Apparently the U.S. Congress isn’t the only governing body willing to kick the proverbial can down the road. Following an uproar from riders, promoters and teams across the U.S., the UCI announced Thursday it will postpone by one year stringent enforcement of its controversial rule 1.2.019, which stipulates that any UCI license holder – professional or amateur — is forbidden from competing in any race not sanctioned by a UCI-affiliated national governing body such as USA Cycling.
That included many popular mountain bike events such as the Leadville 100, Teva Mountain Games, Whiskey Off-Road, and BC Bike Race, as well as almost any event in Oregon, which has its own governing body, the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association, and is home to arguably the world’s largest amateur cyclocross series, the Cross Crusade.
In a news release sent out Thursday morning, USA Cycling wrote, “After engaging in dialogue with USA Cycling to address the immediate concerns raised by the enforcement of UCI rule 1.2.019, the UCI issued the following statement today: The UCI listened to the feedback from the various groups involved and who feel affected by a strict and immediate enforcement of rule 1.2.019 and its associated sanctions. The UCI has decided to postpone strict enforcement of rule 1.2.019 in 2013 with the expectation that all stakeholders (national federations, race directors, teams and riders) will discuss and do what is necessary to prepare for the rule’s full enforcement in 2014.”
While welcome news in the short term, this was obviously not the solution many of the effected constituents were looking for. Writing on Facebook, Breck Epic event director Mike McCormack took umbrage with the notion that the rule should ever be enforced.
“We’ve yet to hear a valid reason why the rule even needs to be in place, or why a more nuanced version can’t be written in its place,” wrote McCormack, who has been an outspoken critic of both the national and international governing bodies, and does not sanction his event through USA Cycling. “It’s extortion… except they’re killing themselves, their rider numbers and their own promoters in the process. We will NOT be dictated to by the UCI or USAC. Now, in 2014 or ever. [The vast majority] of the riding community, the bike industry and the event promotion community are unified in their displeasure with the rule, yet the ivory tower [at UCI headquarters in] Aigle [Switzerland] still maintains its position as the ultimate arbiter of what’s right for all of cycling.”
Indeed, though the change in tune from the UCI seems a good first step. It’s unlikely that the many unaffiliated event promoters will take the reprieve as opportunity to get in lockstep with any governing body moving forward. And until these events are truly compelled to seek sanctioning through USA Cycling, no real change will be effected.
“Since 2001, when I started putting on races full time it’s never been compelling to work with USA Cycling,” said Todd Sadow, who runs Epic Rides, parent company of the popular Whiskey Off-Road mountain bike event in Prescott, Arizona, that annually attracts upwards of 2,000 participants but is not sanctioned through USA Cycling. “The problem is that they never brought anything to the table that we couldn’t get elsewhere for a better price or with better service. Working with USA Cycling means elevated costs for us and for our participants.”
Sadow says that as recently as last fall, USA Cycling approached him to talk about joining forces, but the offer they made was one he could easily refuse.
“They called me and said they were going to make changes,” recalled Sadow, who currently procures his own event insurance and does not require participants at his events to purchase a racing license of any kind. “I told them I was all for it, I’ve been waiting for you to make changes. But then they sent a follow up email and it was quickly obvious that they were not making any changes. They were just willing to make some one-year acceptations so they could get us into the pipeline. After that it would revert back to standard operating procedures, so nothing was really going to change. It would just enable them to continue to operate the way they have been operating, while getting us married to them. Well, my friend, that’s not happening.”
Judging from Thursday’s announcement the UCI and USA Cycling still have a long way to go before any real trust with their disenchanted constituencies will be established.
“I’ll credit the UCI for being reasonable, but ending the press release with a veiled threat to ‘prepare for the rule’s full enforcement in 2014’ doesn’t really address the underlying issue,” wrote multi-time U.S. national cross-country champion Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski on his Facebook page. “See you in 8 months.”
USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson did his best to address these concerns in the Thursday statement, but his qualified statement seemed to indicate that timing was the only thing that had really changed thus far.
“Notwithstanding the fact that rule 1.2.019 has been enforced in Europe for many years, it is clear strict enforcement in the U.S. and other countries will have unintended and undesirable consequences,” wrote Johnson. “USA Cycling listened to the views expressed by the cycling community in America, and these issues were fully represented in discussions with the UCI. We would like to thank the UCI for its willingness to suspend enforcement of the rule globally to allow time for productive dialogue with all stakeholders to find a workable solution for the future.”
What the workable solution is a very large unknown. Brad Ross, who runs the wildly popular Cross Crusade cyclocross series in Oregon and does not sanction his events through USA Cycling, contends that the issues run much deeper.
“As race promoters we just want to put on bike races,” said Ross. “If USA Cycling was a good organization to work with and offered competitive services, then there would be no reason for all these non-federation-sanctioned races. But for years USA Cycling has been a difficult and expensive organization to work with, and they offer almost no services for race promoter or the racer. Neither of us see benefit from that.”
Currently there are approximately 3,000 UCI-licensed racers in the U.S., which includes pros, amateurs who take out the license to race international events, and some top level juniors looking to race overseas.