Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Controversy heats up--Heck of the North...A novel idea whose time has come. Or a sinister plot to introduce socialism and even worse into cycling.

Obama Making Push to promote the Heck-of-the-North (100 mile gravel road race on September 26th in Duluth) as G.O.P. Steps Up Criticism.

Part I: The changing face of racing in America...

[Source: The New York Cycling Times]

President Obama attended a discussion with Heck-of-the-North workers on Monday.

President Obama stepping up his focus on promoting the Heck-of-the-North race this week, the political battle over the plan working its way through Congress has entered a new register. With Republicans pushing back in more vigorous language, the president sharpened his own tone on Monday, but also eased his timeline for his ban on carbon frames made in China.

In a visit to the secret DBD Clubhouse here in Duluth, Mr. Obama held a round-table discussion Monday with a half-dozen roadies and mountain bike racers, while gravel road specialists were not included. But his message was directed at Congress and a growing chorus of critics of THE HECK OF THE NORTH.

“We’ve talked this problem to death — year after year,” Mr. Obama said. “Unless we act and act now, nothing will change. The need for reform is urgent and indisputable.” The president said that if things remained “status quo,” the nation’s bike racing system would only get worse and racing costs would continue to soar, "it already costs nearly $400 to race the 24 Hours @ 9 Mile up nearly 225% in ONE YEAR!!!!" He said the fight over bike racing in the US had devolved into a partisan battle for many Republicans and career for-profit race promoters.

“So let’s fight our way through the politics of the moment,” Mr. Obama said. “Let’s all attend the Heck of the North this fall in Duluth.” Yet there was a substantial easing of his August call for a complete ban on Chinese made, fancy-pants carbon sub-17 lb. bikes, he had set originally.

Hours earlier, Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, equated the HECK OF THE NORTH approach to socialism and spoke of a political “cabal” behind it.

Under the Heck of the North Plan, the vast majority of Americans will pay more to get less — it’s that simple,” Mr. Steele said in a news conference at the National Press Club here.

There is, in fact, to date, no “Heck of the North” United States Cycling Federation (USCF) endorsement— plus, the president has yet to endorse any of the approaches being worked on by Heck of the North committees. Still, Mr. Steele said, Heck of the North proposals would leave Americans with “fewer options and less care, and we still won’t cover all of the poor cyclists.”

Asked whether the emerging approach, which includes a new government-run plan to run a national gravel road series that would compete with private for-profit race organizations, constituted socialism, Mr. Steele replied briskly: “Yes. Next question.”

His remarks came after a weekend when the nation’s governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, voiced serious concerns about the up coming Heck of the North Race, during a meeting in Biloxi, Miss. Governors of both parties said they feared that Mr. Farrow & Mr. Kershaw (both just back from visiting Castro in Cuba) were about to impose expensive, albeit covert, new obligations on racers without supplying money to pay for them. Farrow & Kershaw were unavailable for comment.

Mr. Obama did not directly address Mr. Steele’s comments, but in his remarks Monday afternoon, his conciliatory tone of a few weeks ago turned considerably sharper. He said he would not sign a Heck of the North bill that did not reflect a commitment to slow bike racing costs over the long run.

Both political parties are seeking to mobilize support, even as the many and powerful cycling lobbies that would be deeply affected by change make their stances known. The president plans to speak on the Heck of the North Race at a prime-time news conference on Wednesday and in Cleveland on Thursday, and the White House plans to use Internet videos to spread the president’s message of support further.

Mr. Steele said the Republican National Committee was unveiling a “multiplatform campaign” using television advertisements (broadcast in Arkansas, Nevada and North Dakota) and a Web site —
www.HeckoftheNorthCommie-experiment.com — to explain its objections to the Heck of the North race and to lay out some "for-profit" alternatives.

The mainstream cycling industry also began airing a soft-toned 30-second advertisement on national cable television calling for bipartisan cooperation to “fix the Heck of the North Race” and make it “more in line with American values of blantant capitalism and intolerance of poor people racing bikes.” Yet, the approach is far less confrontational than the one the industry took in the early 1990s with its famous “Harry and Louise” advertisements, which helped stall the grassroots racing movement under President
Bill Clinton.

Although Republicans have issued no single alternative Heck of the North proposal, Mr. Steele said there were several steps that could be taken short of the Kershaw’s more ambitious approach. They included posting the costs of all bike racing and racing procedures on the Internet; simplifying paperwork and reimbursement forms; allowing racers to take insurance plans with them when they change races; making it easier for racers to buy insurance through professional or consumers’ groups; making it easier to purchase insurance offered in other states; protecting racers from frivolous lawsuits; and cracking down on abuses by race directors or other bike makers who use sweat shops in China.

“I think the governors would all agree that what we don’t want from the federal government is unfunded bike racing,” said Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican and the group’s incoming chairman. “We can’t have the Congress impose requirements that we are forced to absorb beyond our capacity to do so. First the Heck of the North, then full blown Communism with our daughters cavorting with Castro’s offspring…is that what the American people want. Just look what is going on in Canada?”

More to come on this in Part II of the series...............


  1. Lots of talk of the Dems and the Republicans, but no mention of a third party?

  2. And that's the LAST time I'm hiding cigars THERE.

  3. You left out the part, where in a conspiracy, organizers of the Heck of the North planned the date for Interbike weekend in an effort to keep Joe Meiser from participating in the event.