Tech Director Update 1703


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Technical Director Update 1703

The racing season is just past its peak and being just past the Labor Day Holiday and I want to say thank you for all of your hard work this year whether on the road, track and mountain bike season to date.  It has been very appreciated.  For many of us, we work a pretty crazy season, with travel and time commitments that take us away from our families and jobs and sometimes we don’t always feel appreciated.  Take a moment and thank your co-workers at so many of the same events you worked together.  Sincerely express gratitude for what they brought to the events you worked this year.  I also want to take a moment and acknowledge all of our racers, officials, race directors alike, in the devastating paths of Hurricane Harvey and Irma. I know that your lives have been impacted greatly.  Please let your communities know how you are doing and if you have a need, share. I care and I know others in these communities do as well and stand ready to assist.

I’m extremely grateful for two officials in Colorado that I wanted to express recognition for in this update.  The first is Marco Vasquez.  Marco was following an early spring race where a rider collapsed from cardiac arrest.  Aided by a medical doctor riding in the field, Marco administered CPR.  The rider survived and today Marco was honored along with para medics and emergency responders for this lifesaving act.  I know that many among us have been in these situations and performed tough tasks with not always the outcome everyone wishes for.  This time it was a win and I’d like to congratulate Marco for his action and preparedness.

Secondly, I’d like to congratulate Andy McCord for being selected to officiate at the ongoing UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway.  Congratulations to him for his hard work and recognition by the UCI in his selection.  Our USA Cycling International Commissaries have officiated around the world this year and we are proud of their commitment to the sport. Please take a moment to congratulate Andy when you see him next.


In the United States, we are seemingly desperate to start the Cyclo-Cross racing! Yes, we have regions where road racing will continue, collegiate and high school mountain bike racing is starting, Master’s Track Worlds in LA, but changing seasons and diminishing available daylight, generally conspire against us.  So, onward and forward to cyclo-cross with eventually less than 8 hours of daylight and shorter race work days!  We permit more UCI cyclocross events than Belgium and we have 2 world cups and a continental championship in that count.  Officiating these events can still mean some long and cold days of work.  But, we do it because we love it, not because it keeps us warm!  Enjoy the season and temperate weather wherever you can.  Because these UCI events mix crews of officials, I want to share a reminder that officials who are recognized as international commissaires in cyclocross are welcome to wear their UCI uniform in those events, just as the UCI assigned international commissaire.

Report Card

I started this job off with the goal to do frequent Technical Director updates. I give myself a C- at the moment and will work to improve that frequency.  I can assure you that a lot happens here every week (and most weekends) that demand my attention.  Nearly every Monday and Tuesday, concerns about races, discipline, complaints and officiating concerns roll in.  By Wednesday and Thursday, most of those things are smoothed out and by Friday, requests for things on an unreasonable timeline pop up.  It’s like the tide.  Just as the ocean tides have purpose, I want to share what I learn from those experiences.  I have no vision that this is about never having a complaint to start my week!  I do have a vision that you will be well equipped to take on and make the tough calls in a manner that represents USA Cycling’s officials well; balanced, knowledgeable, professional and communicating.  In order to be timelier, I have (#gasp) created a Twitter account in order to pass on technical information and reminders with greater immediacy.  You can follow me at @TD_USAC.  So, off we go regarding what we are learning out there!

Competitors with foreign licenses

One of the beautiful things about USA Cycling is that we are part of a connected, global community or racers and officials through the UCI.  In order for that kind of harmony to exist, we rely on following the international standards regarding licensing for our riders who want to compete in foreign countries and the same for riders wishing to compete here.  For US riders, they must possess what we refer to as a “UCI International License” and a Foreign Permission Letter (FPL)-more on that below.  The license isn’t a UCI license, rather it is a USA Cycling license that fulfills all of the requirements for that rider to compete internationally according to the UCI.  It has proper language (English or French), identification details (11 digit UCI ID as it is called now), the rider’s name and UCI Class (Junior, Elite, Master), Gender and Club or Team affiliation.  That license is also an agreement that the rider maintains the UCI required insurance, such that when you travel abroad, you are insured for liability and accident insurance. 

How do we know that all of this is in place, based on the presentation of a UCI affiliated license we may have never seen?  A Foreign Permission Letter is issued.  This letter states that the member is in good standing (not suspended, no discipline concerns) with the issuing federation and confirms that the rider presenting this license has the required UCI compliant insurance and has permission to compete abroad (normally specific country or countries, perhaps specific races, for a determined amount of time.)  Our members must have this same information when they go abroad as well. Canada and Mexico are neighboring countries with whom we have a cross-border agreements to allow each other’s athletes to compete between our countries without an FPL.  The licensee must still be able to demonstrate that they have the appropriate insurance. When insurance is in doubt, have the rider buy a one-day license to create event specific insurance coverage.

In summary, riders licensed by a foreign federation (besides Canada and Mexico), competing in a USA Cycling event, should present both a valid international license and an FPL. Take a moment to review Appendix 5: Foreign Permission Letters, in our rulebook.

What field does a foreign rider belong in?  If there isn’t a ranking categorization that you can make a reasonable comparison with, it’s a best guess and normally self-selection.  Remember that the UCI categories of Elite (23 and above), Masters (30 and above, selected by the athlete) U23 (19-22) and Junior (17-18) are simply what we call “classes”. A 25-year-old rider can be a category 5 and is still an “Elite” under UCI licensing standards.  Someone with an Elite status doesn’t automatically belong in the Pro/1/2 field. Obviously, a rider with 10% body fat, helmet stripes between their neck tan, Elite status, and young, should be started in a Pro, 1, 2 field.  The rest have some discretion to pick their field, but if you see the rider more than once and believe they are sandbagging or riding way above their declared category, move them up. In the end, we want people to compete in a manner that is safe and fair.


Perhaps one of the greatest tools you have as an official is listening. What is the other person saying? What are they concerned about? What are they upset about? For yourself, what is it that you wish they heard you saying? Is the concern about the issue or the side effects? Something that I learned a long time ago are the four steps of accountability. Accountability for my decisions and actions and especially my reactions (it-how I feel; angry mad, used, abused, insecure, unheard, etc.).

  • “It” is never about the other person or issue, it’s about me.
  • What did I do to set “it” up? (I took the bait, I dislike that personality type, all people who confront me must be liars because I have to be right, etc.)
  • What did I learn?  (I’m in love with being right and I’ll stop at nothing to prove it; I felt attacked and needed to attack back; I felt my authority was questioned and didn’t know what to do, etc.)
  • So-what, now what? (I’ll handle that differently next time because I recognize my issue, it’s time for a fresh perspective, I can do this, etc.)

As I remember this about myself, I can look at a situation and do a bit of reverse engineering on the part of the person I am listening to and sometimes “hear” a bit better. It hopefully allows me to take on the same perspective that I want the person filing the complaint to hear, “it’s not personal, it’s not about you as a person or what defines you, it’s a decision”.

When we have those interactions that we know didn’t turn out well (and no, not all go smoothly and not all people with an issue are open to calm dialogue), take a moment to assess what “got to you”? When someone “gets to you”, it becomes personal; fight or flight, winners and losers, right and wrong. Your ability to deal with the situation is impaired and you are now down one of your most effective tools in dealing with a situation. When your reaction overshadows the complaint or your reaction creates the desire to hurt/shut people down with words, personal attacks or angry outburst, something is up for you and you should figure it out before you put yourself back into the field of play.


I often joke to my crews that only the Chief Referee should wear the highest level of uniform on a crew.  If everyone is wearing ties, I wear a jacket as well.  If no one is wearing a tie, I wear a tie.  If everyone is in a polo, then I have a button down.  No, I don’t email crews for advice on what they are wearing, but I do want to present myself as the person to talk to.  It works.  Wear a tie with your uniform where everyone else is trying their best to stay cool and people will automatically assume you are in charge-no one else has to wear that, so extra responsibility is assumed!

I’ve received a number of concerns lately where I have asked if the information being shared with me was presented to the officials at the event, there is often a long pause (hesitation means, no!).  There are a number of possibilities for this reaction.  Complaints via email have a nice safety component to them; no one interrupts the author, scintillating brilliance and logic is achieved and levels of persuasion that could end the middle east crises are displayed. J  Why do riders avoid us?

  • Repeated interactions with us has been intimidating
  • The don’t feel they have been listened to repeatedly or told that the rider doesn’t know what is going on, how tough it is to officiate, etc. (see Listening/Reactions above).
  • Chief refs that don’t interact with the riders, just “bark and start” personalities.
  • Chief Judges that refuse take a protest or won’t write information down, (asking the rider to write their protest down is a way to write information down!)
  • Challenging the rider with “I’d like to see you judge/officiate a bike race”.
  • Sometimes officials appear intimidating.  (How many of you want to walk up to the big guy on the Harley, lots of tats, leather and a large chain hanging from their belt and ask where the nearest ice cream store is?  They may be the nicest person in the world, but we judge and make assessments all the time!  Motor refs can be appear especially intimidating, because they are wearing helmets and crash gear and are riding big motorcycles!

All of these examples are possibilities that riders have in not choosing to approach us. Think abou it. Are you approachable?

Approachable officials are confident officials.  Not as in being right, rather as in being willing to engage.  If you have the responsibility to remove someone from the competition, then you have the equal responsibility to hear that person out.  Giving them the non-personal, non-attacking reasoning of your decision after hearing their protest means you are approachable.  To tell someone that they’ve been disqualified doesn’t always mean you’ll get an argument.  Delivering the message, “I disqualified you today for drafting the support car for 5 miles”, is different than, “Don’t you know the rules? What a cheater, I saw you draft that support car for 5 miles and I bet you didn’t think I’d catch you!” (for extra credit homework, go back to Listening/Reactions and decide what’s up!) 

We can’t devote hours and sometimes even more than a few minutes with some of the calls we have to make.  We can’t always deliver an envelope with a summons to a rider on the road, nor engage in lengthy debate beside the rolling peloton.  If the decision is clear and not open for discussion, then allow the person to speak, advise them of your responsibility to decide, that you have done so and now there is more racing that you have to attend to.  Invite the person to write up their concerns.  Invite them to discuss it after your responsibilities are complete.  Invite them to be heard even if the decision isn’t going to change.  Whenever a decision might need back up or more information, involve more people.  Ask the assistant referee who reported the incident to be present (don’t throw them under the bus!). Simply ask the assistant referee to listen to the complaint, then ask what they saw (asking both parties to listen) and then address the complainant with your decision.

Did you read this and imagine yourself in these scenarios? If you did, were you calm and in charge of your emotions? In charge of your decisions? I hope you were or at least you were challenging yourself to get to that point. We are officials because we can do this kind of tough, life’s not fair, person to person interaction. It’s what sets us apart. Rise to the occasion. Be proud of what you can do.

I hope these items I’ve shared found a way to speak to you and your work as an official.  We’ve got great people on the ground working our events day in and day out.  Up your game. Help others do the same.

Wishing you the best in your officiating as we transition seasons,

Randy Shafer
Technical Director



This Article Updated November 7, 2017 @ 12:04 AM For more information contact: