USA Cycling Fires Back At Rule Enforcement Criticism


Editor’s Note: In the wake of increasing criticism for its enforcement of the UCI rule regarding participation in non-UCI events, USA Cycling has produced a letter from UCI president Pat McQuaid explaining its side of the matter.

This appears to be a direct response to accusations that heretofore USA Cycling had been enforcing a rule that the UCI had little interest in, and which was not being enforced by other national governing bodies. (Here’s an example of the recent commentary and here is a video interview of one pro racer accusing USA Cycling of deceit.)

But now, on paper at least, that appears to have changed, as the UCI is now claiming it backs the stringent enforcement of the rule, which bars UCI-licensed riders from riding in non-sanctioned events. RoadBikeReview will have a deeper analysis of the issue in the coming days. In the meantime here is the full unedited letter from USA Cycling to its membership:

To: USA Cycling Members
RE: UCI Rule 1.2.019

There has been a tremendous amount of discussion and misinformation recently in articles and forums regarding UCI rule 1.2.019, which prohibits all UCI licensed riders from competing in events that are not sanctioned by a national federation.

USA Cycling received the following letter from the International Cycling Union (UCI) on March 26 to all national federations clarifying its expectations in the enforcement of rule 1.2.019. It also explains what the few possible exceptions to its rule are.

The UCI confirmed that Rule 1.2.019 and the related sanctions in 1.2.020 and 1.2.021 must apply to every UCI-recognized national federation in the world. Therefore, as a member of the International Federation, USA Cycling will comply with the direction from the UCI. The letter below was communicated to USA Cycling members today.

From UCI President Pat McQuaid
Re: forbidden races

It has recently come to our attention that some National Federations are experiencing difficulties in the interpretation and application of the rules relating to “forbidden races”, namely Articles 1.2.019, 1.2.020 and 1.2.021 of the UCI Regulations.

With this in mind, we would like to provide the following clarification which we hope you will find useful. Article 1.2.019 of the UCI Regulations states: “No license holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognized by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI.

A national federation may grant special exceptions for races or particular events run in its own country.”

The objective of this regulation is to protect the hard work and resources you pour into the development of your events at national level. It allows for a federative structure, something which is inherent in organized sport and which is essential to being a part of the Olympic movement.

Of course the regulation also allows the UCI, in line with its mission as an international federation, to guarantee uniform regulation.

Article 1.2.019 applies to all license holders, without exception. It does not solely concern professional riders or just the members of UCI teams, contrary to certain statements in the press and on some blogs.

The second paragraph of Article 1.2.019 affords each national federation the facility to grant a special exception for specific races or events taking place in its territory.

Special races or events are understood to be cycle events which are not registered on the national calendar of the country’s federation or on the UCI international calendar. This generally concerns events that are occasional and which do not recur, most often organized by persons or entities who do not belong to the world of organized sport. For example, an event may be organized by an association that does not have a link to the National Federation, such as a race specifically for members of the armed forces, fire fighters or students or perhaps as part of a national multisport event.

With the exception of these special cases, the National Federation is not permitted to grant an exemption to a cycle event which is held, deliberately or not, outside the federative movement. For example, in no case should an exception be granted to a cycling event that is organized by a person or entity who regularly organizes cycling events.

The objective of Article 1.2.019 is that exemptions should only be granted in exceptional cases.

License holders who participate in a “forbidden race” make themselves liable not only to sanctions by their National Federation, as scheduled by Article 1.2.021 of the UCI regulations, but also run the risk of not having sufficient insurance cover in the event of an accident.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please accept our kindest regards,

Pat McQuaid

More from USA Cycling:
Clarification on affected riders:

The letter from the UCI confirms no UCI licensed rider, in any discipline, may participate in an event not sanctioned by a national federation recognized by the UCI (USA Cycling is the sole national federation in the United States). Originally, this was described as only affecting those UCI-licensed riders on UCI teams. The UCI has subsequently clarified that the rule extends to ALL UCI-licensed riders, even those not associated with a UCI team.

USA Cycling understands the fact that this rule enforcement has a far-reaching impact on riders and race directors alike, particularly in the mountain bike discipline. To help manage the impact and assist riders and race directors with the transition, USA Cycling will work with non-sanctioned mountain bike events by providing the following for mountain bike events permitted with USA Cycling after April 1, 2013:

  • For any mountain bike event that occurred in 2012, but did not sanction with USA Cycling in 2012, USA Cycling will waive the permit fee (2013 only). USA Cycling will also subsidize $1 of the $3 dollar per rider insurance surcharge. The per-rider insurance surcharge for mountain bike events that occurred in 2012 but were not permitted in 2012 will be $2 per rider (2013 only).

What a USA Cycling Event Permit Provides for Race Promoters:

  • Low permit fees. A mountain bike race of less than 500 riders has a maximum permit fee of $100 a day. The only other fee USA Cycling collects is a per-rider insurance charge of $3 which covers one of the most robust insurance packages in cycling for the race director, the landowners, the sponsors, and excess accident medical coverage for participants. Comparable insurance coverage cost per rider is much more expensive.
  • Racing infrastructure for a safe and level playing field including anti-doping, rules and trained officials. As the only USOC and UCI recognized cycling organization in the U.S., riders in USA Cycling events can be subject to the groundbreaking USA Cycling RaceClean™ anti-doping program to create a level playing field.
  • Access to USA Cycling’s online registration system that allows riders to register for events and sign electronic waivers on the USA Cycling website or by using the USA Cycling smartphone app.
  • A $0.40 rebate to race directors for each registration when you use USA Cycling’s online registration system.

Why you Should Support USA Cycling Sanctioned Events:

  • USA Cycling spends more than $4 million per year supporting American athletes in development and international competition programs. Much of that money is generated from the racing activities of our more than 74,000 members racing more than 600,000 racing days each year in sanctioned events. Every time you race in a sanctioned event, a small amount of revenue is generated to support critical athlete programs. Most importantly, virtually every dime USA Cycling generates as a result of your racing activities is reinvested in the sport. However, when you compete in an unsanctioned event, nothing goes to support these important programs that help to maintain our international success and create the heroes and role models that are so important to the sport.
  • In 2012, USA Cycling spent more than $530,000 in support of mountain bike development programs, world championships and pre-Olympic camps to help riders achieve their dreams on the world’s biggest stages.
  • Professionally-licensed riders are the direct beneficiaries of USA Cycling’s significant investment in athlete support. As such, they have a vested interest to support the sanctioned events that fuel that support.
  • Insurance protection at sanctioned events is some of the best available and provides coverage not only for the race directors, but also for the volunteers and officials working the event, as well as the racers themselves. At unsanctioned events, there is no guarantee that the insurance provides adequate coverage to anyone other than the race owner. Most unsanctioned events will claim they have comparable overall insurance coverage for their event when compared to what USA Cycling’s insurance program provides, but our own research and analysis have shown that is just not the case.
  • Sanctioned events provide a safe and level playing field by a consistent standard for athlete protection such as accident insurance, an enforceable code of conduct and USA Cycling’s RaceClean™ anti-doping controls conducted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
  • Sanctioned events provide licensed participants with the opportunity to be part of the USA Cycling National Results and Ranking System that allows you to compare your results to everyone else in your age group by city, state, region or even nationally.

For complete information on fees, benefits and how to sanction an event with USA Cycling, click HERE.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympics, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the Mtbr staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.

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  • JMP says:

    Screw USA Cycling and the UCI!

  • xcbiker says:

    such a stupid rule. Pros at races is great for e/1 (except for soul-sucking monsters at USA cycling and UCI).

  • Matt B says:

    USAC did not bring its public relations A-game to this one… There is no discussion of _why_ license-holders are racing outside of the sanctioned events. No admission of a lack of vision in event planners, no discussion of regional differences or event type. Just the hard line: we invested in the big events and the big pros, so we get to control the image we bought for our future financial success. If USAC were so good for cycling then simply explain the growing demand for races sanctioned/organized by different bodies. Outdo the competition or fold them in. I don’t get any impression that USAC or UCI cares one whit about the thousands and thousands of amateur racers worldwide who are not part of the elite pipeline. But the races would be pretty thin affairs without us.

  • danny sintov says:

    anti doping classifies marijuana as a performance enhancing drug.
    myself and most mountain bikers i know like to smoke either occasionally or regularly.
    let the potheads race and im sure support for uci will increase.
    currently race organizers have to choose weather they want their event to be fun and inclusive and have a lot of local riders participate or they can organize an event for pros. only that have to be persuaded to come to the event and the have the locals be spectators only

  • Bike Doc says:

    I think that all the Pro riders and teams should band together and boycott all USAC and UCI events for the entire season. Race ONLY non-sanctioned events for the year and show these self serving thugs that their strong-arm tactics won’t work.

  • john green says:

    When a sanctioning body becomes irrelevant in the very sport they are involved in, crap like this starts. Hopefully we are seeing and can facilitate the disappearance of both UCI and USAC from cycling. Participation in non-sanctioned events will hopefully hasten this process that is long overdue. JG

  • Whambat says:

    Even in that letter from the UCI, we can see that it is up to the national agency to suspend riders. It is USACk’s choice. Eff them and this duck and cover approach. They are just going to hurt US pro riders. If USac was so great, why did the usac sanctioned series in CO fail while non-affiliated race series thrive?

  • Doug M. says:

    Organized sport is becoming too much like organized religion: losing it’s grip on authority and relevance. I say good riddance.

  • Bruce W says:

    What it boils down to is:

    (1) US Cycling is laying the blame on UCI.
    (2) License holders can only ride in sanctioned events because US Cycling wants the money to use for its pet projects, which don’t necessarily benefit rank and file members.

  • Sleepy Head says:

    This raises many disturbing questions. I hold a UCI license. If I go race in a non-sanctioned MTB race, is Pat McQuaid going to kick me out of the weeknight crit? If the MTB or gravel grinder gets sanctioned, do we have to stop drinking beer to pass our drug test? If I do test positive for beer, how long is my suspension? What if I just register for the non-sanctioned name with my alleycat name…is the UCI going to come fingerprint the empty beer cans to ID me? Will the anti-doping passport be updated to include non-sanctioned riding?

    • JS says:

      They took alcohol off the in-competition prohibited list – you are legaly allowed to race three sheets to the wind if you want – not that they EVER tested for Alcohol

  • Cilantro13 says:

    Glad they have an anti-doping arm, because the sport of cycling is so clean and the anti-doping activities have been super-effective in stamping it out of the sport…

    Just looks like another money grab — if they can prevent the best local riders from taking part in local events, then the local event planners have no choice but to come hat in hand to UCI if they want to do their event. Frankly, my racing experience says some of the local events have a much better spirit (read: much less sterile) and are more fun than UCI-sponsored events.

    This is only guy who will not be renewing — I am not competitive enough to need the points, and I would just prefer to stick it to UCI after this PR snafu.

  • JimmyDee says:

    Odd that they appear to be more strict in enforcing this than drug regulations. Sure, plenty of smoke and mirrors, but considering how many top riders ‘got away with it’ for so many years, the UCI is in a pretty bad position where it comes to laying down the law.

    It’s a tough place to be in if your livelihood depends on the UCI.

    Next, they are going to start a rule where UCI riders aren’t allowed to ride at all unless the UCI provides insurance and authorizes all the vehicles on the road for standards compliance.

    I believe the word the Brits use for this is appropriate: tossers.

  • well... says:

    what’s UCI?

  • Maarten Essers - MTBSO says:

    Join our counter movement, read all about it here:

    Website already in the making!

    It’s time for change, and we have to make it happen for ourselves!

  • D Shizzle says:

    This is America, home of capitalism, where the consumer is free to choose and decide which product is best, and those that are not will either die or improve. If everyone races USAC there is no incentive to improve and keep up the high standards that many of the non-sanctioned races have espoused. Not only that, USAC are more expensive and better products often exist that are cheaper.

    Personally I support USAC series races in my community but to snuff out the non-sactioned races is pathetic and non-American.

  • Dave Lane says:

    My experience with USA cycling has been mostly negative. I have a frond who was hit by a car during a USAC event and USAC put up the biggest legal BS hurdles to get medical bills covered. To heck with’em. Won’t get my money.

  • John G. says:

    Matt B. USAC doesn’t have a public relations A- game, or B, or even C. I’d give ‘em an FU personally !! JG

  • Herzalot says:

    RaceClean program… Hilarious! They’ve been super effective at keeping the sport “clean” right? Interesting that they think there is only one way to develop the “Olympic Movement” and that the Olympics is the epitome of MtB competition. Completely out of touch.

  • Matt Heydon says:

    USAC is trying to bully race promoters to buy their protection. USAC is more like an organized crime syndicate.
    While it is true that the UCI has an oppressive rule they have also given liberty to the respective National Federations (such as USAC) to enforce such rule. Or maybe it would be better stated that if a national federation did NOT enforce this rule the UCI would not step in and demand they do. They wouldn’t even be aware of it in most cases. It is my belief that USAC and only USAC opened Pandora’s Box on this. The USAC is realizing lost revenue with all these “premiere” non-sanctioned MTB events gaining big followings ie. Whiskey Off-Road, Park City P2P, etc… So rather than offering a value added product they instead fall back on this arcane UCI rule.
    Once they got called out on their discretions by competitors, the very people they should be supporting, they cried to the UCI to step in and justify their actions. It is done so by Pat McQuaid restating this rule in a nice memo.
    This current quagmire was prompted by USAC. Just as UCI said, “It has recently come to our attention that some National Federations are experiencing difficulties….” I am not defending the UCI, they are certainly culpable in this mess.
    THANKS Sho-Air/Cannondale for being a leader on this. Let’s keep the pressure on USAC or hope for the return of a sanctioning body that understands MTB racing. Always race your race!

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