Pirate racing

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.

An explainer
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.

Will Rapha-Condor be allowed to win in 2012?

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.

27 thoughts on “Pirate racing”

  1. Gosh, such crisp analysis would give Pat McQuaid some serious headache.

    Let me put this out – why doesn’t UCI encourage cycling reporters to study their rule book and be familiar with the rules. In fact, cycling reporters themselves should have some handle on UCI rules. When Jane Aubrey wrote this http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/jayco-bay-cycling-classic-2012 she should have asked the organizers if the race is UCI registered or not. We give UCI a lot of flak when it comes up short in their workings but cycling reporters should also maintain journalistic standards (cue Dan Lloyd – Vaughters reporting by Velonation) and I’ve felt that they come up short on occasions. You’re doing a remarkable job on this blog of educating the fans and cycling reporters should take a lesson or two.

  2. Ankush makes an interesting point – YOU dig up this stuff for fun (I hope anyway) while the guys who get paid (though sadly, rarely enough) either don’t know or don’t care. Of course THOSE guys also get their income from (directly or indirectly) from the bike industry so how much incentive do they have for unbiased investigative reporting?
    As to the actual races down under, I hope they consider them just like the post-tour shows and let ’em go as planned for now….but eventually fix the rules so everyone understands them…and then start enforcing them fairly. That may be a tall order for the UCI but as the UCI it should be the most important part of the reason for their existence.

  3. Is this why these riders race under local teams that are not UCI registered? When Matt Goss won the series last year he was racing for Team Degani Cycling Café and Robbie McEwan for Mazda. What further confuses me about this is that photos from the race show them wearing their pro team kit i.e., Graeme Brown racing for Urban Hotels but wearing full Rabobank kit.

  4. Uh, that rule is unenforceable. It doesn’t say the riders cannot ride. It says “the organisers .. may not … allow them to ride”.

    The trouble with this definition is that it appears to place the obligation on the “Organiser” to *stop* a cyclist from riding. The rider can ride, if he is not stopped, and there is no sanction or obligation on the rider to not ride. The next question is… does the “organiser” give a toss about UCI rules? As far as I can tell, and perhaps inrng can shed some light on this, the Jayco crits are run by a caravan manufacturer, or possibly an Australian local company called “Cycling Events”.

    Are they bound by UCI rules? There’s no Australian law that says they must, so with no apparent evidence otherwise, it would have to be by choice. I guess that the UCI just presumes, in their supreme isolation, that people will just accept their rule without question.

    Pardon me for thinking like a lawyer, but I just glanced at the UCI rules as a result of this article and I’m pretty sure they were written by either an arrogant moron, or someone with a genius for legal obfuscation and a bone dry sense of humour.

  5. Does the event have to meet any definition other than what is mentioned above to constitute a race?

    Cos it seems to me that unless the non-sanctioned race is still a clearly-defined event, pretty much any type of competitive riding can fall under this ban. Would the Saxo Bank intra-team race held in Israel last month qualify as an unsanctioned race? Would the infamous “Jens Voigt against a guy on an Army Bike” sprint on Youtube qualify as a race? You’ve already pointed out the exhibition events (the post TdF kermisses where the winner is decided in advance) as another example.

    Even though I think this is a dumb rule, it is probably a little more serious than, say, non-level saddles from a UCI point of view – so why aren’t they doing anything about it?

    I don’t know what is worse – the idiotic rules that UCI has (a Swiss bureaucracy at its finest), or the complete ham-handedness with which they decide what to apply and what to ignore.

  6. It looks like it is down to the National Federations to submit their calendar to the UCI for inclusion on the International Criterium Calendar, not individual organisers.

    Clearly the Belgians, USA, Singapore and Mexico know and understand this so perhaps the question should be asked why haven’t the other federations done so?

  7. Looking over: that’s correct and like I say above maybe we will see extra races added. But how come the Australians have submitted the Down Under crit for Jan but not the Jayco Bay series? They’re not listed and the race is this Sunday.

  8. I don’t have time to do the research right now to back it up, but I believe that historically Conti and Pro-Conti teams have been permitted to enter races that are on National Calendars. Often the rules were overlooked, but it came to a head a few years ago when Lance et al wanted to ride some domestic races and weren’t allowed. Thh compromise was that they, and BMC were allowed to enter, but only 3 people per team, and they couldn’t wear their normal jerseys.

    There was a big struggle between the US and the UCI last year, when the UCI put their foot down, which resulted in compromise and the changing of the rules. The big issue being that there were not enough UCI events in North America without the crits to warrant teams to upgrade from Conti to Pro-Conti, even if they had the resources and met the criteria to do so.

    At this point the rule is flexible enough, if organizers want to go to the expense and politics of having their races sanctioned by the UCI or placed on a National Calendar, they can invite the teams they want.

    The only thing the UCI can do to riders in these unsanctioned events is to suspend them from racing, but that would hurt the UCI too (from a PR and sponsor standpoint). If it weren’t for the World Championship and the Olympic eligibility noose, I suspect that 6-Day racing and CX would go completely rogue, as these are profitable enterprises with highly organized circuits, where all parties can prosper without the UCI.

  9. One interesting thing to note about the Criterium calendar. It has caused some additional issues in the United States, as UCI rated road races have been put at a disadvantage versus UCI Criteriums. Why might this be?

    1) Criteriums can invite Pro-Continental teams here in the States, while lower rates UCI Road Races (such as Battenkill and Tour of the Gila) were punished, as they were only allowed to invite Continental teams. Hence, both Gila and Battenkill opted out of holding UCI rated races, since if they were not going to be able to get the top domestic talent, why bother with the cost of holding a UCI registered race.

    2) The UCI’s rationale for this, is they want lower level teams to be able to compete in lower UCI rated road races. This makes sense in Europe, where cycling has a grand tradition, and getting interest in lower rates races can be done absent more marquee teams. But here in the States, this is a tougher sell.

    3) In addition, here in the States, some of the larger NRC events include not only a pro option, but also would attract amateurs from all over to race. This did a few things: 1) It allowed the race promoter to also earn revenue through race fees from amateurs, and 2) More eyeballs at the Pro-race, as you now have a built in audience. In essence, these became kind of a cross between a Gran-Fondo and a true, pro-road race.

    In essence, it is cheaper to put on a Criterium, and you get to invite better talent. Which makes one wonder why you would ever put on a UCI road race in the States aside from one where you can invite Pro-Tour teams (such as Utah, Coloraod, Cali).

  10. Superb article and comments. Yet again! To answer Tim’s point, I suspect the issue of riders wearing their normal jersey (not a T-shirt for Dan’s Diner etc) is because they have clauses in their employment contracts stating that they have to wear team kit whenever they ride. This also explains why you sometimes see a rider wearing their old team’s kit at the first winter training camp after they have switch to a new team – their contract with the old team runs for the entire calendar year.

  11. I wonder if there is another interpretation of that rule? The rule seems to be referring to the national federation’s calendar which is submitted to UCI. Nothing to indicate that UCI must then merge that calendar with its own international calendar, and the Bay series has definitely been on Cycling Australia’s calendar for quite some time.

  12. Great analysis you missed the one critical question though; how much of a back hander does “Team McQuaid” and the UCI get for ignoring the rules to suit whichever organiser is following the “Globalisation” protocols…….

  13. looking at the UCI calendar, it looks like all the Criteriums organizers in Belgium have registered their post Tour criteriums to the UCI. smart move, you never know what those brains in Aigle can come up with 🙂

  14. Rules? Hahaha have any of you actually met John ‘Iffy’ Trevorrow, organiser of the Bay Crits… He makes his own rules, and is a fine institution because of it…

  15. The difference with the Bay Series and the Down Under classic is the DUC is a curtain raiser for the Tour Down Under. The teams that race this crit are the teams that will compete in the Tour Down Under – hence it is registered.

    Jayco Bay Series is just a (well publicised) means for the local Pros to tune up before the Nationals and the Tour Down Under. If you drive down to watch it in Geelong you will often see some riders motorpacing back up to Melbourne.

  16. @CAT4Fodder Yes, it is an inequity, but UCI road races are not at a disadvantage to the recognized crits in the US, because being at a disadvantage implies one is in competition with the other events. Crits and road races are 2 different beasts, and unless they are on the same weekend, are not necessarily competing for teams or resources.

    Pro Conti Teams (along with Conti & Elite Amateur teams) are allowed in UCI 1.1 road races, but Pro Tour teams are not. The flaw with Battenkill’s argument last year is that just because you want to invite Pro Teams, doesn’t mean you can afford them, as they typically expect start money and or travel stipends. If you want the Pro Teams, then you lose the ability to have Elite Amateur Teams. Since UCI road races are not allowed to charge entry fees, if you are relying on this for an income stream, you are SOL.

    But the important thing is for the UCI to have a crit sanctioning policy (they finally do) and for them to scale this over time. Now if they can only truly recognize that Globalization is going to have different requirements than Europe…

  17. Another great blog.

    While Slim Jom (and others) are correct about the bay series, the races are run by a promoter, but overseen by Cycling Victoria (Victoria Cycle Sport? Not sure of their current name), who are the local state organisation affiliated with Cycling Australia, who operate under UCI rules.

    Whatever the Bay Crits might actually look like, it is for the reasons above that they cannot simply choose to ignore the rules.

    I agree with InnerRing that it isn’t about stopping riders from participating in these events. Without the Pros, these races would not be what they are. What it does (again) call into question, is the way the UCI seems to decide which of their myriad rules will be enforced and which ones don’t actually matter. Maybe they should publish that list for us.

  18. Quite aside from the Bay Crits, this rule is broken every November and December at club criteriums around Australia, if I’m understanding it correctly.

    Just about every Australian European-based professional will do a few of the summer criteriums at their local club in the leadup to the National Championships and the TDU. Simon Gerrans won my club’s pre-Christmas crit, and Chris Sutton won the pre-Christmas trophy race at Heffron Park in Sydney – a race which also featured a number of other GreenEdge riders.

    I don’t know what the purpose of the rule is, but it makes absolutely no sense in this context. Having the pros turn up to the local crits is fun for all involved and hurts absolutely nobody.

  19. I love the debate here but one thing that seems to be taken out of context is that the UCI rules are meant to be applied for the WorldTour, World Champs, and other top level events. Each national federation has their own adaptations to these rules and the state federations have further adaptations. I can’t speak for other races and federations, but the Bay Crits are sanctioned by Cycling Victoria (the state federation), not Cycling Australia. A race like the Bay Crits doesn’t need to be sanctioned by Cycling Australia (and therefore submitted to the UCI calendar). The UCI rules for what’s essentially a “club event” (such as the Bay Crits) are only drawn upon when there are instances where the state rules have holes.

    I was speaking with the GM of CV about this topic last night at the first Bay Crit and he told me that the technical director has the final say on an event at this level. As long as it’s safe, fun, and in the spirit of the sport than it should be allowed. They’re not ignoring the rules, but just using some common sense and judgement to be able to do what’s best for the sport. FYI, The course last night was only 600m which also breaks the UCI and CA rules but it was fantastic (but note that a crit defined by CA is different than the UCI).

    Isn’t this the beauty of cycling? We’re not restrained to certain courses (such as a 50m pool) and punters sometimes get to race against the best in the world.

  20. All interesting, and fun to read. The real issue however is that the Bay crits (especially today’s) are run in Geelong around a public park, on a bright summer public holiday, on the edge of sparkling Port Phillip Bay. (By the way, it’s forecast to be over 40 degrees celcius !!). Also this morning is a 130-odd km charity ride organised by the Amy Gillet foundation that starts and finishes at the crit circuit. This gets upwards of 5000 entrants, so you can see what is going on in Geelong today – a huge, enthusiastic , and informed crowd, a fantastic cycling event, in a country where Cadel, , Anna Meares, all the Aussie pro’s, the Olympic track team are getting the sport a huge boost. On Melbourne’s Beach Rd yesterday I reckon there were over 10,000 guys and girls out early, mini peletons forming and breaking up all over the place, lots of sweat, and lots of chat. Screw the UCI – this is great stuff …..

  21. Wade Wallace: the way I see it, riders on UCI pro teams can only ride races on the UCI calendar, or that’s what the rules require anyway. There’s a more fundamental rule with the UCI that precedes the crit rule:

    1.2.019: No licence holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognised by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI.

    That’s saying the race has to be recognised by Cycling Australia and then for a pro to take part in the crit, it has to be on th UCI’s calendar.

    But rules, schmules. It is good to see everyone having a good time and I’m enjoying the images on Wade’s Cyclingtips website.

  22. Where does the rule say that the event has to be registered on the UCI calendar? ?

    Regulation 2.7.005 merely states that the events detailed on the national calendar need to be submitted to the UCI by the national federation, there’s no mention of registering the events with the UCI to then appear on the UCI calendar.

  23. Anonymous: indeed, only the UCI has published the calendar of these races and some big criterium races are missing. For example the Australians have submitted the Down Under crit but not the Bay Series.

  24. Interesting, also rather strange that they’ve published a list of criterium events for 2012 yet the rules have been in place for circa 10 years.!?

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