Battenkill organizer hints at lawsuit if top teams not allowed at his event

The event's lawyer, in a letter sent to the cycling bodies Thursday, said their recent move allowing top teams at National Racing Calendar criteriums — but not at road races like Battenkill — is "exclusionary and monopolistic."

Tour of the Battenkill's letter to USA Cycling
Eugene Z. Grenz' letter to USA Cycling

The organizer of New York’s Tour of the Battenkill is threatening a lawsuit if USA Cycling and the UCI don’t allow top pro teams at his April event. The event’s lawyer, in a letter sent to the cycling bodies Thursday, said their recent move allowing top teams at National Racing Calendar criteriums — but not at road races like Battenkill — is “exclusionary and monopolistic.”

“The effect upon (race owner) Anthem and the Battenkill is financially harmful and creates a loss that cannot be recouped …

“With time growing short, we would hope to resolve this matter among ‘family members’ rather than seeking a resolution through a judicial forum,” attorney Eugene Z. Grenz concluded.

USA Cycling officials could not be immediately reached to comment on the legal threat, but CEO Sean Petty said last week that the USAC has consistently lobbied the UCI to allow Pro Continental and ProTeam riders at NRC events of all types. However, only an existing UCI rule allowed the USAC to successfully petition the UCI to allow the top teams at the crits.

“We have fought consistently for all national calendar races, not just criteriums, to include these teams,” Petty told VeloNews. “Where we got to most recently was simply using the existing UCI rules. The criterium rules are separate from the road race, stage race, (and) time trial rules for participation.”

Because of fund-raising problems, race organizer Dieter Drake announced last week that he would relinquish the event’s spot on the UCI calendar. He wants to move the race a week earlier than previously planned, to April 10, and he wants it to remain on the National Racing Calendar as a top-level single-day event. These requests were repeated in Grenz’ letter.

According to Petty and national events coordinator Micah Rice, Drake has yet to formally apply for a calendar change for the April 16 race. The date change is troublesome because it would put Battenkill on the same weekend as the Sunny King Criterium in Alabama, an NRC event scheduled for April 9, Rice said.

“We still have not closed the door on the NRC for him,” Rice told VeloNews Monday. “We just don’t want him to stomp on another NRC race at this late of a date. Now that lawyers are involved, I’m a little bit less involved, but my last email with Dieter, we were still in conversation about still being an NRC race but not a UCI race. And that’s up to him. He’ll make those decisions.”

While Petty views the move to allow the top teams into NRC criteriums as a step in the right direction, Drake sees it as tilting the playing field, giving some promoters an unfair advantage.

“NRC/UCI races are all competing for the same resources: teams, sponsors, dates, etc.,” he said. “You can bet that a few NRC criterium promoters will now have a disproportionate and undue access to those resources in a way that will have direct and indirect impacts on our respective, non-criterium events.”

Drake said the UCI rule on criteriums appears to have been written to apply to post-Tour de France criteriums, where Tour heroes traditionally earn start money by competing in events that are little more than parades.

And he pointed out to VeloNews Tuesday that there are four instances on the 2011 NRC where two events share a weekend. (USAC officials have said those overlaps were in a calendar developed last year; they object to creating another conflict so late in the process).