BILLY INNES

Billy and I conversing at the NonProphet Event Center. photo by: Emily Alexander

 

Billy Innes is:

  • An artist
  • A former professional cyclist
  • The former Junior National Team Director for USA Cycling
  • A role model for young men pursuing their dream of becoming a professional cyclist at the highest level
  • One of my closest confidants and a dear friend occupying what I like to call my inner circle – members of this circle are few and do not require both hands when counting

Billy Innes is not:

  • A racist

Why am I posting something like this on my professional website dedicated to how I earn a living?

Because integrity matters.

Because standing up for your friends, especially those friends who excel in the same field professionally matters.

Because calling “bull shit” matters and what happened to Billy last year was exactly that.

And, because I am still pissed about what happened to my friend nine months later.

I do not throw the term “friend” around like so many others do particularly in this age of “likes”, “kudos” and “friending”. If I call someone a “friend”, particularly a “close friend” that is because that individual earned it. It means that I trust them, that I believe in them and that I can count on them when the chips are down. It also means that I am willing to go to bat for them when necessary – it is necessary now.

For close to a decade Billy was the Junior Men’s National Team Director for USA Cycling. During that time he guided well over a hundred junior men ages 15-18 in their pursuit of becoming a professional cyclist. His program produced numerous victories at the international level including two world championship titles and a handful of world championship medals and was instrumental in the development of the current crop of American World Tour riders. To say that the program was successful under his direction would be an understatement.

In the Spring of last year Billy was told in no uncertain terms that he had a choice of resigning or being fired from his position of USA Cycling Junior National Team Director.

The reason?

Because he stated a fact on social media.

I am not going to go into the details. I will however direct you to a podcast (Episode 157: Cancelled) that was recorded at the NonProphet Event Center back in October in which Billy describes what happened.

Please listen to it.

I am also pasting a copy of the email that I sent to Rob DeMartini following the “choice” Billy was given. I have yet to receive a reply to that email.

Mr DeMartini,

 

My name is Joe Holmes. I have been a licensed member of USAC/USCF since 1983. I am a former President of the Washington State Bicycle Association and a former President of the Encino Velodrome Board of Directors. I have been the race director for a number of USA Cycling permitted events in Washington and California in both road and track. I have worked as a sport director at both the domestic elite and professional level. I am a USA Cycling licensed coach and hold a UCI Coaching Diploma. Lastly, I have done quite a bit of contract work for USA Cycling in their Junior Men’s National Team and European Development Program. In other words, I have been in the sport for a very long time, have worn a number of hats during that time and have a rather detailed view of the sport at many levels.

 

I am writing to you and the USAC Board of Directors in regard to your decision to request the resignation of Billy Innes. 

 

I have known Billy for many years. I first met him when I was his sport director in 2003. We have become close friends over the years and our roles changed in 2014 when he first brought me on to work for him in the junior men’s program in Sittard. Billy brought me back in the same role in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

 

I believe in being direct. 

 

Requesting Billy’s resignation is a colossal mistake and will have a substantial negative impact on the future of the junior men’s development program. This request was short-sighted and a knee-jerk reaction based on an incorrect version of the facts.

 

As a stakeholder and someone who loves the sport of cycling I strongly urge you to reconsider this decision.

 

I look forward to your reply.

 

Regards,

Joe Holmes

Tête de la Course Cycling

Here are some excerpts from a few other emails sent on Billy’s behalf and although the individuals who sent these emails to Mr DeMartini have given their permission to post them I have chosen to not include their names:

USA Cycling published a statement this week on the intentions that it has to be better in creating a more diverse community and commit to driving necessary change. What I hope that means, is that we will see more support for local organizations who seek out and develop programs for inner city communities, who offer programs to get children of color excited about cycling and lower the barriers to our expensive and often elitist sport. I hope that these programs come to life, and I hope that we will start to see the fruits of that investment in the years to come. When kids who show talent and passion for our sport and for racing are ready to represent the USA at national level races and in Europe, you will need Billy to guide those kids. Not just because he knows the ins and outs of every race you will send those kids to, or because he knows every single coach in the Junior Nations Cups, he knows all the officials in Europe by name, he knows all the roads and has devoted his life to the sport- but because he cares about those kids. He deeply, deeply cares about developing kids not just into smart and strong bike racers, but as well-rounded, respectful, and mature human beings. 

 

Billy’s job limits him to working with the top 1% of junior talent in this country, and he agonizes over choosing the rosters for races. But, every choice that he makes is one that every performance director should- you choose the riders who are going to work best with the team and give the team the biggest chance of success. You have seen first hand the fruits of his decisions in the last two, four, and six years and I know for a fact that those kids who have moved on to Pro Continental or WorldTour teams, even those who have stopped racing, will credit Billy for his impact in forming them into the people they are today. No matter the kid’s background, no matter their circumstances and support system, Billy knows that it’s his job to be a positive influence in that kid’s life, even beyond bike racing. You need him to guide the next generation of diverse, passionate, and talented kids to the next level because there is no one better for the job. The Junior Program has yet to see its full potential, and without him it will deeply suffer. 

 

I ask you, and urge you to please continue Billy Innes’ employment at USA Cycling and keep him on the team. We need him. 

 

In serving the greater goal of achieving equity for all individuals, we must not take shortcuts or act rashly, especially when our actions can affect so many others. If USAC desires to empower the youngest cyclists in America of all skin colors to participate in racing, the framework must exist for those individuals to receive the best guidance we have to offer. Focus on liaising with community cycling groups across the country to spread our love of cycling past our small circle. Focus on reducing the financial and logistical barriers for young cyclists who may not come from privileged situations. Focus on giving individuals chances to succeed. 

 

Please, please, please do not take the bait of quick action that will in hindsight be solely a virtue signal instead of a necessary change. Any colleague or competitor who has worked with Billy will attest to how he truly cares about the impact of our sport, our programs, and our actions. He is, without a doubt in my mind, the best individual to ensure the success of racer development at USAC.

 

Overcoming barriers in our sport are extremely difficult, we all know that. Billy is among those who are progressive and believe that without systematic changes to the sport we cannot overcome the issues that confront us, and that promotion of youth in sport is the way to build for the future. He is truly a leader among those who want to see lasting changes to our sport and does his part through the choices he makes on behalf of sport that he loves as well as USACycling. Based on personal experience, most of the coaches and team directors at Billy’s level are far less progressive and will resist the changes that are required for the sport to move forward. I believe that removal of Billy Innes from USACycling during these uncertain times will create additional uncertainty in the short run (3 years) and a significant negative impact on the sport that will take substantial time to overcome (7-10 years).

 

Overall, I am extremely concerned for the state of Junior Cycling within USA Cycling without Billy’s guidance. I know that many would argue that others could do better, however, Billy has the foresight to understand that juniors are developmental athletes and that the way forward requires broadening the base through support of youth projects that promote inclusion, equity and diversity.

 

Lastly, as an organization is this how you treat all of your employees with the tenure that Mr Innes has? Are you willing to discard everyone that has provided a decade of service to the organization and to the sport over something taken out of context and misconstrued into something that it is not?

Thanks for reading.

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