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An open letter to the UCI and USA Cycling

Alex Grant (Sho-Air/Cannondale)

Alex Grant (Sho-Air/Cannondale) (Image credit: John Muller/US Cup)

There has been a lot of discussion about the latest interpretation of Rule 1.2.019 regarding "forbidden races." I am happy that it will not be enforced in 2013, and want to add my voice to those that have spoken out against it. I hope that the UCI will reconsider its decision to bring this rule back in 2014. I also hope that USA Cycling will make it clear to the UCI that this rule adversely affects a large number of its own members, and will not work in the United States.

The UCI is the world's International Cycling Union. As a professional cyclist, I expect that an organization bearing that name would be interested in looking out for riders' interests, and encouraging the development of professional riders rather than putting up barriers. I have faith that the UCI and USA Cycling have every intention of cultivating and bettering all disciplines of cycling, and Rule 1.2.019 does just the opposite.

While I can't speak for others, or claim to have any insight into the background or reasons behind the rule, I can speak directly to how it would affect me. The bottom line is that if I were to follow this rule, it would hinder my ability to succeed as a professional cyclist. I am sure that I am not the only one in this situation, and urge others to speak up. In order to attract young talent, professional cycling needs to be an enticing opportunity that draws riders in. This rule only serves as a barrier.

I first received a pro license in late 2006, and have been slowly chipping away at a professional career over the past six years. In 2009 I signed with my first real professional team, Mona-Vie/Cannondale. Since then I have been a part of Cannondale Factory Racing, and now the new Sho-Air/Cannondale team. I am extremely grateful for the level of support I have received over the years, and continue to receive on Sho-Air/Cannondale.

Over the past few seasons, I have been moving towards the possibility of earning a living from racing. That dream has become closer and closer to a reality, especially when you factor in prize money. In 2012, one-third of my total earnings from racing came from prize money from non-USAC events. By comparison less than 1 percent of my earnings came from prize money from USAC events, including fifth at US Marathon National Championships, eighth at cross country nationals, and a couple Pro XCT top 10 finishes. The non-USAC events allowed me to gain great press and exposure for my sponsors. That is the goal of a sponsorship, and if it were taken away, I would not be as valuable to them as a rider. That prize money is also more than just an added bonus. At one-third of my income from racing, it is something that I can't afford to pass up.

This rule may apply to ProTour road teams, where, to my understanding, they have salary minimums, rider unions, and certain benefit requirements for their riders. Those top tier riders are not as affected, they have plenty of opportunities to earn a living and gain valuable exposure for their sponsors racing inside the rule. That is not the case with mountain biking, cyclo-cross, and in many cases road racing in the United States. Our domestic pros and neo-pros need the "forbidden" races to develop as a rider, gain that little bit of extra exposure for their sponsors, and earn that little bit of extra money.

If I were forced to choose a calendar of "forbidden" races versus one of "permitted" races, it is clear what I would choose. But why make us choose? The right thing to do is let us race, and I urge the UCI to reconsider this rule, as well as USA Cycling to stand by their members and support their own riders.

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Alex Grant, 31, is one of America's top endurance mountain bike racers. Sponsored by Cannondale Factory Racing in 2012, Grant juggles racing as a pro with managing an outdoor gear consignment business called Gear Rush, which he co-owns with fellow Utah cyclist and racer Bart Gillepsie. This season, look out for Grant on the podiums at major endurance and stage races. For variety, you may also see him on on the start line of some super Ds, cross countries and short tracks.

In 2011, Grant finished third at the Leadville 100 and eighth at the US cross country national championships while also logging top 10s at the super D and marathon nationals. He finished fifth in the Downieville Classic All Mountain Overall and seventh at La Ruta de los Conquistadores. For the third year in a row, he won the Park City Point 2 Point.

In 2010, Grant made headlines with his second place finish at La Ruta de los Conquistadores, the Breck Epic and the Trans-Sylvania Epic.

When not on his mountain bike, Grant enjoys backcountry skiing, snowboarding and hiking.

Grant is from Richmond, Vermont, and he presently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Follow his 2012 season in this blog on Cyclingnews.