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MTB News & Racing Round-up, Thursday, April 11, 2013

Date published:
April 11, 2013, 03:00

Edited by Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

Welcome to our regular roundup of what's happening in mountain biking. Feel free to send feedback, news, & releases to mtb@cyclingnews.com and results, reports & photos to cyclingnews@cyclingnews.com.

  • Woodruff races to early season success

    Chloe Woodruff (Crankbrothers)
    Article published:
    April 4, 2013, 21:10
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    An in-depth chat with the Crankbrothers Pro XCT leader

    Chloe Woodruff didn't expect to find herself in the lead of the US mountain bike national series, the Pro XCT, this season. Yet she is there, topping the standings after three of nine rounds.

    The Crankbrothers racer has had excellent national-level results in the past, but in 2013, she's been racing better than ever.

    "It's been about consistency. In these first three Pro XCT races, everything came together," Woodruff told Cyclingnews. "I've had good solid races in each one. Consistency has been something I've struggled with over the years. This year, my equipment has been flawless, and my support has been flawless."

    Woodruff opened the Pro XCT with a fourth place finish in the Mellow Johnny's Classic. She backed that up with another fourth at Bonelli Park and a second at Fontana. In addition, she won the Bonelli super D and short track events and finished third in the Fontana Super D and second in the Fontana short track.

    She is a bit surprised to find herself in the Pro XCT lead.

    "It's pretty exciting. That wasn't a goal coming in," she said. "This year, we've got so many Pro XCT races on the calendar. I think most of us will have to pick and chose certain races. It's neat how I've been able to make it work."

    Compared to recent years with four, five or six rounds, this year's Pro XCT has nine rounds. Some elite mountain bikers have said in advance that they won't compete in the entire series, but will instead focus on the World Cups.

    Woodruff, on the other hand, is going to make as many rounds as she can. "We're looking at all the UCI races on the calendar and they hold more significance," she said. "If I could get to every Pro XCT event, I will. Currently, I'm not writing any off right now."

    Woodruff is aware that some of her competition has been absent from the Pro XCTs this spring. "I think some riders - due to 'cross Worlds - are starting their seasons later, so it's a great opportunity for me to be there and go for it." Others are only doing the UCI rounds or sitting out certain rounds to give them some more training and/or recovery time during the season.

    Because there are so many Pro XCT rounds and all of them count, Woodruff hadn't targeted the series, but she values the results nonetheless. "I think some of the US Worlds team selection looks at the Pro XCT standings, so it is important and significant."

    "However, I think it would strengthen the series if you were allowed to drop one or two results. Each one of these Pro XCTs are worthy of being on the calendar. It's exciting to see the Bump and Grind coming back. There's a race in Vermont this year. It's great to see more regional diversity on the calendar, but it would make it a better series to be able to drop a few."

    When asked to name her competition for the overall, she said, "For the Pro XCT, I think any of the women who've been in top five or six could still win. Lea [Davison] or Judy [Freeman] or Emily [Batty]. Erica Tingey is riding well and is fifth overall in the standings."

    Since joining Crankbrothers in the fall of 2011, Woodruff has been pleased with her situation.

    "Crankbrothers Race Club has been phenomenal the last couple of years," she said. "They've allowed me to race and train full time. Both Judy [Freeman] and I are racing on the team again this year."

    The more racing, the merrier

    Not afraid to race frequently, Woodruff appreciates when promoters offer more than one event to a race weekend. "I'm always one to jump into however many events I can for the weekend."

    Woodruff's consistency has shown up not just in cross country races this year, but across super Ds and short tracks.

    While she considers herself primarily a cross country rider, the excitement in her voice is impossible to miss as she talks about short tracks.

    "Cross country is what I focus on and train for. The other events are a great opportunity for the team and sponsors to get some more race starts."

    "I've always loved racing short track. We don't have as many opportunities to race it as we used to. I kind of miss racing short track. I really want to win US short track nationals."

    Getting to the point where she can win short tracks has not been a quick and easy journey for Woodruff, who has put in her time learning the ropes.

    "For years, I've been getting dropped from the lead group in short track... since 2007. It's in the last few years that I've figured out how to stick into the last lap, and it's fun because I know I can win them now. It's been a fun transition. The last two races have been really exciting."

    In the last race, Woodruff and Davison sprinted to a photo finish, although there was no camera. Neither racer was quite sure who won, but officials called the race for Davison.

    What she has learned about racing short track is that "you have to race aggressively, you have to get yourself in the race. The key thing is that I've been able to get myself up there and get a feel for the speed. Every year I was able to hang on a bit longer. Certain courses suit me better... like the flatter, faster ones. It's about making the efforts count. Short track can be very tactical."

    World Cups

    Woodruff is planning to participate in some World Cups again this year. She's targeting the Val di Sole World Cup in Italy and the round in Andorra. She'll also race the first two rounds in Germany and the Czech Republic.

    "I've been doing more and more World Cups each year," she said. "The first time I did any was two in 2010. I did two in 2011. Last year, I did four."

    "The jump is so massive in terms of the level of racing. Simply making the trip over there... there is a lot to figure out how to do. There are a lot of pieces of the puzzle... to figure out how to go over there and race. I'm doing going over there just for the experience. I want to go over and have a good race."

    Not surprising for a short track race lover, Woodruff is psyched about the World Cup eliminators, too.

    "The eliminators made it more exciting. Last year, I had a few top 10s. I just barely missed making the final round in Nove Mesto. Those are also something I will be racing in. I have a chance of being competitive in those two."

    When asked if she'd like to see more eliminators in the US, where they are practically non-existent, she noted the practical difficulties of running such an event.

    "There are challenges with the new format. In the US, we don't have the numbers to fill out an entire bracket."

    Other racing

    In addition to World Cups and the Pro XCT, Woodruff is aiming to do well at US Nationals and other select events like the Whiskey Off-Road. Living in Prescott, Arizona for the summer, rather than her usual rest-of-the-year residence in Tucson, Woodruff is excited for the Whiskey event.

    While some riders are having to sit out the big money, big crowd mountain bike event, the Crankbrothers team is looking forward to it.

    "Our team is not registered with the UCI, so we aren't falling under the enforcement umbrella that USAC is holding some teams under. It is unfortunate that a handful of riders (like Georgia [Gould], Teal [Stetson Lee], Lea [Davison], Todd [Wells]and Mitch [Hoke]) are unable to compete in such high profile events as the Whiskey Off-Road. It can only strengthen the event and the impact of the sport on the local community to have them participate."

    Before the Whiskey Off-Road, her next major event will be the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California in mid-April.

  • BMC Racing Cup to get underway in Schaan

    Nino Schurter abd FlorianVogel celebrate at the finish
    Article published:
    April 5, 2013, 19:00
    By:
    Cycling News

    2013 Swiss national series draws international stars

    The Swiss national mountain bike series is drawing elite mountain bikers from far beyond Switzerland for its opening round in Schaan this weekend. Olympians, world champions, European champions and national champions galore are on the start list for round 1 of the BMC Racing Cup.

    The cross country race will be held in Liechtenstein's Church for the fourth time. Many will be using it as an early season test in the lead up to the first World Cup in Albstadt, Germany in mid-May.

    The men's silver and bronze medallists from the Olympics, Nino Schurter and Marco Fontana, are among the favorites.

    "I am coming from the eight-day stage race Cape Epic in South Africa," said Schurter. "It was a great workout, but maybe I'm a little tired from that multi-day load. Still, I will try to deliver a perfect race. I'm hoping for a podium finish."

    Schurter won the last Swiss Cup event in Schaan in 2011 and was complimentary in his comments about the course.

    Other favorites include Christoph Sauser, who is fresh off winning the Cape Epic, Schurter's teammate Florian Vogel, Fabian Giger, Lukas Flückiger and Mathias Flückiger, Manuel Fumic and Moritz Milatz. The later just won the German Bundesliga series opener this past weekend.

    Among the women, past world champion Irina Kalentieva will battle former European champion Katrin Leumann, Olympian Esther Süss and reigning Swiss champion Sarah Koba. Adelheid Morath is also riding strong as she proved by winning the Bundesliga opener.

    "We look forward to a great sporting event with world-class riders and a unique setting," said race director Thomas Hollenstein, looking forward to the start of the BMC Racing Cup.

    Over 8,000 fans are expected over the course of the weekend of racing. The elite riders will compete on Sunday.

  • Racers upset after UCI's clarification on non-sanctioned races

    The elite men's start was on a circular gravel track
    Article published:
    April 7, 2013, 14:12
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Mountain bike pros protest rule enforcement

    American mountain bikers reacted with anger and frustration to the UCI's clarification of its rules after USA Cycling circulated a March 26th letter from the UCI President Pat McQuaid about its Rule 1.2.019, which banned all license holders, not just riders on registered UCI teams, from competing in non-sanctioned races. The UCI also clarified that national federations cannot make exceptions for most existing, unsanctioned events.

    "Dang. A girl leaves for an early, long MTB ride and returns to find the World of MTB racing will never be the same...this is not cool," said Heather Irmiger (Trek) on Facebook. Irmiger is a former multi-time US national champion who recently stepped off the UCI World Cup circuit and switched to world of (mostly unsanctioned) enduro racing.

    Prior to the letter dated March 26th, American mountain bikers were under the impression that the rule against competing in non-sanctioned races only applied to riders on registered UCI teams. USAC's Bill Kellick told Cyclingnews as much in an article on Cyclingnews dated March 12. "It is important to note that the only riders that are affected are riders that have registered with the UCI on a UCI team. This does not affect mountain bike pro riders who are NOT on UCI-registered teams," Kellick had said.

    One team, the Sho-Air/Cannondale Team, went as far as to un-register itself as a UCI team in order to comply with this interpretation while other riders, not on UCI registered teams, started making their plans to compete in some of North America's most popular races like the Trans-Sylvania Epic, the Breck Epic and the Whiskey 50, all established non-sanctioned mountain bike races.

    However, the UCI's March 26th letter said, "Article 1.2.019 applies to all licence holders, without exception. It does not solely concern professional riders or just the members of UCI teams, contrary to certain statements in the press and on some blogs."

    USA Cycling is sticking with the UCI's interpretation and said, "The UCI confirmed that Rule 1.2.019 and the related sanctions in 1.2.020 and 1.2.021 must apply to every UCI-recognized national federation in the world. Therefore, as a member of the International Federation, USA Cycling will comply with the direction from the UCI."

    Mountain bike racers who opposed the rules against competing in non-sanctioned races, had held out hope that USAC could be persuaded to interpret the rules to grant exceptions for some events, something under the national governing body's authority. However, the UCI closed that potential loophole, too, in its March 26th letter by explaining that it only applied to non-recurrent events.

    The UCI's letter said, "Special races or events are understood to be cycle events which are not registered on the national calendar of the country's federation or on the UCI international calendar. This generally concerns events that are occasional and which do not recur, most often organised by persons or entities who do not belong to the world of organised sport. For example, an event may be organised by an association that does not have a link to the National Federation, such as a race specifically for members of the armed forces, fire fighters or students or perhaps as part of a national multisport event.

    "With the exception of these special cases, the National Federation is not permitted to grant an exemption to a cycle event which is held, deliberately or not, outside the federative movement. For example, in no case should an exception be granted to a cycling event that is organised by a person or entity who regularly organises cycling events."

    Rider reactions

    The consequences of the letter are that UCI license-holding mountain bike pros cannot compete in some of their favorite events without fear of punishment by fine or suspension. Racers were angered and frustrated upon hearing the news.

    Sho-Air/Cannondale's Jeremiah Bishop, current leader of the men's Pro XCT, former World Cup racer and endurance race lover, said, "Comment on USAC that THEY should stand up to the UCI on ruling all UCI riders will face bans and Fines for doing non USAC races. This is America! We invented the sport so there are a multitude of races organizations and groups that pre date the UCI and many reasons that this rule is not compatible with USA racing."

    Chloe Woodruff (Crankbrothers Racing), who leads the women's Pro XCT, took the time to summarize her thoughts in her blog.

    "Waking up to this news this morning was a huge shock. I think I've been running through the spectrum of emotions that we experience with loss -denial, anger, sadness and acceptance. This is simply due to the enforcement of UCI Rule 1.2.019 which now means I cannot to participate (without sanctioning) in some of my favorite mountain bike events, which include: The Whiskey Off-Road, Ore to Shore, Chequamegon, 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo and more... The biggest 'problem' is that we love mountain bike racing too much and take this action by the UCI and USAC very personally.

    "Dear USA Cycling, I cannot choose between unsanctioned and sanctioned racing. Please consider further clarifying your position and standing up for your professional racers."

    "It is inexcusable to make this announcement less than one month before the Whiskey Off Road, the race that offers the single biggest payout for a one-day race. Teams have already made plans. Racers have already purchased airfare and made reservations. Personally, I have moved to Prescott, AZ for the month to train specifically for this event," wrote Woodruff.

    Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt) said on Facebook, "Thanks USAC. Do you plan on refunding me for all the races I already entered in that are non-USAC sanctioned? This is extremely frustrating.....kinda like someone walking in my office and telling me your entire year you have worked for is now gone. What to do.....???"

    Some former World Cup-level pros chimed in to express their dissatisfaction and explained how they are voting with their feet.

    Olympian and multi-time national champion Adam Craig said, "Here's the thing, Pat [McQuaid], .001% of cyclists are actually involved in the Olympic Movement. The rest just want to ride bikes. From someone who's seen both sides... Consider this my resignation."

    Another former national champion, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, said, "Well, the UCI and USAC might be trying to kill mountain biking, but on a positive note their announcement today saved me $150 bucks. Adios."

    Former pros like Craig and Horgan-Kobelski are at the end of the cross country World Cup careers and done with Olympic aspirations. They can afford to step out of the UCI's rat race and pursue a racing career of unsanctioned events.

    Where the news hits hardest is among current pros, who do a mix of sanctioned and non-sanctioned races and up and coming pros, many of whom help pay the bills and gain exposure by earning the larger prize money and stepping into the media spotlight offered by some non-sanctioned events. 

    Writing in response to Woodruff's blog, former World Cup-level racer and former national champion Sue Haywood (Stan's No Tubes Women's Elite team) offered this comment, "Great writing, Chloe Woodruff. With all the sacrifices cyclists make already to pursue their race dreams, this decision seems like a slap in the face. I can't help but to wonder if USAC would do better to just focus on elite development and leave all other forms of racing to another organization that does it well and keeps the fun in it for the 'masses'. They have a hard time doing both. On another note they need to communicate better and should consider a good publicist."

    Even grassroots level racers have gotten into the mix with some non-pro categorized racers wondering whether they will also be punished for racing their local non-sanctioned events and expressing their sport for their favorite pros. Many joined the pros in signing a petition which has been circulating on the internet for several weeks. It is titled "USA Cycling and the Union Cycliste International (UCI): Attend Sea Otter to negotiate abolishing UCI rule 1.2.019" and calls for changes to the rules.

    Following the release of the UCI letter, USA Cycling's Facebook page was also filled with comments from pros and amateurs unhappy with the latest clarification.

    Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for further coverage on this issue, including further responses from team managers, promoters, the UCI and USA Cycling.

  • Initial support surpasses Enduro World Series organiser's expectations

    Jerome Clementz (Cannondale Factory Racing)
    Article published:
    April 8, 2013, 05:30
    By:
    Cycling News

    Community takes ownership of new organization and mountain bike format

    The Enduro World Series (EWS) launched with a ground-swell of support from the mountain bike community this spring. Within 48 hours of opening, the newly formed Enduro Mountain Biking Association (EMBA) had signed on its first 125 individual members - a wave of support that continued to grow over the first 30 days of registration to 19 teams, 10 official supporters and over 220 members.

    In addition, all Phase 1 race spots for the inaugural seven-event global series sold out within a week of opening registration.

    The rider list is a collection of slopestyle, four cross, downhill and cross country's global athletes, as well as the founding legends of enduro racing. The complete team list (see below) was released on Friday at the newly launched website enduroworldseries.com.

    "We're overwhelmed by the level of commitment to the whole series. It has exceeded our expectations," said EWS Managing Director Chris Ball. "All events have record fields even months before they normally open for entry."

    When the Enduro World Series was first announced November 22, 2012, the organising body EMBA was committed to featuring the biggest enduro races in the best locations on the best trails in the world, not through exclusive partnership agreements or sponsorship opportunities to finance the series, but instead, through individual, team and company membership packages.

    While Ball is pleased by the strong uptake of event registration, he's even more satisfied with the response to EMBA's invitation to become a member. "We put ourselves in the hands of the industry by choosing this model. We knew that industry-wide support would be critical for EMBA and would give everyone a chance to be involved in the development of the discipline and to show their support for the sport. We believe that this is how to build the sport - from the ground up, through our members."

    "So the extent of the buy-in is hugely gratifying and a sign that we are on the right track with our model and approach. The faith of all our new team and individual members inspires our entire board to run a series that is worthy of that community support."

    Nineteen teams have confirmed their participation in the 2013 Enduro World Series, representing a broad cross-section of global industry brands and a comprehensive list of the world's top riders.

    "We wanted to ensure that the core enduro athletes who have built the sport were there at the starting gate, so for this inaugural season we painstakingly looked at enduro results from around the world and tried to get as good a cross section of committed international racers as possible. We worked diligently to ensure there was as good as balance as possible between the pros who have built the sport up so far, top riders from other disciplines and the community of riders who are critical to keeping the momentum moving forward for enduro mountain bike racing. The essence of enduro, after all, is the chance for the public to race amongst the pros."

    With the teams now finalised, organisers for each event are reviewing numbers for duplicate entries (some team riders also entered as individuals) and, after trying to cater for a select few wildcard riders who missed a place certain events, will open any remaining spots in late April to the wider public.

    2013 Enduro World Series Teams
    BMC Switzerland
    Cannondale OverMountain
    Canyon
    Commençal
    Cube Action Team
    FRM Factory Racing
    GIANT Factory Off-Road
    GT Factory Racing
    GT Skoda
    IBIS
    Lapierre
    Norco
    Orbea
    Santa Cruz Syndicate
    Scott Enduro Team
    Specialized
    Trek Factory Racing
    Urge Team
    Yeti

    A complete list of riders by team can be found at enduroworldseries.com.

  • Sho-Air/Cannondale Team sets up UCI rules showdown

    Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale) takes a turn at the front of the lead group at the Fontana short track
    Article published:
    April 9, 2013, 14:05
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Team to race at un-sanctioned Whiskey 50 despite threat of punishment

    Team Sho-Air/Cannondale became the first team to make an official public statement and stand against the current mandate regarding UCI rule 1.2.019 handed down per a March 26th letter from UCI president Pat McQuaid. The rule forbids UCI license holders from participation in non-sanctioned events.

    The team will send several of its racers to compete in the Whiskey 50 in Prescott, Arizona at the end of April. Current Pro XCT series leader Jeremiah Bishop, 2012 Pro XCT/Pro UET Champion and two-time defending Whiskey 50 champion Monique "Pua" Mata, along with NUE 100 opener winner Alex Grant and former master world champion Tinker Juarez will be on the start line. The team's Max Knox, who is currently recovering from knee surgery, is not on the roster.

    According to recently clarified UCI rules, all riders with UCI licenses are subject to punishment by fine or suspension if they compete in unsanctioned races. The ruling has hit the American mountain bike community especially hard, given the number of unsanctioned events traditionally attended by pros.

    The team's actions come with the full backing of title sponsor Sho-Air, and the company's President and CEO, R. Scott Tedro, issued a statement about the decision to send his riders to the Whiskey 50 in spite of potential action by USA Cycling:

    "We have had hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and Facebook posts regarding this issue by fans, friends and fellow riders stating their discontent and asking for help. We have always done our best to support USAC by permitting, and inscripting our events in the past and may continue in the future, as well as given countless hours of our time in assisting them in the promotion of the sport. Our proven and continued support of cycling at all levels and activates from mountain biking, road cycling to sponsorship and promotion speaks for itself as to our commitment to the industry and its fans."

    "I have spent countless hours trying to negotiate a solution for all parties involved regarding this issue to no avail. The time has come to take a stand and lead by example, as this issue will affect us all, not only the professional rider, but the master and junior amateur rider as well, that just want to race their bikes and have fun. We also are supporting the promoter's right to choose not to sanction with USA Cycling. Freedom of choice is a right that must be protected."

    "We are supporting Todd Sadow and Epic Rides and will attend his event, the Whiskey 50, in full force. We do not recognize the UCI or USAC's authority to take away unalienable rights of liberty when it comes to a rider's desire to compete against his or her peers whether it be to earn a living as is the case for a professional, or to experience the joys of competing for fun while pursuing a healthy lifestyle as an amateur. We challenge the UCI and USAC to fine our riders for representing their team, sponsors and fans by participating in the Whiskey 50. Any negative action taken towards our team or riders will be met with an immediate and appropriate response."

    The team's director, Ty Kady, welcomed the opportunity to take a stand.

    "I've been pushing Scott for several years to really make USAC stand up for mountain bikers and the sport here in the US. This is a perfect opportunity for USAC to support all their licensed members by giving the UCI pushback on a rule that clearly doesn't work with the US model of mountain biking. However they have yet to make a stand against the UCI."

    "As the promoter of two Pro XCT and two Pro UET events in 2013, what's even more grievous is USAC offers no overall prize money for their Pro XCT or Pro UET series champion, even though they claim them to be the 'premier' US mountain bike series. They offer no financial support for promoters, who actually do host a UCI event on their behalf, yet now they want to tell racers when and where and for whom they can race their bikes? That doesn't sit well with me, especially when it's obvious they are doing nothing to bolster their own series so riders can try and earn income."

    It's not the first time the Sho-Air/Cannondale team has acted in response to the news that the UCI would be asking national federations to enforce the rules against non-sanctioned competition. Earlier interpretations of rules 1.2.019 through 1.2.021 suggested that the rule would only apply to teams that were registered with the UCI, so Sho-Air/Cannondale pulled its UCI team registration in an effort to still enable its athletes to race non-sanctioned races.

    "We purposely removed ourselves from the UCI registered trade team list so our riders like Jeremiah Bishop, Monique Mata and Alex Grant could race and support quality non-sanctioned events that fit into their racing calendar and our team goals," Kady told Cyclingnews.

    "There are several non-sanctioned events that quite honestly offer better prize money and media exposure than current USAC or UCI sanctioned events. For us and our sponsors, there is value in attending those races and clearly we can make the distinction if a non-sanctioned event is safe and legit or not."

    Sho-Air International also is a top tier sponsor of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) and a half dozen independent club teams with membership exceeding 1,000, plus a primary sponsor of the US Cup.

    Stay tuned for additional coverage coming on Cyclingnews on this issue.

  • USA Cycling suggests dissatisfied riders contact UCI about rules

    The Pro Men waiting for their call-up
    Article published:
    April 9, 2013, 18:10
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Cycling federation answers questions regarding non-sanctioned races

    When news broke earlier in 2013 that USA Cycling would be enforcing UCI rule 1.2.019 and the related sanctions in rules 1.2.020 and 1.2.021, which forbid riders in all cycling disciplines from competing in non-sanctioned races, many riders, teams and promoters were unhappy that their opportunities to race would be limited. Even as the UCI clarified the meaning of its rules in a March 26th letter, comments, questions and information - some correct and some incorrect - bounced around the Internet.

    Looking to find out more about the rules, how they came to be enforced and their consequences and to answer some reader questions, Cyclingnews approached USA Cycling and the UCI with a different list of questions for each governing body. Below is the resulting Q&A with USA Cycling. Cyclingnews is awaiting a reply from the UCI.

    Cyclingnews: Earlier in 2013, USA Cycling told Cyclingnews: "It is important to note that the only riders that are affected are riders that have registered with the UCI on a UCI team. This does not affect mountain bike pro riders who are NOT on UCI-registered teams."

    However, the UCI letter USAC shared on Friday, April 5 from the UCI said, "Article 1.2.019 applies to all licence holders, without exception. It does not solely concern professional riders or just the members of UCI teams, contrary to certain statements in the press and on some blogs."

    Why the change in interpretation? In light of the March 26th letter, will USA Cycling enforce the rules against all riders in 2013 or just the riders on UCI-registered teams? Will it apply to unsanctioned races that have already happened in 2013 or just those going forward?

    USA Cycling: Some teams and riders complained to the UCI after USA Cycling's interpretation of rule 1.2.019 was sent to the American UCI-registered teams earlier this year. The UCI then sent an email to USA Cycling confirming that rule 1.2.019 applied to ALL UCI licensees.

    The UCI also read articles and blogs where riders and others were quoted as saying that other countries were not going to enforce rule 1.2.019 and that USA Cycling was unilaterally and unnecessarily enforcing this rule. Many of those articles and blogs were also incorrect in saying that USA Cycling could grant exceptions to allow riders to compete in non-USA Cycling sanctioned events if it chose to.

    In order to clear up any confusion surrounding rule 1.2.019 and to explain what events might be considered an exception, the UCI sent a letter to ALL national federations on March 26 to clarify the rule and their expectations on its enforcement. This will rule apply to all UCI licensees from this point forward. And UCI licensees cannot compete in unsanctioned events that don't meet UCI's very limited exception language. So, contrary to what has been stated and written, USA Cycling can't provide exceptions at will to events that don't meet UCI's criteria.

    CN: What does USAC say to its licensed riders who are not members of UCI registered teams and have already registered for non-sanctioned events and made travel plans to them based on the earlier interpretation? Some of those riders say they have emails from earlier this year from USAC confirming it is ok for them to participate in non-sanctioned events.

    USAC: They should contact us, we will honor any such earlier confirmations.

    CN: How has USAC responded (or how will it respond) to rider requests and petitions against this rule and the call for participation in a meeting at Sea Otter and/or for appealing to the UCI for a rules change?

    USAC: Rule 1.2.019 is a UCI rule mandated for all riders who have taken out a UCI license who have agreed to abide by UCI rules and for all UCI recognized national federations to enforce. This is not a USA Cycling rule and USA Cycling has no power to change the rule; so a meeting to discuss a UCI rule change with USA Cycling would be unproductive.

    That said, riders are encouraged to contact the UCI to discuss potential rule changes. The UCI has a mountain bike commission and an athletes’ commission on which American [mountain biker and 'cross racer - Ed.] Georgia Gould sits.

    CN: What does USAC say in response to the comments from many in the sport to the effect that the sport of mountain biking in North America has always included non-sanctioned events, even at a pro level, and there is a longstanding tradition of pros, developing riders and amateurs competing in such events?

    USAC: There is nothing restricting or preventing any mountain bike event from taking out a sanction with USA Cycling. Our permit fee structure is fair and ensures a consistent, level playing field and that events will be run under familiar rules and regulations. When compared to similar products, our insurance is second to none and priced below today's market.

    The only reasons not to sanction an event with USA Cycling are if the organizer is: 1) under-insuring the volunteers and/or participants, 2) avoiding the requirement to have USA Cycling licensed officials at the event and the athlete protection policies they enforce or 3) avoiding the USA Cycling RaceClean program.

    Some of the mountain bike events that haven't been sanctioned by USA Cycling in the past are boasting significant prize lists, so the USA Cycling permit fee does not seem to be a financial burden for those events. Mountain bike permit fees are NOT based on the prize list.

    In fact, the organizer of the Whiskey 50 had an offer from a third party to pay ALL USA Cycling permit fees so that UCI licensed riders could compete in the event. The organizer declined that generous offer.

    A USA Cycling event also provides the opportunity and possibility for drug testing in conjunction with USADA.

    CN: What is USAC's response to the argument that domestic pro mountain bike riders cannot make a living on the prize money offered only at sanctioned events in the US? Some pros have said they need to participate in non-sanctioned events, such as the Whiskey Off-Road, to make enough money to pay the bills and get the requisite media attention to get/keep their sponsorship?

    USAC: Again, there is nothing restricting or prohibiting Whiskey Off-Road and other events from permitting with USA Cycling. We've heard many comments that this rule and its enforcement would kill "grassroots" mountain bike events but the conversation always turns to the pros.

    This rule will not affect the recreational racer who doesn't have a UCI license. The pro riders are part of the international structure of the sport. And, USA Cycling spent more $530,000 on mountain bike athlete development and pre-Olympic preparation in 2012. Events that are not sanctioned by USA Cycling don't contribute to that development.

    CN: Does the rule apply to categorized riders, who hold USAC, but not UCI licenses? For example, can John Smith, USAC Cat. 1 license holder, race his local grassroots events which are not sanctioned, without punishment?

    USAC: The rule applies to holders of international UCI licenses.

    CN: Taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, where does this change in enforcement come from? Yes, the rules have been there for a long time, but it seems as if the enforcement of them only came into action on a more regular basis last year? Why the change? Did the impetus from within USAC or the UCI?

    USAC: USA Cycling received a complaint from a rider about UCI pros on UCI registered road and mountain bike teams competing in the 2012 Teva Games that were not sanctioned by USA Cycling.

    USA Cycling investigated and fined the riders involved. We warned the riders and their teams that the UCI rule and its associated penalties in rules 1.2.020 and 1.2.021 would be enforced going forward.

    There was continued discussion with teams and riders on this rule after the Teva Games and into the fall of 2012. Some of the UCI teams contacted the UCI for clarification, and UCI confirmed that rule 1.2.019 must be enforced. Again, a UCI licensed rider has agreed to abide by UCI rules and USA Cycling has an obligation to enforce the UCI rules just like every other UCI recognized national federation in the world.

    Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for further coverage of this issue.

  • Bishop going fast and having fun in early mountain bike season

    Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale) takes a turn at the front of the lead group at the Fontana short track
    Article published:
    April 10, 2013, 16:14
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Pro XCT series leader juggles demands of short and long races

    Jeremiah Bishop has focused the more recent years of his career more on endurance racing, but this spring he's been proving that he is still fast in the cross country and short track distances. The Sho-Air/Cannondale Team rider has gotten the 2013 season off to a strong start and is currently leading the US cross country national mountain bike series, the Pro XCT.

    "It's been a fantastic early season. It couldn't have gone much better than it has," said Bishop to Cyclingnews. "I'm going fast and having fun. I'm ecstatic to have a renaissance on my short game."

    Bishop didn't think he'd be riding quite as well as he has been. "Every race of the season, I've been at the front or in the sprint for the win." He was second at the Mellow Johnny's Classic, first at the Bonelli Park cross country and second at the Fontana cross country.

    Although he said he is only doing the short tracks "for training", Bishop, a former short track national champion, finished second at both Bonelli Park and Fontana. "I'm riding conservatively and trying to save face. The cross country races are more important."

    When asked how he managed to get so fast this spring despite a tough winter in his home state of Virginia, Bishop said, "There were a lot of cold hands and feet. Being in Virginia, we had one of the toughest late winters in recent memory. There was a lot of snow."

    Change of plans

    While Bishop had hoped to start off his season on a strong note, the pressure increased on him to do so after his Sho-Air/Cannondale teammates were sidelined by injury.

    "A lot of the responsibility for the new team rested on me with Max [Plaxton] out due to knee surgery and Pua [Mata] injured [with a broken ankle] at Mellow Johnny's. I was taking it seriously and was very focused. I was doing the best I could to be focused early and sharp. The team wanted me to ride well at Mellow Johnny's and the opening few races of the season."

    Bishop will race the next Pro XCT round at Sea Otter, but after that he's not sure of his schedule.

    "I'm personally interested in trying to win more races more than trying to win the series," he said. "But leading the series, I have to wonder how long I can keep leading it. I think I can fit a few more stage races in on top of the series."

    After the Whiskey Off-Road later this month, Bishop will sit down with his team and figure out his schedule for the rest of the season. By then, Plaxton and Mata should be back in action, which may give him the chance to do some of his favorite endurance races.

    "Long distance races are my favorites."

    He is considering stage races such as the Trans-Sylvania Epic or the BC Bike Race as well as marathon Worlds.

    A long Pro XCT season

    With the Pro XCT expanded to nine rounds this year and all of them counting, elite racers are struggling with how to balance the desire to do well at national series races with all the other races on the calendar.

    "There are more race participant days available now in America than there ever have been - everything from enduro races to 100-mile races to stage races. There are all these opportunities to ride your bike," said Bishop. "They are adding more and more events to the calendar without a premier pro series. It brings dilution of the pro aspect of the sport. It makes it difficult for the top riders from the top teams to come togehter for the biggest events of the years. Sea Otter and nationals are the big ones in the US, but the Pro XCT series is waning. I can say that having been a stage race specialist and going to so many NUEs last year and seeing all the people at those events."

    Bishop thinks having nine rounds of the Pro XCT is "foolish". "Because of the international schedule, it doesn't make sense. For example, there were Pan Am champs this weekend and some folks chose to do that race and they were looking at an unrealistic amount of travel to also do Fontana. It's a bit unfortunate, and I think it's part of a broader issue nationally and to some degree globally."

    He has noticed how pros in Europe tend to pick the top races of the various national series such as the BMC Cup in Switzerland or the Bundlesliga in Germany rather than focus on any one country's series. He sees the North American riders migrating toward the same approach.

    "I think it's evolving in the US to be more like Europe where riders pick the best races, regardless of the series," he said.

    "I think it's an exciting time to be in mountain bike racing, but we need to have a rudder. There are so many races, but there needs to be a direction to the pro side of the sport."

    "What I would like to do is follow up with Todd [Wells] and see if we can both skip the same races and redefine what the series is."

    Wells won the most recent round of the Pro XCT in Fontana and is current second in the Pro XCT series. Bishop picked the Specialized rider as his toughest competition for the series overall.

    "Todd Wells and I are the guys to watch," said Bishop. " With his pedigree, I have the utmost respect for him. Todd is a complete rider with tactical acumen. He is current short track national champion and has best-ever US Olympic men's finish. It's a great challenge to race him and I'm having fun at the races."

    Both Bishop and Wells will face off again at the Sea Otter Classic, which is the next round of the Pro XCT, during the third weekend of April.

    See an interview with women's Pro XCT leader Chloe Woodruff (Crankbrothers Racing).

  • Team managers and non-sanctioned race promoters frustrated by UCI rules

    Pua Mata (ShoAir) riding her dual suspension Epic which helped her pull back Gould
    Article published:
    April 11, 2013, 01:15
    By:
    Sue George, Mountain Bike Editor

    Insurance coverage not an issue for non-USAC events

    The enforcement of UCI rule 1.2.019 and the related 1.2.020 and 1.2.021, which forbid UCI-licensed riders in all cycling disciplines from competing in non-sanctioned races and specify punishment for doing so, has drawn criticism from many mountain bikers. But it's not just mountain bikers who are affected; promoters of non-sanctioned races and managers of teams which include racers who normally participate in unsanctioned races face consequences.

    One affected race series is the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series of mostly 100-mile mountain bike races across the US. The series typically draws some top riders who also compete in international events. Some past and current top NUE racers, involved in either individual events or the overall series, have included Amanda Carey, Jeff Schalk, Cheryl Sornson, Chris Eatough, Jeremiah Bishop and Sue Haywood to name a few. Some well-known events in the series include the Cohutta 100, the Mohican 100, the Park City Point 2 Point and the Shenandoah Mountain 100.  None of the NUE Series races are USAC-sanctioned.

    Should the rules end up being enforced this year as the UCI has stipulated, mountain bike pros will have to chose between racing unsanctioned events like those of the NUE Series and facing consequences or sticking with "safe" sanctioned races.

    "This is America where racers are free to choose where to pedal their bikes and clearly, American racers have seen through USA Cycling's attempt to use this UCI rule to coerce racers and race organizations to join or else," NUE Series Director Ryan O'Dell told Cyclingnews

    USA Cycling had told Cyclingnews earlier this week that it was enforcing the UCI rules for UCI license holders at the request of  the UCI, which had requested such enforcement of all national federations.

    "Anti-trust lawsuits are already under discussion and may be headed their way.To salvage their credibility, USAC must do the right thing and confront the UCI. It's time to represent America and reverse this ruling now, before it is too late. I predict that failure to reverse course may result in the demise of USAC."

    Another viewpoint

    Ty Kady sees the problems with the UCI non-sanctioned race participation rule enforcement from two different sides. He wears the hat of US Cup Marketing Director and recently helped promote two US Pro XCT events, both of which were sanctioned by USA Cycling and one of which offered UCI points. He is also the director for the Sho-Air/Cannondale mountain bike team.

    Speaking as a promoter, Kady told Cyclingnews, "USA Cycling's argument that promoters sanctioning with them are somehow better insured and are part of the their 'Ground Breaking' Race Clean program has been false from our experience."

    "At Bonelli [Park], which was a UCI XCO C2 inscripted event, on top of all the official prize money and park permit fees, there were inscription fees, etc. associated with hosting a UCI race. Which, by the way, USAC offers no subsidy at all for promoters raising their hand to host these events."

    "We were charged $800 to be a part of the Race Clean program. As a promoter, we welcomed the concept and were willing to play our part. However, no doping control was performed at Bonelli, so again, where did our funds go? We weren't reimbursed our money back for something that never took place. Also Fontana, round #3 of their Pro XCT series, had no doping control either, so USAC's new vigilance against doping after the [Lance] Armstrong era seems to have little merit from our personal experience."

    Kady addressed the insurance issue as all promoters of sanctioned and non-sanctioned races must do.

    USA Cycling had told Cyclingnews, "When compared to similar products, our insurance is second to none and priced below today's market."

    Kady said he has "begun looking into event insurance as there are only a few brokers in the US that you can go to. From our research, as well as talking to other non-USAC promoters, comparable event insurance is cheaper when you cut USAC out of the picture."

    Dan McKay of McKay Insurance Agency backed this up and refuted USA Cycling's claims about insurance published yesterday on Cyclingnews.

    "What USAC is claiming is disingenuous," he said. "I was a little disappointed in USAC in their cavalier attitude about insurance and in saying that promoters doing non-sanctioned events with other insurance was not as good. I don't know how they are getting off saying that they have superior coverage."

    "Instead of postulating on that, they should get someone who is an actual licensed insurance agent to review their coverage. Their coverage is so far inferior to what's out there on the open market."

    McKay gave an example of an athlete without his or her own health insurance who crashes in a race and gets injured, with a medical bill of $25,000.

    "If an athlete were injured in USAC-sanctioned event and did not have his own insurance, the athlete would be responsible for first $5,000, which is their deductible, and remaining 30% of balance. A $25,000 medical bill would cost the athlete $11,000."

    McKay, who writes insurance coverage for many non-USAC sanctioned MTB races and events, including the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), said of his company's coverage. "An athlete who is insured through one of our events would be responsible for $100 (deductible) and that's all for that same $25K bill."

    He noted that for a series event, insurance costs $3 per rider for a USAC sanctioned event and $3.25 per rider for a non-USAC sanctioned event. "Those numbers don't tell the whole story of what's covered," he said, "and it doesn't consider all the costs of putting on a USAC-sanctioned event."

    Due to issues like insurance, Kady said, "The US Cup is seriously considering going non-USAC next year and pumping out bigger events and better prize money for pros who attend. The select '0.5%' of racers that have World Cup or Olympic aspirations can focus on Europe and other races that may offer sanctioning. But we won't penalize 99.5% of the pro mountain bikers out there who quite frankly aren't going to World Cups or the Olympics."

    "And honestly our bread and butter is providing great racing for the amateurs who will attend a race regardless of what pros toe the line. Because at the end of the day, mountain biking is a personal experience and not driven purely as a spectator sport like USAC and UCI seem to think."

    The team manager's perspective

    Kady's Sho-Air/Cannondale team has already taken a stand against the rules by announcing that it will compete in the unsanctioned Whiskey 50 at the end of April.

    The team had previously withdrawn its UCI team registration, based on a prior interpretation from USA Cycling that the rules would only apply to riders on registered UCI teams. That interpretation was subsequently amended to include all UCI licensed riders per a March 26th letter by USA Cycling.

    "For us as a team and for our sponsors, this ruling is a big disappointment. We purposely removed ourselves from the UCI registered trade team list so our riders like Jeremiah Bishop, Monique Mata and Alex Grant could race and support quality non sanctioned events that fit into their racing calendar and our team goals. There are several non-sanctioned events that quite honestly offer better prize money and media exposure than current USAC or UCI sanctioned events. For us and our sponsors, there is value in attending those races and clearly we can make the distinction if a non-sanctioned event is safe and legit or not."

    "I also take issue with USAC's following statement: 'Professionally-licensed riders are the direct beneficiaries of USA Cycling's significant investment in athlete support. As such, they have a vested interest to support the sanctioned events that fuel that support.'"

    Kady told Cyclingnews that when a UCI XCO C2 event like his own Bonelli Pro XCT only pays the men's winner $392 and 10th through 15th only pays $40, there's something wrong with that picture.

    "You start telling pros when and where they can and cannot race. Yet a race like the Whiskey 50 is paying out $40,000 in equal prize money and gets over 1,500 amateurs and is on the 'banned' list because the promoter chooses not to sanction with USAC. I don't see their logic in that. Clearly they don't have a competitive product for this and other non -sanctioning promoters, yet we as a community can say that this event in first class in every way - prize money, safety, level playing field and media."

    On the subject of prize money for the elite national series events, Kady said, "I would also ask USA Cycling's CEO to answer why doesn't their Pro XCT and Pro UET series offer overall prize money, since these series are claimed to be their most 'prestigious' National Calendar series events for MTB racers? They have never paid out one dime, so tell me how they are validating their own series and the racers who chase the entire series, with no monetary reward at the end?"

    Kady noted that his team paid for Monique Pua Mata to attend the marathon Worlds in Italy two years ago. They also paid for her USA Cycling team kit. "After she placed eighth and was best North American, there wasn't any type of reimbursement, or even a simple 'Well done' from them. So again, I would like to know where all their money and support is going to? We certainly haven't experienced it with our riders."

    A possible solution?

    Late on Tuesday, USA Cycling posted to its Facebook page, "USA Cycling, along with the UCI, is working on solutions to questions and issues raised surrounding the enforcement of UCI rule 1.2.019. We hope to have an initial solution agreeable to all within the next day or two."

    No details have yet been released.