By Michael Wissell
My apologies in advance for this text-heavy entry. This post was going to be about trying to get in enough training to perform at a reasonable level over a seven-day stage race while juggling job, family, and other extracurricular activities. I even had adorable pictures of cats.
Then the UCI issued its "clarification". I know everyone has been talking about what it means for their season (and for MTB/CX in general, and due to the nature of the Trans-Sylvania Epic, I thought I would share some of my feelings on the subject.
I should preface this by saying that I am in no way a professional cyclist. I am just fast enough, however, to have to race alongside (well, behind) them. I race locally in the Pro/ Cat 1 MTB field, and as a UCI elite for CX. The enforcement of this rule presents racers like me with a few choices, none of them particularly appealing.
1. Only race sanctioned events.
Like, why wouldn’t a promoter want to get USACs big wheel-flag banner on the reg page for their event? According to our federation, it supplies the best insurance, drug tests, officials, and course standards this side of a World Cup. Well, except when it doesn’t. I may not be pro, but I have participated in over 150 races in the last few years, and have seen drug testing occur exactly one time (at the expense of the promoter).
I have, however, been beaten by doper who was eventually caught at a Gran Fondo. As for insurance, if it were truly the case that USAC had the holy grail of liability insurance, they would most definitely have an eager mob of a very different sort at their door. Course standards and quality are obviously subjective, but it seems that the only local races that consistently sell out are non-USAC inscribed.
2. Only race unsanctioned events.
Screw ’em, you say? Take that shiny new license, tear it into little pieces, and mix it in with the cat litter. By your very own estimation, there are plenty of awesome non-USAC races around. Hey, aren’t you writing this blog entry for one? Well, er… yes. But there are a lot of awesome events that ARE federally sanctioned, and I personally know many of the people involved in making them great. They are not henchmen of an evil corporation, they are men and women devoted to raising the level of the regional cycling scene. Boycotting their events would be wrong-headed and unfair to the promoters that literally put their lives into making these races happen.
3. Race under a pseudonym
This (more likely) scenario has been tossed around a bunch at the race last weekend, and on Twitter before. If the issue remains unresolved, the registration lists for some of these non-USAC events is going to look like the comments section on a YouTube video. We will be saying things like "dude, did you see how Donglord69 crushed the Mens Expert 25-30 field?" "Yeah, he beat Weedmaster420 and 48moreboners by almost a minute". While the possibility for puerile hilarity is almost limitless, if this is our only course of action, I would suggest (via Adam Myerson and others) using the alias "Jim Burns".
You see, "Jim Burns" was a guy who participated in some unsanctioned racing awhile back, when athletes were banned from competing in Apartheid South Africa. He snuck down there to do a race, because… well… he wanted to. When he was caught, he was forever banned from participating in Olympic events. Somehow, this did not preclude him from holding positions in the IOC and the UCI, and that brings us full circle to the present day, where Pat "Jim Burns" McQuaid left a burning bag of dogshit on our front porch by backing USACs powerplay with a "clarification" a few days back.
So here we are, turd-filled bag and all. If we stomp it out, we get a little crap on our shoes. If we let it burn, the whole house could go up.
What do we do?
Update: So it looks like the UCI has backed off for the rest of the season, saying they will "return" to "strict enforcement" in 2014. This was due at least in part to USAC standing up for its members. There are good people working in our federation, and most of them have absolutely nothing to do with the sometimes onerous policies and almost always terrible communication coming out of that organization. The can has been kicked down the road. Its up to us to try and work with our promoters, sponsors, and national federation to ensure the healthy future of the sport we all love.