Thursday, July 3, 2008

Petition to Reverse the UCI Women's Downhill Qualifying Rule

Sign the petition, pass it on:

The UCI recently enacted a ruling that only the women who place in the top 20 in their downhill Qualifying run at a World Cup race can advance to the Final race run. Previously the top 30 women were allowed to compete for a World Cup downhill result. According to World Cup professional downhill riders Joanna Petterson and Jaymie Mart, the reason for the UCI’s rule change was due to faster male riders complaining of slower female riders on the track during practice sessions.

This is a quote from a letter sent by Jaymie to the UCI: “It appears this complaint was originally put forwards to a rider’s forum at meeting in Slovenia in September 2007 and stems from a concern of slower female riders impeding practice of the faster males…”

Reducing the number of women who move from the Qualifying run to the Final run essentially has no effect on the reduction of the number of women on course during practice because there is normally no practice between to the two events on race day.

Another point that Joanna and Jaymie make is that the riders ranked within the last season’s top-10 standings are protected from being disqualified during Qualifying. That means that a top-10 rider can place 23rd in her Qualifying run and still compete in the final. However, the women with quicker Qualifying times, who place 21st and 22nd, are unable to compete in the final.

Now, this top-10 qualifying rule has its drawbacks and merits, but it is not what is being debated. What is disturbing is that, in general, out of all of the women in the world, only 10 additional women outside of the 2007 top 10 are able to compete in a World Cup final.

Jaymie writes, “Percentage wise, in the women’s category, 50% of the riders inside the top 20 are protected riders where as 25% of the men (20 out of a possible 80) are protected. …Minimizing the available positions in a World Cup final evidently does not have the required effect on course and will sadly result in a diminished women’s field at a time when admittedly, numbers of female racers are continuing to dwindle. This category of riders requires support, not restriction.”

In case you’re thinking that there are dangerously slow women attending World Cup races, let’s consider a few points. First, World Cup downhill tracks are tough, and most riders in the world—male or female—would have difficulty riding these courses adeptly. If a rider truly struggles, being the professional rider that he or she is, that rider should recognize that he or she is in over his or her head and should choose not to continue to practice, and certainly not to attempt to race.

Second, if there are real issues with men and women riding at such varying speeds as prove dangerous during practice, why doesn’t the UCI split practice times? Guys can charge, girls can rip, and lift lines remain reasonable. If reducing the number of women who qualify for the Final race has no practical effect on the practice situation, this option seems like a smarter alternative.

Third, anyone attending a World Cup event must first qualify to ride the venue at all in one of two ways: 1. Accrue 20 UCI points in your designated discipline (Downhill races only count toward downhill points, 4x only counts toward 4x, etc). 2. Be a member of a UCI trade team.

There are very few women in the world who have accumulated the necessary amount of UCI points to race a World Cup. Few events provide those points, and the events that do supply points, like National Championships and UCI-rated races only allot a few points per place. The number of women who don’t have their 20 points and are part of a UCI trade team are even fewer. UCI trade teams normally only pull women who have proven themselves at the World Cup level already. Jaymie points out in her letter that the trade team option often allows for inexperienced men to cause an even greater threat on course than the women who have accrued their UCI points.

It’s obvious that the new rule is illogical. Luckily, we can get the UCI pointed back in the right direction by urging them to repeal the new 20-woman Qualifying limit and reinstate the 30-woman standard. Click here and sign the petition, and pass the link on to your friends. Not only will more women get the experience of racing for a World Cup result, but also the pool of talented female downhill racers will continue to grow and thrive.

Click here to read Neven Steinmetz’s blog post about this issue.

Sign the petition, pass it on:

No comments: