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  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

Here's another Nail in the Coffin of Amateur Sport!

(Updated 23rd May, 2024)


UCI Masters Cyclist

I've contested the UCI Masters MTB World Championships several times and won thrice, plus won the UCI Masters Marathon World Championships once, last year. So, that's three Masters mountain biking world champs so far. However, this might be my last campaign at this level. I almost didn't enter this year's event, entering at the last moment. Let me explain why.


Competing in these events, needless to say, is expensive. Add up all of the expenses: bikes, repairs, and maintenance, travel, accommodation, UCI registration fees, event entry fees, travel insurance, and mandatory race insurance. Not to mention, as well, the losses for our business while we are away from New Zealand. It adds up to many thousands of dollars. I've always worked on a financial dent of $10-15,000 for each of these campaigns. One major concern for me, and surely for numerous other athletes (including those who are retired), is the significant increase in race insurance costs.


(Please note that the policies below can't be directly compared, but that's irrelevant. I researched to find the cheapest policy that was still acceptable for the UCI. Ultimately, each policy covered any medical expenses only for the period away from New Zealand.)


Here's what race insurance cost me in 2018 in US$:


Here's the premium for the most affordable insurance (in NZ$) I could find for this event in May 2024: (Are the insurance companies responding to post-COVID excess deaths and illness that nobody is allowed to articulate publicly — Just asking?):


The next best quote for my 2024 campaign was over $1,000. This kind of insurance is required for entry into these races, which are done and dusted in a little over an hour! Of course, this insurance covers my time away from NZ and while training, but do I really need it above my regular travel insurance, which I already have when in Australia? It's a costly doubling up that few people, including old-age pensioners, can justify.


Why am I not allowed to simply sign a legally-binding waiver to assume liability for any injuries incurred?


Pre-COVID, these events, celebrating healthy older athletes were growing in popularity. The UCI MTB Masters were usually timed to happen the week before a UCI MTB World Cup, or Crankwaorks show, as a kind of curtain-raiser for the Big Event featuring all of the pros who'd turn up early along with their huge travelling show of massive team trucks and sponsors. With each year of my attendance, I witnessed the trend for husbands, wives, partners, and UCI team crew members (some of them retired professional riders) entering to compete in the same race as the serious riders, such as myself. What's unique about these events is that anyone can enter, so long as they are old enough and have their UCI International Rider's Licence. It was becoming a wonderful participatory celebration of masters cycling.


However, sadly, post-COVID, I fear this trend for growing participation is now fully in reverse. For example, despite New Zealand being a relatively short flight from Australia, and having a thriving masters cycling movement, I was the only Kiwi entered in the cross-country races. While it hasn't helped that there's been almost zero promotion of the event by Bike NZ, the costs of entering these events are the killer. The insurance and other time-dependent entry requirements also preclude last-minute entries.


The UCI Masters MTB Cycling may no longer serve as a participatory celebration of older athletes, including retirees, which worries me. These events will become exclusive competitions dominated by the wealthy and only attended by athletes with high chances of winning. If this occurs, I'm concerned that the events will lose popularity and eventually cease to exist due to a decrease in income from entry fees and lack of sponsorship.



Conclusion


Cairns (Oz Cycling) has a two-year contract, so let's look at what can be done to build on the success of this year's event. From my standpoint, it's shameful that we don't have at least 50 Kiwis competing, and that the cost of health insurance cover for a one-hour event exceeds NZ$500.


Oz Cycling and Bike NZ need to collaborate to better publicise and build the hype for next year's event, and to come up with a scheme by which Kiwis can access the same or similar race insurance as their Aussie cousins, which is around Au$50.


By doing so, these events can flourish and truly become the celebration of masters cycling that they were always intended to be.

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תגובה אחת


Richard Justice
Richard Justice
18 במאי

Totally agree Gary. I had a trip to race in Glasgow last year for the UCI Age Group Worlds for road and time trial events - cost for the bike and race insurance cover was $1192 - and by the looks of your invoice screen shot, it was from the same "most affordable" option available on the market at the time. (And as with you, this in addition to the already comprehensive travel insurance policy I had in place.)

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