When it comes to time trial equipment, it’s 2009 all over again for most USA Cycling events this year.
The racing organization announced Friday that it will enforce UCI rules on aero equipment the same way it did last year, a reversal of the policy announced in March, when it said that it would follow the UCI’s recent more strict interpretation of the rules for all racers except masters.
The organization said a UCI ruling led to the change.
“Following a recent notice from the UCI, the sport’s international governing body, USA Cycling will be able to adopt a ‘tolerant’ attitude towards bicycle compliance in 2010 for all races below 1.1 or 2.1 and especially in junior, women and masters events,” read a press release issued Friday.
The policy change affects UCI America Tour races like the Tour de New York and the Univest Grand Prix; all National Racing Calendar events; all national championship events; and smaller-scale events. The UCI rules would be interpreted more strictly at higher category races, including the Tour of California and Tour of Missouri.
USAC technical director Shawn Farrell said that the change was due in part to mis-communication between the UCI and its commissaries early this year.
“Because of some issues that came up at the first few UCI races, (the UCI) realized that there is some confusion in the field as to how this is really supposed to be enforced,” Farrell told VeloNews. “They realized that a lot of the international commissaries were not enforcing it in the same way.”
The enforcement issue was most noticeable at the Tour of Algarve, where an official barred Alberto Contador from using a Specialized Shiv.
Farrell cited this incident as the most apparent source for the policy change.
Questions over bike legality spread quickly from Europe to the States, and Farrell began receiving questions from U.S. racers just after Algarve. “I’ve been fielding questions not daily, but almost daily,” he said. “Will I be able to use this bike?’ ‘Will I be able to use that bike?’ And essentially we’ve decided to say we’re going to use the same rules that we used last year.”
While the more traditional rules regarding bar extensions and wheels will remain in place, the federation will return to the more relaxed interpretation of the UCI’s 3:1 and 8cm rules that riders saw in 2009.
The USAC statement read: “a bicycle that was legal in 2009 is legal in 2010. All other UCI bicycle rules (weight, wheel type, rider position) will remain in effect as they were in 2009.”
“We’re not going to be breaking out the calipers and measuring 3:1 aspect ratios with a fine-toothed comb down to a half-a-millimeter,” said Farrell.
The UCI notice, dated March 24, 2010, arrived just in time for the Redlands Classic and Farrell directed commissaries at the race to enforce the relaxed regulations.
A Standard List
With the prolonged debate over the enforcement of these rules wearing on officials, Farrell looked to the UCI for a more standardized approval process for time trial bikes.
“We’re hopeful that we will get some better clarification and what I would ask and hope that the UCI will do is if they’re going impose upon the rest of the world bike specifications, then they’ll be able to come forward and say, ‘This bike yes, this bike no,’” said Farrell. “That looks like the only way that this is going to be done consistently, because there is just too much human variation; there’s variations in training of the commissaries, variations in the motivations to enforce these rules.”
Farrell also acknowledged the economic hardship strict enforcement brought to non-professional riders. “We’re caught in a bind where we’ve got a large membership that in the last couple years may have spent a lot of money on equipment, only to find that it was good last year and suddenly not,” he said.