USA's Continental teams face rule changes in 2010

American UCI Continental teams face several rule changes for the 2010 season.

American UCI Continental teams face several rule changes for the 2010 season. (Image credit: Jonathan Devich)

USA Cycling and the USPRO Board of Trustees have implemented some changes to the policies and procedures in 2010 for teams wanting to register as a UCI Continental Team within the US. Changes include tougher restrictions on the number of foreign riders allowed per team, mandatory health insurance for all riders and clearer contractual agreements between rider and management.

"Non-European countries were given the option of having a phasing period to introduce the new rules to the teams last year then implement them in 2010," said Shawn Farrell, USA Cycling's technical director. "It is no surprise to any of our teams."

Unique to the USA, in January of 2010 USA Cycling and the USPRO Board of Trustees will implement a 'majority rule' whereby all teams registered as a UCI Continental Team must have the majority of its riders as US citizens. This will change again in 2011 whereby 60 percent of riders must be US citizens. Furthermore, all foreign riders must be licensed with USA Cycling, listed in the USA Cycling database and enrolled in the no advanced notice pool for drug testing with USADA. The team is responsible for providing up-to-date addresses for all riders.

"We occupy an interesting position in cycling because we are a huge country with a large number of teams but we also don't have other countries to race in nearby," Farrell said. "Our Continental teams play a more important role in the development of our riders than in Europe. Here, they really are a place to go and be for a long time, almost as though they were Professional Continental but without some of the extra requirements.

"You would be hard pressed to find a foreign rider on a Continental team in any other country," Farrell continued. "We noticed that our teams were looking more like foreign teams than American, meaning there was no place for young Americans to go and no bridge or stepping stones anymore. We decided we needed to look at what Continental teams ought to be and make a change to reflect that, to make room for young Americans on these teams. If a team needs to be 20 riders with all of them foreign, they should be Professional Continental and there is that option."

The already existing rules mandated by the UCI include team size requirements at a minimum of eight riders and a maximum of 16 riders, the majority of the riders must be have a racing age of under 28, the allowance of two U23 riders to be added as stagiaires as of August 1 and the allowance of up to four "specialists" in other endurance cycling disciplines provided they're ranked by the UCI in the top 150 of their respective disciplines. The newly introduced changes listed below have already been implemented overseas for European registered Continental teams at the start of the 2009 season.

Beginning in January of 2010, team management must provide documentation that assures USA Cycling and the UCI that each rider carries comprehensive health insurance, in addition to what comes with being licensed with USA Cycling. The team must make sure the rider's health insurance is maintained for the duration of the season. Furthermore, the UCI rules specify that it is the team's responsibility to provide supplementary coverage if the rider does not have it. USA Cycling offers an additional coverage package through Adventure Advocates.

The UCI introduced higher bank guarantees and the teams must pay a bank guarantee of 20,000 Euros or 15 percent of the total for all rider and staff salaries, whichever is higher, to be held in a neutral bank determined by USA Cycling at a later date. Once the guarantee is deposited it cannot be accessed without USA Cycling's approval. "The UCI's bank guarantee is much higher, where last year it was a minimum of $5,500 or 10 percent of the rider and staff salaries," Farrell said. "Over half of our teams are paying more than that now and there are probably four teams that pay the minimum right now. They will have to take it up or not be a Continental team next year."

Lastly, USA Cycling will also draft various types of guidelines to promote clearer and specific clauses that are deemed acceptable in rider-team contracts. This was designed to help prohibit teams from terminating contracts at any time and at their own discretion, which violates the principle of having a contract. According to the provision, an example is that it would be acceptable to terminate a contract in the case of a positive drug test or a serious breach of contract and unacceptable to terminate a contract for something as vague as 'not performing up to the team's expectations.'

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