Meet the new boss of cycling, Zdeněk Bakala. Whether he’s the same as the old boss depends but the UCI has signed a memorandum of understanding with Bakala, the Czech billionaire to invest up to €20 million from Bakala alone being cited.
Earlier this week we had news of the UCI launching a consultation exercise, now we have news that a deal is close to being signed, with Pat McQuaid saying “we look forward to making a formal announcement on this as soon as possible.”
Now there’s room between consultation and an agreement but it suggests some people have a destination in mind and perhaps even the conclusions. Nobody will put this much money in unless they’re getting ownership of something, whether a cut revenue streams or a closed-door private monopoly, for example Formula 1-style control.
We can assume investors like Bakala are only willing to commit cash if certain decisions are taken and a particular path is taken; these are not spelled out. Many would like to know more.
I’d like for the UCI to release details of the discussions, and the “memorandum of understanding.” But they won’t.
— EdwardPickering (@EdwardPickering) November 11, 2012
It’s taken many by surprise to see that the UCI is very close to an agreement. At the same time it’s long been clear that, despite owning the Omega Pharma – Quick Step team, Bakala hasn’t come to cycling just to play fantasy cycling with his money. I’ve written about him before and now he’s seen the opportunities for reform and how things can be better produced, packaged and promoted. He’s been saying this since he came into the sport.
The timing means we have several concurrent UCI calendars. The independent enquiry, the election of a new President and now major changes in the promotion of pro cycling.
One more thing stands out: ASO are not on board. How this works out remains to be seen because the Tour is so dominant on the calendar. I suspect we’ll see a traditional calendar with the big races owned by ASO like the Tour and Paris-Roubaix whilst other events get ejected, for example the Vuelta a [insert your preferred region of Spain here] or the Tour du [insert a department of France] will make room for new events in the US, Britain, Germany and South America. But all this will emerge. How much good the consultation does remains to be seen, especially if a fait accompli awaits.
If investors rushing to join the UCI has been a boost for the UCI then the news of Skin’s lawsuit against the UCI has angered some in Aigle. I was sceptical about this but since we got news of the lawsuit the firm has acted to explain a lot of this with its Chairman Jaimie Fuller working hard to get the message across, he’s even been posting comments on here to explain things. It’s all a lot more reassuring and I’ve seen others who have taken the same stance from early scepticism to support. In some ways I’d rather not see the UCI in court but perhaps it is the only way to tease out answers to still unanswered questions, for example on the Lance Armstrong donations. It’ll be interesting to watch.
Movistar appoint clean team manager
An unexpected headline of the week perhaps? Well it’s just worth nothing that the appoint of José Luis Laguía to the Movistar team. Famous to many as the five time winner of the Vuelta’s mountain competition, he later became a team manager with Kelme. A decade ago the Kelme team was like a laboratory on wheels, just like many other squads. Despite all of this when Jesus Manzano lodged complaints about the team, he spared Laguía and said he was the only team manager who didn’t talk doping to him. In an interview with publico.es the manager hints he left the team because he didn’t agree with how things were being run. None of this means too much for now but I thought it worth sharing for he even talks publicly of ethics and pro cycling, often a rare topic amongst the managers of many teams.
Laguía won’t have to wait long to meet his new colleagues. The week ahead sees several teams meeting up to plan their 2013 season, including Movistar. It’s the first time the 2013 roster will assemble and we’ll see familiar images of riders in the team kit training alongside new recruits still in the kit of their old team. That is if riders are allowed to ride. The main purpose of these early meetings is often administrative and mental, to take measurements for team kit, whether clothing or bikes, and sign paperwork as well as some early team building exercises, whether old rituals involving alcohol or modern, executive-style plans.
The Chicken lands in Court
Talking of the week ahead, the saga of Michael Rasmussen comes to court. Sacked by Rabobank during the 2007 Tour de France his claim is that the team were aware of what he was doing so they should not have been so quick to sack him.
We’ll see what the results of this case are but it is a reminder that too often when a rider is caught we hear tales of “shock” from team management who quickly blame a “lone wolf” when in fact management often have a good idea of what is going on and if they don’t, then they should ask themselves how somebody adds 50 watts to their power output during the space of three months. One aspect promoted by the Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Crédible is to suspend teams who have several positive tests because if we can accept one or two rogue results, there’s probably something cultural if multiple riders are being caught.
Taiwan KOM Challenge
On the subject of Danes who go uphill very fast, well done to John Ebsen who won a 100km long hill climb in Taiwan. A 3.5% average gradient might not sound like much but the Taiwan King of the Mountain challenge is a race with a difference. Starting at sea level it rises over 100km to 3,275m on Hehuan Mountain, a height only matched in Europe by the Pico del Veleta ski station in Spain. Here’s the video from 2011, it shows the ascent from tropical conditions to the frozen temperatures at the peak… but it doesn’t show the road that stays over 20% for sustained periods.
The 2012 edition has just taken place and saw several Euro pros invited but it was Ebsen of Brunei’s CCN Cycling Team that won. But there are some other riders worth noting, including Mike Sinyard, the owner of Specialized. The concept is interesting, a race that’s tourism promotion where many can take part on their own terms whether they want to race or just take pride in reaching the top.
Finally, can you name the young rider in the yellow “Royal Soda” jersey below?
For a clue look at the pointy elbows and the brake levers at different heights which suggests awkward posture on the bike, an inelegant but effective style on the bike that remains today. Thanks to a reader for sending in the picture.