by Macky Franklin and Syd Schulz
We have eight-and-a-half months to demand that the UCI drop Rule 1.2.019
On the morning of Thursday April 11, the cycling community woke up to good news. The UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) had announced that it would postpone enforcement of Rule 1.2.019 until 2014. This is a victory for the cycling community, but a small one. The real debate of how to build a stronger, more unified sport is just beginning.
For anyone who hasn't heard about UCI Rule 1.2.019, here's a summary. The rule states: "no [UCI] license holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognised by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI." In plain English, this means that any event not sanctioned by the US national federation (USA Cycling or USAC) or the UCI is off limits to anyone with a UCI license. The rule only applies to pro racers, anyone with plans to race outside of the US and Category 1 cyclocross racers, but it has the potential to affect the cycling community as a whole by preventing a large number of riders from attending non-USAC races.
Affected races include most stage races, all Enduro races, TEVA Games, Whiskey Off-Road, Downieville, Breck Epic, BC Bike Race, and Firecracker 50, to name just a few. The penalty? 50-100 Swiss Francs and a one-month suspension. The UCI justified the rule as a measure to "protect the hard work and resources [national governing bodies] pour into the development of [their] events at [the] national level" and "to guarantee uniform regulation.”
USAC released the news three weeks before the popular non-USAC-registered Whiskey Off-Road, leaving many pros scrambling to decide whether to forfeit their entry fees or directly challenge USAC. Over the past 10 years, under the guidance of Todd Sadow and Epic Rides, the Whiskey Off-Road has grown into one of the largest mountain bike events in the country. The three-day event draws 10,000 spectators and 2,000 racers from all over the world. There is live music, kids races, TV coverage of the pro race and a $40,000 pro purse, the largest one-day cash purse in mountain bike history. The 50-mile course climbs 6,500 feet through the Prescott National Forest and the fastest times are right around three hours. Whiskey is the perfect example of the type of event that will help grow mountain biking: a well publicized professional race with TV coverage and a substantial prize purse, great riding and a great location. Nobody wanted to miss it.
Pro Women take off at the start of the 2012 Whiskey Offroad. With a the largest pro purse of any one day domestic mountain bike race, the Whiskey Off Road attracts many top professional atheletes who would be barred from the race under UCI Rule 1.2.019.
USAC had hoped that this year Epic Rides would register the Whiskey Off-Road as a USAC event. An anonymous donor even offered to pay all of the USAC sanctioning fees, but Sadow declined. He explained that "Epic Rides is willing to work with USAC if they are willing to retool their offering such that [it] benefits mountain biking on all levels."
Many people felt that USAC’s enforcement of the rule was a direct response to Sadow’s refusal, an attempt to strong-arm promoters like Sadow into becoming USAC-sanctioned. USAC maintained they were complying with a UCI rule. The UCI called it “protecting resources.” Things got heated.
Thousands of racers, sponsors and promoters posted on the USA Cycling Facebook page asking them to stand up to the UCI and refuse to enforce the rule. Many top pros denounced the rule and publicly stated their plans to race non-USAC-registered races. Scott Tedro, the CEO of Sho-Air, which sponsors both a domestic pro team and the USAC-sanctioned US Cup race series, announced that he would be sending a full roster to the Whiskey Off-Road. He bluntly challenged USAC to take action against Sho-Air team riders for representing the team at the Whiskey Offroad. The rule sparked public discussions, petitions, opinion pieces, facebook groups and the burning of UCI licenses.
Whether or not USAC’s move was political, economic, or a misguided but heartfelt attempt to grow cycling, one point remains the same--cyclists all over the country got together, told USAC how they felt (some more politely than others) and USAC had to listen. We, as cyclists, proved that we have leverage. USAC exists to represent the interests of its constituency (that’s us) to the UCI and as we saw Thursday morning, we have the power insist that they do so.
The coming months will be important ones for the American cycling community, and mountain biking in particular. At the start of the 2014 season, the UCI will again try to enforce Rule 1.2.019. That means we have eight-and-a-half months to show USAC, clearly and unequivocally, that we value the freedom to choose our events. We have eight-and-a-half months to demand that the UCI drop Rule 1.2.019 and that USAC re-tool their offering to be inclusive of all disciplines, affordable for both racers and promoters, and supportive of grassroots cycling.
This debate needs to involve everyone--not just UCI license holders. This needs to be about building the cycling community as a whole, from the grassroots up, and everyone who loves the sport should have a voice.
So here’s what you can do: keep voicing your opinions and racing the events you believe in, regardless of their sanctioning. Ride your bike. Support your local riding community and your local bike shop. Organize fun rides and scavenger hunts and alley cat races. Teach a kid to ride without training wheels. Do whatever it is that makes you love riding your bike. Remember why you started riding in the first place, embrace that, and keep having fun.
And remember this: we are all USA Cycling.