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More details emerge as manufacturers express surprise at UCI labeling program

The UCI’s new pre-certification program for bicycle suppliers, which the federation announced Monday as the fruit of a new collaboration with the industry, came as a surprise to many suppliers.

Several suppliers told VeloNews they were frustrated to learn of the program via media reports and said they still have many questions about how the program will work. But depending on the details of the program, it could be a step in the right direction, they said.

In a statement to VeloNews, the UCI, meanwhile, has clarified several of the industry’s concerns about the program.

The program would allow suppliers to get new products approved ahead of time, so that companies can invest in developing new products with confidence that the products will be allowed in competition. Approved products would receive a UCI-approved label, which the UCI says will reduce start-line confusion for racers and officials.

Some suppliers expressed concern that the labeling program would be a profit center for the UCI, and that suppliers might even have to pay twice for the stickers if they repainted bikes for a new season. But the UCI told VeloNews Thursday that there will be no charge for the stickers, just for the cost of the initial inspection of the product.

Last year several suppliers said the UCI was enacting and enforcing rules on cycling equipment inconsistently and without consultation with the industry. The debate came to a head when Alberto Contador was barred from riding a Specialized Shiv at the Volta ao Algarve, although the same bike had been raced before at the Tour de France and elsewhere. About 30 suppliers had united in 2009 to present industry concerns to the UCI. The group that formed out of that effort, the Global Organization of Cycling Equipment Manufacturers, later was folded into the World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry, an umbrella organization that is conveniently located in Lausanne, Switzerland, about 20 minutes from UCI headquarters in Aigle.

The UCI met with industry members at the EuroBike trade show in August, but Claudio Marra, one of the founders of the GOCEM, said he was not able to learn more about the UCI’s plans until the news release this Monday.

“We were asking for meetings since October and they said it was too soon, and in November they said they were too busy, and December they said was impossible. And then we heard no more until we read about it in the media and learned that it will start on January 1,” said Marra, the general manager of the component company FSA.

A UCI spokesman, however, said there had been some communication over the fall. “We have of course consulted certain manufacturers in order to study the feasibility of this approval procedure, but it was alas impossible to contact them all,” UCI press officer Enrico Carpani said in an email. “We collected information from manufacturers of all sizes, from the biggest producers to small craftsmen, taking into account the different methods of production and materials used … We are sorry if our first communications (about the plan) did not go out to all manufacturers: our list is currently being updated and we hope to complete it as soon as possible.”

Despite the frustration over the manner of the announcement, FSA’s Marra said the program could benefit suppliers. “At least it would be something clear, because today it is not very clear,” he said.

Josh Poertner, a technical director at Zipp, had a similar reaction.

“It would beneficial for everyone to have a clear process … conceptually this is a good idea. The fear for the industry is, ‘what are the logistics (of the program)?’ ”

In his email, UCI’s Carpani shed some more light on the logistics:

  • The cost to the industry: “Effectively, the manufacturers will have to pay a certain sum in order to have their frames and forks validated, but no tax is collected for the application of the label … To ensure that the approval procedure is effective and perfectly equitable, it is necessary to have qualified personnel and specialized equipment. The amounts requested for this service will be communicated next week on the UCI website, but will be reduced to a minimum, covering only the costs generated by the approval process.”
  • Starting-line approval: “The models used by licence holders during competition must be approved beforehand by the UCI, unless it is a model dating prior to 2011. Approval will only be granted after meticulous inspection in order to respect the regulation in force. Therefore it cannot be granted arbitrarily at the start of a race. The UCI wishes to ensure that everyone respects the technical regulation and that it is applied in the same manner by all. It is important that all manufacturers are treated the same and that there are no exceptions.”
  • Roll-out of the new plan: “The approvals will begin from January 2011 and it will be necessary to wait for the length of the procedure to see the first approved models. This procedure was meticulously studied and it would be too complex to describe all the scenarios here, but details will be available next week with the publication on the website of the Approval Protocol. We think we will see the first approved models from February 2011. There will then of course be a period of transition with the coexistence of both approved models and non-approved models. This is inevitable and solutions have already been found to ensure this transition takes place as well as possible.”

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