'Forbidden Races': Critical Cycling Rule Delayed
On March 26, USA Cycling (USAC)—the national cycling federation—received a letter from International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid outlining his organization's expectations for compliance with a long-standing, though rarely enforced controversial rule called article 1.2.019.
The article states that any racers licensed by UCI or any national federation may not participate in unsanctioned, or "forbidden" events. The act of sanctioning a race—in which a national federation applies uniform UCI codes to the event, like covering its racers with federation-approved insurance and applying mandatory drug screening—is, in theory, intended to preserve the integrity of sportsmanship, and also to give amateurs breathing room with which to grow out of local circuits and into larger competitions.
But when major races—the Leadville 100, Breck Epic, the LA Marathon Crash Race, the Rapha Gentlemen's Race and Brooklyn's Red Hook Criterium are examples—don't want to jump through the hoops, or pay the costs, of sanctioning, it can cause problems for professional racers who depend on them to make a living and keep sponsors happy.
For example, the Teva Mountain Games, an unlicensed multi-sport event in Vail that combines trail running, rock climbing, kayaking and bike racing, has traditionally allowed UCI-licensed riders to compete. Tom Danielson and Georgia Gould both participated, and were informed by USAC that they were in violation of article 1.2.019.
Riders who participate in these “forbidden races," of course, risk uninsured injury, but more importantly, they face fines and a one-month suspension, which is enough cripple a cyclist’s short racing season. And that's what has some pro riders up in arms about the rule enforcement. Amid the outcry, UCI announced today that it would postpone strict enforcement of the rule until 2014, offering a respite to racers who'd already planned their 2013 race calendars to include these events.
Though both pro road and mountain biking circuits would be affected by the rule, it's a bigger concern in the relatlvely smaller mountain biking world, where money doesn't flow as freely—sponsorships tend to be less lucrative, there's less prize money and races attract, on average, fewer fans. As a result, mountain bike racers depend more on off-season, unsanctioned races, which offer prize money and, on occasion, appearance fees for bringing attention to their events.
Later today, USAC confirmed that it definitely won't be enforcing article 1.2.019 this season. So, far now, pro riders, you're free to ride wherever you want.