By JO COOPER
There's very little future in cycling unless we're allowed to put it on a more professional basis," Jerry Mulrooney, President of the Southern
California Cycling Association said.
This year it looks like they're finally going to succeed in giving the struggling young racers the professional help they need to compete with cyclists in other countries. For years all the racing associations have tried to operate completely on a volunteer basis. last year the Soutnern California Cycling Association (SCCA) took a big leap in the right direction. They hired Chuck Pranke, famous Olympic racer and coach, as a paid Director of Cycling. The results were by having paid people running the program," Mr. Mulrooney smiled, "What we're doing is for the betterment of cycling, not a few individuals."
Primarily the SCCA controls and organizes all the racing in Southern California. they set the road calendar as well as the track calendar. they maintain the track (the Velodrome in Encino) with no help from the park or recreation department. this year they will have their own publication, a newsletter to all their members including entry blanks for up-coming events and the current racing wchedules.
They have made it possible for the clubs to get together and get insurance. "Liability is a very big problem," Mulrooney told me. "It's prohibitive in price to buy it indifidually and it's absolutely necessary. In one case last year a rider was knocked down by a dog during a work-out and sued a club for $350,000. If we hadn't had the insurance this would have cost us a tremendous amount just to defend ourselves, let alone a judgment. This is one of the big things our organization can do for the riders," he continued. "This year we intend to have medical insurance for every racing event, on a per day basis."
It's a shame that the ABL
(American Bicycle League) doesn't do this on a national level. One natiowide liability policy would be even cheaper than when a dozen clubs get together such as in the SCCA.
Money is always a big problem for racers. Their equipemnt is expensive, bicycles cost $750 or more, traveleing to races is expensive, insurance is out of sight, and of course the price of everything is going up. Yet at a heated meeting of the SCCA in February, nine out of the twelve have added Bill Jennings, from San Diego, as a paid Road Manager.
The SCCA started in 1961. Originally it wa just for track racing but now includes a road program.
The California Highway Patrol has almost eliminated road racing in Northern California and Mr. Mulrooney mentioned the difficulties in running road races here. "When you're working with all volunteer help, they all want to be at the finish line. You need to hire people to stand at a corner all by himself ten miles out."
"We are well aware that we need to become more professional and we can only do that clubs attending voted to approve the new proposal which included changing the membership from $25 a club to $25 a member.
This will enable the association to begin to realize their goal: to give professional help to our young athletes who so badly need it to compete in World events.
Everyone was in agreement that they should have something but it was merely a question of how much should be in the form of club dues. Most racers are disenchanted with the little help they receive from the ABL. For instance, the ABL limits the amount the SCCA can take per entry to 25¢. This is a very unrealistic figure. In the past the SCCA tried to charge 50¢ but the ABL stopped it. 25¢ an entry will hardly pay the upkeep at the Velodrome track.
In most areas cyclists use track provided and maintained by a Park
and Recreation Department. Here the Velodrome is the SCCA's baby. They
must pay for the lights, water, even attorney fees. It was almost taken away from cycling a few years ago. The group of people who had the master lease began to realize the
financial potential and wanted all the money for themselves. "We had a long fight and lost almost one whole season," Jerry Mulrooney said. "We had to bring in Congressmen and
everyone to support us. It was a difficult problem but we overcame that and now we're in pretty good shape. We haven't realized any excess dollars from it but we didn't go in the
hole last year."
This is a vast improvement over the Velodrome's past record. It was started in 1961 by three bicycle dealers who went together and underwrote the project. It was run entirely on a volunteer basis and the continuity was just not there. People got exhausted and couldn't keep up the amount of work necessary without being paid.
When Pranke took over in 1974 the attendance increased over the 1963 figures by 263%. "Last year," Mulrooney said, "with Chuck Pranke as a paid director, we had the most sucessful season ever, over $30,000. We had good prizes, excellent races, and foreign racers to compete with. You have to understand that the track is our main source of revenue because you have a fixed audience. You can't very well charge admission along the highway for a road race."
This year they hope to have the track open most of the year. They've just recently built a new moto-cross track inside the regular bicycle track. "With the rain lately, I can't give you an exact opening date," Pranke told me, "but we hoope to start with moto-cross racing a bout tyhe first of March."
There will be races every Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and practicing on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m.
Regular bicycle racing will probably begin in April. Pranke
expects to bring in some great riders from out of the country to compete with local riders
at the Velodrome. "The World's greatest amateur track rider for seven years, Daniel Morelon, and his coach Jardin "Toto" Gerardin are available if we can raise the revenue,"
"We'v performed quite well here," Mulrooney added. "In fact I think it would pay the ABL to look more carefyully into our program, consider it as a pilot program, and give us some latitude in what we're doing because without a doubt it's the healthiest program in the United States."
Most racing experts agree that the ABL, itself, should have been on some type of a paid basis for the past ten or fifteen years. The ABL was started in the East in the 1800's and sometimes it seems as if the same people are still running it. There is a widespread discontent with their ultra-conservative ideas, but all racers must be a member of the ABL to represent the United States in other countries or even to race in any ABL sanctioned race in the United States. The control has remained in the East, primarily in the New York area, although over 20% of the riders registered in the United States are from California.
Bob Enright is the ABL West Coast representative. He gets a small remuneration per rider but it's not adequate. It probably doesn't cover one-third of his expenses. "A lot of people say he should do this or that, but then everybody's free on criticism and not long on the doing," Mulrooney said when I asked if the association was displeased with Enright. "He does a tremendous job. If he decides to quit we're going to hava a serious problem. there again, it's unrealistic. Times have changed. Costs are up and somebody has to do the job and they aren't going to do it for nothing. We're not trying to work away from the ABL, but we're trying to get results."
at the SCAA's Encino Velodrome. (photo taken in 1972)
By Ralph Cooper, 4-23-08