A twitter storm hit yesterday when a shocked Adam Myerson found that his Verge New England CycloCross Series (NECCS) p/b Cycle-Smart was suspended by the UCI.
As they had done many years before Myerson, along with the other American cross race organizers were scheduling 2011/12 dates via a private mailing list when USA Cycling informed the list that both Verge NECCS and NACT were suspended. To say that Myerson was surprised and hurt is an understatement.
Why the suspension? It has all to do with UCI rule 1.2.026 which states:
National federations, their affiliates and licence holders and, in general, all bodies answerable to them shall be barred from participating actively or passively in any individual or team classification based on the races on the international calendar other than those drawn up or expressly authorised by the UCI.
Events conducted by an organiser who fails to comply with the preceding paragraph shall be deleted from the international calendar for the following year.
The text for this rule was modified on August 1, 2000 and January 1, 2005. As far we know, this rule is never been previously enforced in the United States.
Why is the rule being enforced now? As explained to Myerson, “It’s about raising the standards overall.” The main issue for the long-time race organizer is not that a series must be approved by the UCI- and must follow rules such as a maximum of 8 UCI races and cannot combine UCI and non-UCI races for the Elite – it is the communication mis-handling. [Note the rule about combination of UCI and non-UCI races is still unclear, but one thing is certain cross series with UCI races must be approved by the UCI.]
“I guess I still have problem with that because why couldn’t someone just talk to me, if we weren’t in compliance.” Myerson explained when we chatted earlier today. “I have to accept responsibility but it didn’t have to go this way I guess is my conclusion. Better communication could have prevented this from happening.”
Therefore the Verge NECCS as we knew it will no longer exist.
According to Myerson, the decision to enforce the rule was made at the recent meeting of the UCI Cyclocross commission. A commission that Myerson sat on for six years until he stepped down in 2009. The current commission members are president Brian Cookson, members Sven Nys, Simon Burney, Geoff Proctor and coordinator Peter Van den Abeele.
I caught with Myerson after he had discussed the situation with Van den Abeele, UCI Manager Off-Road Disciplines.
Myerson and the other races organizers now need to decide if they want to create new series or simply put on single UCI races. The deadline is this Sunday.
Adam, what’s the status after your talk with Peter?
We spent an hour discussing this, whether or not we should get suspended. I guess I still have problem with that because why couldn’t someone just talk to me, if we weren’t in compliance. I have to accept responsibility but it didn’t have to go this way I guess is my conclusion. Better communication could have prevented this from happening.
So basically you, and others I guess, have been against the rules for quite some time?
But nobody ever told you that it would be enforced this time.
Exactly. The first notice that it would be enforced came in October of this year that it would be enforced for next year. But we were never informed of it last year, the way that we have been this year and that’s why no one was in compliance because there was no heads up that we needed to be. And now there’s been a specific heads up and everybody is scrambling to be compliant. There’s nothing wrong with the rule, we can all work with it, we understand why it’s there but it just didn’t apply in the past, it just was not relevant.
Did he tell you why it was being enforced this year?
Mainly because there was a time in American cyclocross where it was a free for all because we were trying to promote growth and those were the years I was on the commission. We got a lot of special treatment to encourage growth here and now we’re at the point where we have so many races and the quality level of those races is not always good that the UCI wants us to start being stricter and enforcing these. And they have been gradually enforcing more of the rules here so that the growth doesn’t spread out of control. So being strict about that rule now is part of the process of tightening up the standards in the US. Again, I don’t have a problem with that, I think it should start next year, it shouldn’t be ex post facto, which I still believe we’re receiving ex post facto punishment to… I don’t want to say that we’re directly being made an example of but the UCI is demanding that the rule be respected and I guess my complaint is still that we were happy to respect those rules if we just knew.
Yeah and I told Peter directly that it hurts. To be the one that has pushed so hard for the UCI in the United States to then have this problem solved punitively instead of cooperatively, no punishment needed to be made, what we needed was communication and an opportunity to comply.
So you and the NACT are suspended as a series now?
Yes and as I think that the other series are going to discover that they might be suspended perhaps. I think the MAC and the OCVX, the other series that had UCI races in it. It sounded that they were not on Peter’s radar until yesterday. What I did ask about is ‘can we re-organize’ as a different series, and he encouraged us to do that.
As a UCI-approved series.
Yes, the Verge Series as it stands, we can’t simply create a mirror image series with those races but we have an assortment of 15 races in New England that could organize as two different series if we wanted.
Or you could do a regional calendar, not a series, no leader’s jersey.
That’s right, we could unite as a calendar and not as a series.
And do press releases but no jersey, like the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Calendar model.
Exactly, that’s exactly right, that would be one way around it. And we could still do points for the non-elites category. Actually I take it back, I’m not sure that we could track points at all, I think that’s banned. There can’t be points standings, there can’t be points scored and standings kept. I do think that makes the NRC illegal also.
I think the way they get around it is that they don’t do their own point systems but use the UCI points.
But except it just mirrors their point system, it’s completely arbitrary that they follow it. It’s like crossresults.com did that, to make its own. Are we in trouble if some third-party decides to make its own Verge Series rankings?
Do yo think you were made an example because Verge NECCS is one of the stronger series?
I can’t say that unequivocally but it sure feels that way. Again, why didn’t people just communicate with us instead of punishing us?
You found out about the suspension yesterday during the calendar discussion right?
Yes because that’s when USA Cycling was finally officially notified.
When was the commission meeting?
I think it was the week before, Proctor was over there for the World Cup. I think it was at one of the World Cup rounds.
If it’s not a series, how tough will it be to get sponsors?
It absolutely will have an economic impact on us because even if we continue to run a series for the non-elites. So that’s what we have to look at right now, we have to de-couple the elite races for the rest of the series, for the grass-roots racers we’d still would like it to be a series and essentially it doesn’t impact them at all. So what we have to decide is should the Verge Series continue without elite points for a year, or do we put all 15 races into a series that doesn’t include the elites, do we take a New England calendar approach and have a union of all 15 races, do we split up into two different series and start from scratch, split the 15 races into two types of series, those are the things that we are going to talk about tonight.
What’s your timeframe to make the proposal to the UCI? What’s the deadline?
The deadline is Sunday to USA Cycling.
Is this a way to reduce the number of UCI races in the US?
The expressed goal isn’t to reduce the number of races, the expressed goal is to improve the quality of the races. They are going to get rid of poor quality races. The increase of video coverage of our races means that Peter Van den Abeele can watch the races and he can see if your race looks like it happens in the middle of a field with a couple of stakes put down and you call that a UCI race, that is not going to fly anymore. The production value of your event is increasingly important and the races will get evaluated. There will be a culling of races for sure and this is part of it.
I understand wanting high-quality races, I think that’s good. How should it have been done? I don’t think this is the right approach.
I don’t know how anyone could see this as the right way to go about it. I do still think that it’s short-sighted, I think a warning would have been sufficient but I think the UCI, the commission, let’s keep talking about the commission because this is a commission decision, let’s be specific, the commission decided that they needed to take a stand.
How much do you think it came into play that US riders were so high on the UCI rankings?
That didn’t come up in my conversation with Peter but I know that the commission is under pressure from the riders who think that the points are inflated, yes.
But they could have changed the points, they changed them this year.
Yeah, they made it even worse. By warding more points to C2s, it actually made that problem worse because we have so many C2s early in the season, kind of the same guys win them all.
Peter suggested that what needs to happen is there needs to be a better national calendar in America so that C1s and C2s should continue to be international level races and that there needs to be a national calendar like they have in Belgium where there is some prestige associated with it and there are some standards but they are not necessarily on the UCI calendar. But that doesn’t exist right now, there is no national event for cross.
I don’t think there will be.
And that’s why we went with the UCI because we saw standards that were reachable for us and everybody had to follow the same standard. C2 race is a small race, it’s not really an international race. There used to be three categories so really maybe they need to re-institute this third category for the United States.
We need regional, national and international races.
Exactly and that you could score points still. There used to be a C3 and it would be good if we went back to having a C3.
So now you’re going to discuss what to do for the Verge NECCS today.
Right now I’m excited to go ride for an hour and a half. I have coaching emails that I need to answer, the rest of my life continues while this drama goes on and I’m a little bit behind, that’s my first order of business, to do some of the work that I get paid for.