Communication still a problem between USAC, teams
By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
Last year's debacle involving USA Cycling's decision to close the US criterium nationals to foreign riders without informing the teams ended with USAC reversing its decision, and saying that the format for the 2007 edition of the race would be open to discussion with the USPRO board of trustees. That decision has apparently been made and the 2007 race will run under the same format as last year's event -- open to riders of all nationalities who are on UCI registered team rosters competing in the race.
However, with communication breakdowns cited as the root cause of the original problem in 2006, it seems that only part of communication process has been fixed in 2007, as team managers not on the USPRO board were only informed of the decision within the last month -- not much different to last year's situation.
"We didn't even know that was going down!" Jelly Belly director sportif Danny Van Haute told Cyclingnews regarding the criterium nationals decision. Van Haute said that the decision was finally communicated to all US team managers at a meeting the day before the Philadelphia International Championship. "I think there was a problem among the USPRO board members not communicating to the other managers, and I think we got that point across. There needs to be more discussion amongst all the team managers."
Nick Sepke, race director for the National Criterium Championships, confirmed to Cyclingnews that the format has been decided. "That is happening and that is from USA Cycling," he said. "The USPRO board met and they decided on keeping it open to foreign riders."
Though there was talk last year that USAC wanted this event to match the now closed format of the road and time trial national championships, the decision was made by the USPRO board that the open format is best for the event at this time. "Ideally it was supposed to be in conjunction with the other events, but we are here to agree upon whatever USAC wants to do," said Sepke, who personally is in favour of the open format for the fans. "I think it's great for the event, it has been like that for 21 years and they bring fast competition."
USPRO trustee Franke Andreu spoke with Cyclingnews about how the decision was made. "USAC sent out a request to the USPRO board for their opinion, and we all sent back that is should be open and that the team size should be limited," he said. "Then USAC had to check with the rules and make the best decision.
Andreu confirmed that the communication of the decision did not filter down to all team managers until Philly week, but that the representative nature of the USPRO board did serve as a good instrument in making the decision.
"It was brought up there that none of the other directors knew about it, but I think the mix of people in the board is a pretty rounded group. There were definitely different opinions but that would have been the same thing if we had opened it up to everyone for discussion."
When asked his personal opinion, the former US racer believes that like the road and time trial events, American cyclists can perform at the level on their own. "I think it should only be open to Americans. We are able to put on a great show with only American racers. But there are a lot of foreigners on a lot of American teams."