dad of a daughter that loves to cycle here) are doing GREAT things for kids that want to get involved in our sport! You have to figure that a few of the young ones will move into the road scene eventually


F*ck yeah! :rofl:


I saw this while looking for skinsuits.


Good work man. You should be really proud of that accomplishment.

Glad to hear you’re doing your part sharing your experience trying to encourage others too.


Man I’m sorry to hear that. Are you going to do OKC the week prior? Not sure where you live, but have heard it’s a great weekend as well.


Road racing is Australia is somewhat declining too, however, criterium racing is still going fairly well.

  1. For me, access to road racing is a major inhibitor - as you need to drive for 1-2.5h to get to a race, race for 2-3h, then get home again. This means you lose the whole day and this isn’t feasible for many people with a family. However, I could do road races if they were closer to population centres.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the permits from the police to organise races closer to the city - even in probably the best state in Australia for cycling. Other sports, such as triathalon and marathon, manage to get almost weekly closures of major city roads throughout the summer period, but not cycling. I think advocacy is really required in order to raise the profile of the sport and get more of these permit opportunities.

  1. Road racing isn’t viewer friendly. Criteriums are great, because the bunch comes past every 1-2mins and people can actually come down an spectate. Only the most dedicated spectators will drive 2-5h to watch you buzz by 1-2 times an hour. Visibility drives interest.

I think that courses really need to be selected to be more spectator friendly. That probably means shorter races and more kermesse style racing of doing 5-10km loops. The bonus of this is that the road access permits are also less restrictive than trying to get access on a 60-80km loop.

  1. Road racing formats could be mixed up a bit. We have mostly graded scratch races, with a few handicaps. However, handicaps are more inclusive (and often interesting) as everyone has to work together to stay ahead, rather than just sitting in and conserving for the final few km. This format also, arguably, builds stronger riders.

  2. Whenever we have multi-day tours, they typically start with a solo TT, then have 1-2 road stages and a crit. TT’s are always won by those who have dropped $$$$ on specialist TT equipment and this easily creates a big time gap. Further, the big teams are usually the ones with the $$$$ equipment and they then just defend their time gap - leading to less animated (less interesting) racing.

In order to make tours more accessible for everyone, I heard an interesting concept recently where you race for points rather than time. This means that every stage can be balanced equally in terms of the overall outcome of the tour. Organisers could also weight stages depending on the type of race they would like it to be (i.e. weight the hill top finish race higher than the crit).

Finally, the crit in these tours is really only ever about the finish line photo, because you are never going to take much time on a crit. Moving away from time and instead to a points system could make it a worthwhile part of the race again.

edit: sorry - don’t know how to fix formatting :frowning:


The Tour Down Under isn’t dead one of the road races I have seen in years.


Well yes, WorldTour racing is still ongoing. But even national level road racing is being somewhat whittled down in recent years over here.


It is indeed becoming a barrier for me. I don’t want to dedicate the time to train for triathlons right now given “life”, but would like a competitive outlet. I know what’s required to race Cat 5, and I know what’s required to upgrade to Cat 4, but for the life of me I don’t think I can find 10 starts, and I certainly can’t find a beginning racer clinic to participate in for the 3 starts there… Part of that is San Diego, for all it is as a sports town, is as awful with respect to road racing as it is great in terms of racing triathlons.

Sad to say that without major travel investment (time and money) I can’t see a way that I could get from Cat 5 to Cat 4 any time in the near future. So I guess I’ll just gut it out in some Fondos and centuries until I can get back to actually competing. I’d love to race a crit, and maybe I can get into one this year. That’s kind of disappointing when I listen to the podcast talk about “Tuesday Night Crits”. Here, we talk about “The 2019 Crit”. Sigh.



Any fondo or other mass start event for that matter should go on your “resume”. Submit when you get 10 and see what they say. Cat 5 is supposed to be about gaining experience and fondos etc…are just that in my opinion. Lots of people do this fwiw.


One place to start for the road-racing crew is to cease scheduling races during CX season.

In general though, Americans don’t exactly love bicycles and that doesn’t help the permitting process for these races. Crits, CX, and XC are much easier to schedule, coordinate, and the stakes aren’t as high if you miss a single break because there is more than one race per day.


Well said Cerb, as a Victorian, and on the committee of a local club.
Road races are a bitch to arrange with all the permits and just finding locations.
all the locations are 2+ hours out of the city (if you live on the right side of town), With the residential suburbs swallowing industrial estates and farm land races are having to move further and further out to meet tighter Police and local council restrictions and the cost of traffic management is raising steeply.

Our club traditionally holds one open a year and we have been making a small loss on it for the last 2-3 years. Running club events or combines is just not worth the effort and would put a risk on the club its self.

We have had issues with the governing body scheduling it for dates that conflict with other major events. hell they even scheduled the State team track champs during the TDU. if I was in town I would have been shoe in for a medal

but in Vic its not just the RR scene that is struggling, we are loosing crit courses that are close to Melb too. Melb is famously a city you can race a crit in most night of the week.
With St Kilda course on borrowed time. one of the biggest crits series is in danger.
there was noises that Coburg was in danger and the Governing body deciding to enforce a higher cut from entries to crit races.

There is a lack of cohesion form the governing bodies down to the club level, creating a lack of organised racing instead we have small clubs running events over the top of each other and the governing body scheduling big events over the top of that. pure chaos.

The comments about making the event AN EVENT. is also true, long gone are the days of being able to say racing is on and everyone just turns up.
Track is suffering the same fate in Vic, a state that has more velodromes than you can count, poor entries, badly run racing, and if your lucky you may just get a BBQ at the end :stuck_out_tongue:
some clubs are doing it VERY well, looking at you CoburgCC, combining racing and a festival.

ok that’s my rant… :slight_smile:


I’m relatively new to cycling, having come via triathlon via competitive Masters swimming. There’s something about competitive cycling that’s more off-putting to beginners…particularly with regards to USAC sanctioned road/crit racing. The “fitness barrier” just seems so much higher. As I trained for my first triathlon, I found I was really enjoying the bike training, and so I started rooting around for any nearby bike-only races. Saw that the local USAC club had an upcoming criterium race. I contacted them and expressed my interest, along with my concern about fitting in. Told them I didn’t mind finishing near or at the back of the cat 4/5 race, but that I didn’t won’t to be so far off the pace that I was just a rolling obstacle. Asked what the average speed for said race might be. Got a reply of “average speed is irrelevant, what’s your watts/kilo?” From a practical perspective, it was legitimate response. But to a beginner who had no idea what my power was, it came off as “crit racing is SRS BZNS, newb” And, relative to the local sprint triathlon, 5 or 10k, or Masters swim meet, it is. Even at a small local event, it seems you’ve got to have a pretty high level of fitness just to hang onto the back of the cat4/5 pack. That’s not an indictment of the organizers or the competitors, it’s just the nature of the beast. That said, the lack of an easy pathway for the “mid-life fitness crisis” crowd (which makes up most of your local 5k/10k/13.1 run, Sprint/Olympic/HIM triathlon, mudder/obstacle race, crossfit competition, etc), along with the dearth of young participants (there were only 3 entrants in the Junior race) makes me wonder exactly how they ever get new people.

I did find a couple local, non-sanctioned road races that had much more welcoming vibes and were well attended by folks with a broad spectrum of ability…everything from some of the same guys/gals who were racing the cat 3/4 crit race a few weeks earlier to kids on Walmart bikes and ordinary looking adults on hybrids with baskets and cargo racks.

Based on a glance at past participation, both these races appeared to be on a growth trajectory.
Some of the things these two races had in common:

-Tied to a local festival, with good community involvement
-Well advertised on social media, with a message that was more about the “fun” than the “competition” (although with enough cues to still attract plenty of competitive-minded folks)
-Mass starts. The newbs and casuals weren’t made to feel like they were in a separate event than the experienced competitors. (One event did have 3 different distances to select; 12.5, 25, and 50 miles
Obviously, the “casuals” mostly gravitated to the 12.5 miler while most, but not all, the competitive-minded folks gravitated to the 25 or 50. But everybody entered in any given distance started at once)
-Finisher’s premiums (one was medals, the other was T-shirts)
-Competition segregated by age groups; no cryptic category definitions
-Social media followup post race, making those who missed it feel some regret, and reinforcing to those who were there that they had been a part of a fun and exciting event. In other words, they started planting seeds for next year’s attendance within hours of the finish of this year’s event.

FWIW, both those events handily outdrew that crit race I was originally interested it, despite being held in considerably less populous areas.

Long story short: You want to save bicycle road racing? You gotta make it more accessible for the kinda-in-shape middle age guy/gal, as well as the kids. As currently constructed, USAC is too focused on the pointy-end competitive stuff.


I think you kind of answered your own question here. A lot of people like to compete against themselves and also are there for the event just as much as the race. A prize purse isn’t even a part of the calculation.

I also think a lot of people get their competitive fix elsewhere and just cycle for the enjoyment. Cycling isn’t primarily for competition in my case, even though I follow the sport as a fan. I race sailboats at the equivalent of what would be the pro continental level in cycling ( except going back to the prize purse, it’s a million dollars just to put this kind of program on the water, and its straight outlay, the rest no such thing as prize money), so cycling is just for the love of it. The experience is what matters to me, and most others.

I do agree with the first part of your post though, 100%! :sunglasses:



I’d like to see a lot more emphasis on cycling culture overall as well.


Interesting comments here on the Australian scene – it looks a different picture to the N American picture you guys are painting:
I did the “People’s Ride” the day before – same course, but only 115 km.


Just wanted to say that’s pretty sad. There are many of us trying to be welcoming, trying to get juniors on board, trying to cut through red tape, trying to make the day more relaxed inviting, family friendly.

Too bad you didn’t have your first experience with Jeff Prinz who runs the CBR series in Socal. That guy is really helping to get new blood into the sport! Hope you try again! Finding friends to navigate the process really helps.


I was thinking about some of the posts above, particularly this piece

I think, while the running model where elites and casuals compete together is good, I think it’s tougher to translate to bike racing. I mean, it can be done, if it’s like a fondo, but most certainly never in a crit, where it could be at best unsafe for an inexperienced person to do that type of technical riding.

I think the spirit of the USAC cat 5 was to give newbies a place to start and learn how to race, hence the 10 race requirement for cat 5 (which, sadly, I have yet to get out of even though I’ve technically been road racing for 5 years lol). But I think any of us who have been out there know that cat 5 may be new racer but people are going to be super fit. So where does the sort of in shape person fit in? I have no clue, should there be a category that is dependent on fitness? Maybe, but that sounds like another barrier in a sport that needs fewer.

But I don’t think we should completely do away with categorizations and just lump everyone together, I think there’s a place for one to race with ones peers and be able to move up in the ranks, so whatever happens, USAC has to be able to try and nuture both the high end and promote the lower ranks. It’s a tough task, definitely not something I could even begin to think through