Thursday, December 16, 2010

who needs the UCI?

after unbanning disc brakes for cyclocross, but banning a large proportion of tires currently in production, the UCI has made another important, but confusing ruling about UCI races in the US. if you haven't been following, lots of info is available, but here's one link. and, actually, why should most US racers be following? we aren't competing in UCI-sanctioned events, and even if we are, we aren't hoping to amass UCI points.

the ruling, as i understand it, is to prevent US racers from earning too many UCI points from easier races, improving their start position in major European races, where they frequently displace Euro guys and subsequently get trounced. this does make sense. the Hendersonville, NC races were UCI second category races (C2), suggesting that they are on a similar level to the European Superprestige races, which, if you compare the strength of the racers, are nowhere near one another. don't get me wrong, i'm psyched that Tim and company are pushing for big events in NC, but the Hendersonville races are still a tier below many of the other North American UCI races. okay, this is all well and good, they just ought to create a C3 race ranking. but i don't think starting a C3 rank is planned just now and in the meantime, this power play by the UCI may result in several big US series being "banned" from holding UCI races.

i can't really blame the UCI for wanting to protect their own interests. but i think the real question is, why do we need UCI-sanctioned races in the US anyway? true, it helps domestic racers get some points so they don't need to start in the back of the pack at the world championships. but should the fortunes of a handfull of riders determine the course of the ever-expanding group of cyclocross racers in the US? again, don't get me wrong, i follow the US pro cx scene. i like the fact that some of these men and women can make a living as full-time cyclocross racers and can be competitive in international competition. however, for every J-Pow, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of folks who race, promote races, cheer at races, and buy shit from the pros' sponsors, making this whole scheme possible. i'm not taking issue with the pros or the sponsors. but i do have to question certain aspects of the system.

take for example the mission of USA Cycling: "to achieve sustained success in international cycling competition and to grow competitive cycling in America". i never liked the fact that success in international cycling is listed first. and it seems to me that these two goals, international success and domestic growth, could be at odds. there should be an organization to help riders become international stars, but does that need to be supported by our fees as license holders and weekend racers? true, USAC does provide guidance for race promoters and provides insurance, but based on license fees, race entry fees (which require certain payouts for some races), and a sometimes frustrating bureaucratic structure, they make racing a challenge. if their goal is really to promote competitive cycling in america, they should be helping to promote low-cost training series in communities across the country. our fees should help to fund local and regional representatives who can assist race promotors in organizing races--from assisting with coordinating police and city officials to securing business and industry sponsors to help offset the costs. (if nothing else, they could keep better track of race results and improve the category upgrade system, but that's another personal issue of mine.)

so that's my long and rambling rant for today. i guess my take-home message is that, based on recent events, the support and structure in the cycling community isn't going to come from a top-down organization, but will need to be promoted from a grassroots level. and this is happening. i should give credit to the Triangle MTB series, which runs a great local series without getting bogged down with having official NORBA-sanctioned races (at least, i think that's how it is), and to NC Cyclocross, who operate under the guidelines of USAC while providing tremendous support to individual race promoters. big props to everyone who hosts races. so it's my goal in the next year to find more ways to promote forms of competitive (or quasi-competitive) cycling throughout the durham community. sound good? let's get rad, bull city.


LinusOG said...

Here here! One thing to also keep in mind is the time and money USAC devotes to junior development (keeping houses in Europe, training camps, etc.), which is great and I am glad to support though buying an annual license. I think you really hit the nail on the head, though, with the cheap training race idea and it's an idea/request I hear from a lot of people. It would be great if USAC would invest in creating an administrative infrastructure to streamline and assist promoters. I heard that Elliott has shortened the Ace series for this year (April-May?) maybe there's an opening that some local teams could fill up...

co2cycle said...

i hear that. though i'm still not sure why amateur cyclists (us) are helping foot the bill for would-be professional juniors. we're effectively subsidizing the development program for pro teams. can't the teams kick more money back to make this happen?

tip o' the hat to Elliott and the National Guard guys for running the speedway series--another great example of regular training races. Now, it they could just improve the weather on every-other tuesday, make the course hillier, and move it closer to durham, we'd be set.