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UCI postpones rule barring riders from unsanctioned races, and USA Cycling follows suit

Cycling governing bodies say they will strictly enforce unsanctioned races rule in 2014

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The International Cycling Union (UCI) said Thursday that it had decided to postpone enforcing rule 1.2.019, a controversial regulation that bars UCI license-holders from participating in unsanctioned races.

Reversing course from late last week, the UCI, cycling’s global governing body, said that it would not strictly enforce the rule in 2013.

“The UCI listened to the feedback from the various groups involved and who feel affected by a strict and immediate enforcement of rule 1.2.019 and its associated sanctions,” the UCI wrote on its website. “The UCI has decided to postpone strict enforcement of rule 1.2.019 in 2013 with the expectation that all stakeholders (national federations, race directors, teams, and riders) will discuss and do what is necessary to prepare for the rule’s full enforcement in 2014.”

USA Cycling said that it would follow suit.

“Notwithstanding the fact that rule 1.2.019 has been enforced in Europe for many years, it is clear strict enforcement in the U.S. and other countries will have unintended and undesirable consequences,” said Steve Johnson, USAC president and CEO, in a statement.

“USA Cycling listened to the views expressed by the cycling community in America, and these issues were fully represented in discussions with the UCI,” Johnson said. “We would like to thank the UCI for its willingness to suspend enforcement of the rule globally to allow time for productive dialogue with all stakeholders to find a workable solution for the future.”

As VeloNews has reported over the past several months, a tide of fierce backlash from riders, race promoters, and fans had grown since USAC announced that it would work to apply the long-overlooked rule from the sport’s global governing body. Rule 1.2.019, which essentially states that licensed riders cannot compete in events that are not sponsored by either the UCI or USA Cycling, is not new. USA Cycling, however, has only strictly enforced it the past three years. USA Cycling had used the UCI’s new-found interest in the rule to influence, for example, the independent, Colorado-based American Cycling Association to re-join USAC in 2011.

And as VeloNews reported in December, USAC told a number of parties in 2012 that participation by professional riders in Oregon Bicycle Racing Association events and unsanctioned mountain bike races such as the Breck Epic would be met with a penalty going forward.

All along, USA Cycling claimed that it had been caught in UCI crossfire and was simply enforcing a rule as it is required to do. VeloNews published a full report on the rule last week, including a letter from UCI president Pat McQuaid to Johnson and other federation presidents, which outlined the UCI’s enforcement of the rule and its application to professional and amateur riders.

“The objective of this regulation is to protect the hard work and resources you pour into the development of your events at national level,” McQuaid wrote. “It allows for a federative structure, something which is inherent in organized sport and which is essential to being a part of the Olympic movement.”

Examples of unlicensed races in which UCI-licensed riders have participated include the Teva Mountain Games, a multi-sport event in Vail, Colo., that combines bike racing, kayaking, rock climbing, and trail running. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) and Georgia Gould (Luna Chix) both competed in the event last year, which resulted in USA Cycling informing them that they were in violation of rule 1.2.019.

In recent days, athletes including Olympian Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Trek) and Ryan Trebon (Cannondale), as well as the Sho-Air-Cannondale team of Jeremiah Bishop and Pua Mata have spoken out against the rule.