Many riders will be forced to choose between racing events like the Whiskey 50 or staying home to stay in the good graces of USA Cycling and the UCI.
By Mike Cushionbury. Photo courtesy of Epic Rides.
Illegal bike races. You know, the ones that our national cycling governing body recently referred to as, “racing in someone’s backyard.” I’m sure you have a few backyard favorites. Mine include The Trans-Sylvania Epic, Leadville 100, the Breck Epic, Shenandoah 100 and of course that little endeavor called the Whiskey 50, which is offering $40,000 in prize money this year. There’s also enduro racing. But that is totally illegal.
According to USA Cycling, which is now enforcing a long lost rule (1.2.019) that states no UCI Pro license holder is allowed to race a non-USAC-sanctioned event or they will be fined 100 Swiss Francs (roughly $107) and suspended from competition for 30 days.
The thing is, this also includes top-level amateur Master and Junior racers who generally need a UCI license to race cyclocross and other select events. In theory, USAC wants you to believe that these unsanctioned races are dangerous and devoid of any real top-level competition. The reality is the very races USAC wants riders to avoid usually have better insurance, better timing systems, more staff personnel, way more participants and generous prize money—something our national “sanctioned” series can’t quite come up with. Oh, and the competition is world class because professionals want to win money, right?
Who can argue with that logic? USAC can. It is inviting all successful promoters to join the ranks of the sanctioned, yet they get nothing in return for their trouble except more fees, expenses, and regulations. For the 99.999% of us who aren’t pursuing the Olympic cycling dream, well, I don’t know what we get out of it. Ironically, the oft-blamed UCI (cycling’s international governing body) has a clause that allows national federations to grant exemptions to this rule.
But USAC isn’t budging. As a result many American World Cup level pros are speaking out and making a stand. Barry Wicks is calling USAC’s bluff, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski penned this very insightful column, and Adam Craig posted on his facebook page a note to UCI President Pat McQuaid: "Consider this my resignation."
While some individual UCI licensed racers are simply doing as they always do and racing the same unsanctioned events as always, the Sho-Air/Cannondale squad has upped the ante buy sending it’s entire team to the wildly famous Whiskey 50—a move that is raising the hackles of USAC. In one particularly sad response USAC claimed that with $40,000 in prize money (evenly split 12-deep among the Elite men and women) promoter Todd Sadow could more than afford to pay the inscription fees to the federation.
This isn’t about being able to afford it, it’s about principles. Principles that ultimately showcase the hard work and dedication of “illegal” promoters who have created some of the best and most attended races in the nation.
Sho-Air Company President and CEO, R. Scott Tedro had this to say in a press release about his decision to send team riders to the Whiskey 50 in spite of potential action by USAC:
"I have spent countless hours trying to negotiate a solution for all parties involved regarding this issue to no avail. The time has come to take a stand and lead by example, as this issue will affect us all, not only the Professional rider, but the Master and Junior amateur rider as well, that just want to race their bikes and have fun. We also are supporting the promoter’s right to choose not to sanction with USA Cycling. Freedom of choice is a right that must be protected.
"We are supporting Todd Sadow and Epic Rides and will attend his event, the Whiskey 50, in full force. We do not recognize the UCI or USAC’s authority to take away unalienable rights of liberty when it comes to a riders desire to compete against his or her peers whether it be to earn a living as is the case for a Professional, or to experience the joys of competing for fun while pursuing a healthy lifestyle as an amateur. We challenge the UCI and USAC to fine our riders for representing their team, sponsors and fans by participating in the Whiskey 50. Any negative action taken towards our team or riders will be met with an immediate and appropriate response.”
What that action might be, we’ll have to wait and see. Look for more on the escalating tensions in the magazine.
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