The Tour of Utah is taking steps to join the list of International Cycling Union (UCI) sanctioned events slated to take place in the United States of America in 2011. According to USA Cycling’s Chief Operating Officer, Sean Petty, the coveted National Racing Calendar (NRC) stage race plans to upgrade to a UCI 2.1 license.
“I think a lot of factors have contributed to them wanting to become UCI next year,” Petty told Cyclingnews. “They have to step up on the budget and they are looking at that. The UCI code [2.1.009] might not have directly influenced their decision but it may have played a role in it.”
International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid has said the sport’s governing body intends to enforce code 2.1.009, which prohibits ProTour and Professional Continental teams from competing in national level events where only UCI Continental teams of the country, regional and club teams, national teams and mixed teams may participate.
“There will be no more exceptions for ProTour and Pro Continental teams to compete in national calendar races,” Petty said. “That is our understanding.”
An agreement was reached between the UCI and USA Cycling over the last two years that allowed ProTour and Professional Continental teams to register three riders in national calendar events like Tour of the Gila, Tour of Utah and the Cascade Cycling Classic. The entry was conditional on the riders not wearing their official team clothing. In addition BMC Racing team started a full roster at this year’s Tour of Utah, based on an exemption worked out between USA Cycling and the UCI in advance.
“I think it’s been tremendously beneficial and helpful for the growth of the Tour of the Gila and Tour of Utah to have riders like Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Jason McCartney, Dave Zabriskie and George Hincapie racing in those events,” Petty said. “I think that Gila in particular would not have existed if it wasn’t for the infusion of those riders and support from SRAM. It is now a high profile event on the calendar. We went from a race being gone to a race being on the UCI calendar and it is easy to point to how the interest was generated.
“In the US, we want to work to find a way to showcase our top riders on a more regular basis,” he added. “We just don’t have enough UCI races. We were on middle ground in allowing three rider to race in non-team kits and working around the rule to help that. It was a real benefit for cycling in the US and to the development of those races.
“It is a missed opportunity but we understand the UCI’s position to try and support and grow the ProTour and those teams have signed up for that racing program,” he said. “It’s tough because it was great to see those guys and build those races outside of the UCI and work to get more races on the UCI, certainly that was the goal, but in the meantime it was nice to have those riders to raise the interest in both of those events. Now here we are with those events on the UCI calendar.”
This year there were four UCI-sanctioned races in the US that included the Tour of California, Tour of the Battenkill, Philadelphia International Championships and the Univest Grand Prix. It was announced last month that New Mexico’s Tour of the Gila would make the necessary arrangements to become a UCI 2.2 level event. In addition Colorado’s inaugural Quiznos Pro Challenge will be a UCI 2.1 sanctioned stage race and according to Petty the Tour of Utah will likely be a UCI 2.1 event also.
“That [the enforcement of code 2.1.009] was one of the reasons we worked hard with Gila and Utah to have those events on the UCI calendar,” Petty said. “Utah took a big step up, they have always been a well run race but adding Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie brought in interest and support from the media and sponsors in the area. It created more desire for them to accelerate their involvement on the UCI calendar. So much so, that we are discussing UCI 2.1 status for the Tour of Utah. That is a tremendous leap and can be attributed to the participation of BMC team and Levi Leipheimer this year.
“I think the Tour of Utah was a tremendous race on the NRC and has continued to be so,” he added. “But it was a commitment they have decided on in order to take that next step to get on the UCI calendar. Having seen that this year, it seems like that it is a worthwhile effort on their part.”
This year the Tour of Utah was held from August 17-22 and feared to overlap with the proposed August date of the Quiznos Pro Challenge. The two events will not overlap next year according to Petty and the USA Cycling and UCI are scheduled to discuss the possible dates of each event during the UCI Road World Championships, held in Australia at the end of this month.
“Right now we are working with the UCI for the proposed dates for both races,” Petty said. “We have to find the proper slots for the Quiznos Pro Challenge and how that works with the Canadian ProTour races. We’ve had discussions and will continue to have discussions with the UCI on those dates.
“Nothing has been resolved yet and the calendar will be approved by the management committee at the upcoming World Championships in Melbourne,” he added. “We will continue to discuss that over the next 10 days before that meeting.”
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