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It's a show of power at the start line of the Tour of the Battenkill
Organiser cites UCI's handling of recent doping scandals
The 2012 Tour of the Battenkill was one of only three UCI-sanctioned one-day races taking place in the United States as part of the American Tour, but for 2013 the race organisers have opted to withdraw their bid for a UCI 1.2 sanction citing the sport's governing body's handling of recent doping scandals.
The flagship men's pro/am invitational event at the 2013 Tour of the Battenkill will still take place, with Sunday's finale to a weekend of racing April 13-14 in Cambridge, NY, still part of USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar (NRC) as it was in 2012.
"It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to have that UCI tag on an event, at least at our level, because it has such a negative connotation with the public and sponsors," race organiser Dieter Drake told Cyclingnews. "That's the principal reason we're ditching it (UCI sanction). The first or second question sponsors ask is our opinion of the whole doping scandal that's been going on. They already come into the sponsorship discussions with those thoughts in their mind and it doesn't really set a good template for moving forward with sponsorships.
"It's a disappointing situation the last six months or so and in my opinion really hasn't been handled so well by the UCI. It's really had a negative effect on professional cycling in the US, I think the professional teams domestically in the US would vouch for that."
The Tour of the Battenkill returns for its ninth edition in 2013, but only twice has there been a UCI-sanctioned event as part of the weekend's racing in upstate New York: 2010, won by Caleb Fairly, and 2012, won by Francisco Mancebo. The 2012 UCI-sanctioned invitational, rated 1.2, featured 11 professional teams - two Pro Continental squads (US-based UnitedHealthcare and Team Type 1-Sanofi) and 9 Continental teams (from the United States, Canada and Great Britain) - plus 17 elite amateur teams to round out the 153-rider peloton. UCI Continental teams will still be able to compete in 2013, but Pro Continental teams will not be eligible.
"It's still on the NRC calendar and we'll probably get the same mix of teams with some small caveats," said Drake. "Under the UCI rules we won't be able to invite UnitedHealthcare and Team Type 1, unfortunately, unless they get a waiver. They've been real big supporters of the event and it's up to them whether they want to apply for a waiver, but the chances are that's not going to happen."
The amateur races at the Tour of Battenkill weekend have been wildly successful, with over 3,000 competitors expected to compete in 44 categories at the 2013 event, but professional level one-day races remain few and far between on both the NRC as well UCI America Tour calendars in the United States. While the domestic professional teams may have lost a UCI-sanctioned one-day event for 2013, Drake hopes other one-day road races will step up and make the leap to the NRC, which Drake sees as the primary arbiter of domestic professional racing for the near future.
"I met with a lot of the pro teams in the last week or two out in Colorado and they all say the same thing - they want more one-day races, and more races like Battenkill if they can get them," said Drake. "They're in and out, they're fairly efficient, they have a high PR value if they do well, and they just generally like them.
"I'm hoping more races are inspired, at the very least, to get on the NRC calendar domestically. I think going forward in the next two or three years, for one-day professional racing and even stage races at the level, that's probably the best model for race structures to follow - to be the NRC level that cater to the domestic teams and North American teams. And like Battenkill, hopefully they'll inspire some European teams to come on over regardless of whether it's a UCI race or not. We hope to continue that tradition as well.
"I think the focus should be on the domestic racing calendar, promoting some of the sponsors that have invested in teams and events here domestically because that's what's going to carry the sport in the next two or three years."
Drake is content to remain on the NRC calendar going forward unless there's a wholesale change regarding the sport's international governing body.
"The whole climate has to change before we even consider doing that again (UCI sanction)," said Drake. "If the message from the very top level of the sport is inconsistent and the perception is negative then we're not even in the same ballpark with some of the other sports that we're competing with in the US for the same sponsorship resources."