Brendan Quirk takes over as CEO of USA Cycling

USA Cycling has appointed Brendan Quirk as new CEO to succeed Rob DeMartini, who unexpectedly stepped down this week.

“It was as much of a surprise to me as to anyone else when he made the decision to step down,” Quirk said. Cycling news Friday. “The board decided the best way to move forward was to make me an offer. I was so close to the organization and so actively involved, it felt like a really smooth and straightforward transition. “

Quirk just succeeded Bob Stapleton as chairman of the board in October after serving as vice chairman, and is now taking the reins of a federation trying to get out of years of declining membership.

Unlike DeMartini, who came to the New Balance federation and was meant to give USA Cycling a new perspective, Quirk is an industry insider. The 50-year-old has been a racer for decades and co-founded Competitive Cyclist.

He has since been Executive Vice President of Backcountry.com after purchasing Competitive Cyclist, and later North American President of Rapha. Originally from Bentonville, Arkansas, he was involved in the development of the cycling and touring industry in the Northwest.

DeMartini’s time as CEO was marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, which scuttled plans to increase membership as races across the country were called off. This led to significant budget cuts which impacted the high performance program responsible for building the Olympic team. One of Quirk’s important jobs will be to rebuild for the Paris Olympics in 2024 and the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

“We are fully committed to athletic performance,” Quirk told Cyclingnews before acknowledging the impact of the budget cuts on USA Cycling’s performance in Tokyo, where the US team missed its medal goal, winning a medal of gold, silver and bronze.

“We are the only cycling federation in the world that is not heavily funded by the government. Team GB receives a lot of money on an annual basis from the government and to my knowledge they haven’t lost a dime because of Covid. We don’t have that kind of luxury, and with all the unknowns around Covid, Rob had to make big budget cuts because we wanted to survive to fight another day. It impacted all parties. of the organization, including sports performances.

Amid uncertainty over whether the Tokyo Games or any other race would even take place or whether the team could travel, the staff were put on leave and Quirk and DeMartini both admitted they didn’t. not picked up quickly enough.

“The fog of war was in place and we were too slow to reinvest in the athletic performance program,” Quirk said. “It’s not like you can invest the money today and the impact will be felt tomorrow. It’s a long time to see the benefits… it takes a long time to put the components together. Jim Miller and his staff and the athletes of the US team suffered because of this.

“It wasn’t a lack of effort or talent, it was reduced staff and other challenges that put them on the back foot before Tokyo.”

Thinking back to Tokyo, USA Cycling realized the need to “make a significant investment in the sports performance program in order to bounce back and do much better in Paris, and much better in Los Angeles in 2028,” Quirk mentioned.

“We are fortunate to have a very strong base that believes in Team USA, and we also receive very great support from the USOPC and we are grateful for that support. I think we’re going to bounce back quickly. athletes who go through the system in all disciplines – between the investment, the talent and the coaching staff that Jim Miller brings together, I think we’re in a great position to enter Paris. “

Diversity and criticism

DeMartini’s resignation closely followed an outcry from the transgender community and its allies after the anti-transgender organization “Save Women’s Sport” held a protest at the National Cyclocross Championships in Illinois over the weekend. last, and officials did nothing to stop them from heckling trans. athletes competing.

DeMartini mismanaged an outcry in April over anti-transgender legislation passed in Arkansas, where the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships will be held in January, saying any boycott would be “ceremonial,” a comment Philippa York said. qualified as “unacceptable”.

When asked about the incident with Save Women’s Sport, Quirk gave a long, CEO-type bulleted list of all of USA Cycling’s diversity initiatives, but he also admitted that the event had not been adequately managed.

“We realized we didn’t have adequate policies in place to deal with protests and demonstrations at our events. The lack of policy at USA Cycling is something we will address in the future. feel like we’re headed in the right direction. Diversity for me as CEO is going to be an important part of our strategy. “

USA Cycling hosted an industry-wide inclusion conference, helped create a program with EF to fund cycling programs at historically black and tribal colleges and universities, the Let’s Ride program to bring young people disadvantaged to ride a bicycle.

However, this week, Liv Racing’s Ayesha McGowan announced that she had resigned from USA Cycling’s DCI committee, saying it was “a work in progress that seems slower than molasses” and “they keep adding more and more programs and stretching staff thinner while repeating the same mistakes they can’t seem to learn from. “

Asked about McGowan’s comments, Quirk disagreed with his assessment and said he believed USA Cycling and the cycling industry “have made great strides.”

“Anyone who expects us to do well in the first year of focused effort, this is a tall order. There was a lot of coordination and widespread engagement with many communities to get it right. Of course, we’re not going to be perfect, but that’s not going to put us off. These efforts will continue next year. “

Membership

DeMartini’s main goal was to reverse the decline in USA Cycling memberships and give non-runners a reason to register. The pandemic has done nothing to help the trend, but Quirk sees plenty of opportunity in the explosion of interest in cycling that has come with COVID-19.

“It’s an amazing time to be involved in cycling because of the growth in the business. We hope to find a way forward to be more relevant,” Quirk said.

“Racing is on the decline, but it’s amazing what we’ve seen in the increase in cycling in general. We need to create a better experience for current members and deliver more value to runners, club managers and event planners. with USAC This is a high priority, we really care about the existing members.

“We also need to be increasingly relevant in a much more dynamic cycling event environment than ever before. We need to serve this new generation of cyclists.

“We have a fascinating racing pass in 2022. It’s a lot cheaper than any of our racing passes. We work in partnership with a company called Spot to provide riders with additional insurance every time they are on a bike. “

Without national health care, even Americans with private health insurance pay higher premiums and see higher deductibles – a threshold for direct payments for care before insurance pays for everything.

“Most people have high-deductible health insurance plans, so if you break your collarbone it could cost $ 8,000 if you don’t meet your deductible. [Spot] insurance covers this difference from $ 0 to $ 25,000.

“It’s a big step forward for us to deliver tangible value to people who ride but don’t race. This is just the first step forward in a much more elaborate reason for people to join. “


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