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USA pro’s walkout of race in Nashville.

Elites Take a Roll Out…And Keep Going

June 2, 2013

 

The relationship between BMX pros, and those who pay them has been contentious, pretty much since there were pros to pay.  Sunday, in Nashville, that long-history flared up with a new chapter being written, as the whole of Elite Men and Women classes staged a walk-off at the point in the program that would have been their third round.

The issue at hand was a dramatic and (to hear them tell it) unannounced drop in the prize money being awarded at the Nashville race.  BMX News has not confirmed the figures involved, but some of the riders who are speaking out on the subject say that the Saturday prize money for Elite Men calculated to be considerably LESS than 100% payback of entry fees.  On the Women’s side, a popular example is Dani George’s $12 check for eighth place.

Athletes are pointing to a post made by USA BMX on their website last December 04, heralding “Enhanced” payouts for the races in the 2013 national series.  These enhanced payouts promised a prize purse in the following increments, based on rider count:

REGULAR-SEASON TOTAL PRO PURSES:

AA-PRO 10-16 Riders = $5,000 17-25 Riders = $6,000 26-35 Riders = $7,000 36 or More Riders = $10,000

WOMENS PRO 16 or Less Riders = $2,000 17-25 Riders = $3,000 26 or More Riders = $4,000

Among the 12 weekends of pro racing noted in the “Enhanced payouts” posting, Nashville was/is one of the races on that schedule.  As was Oldsmar in March, as is South Park, and Louisville later this summer.

Looking at Saturday’s race, as an example, there were 38 Elite Men and 18 Elite Women signed up (37 men started).  That would have corresponded to a payout of $10,000 and $3,000, respectively, according to the above tables.

The actual Elite Men payout was said to be $1050 for the win and less than $2,700 total (though this is not confirmed).

Then, Sunday, meetings of riders and USA BMX officials trying to talk the issue through.

There were murmurs in the pits after the second round of Elites that some kind of gesture of protest was afoot, but what would it be?  A lot of the Elite men were in street clothes–and not “between motos” street clothes… “I’m heading to the airport now” street clothes.

As the second round of experts came to a close, the pros were called to staging for their third round.  Fans lined the fence; we, in the media, took our camera positions, ready to shoot the pros.  Suddenly, the gate dropped, but no riders were racked up.  A few pods of applause rose-up from insiders who knew what it all meant.  The gate was recycled, and the cadence rang out again…then again…then again–four times in all.  It seemed almost funereal in its ceremony–like the ringing of a bell for each victim of a shipwreck.

None of us really knew what to make of it until, moments later, the entirety of the Elite Men and Women classes came streaming out from the outside edge of the gate, down the hill and along the grass on the fence line (top, and above).   As they walked the length of the first straight, they high-fived, and slapped hands with the fans who were still stunned with what was happening.  Word started to ripple down the fence line, toward the first turn that this was in protest of the payout for the weekend.

At this point, nothing was “final” yet, as far as the race was concerned.  By all riders failing to start, everyone got a DNS (last place +2)–so the next test was “would they show up for the semis?”  USA BMX posted the semis, as they normally would, and called the Elites to staging, as usual.

When no riders showed up, the proverbial funeral church bell chimed again–four “dry” gate drops–and the Elite Men and Elite Women portion of the race was nullified.  Junior Men and Junior Women completed their racing, as scheduled.

A lot of speculation flew around the park after that, some saying the USA BMX officials told them not to bother showing up (which John David flatly denied), others saying they were protesting because they did not want to give UCI their money (except they already did, and it wasn’t UCI they were giving it to).

A few other pros said all would be forgiven next week in Salt lake, because they would be racing for the USA BMX purse (projecting their anger on UCI and not USA BMX).

USA BMX did not have comment for us at the time, as they were still in the middle of running a race, and a post-race message seeking comment has not been returned as of this writing.  At the time, they did point out this was a UCI race, and not a USA BMX Pro race (one main, not three mains), which seemed to mark a difference in their minds as to what the payout should be.  Non-UCI classes (A Pro, and Vet Pro) were paid out as normal.

The following is a message Joey Bradford posted on Facebook, which shines a little light into the rider’s perspective.

There has been a lot of speculation as to why the Elite Men/Elite Women did not race today, but here is the cliff notes summary:

The riders were not asking for MORE money, we were only asking for what we signed up for. USABMX made a big deal out of the enhanced payouts for the 2013 USA BMX pro series and the total purses were supposed to be dependent on rider counts at each national… but the payouts did not match what we signed up for.

Yesterday in Nashville 38 Elite Men/AA signed up, and according to USABMX’s regular season pro purse that should have fallen into the “36 or More Riders = $10,000″ category, but they have now said that because they had to pay a few UCI expenses that our payouts were less than $3,000… TOTAL PURSE, which wasn’t even 100% payback from the Elite Men/AA entree fees – $130 x 38 = $4,940, and the total Elite Men payout was less than $2,700. Those expenses should not have come out of OUR pockets.

Now, we appreciate everything USABMX does, they’re BY FAR the best in the business but it does NOT say anywhere that the payouts will be altered at these USA BMX/UCI combined races… NOR WAS ANY RIDER TOLD BEFORE THEY FLEW ACROSS THE COUNTRY/WORLD AND PAID THE SAME ENTREE FEES. This was dropped on us after racing Saturday and when the riders asked for an answer we were only told they would try to figure it out NEXT week.

It’s difficult not to take that (in the same way) as when you’re a kid, wanting to go to an amusement park or whatever and your parents say “next week” over, and over, and over, and over until 8 months later you finally get to go.

The only reason this did not happen Saturday was because the pro PODIUM checks from Fridays race were left blank, so nobody knew what they made until after racing Saturday night.

To the fans/supporters standing out in the rain watching there in Nashville or live online.. sorry we couldn’t give you the show you were hoping to see, but something needed to be done. We may not have gone about it the best way, but whats done is done. Hopefully things change for the better going forward and I was happy to see all of the riders stick together on this.

 

It’s hard to see where this goes next.  As noted at the top of the article, pro uprisings are not exclusive to this generation of pros–they have happened in every decade a pro class has existed–though, admittedly more complex today because of Olympic qualifying, and a large international population we did not have in the 70s and 80s.

What IS new is the single-sanction landscape in the largest BMX racing market on the planet.  Does an elite rider protest have any juice when there is no place else to race?  The coming weeks are likely to write those fresh pages in the BMX history books.

 


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