AIGLE, Switzerland (BRAIN) — The UCI said it won't enforce a rule this season that penalized its licensed athletes who competed in non-sanctioned events. But cycling's international governing body said it plans to enforce the rule next season.
"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," the UCI said in a statement Thursday.
There are about 3,700 athletes in the U.S. with UCI licenses. Most are pros or former pros, but some are also masters racers and other amateurs who get UCI licenses in order to compete outside the U.S. The rule would have had the largest impact on pro mountain bikers who wanted to race in non-sanctioned mountain bike races, including some enduro events and Colorado's Breck Epic and Teva Mountain Games (now the GoPro Games), Arizona's Whiskey 50 and many others.
Last week, USA Cycling distributed a "clarification" of the UCI's rule, which the U.S. body said it had requested from the UCI. The clarification made clear that UCI-licensed athletes who competed in any discipline would be punished for racing in non-sanctioned cycling events. In the clarification, USA Cycling also announced it was relaxing some of its rules to make it easier for non-sanctioned events to get a USAC sanction to avoid the conflict. For example, USA Cycling said it would waive the permit fee and subsidize $1 of its normal $3 dollar per rider insurance surcharge.
The reduced fees were not enough to interest Breck Epic promoter Michael McCormack. "We already get better insurance for less money, would have to re-route all of our online reg (which is really a revenue stream for them positioned as a benefit for promoters), would have to secure, pay and house officials for a week," McCormack told BRAIN.
"The only benefit to aligning with them is the promise that doing so won't marginalize our field size. That's what they're really "offering"… kind of the way a bully guarantees that you'll walk away with an unbroken nose if you give him your lunch money."
McCormack said that last year about 80 racers at his race, about 20 percent of the field, held UCI licenses.
Many top racers spoke out against the rule, and some promoted an online petition against it and called for a summit at the Sea Otter Classic next week, where the UCI, USA Cycling and the race community could discuss the issue. USA Cycling responded that a meeting was unnecessary and that the racers should communicate with the UCI. The Sho-Air Cannnondale team announced its racers would participate in the non-sanctioned Whiskey 50 event despite the rule.
But in a statement Thursday, USA Cycling president and CEO Steve Johnson said the UCI had listened and thanked the organization for its decision.
"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," Johnson said. "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."
McCormack took to Facebook Thursday to react to the news.
"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. 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," McCormack wrote.