By Shane Stokes
Following the news earlier this week that next month's USPRO criterium championships would be limited to US citizens on professional teams, USA Cycling issued a press release on Thursday saying that they have reversed the controversial decision.
"USA Cycling announced today that foreign riders who are members of UCI-registered teams will be eligible to compete at USA Cycling's USPRO Criterium Championships in Downers Grove, Ill. Aug. 20, contrary to earlier reports in the cycling media," stated the press release.
"Both U.S. and foreign riders on UCI-registered trade team rosters will be allowed to compete, as has traditionally been the case when the event was on the UCI international calendar."
"USA Cycling has discussed plans for the USPRO Criterium Championships to be limited to U.S. citizens only, but that had not been communicated to riders and teams."
None of the team directors or riders had heard of the change when Cyclingnews contacted them about the story, with Navigators Insurance DS Ed Beamon commenting that the issue was not even brought up at a recent USPRO board meeting.
Chief executive officer Steve Johnson said that poor communication was at fault. "We apologize for any confusion and angst caused by the lack of clarity on the part of USA Cycling," he said. "The decision to run an American-only national championship was made more than six months ago. However it came to our attention in the last couple of days that it was not properly communicated to the professional teams and riders."
The news will come as a relief to the team mangers who had expressed their frustration to Cyclingnews, stating that they had never heard of the proposed rule change. One of those who was against the limitation was Navigators Insurance DS Ed Beamon, who has a strong contingent of foreign riders.
"The fastest guys in [American criterium racing] are not Americans, so it really devalues the race," he previously told Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski. "One of the caveats of the event is that you have the best teams in America competing in a UCI race, and the bonuses for winning the event outright were great. That jersey doesn't carry as much weight anywhere else. And as a standalone event I don't think they will get the same response. What has kept that event alive and given its significance is that you have the best teams going there because it was a prestigious event to win."
Following the decision to retain the original format, Beamon said that he was happy. "It's good that they came to their senses and decided to keep the race as an International field for 2006," he said on Thursday. "I think it would have created a big stir, and possibly finished the race if they had forced it into being a USA only event."
The decision means that the strongest possible field is once again guaranteed for the August 20 race in Downers Grove, Illinois.