Friday, March 4, 2011

Rules Roulette: Riders Draw Ire for Courting Pros

               A little over a month before race day, tension is already mounting amongst this year’s Men’s Little 500 field.  Earlier this week, a group of sixteen riders from several different teams met to discuss rules infractions supposedly incurred by Cutters’ rider Eric Young.  Last weekend, Young was spotted in photos (found here) riding along with the Bissell professional cycling team during one of the team’s sponsored training camps in Santa Rosa, California, raising a few eyebrows regarding his eligibility for this year’s Little 500 competition.
                Little 500’s rules are structured so as to prevent professional riders from unfairly competing in what was intended to be a fundraising and strictly amateur collegiate event.  While to this point, Young has not definitively broken any of the race’s eligibility guidelines, Young’s involvement with Bissell has caused a stir among the field for this year’s race.
                Many of those most upset by Young’s actions cited the fact that Young may have been rewarded with cycling equipment for his participation.   Young is not the only rider in this year’s field that has walked the line between amateur and professional status.  Many other riders from a slew of teams have been courted by professional cycling teams and some have even accepted cycling gear from those teams.  The discussion in Tuesday night’s meeting quickly turned to suggesting specific guidelines for drawing a clear line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors for Little 500 participants.  Specifically, involvement with pro cycling teams and receipt of cycling gear were the two most discussed topics during the meeting. 
                Following the meeting, Grey Goat rider Ryan Kiel drafted a petition (found here) phrased to encompass those guidelines and to prevent riders who have clearly forfeited their amateur status from participating in the race.   While better competition amongst the field is by all means healthy, most of the meeting’s attendees agreed that allowing riders to be courted by professional teams is damaging to the spirit of the race.
                To this point, all of the rumors and talk swirling on the subject have revealed a genuine concern among the field for the sanctity of the race and the importance of its guidelines.  While no member of the field has been proven to have broken any of the race’s eligibility requirements to this point, many members of the field are on edge in light of the controversy.  There will undoubtedly be further developments in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to ‘Inside The Track’ to find out more as the story develops.

Story by Jim Kopriva 

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