Fix simple things before any revolution

Vaughters Rhone alone
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a sport where everyone worked together...

Maybe sometimes you look at your bike and think about getting a new part, some wheels or even another frame. The allure of something new and better can be hard to resist. But the only way to be sure it’s worth the upgrade is to do your homework, investigate the new product and then weigh up the benefits against the costs.

Cycling is looking a bit tarnished now. The hubs need servicing, the wheels don’t run true and the whole frame is looking outdated. But as much as we might want something shiny and new, we don’t know what the replacement is or how things might turn out.

Right now there’s talk of a breakaway league formed by some teams, Jonathan Vaughters has a 10 point plan and Cycle Sport magazine have put forward a good manifesto for the future. Only I can’t help wonder if the sport just needs a service before we consider any big upgrades.

This isn’t to say the sport’s got big challenges nor to deny a lot of the very sensible ideas floating around. But for me it’s the basics that can be fixed first. For example:

  • Weak institutions.
  • The big stakeholders are warring.
  • Riders feel let down, fans feel shut out and teams can’t keep up with sudden rule changes.
  • The UCI isn’t strong at public relations but the sport relies on TV images and editorial decisions are vital.
  • There are some unresolved conflicts of interest.
  • Above all, we’ve still got some way to go with the anti-doping.

One lesson from the race radio saga is that a lot of this could have been prevented by better consultation. The UCI says it did consult, others say it didn’t do this very well. The process needs to be more thorough and inclusive next time. A bit more dialogue, a bit more clarity and a promise to avoid sudden rule changes would go a long way to satisfying people.

The good news is that all the problems in the sport mean there are some relative quick fixes. For now applying the rules and improving governance are basics. There’s no point trying new ideas if the sport is so fragile it struggles to cope with the on/off switch on a radio. Surely we need to get this right before we try the clever stuff?

15 thoughts on “Fix simple things before any revolution”

  1. JV is a very bright guy and a talented manager. He was done a tremendous job building up the Slipstream team. I’m not sure why he feels the need to cultivate such a ridiculous public persona. Cycling is a hard sport and he isn’t doing his guys or the sport any favors by dressing like some kind of English toff.

  2. I agree with you but I’m guessing JV is taking a stand to the UCI as the first step in negotiating as well as letting teams and other interested organisations know he wants to step forward.

    I also agree with Dan, JV isn’t helping his case by acting this way. Now is the time to get priorities straight and make a move towards the UCI.

  3. What is it with sports that brings such bad managers? A good rider or even a good race promoter does not make for an ideal president of the UCI

  4. JV’s ego has gotten a wee-bit big, don’t you say?

    If this league breaks away, you can forget about:

    A) Significant doping controls
    B) My fear is this is going to create a bridge so far between the Pro-Conti/Conti teams and the new ProTour teams, that it will relegate the lower level riders into obscurity. I fear the new league is going to try to push to ensure its members get invited to all of the races it wants, or will boycott the races completely. So much for French lower level teams in the TdF (same with the Giro).

    C) Much of the UCI’s rules to help even the playing field technologically will be removed, leading to the F1 problem…(i.e. – lack of competitive races as the technology for some teams will far surpass the other teams).

    If this comes to fruition, it will ruin the sport.

  5. I like that JV has the balls to question things.
    He has been tweeting for months about different sports and given little glimpses of what he is thinking.
    All and all..I think it could work as long as the organizers recognize them as a separate league and it could be a rocky start…like not getting invited to the TdF the first year, but if they can make it solid there is no doubt that ASO would jump on it.
    From todays interview with PMQ he is stubborn, but if you read between the lines is admitting that they could pull it off.
    In terms of allies within a league…might be best to keep your enemies close? Yeah that is JB and BR.

    Really the worst thing that happens is that it doesn’t work.

    So here is the advantage…
    smaller teams…meaning that you have a solid ‘A’ team and backups or ‘B’ team
    this allows a ds or manager to have a closer relationship with the team and in an ideal world builds a better team
    less events…selective schedule for all those in the league in which all of the teams have to participate. I think the organizers would encourage this. This also leads into a separate point structure within the league.
    The next piece of the puzzle is looking into insurance with organizers and figuring out how to make a separate or joint insurance to be in the races….liability is the only thing the UCI can enforce at this time.

  6. Is it always better the devil you know or is the grass greener on the other side of the fence? McQuaid and the UCI have continued to demonstrate ineptitude and a complete inability to successfully run this sport. And to read on VN that McQuaid used the argument of doping controls as a fear of a new breakaway league beggars belief after it took the UCI soooo long to make any real changes on this front – indeed, it could be argued they were complicit in doping for many years and that is the reason mainstream media/sports fans continue to belittle the sport! Any way, I digress… If a professionally run alternative tour gets up, I’m all for it. If the threat of it causes wholesale and much needed at the UCI then even better.

  7. a provocation “You know I aspire to another four years. These will be the last four years for which I stand as candidate,” he said in a speech. who is he?

  8. To be fair (and I can’t believe I’m agreeing with the UCI) Vaughters himself said he waved through the radio thing when it first came up & he was the team rep on the UCI.

    My worry with the breakaway league is that it completely ignores the riders who combine road with track or cx or mtb…. and the fact that one of the reason we have such great riders as (eg) Mark Cavendish is because of the work of National Federations, who get their funding because of the Olympics… which are linked to the UCI….

    Of course, the solution to that is to break away from the UCI after the 2012 Worlds, and then hope a solution is found before the 2016 Olympics…

  9. great points sarah

    if the league pulls through they must realize that they are setting themselves up for a karate chop in the neck…but I believe they can get it together.
    just think about the TdF…eleven teams pulling out…or not admitted? What does that do to the all important TV ratings?
    UCI cycling is like a soviet program that is really past it’s prime.

    Support the organizers, the team and the athlete.

  10. geopolitic
    it’s not a case if that clash between uci and aigp came when the (economic) center (the majority) of the teams is moving from europe ( how dear my little Aigle) to US. looking to the current list of pro(world) tour teams we see 4 US based structure (BMC Garmin Radio Shack Htc) 2 spanish ones (Movistar, Euskaltel,if you can call it spanish) 2 italians (Liqugas- half american- Cannondale Lampre-half ukraininan-Isd) 2 belgians (QuickStep OmegaLotto) 2 dutch (Rabo en Vacansoleil), and respetcively 1 luxembougese ( Leopard-half american- Trek) (note 5 from BeNeLux) russian ( Katusha) kazak ( Astana) french (Ag2r) danish ( Saxo)and english (Sky). not to talk about bikes sponsorships (12/18 if I don’t mistake) or components. Now that the money are dollars (nor euros neither swiss francs) there’s a push to let them move (the rules) in stars and stripes, I mean globalization. Is it so strange and absurd my reasoning?

  11. Professional cycling needs to change and to do this the UCI needs to really get it’s house in order, first and realistically the first thing that needs to happen is PMQ needs to step down and let anybody with an iota of credibillity have hold of the reigns he’s just too tarnished now, with teams, fans, sponsors, riders in fact just about everybody involved in the sport…

    One thing that needs to happen fast is that teams need to be made to be financially viable, we’re at the point now where 20% of the top flight are only there because of wealthy benefactors (I’m counting Quickstep here as well). It’s not right that teams with proper commercial backing and that are going concerns are frozen out for the playthings of rich men.

    I’m particularly thinking about Europcar and FDJ here.

  12. Race promoters/team owners/sponsors/riders/governing bodies/media owners….getting them to agree about most things most of the time is the key to the success of any sport. Cycling has some indigestion at the moment but its not alone in the world. Take a look at triathlon and work out the ITU/IM conundrum……..

    Best results when all concerned are honest about where their motivations are coming from and what their preferred outcome is. Ie: the less manouvering the better. To this end, JV can speak all he wants from his POV at GC but really shouldn’t push it much further.

    Rouligan + 1.

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