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.