Forbidden Races Allowed…

…but is Your Bike UCI-approved?

A follow up to Monday’s piece about “forbidden races” where the UCI was instructing all national federations to insist on a rule that bans licence holders from unsanctioned events.

The UCI has now issued a press release saying it will not enforce the rule this year but it’s coming 2014. But this doesn’t solve the issue, it probably makes things worse.

The idea of having rules that people are told to ignore by press release is a novel one. But this isn’t the only rule that was meant to apply to everyone but gets ignored. For example a recent rule requires all UCI licence holders to use approved bikes… only it’s another example of a rule that nearly everyone ignores.

Quick recap
For years riders had been able to ignore a UCI rule that stipulated licence holders could only ride events approved by the UCI or its national federations. The rule had been largely ignored around the world. But last March the UCI emailed all national federations telling them to stop the indulgence and to enforce the rule, by implication anyone discovered riding an unsanctioned event would be liable to a cash fine and one month suspension.

The UCI put out a press release:

The UCI listened to the feedback from the various groups involved and who feel affected by a strict and immediate enforcement of rule 1.2.019 and its associated sanctions. The UCI has decided to postpone strict enforcement of rule 1.2.019 in 2013 with the expectation that all stakeholders (National Federations, race directors, teams and riders) will discuss and do what is necessary to prepare for the rule’s full enforcement in 2014.

We end up back where we started, everyone can ignore the rule. Only like any long journey, it can be tiresome and expensive.

First it’s great that the UCI listened to feedback and backed down. But a month ago the UCI was instructing national federations to suddenly enforce this rule but appeared to be ignorant of what happens on the ground. Whether it was American MTB events, British time trials or French road races the email requesting the rule be enforced suddenly threatened hundreds of thousands of licence holders and numerous events around the world. No hindsight is needed to spot the problems this email caused.

Second we now have the farce of a governing body having to issue a press release to tell the world it has a rule but it won’t be enforced. A governing body is only as good as its rulebook, the rules are to the UCI what the scriptures are to a religion. This is like a Monty Python sketch where a fictional Moses descends Mount Sinai with nine commandments and spare one that will have full enforcement next year. If the rule is going to be waived, why not delete it from the rulebook?

Third the press release says there will be “full enforcement in 2014” which means the same problems are going to come back very quickly. We can note some people have been warned but eight months’ notice is not a lot for teams and race organisation committees. Rather than a pledge for “full enforcement in 2014” what would be better is a bit more dialogue so that exemptions can be granted.

USA Confusion
One thing is still not clear. USA Cycling has said the enforcement would only apply to those with an international licence. But the UCI rules make no distinction. When rule 1.2.019 says a “licence holder” it doesn’t refer to special category, just licence holder. To borrow from rule 1.1.010 it applies to “man or woman, all disciplines, all categories.” In other words “full enforcement” will apply to everyone.

Approved Bike?
Talking of ignored rules, another UCI rule says you must use a UCI-approved bike.

1.3.001 bis Each licence holder shall ensure that the equipment he uses on the occasion of road, track or cyclo cross events shall be approved by the UCI

A reminder that this applies to “each licence holder” and if you’ve bought a new bike that doesn’t have a UCI-approved label in the last year then you cannot ride it in an event.

Loyal readers will remember the topic from 2011. But it’s another example of the UCI’s mission creep where as well setting boundaries to the kind of event you can ride, it’s ruling what label of bike you can ride. It’s also another rule that everyone ignores.

Rulebook audit
These aren’t the only rules that get ignored or flouted. There’s often a problem when a rule exists but is not enforced because sudden action can cause trouble. In the 2011 Tour de France several teams kicked up a fuss after a rule about a level saddle position was strictly enforced but it had been widely ignored until then.

Aero tripwires on the sleeve: UCI-approved, UCI-illegal or UCI-ignored?

The British track cycling team appeared to use “tripwires” on their clothing at the Olympics last year although the UCI didn’t notice. We can expect competitors to push the rules but a governing body always needs to stand firm. Given there are more examples of ghost rules that exist but are often ignored it could the chance to audit the rulebook with a view to working out which rules are working and which ones meed adjusting. Of course the UCI does review things and the rulebook is updated throughout the year but these adjustments often reflect current events rather than updating the parts that get ignored.

Hopefully the space created this year can be used constructively so that the rule on unapproved can be reworked to allow more flexibility. Rather than just delaying things, it’s a good opportunity to review the topic to find a rule than can be upheld without frustrating active cycling.

But there’s a wider problem with the rulebook and by extension the UCI. Whether it’s races or bikes, parts of the rulebook have as many holes Swiss cheese and key rules on participation and equipment are ignored by many on the ground. For all the boasts of globalisation this distance between the high officialdom of Aigle and local racing around the world explains the confusion over rule because nobody at the UCI foresaw the problem of enforcement of this rule in the middle of the season would bring.

28 thoughts on “Forbidden Races Allowed…”

  1. Inrng – this is the UCI you are talking about. When was common sense, fairness, justice or the good of the sport any part of their remit ?

    • +1 And while they’ve had plenty of anti-doping rules over the years, the BigTex fiasco proves they paid little more than lip-service to those as well. UCI’s initials should be changed to HYPOCRISY so at least there’s no surprise involved.

  2. Perhaps the time could be used to work on constructively bringing all the “renegade” race organising bodies under the umbrella of the UCI. Ideally without financial penalty- the “official” bodies should really be looking to support these organisations which run much of the grassroots of the sport in various disciplines in the respective countries.

  3. How can they apply the approved bike rule? Imagine a newcomer buys a new bike and wants to start racing but their machine, whilst new and safe, is not on the UCI’s approved list of bikes? Is some blazer-wearing official going to turn them away?

    • In theory an official is supposed to say “sorry, your bike doesn’t have a UCI sticker” but hopefully nobody ever does this. If a bike is safe, an important consideration for newcomers, then it should be ok.

      But you raise a valid point, the rule can block newcomers but also others who maybe don’t like near a shop selling UCI-approved frames. And that’s before we debate why we need the approved list, I can see the use for time trial frames with geometry and tubing issues but less so for ordinary rides.

    • there actually is some clarification on this for the amateurs. As I last understood it, any bike that can be bought off of the shelf (at your LBS) that fits within the common concept of a bike appropriate to the event being contested, is allowed.

      It’s the non-production, experimental stuff that only top level pros would even have access too, that are supposedly regulated by this rule.

      • not quite true that “only top level pros would even have access too” such equipment. by definition, all custom built wheels would be banned under this rule. custom built wheels are not necessarily expensive high end equipment, for heavier riders they can be the only way to get a strong enough wheel build to be truly safe. so this rule is actually counter productive to safety. a heavy amateur rider would have to ride light and fast off the shelf wheels at the risk they will collapse under the weight when hitting a pothole.

        its all just the usual story of the UCI thinking everything in the cycling world works the same way as the european circuit does, not realising that the rest of the world has different practicalities to work with. eg why Oceania is virtually without any uci races (TDU is really a european race that happens to be help elsewhere)

        • It only applies for newly designed frames and forks which have gone into production after 1 January 2011. You will notice on the NetApp Endura bikes they do not have UCI approved stickers as this frame went into production before this date.

          From UCI wesbite
          The models which are subject to the approval procedure are:
          * all new models of frames and forks used by licence holders in road, track or cyclo-cross events,
          * all models of frames and forks under development on 1 January 2011 which had not yet reached the production stage (the date of the order form of the moulds is evidence),
          * any changes made to the geometry of existing models after 1 January 2011.

          Models on the market, at the production stage or already manufactured on 1 January 2011 are not required to be approved during the transition stage. However, the non-approved models have to comply in any case with the UCI technical regulations (Articles 1.3.001 to 1.3.025) and are subjects to the commissaires decision during events

    • I would think the UCI approved bike regulation is more of a common sense rule, certainly an official isn’t going to deny a rider his day in a Category 4 race because of a stickerless frame or some variant . Rather the rule probably has more to do with safety for the rider and the peleton, there has to be a barrier to entry for bicycles in competition – no home made brakes or something strange like that.

      However, we want to avoid the UCI hindering technology and advancement amongst the manufactures which is part of the fun of the sport , new freaking gear! Who doesn’t want an aero tripwire for your Sunday ride – instant envy of all your mates.

      • The rule is supposed to be universal but hopefully gets common sense. The trouble with “common sense” though is that it means different things in different places and we have a rule that says everyone but doesn’t get used. Better to redraft the rule to keep it appropriate.

  4. I’m glad to see that someone else noticed how vague the UCI’s definition of who this rule applies to really is. And by vague, I mean that they “say” it applies to everyone who holds a license, without defining that as to mean anyone who holds any license with a national federation that operates as a part of the UCI.

    When I first read last week’s press release, I took it to mean anyone. Most on various internet forums went to define it as solely a UCI emblazoned license.

    Perceiving as I do the way the Ivory Tower in Aigle operates, I think they left it open like they did with the future plan of being able to…or allowing certain federations to…crack down on anyone of their choosing. We’ve all heard the saying about the greatest trick the devil ever pulled; well, sometimes I think the UCI plays a hell of a chess match by making itself look incompetent.

  5. INRNG, these are really interesting discussions. It really is strange to enforce a rule and anull the enforcement – all within one week.
    You probably know of the change of technical responsible at the UCI during last year. The fact that they finally (3 years ago or so) figured out to hire someone who knows about these matters was a giant leap. He – and his successor – for now has had to put up with the current regulations but I believe this is about to change. I think his technical knowledge is gaining momentum within the politics of the institution. But – as you know – it is a supertanker; difficult to turn even at full rudder and revesing engines
    On a national level en DK we (I am part of the technical committee) opted to shell all the UCI-stuff for ordinary Danish races (though; still recommending to follow these) and only apply these for races carrying UCI-points; national championships etc. For ordinary races, the only requirement to meet is to use wheels with at least 10 spokes.
    I have a hard time imagining the UCI making life difficult for our national federation on this.

  6. I wonder if the UCI has “postponed” the enforcement of this rule in the same way as it has “postponed” its action against Kimmage.

  7. For anyone who was worried, my 15 year old son is now able to participate in the local Tuesday night crit series without incurring the wrath of Pat McQuaid. He’s still planning to mow a lot of lawns to save up in case of fines, but no one will pay him in Swiss Francs.

  8. I just love the UCI’s
    “with the expectation that all stakeholders (National Federations, race directors, teams and riders) will discuss and do what is necessary to prepare for the rule’s full enforcement in 2014.”

    What exactly does ‘discuss and do what is necessary’ mean ?
    Typical UCI…

    Ah well, I’ll just continue to do UK timetrials as run by CTT and if I do finally dip my toe into road-racing this year it’ll via be the much cheaper and age-related TLI or LVRC rather than BC so no UCI BC race licence for me !

    • As you know it means everyone now has until 2014 to fall in line with the rule. Easier said than done for several countries though, for example if you run a mountain bike team or event in the US you might have signed sponsors for 2014 already.

      Hopefully the pause can get more dialogue going between the UCI and people on the ground around the world.

  9. Re: British Time Trials, note that the RTTC operates in England and Wales only. Up here in Scotland our time trials are UCI sanctioned. I’m not sure what they do in Northern Ireland…

  10. My hope is between now and 2014 a group will examine the rule and modify or eliminate it before it becomes “fully enforced.” Maybe pie in the sky.

    Aside from the U.S., GB, and France as mentioned, I’m wondering if this impacts other countries a lot as well, that is, if other countries have a significant number of unsanctioned races (with good prize money)?

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