Derek Bouchard-Hall Blog

CEO December blog: Thanking the unsung cycling heroes
Post: Dec 24, 2015 by Kevin Loughery under category "default"
Happy Holidays!
 
As we approach the end of 2015 and look forward to a promising 2016, I want to take a moment to reflect on the American cycling community and thank those who make our sport possible.
 
For me, the holidays are a natural time of reflection. 2015 has obviously been an eventful one for USA Cycling and me personally, especially the last six months since I came aboard as CEO of USA Cycling. I have met wonderful people, done a lot of listening and begun working with the Board and staff of USA Cycling to address the many challenges facing American cycling. We have already taken steps toward increasing support of amateur racing, reducing barriers to entry and increasing our anti-doping efforts. None of this progress would be possible without the input and support of the American bike racing community.
 
USA Cycling can do little on its own. As the national governing body, we help coordinate and support the efforts of a much larger community operating at regional, state and local levels. This community is made up of not just racers and riders, but also event directors, officials, race volunteers, sponsors and fans.  All of us who participate in this sport rely significantly on the efforts of this community.
 
I was first introduced to competitive cycling when I was in high school in the late 80’s – a stage of the Coors International Cycling Pro-Am came through my town in Massachusetts and the speed of the police cars, peloton and follow vehicles thrilled me. It looked exciting, and I wanted to try it. When I arrived at Princeton as an undergrad, I quickly found the collegiate cycling club. They had an outstanding coach, Bob Ellis, a passionate team captain, Mark Slavonia, and a helpful local bike shop sponsor, Kopp’s Cycle. Ken McAdams was the collegiate Conference Director keeping everything organized. The fire was lit.
 
I spent the next four years racing my bike at collegiate and USCF races around the Northeast. Cindy Donnelly was the New Jersey District Rep who upgraded me from Cat. 4 to 1, and was a ubiquitous race official who made races safe and fair. Putney Bicycle Shop and their racer mechanic, Scott Wade, helped me race all over New England and develop my racing skills. Howard Bank sponsored my favorite local race, the Burlington VT Criterium.
 
After Princeton, I headed to Stanford and continued my collegiate cycling career under the leadership of the intellectual coach Art Walker. Upon completing my education, Frank Scioscia offered me the opportunity to race full time with Team Shaklee, and so began my professional career. Andy Stone and Jim O’Brien were beloved mechanics who worked late into the night to perfect equipment for little more than a cold beer and a warm compliment. I’d travel around the country doing America’s best races, often staying at the homes of the volunteer race promoters who created the events I so loved. At the Trexlertown velodrome, run by Pat McDonough, I picked up track racing thanks to the coaching of my teammate Jame Carney. Soigneur Emma O’Reilly took care of our team. Later I would join Team Mercury, where team doctor Prentice Stefan helped keep my body going despite the enormous abuse.
 
Well into retirement, I joined a local racing club in Washington, D.C., DC Velo, organized by Mark Sommers. Today I enjoy evening track sessions at the Colorado Springs 7-11 Velodrome, managed by Chris Schmidt. I hope to participate in USA Cycling events around the country this summer, including stops in New England, New York and Northern California – regions organized by Local Association Reps JD Bilodeau, Jeff Poulin and Carlos Soto, respectively.
 
I could bore you with so many more names and roles. Those were just the tip of the iceberg. Without them, I would have never known how to train or care for my equipment. I wouldn’t have learned skills like riding in a pack, rotating in a paceline or descending at speed. Most importantly, I would not even have had the chance to race my bike, for the sport could not exist without such individuals.
 
Our community is driven by passion. Financial rewards remain limited. Thousands of you give countless hours, scarce vacation time and immeasurable effort to sustain this sport in so many different ways. I thank all of you who volunteer or work well below your maximum income potential as coaches, mechanics, officials, LA reps, club managers and event promoters—you are the unsung heroes of this sport that make competitive cycling widely available to tens of thousands of American cyclists at all levels all year round.
 
So in the spirit of the holiday season, I ask all those who race bikes to take some time to reflect on all the individuals who make your participation in the sport possible. I encourage you to reach out to say thank you and express your gratitude. Even better, pay if forward: Like those who helped us get into cycling, generously give your time and energy to provide opportunities for others. Become an official, volunteer at a race, promote an event, coach a friend or encourage a new rider. Share your love and your knowledge. After all, ‘tis the season!
 
Have a safe and happy holiday.
 
Derek