The past two leaders of USA Cycling participated at the sport's highest level, one of them racing in the prestigious Paris-Roubaix and the other winning a masters world championship.
Rob DeMartini prepared for the job in the offices and board rooms of Proctor & Gamble.
That is exactly why USA Cycling's board of directors picked the longtime marketing executive to take over the sport's national governing body, a move announced on Monday. Derek Bouchard-Hall and Steve Johnson had their successes during tenures as president and chief executive, yet there remained a disconnect between USA Cycling and the business world that was hindering its ability to accomplish its goals.
Without enough sponsorship support, USA Cycling struggled to build its membership and find the resources to support athletes preparing for major events such as the Olympics.
DeMartini spent 20 years working with such brands as Gillette, then spent time with Tyson Foods before taking over New Balance about 12 years ago. He built the running and athletic apparel company into a market leader, increasing revenue from $1.5 billion in 2007 to $4.4 billion last year.
As for cycling? Well, he hasn't raced on the pavements of Europe or the pine surface of a velodrome, but DeMartini is an avid amateur cyclist.
"His passion and ambition for both the future of USA Cycling and our sport is inspiring," USA Cycling chairman Bob Stapleton said. "He also brings the proven leadership, commercial success and the resources to elevate USA Cycling and to do more for our members, partners and athletes."
Part of that involves preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
USA Cycling has scratched for funding for years, and rivals such as Great Britain — with support from its national lottery — have used their resources to lap the Americans.
Bouchard-Hall, who resigned at year's end to take over Swiss apparel company ASSOS, began to lay the foundation for the future by restructuring USA Cycling. He hired Scott Schnitzspahn as vice president of elite athletics and Chuck Hodge as chief of racing and events. The organization revamped its coaching staff at just about every level and in nearly every discipline.
"I look forward to working closely with Chuck in support of our members, event directors and race officials as well as Scott to prepare our riders for the Tokyo 2020 Games," DeMartini said. "I'm excited to join this capable team and very optimistic that we can better meet members' needs, grow the leadership role USA Cycling plays in our industry and make all disciplines of cycling stronger."
Along with his focus on elite athletics, DeMartini will be asked to rebuild a membership base that has been dwindling for years. The organization is considered an afterthought in the grassroots cycling world, where races, group rides and other events are often held without its oversight.
In some ways, DeMartini will be attempting to replicate what he did at New Balance, when he helped the shoe company became an integral part of the running community.
"Rob was a great partner while leading New Balance," said Michael Capiraso, the president and CEO of New York Road Runners, which puts on the New York City Marathon and other events. "Rob has a great feel for the power of partnership and community, a skill that will surely benefit USA Cycling and the sport of cycling in the future."
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