For all the time we devote to our sport — training, traveling and racing — it’s hard to imagine that any of us invests more than Dave Fowkes. As the Illinois Cycling Association’s technical director, he’s responsible for processing hundreds of upgrade requests and dozens of race permits each year. In addition, Fowkes, the head athletic trainer at Highland Park High School, is a prolific official, working regional and national events in all disciplines. He is also responsible for training new Illinois officials (the next clinic is April 21), and last May he was one of 12 officials to pass USA Cycling’s national commissaire class, the highest certification level available in the U.S.
He may not always rule your way, but there’s no denying that racing in Illinois would be diminished without him. I recently hit him up to learn more about the man who touches so many of our palmarès.
What kind of riding do you do yourself?
I mostly do road rides. I really don’t know if riding the trainer counts. Winters can be rough in Chicagoland. When on the road it is a set time frame in which to get a ride in then it is off to other stuff, mostly cycling related.
How did you get into the officiating racket, and when?
I had been riding for a few years when I decided to go back to school for an advanced degree and with that my training went out the window. I wanted to continue to be involved with cycling so the next best thing was to become an official. I became an entry level official in ’95-’96 and my first event was at the track, which was cancelled due to rain.
How many races do you work in a typical year?
35-40. This includes local, NRC and national events.
Aside from the races, how many hours do you spend processing permits, upgrades and the like?
Some days are better than others. The process takes quite a bit of time particularly if necessary information is not included in the original paper work or request. If you ask my wife she would say I spend far too much time and that it consumes me.
What was different about the racing around Chicago when you started?
It seemed simpler. I showed up and raced my bike and then I went home. Now I am part of an association responsible for coordinating events and the behind the scenes things that go on to put on an event.
Do you ever get a chance to step back from your duties and enjoy the unfolding races?
Part of my duties as an official is to see the big picture of the race. Seeing it unfold and anticipating what could happen next is important. There have been many thrilling finishes, from juniors battling out the sprint to a P/1/2 all-out drag race.
I expect by now you’ve seen it all, from grown men getting petulant over their Cat 5 results to goofballs trying to sneak their tandem into a cross race. What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve seen at a race?
Each event brings new thrills and challenges. Riders always seem to keep me on my toes.
What’s something you wish new racers would know before they started?
Basic race terminology: What does the bell indicate, what is a prime, what is a free lap, etc. Most of all how to properly pin on their race number.
What can we do to make official’s jobs easier?
Become an official. If not possible, then to understand the role of an official and which official does what at a race.
Rare is the race around here that doesn’t end with complaints about the “sandbagger” who won. Do these ever reach your ears, and what actions, if any do you take as a result?
Yes, these rider concerns do get to me but not as often as they probably should. I look at a riders results and if warranted I can and will impose an automatic upgrade.
A lot of riders ask me about American Bike Racing races and whether they will count toward upgrades, but even I ‘m confused. How much consideration, if any, do you give to ABR when considering upgrades?
Some new verbiage in the rulebook states only races permitted by USA Cycling or foreign races permitted by a UCI-affiliated National Federation will count for upgrade. Years ago there was a reciprocity agreement between USA Cycling and ABR but that agreement has not been in effect for a few years. So in short, no, ABR races are not considered for an upgrade on a USA Cycling license.
What are the chances we’ll see you officiating Chicago 2016?
Wouldn’t that be something.