Planning a National Championship
National Championships

What it Takes to Plan a National Championship

By: Julie Goldsticker  April 26, 2022

Planning a USA Cycling National Championship event is no easy task.

The participants and spectators that attend USA Cycling National Championship events rarely see the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to make an event of that magnitude possible. In the average year, USA Cycling hosts approximately 20 national championship events with 16 slated to take place in 2022. Each cycling discipline and individual event provides its own different and unique challenges for all of the people who put each event together for USA Cycling’s members and fans. They all require extensive and detailed planning by a large number of people to ensure that the event takes place.

Multiple individuals and entities work together during the planning process to create USA Cycling’s National Championship events. Event planning begins approximately a year prior to the start of the event with USA Cycling’s staff working in conjunction with local organizing committees in each city where the events are held.

Multiple USA Cycling staff members are involved with each national championship event. Chief of Racing and Events, Chuck Hodge, has worked with USA Cycling since 2015 and he oversees the operations department for the organization. That includes multiple elements such as national championships, the national calendars, event sanctioning, officials, rules and more.

In addition to the several national championships that USA Cycling runs, the organization also sanctions approximately 2000 local events throughout the country.

Hodge shared the key elements to planning a national championship event, which begins with finding the ideal location. In 2021, USA Cycling’s National Championships were held in 15 different cities across 14 states.

“From my viewpoint, the biggest items are the process of selecting a location, working with the local organizing committee, and getting that process in place and then comes the actual planning in conjunction with them on how an event is run and managed. It’s our membership and the local organizing committee working together to make sure we have a great event,” Hodge said.

USA Cycling often works with the Louisville Sports Commission to host national championship events and their relationship goes back nearly 20 years. “For USA Cycling specifically, it’s been several national championships. Cycling has been a core discipline for because of our relationship with USA Cycling. It led us to own a cycling event of our own that we produced in our community, and we have hosted several UCI World Championships, said Greg Fante, Vice President of Sports Development for the Louisville Sports Commission.

USA Cycling and its staff work closely with the relevant local organizing committee to ensure that every event need is met and that can range from procuring volunteers to identifying the course and finding the necessary vendors for all of the event needs. “At the end of the day, they produce their championship. They manage their championship. We block the traffic to make it easy and efficient for them to produce that championship. We get the road closures, the permitting, we know where to get the port a lets. We know where to get the fencing out of the local community. The volunteer network, all of the things that are required to produce their event. We help them procure their items and we get out of their way and let them produce their event,” Fante added.

As USA Cycling runs multiple, unique events ranging from the Masters Track National Championships to the Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships, no two race weeks are the same. The ever-changing landscape on race days is the one of the elements Hodge likes most about his job. “I fill in wherever needed. That might be handling a press conference with the mayor. It may be briefing the police. It may be helping to put fence out in the morning. It’s one of the things I really love about this. It’s a different job every day and it really does depend on the specific needs of the event,” Hodge said.

The local organizing committee team balances a large load on race days as well. “We have an all-call meeting and go over what our job responsibilities are, road closures, meeting with law enforcement, discussing with law enforcement what the safety and security plan is going to be for the day. We talk about how we are going to close roads down, what the timeline is going to be on road closures and that includes when that first cyclist is going to actually be on the road, when the last cyclist is going to be off the road and then what the communications protocols are going to be. There is a defined communications plan that is laid out for the entire event week which might change based on where the event is,” Fante shared.

Safety and security are always top of mind for all of the event organizers and it’s a piece of the planning process that Louisville Sports Commission takes very seriously. “It starts with a safe and secure venue. In today’s world, the most important thing that we can do is be sure that we are staying current and up to date with what the local law enforcement and federal agencies are providing us with and guidelines as to how to produce safe, secure events,” said Fante.

Overall, creating and executing a successful event for the participants and spectators alike is a driving force for everyone involved in planning USA Cycling’s national championship events. “Our staff all does this for the love of the sport, participants, and members. We are lucky to have a very good staff who comes from a lot of other quality events and areas. We want to see the events succeed and the participants enjoy themselves and succeed. Despite the challenges, we work very hard to do that,” Hodge said.

USA Cycling’s next national championship event will be the 2022 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships, May 6-8, in Augusta, Ga.