Earlier today, BMC announced that they would field a 5-rider squad at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, scheduled to take place next month, August 17-22, 2010. Salt Lake City native and current resident Jeff Louder will be joined by three-time national road champion George Hincapie and fellow Americans Chris Barton and Chris Butler and Swiss Simon Zahner.
Louder, Tour of Utah champion in 2008 and third last year, said the race has quickly become one of the best in the United States. “As a native Utahn, I am particularly motivated to do well and we are bringing a team that will be competing for the win,” he said.
“I’m excited to be able to do another race in the U.S.,” said Hincapie. “From what Jeff and other racers have told me, The Tour of Utah is well organized and very demanding.”
New rule or exception? Back in April 2009, the rarely-enforced UCI rule 2.8.003 which limits which races a UCI ProTeam rider can participate in was suddenly enforced. Basically, a ProTour or Pro Continental team cannot field a full squad at a national race, a race that is not on the UCI calendar – only 3 riders from said team can participate and they could not wear their team kits.
The enforcement was not only a huge blow to the only USA-registered Pro Continental team, BMC, but showed a poor understanding of the North American racing scene. The enforcement change came about from the participation of three ProTour riders, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner, at the Tour of the Gila. Also at the race in Silver City, NM, , the BMC riders were only notified on the day prior to the start of the race that this rule would be enforced, and this after the team had been racing in NRC events already this year.
In 2009, the BMC Racing Team was granted an event-specific derogation which allowed them to compete at Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, Cascade Cycling Classic, Tour of Elk Grove and Tour of Utah.
It was also bad news for race organizers. The same rule came into effect for the Air Force Cycling Classic Clarendon Cup at the end of May where neither BMC nor the UCI ProTour team Fuji-Servetto were allowed to race. With the number of UCI races in North America small to start with and diminishing every year, teams interested in the Pro Continental status have to carefully balance costs vs exposure.
It is unknown at this point if the news means a change in the rules, a change in the enforcement of the rule or a special derogation for the race. The UCI did have a workshop for teams interested in transitioning from Continental to Pro Continental levels which involved North American teams, and hopefully the concerns were addressed.