The International Cycling Union (UCI) has informed teams it will strictly enforce its rule prohibiting men and women professional riders from participating in events that are not recognized by a national federation. According to Chief Operating Officer of USA Cycling, Sean Petty, a letter was sent to all UCI team managers on March 14.
"It applies to UCI men and women’s teams and communication should have gone to all registered UCI teams, men and women," Petty told Cyclingnews. "We sent a second email to the UCI team riders informing them of this rule just in case the team directeurs hadn’t gotten the word out. We are starting the racing season and we wanted to send it out as a reminder of the participation rules which we shared with their team directeurs in our email note in March."
The UCI's Code 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."
In addition, rule 1.2.021 states that, "Breaches of articles 1.2.019 or 1.2.020 shall render the licence holder liable to one month's suspension and a fine of 50 to 100 Swiss francs."
The US currently has a total of 19 UCI-sanctioned men's and women’s teams that includes four ProTeams, two Professional Continental, 10 Continental teams and three UCI-sanctioned women’s teams, and many of the riders make their base in the USA for at least part of the season and use local races for training.
"I’m not sure how long this rule has existed for but it has been there a while because it is a fundamental directive from the UCI, that everyone with a license must compete in events that are sanctioned by a federation," Petty said. "For non-USA Cycling sanctioned events there is no variance, they are simply the rules and the UCI teams and riders are obliged to follow those rules and they have to participate according to the UCI rules in races sanctioned by the national federation that is recognized by the UCI."
The UCI has cracked down on enforcing rules over the past two years, beginning with its rules for participation in national level races. The issue surfaced at the Tour of the Gila in 2009 when Lance Armstrong wanted to bring his team to the race. The code prohibits ProTour and Professional Continental teams from competing in national level events. Only UCI Continental teams of the country, regional and club teams, national teams and mixed teams may participate.
Discussions between USA Cycling and the UCI led to a temporary agreement whereby such teams could start three riders wearing nondescript clothing. However, UCI President Pat McQuaid announced that the code would be strictly enforced in 2011.
"We started the process back in November at the NRC promoter’s summit in talking to the promoters of the NRC races that based on the participation rules and the UCI’s position that they were going to be enforced much more closely than in the past," Petty said. "That was my indication to the NRC promoters, was to not expect that if you are not a UCI race to see ProTeams and Pro Continental teams unless there is an exemption given by the UCI."
The action affects a number of events in Colorado that are sanctioned under the American Cycling Association (ACA) and Oregon that are sanctioned under the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA). According to Executive Director Kenji Sugahara, OBRA will reach out to USA Cycling a discuss the possibility of granting special exemptions.
"This rule has never been enforced before so I'm puzzled why it's being enforced now," Sugahara said. "I'd guess that it's UCI being the UCI rather than USA Cycling. We've recently had a great working relationship with USA Cycling."
In addition, Sugahara said that the code will not affect 99 percent of its membership. However, it will affect two events, the Cherry Blossom Classic and the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic which are not run under USA Cycling. The National Racing Calendar (NRC) Cascade Cycling Classic, however, is sanctioned under USA Cycling and riders on Continental teams are free to compete.
"It affects a few of our riders, but it doesn't affect the fact that it's pretty lame," Sugahara said. "When we have great riders coming out of our program like Jacob Rathe and Ian Boswell to name a few, this move is pretty disappointing. I know our local riders enjoy having them race.
"Frankly, if the UCI wasn't based in Europe I'd be making a move to take Pat's job given we have one of the most successful grassroots cycling programs in the US with the highest per capita ridership, period. In the end we'll see how this works out with our reciprocity negotiations with USA Cycling. Perhaps we'll work to have our events recognized albeit not sanctioned by USA Cycling."
ACA Executive Director, Chris McGee was disappointed that the UCI decided to enforce the rule which will heavily affect the large number of domestic and foreign professional racers who live, train and compete in Colorado.
Some of the professional riders who base themselves in Colorado are Ben Day (Kenda/5-hour Energy), Mike Friendman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth), Georgia Gould (Team Luna), Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant), Danny Summerhill (Chipotle Development Team), among many others.
"I think one of the reason that we have such a high calibre of racing in Colorado is because we have so many professional racers in our events," McGee said.
"They are local ACA events but we will have between 10 and 20 professional racers who want to compete here when they are at home. I’m disappointed for them because it is a big part of their lives and I’m disappointed for us because our cycling community wants to embrace everyone from 8 year olds, who are just starting out, to having a place for our professionals to race too."