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USA Cycling’s Sean Petty responds: Criterium ruling has no bearing on Battenkill’s woes

  • By Brian Holcombe
  • Published Jan. 14, 2011

USA Cycling chief operating officer Sean Petty on Friday defended his work at USAC and as a UCI road commission member following a strongly worded press release by Tour of the Battenkill promoter Dieter Drake.

In his statement, Drake accused USAC of providing an unfair advantage to criteriums in the U.S. by “allow(ing) criteriums access to Pro Continental Teams and ProTeams at NRC events while UCI-level races like Battenkill are restricted to just Pro Continental teams.”

National Racing Calendar criteriums are being added to the 2011 UCI Criterium Calendar, meaning teams in the top two divisions can contest those events.

Petty spoke with VeloNews Friday about the situation.

Q.
This entire issue of Pro Continental and ProTeams being restricted from national level events dates back to the 2009 Tour of the Gila. Has USA Cycling worked during that time to bring those squads back into the fold of domestic racing?

A.
It’s been well publicized that since 2009 we, USA Cycling and I, being on the road commission, ever since that time we’ve been very strong advocates for the inclusion of at least Pro-Continental teams in some domestic racing because of the simple fact that by UCI rules, a U.S. registered Pro-Continental team can’t compete in any Category 2 races or lower in Europe. That limits their ability to race.

Q.
There have been exceptions in the past, most notably with BMC Racing. Will that happen in 2011 for races like Tour of the Battenkill?

A.
From that time forward we’ve gone back and forth and worked out the exceptions that have allowed a few riders to ride in those events. That continued last year and finally the UCI reached a point where they’ll not allow it any more, even the exception that was developed.

Q.
Dieter Drake’s comments this morning portray USA Cycling as favoring criteriums over road races and other events in the U.S. We’ve received numerous messages to the contrary from NRC promoters today. What is your reaction to that accusation?

A.
We have fought consistently for all national calendar races, not just criteriums, to include these teams because we feel it’s important for those sponsors or those teams, the riders on those teams, to race here; especially the American riders because those are the heroes of the sport.

Where we got to most recently was simply using the existing UCI rules. The criterium rules are separate from the road race, stage race, time trial rules for participation. Criteriums aren’t considered national calendar races because the UCI doesn’t look at them that way.

Q.
In your eyes, does this move put non-criterium U.S. events at a disadvantage in any way?

A.
We don’t have the feeling that all of a sudden we’re going to see masses of Pro-Continental teams or their riders competing in these criteriums. That’s not why they become a Pro-Continental team. If UnitedHealthcare or Team Type 1 want to do a couple here or there, they now have that ability. I don’t think that necessarily negatively impacts the other races.

Any racing where we have those riders in the States is good, whether it’s criteriums, stage races, time trials. We all win. It’s all bike racing, no matter the format.

Q.
Do you believe that adding NRC criteriums to the UCI calendar negatively impacted the Tour of the Battenkill?

A.
At the end of the day, it’s about finance. It’s not about any decision of criteriums or not. Those two are not related. Tour of the Battenkill should stand on its own. It’s a UCI race.

Q.
What precipitated the UCI last fall issuing the notice that they planned to enforce the full letter of the rulebook at U.S. races and would not offer exemptions for Pro-Continental teams in 2011?

A.
At the time, Dieter Drake sent a note directly to Pat McQuaid at the UCI, not to us, not any question or clarification, but directly to the president of the UCI. That triggered a response from the UCI road department that we were to ensure that all UCI rules were respected for all national level races, which would apply to the road, stage and time trials.

An email directly to the president of the UCI from a U.S. organizer weakens our case when we say, ‘This is what we need and want in the U.S. and this is what our racing community, teams and promoters need and want. Then they get a letter directly from a promoter in the U.S. that says, ‘No, ProTeams and PC teams shouldn’t be able to race in non-UCI races because it injures us who put on UCI races.’ It only weakens our discussions that we’re having with the UCI on these topics.

Ideally you’d want all of the organizers — and I think most of them are this way — pulling in the same direction, understanding the challenges we all have in making this work within the confines and structures of the UCI teams.”

Q.
The spirit of Pro-Continental designation is aimed at developing second tier programs into ProTeams. At the same time, those U.S. programs need to race domestically for many reasons. Are you continuing talks with the UCI on allowing those teams to race national events in the States?

A.
How do we help those teams continue to meet their objectives and sponsors’ objectives in the United States while spreading their wings and going into different and higher level races as they evolve? That’s important for everyone. I think it’s important for us to go to bat for them here and that’s what we’ll continue to do, to get them in non-UCI races. We’ll continue to have that dialogue with the UCI. ProTeams, I understand it, that’s a different matter all together, but Pro Continental, that’s a good discussion to continue to have. Quite frankly, it’s most productive for everyone to agree that that’s a good thing for U.S. cycling.”

We’ve been working since Tour of the Gila 2009 to get resolution for at least the Pro Continental teams.

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Brian Holcombe

Brian Holcombe

Brian Holcombe is the editor of VeloNews.com. Holcombe joined VeloNews in 2009 following years spent introducing students to whitewater kayaking and working in avalanche control, among other more risky ventures. A Master of PR and Marketing Communications, his graduate work at the University of Denver focused on innovation, digital media management and custom publishing. Holcombe is a CSU Ram fan and proud parent, and has been accused of attacking too much on the VN lunch ride. Follow him on Twitter @FCBrian.

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