Having looked at the history of rider unions last week one theme was the divisions with unions forming and splitting. Here’s the follow up piece looking at the upcoming presidential election there’s a contest and even if the numbers say Millar has no chance it’s still useful to air ideas.
Millar is unlikely to get elected, to put it mildly. Each rider with the 18 UCI World Tour and 27 Pro Continental teams has a vote, as do the women athletes who have signed up as members. However the CPA is an umbrella organisation for national unions so in the case of the French, Italian, Spanish, Swiss, Portuguese and North American unions they have a block vote to cast on before of their male athletes. The French, Italian and Spanish unions account for hundreds of riders and will almost certainly vote for the incumbent Gianni Bugno meaning hundreds of other riders would need to show up at the CPA’s annual general meeting on the fringes of the World Championships next week. Only the field for the road race isn’t that big meaning there won’t be that many riders from other nations around and besides a share of those participating in the Worlds might vote for Bugno. Few to zero riders will travel to Innsbruck just to attend the CPA meeting.
So if there’s no chance of change, what’s the point? Partly because the election contest itself has crystallised some of the problems and having a contest is allowing some of these issues to be aired. For some time there’s been frustration from some riders with their union, some do seem genuinely annoyed but others probably the majority are just curious and concerned. A contest means appealing to voters, ie the riders. The union hasn’t ignored its members, it’s been working on their behalf but it’s not reached all of them with regular updates or just the basics of what they’re doing. Put another way the CPA often isn’t part of the conversation when there’s an incident that affects the peloton such as a risky road or something about the sport’s structures like the move to shrink team sizes for the races implemented this year.
Many riders, be they, say, British, German or Danish don’t have a national association and so they don’t have a delegate acting on their behalf which means if they want to vote they have to show up in Innsbruck. Some have taken to social media to bemoan the voting system and ask for an electronic vote. Their frustration at being unable to vote unless they go in person is understandable but the CPA has no provision for electronic voting and the irony is that the union would probably have to have a vote on the matter to approve this. Fair enough as you can’t change the voting system mid-way during an election only the CPA’s communication on this hasn’t been “that could be good way to involve everyone, we could explore this for the future” but instead to tweet a link to a study from a government ministry in Finland saying online votes aren’t good, the subtext reads “go away“.
Similarly the same CPA Twitter account has been posting pro-Bugno messages rather than staying neutral during the campaign or offering Millar a platform. It means two sides taking aim at each other when notionally they’re supposed to be the same side, after all that’s the dictionary definition of a union, no?
Now riders aren’t expected to be delighted with their union but there are a few quick fixes to make. For starters an annual membership pack should go out to riders with a summary of the CPA’s work for the year and maybe a copy the accounts, this might well end up in the bin or deleted for some but at least it would help riders who are interested know more. Similarly Gianni Bugno or other CPA staff could attend more races. The quid pro quo for this would be for riders who want better representation to found their national associations so as to have their voice better heard by delegates, although easier said than done as they tend to be funded by a levy on prize money and if there were to be, say, a Danish association then there are few races in Denmark meaning little prize money meaning any levy would be tiny compared to the stable finances enjoyed by the likes of France, Italy or Spain with their big calendars and rich races.
If David Millar wanted to win he’d have prepared a lot of the ground in advance, lobbying for a vote change months in advance, calling for a special meeting to change this and touring every team bus for months on end to build up support, especially among Italian, French and Spanish riders. Still if his bid is doomed, Millar’s candidacy has enlivened the contest and turned the procedural into the conversational by raising several issues and it ought to make the CPA stronger, after all if riders have been indifferent or even ignorant about their union then now it’s in the spotlight. It might encourage the larger nations to form national associations.
The funds of the CPA are literally the riders’ own money, they give up a slice of their prize money in order to fund the union and the retirement fund pot only the riders don’t know much about the union and how it works. The clumsy communication of the CPA suggests a siege mentality and if this isn’t what they mean, then it still comes across this way and for all the good work done, riders don’t want to subscribe to something that isn’t right by their side but one upshot of the CPA’s communication is that The perception matters as it’s how many riders seemingly feel about their union and as history reminds us, past rider unions have vanished because they failed to unite the peloton.