The UCI is requiring organizers of the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge to reshuffle its team lineup to honor a rule prohibiting teams under common ownership from participating in the same event. The result is that the Dutch ProTeam Rabobank and a pair of Colombian squads are now on the start list for the Colorado race, while the race rescinded invitations it had issued to American under-23 development teams Trek-Livestrong and Chipotle.
“We are very happy to be coming to Colorado in August,” said Rabobank manager Erik Breukink. “We’ve been hearing the buzz that has built up around this race and we realize that this is one we do not want to miss.”
The shake up brings the total number of teams competing to 17, including eight ProTeam squads, four Pro Continental teams and five Continental teams.
On July 7 VeloNews reported that Chipotle Development and Trek-Livestrong were among five new invitees to the race. A few surprising omissions from the start list were top Continental U.S. squads Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth and Realcyclist.com.
VeloNews has since learned that the two developmental Continental teams will not be allowed to race, as the UCI is enforcing rule 2.2.001, which states, “riders belonging to teams with the same paying agent or main partner may not compete in the same race except in the case of an individual event.”
The rule is intended to prevent teams from combining on the road to operate as a double-strength squad. Trek-Livestrong is the development team for RadioShack; both teams are owned and operated by Capital Sports & Entertainment, based in Austin, Texas. The Chipotle squad is the development team for Garmin-Cervélo; both teams are owned and operated by Slipstream Sports, based in Boulder, Colorado.
“We regret that Trek-Livestrong and Chipotle will not be joining us in 2011,” Brian Farris, chief operating officer of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, wrote to VeloNews in a statement. “They have a number of fine athletes on their teams who we expect to be racing with us in the years to come.”
Jim Birrell, a principal of Medalist Sports, which is contracted to organize both the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, told VeloNews that in May his organization had asked the UCI for an exemption to allow Trek-Livestrong to race in Utah and Colorado. The UCI granted the exemption, and Medalist operated under the assumption that the same exemption would be applied to the Chipotle squad.
However last week, after news broke that the development teams had been invited, Birrell said several Continental teams that were not invited filed a joint appeal to the UCI complaining that the development teams’ participation was in direct violation of UCI rules. The UCI then said that it would enforce the rule at both the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, forcing both UCI stage races to revoke invitations to the development squads.
Several sources have told VeloNews that Realcyclist.com was among those that brought the 2.2.001 rule violation to the UCI’s attention. Realcyclist.com rider Francisco Mancebo has led USA Cycling’s National Racing Calendar standings for the entire 2011 season after overall wins at Redlands Cycling Classic and the Tour of the Gila; he also won the overall at the UCI 2.2 Tour de Beauce.
Realcyclist.com manager Gord Fraser declined to comment, instead referring to the team’s domination of domestic stage racing, which continued Wednesday when Mancebo and Cesar Grajales finished 1-2 on stage 1 of the Cascade Cycling Classic.
Birrell said the UCI also denied a last-ditch attempt to invite a composite U.S. national team, which would have been comprised of riders from both Trek-Livestrong and Chipotle.
“Apparently the same rule applies to a national team, it can’t be comprised of riders from the same paying agent of another team in the race,” Birrell said. “It’s unfortunate. Medalist Sports was built off races like the Tour DuPoint, where the U.S. national team exposed riders like George Hincapie, Bobby Julich and Kevin Livingston to the top level of professional racing.”
UCI road coordinator Marc Chovelon, who issued the original exemption in May but later revoked it, could not immediately be reached for comment.
“It’s disappointing,” said Slipstream manager Jonathan Vaughters. “I just wanted the kids to be able to race Colorado. I’d already made it clear to (Chipotle team director Chann McRae) that our team meetings would have nothing to do with each other’s. I guess (the UCI) decided there was too much conflict of interest. And I understand the spirit of the rules. There’s no way I would have had our teams work together — it’s quite frankly unthinkable, you don’t want young riders to develop that way — but there’s not much you can do if someone wants to take issue with that. At the end of the day it’s a missed opportunity for our young riders.”
Filling the absence left behind Trek-Livestrong and Chipotle, USA Pro Cycling Challenge invited two Colombian teams, EPM-UNE and the Gobernacion De Atioquia-Indeportes Antiqula squad of Oscar Sevilla, José Enrique Gutiérrez and team director Santiago Botero — three riders who left behind lucrative European careers after their involvement in the 2006 Operacion Puerto doping scandal.
The Colombian team invitations satisfy a UCI rule requiring America Tour events, such as the USAPCC, to invite their regions’ top teams. For the U.S., the region falls under the UCI’s America Tour, meaning the Colombian squads merited invites to the U.S.’s biggest races based on points obtained in 2010 by the best riders among the team’s 2011 members. Team EPM-UNE is currently ranked fourth in the UCI America Tour, while Gobernacion de Antioquia is ranked ninth.
The Amgen Tour of California, held in May, invited Colombian UCI Continental team Movistar, which turned down the invitation, saying it was not logistically possible to attend the race.
Other Continental teams invited to race in Colorado include Bissell, Exergy and Jelly Belly-Kenda.
Exergy, which currently sits fourth on the NRC team rankings, is listed on the USAPCC web site as a founding partner of the event, and is sponsoring the race’s Most Aggressive Rider jersey, as well as stage 2, from Gunnison to Aspen.
Other participating team sponsors partnering with the event include UnitedHealthcare, Skil, Pearl Izumi, Maxxis and Cannondale.
Full rosters for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge are expected during the first week of August.
Teams for the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge (UCI 2.1), held August 22-28.
BMC Racing (USA)
Rabobank (The Netherlands)
Saxo Bank-SunGard (Denmark)
Skil-Shimano (The Netherlands)
Team Type 1-Sanofi (USA)
Jelly Belly-Kenda (USA)
Gobernacion de Antioquia (Colombia)