McQuaid says UCI organising new races to make money

Beijing smog

You might know the UCI has set up a business called Global Cycling Promotions (GCP), apparently promote cycling globally. When they asked what GCP is for, it’s top man (and twitter nice guy) Alain Rumpf replied that it’s about taking the sport to new places. But in a more recent interview UCI President Pat McQuaid gave quite a different explanation.

The Cyclingtips blog featured an interview with Rumpf and asked why GCP came about.

“The UCI’s mission is to develop the sport worldwide and to strengthen the Olympic status of the sport. We know that globalization, or universality as the IOC calls it, is a key criterion to develop a sport in the Olympic program and it’s a priority for the UCI to make professional cycling as global as possible. By creating a dedicated company to create, or assist the creation of, new events in new territories the UCI is taking action to reach its strategic objective.”

So it’s about the strategic objective of globalising professional road cycling. Now that’s quite good, I like cycling and sharing it with people around the world is good, in fact correspondence from readers around the world is a real bonus behind this blog.

But is Rumpf on the same page as his boss? Because in an interview on the website of the Association of Summer Olympic Federations, the UCI’s President Pat McQuaid gave a different view, citing less noble reasons:

“we’re always in need of more money. It’s why we set up Global Cycling Promotions. The first event is the Tour of Beijing, which will bring in funds to the UCI.”

McQuaid is saying the need for income led to the creation of GCP and the Tour of Beijing will bring in money. This confirmation that the UCI is now going into business only confirms the governing body is riding two horses, one trying to run the sport and the other trying to promote money-making races.

Now the wish to spread the sport around the world and the need to raise money can co-exist. Both Rumpf and McQuaid can be right. But without adequate safeguards, noble ideas about sharing the sport will clash with the rush to monetise this strategy. It’s a fundamental conflict of interest.

Conflict of health
If you think this is an abstract concept, here’s an example. Time’s Austin Ramzy described the conditions in Beijing recently:

Just walking was hard on the lungs, let alone competitive cycling. The monitor run by the U.S. Embassy registered readings of “hazardous” and, for a couple hours in the evening, “beyond index”—a level informally known as “crazy bad.”

Now shouldn’t the UCI be there to protect rider health? Or is the need to raise money coming first?

18 thoughts on “McQuaid says UCI organising new races to make money”

  1. Money first. This is China. Lots of foreign currency losing value by the hour in these deflationary times. Spending it on a cycling production package is better than just letting it lose value even with the currency peg. I wonder if GCP got paid in Euros or USD…

    We don’t know what Pat and Alain are skimming off the top, bottom and sides of the money going into GCP. The rumor is collecting a commission is a common practice with the USA Cycling Development Fund. Land a big donor and the blessed fund raisers get a commission. Given how tightly Weisel and Co. are associated with Pat, I find it hard to believe Pat’s not making something on the side.

  2. Can the UCI take the risk of exposing doping at one of their own races while they are trying to promote their product to new countries? Might not make good business sense to bust a rider for doping at Beijing or any other new destination on their agenda, might be hard to attract sponsors. And we know the UCI understands the value of sponsors. It’s kind of sickening to think about it.

  3. money_first: indeed I was wondering whether the UCI will make much money. It has outsourced a lot of the organisation to its friends and they stand to gain. We’ll have to wait and see in the UCI’s accounts I suspect.

    Andreas Kauffman: yes the honesty was there. I think he was trying to reassure on the point of income but it clashes with the message they’d previously stated.

    @mdfrank: look at the Tour of California where the UCI stopped the tests, it gives gives ammo to the critics. I’ve asked about the controls in Beijing and not got a reply.

  4. I think that it worst than a conflict of interests. The UCI end up competing against other potential promotors of new events, they control the race calendar and ultimately risk serious abuses of their monopoly position. eg we won’t give WorldTour status to Tour of California because we might do our own thing in the US in the future under GCP?

    Or, shift the Tour of Lombardy so the that Tour of Beijing is the last major race of the season. If they make any move to favour their own events at the expense of others (commercial or otherwise), it is an outright abuse of monopoly power.

    It also sets up the UCI as a major risk within the sport. If they are seen as potential competitors and unpredictable because of their ‘wheeling & dealing’, promotors and sponsors could view this as a major barrier (in addition to doping, not to mention their secret ‘behind-closed-doors’ formula for determining who gets WorldTour licenses).

    The UCI should get back their core business.. administering the rules as they are written.

  5. I agree with Col, the UCI has created an unbelievable conflict of interest for itself. The UCI must build a solid firewall between its management of the sport and its financial interest in promoting races. Better still, spin off the promotional activities to a completely separate entity. For Pat McQuaid to be involved in both is a disgrace, and compromises his credibility as a credible disciplinary force in cycling.

  6. McQuaid has zero credibility to compromise. I actually don’t mind the idea of the UCI (and national federations) making some money out of the sport through events, if it then goes into benefiting the sport. There definitely has to be a firewall and transparency and this is where everyone will question Pat the Rat… he just can’t be trusted. He’d stab you in the back for a dollar so I’m sure he’s getting his backhander from the Beijing event. McQuaid needs to be kicked out and replaced with a professional sports administrator who needs to instill an independent commission to run the sport. At the moment the sport is being run by volunteers who stood on a street marshaling for so many years they think they’re owed the trips to events and the like that come with being part of the UCI.

  7. They need the money for what?

    Scope creep! If they just focused on good governance and promoting the sport rather than competing and arguing with their constituents, maybe they wouldn’t need as much money. But then how would they pay off themselves and their friends?

    Arms length is one thing, but granting yourself one of a few positions on a global calendar is a huge conflict of interest. They have already alienated many of the teams, so surely alienating the race organizers is a sound strategy for continued success.

  8. I am so glad finally someone else brought this up (in regards to China’s air quality). It is one thing to go on a business trip, and smoke the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day, but when you oxygen utilization is one of the key critical components to your ability to compete in the sport, this is stupid.

    I am shocked Tony Martin or any other top rider agreed to head to this joke of an event.

  9. Kris > the doping control system in place at the Tour of Beijing was correct.
    Where it has been compromised is that the tests were agreed not to be analysed.

    Someone is taking the piss, but not necessarily who you think…….

  10. Ref the pollution; the situation in Beijing can change daily, dependent upon wind patterns, atmospheric pressure etc, the 4-5 days before the race were some of the best weather seen in Beijing in months, there was an element of bad luck that the smog moved back in during the race. The race puts international attention on BJ to improve its air quality, and to improve in future, officials at the race were sensitive to this.

    Over 20% of the worlds population is in China, your bike is probably made there, cycling is increasing in popularity; having an event in China is to be saluted.

    UCI out to make money or promote cycling; both.

    Riding two horses; yes why not.

    Conflict of interest; why can a governing body not hold an event, what is the conflict of interest? If the event generates interest, generates cash, enlarges the sport, enables the governing body to operate more effectively.

  11. I’ve mentioned this a few time on the internet over the last year or so, but I struggle to see the point in starting a massive globalisation project for the sport while the worldwide economy is in sharp contraction. With fuel prices only ever going to increase is making cycling a global sport even sustainable? Those true global sports – motorsports in the main – are the playthings of the rich which serve to make them richer. Football isn’t really a global sport, it is mainly the big leagues that are exported around the globe and although the quality of football in continents other than Europe and South America has improved, the leagues in those emerging football nations aren’t really of interest to those outside of those areas. Football is mainly interested in the English, Italian and Spanish leagues along with the European Cup and the World Cup.

    If cycling doesn’t secure it’s core areas – and there is much evidence to suggest the UCI is attempting to reduce or destroy the influence of the “old guard”, then any failure of the these new markets, will leave the sport with nothing to fall back on. The sport needs it’s heritage – even Formula 1 has heritage – all this move for new markets is just a land-grab and enrichment of friends over any sort of betterment of the sport.

    If there was structure to this – asian/southern hemisphere “season”, european “season”, american “season” so a reduction in travelling for example then you could accept it. But I fear this is the beginning of the end for the heritage of the sport.

    • There’s a key problem. Sources of new money e.g. Asia, Middle East, arent going to want to spend their money propping up old races in Europe, however historic they are and important to cycling’s core, die-hard fan base. They’re going to want to spend the money in races in their own backyards – or not at all.

    In Russian. McQuaid told “Rossiiskaya Gazeta” that Tour of Beijing was organized and sponsored by Beijing mayor to promote the culture of using bicycles instead of cars. So UCI is heading for the future concerning rider health.
    It’s also possible to ride a bike in Moscow 330 days a year according to Pat. Tell Purito that, I still remember his crazy eyes during Katusha’s presentation in Moscow.
    BTW, “Rossiiskaya Gazeta” calls McQuaid Patrick. Weird.

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