Thursday, January 22, 2009

Racing - Growing the Sport

My post the other day on "growing the sport" came up because our local association, the New England Bicycle Racing Association, has precisely this problem. They want to grow the sport, and they have money with which to grow it. It's just that the path to enlightenment is unclear.

The annual NEBRA - slash - promoter's meeting ended up a long discussion on Junior and Women's racing. Since I couldn't stay longer than the 90 minutes that the Jr/Wm discussion took (I never got to be part of the promoter's meeting), that's all I know about that meeting.

Although initially perturbed by the tangent off the meeting schedule (the Jr/Wm discussion erupted between the financial report and the Board elections, pretty much the first two items on the meeting after attendance), I realized that people had very strong feelings about the whole idea of growing Junior and Women racing. I also heard a lot of good ideas (and some that I would consider less useful).

And it made me think. I had a few hours of driving to think about things so ideas could really percolate. A week or so later things started simmering pretty nicely.

In a follow up comment to my "growing the sport" post/question, I put some solid numbers to the goal of "growing the sport". I just threw one out there, a nice figure, not too complicated. Double the number of racers in 3 or 4 years. Since the sport grows at about 3 or 6% a year, increasing it to 30 or 40% a year would be significant.

As someone pointed out, the largest segment in USAC membership is in the Masters ranks. And as someone else pointed out, that part of the population is the part that normally have kids. And if the parents (or, rather, fathers) aren't getting their kids into racing, who will?

Let's skip the motivation to race for a second. It's important, critical even, but I'll address that in a moment. Let's look at obstacles to racing. A few come to mind right away.

Obstacles to Bicycle Racing

First, the cost of equipment. Not just the bike (everyone focuses on the cost of a bike), but look at all the gear you need. Pedals (not part of a bike, not really anyway), shoes, shorts, jerseys, helmets, gloves. Now consider you're racing as part of a school (high school or college). This means winter and spring, and this means even more gear - tights, jackets, booties, warm gloves, head gear.

Oh, right, and entry fees.

Second, training time. As a cyclist a student receives no recognition for the amount of time and effort needed to train. It's easy to say to your mom, "Hey, I need to go to swim practice!", because it's official, there's a schedule, and a lot of other people show up. But when your kid tells you, "I need to do 2 hours today, be back at dinner!", you, as a parent, really don't know what's happening. No coach, no chaperone, not even the security of knowing exactly where your kid is riding.

Third, legal aspects and getting to races, especially for Juniors. I lump them together because Juniors cannot sign waivers alone. They must have a guardian sign for them. Back in the day, when I wasn't 18 yet, I'd get a teammate to sign my waiver, but I think that such things wouldn't fly nowadays. Likewise, a kid under 18 would have a hard time getting to races. Borrow dad's car for a whole day? Getting to races is tough because most Junior races are early in the schedule, with Masters (if Dad races) later in the day. The few hour gap between races kills a whole day unless, of course, it's used as bonding time between parents and kid.

Fourth, safety in training. A racer and a dad said that he felt unsafe allowing his kid to train on town roads. I suppose I understand that at some level - riding around in, say, the heart of Hartford would be no fun, no matter how much you may like riding in traffic. Other cities are better, but from a safety point of view, even such bucolic areas as Canton and Barkhamsted have their share of bike fatalities. Fine, in one case an underage kid mowed down two riders, and it ends up the kid was so drunk he didn't know he hit anything - not the two cyclists, not the 50 feet of barrier, nothing. But still, you get the point. A lot of parents don't want their kids out there riding their bikes around.

Fifth, there is a distinct lack of information out there on how to start racing a bike, or how the whole process works. A good friend of mine saw the Tour of TV back in high school, a novelty back then, and felt thrilled and fascinated by the whole spectacle. After the show ended... he didn't know what to do. He went to school the next day and everyone was talking about stuff like football and track and swimming and everything except cycling. I heard a lot of talk about "I have a great program" or "I have all the information" or "I've been doing it for years", so the information is out there. But I heard very little about where such information is available to anyone and everyone.

Everyone says Junior racing is important. Why so? I think the importance of Junior racing is a bit overplayed, at least in its present form. With a wide disparity in ability and small fields, a Junior race is about the hardest race you can enter. Single file, Cat 1s and 2s at the front, going ballistic until everyone is about to fall over from oxygen debt. Toss a Cat 5 in a Cat 1-2 race with a 15 rider field limit and you can imagine just how long that poor 5 will last. It doesn't matter how old you are - a Cat 5 or 4 simply doesn't belong in a Cat 1-2 race.

I experienced this phenomenon personally for three years. There'd be some hotshot junior killing the field, and we all prayed that he'd go to the OTC (Olympic Training Center) to give us some respite. Every time the current hotshot got snapped up by the National team, another kid would show up and kill us all over again. This way I had the privilege to get hammered on by George (Hincapie), Frank and Mark (McCormack), and by a host of kids that you probably never heard of, like Pat Morrisey or Rob Lattanzi.

So is Junior racing important?

Only if the Junior learns about racing. That means riding in a field, tactics, working together, not working together, moving up in a field, drifting back in the field, stuff like that. And you don't learn about racing by getting dropped 2 laps into a 20 lap race. Junior races are more like time trials. Naturally, with such events, the talent bubbles to the top - the Georges, the Franks, they would do the Junior race to warm up, then they'd do the Cat 1-2 race to win. Why didn't they do the pro races? Well, back then being a pro was illegal - yep, if you were a pro, you couldn't do USCF races.

But, really, Junior racing is more about raising kids to live in a respectable and dignified way. It's important to coaches, maybe, for discovering new talent, but that seems like less of a reason to focus on Junior racing. It's nice to say "Oh, Hincapie grew up racing around here" but it doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. And, yes, it's important to raise kids in a respectable and dignified way, but I can't say I'm embarking on a nationwide program to teach kids that you reap what you sow, and sometimes not even that.

So what is important?

What's more important is to get folks into the sport who feel connected to it in some way, the ones that find themselves inexplicably drawn to bike racing. They're the folks that race no matter what, train, teach, promote, officiate, and volunteer to do things like marshal a turn or coach a team. Age isn't that important - the media made a lot of to-do about that "older" woman at the last Olympics. Guys like Mike Engleman got into the sport about when the regulars were retiring, so it's possible to find talent older than, say, 18 years old.

Passion, though, is key.

If you get kids into a sport, they may enjoy it for the structure, the discipline, the camaraderie, but take away those ancillaries and their desire to participate diminishes. Look at those Juniors that rode so well, so much, for a few years, then disappear from view. I look at pictures of the good Juniors in the fields when I was a Junior and hardly any of them are around now.

What's important is growing the sport, making it bigger, making it a lifelong sport, making it something that's big enough to permeate the hallways of the high schools.

I have a few ideas that could help address all these various things. All have their obstacles and I'm sure some will disagree vehemently with what I propose, but if we can implement even a little of the following, it can make a big difference.

1. Juniors

A - Make cycling a scholastic sport. In Connecticut, according to a local shop run by a retired teacher, it takes seven (7) high schools to request a cycling league to make it a state-supported sport. The last time someone (said retired teacher) sent out letters regarding cycling, only four schools responded affirmatively (and two of the hits came from the sender and a school where one of his students now teaches).
B - Use running tracks or other fields as venues. Virtually all high schools have a running track, a football field, and/or a cross country trail. High school driveways and such work too, but I haven't done any surveys of high school driveways so I can't say for sure.
C - Mandate maximum gear costs and specifications. Helmets, gear, etc. This can be helped by equipment sponsors and such. This means that you can't use a top-line Giro in a high school race, but you can use any $50 helmet.
D - Mandate a high minimum bike weight, perhaps 20-22 pounds. This would make the bike reasonably competitive in USAC competition, readily so with a simple wheel swap, but allow students to use older, obsolete race bikes (not that the bike makes all the difference). Perhaps limit gearing, like the Little 500 (the race in Breaking Away), to limit gearing disparities. A freshman won't have the power of a senior, at least not normally, but aerobically will be closer in ability.
E - Link high schools with local USAC or collegiate teams. Cross polinate. The local club gets Juniors. The club, in return, provides some adult supervision, coaching, and event insurance (through USAC).
F - Draw in sponsors to help provide equipment to racers, perhaps on a website. Have an authorized, login-required website for schools to purchase equipment. Tax ID and all that stuff would be necessary. Equipment can be surplus or off-year product so it would be a good venue for manufacturers to clear out unsold equipment.
G - Have said site detail the basic process for getting into bike racing. Equipment, gear, license, entry, races, etc.

2. Collegiate

A - Link collegiate and USAC licenses so they're not quite so separate. This way it's clear that a collegiate racer can enter USAC races.
B - Draw collegiate racers in to local clubs. Those clubs will need to emphasize teamwork and camraderie much more than normal because, as a collegiate racer pointed out, collegiate racing really emphasizes that stuff. It emphasizes individuals much less.
C - Encourage promoters to have team oriented prizes and awards. This will help foster the team spirit that collegiate racers find lacking in regular USAC races and therefore help retain collegiate racers.
D - Have a similar site to the high school site to draw in sponsors and provide equipment.
E - Just like Juniors, have said site detail the basic process for getting into bike racing. Equipment, gear, license, entry, races, etc.

3. Women

A - Need to get into the mainstream fitness magazines and online. Articles on racing etc. Cross promote with running races, tri- and dualthlons.
B - Encourage promoters to have separate women's races. Categorize if possible. The big issue is field size, or lack thereof. Emphasize entry level (Cat 3-4) women's races since that's where 80% of the racers sit.
C - Season long points series, especially for the Cat 3-4 women. Encourage steady participation instead of peaky participation.
D - Possible entry fee rebates from higher up organizations for steady participation, i.e. you must do 10 races to qualify for the first rebate.
E - Ditto on site. Sponsors (maybe "pay on the site, pick up at the shop"), info, etc. Women specific information.

4. General

A - Emphasize races which are beginner-friendly. Such races would be ones like time trials, allow lapped riders to stay in, long courses which don't force riders off who get dropped, etc.
B - Reward consistent participation, more so than winning.
C - USAC specific blow out product sites, similar to chainlove or other close out, super deal sites. A percentage of sales would be put into USAC's "grow bike racing" budget.
D - Share information. Don't hoard it unless it's a published, costs-money kind of thing. If it's advice dispensed freely, then freely dispense that advice. Use websites, maybe USAC could have a portion of their site devoted to uploading advice and such.

Things I don't think will help that much:

1. Free entries for whoever (Juniors, women, etc), at least those which are under $15-20. Although I'm sure everyone appreciates the gesture, bike racing is much more than just entry fees. Having spent $2000 or more to get into the sport, $20-50 in gas, food, bars, drink mixes, etc etc, getting $10 off of entry seems a bit ludicrous. However, perhaps USAC or NEBRA could implement a rebate policy - up to $10 rebate per race for Juniors, not to exceed the cost of actual entry. Seriously, though, the gas to get to a race will cost more, so I think this would end up nickeling and diming down the sponsorship budget significantly.

2. Giving product to Juniors. Sure, money is tight, and I've heard of some crazy things Juniors do to save money, but as I say, "Hey, they're Juniors". Learn to suffer, learn to make do. And don't make fun of them. Look, if you couldn't buy winter gloves, what would you do? So riding with garden gloves, sweatpants instead of tights, duct tape booties, that's all okay. Maybe a Senior (18+) rider will take pity and give the shivering Junior some booties or something. That's how I got my first set of booties - did a few weeks of group rides in sub freezing temperatures with only socks and shoes (albeit the thickest socks I had). One guy, after listening to how I liked when my feet started getting waves of pain as they thawed out 10 or 20 minutes after I got home, showed up with booties that cost 10 times as much as my toe clips and gave them to me.

Having said that, in the past Carpe Diem Promotions has given individuals money to help pay for racing expenses. And although this helped a few riders, and it makes me proud to think we could do that, I think that spending that time and money on organizations focused on development would be more efficient. Instead of a few hundred dollars to one rider, the money could be used to hold a clinic that benefits 10 or 20 riders. CDP has also given thousands of dollars to programs specifically geared towards growing Junior and Women's cycling, and I think that was a much better use of the money.

Most of these ideas percolated to the top of the pile recently. I'm not the contact point for money and (perhaps unfortunately) I didn't feel like trying for one of the NEBRA Board positions, but I really think that getting a plan in place is important. Then the powers that be can focus on accomplishing the plan goals/tasks, revising them as necessary, and therefore grow and hone a system that regularly feeds new racers into the system.

Unlike many of my posts, this one hasn't percolated in my Drafts section for months or years (yes, I have some posts started in 2006 that I have yet to publish), so it's by no means complete. But I think I have most of the important stuff in here.

Questions? Feedback? Contrary opinions?

17 comments:

Josh said...

I thought I'd share my experience, fwiw.

I grew up in NY riding a bike, like many suburban kids. I owned a mountain bike in my teens, but never used it much. I always had a love of cycling though.

Throughout high school in Westchester, NY, and college in Dutchess County, I was completely unaware of any bicycle racing, anywhere near me. This is from roughly 1993 through 2001.

If I had seen at any point, advertisements/posters/whatever with the words "beginning", "introduction", "try out" in conjunction with "racing", I'd like to think I would have jumped at the chance to ride. This actually applies to after college, as well; I didn't really start riding until I was 26, 5 years after I graduated. Again, if even the local non-racing club had done more to promote itself, there's a good chance I would have found myself on a bike a lot sooner.

The caveat is, I am a somewhat of a recluse. Maybe I was just oblivious back then. But looking around now, living again in Westchester, I don't see any promotion of the sport. The local recreational club sponsors an annual ride (the Golden Apple), but apart from that, I think we're relatively unknown outside of the cycling community. The local racing club, the USI, which has an amazing history, has even less promotion - their only visibility to people not already in the sport are those who happen to come across the Gimbel's ride.

Anyway, I guess my point is, agree a lot more can be done for community promotion, and while schools (high school AND college) deserve focus, that shouldn't be the end-all.

ascholl said...

You have some good ideas here.

I'm not sure that I see the benefit in limiting equipment cost or mandating a high bike weight for juniors, though. I understand the motivation -- racing shouldn't be about equipment, and you want a level playing field ... but it seems like these rules would cause more problems than they'd solve. A sixteen year old manages to get together $1800 for a nice bike, and then needs to find a _second_ one to race on? And really, how much of an advantage does the guy w/ the $120 helmet have over someone w/ a $35 helmet? Besides, enforcing price rules would be a nightmare. I can just imagine juniors showing up to every race w/ an envelope full of receipts, in case somebody wanted to verify that they bought their gloves for less than the $40 inflation adjusted maximum. Juniors should know that cheap equipment is perfectly respectable, and it's probably good to encourage a mindset which downplays the importance of equipment, and you sure don't want new juniors to think that they're at some sort of horrible disadvantage because they don't have the latest carbon bling. But my instinctive feeling is that these sorts of rules would encourage more, rather than less, focus on irrelevant equipment minutia.

Anonymous said...

there is one universal rule governing juniors, and that is gear limits. A junior racer here in NE will have the same gears as a kid in Kansas, Florida, Calif., England, Germany, Russia, and China. So the "racing" playing field is level, it is just that the equipment thatis not. So what you are saying is that kids should have the same equipment also. I saw some Russian kids 14yrs ago in Austria racing on old steel frames, and 6sd freewheels kicking the butts off of the kids with new equipment. The gearing was the same though. What was the difference? Desire.
The local bike shop is usually the first place people go to get info about racing. And most teams are associated with some sort of local shop. Maybe the federation could get somme sort of flyer of info to the shops, schools, local youth clubs, to hand out.
Aki, didn't you hang out at your local shop when you were a junior, or for that matter just as recently as last summer!

The mentality towards cycling has got to change in this country to make it more mainstream.
Cycling here in the US is seen as a recreation, not as a "legitimate" sport. We need to get cycling out from page 9 of the sports page and onto the front page. Lance was able to do that and he is doing it again but how long is that going to last. Samual Abt writes for the NYT and has done well for cycling, but he too has to fight to get cycling past the editors. How many of the promoters have contacted the local news paper, or television news station saying that there is a race that you would like some coverage about. Newspapers right now are clamoring to fill columns. Local tv stations are also looking to find something to fill airtime.
The Bethel spring series is a great story! Can you believe that almost 400 riders come out and test themselves against each other and the elements. There were 2 races that should have been cancelled but were run anyway because there were too many racers racing. One race the riders were finishing with Ice building up on the spokes and the other there was a full blown Noreaster bearing down on the race but the re was a 3 way tie in the overall points standings. Now that is news worth covering. And how about your photo finish for the 1,2,3's. The only people that know about that are the ones who were there. Again, promotion, and media exposure.
Can you imagine what the sport would be like if we had tour coverage from 1999-2005 on a major network? Give Versus credit, they took a gamble and it became one of if not there highest rated programs for the year, year in year out.

Again this is a subject with alot of differing opinions. All of which have there pros and cons, but at least there is finally some dialog, and hopefully some action.

japanbiker said...

I'd like to add my perspective:
Although I'm American, I now live in Japan and have been living here for 16 years. Although Cycling here is also not exactly a mainstream sport (except for Keirin!), bicycles in general, and especially as used for transportation, are very common. I think it's because the environment is quite similar to, for example, Europe: short distances between towns, pedestrian- and cycle- friendly city centers, and few of the exurbs you see in the US. Basically, it's not as much of a car culture as the US; bikes are seen as legitimate transportation. When this is the case, people are more apt to also see cycling as a legitimate sport. (Again, having Keirin doesn't hurt, either!)
In the US, because bikes are not part of the culture like in Japan or Europe, I think you will be hard-pressed to ever have it received the same as other sports. Unless you can have it in a format and environment that suits American tastes and attitudes: I think velodromes would be ideal. Firstly, you have a set venue similar to other stadium or court sports. Which makes it easy to watch, easy to promote, and easy to organize. Perhaps cheaper for insurance purposes as well. Certainly no problems with licenses. Secondly, equipment is cheaper and easier to service, less hassle for beginning young racers. Nothing wrong with, as the poster from Kissena also noted, outdoor velodromes. So, you only have an 8 month season instead of year-round?

hobgoblin said...

I tried to start a collegiate club in the university where I teach, and I ran into one major problem. There just were not enough super motivated riders to make it work. I had one guy who wanted to be the next Lance, one football player who really didn't like football and wanted to ride, and a couple of girls who were sort of interested in riding their forty pound mountain bikes on MUTs. There just was not the critical mass to make a club happen.

The real question for me, then, is why was there subcritical mass. Some of the easy culprits are to blame: cold winters, fear of riding on the road, not enough storage space on campus, and so on. The biggest problem, though, is that there was just not enough knowledge or understanding. No one thought of cycling as something they might want to do seriously. Even the few students who initially showed some interest in the club were not thinking about racing or even riding more than a couple of miles at a time. Without a bike culture--or better yet, without a language of cycling readily available, people do not speak cycling.

I'm biased because I'm an educator, but I think education is the answer. Maybe marketing is a better term, but I think somehow shouting about the joys and other benefits of cycling would bring a lot more to the sport.

rockthomasshow said...

Around here we don't call it the Tour of TV, we call it the Tour de TV.

Aki said...

I'll have to assimilate these responses as they obviously have thought and experience behind them. Ultimately it seems that the key is to get people interested (passion + education) and have some easy-to-assimilate structure so people can "sign up" in a standard way.

Regarding weight, in a closed environment like a 440 yard track, a bike could be weighed down with saddlebags and the like. It wouldn't be as strict as UCI rules. This way the kid with the $10k hand-me-down from his dad won't have a significant advantage.

I did hang out at the local shop last summer, at least for a bunch of rides. And there are a few Juniors doing the rides (and one women's ride with maybe 10-12 riders!) and a whole lot of Masters age riders. I spoke with them about racing - they're quite strong but feel unsure about the whole aspect of racing (danger, fear of unknown, etc). I hope to get 10-12 riders into racing from that group.

Still, though, lots of food for thought in the above responses.

Mike said...

one of the first questions anyone ever asks me when they find out I race is: "how much was your bike?"

Cycling is cost prohibitive; not just racing.

Club riders->potential racers. The more club riders turned racers that exist (assuming they are masters) the greater potential they will bring their children into it as juniors. They have also already made the majority of the initial investment in equipment and all they need is a reason to race.

For those absolutely new, fun rides are great ways to get people on a bike in a safe environment (prorated centuries, 30,60,100 miles). Once there, the state association should have a booth with a few representatives (juniors to masters age 70+) from a few larger teams that cater to new racers. This is a near perfect environment to promote and recruit. Because there is already a genuine interest and there will be a more amicable conversation that they do not need to initiate. Many racers also participate in these events and inspire awe when they fly past someone at mile 95. But everyone is sitting around together at the rest stops. Why not utilize this opportunity? Do some orgs do this already? I've not seen it in the Chicago area...

Josh said...

Mike's post reminded me of another issue that needs to be addressed (IMHO). And that's the existing racers' attitudes. In my (limited) experience, Aki's great attitude is not the norm.

A perfect example of this comes from my (recreational) club's most recent newsletter. In an editorial written by the USI club president (he's also a member of my rec. club), he offhandedly stated the fact that if one were to show up for Gimbel's without a team kit, you would be dubbed a "fred".

Makes me wonder how they'll react when I show up in a few weeks with my lack of team kit, unused cat 5 license and powertap. It won't stop me, but it's easy to see how it can be intimidating for new racers/those interested in racing.

Local teams + clubs need to be educated, to understand why more adding to their ranks (not necessarily theirs in paticular, but racing in general) is a super good thing. And then hopefully they'll go out there themselves, and advertise their rides/races to non-racers.

- josh

grolby said...

Josh brings up an important point, which is that all too many roadies are quick to scoff at beginners and their equipment and clothing choices. I don't think it's as bad as he makes out, though - when I started riding with my local club, pretty much everyone was very friendly and encouraging, and quite impressed that I was riding along with downtube shifters and a 7-speed freewheel on an old steel bike. Some gentle ribbing about how old my bike was was about as bad as it ever got. The main difficulty is the rides themselves - it's difficult to generate interest in beginner rides, because the experienced riders don't like to show up to them, and the beginners show up, find no one there, and never do it again. Then they go on the normal club ride and have a rude shock when they get dropped. This is kind of the rub.

ridethecliche said...

To talk about what Grolby and Josh are discussing.

The thing about cycling is that if you put a beginner who doesn't know what they're doing into a group ride situation, then people can get hurt. I think a lot of the snob factor comes from this.

If you can take juniors/new riders and have clinics for them before they start doing the local heavy rides, then it'll turn out better for everyone.

Heck, I'd even go to one of these clinics and I know that there are some around.

Josh said...

Grolby's right, it's not as bad as I made it seem, at least on the club level. As a new rider I was very much welcomed in to my rec. club, and as I got faster I was/am frequently invited to join in on ever-faster groups.

But I think I had it good, because the local club is fairly large, with something close to 1000 active members. So it's easy to find crossover between the different levels; an 'A' rider goes out on a 'B' ride for a recovery day, sees you riding well, invites you to the next 'A' ride. Smaller clubs probably don't see this type of interaction.

rtc, very good point about the potential for people to get hurt. The same goes for all level of club ride, too.

Giles said...

Perfect. I'll forward this to the team.

ChrisB. said...

I think the two biggest issues are education and cost.

Education - more club sponsored clinics would be invaluable. How else does a newby (or even someone like me who's been away from the sport for some time) garner the necessary skills needed for pack riding (cornering, bike handling,etc)? Shorter, low cost, controlled races would be good too.

Cost - bikes are expensive. Bike parts are expensive. Throw racing fees on top of that and it gets a little daunting. I'm riding a mid-nineties Cannondale (with 8 speed Ultegra!) and even keeping that in running order is costly. But the real obstacle, for those of us ona budget, is race fees. I understand the need for a 1 day license for Cat 5s, but why not make it a little less oppressive. Back in the day you could race the citizen's category of spring races in New Britain for ten bucks. I know that's not realistic 15 years later, but why not at least waive that one day license fee for early season training races?

-Chris

ChrisB. said...

Also note, I wasn't trying to imply anything about the Bethel Fees. Rather, the spring series more local to me charges $20 which isn't exactly highway robbery or anything, but throw a $12 one day license on that and you're asking a lot of someone who's just trying to get their proverbial feet wet (or in my case, wet again).

Aki said...

More items on the list:
1. Education (in group riding, maintenance, racing requirements like no tri bars etc, simply how to get into racing)
2. Cost - equipment, racing fees, maintenance.
3. Attitude/culture/safety

I'll have to get a better list together.

GMF said...

Awareness. To me that's the biggest. All other well thought out mentions here are secondary to making people aware of the option to ride/race a bike. Like Josh writes, you can live a very happy life and not even be aware that this whole culture of cycling and racing exists.

I'm the guy Aki mentioned in the post who watched the Tour coverage on tv back in the 80's. I thought it was awesome, but it never dawned on me that I could do it myself. It may as well have been bobsledding - where do you go to get into THAT sport?

If there had been a mention after the Tour coverage to "Visit your local bike shop or call USA Cycling to learn about racing bikes yourself!", I would have had an action plan to engage my piqued interest in cycling at that point.

I've always been fascinated with how people in the US got into cycling. There should be an analysis of what it is that gets most into the sport.