Inside the mind’s of the world’s elite mountaineers

Mark Synott’s The Impossible Climb is a testament to what a human being can achieve if he’s willing to allow his own vision, develop his natural talents and skills, and challenge himself to life-or-death risk. It’s about the small but focused group of people who rock climb the towering, seemingly impossible walls of rock that pepper this beautiful planet of ours. Specifically, the book tells the story of rock climbing as a sport, culminating in the now famous free climb (ropeless and without any mechanical or safety aids of any kind) up the Freerider route of El Capitan in Yosemite by Alex Hannond.

The route, laid down in the past few decades and achievable by only a handful of human beings with safety and climbing aids, had never been free climbed. Immortalized in the film Free Solo, the climb epitomizes the way that some human beings are able to perform extraordinary (almost otherworldly) physical and mental achievements. Unlike the film, Synott’s book is not solely focused on what people in the tight-knit climbing community call the greatest physical achievement of any human being ever - Hannond’s El Capitan free solo. The book instead pulls at multiple threads to help the reader fully understand Hannond’s accomplishment.

Synott, a long-time member of North Face’s elite climbing team and contributor to National Geographic magazine opens the book by bringing us along as he discovers climbing at a young age. He helps us understand some of the technical terms, such as the way a climbs difficulty is measured and rated. He teaches us the difference between top-roping (climbing with the protection of a rope in place), leading (climbing ahead of the rope and placing it into bolts [hooks] drilled into the rock by prior climbers along the way), on-sight climbing (leading a climb successfully without ever having seen it before), and free climbing (climbing with no aid). He shares how some of the pitches (most long climbs are broken into the named section about the length of one climbing rope; Freerider, for example, is thirty-five pitches and takes an average of four days to complete forcing climbers to sleep in hanging bivouacs on the side of the mountain).

Synott also carefully builds our understanding of the history of climbing in Yosemite park, from the early pioneers who mapped the first routes, to the scruffy gangs of climbing maniacs who scoured and scored new paths up every massive wall in the valley in the past five decades.

Synott also does an amazing job of bringing the reader inside the dynamics of the ultra-climbing community. We see competition among styles of climbing (European alpine climbing versus the technical free-climbing typical in the Yosemite-bred clans). We learn of the unwritten rules that climbers operate under (when Hannond is on Freerider, for example, there are numerous anchors and bolts he could have used to make his climb easier and safer, but he eschews them all for the noble pursuit of actually pitting his human self against the natural features of the mountain).

We also learn the risks. The book describes numerous accidents and death; friends and colleagues lost to the sport. The book also takes us inside the risk, reward, safety, and purity arguments climbers have. All this groundwork lays down a foundation of respect and tension for the challenge Hannond took on for himself.

The book is a great read. Peering into the minds of this group of exceptional human beings is a humbling experience for an average person like myself. And even though the ending (Synott’s witness of Hannond’s great climb and Hannond’s ultimate triumph) is no surprise, the journey the book takes you on to fully appreciate what you witness at the end is well worth it.


Fearlessness is not Courage

Lessons from Matt D'Avella's Ground Up Show

Episode 94 - Success Doesn't Equal Happiness

The Ground Up Show is a compelling interview podcast which features creative people (filmmakers, writers, musicians, entrepreneurs) sharing the story of how they are accomplishing their dreams. Created and Hosted by Matt D'Avella (the documentary filmmaker who is best known for Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things), The Ground Up Show is insightful and inspiring. I listen every week and always manage to take three of four practical lessons from each episode. 

In Episode 94 of Matt D'Avella's Ground Up Show, Matt has a conversation with Alex Banayan, author of The Third Door, a book of interviews with successful people on how they launched their careers.

Banayan is somewhat of a prodigy. He began his quest to meet high-profile business leaders at only eighteen-years old and scored sit-downs with people like Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Steven Spielberg, and dozens more.

The name The Third Door is a reference to what Banayan says he learned is the true path to success, the key to breaking through all barriers to achieving big things in life. He explains the concept this way: "It doesn't matter if it was Maya Angelou for poetry, or Jane Goodall for science, or Quincy Jones. Every single person I interviewed treated life and business and success the exact same way. The analogy that came to me - because I was twenty-one at the time - was that it was sort of like getting into a nightclub."

In a nightclub, Banayan says, "There are always three ways in. There's the first door, the main entrance, where the line curves around the block, where ninety-nine percent of the people wait in line hoping to get in... The second door is the VIP entrance, where the billionaires and celebrities go through... School and society have this way of making us feel like those are the only two ways in; you either wait your turn, or you're born into it. But what I've learned is that there's always, always a third door. It's the entrance where you jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door a hundred times, crack open a window, go through the kitchen - there's always a way in... It's a mindset. It's a way of viewing your problems. When you have a third-door mindset, really what it gives you is a sense of possibility that there's always a way."

Success doesn't automatically lead to happiness

The conversation delves into the subject of how we define success. Banayan recalls meeting with Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers. "Fifteen minutes before the interview, I get a phone call from one of my best friends... He's like, Woz is great, but he peaked twenty years ago... Try to find out why he wasn't as successful as Steve Jobs.'"

During the interview, his friend's question on his mind, Banayan digs into Wozniak's personal belief about success. Wozniak, he learned, rejected Western society's prescription for success. "He told himself when he was young 'What would I truly want to do that would make me happy?' He decided it was two things. One, to make things with his bare hands that uses engineering that changes the world. And two, to have fun while doing it." And Wozniak did seem happy. "Within ten minutes, it's undeniable that Steve Wozniak is the happiest person I've ever met. it doesn't matter if he's talking about his dog, or his cars, or his wife. Everything he talks about, he has this exuberant joy."

Still, Banayan's friend's question persisted. Did Wozniak compare himself to Jobs in terms of success? Woz explained that his relationship with Steve Jobs was fortuitous and powerful, but Jobs had a material-success focus. Banayan gave the example of when employees at the nascent Apple Computer wanted shares in the company just before the company's IPO. Jobs flatly refused. "Wozniak did the only thing he could think of. He gave some of his personal shares to these early employees. To him, they were like family. And on the day of the IPO, they all became millionaires." When asked what leadership he role he wanted in the ever-growing business (and he was assured he could pick any), Wozniak asked that his role be capped at Engineer.

"Who's to say Steve Jobs was more successful?"

So should Wozniak be seen as successful in comparison to Jobs? Banayan said his takeaway from the interview was that Wozniak's pattern of decision making, which favored personal satisfaction and happiness over the material-wealth-at-all-costs dream we're spoon fed to desire, gave him a different form of success than his more-famous business partner. "I'm sitting back at this Chinese restaurant with Wozniak. He's sitting back on his chair. He's laughing. He's smiling... And again, the question my friend asks me pops into my head. And the only thing I can think is, who's to say Steve Jobs was more successful?"

The danger of over-persistence

During the podcast, Banayan said when he started out on his mission to interview the world's most successful business people, that Warren Buffet was his dream interview. He attacked the goal of meeting Buffet the way he believed he should; with relentless persistence, writing, emailing and calling Buffet's secretary repeatedly. "Every week, I would send him a new letter. And every Wednesday, I would call his assistant. After three months of being rejected, it really hurts. By month six, you're coughing up blood. I'm twenty years old at the time too, so my sense of identity is completely attached to this project and this mission. By month eight, I'm completely dejected."

In the meantime, he managed to secure an interview with Buffet ally Bill Gates. "The interview with Bill Gates went so well that at the end, Gates' office said 'Let us know how we can help.' I'm like, Well, you know, I could use some help with Warren Buffet." They told him it was an easy ask, that Gates and Buffet were best friends. But, "I get an email a couple of weeks later saying 'Please, no more messages to Warren's office.'"

"You can pound on a door so many times, that instead of knocking it down, they call the police on you."

Banayan says he learned a lesson that is not taught enough. "Every business book talks about the value of persistence. But no business book warns you about the dangers of over-persistence, where you can pound on a door so many times, that instead of knocking it down, they call the police on you. I had dug myself in such a deep hole, even Bill Gates couldn't pull me out."

The difference between courage and fearlessness

The conversation moves on to the subject of hustle culture, the pervasive idea that the winners in life are the ones who have outworked everyone else. Banayan shares a perspective on the root of this belief and challenges it.

"Many times when people try to out-grind or out-hustle, it comes from (our) original fear. Thich Nat Hanh, the really famous Zen monk, talks about original fear... The second you come out of the womb is the first time you ever experience fear, the fear of death... You were in this womb where everything was taken care of for you. You had this umbilical cord, you have the embryonic sack. You were, in many ways, in heaven... All of a sudden you're in a room with bright light. You have to start breathing. There's liquid in your throat, choking you. You come into this world choking and about to die... That's original fear; trying not to die."

"Fearlessness is jumping off a cliff and not thinking about it... Courage... is acknowledging your fears... and then deciding you care so much about it, you're still going to take one thoughtful step forward anyway."

That original fear, Banayan says, manifests itself throughout life; as fear of death in the form of failure, or fear of death in the form of living a life that didn't matter. "When I started working on the book, when I was eighteen, I was completely consumed by fear. So naturally, one of my biggest questions was how did all these other people, who achieved these monumental things, relate to their fear? I just assumed that Bill Gates or Elon Musk had to be fearless, or else how else would they do what they did?"

Banayan says he was surprised about the role of fear in his interview subject's lives. "Not only were these people scared, they were completely terrified... It wasn't fearlessness they achieved. It was courage. And while it sounds similar, the difference is critical... Fearlessness is jumping off a cliff and not thinking about it. That's idiotic. Courage, on the other hand, is acknowledging your fears, analyzing the consequences, and then deciding you care so much about it, you're still going to take one thoughtful step forward anyway."

Subscribe to The Ground Up Show on YouTube or Apple Podcasts. Matt D'Avella has a Patreon page if you want to support him directly as well.


Lessons from Matt D’Avella’s Ground Up Show

Episode 92 - Slow Fashion, with Dani Nagel

The Ground Up Show is a compelling interview podcast which features creative people (filmmakers, writers, musicians, entrepreneurs) sharing the story of how they are accomplishing their dreams. Created and Hosted by Matt D'Avella (the documentary filmmaker who is best known for Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things), The Ground Up Show is insightful and inspiring. I listen every week and always manage to take three of four practical lessons from each episode

In episode 92 of The Ground Up Show podcast, host and creator Matt D'Avella interviews Dani Nagel, founder of fashion brand Dazey L.A. Dazey is what Nagel calls slow fashion; the counterpoint to the high-volume, low-quality, disposable-clothing approach of the fast-fashion industry.
Nagel makes clothing only on demand, once it's ordered, with minimal inventory. She uses locally-sourced materials and manufacturing. And her designs speak to theme's she's passionate about (her current collection contains messaging around sisterhood and unity and the roles those themes play within feminism, for example).

Nagel came to the slow-fashion movement from within the fast-fashion industry. As a tee-shirt designer at Macy's, she says "I just remember walking out to the warehouse and seeing like 5,000 units of this tee shirt design I did. (It) was just a dumb design. And I was like, where is all this all gonna go?" She says she realized that these shirts were never meant to last, that she was contributing to what she says is the second-most polluting industry in the world (behind fossil-duels). She then discovered the documentary True Cost, which highlights the toxic downside to fast fashion.

Nagel's fascinating Ground Up story starts with a fashion degree, then takes off when she's fired from a job for working freelance gigs off the clock against company policy. Here are my main takeaways from the episode:

Sometimes we leap, sometimes we're pushed

Nagel told Matt that after she earned her fashion degree, rather than pursuing her own apparel business right away, she took jobs in the fast-fashion industry. "Every young fashion designer wants to have their own clothing line," she says. "It's not realistic though. So I put that dream in the back of my mind and got an internship with a tee-shirt company. It had never dawned on me that I could do art and design and fashion fused into one thing. After that internship, I decided I was going to be a tee-shirt designer."

The internship led to a job, based in San Diego. The job led to others. "I got a job with Macy's in L.A. Then I got a job at Urban Outfitters. I was a job hopper." But a job hopper with a solid work ethic. "I put my head down and worked. I was a design machine. I would sit there, all day, and pop out designs."

With the dream of her own line still buried in the back of her mind, she landed at Hot Topic, "Which had an awesome company environment. They treated their employees like family." That comfort led to complacency though. And the dream started to surface. "It was so cushy and nice (at Hot Topic) that I got bored. I started listening to podcasts about entrepreneurship. I started doing some secret freelance work on the clock. I started posting my work online."

The challenge she was about to encounter was that as a corporate designer, her employer owned the rights to all her work output. "They saw me posting stuff on Instagram and that was it. I was fired."

With a head full of entrepreneurship content, Nagel launched into freelancing. She had to admit failure just a few months later and went back to designing for someone else.

Prepare for what you can, accept what you can't

Nagel said she failed at her first attempt to build a freelance business because "I had no game plan. I just thought I was going to make it work. I was listening to these podcasts, to these entrepreneurs doing amazing things, and I ran out of the gate believing I was going to do this, that I'm awesome." Besides no game plan, Nagel says she also suffered because "I was so used to that corporate paycheck that I couldn't handle the stress in between freelance gigs."

She went to work for a startup, a move she credits as vital to her development. "I was able to do things I was not able to at the corporate company." She gained experience in marketing, social media, photography. "Working with a startup is an awesome way to dip your toe in and get that experience that you don't get with your (limited corporate) job."

As well as gaining valuable work experience to apply to her own business, Nagel used the time at the startup to ready herself for the challenges she knew she'd encounter when she next took the entrepreneurial leap. Risk-averse and conservative financially by nature, she had been saving money for some time. "I was able to save up money and have a freelance plan," she says. "Saving up gave me the freedom to start my own business. And building up a freelance base kept me afloat for the first six months of my brand. That was huge."

She also had a much better perspective of what could happen if she tried again, and still fell short of her goal. "People get so in their head imaging the worst-case scenario. Sometimes you have to sit down and be like, really, what is that worst-case scenario? And is it really that bad?" For Nagel, she knew she would have to go back to designing for a bigger company. "Is getting a job again that bad? I had a decent resume. It was a little embarrassing when I got fired, failed at freelancing, and had to get a job again. But I was fine."

Build the team that expands your possibilities

Nagel left the startup to launch Dazey L.A. in 2016. From there, her Ground Up lessons are about the journey of building and growing a sustainable creative business. The first was to invest more than just money into her business.

Nagel said at first, her business was the combination of all her passions in one. She was the designer, sourced the materials, took the photographs, built the marketing, and posted all social media. It was a grind at times, but she was doing all the things she loved. "I wanted to do it all. And I had the energy to do it all. I was just so excited." But, she says, she had set an unsustainable pace. "I was just working too damn hard." She needed help.

"It took me a while to hire my first employee," she admits. "Once I finally crossed that threshold and did it, I realized it opened up so much more time for me to make more money and spend time on marketing the brand."

Hiring allowed Nagel to focus on the things she was best at, the things that could grow her company and today, her small team handles the day-to-day operations. "I know what I'm good at. I'm good at creativity. I'm good at branding and marketing. I'm bad at logistics. I'm bad at software. So I found people who are good at that stuff, people who are way more organized and almost keep me on top of things. They give me the freedom to focus on being creative and focusing on social media and Instagram."

Let go of anything not moving you closer to your goals

As well as investing in building a team, Nagel's Ground Up journey led her to understand that to be successful, you have to be thoughtful about how you direct your company's energy and resources. Nagel now regularly takes stock of everything the company is doing and make smart decisions about what to let go of.

One example: "We were focusing on wholesale," she says. "We realized that wholesale was a fraction of the money we were making compared to direct-to-consumer sales and (sales from) our ambassador program, yet we were putting the same amount of effort into it. So we decided to put (wholesale) on the backburner and focus on the things that made us more money."

Another example was the company blog. "As much as I loved to blog about things, and share images and thoughts, it just wasn't getting the views that were worth the effort that I was putting into it. My time was becoming increasingly valuable." So instead of continuing to invest her time and energy into creating blog content, she found someone to take that task on.

Dazey L.A. is currently hard at work on their next collection (around themes of authenticity and vulnerability). Nagel also recently co-founded the female co-working space Biz Babez in downtown L.A.

Subscribe to The Ground Up Show on YouTube or Apple Podcasts. Matt also has a Patreon page if you want to support him directly as well.


Why Made In Italy matters

Or, Does Made in Italy matter?

I am a partner in a small business with an Italian cycling clothing manufacturer called Santini. My company acts as the U.S distributor, meaning I import product from the factory in Bergamo, Italy and sell and ship it to consumers and wholesale accounts in the United States.

Santini is a proud and successful family business. Started in 1967 and well established globally as a leader in clothing for cyclists, Santini is run today by the founder's daughters. Santini makes almost everything bearing its label in its own factory and has about 120 employees, many who have been with the business for years, even decades. Santini has built long-term partnerships with the world's top professional teams, several of the world's most prominent cycling events, and the Olympic organizing body for the sport of cycling. They are masters at what they do and every year put out world-class iterations of padded shorts, tight-fitting and colorful jerseys, and all the other specialty clothes people who ride and race bicycles wear.

Americans seem to love all things Italian. Italian brands carry a certain cache. They are respected and sought after, even if they are Italian in name and not necessarily origin (an Italian company who makes product somewhere else to save cost). Italian products have such a good desirability factor that even completely non-Italian companies operating out of cheap-to-produce regions like China and South America adopt Italian-sounding names. But why? Why is Italian cycling clothing held in so much regard? Is it actually better? Is there something to the idea that it is somehow better than clothing made in other places?

I've been working with Santini for seven years now. Early in our partnership, at a U.S. trade show, Monica Santini asked me if Made in Italy truly matters to the U.S. customer. There were a lot of Italian brands at the show and the audience seemed to really like and admire the products. What was the audience reacting to? The fact that these products were authentically made in Italy? Or something else about them that could come from anywhere?

Ask anyone if Made in America matters and the answers come freely; to support your own country because we have labor laws so you know the people were treated fairly, to keep your hard-earned dollars in the U.S., because you believe Americans are industrious and smart and skilled so therefore their products will be superior. But Made in Italy?
My friends and acquaintances admit a certain lust for Italian products, but most are not able to articulate a real, tangible reason why it matters if it was actually Made In Italy. Because it's cool or because it's beautiful are the top answers.

I appreciate, and benefit from, the lust for all things Italian. But it's not enough for someone to want our products just because they're cool (or because some magazine or piece of marketing tells you they're cool). I would rather people made a more conscious decision. You have options. If you're going to choose Italian-made, know why. Make a conscious choice.

A formula for excellence

In my opinion, there are five main reasons why Italian products are special. I know some of the insights below are generalizations (they don't apply to every Italian company and could easily apply to products from other places). But for this exercise, these are my observations of what makes Made in Itlay mean something from time spent with Italian companies.

History: Even though many first-world nations have moved on from a manufacturing economy, Italy is still very much a country that makes things. Maybe because Italy is also a family-driven culture, meaning there are a lot of businesses in operation that makes things and are the legacies that previous generations are handing down to their offspring. This is true for Santini. They are a prime example of an Italian multi-generation family manufacturing business. For fifty-one consecutive years, a Santini family member has led the business. They have guided the development and design of the products, established the partnerships, managed the global distribution, and overseen and improved the manufacturing process. The standards that were set by the founder, that allowed his products to stand out in the early market for cycling-specific clothing, have been baked into the business. It is this fifty-one-year history that sets the framework for the everyday operation that leads to the quality standard the products enjoy. There are thousands of similar family manufacturing businesses in Italy, which creates a product culture tied closely to family pride and obligation.

Experience: Italian labor law favors long-term and stable employment. When you hire into an Italian business, you are making a long-term decision, and the company is making a semi-permanent commitment to you. Employees become like family and rarely leave. The experience they bring and the experience they gain while employed stays within the company. Santini is being run by the adult daughter of the founder. She grew up, literally, in the factory (the family had an apartment on the factory grounds when she was in her early teens). The business benefits from everything she's ever learned. There are seamstresses working on the factory floor who've been with Santini for over thirty years. In fact, across the business, there are hundreds and hundreds of accumulated years of experience at work making the products the company sells. That collective, institutional experience leads to better and more innovative products.

Passion for the product: If you ask an American company how their business is going, chances are you'll hear about their financial results. They'll tell you if they grew, if they hit their goals, how much profit did they make. It is normal for us in the U.S. to define ourselves financially because our culture tells us that the sole purpose and motivation for any business endeavor is profit. In Italy, if you ask an owner how their business is doing, they are much more likely to show you the products they are making and ask what you think of them. Could you see the detail that went into making it? Could you see the technological innovations that make it superior? This has happened to me repeatedly in Italy. I know that most people who make things have pride in it, but the way Italians put pride of product above all other measures of success is unique, and I think leads to better products.

A beauty culture: Some of the most stunning luxury products come from Italy. In automobiles (Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati), Fashion (Prada, Gucci) and in pretty much every other product category there is, the most aspirational brands are Italian. Italians (again, I'm generalizing, but this is an observation) take national pride in the global status of their iconic brands and the sense of flair and style they represent. This pride in Italian style and status impacts Italy at every level. It is as if you are representing Italy when you sell your products outside the country, and that you have a responsibility to all Italians to hold yourself to the bar set by brands like those above. There is pride in product in other places in the world as well, but only in Italy do I see that pride of product expressed as the responsibility of Italian companies to put out products that fit the Italian sense of place in the world as leader of style and fashion.

Technological mastery: Because there are so many companies still actually making things in Italy, and many of them are proud, family (or closely held private) companies, the Italian home market is extremely competitive. Small footprint manufacturers like Santini are always looking to innovate as a way to stay ahead. Santini has invested in high-end machinery in the factory to make their processes fast and repeatable and they work with like-minded suppliers to source raw materials that put their products on the cutting edge. In a world that says you should make things as cheaply as possible to maximize profit, Santini, like many Italian companies, focuses on investments that raise the level of their products and ensure what they make is the pinnacle of what can be done in their space.

So there you have it. The real reasons Made in Italy matters. It matters because not many non-Italian cycling clothing companies have over fifty years of history and experience perfecting clothing for cycling enthusiasts and racers. Not many outside companies have direct access to the technical innovation available in the Italian textiles market. Not many non-Italian clothing manufacturers invest in the equipment, processes, and people it takes to create durable, highly-technical clothing in a dependable, repeatable way. And it matters because Italian national pride is tied very closely to their position as the maker of the world's most coveted and beautiful things.

What do you think?


We Need You! (to become a cycling official)

The number of active cycling officials is dwindling. If it drops any further, the race calendar will have to shrink. Some races will cease to exist altogether. Are you willing to be part of the solution?

Could you, should you, take the USAC Officials exam?

There is an ecosystem to local cycling. Promoters (and their organizing collectives), God-bless them, work long, long hours, take incredible risks in securing permits, to give racers a safe, clearly-defined battlefield to compete on. They do this for little (sometimes even no) financial reward.

Timing companies, registrations services, and sponsors provide valuable services and support. Volunteers give their time and energy to help promoters make races possible. And the racers themselves! Oh, how we would all not exist without the racers.

Officials are just one part of the ecosystem, but vital. We are the mandatory, on-the-ground resource for the sanctioning body. That sanction ensures liability insurance is available to protect promoters and racers. It gives competitors rules under which the races happen and a path to greater and greater personal achievement.

We need new officials in Arizona (and, as I’m hearing from my colleagues, in many other active cycling communities across the country). Despite there being a good core of experienced, talented officials in my home region, there are only a couple of us who are active (take the regular, every-other-weekend local race assignments during crit and ‘cross seasons).

Local races need two officials, yet for two of the last three races, I have been the only person available. Working a race alone is not only the opposite of fun, it is unsustainable. We need backup to get the results right (as close to right as possible on the first posting), to keep the event on schedule, to be available to help riders with challenges, to manage accidents and incidents. And, maybe I speak only for myself here, we would also like the time and freedom to encourage and coach and promote the sport within the rider community we serve.

The rewards that come with sometimes long, stressful assignments

What can I say to you so you’d step up, take the exam, and become an official? Should I paint a dark picture of what happens if the sport has no officials (promoters would have to hire from out-of-state which would add travel and time costs that would simply bury smaller events)? Or should I spin officiating as some kind of pious and smugly rewarding pursuit?

Neither of those arguments do the role justice. The truth is that although the days can be long and tense, the work sometimes tedious and monotonous, officiating bike races...

  • Is a way to give back to the sport, to be of service to the racers, the promoters, the sponsors, and everyone else involved in the sport. Cycling has been an important part of my adult life. It has given me a healthy and fit lifestyle. It has challenged me to compete. It has given me work and income. It brings me mental wellbeing. Cycling gives a lot. I officiate as a way to give back.
  • Is a way to be part of the scene if racing is not your thing. I crashed badly in a crit in 2010 and did some physical and mental damage that means I don’t want to race crits anymore. But I wanted to be around racing. Officiating is a great way to be at every race, to see the action from the best position, and to immerse yourself in the race itself, all without the risks of actually racing.
  • Allows me to act as a guardian of a sport we all love. Cycling works as a sport because there are rules; a structure and format to the competition. Being an official allows you to support racers by acting as the independent voice at events for the rules.
  • Enables me to make a difference in the future of cycling. One of the best parts of officiating is helping junior riders live out their cycling goals. Without the local crit, ‘cross and MTB racing scenes, these kids would not really have cycling on their radars. Knowing what the sport does for me personally, I would not be able to live with myself if I let the door to cycling close on junior riders by not helping to to make opportunities for them to race and develop.
  • Let’s me support local shops and clubs that hold events that would not exist without us. Cycling thrives when all of its constituents thrive. Racing is one of the ways cycling brings new people to the sport, and one of the ways the business community of cycling can interact with riders. Officiating allows me to play a part in enabling riders and the business of cycling to come together in the real world.

Take the USAC Official Exam

It’s not hard to become an official. There is an online course that gives you the basics. USAC also offers occasional classroom sessions. The cost is minimal (and under some circumstances free for first-time officials). I and many of my colleagues are ready to mentor you into your first season; to teach you what the course material touches on, but does not adequately cover. And there is a technical team at USA Cycling ready to give you opportunities to grow and develop (to ultimately work at national-level events, to gain additional certifications that add variety to the kinds of races you can work, and to offer you courses and seminars so you can elevate up the officiating ranks).

You’ll begin as a C-level official. For your first few races, you’ll be paired with someone with more experience until you’re ready to take a leadership role. You are paid (nominally, but enough to legitimize your presence as a professional) to work races. And you get to say no to any race assignment offered to you.

So here is my plea. Everything is in place and ready for you to get started as an official. The sport needs you. My colleagues and I are ready to help you through the process. Contact me if you have questions. All we need is for you to raise your hand.

What do you say?

- Steve Medcroft