by Kat Statman
Over the past few days, there has been a lot of noise about the UCI, USAC, the Verge NECCS and the NACT, centering on the impending suspension of these UCI ’cross series. Last night as Adam Myerson was in the middle of his many different jobs in the cycling world, I had the opportunity to talk to him about what has actually happened between the UCI and the Verge NECCS as well as what things are going to start looking like in the future for American UCI Elite racing.
The first thing that needs to be mentioned is what’s going to happen to the Verge NECCS series as a whole. Myerson wanted to make it perfectly clear that the UCI ruling has not affected the individual races and is only affecting the Elite men’s and women’s series – not the USAC category series. “I want people to understand that the Verge series isn’t canceled,” said Myerson. In fact this ruling has given the Verge series the ability to focus on the grassroots series racing more. Instead of 10 events in the series, all 15 classic New England races will be a part of the USAC series. [See the 2011 New England Verge series calendar here, hot off the digital presses] For the Elites, the various promoters are working to put on a possible UCI official series with eight races that does not mirror the Verge series that occurred this year. More information can be found here on cxmagazine.com as it becomes available. Myerson tweeted a new website this morning showing that New England cyclocross is far from dead: www.nepcx.com
In this week’s Rumors & Rumblings column, we briefly discussed the background of the news. In a nutshell, the UCI Cyclo-cross Commission has decided to enforce a rule concerning UCI race series. There are two rules that the Verge NECCS seems to be in violation of: the first is that the series is a 10-race series, which is two races more than the maximum of eight allowed in the rules. The second rule is that UCI series are required to have a UCI series inscription, much as individual UCI races need to be inscripted.
Clearly this news is big and has elicited a lot of responses from the cyclocross community. Is this just the tip of the iceberg for American promoters and the UCI? Myerson believes that we are on the brink of a “new era of enforcement,” where the UCI will be looking far closer at the US international events and international series and making sure that they are of the caliber that commissioners believe UCI sanctioned events should be. Events that have not been meeting the criteria over the past few years might not receive their sanctioning this year. Even the USGP, a series that promoters look to emulate, may be in trouble with its C1 categorized events. As Myerson told me, C1 events are supposed to be true international events, meaning that the race is supposed to have at least 10 foreign riders representing five different countries in all. If the UCI continues the crackdown process, many of our C1 events could be relegated back to C2.
Is this the right thing for the growth of ’cross in the US? Myerson doesn’t think so, at least in so far as C2 events go, as he said it is “too soon to start culling events. Until we start to see growth in these races its too soon to cull.” C1s are the “true” international events and should be scrutinized at a much higher level, according to Myerson, but in the US C2 events are essentially national level races, and we have a different set of circumstances here in the US that in some ways makes our situation a difficult one.
As Myerson has said in the press and on his blog on many occasions, we have to remember that geography is a big deal in the US and we are nowhere near where Europe is in terms of the size and growth of ’cross. “Until we have a UCI series in each major region in the US, we are not even close to Europe.” It is a question of geography. Belgium is the size of New England, so one country in Europe is the size of one region in the US. Myerson has provided a great layout of the UCI race situation in the US with respect to Europe to compare on his blog here and here.
So what are we looking at overall for the state of UCI racing in the US? Myerson tells us things “are going to continue to grow. There will be more UCI sanctioned races in the 2011/2012 season than before. Things are not going backwards just yet.” But we should be wary as US ’cross racing becomes bigger and better that the UCI is watching what’s happening here and will be making sure that things fall into line with UCI rules and standards, especially as we get nearer to the 2013 World Championships in Louisville, KY.