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Tour del Café (2.1): another big failure from the Colombian Cycling Federation

tour-del-cafe

Colombian flags and paraphernalia were a familiar sight throughout the Grand Tours this season. Colombians love (and sometimes adore) their cyclists, yet they never get to see the WT contingent compete at home. To fill that void, a bicycle tour provider in the coffee region (The Cycling Company) set to the task of making a 2.1 UCI race happen in Colombia, in February after the Tour de San Luis in Argentina. They partnered with Medalist Sports (the organizers of the AMGEN Tour of California). They planned to have a men’s race and a women’s race. They got the support of the local government. They got the necessary resources. They completed all the forms and secured all the requirements. They submitted the packet to the Colombian Cycling Federation (FCC). The packet never made it to the UCI, the race may never made it to the UCI calendar. Below you’ll find the translated story of yet another monumental failure from the cycling governing body in Colombia. -@nsantam

 

by: Eddy Jácome (@eddyjacome)

translated by: Natalia Santamaría (@nsantam).

Now more than ever Colombian fans are noticing the sharp contrast between the achievements from Colombian professional cyclists in the WT and the local racing scene, a look at the national race calendar and one word comes to mind: desolation. El Clásico RCN known (in the long gone past) as the “Duel of Titans” because of the epic battles between the world’s best, is not longer part of any UCI sanctioned calendar, and it has no plans to return to one. La Vuelta a Colombia has managed to keep its 2.2 status, despite all the violations regarding the team size and the number of teams from abroad. However, the FCC has repeatedly stated that if they are forced to comply with UCI regulations, they will drop the race from the UCI calendar in 2017.

To save the day they assured the public that instead, in 2017, two .1 races (a stage race and a one-day race) were being organized aiming to get UCI status. This however is turning out to be a smoke screen, like the announcement of their intent to host the World Championships after securing a big sponsor. Sadly we know from good sources that said sponsor does not exist.

Not only the FCC denigrates the local races, but also blocks races that are organized by others (yes, in Colombia the FCC has managed to become both the governing body and the organizer of cycling events), denying Colombian fans the opportunity to enjoy their best cyclists racing in their home country. We contacted Alejandro Carrizosa (CEO at the Cycling Company), and this is his story:

During decades Colombian cyclists have been highlights in the world cycling racing scene. However the path to success for them has always been a story of struggle, given the poor development of cycling within the country.  The will and discipline from our cyclists have managed to get them to the top level of the sport.

 

Cyclists like Nairo Quintana, Esteban Chaves, Jarlinson Pantano and the rest, cannot compete in Colombia because there are no races with the required (UCI) status by their WT teams. With this in mind in 2013 the idea of Tour del Café was born.

 

We partnered with Medalist Sports, the organizers of the biggest cycling events in America. We planned to have Tour del Café in the continental circuit with a UCI 2.1 category to have the presence of WT teams, and the opportunity to see the Colombians in the WT racing in front of their fans.

 

Since 2013, the year of our first attempt, the FCC has managed to block it. From the start, the FCC declined our requests to provide us with the information regarding requirements and procedures to organize a UCI event. We then turned directly to the UCI, and from them we were able to acquire all the necessary information. The UCI made clear that the packet with all the documentation had to be submitted first to the FCC, who then will be the one submitting it to them. Standard protocol. In May 2013 we sent the request to the FCC. After two months a UCI America Tour advisor told us the FCC had not submitted the request and that we should contact them to see what the problem was. When I called the President of the FCC to inquire why our request hadn’t been forwarded, all I got was an aggressive response with a clear message: they (the FCC) needed to have full control of the race (administrative and financial) and that he (the FCC president) needed to be fully involved in its organization. In no moment did he offer support. This is how things work with them. And that marked the conclusion of our first attempt at organizing Tour del Café.

 

In 2015, through Medalist Sports we contacted the UCI directly to get support and submit a proposal to have Tour del Café on February 2017. In the world championships at Richmond (which was organized by Medalist Sports) we showed the UCI our plans and our inconformity with the FCC. It came as no surprise that the UCI welcomed the idea of including Tour del Café in their calendar.

 

After Richmond, we decided to invoke article 1.2.06 from the UCI regulations, which states that if a national federation refuses to register an international event in their country, the organizers can go directly to the UCI, and we started to secure the support of the national and local government and some private companies in the region where the Tour was to take place. Everybody got on board; they saw the potential to showcase what the coffee region in Colombia has to offer in terms of services, products and tourism.

 

In 2016 we wanted to get the FCC on board, show them we had the support of the government, and have the UCI hear FCC’s stand from the source. With the help of two government agencies, we coordinated a visit from Medalist Sports and the UCI in April this year.

 

The state government of Quindío (one of the states in the coffee region hosting the race) invited the FCC, the secretaries of tourism, the representatives of the UCI, Medalist Sports and us organizers, from April 18th to April 22nd to meet and discuss plans to have Tour del Café take place on February of 2017. The answer they got from Agustín Moreno (President of the FCC) was very aggressive, stating they wouldn’t meet with anyone, that this was a pirate race, that the organizer had walked over them, that nobody ever told them about the event, that they owned the Colombian racing calendar, that the UCI had nothing to do being there, and that they were the only entity authorized to invite the UCI to Colombia.

 

These statements were also put in writing in a letter sent from the CEO of the FCC to the UCI. The UCI in turn, sent a response informing them that the purpose of the visit was to get the Tour going, and clarifying that UCI (not the FCC) was in control of the international racing calendar for which they do not need or seek the national federation approval, only its collaboration. Again, as is stated in article 1.2.06, the organizer was entitled to register the race directly with the UCI, given the initial refusal from the FCC.

 

After the FCC declined the invitation, Medalist Sports and the UCI were not able to attend the week of meetings, so the national government and the private sponsors were left with only us. It became clear that the FCC is not willing to acknowledge an event if they are not in total control. However, this is not stated in any regulation or Colombian law regarding sports governing bodies.

 

Once the week of meetings was over, the governors of the four states which will be visited by the race and the mayor of Armenia (capital city of Quindío), sent a letter to the FCC asking them to support the event given its potential to help promote the region. As expected, the FCC dished the request aside and never answered it.

 

In spite of the FCC’s negative and to respect the protocol, on May 25th we sent the request to register Tour del Café in the UCI calendar to the FCC. Since no answer was given by May 27th, the UCI asked us to sent the request again to the FCC,  cc’ing the UCI. The FCC did not provide an answer, did not sign and send the registration formats for the two races of Tour del Café (men and women).

 

On the 4th of July the UCI coordinated a teleconference between them, the FCC and Medalist Sports. Unfortunately we missed it because the invitation never reached us (it was sent through Medalist and somehow it got lost). The message that the UCI and Medalist Sports got from the FCC is that they needed to have full control of the races in Colombia, because “they don’t trust national private organizers”, and told Medalist Sports that to make the race happen, they had to “negotiate” directly with them. After the call was over, and Medalist briefed us, we proceeded to inform the UCI that Cycling Company SAS was the proprietor of Tour del Café, and therefore the FCC has no right to take our place as organizers.

 

Since the fee an organizer has to pay to a national federation is stated in the UCI regulations, we are still baffled by what the FCC wanted to “negotiate” to make Tour del Café happen. We do not understand where the mistrust of the FCC comes, given that we have the support of the government, of private sponsors, of the UCI and have Medalists Sports as a partner.

 

As a last resource, we contacted the Director of Coldeportes (the “Ministry of Sports” in Colombia), to see if they would back the Tour, given the position of the FCC. However, Clara Luz Roldán was very clear: Coldeportes is not going to go against the FCC wishes. In a call she made to the FCC to mediate, the FCC provided the following arguments for their negative: 1. the event is taking sponsors away from them, 2. they resent the organizers because they went directly to the UCI instead of working with them, 3. they plan to organize a UCI 2.1 in 2017 with Postobón as a sponsor, and Tour del Café will take sponsors away from that. One is left to wonder  how Belgium has 7 WT races an none of them is organized by the Belgian Cycling Federation. The only race the FCC has to show to the world is La Vuelta a Colombia, which this year violated almost every rule for a UCI 2.2 race.

 

Finally, on July 27th, the UCI asked the FCC about the documentation of Tour del Café, the FCC informed them that sadly no agreement was reached and that they were busy working in another UCI 2.1 race with their big sponsor (Postobón). Then Medalist Sports asked the FCC (and cc’d the UCI) for the details they would like to see in an “agreement”, so long the control of the event remained in us organizers. The FCC never answered the e-mail.

 

We consider that the FCC is violating our rights, and by interfering with projects like this they are walking over the Colombian National Constitution and the UCI regulations. At the end, Tour del Café is meant to promote Colombia, and help develop and bring Colombian cycling to the XXI century.

 

Best regards,

 

Alejandro Carrizosa Isaza

CEO

The Cycling Company SAS

 

Is worthwhile nothing that the Tour del Café women’s race, would have been the first UCI 2.1 women’s race in Colombia’s history. Officially the deadline to register Tour del Café was June 1st, there was hope the UCI would give some slack given the “special” circumstances. However, it seems the FCC continued its blocking and apparently the race won’t be included in the calendar that will be announced later in October.

After 2016, we wonder how much lower can the FCC go.

You are welcome to join us, we want #EscarabajosEnCasa (Escarabajos at home).