The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) shows up a lot when talking about the sport of competitive cycling. But, what is this organization and what do they actually do? Here you’ll learn the basics of the UCI, so you can understand the sport and different competitions better.
What Is the UCI?
Since April 14th, 1900, the UCI has been the largest governing body over competitive cycling. Similar to football’s FIFA or the USA’s NFL, the UCI oversees all operations that have to do with competitive cycling at all. This includes both men’s and women’s competitive cycling all around the world.
Cycling is not limited to the more well-known road racing, but also includes mountain biking, BMX biking, cyclo-cross, indoor cycling, and track racing. Whether a race is amateur or professional, the UCI is there to make sure the sport is played fairly and competitively in all age brackets and regions of the world.
What Does the UCI Do?
There are a wide range of activities that the UCI is involved in. For one, they are the regulatory body behind competitive cycling. This means they are responsible for the rulebook of the sport, making adjustments as time goes on and enforcing current legislation during competitions.
Another major activity of the UCI is to participate in disciplinary matters, such as dealing with doping allegations and investigations against certain cyclists or teams. This responsibility has been necessary many times over the years, and keeps the sport healthy and competitive without allowing dopers to prosper.
All teams that want to participate in cycling events must get a license to do so from the UCI. Professional and amateur licenses are available through the organization, if a team meets certain standards. Individuals can also obtain licenses to participate in UCI-sanctioned cycling events.
Examples of the UCI in Action
You can see how the UCI operates with licensing by taking a look at MTN-Qhubeka, a South African cycling team (now known as Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka). This team was very small at first, but they registered as a UCI Continental Team in 2008 and could then compete in UCI sanctioned cycling events around the continent.
In 2012, the team applied for a UCI Professional Continental license, and managed to get it for their 2013 season. This granted them the ability to enter into professional competitions internationally. Finally, in 2014, they received a Grand Tour wildcard to enter the Vuelta a Espana. Other races that their license and qualifications allowed them to enter include the Tour de France in 2015, which marked them as the first African team to enter and compete in that particular race.
Without proper licensing, MTN-Qhubeka could not participate in UCI sanctioned events and would not be able to compete professionally in the sport of cycling. They may possibly be a registered amateur team in their country, but that is the extent of their ability in the sport without registering and getting proper licensing.
The UCI has been an important part of cycling since the beginning, and it has helped to grow the sport into something more respectable and prestigious than it ever was before.