We’ve noticed in recent weeks that some of the usual Pennsylvania races we travel to include surprising disclaimers on their registration pages — a cycling license isn’t needed to participate. Of course, having a USA Cycling license doesn’t mean you’re a good cyclist or have passed some sort of test to measure your abilities on the bike, but it does somewhat guarantee that the races you participate in will count towards the upgrade points we’re all chasing after. So if no license is needed, then the race may still be challenging and you may still take home some prize money, but that’s about it.
Given that we’ve long decamped to Pennsylvania for its road races because they’re challenging and a nice break from the crit- and circuit race-heavy MABRA schedule, we were of course confused as to what this meant and why it was happening.
So we reached out to Rich Ruoff, the man behind the now-unlicensed races (which include the Fulton Road Race, Tour of Mt. Nebo, and many others), for answers. Without going into too many details, he basically said that a current situation with USA Cycling has forced him to run every race after the May 1 Turkey Hill Country Classic independently, meaning that while the races will still go on as planned, their results won’t count towards upgrade points for MABRA racers. (Jim Patton already confirmed this.)
Ruoff stressed that his races are fully insured and locally permitted, so it’s not like the man’s running illegal road races under cover of darkness. He also said that races through 2011 would remain unlicensed through USA Cycling, but he might try to work with another national cycling organization and license the races through them instead.
There’s apparently more to the story, but we’re not going to delve into any further details or rumors. As anyone who has raced locally in recent years might remember, there’s already plenty of drama amongst race promoters in Pennsylvania, so much so that Ruoff and a then co-promoter ended up in a back-and-forth fight a few years back over finances and ended up splitting up the races they had once worked on together. (The races put on by Ruoff’s former partner are still happening through Pro-Am Cycling and are still licensed through USA Cycling.)
Regardless of who may or not be at fault for the situation Ruoff finds himself in, it’s too bad. Sure, the races are still taking place and are still the same as they always were, but we’d bet that fewer local cyclists are going to brave the 2-3 hour trek to rural Pennsylvania for races that don’t count towards upgrades. No, not all of us care about upgrades, but there’s certainly enough folks that do. I won’t lie — I’m one of them.
Hopefully this situation will get resolved in the near future, because without some of Ruoff’s races, there are some mighty big holes in our race calender for the 2010 season. And just as a final disclaimer, none of this should be taken as us taking sides on this one. We’re really not, mostly because we don’t know of all of the inner workings at play. We’re just writing what we know, if only to help answer questions that we’re guessing other local cyclists might have had when they went to sign up for coming Pennsylvania road races.