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By Charles Pelkey
Citing frustration with the UCI points system, bureaucratic requirements and high costs, the owners of US Cup MTB Event Management have announced their intention to withdraw as organizers of the 2010 Pro XCT series.
US Cup chairman Scott Tedro said Monday that the demands placed on promoters to meet the requirements of receiving a UCI sanction for events impose unnecessarily high costs and provide only small benefits to a limited number of riders.
“We have extended an offer to USA Cycling to host two Pro XCT events for 2010 however at this time they would not be (UCI) inscripted events and that may, or may not, meet with USAC approval,” Tedro said. “The US Cup supports the efforts of USA Cycling and is proud to have USA Cycling sanction our managed events. The problem is that we can’t commit to inscripting them with the UCI which USA Cycling is requiring for a Pro XCT event.”
“The [Pro XCT] model is built around getting points so that riders have a stronger starting position at the Olympics. But the model is flawed…” — Scott Tedro, US Cup Chairman and Team ShoAir Owner
Instead, Tedro said the company is developing a new series designed to offer racing opportunities for both professional and amateur racers across the country, redirecting financial resources from UCI licensing requirements to “where the money really belongs, namely the riders,” said Tedro.
“The US Cup is now working on the soon-to-be-released US Cup Mountain Bike Racing League (US Cup MBRL),” said Tedro. “We have over 20 events committed to being a part of the US Cup MBRL and we are very excited about that.”
Tedro said that the company plans to release details of the series later this week.
Tedro, and his Los Angeles-based shipping company Sho-Air, stepped in as the major promoter of the US Pro XC Tour (Pro XCT) after USA Cycling’s National Mountain Bike Series (NMBS) folded at the end of 2008. The series was built from two earlier regional series and was split into two sub-series, the Kenda Cup East and the Kenda Cup West.
“We also have a duty to offer opportunities for top-level riders to earn UCI points. The PRO XCT is a calendar-based model that will do that.” — Steve Johnson, USA Cycling CEO
Tedro said that after a year of promoting the PRO XCT, he’s realized the costs associated with promoting a UCI-sanctioned race are higher than necessary. Tedro said he was especially frustrated by the fact that the resulting UCI points earned by riders, even in a national series, don’t compare to the large number of points available to riders in Europe.
“The entire model is built around getting points so that riders have a stronger starting position at the Olympics,” said Tedro. “But the model is flawed, in that riders in Europe have so many more opportunities to rack up points on a weekly basis. So we end up promoting an event for the benefit of a small number of riders, who still can’t compete in terms of points with guys who can jump on a train and score 60 or a 100 points over a weekend.”
USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson said he understands the promoter’s frustration, but is disappointed by US Cup’s decision to withdraw.
“I agree that the UCI is operating in a system that works well for Western Europe, but doesn’t really apply in other parts of the world,” said Johnson. “We’ve been in ongoing discussions with the UCI to change that. The U.S. is a big country; we border on only two other countries. European riders often have three or four countries on the border and there are a lot of races within a short distance.
“I’m sympathetic, but that’s not a good reason not to participate,” added Johnson.
Tedro said the current system doesn’t serve American riders in the way that it should.
“It was a hard choice for us, as we really wanted to support USA Cycling, however do to the changes being imposed on us; it became disruptive to our US Cup business model to operate within the framework requested,” he said.
Tedro said it was time for his company to direct its efforts and resources in a way that would benefit a broader audience and offer bigger purses to top professionals, who often struggle to find sponsorships that do more than “just offer a free bike and entry fees.”
“The US Cup will focus on ensuring the amateur participant continues to enjoy the exceptional value they have come to expect at a US Cup Managed event,” Tedro said. “We are also working with our sponsors in creating an opportunity in which a Pro rider can have a chance to make a living racing their bike by offering significantly higher podium cash payouts.”
US Cup marketing director Ty Kady said the new series will include major mountain bike races around the country, involving a number of different promoters.
“The whole concept of the US Cup is to subsidize promoters with assistance in marketing, prizes and funding to help bring their event and the sport of mountain biking to a higher level in the U.S.,” said Kady.
“We do this by adding value to their event in the form of venue and course development, rider swag bags, event T-Shirts, number plates, onsite support and additional marketing,” said Kady. “I feel it makes sense for us at this time, to take the money we would spend hosting and subsidizing UCI events, and put it back into the races, riders and venues.”
Johnson said that USA Cycling will continue to build the PRO XCT, a calendar-based series modeled after the governing body’s National Road Calendar (NRC).
“We also have a duty to offer opportunities for top-level riders to earn UCI points,” said Johnson. “The PRO XCT is a calendar-based model that will do that.”
Johnson said that while disappointed by Tedro’s decision to withdraw from the PRO XCT series, “the series they are promoting isn’t at odds with what we’re doing. Any time people have an opportunity to race, it’s a good thing. They’re promoting races and giving people a chance to ride.”
Tedro said that despite the split, he won’t rule out future participation in UCI events.
“If USA Cycling is effective in getting the UCI to make appropriate changes in the points system we would be very excited to review them and possibly inscript in the future,” he said.