The Politics of Pedaling

It has been a crazy, kinds stressful week. It all started an email on Friday from USA Cycling regarding a UCI rule I hadn't even heard about until this year - 1.2.019. In short, it says that anyone holding an international racing license is forbidden to race in any non sanctioned events. Well, as a pro mtb racer, I have an international license, so I got one of those emails (Nick, as Cat 1/SS racer did not.) First reaction? What the hell? Second reaction - what is going to happen if I proceed with my schedule as planned? I then sat back and watched social media explode with comments. Some well worded, some dripping with anger and some sarcastic dismissals. All weekend was like that, since the email went out on Friday the 5th.

Then came Monday and the verbal warfare picked up. People had had the entire weekend to think about what they wanted to say and an entire weekend to stew in anger. I kept quiet, watching the riders and race promoters sparing with USA Cycling. I don't know the history of this sport or why so many quality races forgo USAC sanctioning. It's not my place to judge when I don't know the details. But I didn't like the silence on the part of UASC. A stop gap measure of domestic pro mtb license was offered and promptly shot down. After all, while many mtb riders are affected, its more then just the fat tire crowd. This time, roadies and CX racers are also invested in this issue. And they want a solution as well. Big name teams also joined the fray, firing huge salvos at the enforcement of this rule. USAC attempted to return fire, but the response wasn't well thought out and angered more then it appeased. All the while, Nick was telling me not to worry. I was trying not to, but it was hard not to. After all, my first race is one of the biggest non sanctioned events in the country and USAC would be watching.

Today, it appears the verbal push back has won a reprive - at least for this year. The rule will not be enforced until 2014 - to allow time to work out an acceptable enforcement strategy. Many riders are still not happy since this does not address the underlying issues - racers feel like the races they can do are being dictated by the USAC/UCI and race promoters feel like they are being bullied. All I know (which is a lot more then last Friday) is there is a lot of work to be done to satisfy all parties involve. Race promoters have some very good reasons why they want to remain grass roots. Riders want freedom and and well organized events - the the freedom to choose what races they want. USAC needs to help develop the sport. - not stifle it. And for mountain biking, that means high school racing and fun riding.

And I want to test myself against the best in my area of focus. That means a lot of unsanctioned events. This year, I only have one sanctioned event as a focus race! I worked hard to get my Pro upgrade and want to keep it. I want the ability to line up with Georgia or Rebecca or Pua. I might finish DFL in the Pro field at some races, but its the challenge I'm after. And next year, I will do what is necessary to be able to race events that sound fun and fit my lifestyle. I know I am not alone with that choice.


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