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Who Speaks for the Riders?


That’s Luca Paolini and Manuel Quinziato in discussion with officials from the Giro d’Italia following the treacherous circuit around Bari where riders were sliding over the road. It’s often difficult to know who speaks for the riders and there are regular calls for a rider union, a collective body to protect and strengthen the rights of professional cyclists. Only this exists already, it’s called the CPA and every pro is compelled to pay for it. Only few seem to know about it.

As the sport reorganises there’s an alphabet soup of acronyms, each fighting for competing interests. There’s the UCI itself then race organisers like ASO and RCS who themselves are part of the AIOCC, a lobby group for race promoters. There are the teams, the employers, who form several groups for example their collective lobby is the AIGCP and many also subscribe to the MPCC and there’s the newly created Velon too. Will the riders and their union have a say too?

Fractious History
The first rider union was started in 1898. Various organisations have come and gone, often being run on national lines so they never represented the pro peloton as a whole, you had a French union alongside an Italian union all while riders were moving across borders in search of a team from the earliest of days. Finances have also been a problem. For most of the sport’s history riders have not been paid much, in fact the concept of a regular salary is relatively new so finding a means to raise money to fund the work of a union has been awkward. Combine the disparate peloton and the lack of money and it’s been easy for team owners and races to play divide and rule over the peloton.

Various attempts to organise internationally have tried and failed. “International” had largely meant France, Belgium and Italy with these three nations providing the bulk of pro riders for decades but this small circle still struggled to get on. In the 1920s the first international union appeared, le Cercle International des Routiers Cyclistes or CIRC but little is known about this group or its efforts, Google finds just one reference.


The footage above is from 1978 and shows a rider protest in the Tour de France. Riders were fed up with the tendency to have so-called “split stages”, effectively one stage in the morning and another in the afternoon. This allowed the race to collect more money from host towns but it meant the riders were paying the price with late nights and early starts. This strike was the first ever in the Tour de France and it galvanised the disparate national unions to join together in the form of the Association Internationale des Cyclistes Professionnels (AICPRO). It worked as split stages soon fell away and the group got a seat at top table in talks with the UCI. However whether the split stages fell away because of union work or simply a sulking Bernard Hinault isn’t clear.

Over time the international coordination of AICPRO seems to have fallen away with national union on the rise again. But the work of these local outfits has been useful but modest, campaigns to ensure promised prize money gets paid is fine but little more than contractual follow-up.

The next big flare-up came in 1998 when police raids in the wake of the Festina affair angered a large share of the peloton. It might be more recent but it seems unfathomable that riders were protesting in the wake of doping raids on the Tour de France, giving the impression they lived in a bubble immune to national laws which prevented the trafficking of medicines or prescription fraud. “We are fed up with being treated like cattle. So we are going to behave like cattle” said rider ringleader Laurent Jalabert, perhaps feeling nervous although it eventually many years until he was rumbled by the French Senate. Riders organised several protests during the race but it was a farce because of the cacophony, in one instance riders sat down on the start line to make a protest while others rode off. All while a bemused public looked on. This showed the trouble of entrusting a protest to a patron, a strongman who stands up but not necessarily with the backing of the whole peloton, nor with the resources and skills to communicate with others.

CPA union syndicat

The CPA
Come 1999 and many riders refused doping controls in the Giro and the Italian union along with the foreign riders present on the race came together to form Coureurs Professionnels Associés was formed under the chair of Francesco Moser. It wasn’t a promising start to base a union on such defensive premises but in time the CPA has helped raise rider wages and promote a standard form of rider contract across the teams. It’s international but with regional aspects, for example an Italian section, a Scandinavian section, another in the USA and so on. The stewardship has changed over time with ex-pro Cédric Vasseur in charge for a while but he’s since become an eloquent TV pundit.

Gianni Bugno

Today former double world champion, helicopter pilot and budding politician Gianni Bugno is in charge. It also demands improvements in safety, secures guaranteed time off work and ensures riders get a certificate stating how many day’s racing they did each year. There’s now a minimum wage too (World Tour: €29,370 for a neo-pro, otherwise €36,300; Pro Continental: neo-pro €25,300; otherwise €30, 250) although bemusingly some impetus for this advance came from the teams themselves, odd to see employers calling for a high minimum wage. Still rather than being inward-looking as the 1999 genesis suggested it’s done some good.

Case Study: one area where the CPA has stalled is the issue of rider contract renewal. There’s a rule that riders with a contract ending on 31 December must be told in writing by their teams before the end of September whether they will get a renewal or not. Many riders seem ignorant of this – Steele Von Hoff is a recent example but there are many more – only the same rule says a copy of this notification has to be sent to the CPA. You’d think the CPA would notify all riders on receipt of a letter or that they had not received notice by the end of September. But apparently not.

CPA Funding: 7% of all prize money goes to the union before it goes to riders, split 5% for a retirement/solidarity fund and the other 2% covers the CPA’s expenses. It’s hard to find out much more, the CPA does have a website but there are no accounts and the latest set of UCI rules, helpfully uploaded for riders, date from 2012.

UCI Athlete Commission

The UCI has tried to incorporate the pro riders too with the establishment of an “Athletes Commission” and this had given riders a voice in some ways and made some achievements but (cleverly?) split the peloton’s voice between a union and a commission. The Commission’s vanished from the UCI and it had its problems too. Off the top of my head here are three:

  • Philippe Gilbert took to writing an open letter to Brian Cookson complaining about working conditions as if it was the only way to reach the UCI but he sat on the Athletes Commission
  • Another road member Dario Cioni had hung up his wheels a while ago
  • Cyclo-cross star Sven Nys made a public call for CX points to count towards the road too and promised to bring it up at the next UCI meeting. Only these points already did count, he just didn’t know it.

If the celebrity members of the Athletes Commission felt ignored and confused, imagine what the rest of the peloton felt like? The Athletes’ Commission has since vanished.

Pirates Union
A rider union will always struggle as the job is unconventional. Unlike, say, workers in a factory there’s a direct competition between riders and nobody is on a standard wage for a standard job. Take the stalled mooted changes to reduce team sizes to 22 riders, this will see some riders cut from the peloton but those remaining could well be in for a salary rise because they’ll get a share of the remaining spoils. It’s like trying to unionise pirates.

Conclusion
Last week’s story of riders on a World Tour team being asked to pay for their own training camp suggests there’s plenty of work to do for a union. When something goes wrong we tend to see a patron emerge rather than a procedure.

The UCI wants to reorganise the sport and teams are grouping together. Can the riders have their say? History says this will be different although the sport has long resembled the Wild West, a free for all where no union could operate if tried. Now it’s becoming increasingly regulated and professionalised and in recent years the CPA has had some achievements behind the scenes. But it’s not the go-to voice for the peloton for safety disputes and other concerns.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • GeorgeY Thursday, 18 December 2014, 3:37 pm

    Actually pirates had a union of sorts and followed the pirate code:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirate_code

    and even had a form of medical insurance built from common funds. So maybe the Buccaneers were better off than cyclists 🙂

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 18 December 2014, 3:39 pm

      Hmm, that’s sort of equivalent to what the CPA does: share out prize money and provide the “solidarity fund”

  • Shawn Thursday, 18 December 2014, 3:55 pm

    In your introduction, you claim that the CPA is a union. Is the CPA empowered to collectively bargain on ANY issue for its members? If not (which is what I suspect but don’t know for certain), then calling it a union is a misnomer.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 18 December 2014, 4:13 pm

      There’s no collective bargaining in the sport but there are minimum standards and the CPA has helped with these, for example a minimum wage, a minimum rest period, insistence that all expenses incurred for travel have to be repaid. So it’s behind these agreements… but as we see with the Von Hoff case and others it might not be following them up.

  • Anonymous Thursday, 18 December 2014, 7:02 pm

    Delete as appropriate in the below.

    Different countries have different standards and different expectations on what an employees’ or workers representatives’ organisation/professional body should/must do/not do and what employers/administrators should/must do/not do and what the relationship between the two should/must be/not be. When it is not clear if the employees/professionals (the cyclists) organisations is a trade union/professional organisation/lobbying organisation and the administrators (UCI) and the employers (teams) are different bodies, thus adding an extra level of complexity, trying to come up with a workable solution resembles a course in quantum physics.

    Let us hope that the long negotiations over the future of road racing are being managed by university professors.

    • Anonymous Thursday, 18 December 2014, 10:23 pm

      Quite

    • AK Friday, 19 December 2014, 12:42 am

      I’ve done multiple courses in quantum physics and passed the exams. Much easier than finding a solution for this problem.

  • Megi Thursday, 18 December 2014, 7:03 pm

    That last comment was from me

  • Sam Thursday, 18 December 2014, 7:05 pm

    INRNG, you say the Athletes Commission has disappeared from the UCI…

    As per Cookson’s end of year update part 1 on the UCI website:
    ‘We have also made important changes to ensure that the voice of the athletes is heard in everything we do. The mission statement of the Athletes’ Commission has been completely revised in order to give athletes a real voice within the UCI. It will have 12 members (two for each of the Olympic disciplines – road, track, mountain bike and BMX – and one for the other disciplines – para-cycling, cyclo-cross, trials and indoor cycling). The Commission Chairperson, elected from among its members, will also be co-opted as a member of the UCI Management Committee. In addition, there is now a representative of the riders on all UCI Commissions related to cycling disciplines’

    So it sounds as though the disappearance is very temporary

    • channel_zero Friday, 19 December 2014, 3:36 am

      Ahh yes, the athlete’s rep. IOC sports are famous for these… and they are largely ineffectual. Lots of “voices” but very little influence.

    • Sam Friday, 19 December 2014, 10:26 am

      …So lets see how this works out

      I’m not a great one for dismissing as an auto-reflex every time something that hasnt worked well in the past or in other contexts, is reviewed and re-shaped quite differently, until its been given a chance.

      Auto-reflex to decry and dismiss everything, is tedious to say the least.

  • Anonymous Thursday, 18 December 2014, 7:41 pm

    There’s a lot of intrinsic contradiction with this issue, as this article rightly points out. A basic contradiction is that riders, whose job is to a large extent to embody stoicism, and the personal willpower to go and on in the face of extreme adversity, can hardly afford to demand less hardship, and to embody right the opposite of what their followers admire them for. Another contradiction is that, by de facto diminishing their business (less races, less kilometers, less day of race, and basically less presence and less stories to be told) both with their demands and their way of riding, riders shoot themselves in the foot.
    The history of the relationship between communism and cycling in France is extremely telling of these contradictions. Communists were traditionally die-hard cycling followers (and the best cycling magazine ever, Miroir du Cyclisme, was a communist one), largely because the ailing cyclist embodied the dignified suffering of the working man. And they had a hard time with cycling taking a giant commercial-capitalistic character (the Bernard Tapie years, the guy who employed the first Ricain to win the TdF). And who was the Minister of Sport in 1998 but communist Marie-George Buffet, who took to heart the “liberation” of cyclists from the oppression by capitalists and the exploitation of these poor buggers’ health… only to find them taking otherwise improbable collective action.
    There’s a lot to discuss and research on these issues. I will limit myself to concluding that cycling is indeed a very complex thing. It is certainly more than just a sport, and its symbolic dimension can’t be overlooked, because it’s otherwise just people on bicycles.
    By the way, split-stages, when not overdone, were good and added a lot to the complexity of races, especially one-week races, but also to GTs, where morning attacks (typically before the afternoon’s TT) caused havoc because no team wanted to chase, and earned tens of minutes (see Chiappucci, Pensec, Bauer, and Maassen in 1990). Split-stages increased earnings and diminished costs, most crucially for 3-4 day stage races. I hope riders see they have a stake in allowing them to return.

    • Anonymous2 Thursday, 18 December 2014, 10:31 pm

      Woah there – sorry, no, completely disagree.

      It’s a hard sport, yes. But that doesn’t mean the riders should therefore be able to take poor wages, awful transfers, job insecurity… and be “stoic” about it.

      No, they should demand to be treated very well. If the UCI, sponsors, town mayors, fans, audiences, want to see good racing, the riders’ rights do need to be nurtured.

      Look at how bemused the crowd are in that video at the end, when they expected a sprint, and the angry mayor shouting at the riders. That is a farce, leaving everyone feeling short-changed. The riders can and will do that if they’re not being looked-out for.

      You might think plush buses and free sunglasses = comfy, but they should be treated a bit like film stars if we expect them to put on a show.

      • The Inner Ring Thursday, 18 December 2014, 10:34 pm

        And the hotels too. It wasn’t that long ago that riders on the Tour could be lodged in school skicamp dormitory in a ski resorts.

        Worth noting in the video that they promise to return to the town for a free criterium after the Tour.

      • Anonymous Thursday, 18 December 2014, 11:16 pm

        I think there’s a convergence of the two points. Cyclists can be seen to deserve comfort and emoluments, outside the road, to the extent to which they appear to be enduring supreme, never-ending asperity, on the road. When they demand stages shorter than what a lot of Sunday cyclists can usually do, they lose respect exactly in the same way as doping damages the credibility of their effort. And it surprises me no one is reminding them of that. Who speaks to the riders?

        • Sam Friday, 19 December 2014, 10:28 am

          Eh?

        • Sam Friday, 19 December 2014, 10:30 am

          So let me get this right: you’re comparing pros asking for stages to be looked at when the weather is so bad, visibility is so poor etc that its beyond dangerous, to having the same effect on fans as doping?

          Over-reaction, much?

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 18 December 2014, 10:36 pm

      It’s an interesting take, traditionally the poor man’s sport but also very cuthroat with riders racing to take bread off their rival’s table.

      Split stages still exist but they’re regulated. See the Criterium International which as a sprint stage in the morning and a TT in the afternoon.

    • Larry T. Friday, 19 December 2014, 12:34 pm

      +1 Certainly more than just a sport. My fears are the monetary issues pushing sporting ethics out. A recent essay on ethical issues in pro cycling failed to even mention “sporting ethics” while going on about business ethics, which to many is an oxymoron. The “ends justifies the means” idea is why pro cycling finds itself in this bad situation.

  • MD Friday, 19 December 2014, 5:54 am

    I cannot be the only one who finds striking similarities between inner rings two recent blog posts?

    This post, highlighting the limp and powerless CPA whose “union” rules cannot be applied to sportsmen (and women) – and the ISSUL performance criteria, highlighting that the majority of the teams are struggling to implement changes in support of riders health and wellbeing (regular coaching, a set race program, limited race days and < 22 riders per team).

    In order for any unionisation to have the power to enact change it must be democratic – something that a patron in a sport cannot do.

    Perhaps if the cyclists themselves were part of a common ownership or cooperative (a peloton as a whole or within individual teams, perhaps buying in a share of those teams) which could exercise its right in a democratic decision making process, members could work together to enforce better rider’s rights while increasing the business as a whole and thus increasing their own personal return (the purpose of any common ownership is to maximise the net worth for all owners)?

    The UCI continuing to appoint powerless voices “to be heard” is ludicrous, they can voice opinion but in order to implement any real change that the riders collectively want the peloton as a whole needs to be combined.

    Surely the one thing that the peloton mutually agrees on is increasing the net worth of professional road racing (or their team as a whole). Getting the cyclists involved in this process at a fundamental level of ownership will undoubtedly change both this and the working standards around them (as highlighted by the ISSUL criteria)?

    • Anonymous Friday, 19 December 2014, 2:29 pm

      One partner in the equation is often forgotten and that is cycling. There aren’t only teams and riders. Cycling has rights too.
      One reason why I love sport in general is the feeling that an idea, an emotion, a conviction can move something, can prevail. So I hate every attempt to make cycling into a business. I am all for good conditions for everybody, but the last thing I want to see are riders as employers.
      We love sport because it isn’t organised. Because everything can and will happen. Because we have the illusion the athletes are giving everything for the chance to achieve everything. In a world where the majority of the people experience a working world where they have zero input, where they are replaceable and where uniformity is the goal, sport is for those doing it and for those watching it one of the very last possibilities to escape, to forge your own chances and fate.
      And I don’t want to watch a business, I want to watch sport. There seems to be some confusion about that. I am fine with everybody making their living plus some extras from it, but I won’t support them running a business. That is one of the reasons why I won’t support Velon either. If there ever will be races run by Velon, I won’t watch that.

      • Larry T. Friday, 19 December 2014, 3:32 pm

        +1!

      • GB Friday, 19 December 2014, 4:40 pm

        Woah, woah, woah, wow, no! I don’t know if the co-op is a great solution, but cycling IS a job. It’s a job that’s difficult to break into and can come with fame or infamy, but in the strict sense of an activity that you do for most of your time which makes your living (hopefully), it’s a job.

        And more to the point, just because it’s a “glamorous”, meaningful vocation, doesn’t mean that doing something that’s seen as ‘business’ is going to destroy it. And EVERY time I’ve seen this ‘I don’t want it to be a business’ mindset, the people who get screwed over for the benefit of the fans are not the fans, or the managers or (crucially) the people with $$$ to give–it’s the people doing the work.

        Art, for instance. People think of art as this magical talent that’s so intrinsically enjoyable that artists don’t NEED money to keep drawing art because it’s fun in itself, right? Maybe–it’s also hard as hell and artists need to eat and pay rent too! But this misconception that Art and Money must never meet is so ingrained, many artists themselves only charge sweatshop rates because even they’ve been duped into thinking they should consider themselves lucky they can draw at all! How dare they ask for more money?

        I know a lot of people in industries affected by this kind of thinking, so this comment prompted a more visceral reaction than any of the doping polemic ever could. Your sentiment about the sport may be beautiful but this is what I was obliquely referring to with my silly comments about theology in the Icx museum post–people’s sentiment for cycling can lead them to saying things that (if by some hideous miracle UCI started listening to blog comments) would harm the people idolised. You might think people clamoring for shorter races are obnoxious and I can see that, but what about the people with weather and safety concerns? The lack of job stability? The people who might not actually enjoy having a person like Cipo or Armstrong being their spokesperson? What about the people back in the day before minimum wages (for some!)? Do you think they should have just been thankful they ride a bike for money? Do you think they shouldn’t try to group together to change anything because change will inevitably lead to mopeds??

        Now I’m curious–if you (or anyone else) ever gets the chance, try telling someone on Team Colombia or Europcar (or any pro-conti team) (or any women’s team!) that it won’t matter if they ride without pay because their sport is beautiful, and let me know how it goes. Some of them may agree to a point, but I wonder how that domestique without the television in his hotel room from the last post would react!

        PS: I am also morbidly curious what philosophical/sociological basis you have for saying Cycling has Rights, and in which cases the rights of an ephemeral culture surrounding a sports activity may take precedence over the rights of the human beings pedaling the dang bikes, but hey.

        • MD Friday, 19 December 2014, 10:46 pm

          Perhaps this is another idea that splits the fans. I am in agreement with GB – obviously of a different thinking to Larry T and Anonymous above.

          I love cycling for its romanticism too, its ability to provoke emotion and its aptitude for beautiful writing. This is something that cycling sells; for example the history of the sport sells, we enjoy expanding our knowledge and learning about the tales of generations that have come and gone before – that doesn’t mean that it’s not a commercial interest, that it isn’t sold to us, that people don’t expose the way that cycling goes hand in hand with its history to sell books. It’s part of cycling’s character and commerce. The creation of the tour de France was as a gruelling and romantic spectacle, to sell newspapers. This point was retailed to us, because we as the public enjoyed the idea so much. Everything we see is manipulated, especially those points you put in your post above.

          “We love sport because it isn’t organized” … what sport are you watching? Last time a checked there were rigorous rules surrounding all professional sport or games, and unwritten organization which is the beauty of an Echelon.

          “I am fine with everybody making their living plus some extras from it, but I won’t support them running a business” …If you want what you have stated above, you want to watch amateur sport, non-professional.

          Perhaps it is just the affinity to the word “business”. This isn’t a capitalistic view of sport (as GB points out, read the fundamental idea of the original post!)…it’s a way of using economics to better the working conditions of the riders, the viewing spectacle of the fans and continue to grow and expand the sport.

          Thanks again to inring and his/her /it’s readers for having the ability to bring up such topics and debate them.

          • GB Saturday, 20 December 2014, 7:58 am

            That’s the really baffling thing–this idea that beauty and business are mutually exclusive and can never intermingle or co-exist. Inrng addresses this on this very blog’s About page! It seems a common fallacy–for instance, many aren’t aware that many famous works of art was paid for by extremely wealthy patrons. The artists etc I mentioned still do great and inspiring work, but now they can do it without working themselves sick for less than $5 an hour. How? Learning how the business side works!

            ‘Business’ is not inherently evil. Just like the stories people tell about the sport, it can be used for good or bad. It’s pretty amusing that CPA was founded to protest the doping controls in the Giro, but le Tour began with the noble goal of ‘selling more newspapers than anyone else’. Sport (and life) is awkward like that.

            I don’t think every rider has to care or to become accountants or unionists. I DO think saying or implying riders should not sully themselves with business for whatever reason is like saying, ‘Relinquish your fate to other people and hope they have your best interests at heart.’ Burying your head in the handlebars won’t make economics go away.

            And I’d like to say thanks, too.

        • Larry T. Saturday, 20 December 2014, 12:04 pm

          These are great arguments. I guess part of this is how you define JOB? If you get paid, does that mean it’s a job? I think of jobs as stuff you do pretty much ONLY for the monetary reward. If it didn’t pay, you’d do something else. If you take a kid in an inner city of the USA, does he or she play ball because they’re training long-term for a job in the NFL or WNBA? The success rate for that is pretty small and I’d say cycling is very similar. There’s got to be more to it than that. Did Raphael take up painting because he wanted to get rich or because he had a passion for it? How many famous artists died flat broke? I believe sports are different from business. Jobs (labor- physical or mental) we want to make as easy as possible while sport has rules which impose inefficiencies (no motorcycles or doping in cycling for example) on the participants. A hedge-fund manager would complain loudly if his wheeled office chair was pushed off the summit of a mountain pass and he had to perform his JOB while careening down the mountain, but this is part of cycling by definition. For too many business operations success is defined by making profits by any means while staying out of jail. Nobody tunes in their TV to watch hedge-fund managers work because they enjoy watching business. They want to watch sport, played by people motivated by more than simple greed. To me this is a fundamental difference.

          • GB Saturday, 20 December 2014, 6:45 pm

            I think certain hedge fund managers going down a mountain on office chairs would rate fantastically on TV but probably not for pure-hearted reasons. 😀

            I largely agree with you on why people choose to be sportspeople, of course. I think depending on your circumstances it might not be as simple as choosing athletic asceticism over ‘a real job’. Someone whose only other option is, say, selling lottery tickets would view things differently than someone on one of those teams that help you get a degree. Overall you’re completely right. My artist friends are not exactly rich.

            It’s hard to argue this because the issues cited in the post as examples of things an union or collective can or have dealt with are so different–minimum pay, more pay, safety, shorter races, etc. It’s a bit too easy to think of the well-paid riders grouping together just to get more money; if someone like Wiggins did that he’d be derided forever. But not everyone is as well off, and even Wiggo might feel nervous being told to ride up an ice rink with a double-digit gradient.

            What gets me is the false dichotomy between working for intrinsic rewards (victory, personal accomplishment, being able to ride for a living, overcoming the odds) and extrinsic rewards (money etc). The two things can exist together and need to–cyclists can’t buy a house with self-fulfillment. But also, if I heard a manager or director say something like, ‘No one’s forcing them to ride a bike after all,’ I’d be immediately suspicious of the race/team/league’s working conditions.

            Think about it. If you’re in a situation where you want to group together to request something and you don’t have star power, hearing ‘no one forced you to ride a bike for a living’ from the people in charge is essentially equivalent to ‘if you don’t like it, leave’. Are you risking your contract for next year by complaining? If you’re in the situation where the management is treating you poorly, that’s a possibility. And if that’s the case, you’re stuck in the same conditions, to your own detriment.

            And if a rider accepts it as true, well… when an internet commenter says cyclists shouldn’t ‘do business’ at all, it’s hyperbole at worst. When people higher up the chain start saying and encouraging this belief in the fans and the riders, it becomes incredibly dangerous.

            I also follow an industry that’s so awful and full of weirdos and the moment I’m loathe to even name it lest the weirdos find my comments via Google and ruin this comments section for the rest of time–so you’ll have to trust me on what I’m saying. XD This industry is difficult and stressful to get into, and maintains this strong sense of ‘Even if it gets tough, who cares, you’re making COOL THINGS! Suck it up!’. It was kind of true in the start, but companies exploited this–now, to this day, people are working in the industry’s top companies with no job stability terrible pay, awful hours, shockingly wasteful project management, etc.

            To give you an idea, if pro cycling was run like this industry: almost everyone in the peloton would be sick and strung-out neopros who retire from sheer exhaustion or exasperation at 25 (if they hadn’t had their contracts lapsed for not placing top ten in every race they were in), the only people getting the press and most of the money would be the team owners, and if the cyclists spoke out the fans (!) would literally not care or abuse and threaten them (!!) for complaining. You see, the people with influence in this industry did such a good job hyping its intrinsic rewards, even the fans actively maintain the awful meat-grinder aspects.

            It’s not that I think cyclists doing things solely as a business venture is a good thing (it would be dull as dirt), it’s that assuming riders forming a collective or thinking in business terms is ‘being greedy’ is an assumption that can be exploited by unscrupulous people to exploit people in the sport further down the line. Does that make sense?

          • AK Saturday, 20 December 2014, 11:30 pm

            I find it quite odd that given your clearly voiced dislike of greed you are – of all sports – a fan of cycling. In my view, cycling is one of the sports where greed actually comes to the surface most. In football there are ridiculously high wages and transfer sums, the American sports have their player strikes for more money, but cycling is the only sport I regularly watch where money has such obvious influence on the outcome of individual races (matches). Whether it is the pointless last accelleration the from the breakaway before the sprint trains get you – to get that few thousand euro ‘aggressive rider’ bonus, the competitions for the lanterne rouge because it buys you some post-tour criteriums, or the more serious buying and selling of important race wins, greed is ostentatiously a factor in cycling. To me that’s actually part of why I like to watch -but not do- bike racing, it’s so much like the real world.

            If professional cycling wasn’t a business, it would not be professional, to me it’s as simple as that. But that doesn’t mean it’s comparable to hedge funds or other financial busineses. I think professional sports are part of the entertainment business and in many ways similar to the music or film industry.

            PS I think many teachers, nurses, social workers and scientists don’t fit to your description of ‘job’ either.

  • Larry T. Friday, 19 December 2014, 8:28 am

    A rider union is problematic since the members will only be involved for a decade or less in most cases. Short-sighted, short-term decisions result from this. Think of the protests over the years against dope controls, police raids, rules requiring helmets, etc. If there’d been some sort of organized action asking the UCI or race organizers to take serious action to rid the sport of cheaters, I might have some respect for their position, but this is SPORT after all, nobody is forcing them to race bicycles for a living.

  • Larry T. Saturday, 20 December 2014, 9:20 pm

    GB – yes, it does make sense, thanks. This continues to be a great forum for exchange of ideas without rancor. Compliments to Mr. Inner Ring for providing this all-too-rare place for discussions and debates like this about a sport we’re all passionate about. I regret that the costs of being a sponsor here are more than our cycle tour business can afford, as we simply don’t have (and don’t want, to be honest) enough volume to spread the cost-per-client out in an affordable manner.

  • GB Sunday, 21 December 2014, 3:12 am

    Larry: Sorry for the walls of text, by the way. Didn’t have time to write a shorter comment (to paraphrase the quote).

    AK: Coincidentally, as you no doubt know, those professions you list are thought of as inherently satisfying but have problems with low pay and highly stressful working conditions too… funny, that!

  • Othersteve Monday, 22 December 2014, 4:26 am

    Yes, It is refreshing that we can have a spirited debate and maintain a decorum which does become interesting yet not overheated. ( with the exception of PED’s)

    Inrng, you are the Patron of our peleton and you keep us under control and focused.

    Thanks

    • GB Monday, 22 December 2014, 4:28 pm

      I was reflecting on this earlier (cos it’s sad that decent comment sections are so thin on the ground these days!) and I noticed one thing inrng’s commenters do differently to a lot of blogs etc. Namely, while comments can be very harsh or critical, I’ve never seen the comments that are just one or two lines of snide Twitter-esque quips get many replies at all? I see them, think ‘Yep this person sure hates Cookson alright’ (or whatever), then read on without having to scroll through a subsequent drawn-out flame war (or vent session).

      This and things like discouraging slagging off journos and commentators (which I fell foul of initially XD) keeps the mudslinging at an unusually low level. It’s even discouraged me from writing snide comments, because I realised I would just be winding people up for no good reason. Maybe that’s why people can disagree over the more contentious subjects without insulting each other’s spouses or inrng having to hire a moderator. Which is nice! Keep it up, team.

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