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Bike races, clubs go back to Grass Roots

WORCA considers joining rec association over Cycling B.C.



By Andrew Mitchell

Frustrated by the lack of support for clubs and recreational cycling events, Cliff Miller is taking his business elsewhere.

Miller, the race director for the annual Squamish Test of Metal as well as a former president of the Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association, will no longer be obtaining any insurance or sanctioning through Cycling B.C., the organization that represents competitive and recreational cycling across the province.

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Cycling B.C. was the only organization that could find an insurance company willing to provide affordable insurance to bike clubs and events, although rates more than doubled.

However, given some recent changes to Cycling B.C.’s policies, as well as what he sees as a lack of support for recreational clubs and local events, Miller saw the need for another kind of cycling association in the province.

Last week he launched the Grass Roots Mountain Bike Association of British Columbia with Curtis Roberts, organizer of the GearJammer. GRMBA is a registered not-for-profit group “designed to fill a void in recreational grass roots mountain bike event sanctioning.”

According to Miller, there were several reasons why this was necessary.

“For one thing, I found out that a $27 insurance policy (per rider) is really only $19, which means Cycling B.C. has been hitting us for $8 to support the organization,” he said.

“Number two, we see Cycling B.C. is trying to distance itself from recreational mountain biking to the point where the Test of Metal and GearJammer pretty much had to grovel to get one-day insurance from them.”

A new Cycling B.C. requirement will also impact club-level riding, adds Miller. Clubs will now be required to obtain a multi-club sanctioning, which requires the club to pay an additional $50 per race or $400 per year, as well as have a race commissioner on-site for every event, and file course descriptions a full six weeks in advance — an impossibility for events like weekly Loonie races in Whistler and Squamish.

The new sanctioning would also make it harder for SORCA members to take part in WORCA races, and vice versa, while requiring an $8 fee.

Lastly, Miller saw the decision a few years ago to do away with the Citizen racing class and to place all riders in age groups as a factor in lower turnouts to most cross-country racing events, making races more intimidating and less enjoyable for recreational riders not as focused on results. GRMBA would bring the Citizen class back.

Under the Grass Roots Mountain Bike Association, insurance will cost slightly less than Cycling B.C., but all members would be able to take part in other GRMBA sanctioned events with no additional fees. The $27 per member fee would include $5 to pay an insurance administrator, plus $2 to go into a pool that would help to fund an annual Grass Roots championship for participating organizations.

Another benefit is that GRMBA would allow for one-day race insurance purchases for all events, including Loonie races and Phat Wednesday downhill races.

“Now if a tourist comes out and wants to do a Loonie race with WORCA or SORCA, they can do it for $10 without having to buy the full membership,” said Miller. “I know that’s attractive for (SORCA) because every race we have two or three tourists who want to take part and we have to tell them no.”

GRMBA would also offer a similar level of insurance coverage as Cycling B.C., up to $5 million per event, which complies with municipal and government liability requirements.

“We don’t need Cycling B.C. and clubs (under GRMBA) would be able to cut all ties as GRMBA would provide everyone with coverage through Adventure Insurance of Canada,” said Miller. “There are about 5,000 club riders in the province, but Cycling B.C. has chosen to focus on elite level riders and events like B.C. Cups. GRMBA will focus on the recreational side, and get it back to what it should be.”

The only drawback so far is for athletes who need Cycling B.C. carded status to compete in provincial and national competitions. In the past they were covered at the club level by their provincial insurance, but they will now need to purchase a separate GRMBA membership and insurance to compete in local events like Loonie Races. According to Miller that will create an extra expense for the 700 or so carded racers in the province.

So far the Test of Metal, GearJammer, and Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association, have moved over to GRMBA, and the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association will discuss the option at its next board meeting. The North Shore Mountain Bike Association is also considering the move.

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