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UCI President Pat McQuaid at the UCI headquarters in Aigle
Reprieve given until end of 2013 but rule looks set for 2014
The UCI backed down from enforcing its controversial rule 1.2.019, stating that it will not be enforced in 2013. However, the rule looks set to be pushed forward in 2014 with the sport’s governing body keen to discuss the implementation with race organizers, national federations, teams and riders. The UCI's initial enforcement of the rule had been met with anger and frustration from race organisers and riders, especially those in the American mountain bike community.
UCI general regulations include a section called "Forbidden Races". Within it, Rule 1.2.019 states, "No licence holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognised by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI." Related rules 1.2.020 and 1.2.021 provide additional details, including specifying punishment via fine or suspension for all UCI licence holders who violate the rule.
A February letter from UCI President Pat McQuaid to USA Cycling made it clear that rule 1.2.019, which prohibits all UCI licensed riders from competing in events that are not sanctioned by a national federation, should not only apply to riders on UCI-registered teams, as a USA Cycling spokesman previously told Cyclingnews, but to all riders who hold a UCI license. According to the rules, athletes who participate in a "forbidden race" can be fined by their national federation and/or suspended up to 30 days.
McQuaid clarified in his March 26th letter to all national federations that "Article 1.2.019 applies to all license 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."
In an about turn on Thursday, the UCI flipped its position and said, "The UCI listened to the feedback from the various groups involved and who feel affected by a strict and immediate enforcement of rule 1.2.019 and its associated sanctions. The UCI has decided to postpone strict enforcement of rule 1.2.019 in 2013 with the expectation that all stakeholders (National Federations, race directors, teams and riders) will discuss and do what is necessary to prepare for the rule’s full enforcement in 2014."
USA Cycling said the change came after it had engaged in dialogue with the UCI. "Notwithstanding the fact that rule 1.2.019 has been enforced in Europe for many years, it is clear strict enforcement in the US and other countries will have unintended and undesirable consequences," said Steve Johnson, USA Cycling President & CEO.
"USA Cycling listened to the views expressed by the cycling community in America, and these issues were fully represented in discussions with the UCI. We would like to thank the UCI for its willingness to suspend enforcement of the rule globally to allow time for productive dialogue with all stakeholders to find a workable solution for the future."
The immediate relief was palpable among mountain bikers posting on the internet after the news, but many realized that the suspension of the enforcement of the rules is only a temporary reprieve, and without further change, the community will face the same issue again in 2014.
One affected promoter Mike McCormack, who puts on the Breck Epic mountain bike stage race posted on Facebook, "We've yet to hear a valid reason why the rule even needs to be in place, or why a more nuanced version can't be written in its place. It's extortion...except they're killing themselves, their rider numbers and their own promoters in the process. We will NOT be dictated to by the UCI or USAC. Now, in 2014 or ever."
"99% of the riding community, the bike industry and the event promotion community are unified in their displeasure with the rule, yet the ivory tower in Aigle still maintains its position as the ultimate arbiter of what's right for all of cycling."
Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Trek Factory Racing), one of the riders who has been publicly outspoken against Rule 1.2.019, said on Facebook, "I'll credit the UCI for being reasonable, but ending the press release with a veiled threat to 'prepare for the rule's full enforcement in 2014' doesn't really address the underlying issue. See you in 8 months."