Wednesday, October 7, 2015

USAC rules through the ages

I recently bought a 1923 Amateur Bicycle League of America (ABLA) rule book on E-bay. It came with an actual 1923 junior racing license as well! ABLA (founded 1921) was the predecessor of the United States Cycling Federation (USCF) (renamed 1975) and USACycling (chartered to absorb USCF in 1995).

In reading the original rule book, I kept feeling deja vu--like I had read those rules before. I laid the original against some of the other version of the rule book. The continuity of rules is striking. Here are some examples.

Race Permits

1923 "V Sec. 10 No sanction shall be issued to a professional promoter until a full list of the prizes and their value a re submitted by the promoter. These prizes shall be in  the hands of the Referee before .the start of the meet."
1977 V Section 2 "No sanction shall be issued to a promoter until a full prize list and their value is submitted by the promoter. These prizes shall be in the hands of the Referee before the start of the meet."
2015 Part 3(g)  "For each race, the specific kinds of event, the distance(s), the total amount of the prize lists, the nature of the prizes (cash, merchandise, combination thereof, or other), the number of places that will receive prizes, and the dollar value for each place receiving prizes. If cash is to be awarded, the minimum value will be shown."
When I used to process the MABRA permits, this was one of my favorite rules.

Rider Transfers

1922 VIII.-Release System Sec. l. Any rider leaving a club shall compete in open competition for a period of  one year. The date of acceptance of resignation by the former club shall be the period when the "unattached" penalty takes effect. This shall not apply to a man who has not joined another club, and rejoins his former club. ... No club shall unjustifiably hold a rider who has made application for resignation . 
1977 Section 8 (Parts 1-8) "A rider resigning from a club shall compete as 'unattached' for a period of six(6) months or until December 31, whichever period is less"
And then it goes on for seven (!) more sections on the mechanics of transfers.

I can't find any reference to any sanctions for changing clubs in the 2015 rule book. I guess we can change clubs as often as we want now. 


1923 1. An amateur sportsman is one who engages in sport solely for the pleasure and physical, mental or social benefits he derives therefrom...
For this class of riders, prizes are limited to a value of $35 for first prize... 
 (that's about $500 in 2015 dollars)
1977 I 1.10 An amateur sportsman is one who engages in sport solely for the pleasure and physical, mental or social benefits he derives therefrom.
2015 Amateur Class: The amateur class comprises riders in the senior/elite age group (19-29) who are not members of UCI teams, or, in the case of women, not on domestic elite teams.
I wonder if the 1923 version is directly from the International Olympic committee.

Categories and Upgrades

I've always loved the fine tuning of the upgrade rules. They've really grown much more complex.
1923 A rider shall be held to be a novice until he shall have won a prize, other than a survivor's token, in a competition in that class... The winning of such a prize shall prevent his future competition as a novice ion that class...
I can think of a lot of people who would wish that USAC would go back to this rule.
1977 1.21 Third Category. Any senior making application for a license for the first time, or any junior passing from junior to senior category unless he has qualified by his performance as a junior for a second category license.
1.26 A fourth category, or novice category shall be set up for all novice riders. They shall compete in this category until they prove competency. The same upgrading as is outlined in 1.22 shall be in effect, plus the rider shall demonstrate safety and competency in qualifying events, so as to progress to category three.
Eventually, USACycling had to add a category 5 (around 2000?) to handle the massive growth in memberships.
The upgrade rules now are too long to reprint..


Everyone loves the uniform rules. Who knew that they went back to the beginning of time?
1923 Racing costumes shall be such as to cover the shoulders and breeches must reach to within about four inches of the knees. All breeches (knee tight) must be black in color, though shirts of any color may be used. These requirements must be strictly enforced by the referee.
I'm not calling it a "kit" anymore--definitely calling it a "costume." And I'm only going to wear "bib breeches."
1977 Racing jerseys shall be such as to cover the shoulders... Cycling shorts shall be black in color and should reach within approximately 8 inches of the knees... socks shall be white and shall be worn on the road, though no socks need be worn on the track.
I grew up in the black shorts and white socks era. I had the nastiest collection of gray socks, since it was impossible to keep them white after the first ride in the rain.
2015 1J5. Jerseys must be worn in all races and shall cover the shoulders. 
Praises! Bring back the red shorts! And thank god for black socks.

Rider behavior 

1923 Any rider, trainer, attendant, or any other person who at any time and in an place uses improper language to an officer of a meet, or is guilty of any improper conduct toward such officers while serving under them, when such conduct or language shall have reference to acts and things connected with the administration of the meeting, or race thereof, shall be punished by suspension for such length of time as the Referee may decide.
This rule is pretty amazing--don't bad-mouth the officiating!
1977 Any rider, trainer, attendant, or any other person who at any time and in an place uses improper language to an officer of a meet, or is guilty of any improper conduct toward such officers while serving under them, when such conduct or language shall have reference to acts and things connected with the administration of the meeting, or race thereof, shall be punished by suspension for such length of time as the District Representative and /or Chairman of the Board of Control may decide.
Unchanged for fifty years!
2015 1N6. Abuse.  (a) No rider or other licensee may be disrespectful toward anyone at a race.  (b) No rider or other licensee may use foul or abusive language or conduct during a race event.

Some other interesting historical rules

1977 2.23 If the organizer of a road race wishes to forbid road bicycles, he should so specify in the rules of the event. 
I've seen pictures from the mid-1960s of fixed gears competing against derailleur bikes --perhaps this rule is leftover from then.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

2015 Hilly Billy Roubaix

Executive Summary

Even more rain that 2014. Seriously couldn't see crap on any of the downhills. Many more potholes, and deep, deep mud.

Race summary

Tom Snyder, Rob Campbell, and I  awoke to rain at the Euro-trash Suites in Morgantown. After driving to Mylan Park, we stood in the pouring rain on the line during the rider meeting.  I had no will to warm up,  We rolled out to the main road and stood some more in the pouring rain.

Interestingly, I wasn't anxious about the start or the upcoming test. I was worried that I would be too disengaged to go hard enough.

Finally we were racing. As usual we hit John Fox Rd 2 miles into the race, and we were on to the gravel. Even if I had wanted to go too hard, I couldn't do it. I couldn't get a deep breath. I probably lost fifteen places in the first mile of gravel.  To compound problems, the rain was heavy, my glasses were fogged, and muddy, and I couldn't see far enough to let it rip. But I soon settled into good rhythm. I was never particularly anxious during the rest of the race, and I wasn't ever scared of the remaining distance.

I took back some places on the next road section, but soon enough we were back on the gravel on the approach to Lower Indian Creek.  Wait, what's banging against my leg? Crap. The seat-tube bottle cage has unscrewed. I give up another 10 places unscrewing the cage. It seemed like I was standing by the side of the track for hours, but when I reviewed the video, it was only about 40 seconds. I still can't see anything on the next downhill, so I'm riding the screaming brakes,

We cross a hub-deep stream and enter Lower Indian Creek Extension. Now we're on a single-track trail, which accentuates the limitation of the file-tread tires I've chosen. The front wheel washes out, and down I go, in slow motion. I get rolling again, and immediately crash again. And we're not  even on Lower Indian creek proper. I opt to run the next stream crossing. For the next five minutes I go around, and sometimes through giant mud bogs. (After the race I ran into last-year's winner, who went wide to the left and over the edge and down the embankment and taco'd his front wheel.) Finally we're back on the road and I start to make back most of the places I lost on the technical section.

The next 30 miles go by in a repetitive, predictable fashion. I make up time on the road sections, and lose time on the descents because I can't see where I'm going, and am (justifiably?) worried about crashing after hitting mud. After the second aid station, where I get my glasses cleaned, I catch Rob Campbell, which comes as a complete surprise.

Just before the always surreal power plant, I roll up a group of six, and then three more. I'm excited--making up positions after my disastrous start. But I've apparently gone too deep, and on the next gravel up hill, I get popped off again.

Only one section of unpaved road remains, but it's Smokey Drain Rd. I'm reduced to pushing because the mud is so deep and the gradient is so steep. I start to come completely unglued, and then it gets worse. I slip off the lip of a mud bog and plunge into 2 feet of muddy, smelly water. The right shifter is completely gunked with mud and barely works. I pick off a few more shattered guys on the paved section, and enter Mylan Park. One short section of grass and I'm in the chute for the finish. The crew at the line are screaming "Field Sprint'" I look behind and see a guy closing fast, but I manage to hold him off.

I'm not as shattered as I was in 2014. Maybe I should have gone harder...

Video Summary 

Only the first hour of racing:


YearFieldTimePlaceOverallWinning TimeNotes
201550+4:46:03634th3:57:16More epic rain. Course shortened
201450+5:00:15237th4:19:35Epic rain
201340+DNFTwo flats, sheared rear derailleur off
201140+5:17:2913~32nd4:19:25Two front flats, one crash

Interestingly, I can't seem to get better than 35th overall!

Full results:

Strava Map

Gear Summary

  • Crux with hydraulic disk brakes. 
  • 50x34 and 11-28 (?) rear
  • Challenge Gravel Grinder file-tread 38mm tires. I don't know if I would have been faster with regular cyclocross tires. One latex tube, one butyl tube. No sealant in the tubes.
I think that the heavy rain narrowed the difference between riding a mountain bike and riding a cross bike. The road sections on a mountain bike would have been equally slow wet or dry, but the downhills would have been much faster on a mountain bike. I still think that HBR is a road race rather than a mountain bike race. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jefferson Cup 2015 Report

I have a love-hate relationship with Jefferson Cup--the oldest continuous race in the Mid-Atlantic. It always seems like the race is the "indoor trainer world championships," since it's so early in the season. I estimate that I've ridden close to 1000 miles on the course over the past 25 years. The weather varies between beautiful and horrific. My fitness can be either tremendous or woeful. In 2012 I rode the 50+ race and spent nearly 1/2 the race in the breakaway, but my results don't reflect that. In 2011 I rode the 35+ race and got mercilessly shelled on the beginning of the second lap when I rode the whole finishing straight at 185bpm. I never know which race I will be in or which me will pull up in the parking lot that day

It was the 2011 version that I remembered most vividly this year and was most on my mind. I admit that I came into the race very intimidated.

The race got off with a bang with a crash in the first mile. The field rode through that horrible stinking cloud of melted brake pad. The pace felt fast, but I was never in any real difficulty. I looked up the road and saw groups of five making no headway, and thought, "What can I possibly accomplish if these guys can't get away?"

After the fast descent of Blenheim with 1.5 laps to go, I was pissed at myself for being so useless and fearful. I rolled up toward the front just as two 35+ guys rolled away. They went through a group that was dangling 50 m in front of the field and so did I. I  made contact with them after the turn onto Secretarys Rd, but I was right at the limit. I took my pulls, and figured that I had enough gas to hang on on the uphill sections, but they popped me on (I think--I get pretty hazy when my HR gets up over 180bpm) on the second to last uphill section before the turn on the finishing straightaway on Carters Mountain Rd. It wasn't like they attacked me--they just throttled it when I was already at the limit.

At that point I was hoping that the field would sweep me up and end the agony, but the moto ref came up and told me that I had 45s on the field, so I put my head down and kept going. There was no way I was going to catch them, but I was all in--no going back.

Near the finish, a group of four with Mike Kingery, the DC velo guy and two 35+ guys caught me. I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to hang on, but I skipped a pull and recovered. I still died a thousand deaths on that stretch though. The DC Velo guy probed us several times, before the turn onto Blenheim, but it came back together each time. (Note--the photographic record disagrees with this recollection, but I distinctly remember the DC Velo in the group.)
Dying a thousand deaths in the 2nd group. Photo credit to velogirl22 

Another group latched on on the climb over Blenheim. I thought it had mostly 35+ guys. I tried to explain to one of them (Dave Fuentes, I think) that their race was still up the road--figuring that they would give the 45+ guys a free ride to the finish. I think I was too incoherent, though.  I  was coherent enough, though, to count the 45+ guys in the group and think, "there goes my podium."

Over the top I refocused on a single thought: "Your job here is to not get dropped from this breakaway." I sat on the back for a while after the descent. At that point one of the 35+ guys decided to see where the field was, looked over his shoulder, rode right into the guy in front of him, and crashed hard. We gave it no further thought and left him for dead.

For the rest of the time on Secretarys Rd I kept thinking, "You have to be willing to lose in order to win," and I just sat at the back. If the field caught us, so be it. I was not going to be the deciding factor in keeping the group away, and if I contributed too much I would just get dropped.

On the final uphill stretch, yet another group caught us, but I was completely at the limit, and I went out the back door. I had been into the red zone for about 25 minutes at that point. Fortunately, the group contained a teammate, Brook Edinger. Unfortunately, it also contained several more 45+ guys. My overall placing was going to drop several more levels. Before the turn onto the finishing straight, the group started watching each other and I caught back on . After that it was just 100% damage control to get to the finish. I sat up when the sprint started.

For me, the moral of the story is something I learned 25 years ago, but struggle every race to put into practice. You have to take risks to do well. It doesn't matter how you motivate yourself to take that risk, but you have to do it.  I still have no idea how it was that our little group was the decisive move. It seemed no different from the dozen others during the race.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Monster Cross 2015 Report


What can you really say about a 3.5 hour race? We started. I immediately tangled with my passenger and eventual Women's Cross division winner Clio Dinan who got pushed into me in the first turn. I was more worried about her going down than me. After the pseudo-neutral start, I dialed the heart rate up to 11 and kept it there for the next 3:28. By the end of the first lap I was mostly riding alone, though I did catch the 6th place 50+ guy with about 15km to go. My efforts were good enough for 5th place (of 38) in the 50+ (58th/250+ overall) and a box of Skratch cookie mix.

Unlike 2013, I stayed at the same heartrate for nearly the entire race (175bpm), instead of fading on the second lap.


60F by the finish. Muddier than past years. The fire roads, which had been dusty-dry in previous years had long stretches of watt-sapping mud about 1 inch deep. 


  • Specialized Crux
  • Stans No-Tubes alpha 340 with Challenge "Gravel Grinder 38s @ 60psi
The state of the bike at the end

Challenge Gravel Grinder 38mm with latex inner tubes


The pros are clearly doing something that I am not, since they are not affected by the conditions like I am. Consider the winner's finishing time from previous years. I speculate that his better momentum management means that he's accelerating many fewer times.

2015 2:42:48  Jeremiah Bishop  Me: 3:28:47 delta = 44:59
2014 2:39:31  Jeremiah Bishop DNF (was on about a 3:05 pace)
2013 2:33:13 Jeremiah Bishop 3:05:23 delta = 32:10
Bishop was only 3 minutes slower, where I was more like 25 minutes slower. 


  • 2015: 3:28:47 58/252 overall and 5/38 in the 50+
  • 2014: DNF--two flats before the 1/2-way point
  • 2013: 3:05:23  71/382 overall and  9/46 in 50+
  • 2012: 3:17:33  58/336 overall and 12/50 in 40-49

    Links to results

    Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    Washington DC Bicycle Racing in the 1960s

    This post looks back at the state of bicycle racing in the Washington, DC metro area fifty years ago. It was a very different era. In a recent interview, Gray James told me "If you were riding and saw a rider on a racing bike, you turned around immediately to find out who he was." Now we just acknowledge them with a head flick or by raising a hand without even taking it off the bars.

    The Races

    Although epic road races and stage races existed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the bulk of the racing traced its origin to the New York/New Jersey six-day racing tradition. Flat criteriums, and track-style races run on the road were the order of the day. Until 1965, the national championship was run as an omnium of track events, instead of as a road race. Beginning in 1966 the ABLA forbade mixing of fixed-gear and derailleur bicycles in racing. The 1964 National Capital Open presaged this change, when the winner, Paul Zink riding a derailleur bike, outsprinted local racer Gerry Pease riding a fixed gear. By the end of the decade everyone was on a european derailleur bike.

    The state of racing in the 1960s was one big race, the National Capital Open, and a host of smaller races that were, by today's standards, closer to organized group rides than to our local weekend events.

    The National Capital Open

    The National Capital Open was the central point of the DC Metro cycling in the 1960s, and drew entries from the entire east coast. In an era when the DC metro area had only about 100 licensed racers, the Senior field often had more than 100 entries.

    There had been racing on the Ellipse at the White House in the 1930s, and again for several years in the 1950s, when former Virginia District Rep  Gerald Teeuwen was one of the organizers. In 1963, the Federation of Washington Area Cycle Clubs, collaborating with the French Embassy and Gitane importer Mel Pinto restarted the race, which then ran annually until 1988. In the 1970s and 1980s, when NCVC promoted it first under promoter Peter Stevens, the NCO grew into a major stop on the East Coast pro tour. In the 1960s, racers from from New York and New Jersey dominated the event, taking most of the top places every year.

    The continuous turn on the course made the race became infamous for its crashes, including one that produced a fatality in 1973.

    Present-day map of the Ellipse--the site of the NCO

    Paul Zinc outsprinting Gerry Pease to win the 1964 National Capital Open.

    • The NCVC history site has a complete history and extensive resources on the National Capital Open: here including lists of winners.

    West Potomac Park

    The local racing venue in the early 1960s was the a loop at the polo fields at West Potomac Park. In the early 1960s, the track style races on the road were still the norm. The races at the "Polo Grounds" were only informal, unsanctioned events, announced in "The Spokesman," the local racing newsletter. The actual course is gone; the back stretch now runs through the Roosevelt Memorial.

    I have not found any evidence of racing at Haines Point in the 1960s. 

    Location of the polo-fields course in West Potomac Park. The finish line was at the present-day Roosevelt Memorial

    Racing in West Potomac Park in the 1960s. Charlie Towers and some of the Matthews brothers. From the collection of Mel Pinto in the NCVC archives.

    Beltsville Speedway

    The '65 and '67 track championships were held at the Beltsville Speedway, now closed, in Beltsville, Md, which opened in 1965.
    • More Information: history of Beltsville speedway on Wikipedia

    The Seneca Road Course

    Several issues of "The Spokesman" from 1965-1967 mention local racing on the so-called "Seneca Road Course." Interviews with racers from that era confirmed that the course, shown below, is the same as that is used in recent editions of the All American Road Race. 
    Route of the "Seneca Road Course" from the 1960s, drawn on a contemporaneous USGS map
    • More Information: the Seneca Road Course in 1965-1967 issues of  the Spokesman


    Anecdotal evidence exists that there was racing on the Westgate course that was the mainstay of mid-week racing in the 1980s and 1990s. The race course is on the site of the current Capital One headquarters in Tysons Corner--the course is completely obliterated by new construction.

    • (GPS coordinates: 38.925073, -77.211333) 

    Other Events

    • Championship events, for the track-style races, were also held at the Dorsey Speedway in Elkridge, and the Dominion Speedway in Manassas. 
    • Road events took place in the Beltsville Ag Center, near the NSA, and at other locations. The Spokesman is maddeningly vague about the exact courses, distances, and times. 

    The Racers

    If today cycling is a fringe sport, in the 1960s, it was completely underground. In 2014, USACycling had nearly 50000 licensed racers, and 2000 of them live in the DC Metro area. In 1967, the USAC's predecessor the Amateur Bicycle League of America (ABLA) had 1970 members, and only 72 of them lived in the DC-metro area. Even so, the area produced several racers in the 1960s who who went on to national prominence in the 1970s and 80s.

    Mike Hiltner

    Interestingly,  Rockville Cycle Club's Mike Hiltner was the second Mike Hiltner to be named to a 1960s Olympic cycling team. The first Mike Hiltner, from California, won the inaugural National Championship Road Race (1967) and competed in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics. DC's Mike Hiltner was named to the 1968 Olympic team, but did not compete.

    Fun fact: the older Mike Hiltner changed his name to Victor Vicente of America

    Chris Meerman

    Chris Meerman may have been the singularly most dominant racer in the DC metro area in the 1960s.  As a Junior in the mid 1960s, he was the 1967 National Best All-around racer champion and won the junior race at the 1968 National Capital Open.  Meerman died of a heart attack in 1985 while warming up for a street-sprint event in Allentown, Pa.

    Carl Leusenkamp

    Leusenkamp started out his career racing for the Rockville Cycle Club. As a senior in the 1970s, he was primarily a track sprinter, and was three times on the podium of the National Championships in the sprint and twice at the Pan American games. He spent most of his cycling career in Portland, Oregon racing at the velodrome there. Interestingly, he was Mike Hiltner's brother-in-law. Leuesenkamp died (of cancer?) in 1990, in his early 40s.

    Bobby "the Baltimore Bullet" Phillips

    If Leusenkamp and Hiltner flowered into regional racers the late 1960s, Bobby Phillips was already a national figure by the mid 1960s. He was the 1963 Junior Best All-rounder, and 1965 Senior Best All-rounder. He went on to win the 1970 and 1972 ten-mile championships and the 1985 Veteran Criterium Championship. During the 1970s he rode for the dominant New York City CRCA team. 

    Ray "Jug" Matthews

    "Jug" Matthews was the son of Ray Matthews, Jr, who was the driving force behind the creation of the Federation of Washington Area Cycle Clubs, and the resurrection of the National Capital Open after a six-year interruption. Matthews placed second at the 1960 Junior National Championships, competed as an amateur in Europe, and was the 1962, 1966, and 1966 Virginia State Senior Champion. 

    The Clubs

    Clubs in the 1960s were small, very local affairs, and drew their membership from a single town or small area. 

    The Federation of Washington Area Cycle Clubs

    The FWACC was a "club of clubs" created by Ray Matthews, Jr. It functioned as the promoter of the National Capital Open, and published "The Spokesman," the local racing newsletter.  It seems to have functioned much like a local racing association. 

    Rockville Cycle Club

    Members of the Rockville Cycle Club included  Mike Hiltner and Carl Leusenkamp who went on to national prominence in the late 1960s and 70s.

    McLean Cycle Club

    The McLean cycle club, was run by Simon Meerman, who owned a McLean lawnmower and bicycle shop. His son, Chris Meerman, was one of the national-caliber racers who came out of DC in the 1960s. 

    The Bikes

    At the start of the decade, single-speed fixed-gear bikes were the order of the day. It wasn't until 1965 that the predecessor to USACycling (the Amateur Bicycle League of America) even allowed derailleur-equipped bikes, and it wasn't until 1967 that it held a national road race championship.

    More Resources


    I thank all the people who have taken the time to talk to me and provide information and resources about the 1960s recently, including Gray James, Mel Pinto, Gerald Teeuwen (now deceased), Jim Hargett, John Cox, and many others.