David Lappartient is the President of the French Cycling Federation and was elected President of the European Cycling Union, the UEC over the weekend. Does it matter? Well he’s talked of delivering an “electric shock” to pro cycling but in reality “Frenchman running European cycling” is probably as conservative as it sounds.
Lappartient’s agenda isn’t too obvious but he’s made two public statements that stand out. To support President McQuaid and to reject the idea of a closed league format of racing, the so-called “World Series Cycling.”
A trained surveyor Lappartient’s a busy man being mayor of Sarzeau – population 6,941 – and a councillor for the Morbihan department in France where he stands under the banner of the UMP, the centre-right grouping. He’s also President of a grouping of several towns to share various public services. It’s common in France to see politicians accumulate several mandates like this. But controversial too because they can accumulate several salaries and people ask how they can do the jobs properly. No such worries for Lappartient who is also the President of the FFC.
Lappartient hit the headlines outside of France recently after his call for national teams in the Tour de France was attacked by several figures of French cycling. In fact this idea was part of a broad vision to shake up pro cycling with what he calls “an electric shock” treatment. He’s suggested redesigning the calendar and revisiting the system of promotion and relegation for the World Tour. Also his call wasn’t calling for the return of old-school national teams, more for France to copy the “national squad” approach of Britain where Team Sky and British Cycling are very close; a similar thing with Rabobank and Dutch cycling in recent years, in part because the FFC can’t count on government funding and has to seek private funds. It’s worth noting that France has FDJ as its state-funded team with lottery money going straight to the pro squad rather than a broader pyramid topped by a pro team as you have in Britain. But having floating an idea and letting others interpret it the wrong way suggests that if he’s a politician, he’s yet to master communication skills. Especially since he presented his “project” without having once consulted the pro teams, their managers or the collective Ligue that represents teams in France.
Similarly Lappartient’s taken a hit in France because of the troubles track cycling faces. Long time team coach Florian Rousseau has quit his job. Here I’m more sympathetic with Lappartient. Riders might not like it but track cycling these days is question of nationality, politics and funding. Countries with the political decision to spend money chasing Olympic medals win and those that don’t, lose. So Lappartient cannot magic performance when the funding is not there. He’d instead point to his track record of rising membership, today the French federation has over 112,000 members with nearly 70,000 of those on the road.
Lappartient beat André Tchmil, the Moldovan Paris-Roubaix winner. Tchmil’s progamme wasn’t too clear either and ideas designed to flatter national federations like letting them run anti-doping controls seem like a recipe for variable outcomes. He also had to stress his independence from Russian cycling boss Igor Makarov. The two have been closely linked, for example Tchmil was parachuted into the role of Katusha team manager by Makarov. The ties apparently go beyond cycling into real estate and finance. When the Russian Oligarch purchased a lavish villa on the shores of Lake Garda in northern Italy, documents seemingly from an police dossier passed to this blog show Tchmil’s name on documents registered with offshore companies in Luxembourg and the Caribbean connected to the property ownership. If true this only shows how closely the Oligarch and Tchmil have been in the past.
Talking of real estate, Lappartient’s been busy in France with a large project to relocate the FFC’s offices outside of Paris to a new complex complete with an indoor velodrome, BMX tracks and training facilities just to the west of the capital.
This project is a big deal for French cycling as the capital doesn’t have an indoor velodrome and once the Federation gets hold of the valuable real estate it will have more means to develop.
Lappartient’s electoral programme wasn’t too clear. There’s been talk of “values”, “ethics” and “defending European cycling” but few actual policy proposals for the UEC. But he’s expressed opposition to two things in pro cycling:
- he’s against the use of race radios in pro cycling. It’s an old debate but it’s still not settled with an ongoing permission for World Tour races but they’re banned in all other races.
- more interestingly he’s against the creation of a “closed league”, setting himself in opposition to the mooted “World Series Cycling” plans. But I wonder how firm his opposition is given he too has called for the race calendar to be reformed.
He is also supportive of President McQuaid although to some extent even the most ambitious UCI member has to say this because rocking the boat is not the done thing and he might prefer to wait his time until McQuaid has served another term. In other words, if you want to examine things more you soon start playing Kremlinology to determine who’s up and who’s down within the UCI. Ironically Kremlin insider Igor Makarov is probably down in the UCI power rankings today.
Lappartient must have a big wallet. Not just the multiple salaries but also to carry all those business cards. Mayor, Councillor, President, President, President means he’s got a lot of titles. A pro politician, he’s still managed to upset a chunk of the pro cycling constituency in France with his proposals to change the sport.
But he’s no outsider, Lappartient’s already been sitting on the UCI’s Management Committee. So for all the talk of “electric shocks,” the appointment of a Frenchman to run the UEC is normal and suggests the UCI will continue on the same administrative and governance path.