Wednesday, December 10, 2008

US national criterium champion - WTF?

From; AMS

Bahati stays calm

Reigning US national criterium champion Rahsaan Bahati had a wrench thrown into his 2009 season plans when he learned recently that he had been removed from the Rock Racing Continental team and placed onto the roster of its amateur counterpart.

"At this point, it means that I won't be able to participate in certain races up until June, and that's hard because I use them to prepare for the end of the season important races," Bahati told Cyclingnews.

"It definitely adds a twist into the season, that's for sure." As an amateur rider, Bahati will be unable to participate in UCI-sanctioned events or races that require the rider to be registered with a UCI trade team, such as the Tour of California or the Tour of Missouri.

More importantly, as an amateur rider he will not be eligible to defend his title in the elite US national criterium championships. USA Cycling released the 2009 Continental team rosters with a regulatory limit of 17 riders maximum per team.

Rock Racing contracted 27 riders for the next year, so jaws dropped when the names of ten riders were found to have been transferred to the amateur team. Riders like Bahati along with heavy hitters Chris Baldwin, Glen Chadwick, Cesar Grajales, Caleb Manion and Michael Creed were all reduced to amateur status.

"At this time there is so much going on that I don't want to speak too much about it yet," Bahati said. "I'm a little out of the loop right now on the subject. I don't know if I'm under reacting or if everyone else is over reacting. I still feel comfortable with Michael [Ball] and my relationship."

What next? Armstrong returns to racing? Guess anything can happen-

Back in mid-November, Rock Racing sent out a press release announcing its new 2009 roster which consisted of 25 riders, and of those riders, 11 are under the magic age of 28. As the UCI and USA Cycling rules clearly state a US Continental team must have at a maximum of 20 riders and that the majority of riders shall be aged under 28 years, this begged the question: What is Rock Racing doing?

I then asked the followup question "Is there going to be a Team Rock team again?" Well, we received a resounding yes today when USA Cycling announced the 2009 Men's Continental teams which included Rock Racing.

The 2009 Continental Rock Racing roster, made up of 17 riders with 9 athletes under the age of 28, is: Alex Boyd (USA), Baden Cooke (AUS), Freddy Cruz (USA), Ivan Dominguez (CUB), Jose Enrique Gutierrez (ESP), Tyler Hamilton (USA), Sergio Hernandez (USA), Sterling Magnell (USA), Francisco Mancebo (ESP), Victor Hugo Pena (COL), Fred Rodriguez (USA), Nicholas Sanderson (AUS), Oscar Sevilla (ESP), David Tanner (AUS), David Vitoria (SUI), William Walker (AUS), Justin Williams (USA).

But what about all the other riders that were announced by Rock Racing? Where are they going? The answer seems to be 'Team Rock', a club team. Which means that riders on Team Rock cannot race UCI-sanctioned races such as Tour of California and all races on the USA Cycling Professional Tour or the US Pro Championships.

The riders moved to this club team include current US Criterium Champion Rahsaan Bahati, two-time US Time Trial Champion Chris Baldwin, Olympian Glen Chadwick winner of the Tour of Arkansas and Vuelta Mexico stage races in 2008, Mexican National Time Trial Champion Chepe Garcia, Caleb Manion, Austin Carroll, Michael Creed who finished in the top 10 at the US Time Trial Championships the past three years, Danny Finneran, Cesar Grajales, and Ian Moir.

USA Cycling Andy Lee told velonews that Bahati would not be able to defend his US Crit Championship as the race is only open to UCI trade teams. To clarify following a comment - unless Bahati somehow joins the UCI team prior to the US Crit Championship held in August.

The only way for the riders to race UCi events is to transfer to the Continental team after June 1, 2009 which is allowed by the rules. (updated: the UCI rules clearly state that the only period that a non UCI rider can join a UCI team is June 1, 2009 to June 25, 2009 . Any changes will require a new audit and review process. And the team must still follow the maximum rider rule unless USA Cycling agrees to an exception).

The scuttlebutt on the street is that the riders only found out today that they were not on the UCI Continental team roster, via the velonews article, no email nor phonecall from the team.
No official press release from the team yet to explain the decision.

update: Bahati's comment on his blog:

"I feel happy that I had this opportunity to race as a pro with Rock Racing. I created some great memories and found great friends for life. Unfortunately Rock Racing doesn’t realize that you can’t swap guys in and out or move guys around all year long as it was explained to me. And even if you could, why should I be subjected to that? I won more races than anyone on the team this year, and I expected to be treated like one of the best.

I pray that everything works out because I enjoyed racing for MB."

And a final question (raised by guidemd). Australian William Walker who was not on the first press release but is now listed on the Continental team roster has also been linked in the press to the new Fuji- Servetto team. Is he really joining Rock Racing? Or did someone mess up.... again?

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