Collegiate Cycling - Hosting a Race
USA Cycling is developing an extensive education process for race directors that will help you put on an event that is safe and enjoyable for competitors and spectators. In the meantime, we’ve outlined a few specific things to be aware of as a collegiate race director. Again, this is not meant to be an exhaustive guide to putting on a race, but rather a list of points often overlooked or asked about by collegiate teams when it comes to event organization and a collection of a few helpful tips with the collegiate race director in mind. You can also find resources and information for race directors here.
Hosting a race will devour hundreds of hours of your time, with very high stakes, so please take the extra few minutes to read this information thoroughly, as well as the information linked from this page.
- Contact your Conference Director
- Advance Planning
- Write it Down!
- Reach Out
- Be Prepared to Pay
- Campus Crits and CX Races
- Making it Profitable
- Host Housing
- Conference Director Officiating
- Cancelling a Race
- Race Registration
- Points and Results
- Talk to Your School
- Co-Hosting with Another School
- Common Insurance Mistakes
- Hosting Collegiate National Championships
Contact your Conference Director: Getting in touch with your conference director is the first and most basic step toward hosting a race. He or she can help you with the process and let you know the steps to getting a spot on the conference calendar. Additionally, every conference does things a little bit differently, whether it’s registration, results, fees, scheduling, or any other number of other small details, and your conference director is your best resource for making sure there aren’t any surprises come race day. Because the last thing you’ll need on race day is a surprise.
Advance Planning: This isn’t actually specific to collegiate races at all, but is the most important key to success in organizing any bike race: plan as far in advance as humanly possible. If you procrastinate on a term paper, you can pull an all-nighter or ask for an extension, and life goes on. That’s not the case for hosting a race, however, since you’re not the only party involved in the process. You’ll also be dealing extensively with local government, your school, USA Cycling, your conference, an army of volunteers, local residents and any number of other groups that will (unexpectedly) have a say in the process along the way. Most of these groups have deadlines that you must meet, sometimes as much as four months out from the race.
By six months before the event, you should have secured permits from local government (this can be city, county, and state, as well as other groups such as DOT, police, parks, and any number of other local groups). At least three months out (but preferably when you secure your local permits) you should have notified all residents, businesses, and landowners on or near the course. You should file your USA Cycling permit with a finished flyer, approved by your conference director, by two months out, as late fees start to go up at six weeks prior ($100 at 6 weeks, an additional $150 at 2 weeks) and it becomes more difficult to secure insurance for the event. Six to eight weeks out, you should have all your ducks in a row and be prepared to hold the event tomorrow, if necessary.
Not only will you be dealing with a multitude of organizations with their own deadlines, but the stakes are much higher than any other homework assignment you’ve had lately. Bike racing is inherently dangerous, but it is on the shoulders of the race director to make his or her event as safe as possible. When you do things at the last minute, it is guaranteed that something will be missed, and the chances increase exponentially that the race will not be as safe as it could be. A bike race that isn’t 100% as safe as possible is simply unacceptable. So, plan early, and don’t be afraid to over think every possible eventuality.
Scheduling: Continuing with the theme of advance planning, most conferences establish their season schedules at least one season in advance (so the road schedule is set during the mountain bike season, for example), but some conferences work up to a full year in advance. The lesson here is get in touch with your conference director as soon as you start to even think about considering possibly hosting a race maybe someday. Notice a theme so far?
Additionally, everybody else wants to host a race, too, but the collegiate season is inherently short. You’ll have to convince not only your conference director but also your fellow team leaders that your race is worth a spot on the schedule. Be prepared to make a formal presentation at your conference’s planning meeting with course details, steps taken to confirm that permits will be approved by local government, and as much information as possible that will demonstrate your preparedness and the race’s guaranteed success. Your job as race director is to make the race you host the absolute best race on the calendar, and you need to be able to pitch that as far in advance as possible.
Write it Down! The hardest part of organizing a bike race is figuring out just what the heck you’re doing in the first place. That’s especially the case for knowing who to talk to at your school and in the local government. In addition to this, you want your race to become a “classic” on the conference calendar, one that isn’t even questioned as a perennial mainstay of the season. To make that happen, and to save future race directors from your team the headaches of reinventing the wheel every year, leave behind a step-by-step guide to putting on your race. Include contact information, unexpected hurdles, hoops you had to jump through, reminders, tips, and lists of everything you did to make the race happen. The more information you provide, the more time you will save future race directors and the more likely that the race will get better year after year.
Even if you don’t want to create a step-by-step guide, just keeping a binder of everything you did will be a huge help in the future. Every email, permit or license that you need should be copied into the binder. If you have time, attach a cover letter that indicates the date submitted and returned, as well as a brief statement of why you had to do and what you thought of the people you dealt with (if applicable). When it is all over, this process makes it way easier to compile a step-by-step and identify the pitfalls and the success of your organization. It can also provide future promoters with important information on the general timeliness of the people they are dealing with as well as any other helpful tips.
Reach Out: Along the same lines, if you don’t have a guidebook from previous race directors, there is still a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips that can make your life a lot easier as you put together your race. The cycling world is a small one, and as a result people are typically pretty friendly, passionate, and helpful (at least when you’re not racing against them). Here are a few people and organizations that have done this all before, and will be happy to help:
- Experienced race directors in your area: Get in touch with your Local Association or Regional Coordinator and ask if they can help you find someone in your area that might serve as a mentor for the whole process. They’ll know what it takes to get things done in your area, and will more than likely have plenty of experience to draw from when it comes to organizing races. Just having someone in the background that has done this before and can answer questions now and then will be a huge help.
- Previous race directors from your team: Pick up the phone or shoot an email to alumni from your team that were involved in your team’s race in the past. They’ll be happy to hear from current riders and can provide a wealth of event- and school-specific information that you can’t get anywhere else.
- Other race directors in your conference: Don’t be afraid to send an email to other race directors in your conference. Some conferences may even have a Race Director email list. This can be helpful as there may be previous discussion of the exact issues you are facing, which will save you time reinventing the wheel.
In addition to these individuals and your conference director, always feel free to get in touch directly with USA Cycling for help and information:
- USAC Membership Coordinators can help you through the USAC permitting process online and answer questions about payment, USAC Online Registration, and insurance paperwork.
- USAC Regional Coordinators are located throughout the country and can help with regional or local questions, as well as assigning mountain bike officials.
- Local Associations deal primarily with road, track, and cyclocross events, and coordinate the non-collegiate race calendar, assign officials, and help coordinate permits and upgrades. They’re a great resource to get in touch with and communicate with on a regular basis.
Be Prepared to Pay: University bureaucracy is legendary, especially when it comes to money. Some teams have their own bank accounts and can pay out and in as they please, but others must request checks from their school for any reimbursements or payments. In addition to all the costs of the event that are payable before or after the event (USAC permit fee, police, etc), there will be several expenses you will be required to pay out once all the racing is done on the day of the event. This will require some planning ahead, often some W9 procurement from the officials, and a bit of research into what your school requires to make this happen. This doesn’t have to be a big deal if you do your work ahead of time, but too often collegiate race directors become delinquent on post-event payment because they didn’t talk to their school business office ahead of time.
The day of the event you will be required to pay:
- Your race officials for their hard work, travel, and expenses: Officials’ fees vary in some regions, so check with your officials and Local Association or Regional Coordinator ahead of time, but minimum rates and other expense guidelines for officials are listed here.
- USA Cycling for the $3 per rider per day insurance surcharge: Most of the time the officials will collect this and send it in to USAC with some other post-event paperwork you will be required to fill out at the end of the day.
Other expenses that vary by region and how you organize your race (again, just ask the appropriate people in advance, and they’ll help you figure things out):
- Your conference for a per rider surcharge: Most conferences collect a surcharge to cover your conference director’s travel, awards, or other expenses. Just ask your conference director if that will be collected the same day and how s/he wants to work that.
- Your results service (sometimes the same as the conference surcharge): This may be something that can be paid by check later, but depending on the service and the setup, it may also be something that you need to pay the same day, too. Same goes for expenses like police, EMT/medical, etc. Just ask them in advance when payment will be due.
- Your Local Association may collect a surcharge if you host non-collegiate categories in conjunction with your race: This will be paid to your official along with the USAC insurance surcharge. This usually isn’t collected for collegiate-only events, but it never hurts to ask. Additionally, some Local Associations ask that all post event paperwork get sent to them first, and then they send it in to USA Cycling, so check on both of these things in advance.
- Cash payouts for non-collegiate categories: If you host non-collegiate categories and list a prize purse, those racers don’t like to leave the race without cold, hard cash. A W9 does not replace cash.
If it looks like it will be impossible to pay these expenses the same day, which is not uncommon given many schools’ requirements for POs and invoices, reach out to the officials assigned to your event, as well as USA Cycling, and let them know what will be required to pay everyone in a punctual manner as soon as possible. Usually officials are happy to work with you to accommodate your restrictions and make things happen, as long as lines of communication are opened well in advance and you do everything you can to get people paid as soon as practical.
Campus Crits and CX Races: While it sometimes is more complicated than it should or could be, hosting a race right on campus has a number of added benefits for you and your team. First, it can eliminate or reduce the number of parties you need to deal with to make the race happen if the school owns the roads or property the race will take place on. When out on open roads, you’re typically dealing with city and county government, state DOT, police and sheriff’s offices, and don’t even think about crossing into multiple municipalities or counties! Obviously that’s unavoidable for road races, but for criteriuims on campus, you can sometimes get away with just working with your school. Those roads are also a lot cheaper and easier to shut down without disrupting major traffic flow, especially if you have campus security and school-owned barricades that you can take advantage of.
On top of this, you get the added bonus of raising your team’s profile on campus (and putting the whole sport of cycling in the minds of a bunch of sleepy-eyed college students on a Saturday or Sunday morning), which can be a great recruitment tool for new riders and a development piece so your team is on the minds of those with the influence and money on campus. This way, when you go to ask your school president for additional funding next year, s/he doesn’t ask, “We have a cycling team?” but rather says “I had a great time at the race you hosted last year – sure, here’s a barrel of cash!” You can also turn the event into a festival by getting other campus clubs involved and drawing a crowd out to spectate if the weather’s nice.
Many schools do, however, have a provision in their rules for sporting activities that any revenue made on campus must be deposited into a school account, so be sure to look into this ahead of time, as well.
Making it Profitable: A mainstay of collegiate cycling is its inexpensive nature. A license is a third of the cost of a standard Road/MTB license, as is a club membership (and free the first year), national championship entry fees are discounted, and, most importantly, regular race entry fees are orders of magnitude cheaper than your typical non-collegiate race. Which is all great news for the average collegiate racer or team, but tough to swallow when it comes time to put on an event. Costs for hosting a race (particularly a road race, although lift-service for gravity events at mountain bike races add up quickly, too) are often a lot higher than you might expect. Cutting corners so it’s a bit of a bare bones set-up is fine, and how most collegiate events are run, but corners should NEVER be cut when it comes to safety. As mentioned earlier, your job is to put on a safe bike race, first and foremost. Whether you splurged for a finish truss or chip timing is of no matter in comparison to whether you do everything you can to make the race safe for everyone (racers, staff, volunteers, and spectators alike).
All this being said, there are things you can do as a collegiate race director to help you turn a profit on your race despite rock bottom entry fees:
- Appeal to your school for funding: Not just whoever supplies your standard budget, either (typically club sports or campus activities/student affairs), but also student government, the office of the dean, student life, the office of the school president, and admissions. Talk to these offices, and even if they can’t give you money, they might point you to people who could. Pitch the event as a development tool for the school and an opportunity for exposure, and there’s bound to be some cash out there that will flow your way with some work.
- Include non-collegiate categories: Some conferences prefer to keep events collegiate-only, and some conference also have so many categories that there is simply no time in the day for non-collegiate categories, but if there’s time and it’s alright with your conference director, this is a great money-making opportunity. The typical bike racer is affluent and happy to give back to the development side of the sport (that’s you!), so don’t be afraid to charge more typical entry fees that are sometimes double or triple what a collegiate rider pays. Also give entrants the opportunity to donate to your program when they register (often an option through online registration systems such as USA Cycling’s Online Registration http://www.usacycling.org/registration/index.php) and you can pull in some additional cash that way, too.When offering both collegiate and non-collegiate categories, simply check the “Collegiate add-on” box on the first page of the online permit in addition to the discipline.
- Become an official: If you or one of your teammates is willing to skip racing the day of your event, becoming an official is a great way to save money on your event. It’s also something to do during the summer months to make some extra cash, and it will teach you a TON about the sport of bike racing that you had no idea you didn’t know. You can take a clinic through your local association or regional coordinator and become licensed for just $35.
- Sell extras: These days you can get custom t-shirts made for as little as $2-$3/piece if you do your research and shop around, and everybody loves event t-shirts. You can also look into custom cycling socks for the event, or other goodies such as tote bags. You can also sell these ahead of time through many online registration services.
- Sell food: While you don’t want to be the one making or selling the food (pesky health codes…), you can sell the rights to local vendors. For a fee that you could charge them, the local sandwich shop could either bring a cart or truck to the event, or include a coupon on the race flyer. Just pitch it as an opportunity for them to be THE food vendor for hundreds of starving college kids that will have just finished exercising. Win for them, win for you. (If they want to sell food on campus, though, you’ll need to check with the school first. They would also not be covered under USAC’s event insurance.)
- Save money on food for officials and volunteers: You’ll need to feed all your officials and volunteers, and if you can find a local sandwich or pizza place that would be willing to comp’ you those lunches (maybe in exchange for the right to sell food on site as mentioned above), that’s money saved and money made.
Host Housing: Many conferences require that, as a race director, you provide as many beds, floor spots, and couches as possible or is requested by visiting racers. Even if your conference doesn’t require it, it’s still a good idea and can start a trend, so hopefully next time you travel to a collegiate race you’ll have the chance to sleep somewhere for free without paying for a hotel. Get in touch with your conference director or conference host housing coordinator, and send an email out in advance of your event asking how many people would like to take advantage of host housing. You can then take that count and appeal to teammates, local friends and family, and especially the local bike racing community (talk to bike shops and local non-collegiate teams and you’re bound to find some friendly cyclists with a guest room, floor space, or available couch) to find space for your competitors. Additionally, in return for the free lodging, you can always ask that riders volunteer as a course marshal, too (just be sure that all event volunteers sign a volunteer waiver). Again, even if your conference doesn’t require you to provide host housing, this is something that really sets collegiate cycling apart, and contributes to the wonderful atmosphere we all love about collegiate racing. Not to mention that it’s just the right thing to do!
Conference Director Officiating: Many conference directors officiate at collegiate races, often serving as the chief referee. Be sure to stay in constant contact with your conference director, USA Cycling, and your Local Association (where applicable) to make sure everybody is on the same page as to whether you need an official assigned to your event. If you need a site visit before the event to ensure course safety, sometimes your conference director can provide this service, as well. Just stay in touch with everybody, and open those lines of communication early!
Cancelling a Race: Don’t do it. Just don’t. Don’t even think about it. Seriously, though, cancelling a race because you couldn’t get your act together in time and didn’t plan far enough ahead is never acceptable. You’d be letting your entire conference down (remember that everybody is counting on your race so they can qualify for Nationals, as well as the chance to earn conference omnium points), and the collegiate season doesn’t have the length or flexibility to allow for rescheduling of events later in the year. Obviously, there are weather circumstances that are unavoidable, and few people can blame you for acts of god, especially during the late winter and springtime for road events. But even things like uncooperative local governments or last minute road construction and closure are rarely grounds for cancellation if you plan far enough in advance and have back-up plans for road courses set to go just in case. A contingency plan should be part of your original plan, put in place a year in advance. At the very minimum, cancelling a race will cost you a $50 fee, with other conference-by-conference consequences.
Race Registration: Some conferences offer their own pre-registration services, so get in touch with your conference director to see what the standard procedure is. If your conference doesn’t do this, online registration is always very helpful to the race director. The only issue with online registration is that collegiate riders often don’t know whether they’re racing Saturday until they get their homework assignments on Friday, so online pre-registration is sometimes tough to swing without some sort of incentive (usually in the form of a discount), especially given the varying methods of payment that teams use. But it’s always worth making that available if possible.
For on-site registration, don’t forget to have fully trained, friendly volunteers (and preferably an official) working the registration table. Rule number one: no one should ever be allowed to enter a bike race without presenting a valid license and signing a waiver. Your volunteers will need to know in advance what to look for on each license (expiration date, name and team info, and categories) and on the waiver (legible contact information, emergency contact, current age by signature, minors need a parent signature, etc). Don’t forget that you can’t enter a collegiate bike race without a collegiate license, and one-day licenses are not acceptable for category B or higher races in most conferences. Also, don’t forget to buy pens, safety pins, print out plenty of waivers, and discuss with your conference director in advance who will be in charge of assigning bib numbers (and if that’s something you need to buy).
Points and Results: Be sure you know in advance who will be processing results. Will you need to hire a results company to work with officials, or will your conference director be providing those services? Whoever it is, make sure your conference director or whoever is tabulating points is on the same page with whoever is providing results, and he or she gets those results in a timely fashion for omnium calculations.
Talk to Your School: Especially when it comes to insurance, in particular for on-campus races, your school needs to be in the loop so they don’t find out about the race two days before it starts and put the brakes on. USA Cycling provides very thorough, comprehensive liability insurance with the ability to add on additional parties to the list of insured (see common insurance mistakes, below), so it shouldn’t be an issue if lines of communication are opened with your school (usually a risk management official will be involved – ask your club sports director or whomever is in charge of your program) early on in the process.
Additionally, since you are the race director, it is your responsibility to sign the permit contract with USA Cycling as part of permitting the event. Some schools don’t like students signing contracts, thinking that the student is blindly signing in the name of the school, but the permit contract is actually an agreement between the race director and USA Cycling, saying that you will put on a safe event (again, your responsibility). In other words, just be sure to talk about these things ahead of time with all concerned parties to make sure there are no last minute surprises. Yet another reason to start the permit process with both USA Cycling and your local government several months in advance.
Co-Hosting with Another School: To save costs and energy, as well as to ensure that as many schools get to host a race as possible, two neighboring teams can often share host duties for a weekend. You can divide the weekend’s events so that one school hosts Saturday’s races and another organizes Sunday’s (under separate USAC permits), or both schools can co-host all the events (attaching multiple teams to each permit), allowing you to divide duties over the course of the whole weekend. However it’s done, sharing host duties with another school can help you get onto the calendar, especially if it’s your first year hosting a race, and can ensure that the event goes a little bit more smoothly. Just be sure to approach the other school well before the conference scheduling meeting occurs, and always arrange the finer details (especially concerning money) well in advance, such as whether you will be able to offer a discount to riders entering all events, even those hosted by the other school, and how and when transactions between the schools will take place.
Common Insurance Mistakes*: Organizing a bike race is an overwhelming process at times, and it can expose you to a lot of risk if you’re not careful and follow the right steps. For this reason, one of the primary reasons you sanction your race with USA Cycling is so that you are covered under our liability insurance. Detailed information on all our standard insurance programs are available here. In particular, check out the event insurance article - this document is a MUST READ for all race directors!
Most collegiate race directors are new to this process, and it’s probably your first time dealing with million-dollar liability insurance policies, so here are a few things that collegiate cyclists often don’t know or commonly miss along the way:
- Additional Insured: Oftentimes, venues or other such organizations involved in the race request a certificate of insurance, which you will be provided if you name these organizations in your list of Additional Insured. This covers these other groups in the event that someone sues them as a result of the event. The first five additional certificates are free, and each additional certificate thereafter is $5.00. It is always a good idea to have your school listed as one of them.
- Auto/moto Insurance: If you use vehicles in your race, whether in the form of a pace car, support vehicle, official’s car, or motorcycle referee, those vehicles and their drivers are not covered by the event insurance unless you purchase additional coverage at least seven business days in advance. “It’s okay, I’ve got car insurance,” you might say. Yes, but your car insurance policy probably has an exclusion in it saying that any racing event (even bike racing) is not covered. Often times at collegiate events, everybody and their brother jumps into cars to help out with driving duties, but it’s critical for this coverage that you know in advance who will be driving the cars, so organize your volunteer drivers well in advance! Otherwise you’re all exposed to significant risk. Here’s a very helpful webinar on auto/moto coverage.
- Volunteer Waivers: All volunteers must sign a waiver, just like race participants (even if they’re racing, too, they still need to sign the volunteer waiver, as well) before helping out at the race. If they do not, you, as the race director have a higher exposure to a lawsuit should the volunteer get hurt performing his or her duties. This waiver is available here, although a copy is also sent to you in your packet of forms before the event, along with copies of other waivers you will need that day. Make lots of copies!
- The 10 Year Rule: This is especially difficult given that collegiate team leaders and race directors graduate just a few years after hosting a race, but the event insurance is rendered null and void if you don’t hang on to every waiver for 10 years after the event. If someone decides to sue you because they were hurt in your event nine years ago (don’t laugh – this has happened!), you can’t defend yourself without that rider’s waiver, and the insurance won’t protect you either. When you graduate, your parting gift to your successor as team race director should be a set of boxes chock full of waivers from each event held in the last ten years. Just consider it part of your job as club officer.
Hosting Collegiate National Championships: It used to be that collegiate national championships were organized and hosted by collegiate teams, just like conference races. But because of the incredible cost and amount of responsibility on the shoulders of a national championship race director, it has worked out much better in recent years for USA Cycling to sign a contract directly with a venue (mountain bike and track) or city convention and visitors’ bureau (road). The venue or city then turns to a professional race director to organize a Local Organizing Committee (LOC), which will typically include or be in contact with a host school. The duties of the host school are typically to supply volunteers and assist with ancillary events the weekend of the race, among other things detailed in the bid packet for the event. USA Cycling accepts bids typically one to three years in advance of an event (see www.usacycling.org/bids for current information).
So given that, what can a collegiate cycling team do? Well, we’re always trying to reach more cities, and it’s certainly in your team’s best interest to have the event in your neck of the woods (publicity as the host team, money saved in transportation, home court advantage, etc), so approach cities and venues in your area with the idea. All you have to do is make the pitch and they’ll do all the hard work of putting together the bid and organizing the event itself.
*This information only summarizes the insurance policies mentioned and is just an overview. Coverage is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy(ies). Should a discrepancy occur between this synopsis of coverage and the actual terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy(ies), the policy(ies) terms, conditions and exclusion will prevail.
This Article Published June 8, 2011 For more information contact: