A strict application of the rules would see the top riders banned from the upcoming Jayco Series in Australia and forbid Britain’s top teams from competing in their domestic Tour Series races. Hopefully it won’t come to this but here’s the explainer…
Criterium races are usually held on a short circuit that riders lap many times. Strictly speaking there is a more formal definition in the UCI rulebook:
2.7.002 The criterium is a road race run on a circuit closed to traffic and that is run according to one of the following methods:
1. classification at the finish of the last lap;
2. classification on the basis of the number of laps covered and the number of points obtained during the intermediate sprints.
2.7.016 The circuit shall measure between 800 and 10,000 metres.
You’ve probably seen these races, they’re fast and furious thanks to relentless cornering and a crowd-pleaser as the race passes spectators every couple of minutes. And they’re great for sponsors because the sport is brought to a large crowd in urban setting and crucially they are easy to televise.
This weekend sees the start of a series of criteriums in Australia, under the label of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic. Milan-Sanremo winner Matthew Goss is looking to defend the title he won last year and we’ll see action from Heinrich Haussler, Robbie McEwen, Koen de Kort and others. In the women’s races there’ll be Nicole Cooke, Rochelle Gilmore, Tiffany Cromwell and more.
Now I feel like a bit of spoilsport… but the rules could actually ban these riders from racing in these kind of events. In fact all pros on UCI-registered teams are not allowed in these criterium races and others races around the world.
In men’s pro cycling there are three tiers of teams:
- UCI Pro Teams: the top-18 who ride the World Tour races, the biggest and the best.
- UCI Pro Continental: there are 22 teams for next year
- UCI Continental, of which there should be well over 100, pending confirmation for 2012
All of these squads are registered with the UCI. Any team outside of this from a racing team down to a village club is a matter for the local federation. But these three tiers of team compete at the pro and elite level and often on an international basis and are subject to the international rules of the UCI.
As well as international teams, the UCI also has an international calendar, again distinct from a domestic race calendar. You will be familiar with the World Tour, with races like the Tour de France or the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Then there are the regional “tours”, a step down, for example the UCI’s European Tour calendar includes prestigious races like the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad or Milan-Turin but also some lesser races; the UCI America Tour includes the Tour of California.
But the UCI has a dedicated international Criterium calendar too, comprising some 52 races for 2012, of which there will be 19 in the USA, 17 in Belgium and 14 in Switzerland. And only one in Australia, the Down Under criterium on the eve of the Tour Down Under and none of the Jayco races. You can see the calendar online at UCI.ch, just switch the drop-down menu to “Criterium”.
Having explained the concept of registered teams and calendar of registered races, here’s the rule that forbids a pro from riding the Jayco Series, (my emphasis):
2.7.005 The national federations shall submit their criterium calendar to the UCI no later than 1st September for the following year.
Organisers whose criterium is not included on this calendar may not invite riders from a team registered with the UCI or allow them to ride.
If the national criterium calendar is not received by the UCI before the deadline, the organisers in question may not invite riders from a team registered with the UCI or allow them to ride.
That looks clear, no? The Jayco Series is not on the calendar and the likes of Greenedge are UCI-registered, meaning Goss, for example, can’t ride. This isn’t to single out Goss or these races – I’ll come other riders and races below – but let us note that the Jayco Series is sponsored by the Ryan family… who back the Greenedge team. Their own riders aren’t supposed to race.
Now hopefully nobody has noticed this or maybe Gerry Ryan discussed this over the holidays with UCI President Pat McQuaid. Either way these races are going ahead and everyone is going to have a good time, this is a series of fun races with some great riders. Frankly I hope the rulebook is dropped in the bin.
But others have had the rulebook dropped on them. The rules are not new, American race organisers and US cycling have discovered them before and after negotiations, split the domestic racing calendar in two and after negotiations, races were added to the UCI’s calendar months after the September deadline. In this case US cycling worked hard to comply with the UCI rules.
In the UK the Tour Series has announced its dates for 2012 but no British event is on the international calendar at the time of writing. If this remains so no rider from Team Sky can take part but also the likes of Endura Racing, Motorpoint Procycling, Sigmasport-Specialized, Raleigh and Rapha-Condor are barred too. Yet these teams form the bulk of contenders and in part exist thanks to the TV coverage provided during these races. This could prove embarrassing since Britain’s Brian Cookson was elected in September as the new President of the UCI’s Road Commission.
And similarly, the off-road crit racing that is cyclo-cross has seen the UCI enforce its rules, especially in the US, prompting a lot of last-minute ranting… and ultimately registration. I gather some riders were even warned that if they took part in some races they’d lose their licence.
There are other events too where pros will ride in criteriums that aren’t on the UCI calendar, for example the post-Tour de France criterium races. You could argue some of these are exhibition events and not races but Herentals and the Van Lommel Profronde are on the calendar for 2012.
It could be that the UCI hasn’t updated its calendar but all the same, the calendar for 2012 was uploaded only a while ago, days away from the Australian series it would be odd to omit it, especially since the Down Under crit is included.
And just in case anyone thinks I’m trying to put a downer on these races I hope everyone gets to race and the spectators get a great show. I’m often calling for firm and even rules that apply to all. I’d like to see the rule ignored next week… but hopefully resolved in time.
But for now the rules state no pro can ride a criterium in 2012 unless it’s on the approved calendar. Many big races aren’t. If an organiser hasn’t bothered to register their race they’re probably not aware of rule 2.7.005 and this isn’t the UCI’s fault. It’s up to national federations to send their calendar of crits to Switzerland. That said there’s been some international inconsistency, some are told to tow the line, others ignore it. In particular we’ll see how Britain approaches the rules given their top cycling official is now in charge of the road racing rulebook at the UCI.
Longer term, let’s hope nobody has to break the rules and this is all sorted soon. Encouragingly last year the UCI allowed events to be added to the calendar after the September deadline, this precedent could be a way to include the British races.