Pro Tour team Fuji-Servetto and American-based Professional Continental team BMC Racing were unable to register for the Air Force Cycling Classic's Clarendon Cup, formerly the CSC Invitational, due to the resurfacing UCI code 2.1.009. The code prohibits ProTour and Professional Continental teams from competing in national level events where only UCI Continental teams of the country, regional and club teams, national teams and mixed teams may participate. The two-day event begins on Saturday May 30 in Arlington, Virginia.
According to Robert Laybourn, the event's technical director, enforcing the code has a negative impact on the quality of the field at the Air Force Cycling Classic. "I have to be honest, the UCI is now enforcing a rule that they hadn't done before," said Laybourn. "Professional Continental teams like BMC can't race [Clarendon Cup] this year and neither can Garmin, Columbia High-Road or Fuji-Servetto."
The UCI code first surfaced from the rule books at the Tour of the Gila last month where teams Astana and BMC Racing were prohibited from participating. Discussions between USA Cycling and the UCI regarding the upheaval resulted in an agreement whereby both teams could start three riders wearing nondescript clothing. However, the code is still enforced in the US.
"The UCI is only looking at Europe and not understanding our racing here in the USA," Laybourn said. "All the professional teams, no matter what level, are wanted here. It makes the competition better and our riders better. I'm disappointed that the UCI has not come up with a better solution yet. It's disappointing that they are choosing to enforce a rule that doesn't make sense in our country."
Laybourn combined two races, the Clarendon Cup, a National Racing Calendar (NRC) event, and the Crystal City Classic, a USA Cycling Professional Tour UCI event, under the name Air Force Cycling Classic to somewhat sustain the first race and help promote the second race. ProTour and Professional Continental teams are prohibited form competing in the Clarendon Cup because it is not a UCI event. Laybourn also noted that high profile teams, especially from overseas, have lost interest in traveling to the US Air Force Classic because of the loss of the former Triple Crown series.
The series was reduced to the one-day TD Bank Philadelphia Cycling Championships due to the economic crisis. Before the economic downturn, international teams could travel to the US with the opportunity to compete in four high quality races all in the same region before culminating at the Philadelphia event. "It's very expensive for teams to fly over here just for one race, because they can't race both of our races and then stay for one week between the two events," Laybourn said.
Gavin Chilcott, directeur of the BMC Racing squad, pushed for further discussions regarding the adjustment of the UCI code 2.1.009 at the Tour of the Gila last month. "The message that we need to send out on behalf of the ProTour and Professional Continental teams is that we look forward to creating solutions with the UCI and USA Cycling that allow our participation in American events, a set of guidelines that suits all parties," said Chilcott, who will start a team at the Crystal City Classic. "We see that there are problems and that there are avenues to achieve solutions. We are motivated in a collaborative fashion to reach these solutions with the two organizations."