Over the past few months I've had a lot of correspondence from folks interested to know what is happening with the USAC race mechanics clinic for this year, so I'd like to catch everyone up on where we stand.
Since our previous clinic, in November of 2015, the instructional team and I have held ongoing discussions about the future and we've passed some important questions on to USA Cycling regarding the clinic.
Specifically, we wanted to know what the future of the clinic looks like from the USAC perspective. We also asked what they see as the current value of a USAC license and what the overall goal for the mechanic clinic is intended to be.
While we've repeatedly asked USA Cycling these questions, we have yet to get any significant answers, clarifications or even a simple response of any kind dealing with these questions.
In trying to move things along, I also made a suggestion to have the PBMA take on some oversight to manage and run the clinic and to give it some ongoing purpose and direction, making the clinic significant part of the continuing education efforts of the PBMA. I made this recommendation in the hopes of elevating the clinic's mission and assuring its future by connecting the clinic to an organization which exists purely to support professionalism in cycle mechanics.
While the team's questions went unanswered, my personal recommendations were met with immediate resistance. I was told "we own the clinic", "it has to be USAC" and similar possessive comments with regards to the race mechanics clinic.
I worked at USA Cycling for almost 3 years as the Director of Operations in Athletics. As a professional mechanic by avocation, I had a passion for the clinic and worked from within to promote it, encouraging and pushing for racing programs (USAC as well as others) to primarily utilize our licensed mechanics. Since that time, I've volunteered my time to manage, promote and run the clinic itself.
When Bill Woodul first started hosting the RMC, his vision was to identify, train and insure a steady supply of quality mechanics to work in support of the team programs at the USCF, as well as to advance professional standards and standardize practices among racing mechanics. He devoted the last years of his life to building a clinic staff and curriculum that would be second to none.
Speaking of our volunteer staff, Chip Howat, who has been involved on the clinic leadership team (like many others) for many, many years, was a huge piece of the leadership puzzle. Chip literally "wrote the book", creating and continually editing the very manual that we use to teach the clinic. Chip was also instrumental in building up our content and coaching our staff to become well rounded and effective instructors.
Now, even devoted RMC stalwarts like Chip have decided to abandon their positions on the leadership team because of the lack of vision and direction within USAC. Sadly, he's not the only staff member that is leaving the team...there are many more.
To cut to the chase, the current working model of USA Cycling is to typically employ and use staff who haven't been though the RMC program and don't hold USAC licenses. How ludicrous is it that the very sanctioning body that issues the licenses doesn’t compel it’s own teams to require them as part of employment?
I can't recall a single time in my 20-plus years of working at races when I have been asked for, much like required, to produce a USAC mechanics license. Making things worse, I know for a fact anyone, mechanic or not, can order and receive a UCI Support License with a "mechanic endorsement".
I suppose both this message and my blog are specifically written with those who work at events and races in mind, so I'm going to simply share what information I know as of today.
I personally won't be part of the USA Cycling licensing program any longer. Volunteering my time for something that has really strayed from it's original intention is no longer something I can personally devote my efforts towards. A number of the RMC instructional team are leaving as well. It is going to be interesting to see what happens next.
What does this mean for the future? It means I will work within the PBMA to create a program to teach the values and core competencies as well as professional development topics.
Will there be a USA Cycling Race Mechanics Clinic in 2016? I simply do not know at this point, nor would it be wise to even speculate . I'm hopeful that there will be a change of heart on the part of USAC, but I am not optimistic.
What I do know is that the value and purpose of the RMC will diminish as myself and the long-serving professional staff of the clinic discontinue our support of a program without a rudder.
See you on the road!