Since Mr. Rooter doesn’t like to have discussions with me on twitter, because its impossible to have a discussion with me, it seems…or is it just that he does not always want to engage in critical thinking on twitter…which ever, I am going to explain my thoughts on the recent UCI developments in blog form. Its going to be hard, cause that is a lot of characters, but I am going to give it a go.
1. What is the mission statement of the Verge Series? Or more specifically, of its “owner” Adam Myerson in having the Verge Series? Adam has stated online, IIRC, that the point was to create a viable alternative race circuit for New England based Pro’s so that they did not have to fly every weekend to race nationally.
Now, many will argue that the definition of viable race circuit is one in which the Pro’s collect UCI points. Hmmm. I was not aware that UCI points were legal tender. Are they like food stamps? Or are they more like credit card rewards points where you can cash them in for anything? I was honestly not aware. I guess I really am sadly uniformed and out of touch.
Another argument for the definition of viable race circuit is one in which the Pro’s make money. Real money. US dollars. Ok, in the US the prize money for top 5 in a cross race is never going to be enough to live on with out some kind of salary on top of it. Right? But then, there is a whole class of itinerant “second tier” Pro’s (not my term, not intended to be derogatory) who seem to make a “living” on the criterium circuit without significant salary baseline.
I seem to recall Adam indicating that he had a vision of the Verge Series akin to that of the US crit series, with $10k race prize lists and so on, where an east coast based team could support its riders with prize money and “second tier” salaries, though. I think the intention was more of a feeder system or development team to get promising local riders to get the time to develop and break through to the national scene. That model seems to be viable for road racing, I think its reasonable to assume its viable for cyclocross as well.
A third definition of viable race circuit may be one in which the Pro’s can get high level competition on high level courses to promote their development or to prepare them for the highest levels of competition that they will face when they do travel nationally for their marquis events, like the national series races, or national championships, or perhaps the foray to Europe.
Of these three definitions, the UCI points model seems, on the face of it, to be the weakest.
2. Why do we have UCI points and UCI races? This is probably a tough one to dissect briefly. I am an engineer not a liberal arts major. Hmm. Thinking back, it seems to me we did not have UCI points here. The points were in Europe and used for rankings of the top tier Pro’s for a season leaders jersey, and the rankings paid money based upon your overall standing. This back before there was a World Cup leaders jersey, IIRC, or there were both, or there was just the annual overall world ranking, then there were both rankings when the World Cup came to greater prevalence, and finally just the World Cup leaders jersey. That is recent, actually. There was still a UCI leaders jersey a couple years ago.
Somewhere along the line, UCI points rather than World Cup points started being used for call ups at World Cups, which pay out a lot of UCI points. The UCI points also were used to determine start money at races. Also somewhere along the line around that time, UCI races started cropping up in the US. Now, this was done, I believe, to prepare our US based riders for success in Europe at Worlds, as we needed points to get decent call ups, country rankings, and so on. I do not believe that initially there was any other purpose for the UCI status as nationals was not even doing call ups on UCI points, were they? Hardly anyone had any!
Also of note, the nations ranking (based on the points of the top riders) was used to determine how many points were awarded at that country’s national championships. And this is where the real heavy points were. You could get maybe 20 points or 30 points for winning a race in the US. Nationals was maybe 80 or 120 depending on how we were ranked. You win nationals, you rocket up the rankings and get much better call up at Worlds and the World Cups in the second half of the season.
After a while, the Euros started to chafe at their wallets being affected by US riders sucking up “easy” points here, against US only competition. They made noise. Rules changed to further devalue US based UCI points, etc. The guy in 20th in the UCI rankings I am sure did not care for reduced start money and grid position from the damned Americans who only raced against other shit Americans. But, it goes to show the effectiveness of the American UCI race movement.
Amongst these new rules were limits on how many “low level” UCI races were used to calculate your points, the points from US nationals got delayed in being applied until the Euro’s had their nationals in January, and so on. Clearly tailored to protect the Euro riders from Americans getting too many points. Additionally, to aid in this effort, World Cups were given a far higher and ever increasing points scale verses Cat 2′s and Cat 1′s.
For a domestic based Pro, all the points really mean to you is it now determines your call up for nationals. By UCI rule. For the Pro’s with euro based aspirations, the points carry far greater importance, but let’s be honest here, how many US riders even RACE in Europe in a season? Page. The CX World crew. Trebon. That is four or 5. The world’s team is 6. There are maybe 5, MAX, other guys who are fighting for that final coach’s selection for the world’s team who may hit up Proctor’s Cross Camp and thus could benefit from having chased points all year. So we are talking 8-10 guys, at the outside, to whom UCI points have any real meaning, aside from call-ups at Nat’s. Of those, 5 are fully funded, full on “PRO” bike racers.
Ok, yes, UCI points are also used for call ups at UCI races. But what is the reason for having all these UCI races, which require you to use UCI points for call ups? Again, call ups at Nationals, and the 8 guys who want to race in Europe. 5 of which can get points anywhere, via sponsor funded travel, or earning them racing in top euro events, cause they are legitimately world class athletes. So in a sense, we here in the US have created the importance of UCI races (weekly call ups). Back before we had weekly UCI races, call ups at Nationals was NOT by UCI points, as again, only 6-8 guys had any.
Phew, this is long, but try to stick with me here.
3. What other benefits do UCI races have? Is there any benefit from this movement? Sure there is. The UCI lays out rules that govern how the event is run, how the course is built, how much money you have to pay in the prizelist, etc. There is no question it raises the standard of the event, and us amateurs all get to benefit from that cause we get to piggy back on that organization. I am thankful for that.
>>>>If you got bored are scrolling to the end, PICK IT BACK UP HERE.
But – Having had the benefit of being UCI races for some time now, our New England promoters know how to put on a great race. The venues, courses, prize lists, I would argue strongly that those would remain at the highest level of quality without being UCI events. Would Gloucester or Northampton turn into “bad” or “blah” races (say like Canton, big but nothing going on and a shitty course) if they did not take out the UCI permit? No.
Where are we now? Well, the UCI has mandated that the Verge Series can no longer exist as a UCI series next year, in punishment for not submitting a series application form (that may or may not have even been mandated). So, you need a form and UCI blessing to have a leaders jersey and a series standing. Again, a euro rule to protect the value of the UCI’s only real “property”, the World Cup and the associated sponsor and TV revenue. This penalty has been RETROACTIVELY applied, mind you. No application was made last year for this season. No one was told NOT to have the series for lack of said application. But now that they DID, boom, BANNED for a year. Hmm. Smells like a conspiracy to me, but that is another blog post…
Ok, so Verge cannot exist as a series next year, but the races can be UCI…..OK, but that kind of sucks, cause even for us amateurs, the whole series thing adds a lot to the FUN.
Or, it CAN be a series, but the races CAN’T be UCI…..
This is the premise that apparently twitter cannot abide. Or that I cannot express in a convincing fashion in 140 characters or less. But I think its a viable option that still fulfills the mission statement, as I understand it, of the Verge Series in the first place.
Here is what I would consider doing with the Verge Series:
1. Drop UCI status from ALL OF THEM. This is mostly out of spite. But also, in my consulting experience, when a long term client fires you, as it were, usually the best remedy is to make it all or nothing, let them go find someone else to do what you do if they think they don’t want you anymore. Don’t try to argue or convince them or drop your price. Say, OK, I can understand that. I hope it works out for you. And then let them replace you. You are not going to hear from them or get any work from them for at least 6 months to a year, but by making them go to a competitor they are going to be reminded continually of how good you are at what you do. People just need to be reminded. You can’t convince them of it with them trying someone else for a while. If you are as good as you think you are, they will come back and long term you will be financially stronger for it (more work, better fees, etc.).
And, let’s be honest, it feels good to take the high and mighty “if you don’t want me I don’t want you” approach. And not beg for their scraps. Bye Bye UCI. Hell it even rhymes.
2. KEEP THE VERGE SERIES. Hold the same old races with the same old organizers and you will get the same old racers and it will be great, and be a series, and be the crown jewel of New England cyclocross. Ok, maybe you will lose some of the top Pro’s for whom your UCI status was a draw, but that may be a good thing, hear me out.
3. Tailor the race to the 2nd tier Pro. Tim Johnson and the other 4 US Pro’s who plan to race worlds will probably go to a UCI race on the west coast. They can. Their sponsors will pick up the tab. Great. They should. They need and have value in the points. But what about the guys who are trying to make a meager living? Or maybe challenge for that last spot on the world’s team? I say pay them start money. You can pay whatever you want, as there are no longer UCI rules. You can call up however you want as well.
I would propose that the money that used to go to the UCI for officials and fees and UCI tax go into the prize list. And GREATLY compress the payout. Rooter and Ryan T. Kelly don’t need to make 20 bucks. As he said, they don’t race for the money. So don’t give them any. Give it to the guys who DO race for the money. The PRO’s. Its a PRO race after all. The rest of the pack will still have just as much fun. What are their options? Stay home? Go race some little event with poor production values in order to win $150 bucks? Great. Send end off. They will come back. The grass is always greener until you spend some time over the fence.
As far as the Tim Johnsons not coming cause they want UCI points. GREAT! You don’t want them there. They don’t need your prize money. You want your money to go to your target group, not some outside Pro who is already established. That is the mission statement of the USGP or whomever. Verge Series wanted to DEVELOP local talent, not support the local Pro’s who made good already. There are other opportunities for those guys.
Target the New England riders you want to help (as this is the mission statement of your organization). Pay them start money. How about them apples? TJ is cherry picking for your prize money cause he has more UCI points than God and was in town that day? Ok, start money for the 2nd tier guys who wants to fund a January trip to Europe. No start money for TJ.
Pay prize money to the top 5. Maybe top 10. Max. Make it worth it instead of diluting it. Make the money you have WORK for you, towards your goal.
Seed and call up by Series Points. Pay out an overall series prize list. Again, shallow. Top 3. Again, reward the local bag lunch Pro. Devalue “cherry picking” so the top 5 US riders won’t normally attend.
Keep the series short, 4 weekends. This maximizes the sponsor money PER EVENT and boosts the prize list funding. 8 races. And also, more importantly, this gives the top 5 guys, the ones that YOU REALLY CARE ABOUT, those top 5 2nd tier Pro’s in New England, the time, and the money, to travel on the national scene to chase those UCI points. Or to the outlier UCI races that will still be there, the mid western three day series that only got one “real” Pro.
Plus you still have the non-series UCI races, like Loon Mountain. Or a venue like Downeast in Maine that needs the UCI status to prop up the turn out. Great. This model in fact has an even greater “propping up” affect for those new or struggling events. I believe Adam himself said he pruned back the series this year in order to do just that. Well, flip it on its head. Make the awesome races that CAN survive without it part of the series. Make the ones that need the series to survive UCI instead. With the drop in UCI races, each remaining UCI race will be worth that much more. And there is still plenty of space in the NECX calendar for them.
In this way, you support and grow your local talent. They get both money and UCI points to travel to Nats, or maybe to go hit a World Cup. Did you know 50th place in a World Cup pays 10 UCI points? 5th place in a C2 pays the same – 10 points. Hell you get 5 points for just FINISHING a World Cup. Even lapped. You just have to finish. Just have to hang in there. 51 through ??? all get 5 UCI points. Looking at this years results, our top 5 2nd tier guys would be in the 35-45th position pretty comfortably in a World Cup. They don’t need UCI points to go, they line up in back and finish in back. And score more points than staying home in the US. And as Page showed, if you are in Belgium, and doing World Cups, you get a leg up on the last couple World’s team spots.
That takes money, but that is where Verge comes in. No?
I am sure I am off on my facts here and there, and yes this is against conventional thinking, but I also don’t think you can just out of hand tell me that it’s not a valid argument. Though feel free to explain why it is in the comments.
Ok, I gotta ride my bike now.