The CPA Pro Cyclists Union: Ride to 2016

Guest piece by Frank Kwanten

The sport is changing. Teams want a new model and some have united under the “Avignon Accord“. The UCI and the races are changing with calendar reform, a points overhaul and more. ASO buys the Vuelta, even leaving Hein Verbruggen in awe.

But what of the riders? Too often they’re not represented and when they are, it often doesn’t satisfy with concerns about everything from safety to late payment of prize money. “Ride to 2016” is an initiative by Dutch rider Reinier Honig who is a strong advocate of better protection for the riders. He found himself without a team after the Crelan team pulled the plug late in 2013. While still training and racing (he won a race a few days ago) Honig wants to contribute to a bright future for young cyclists. Reinier took the initiative together with Frank Kwanten who, after a career at Vacansoleil-DCM, now works as a Rider Agent and does some consultancy in the world of pro cycling. Frank is the owner of First Echelon and strongly believes that for a clean and bright future the riders need to take a stand and organize themselves.

The Ride
Over the weekend Dan Martin and Andrew Talansky asked for a stronger position of the riders. The safety at the Tour of Catalunya made them again realise that the riders hold little power. At the same time many riders crashed during the Belgium spring classics showing that a big bunch in good weather conditions has trouble to stay up right on narrow roads with dangerous obstacles.

In the meanwhile is Michael Rogers fighting a suspension on a nearly unmeasurable amount of clenbuterol, did pro riders wait over 12 months to get prize money and did riders who violate the rules don’t feel the consequences. This all happens while we enjoy a new season of ‘professional’ cycling. A season in which new initiatives came to surface which should prepare our sport for a bright future with a sustainable business model.

In the last month we have for example heard about the initiative of the UCI on how they think the future of professional cycling should look like. Earlier the UCI also made an effort by doing a consultation with various stakeholders. Furthermore the teams have found each other in a joint effort to obtain more certainty by underwriting the Avignon agreement. This Avignon agreement might also be the solution for the race organizers who are struggling to survive in the current system. These initiatives contribute to a healthy future of the sport by giving it more stability and a better business model.

But amid all these voices the one group which doesn’t speak out loud but is very vulnerable is the that of the riders. These past couple of years we have seen many examples of rider vulnerability on the road, but also ethically and legally. The riders are organised in the CPA but what do they want and how are they organised? It is time the CPA reinvents itself to do a better job informing and protection their riders. And we believe it is time that the riders tell what they want and get some power.

Reinier Honig
Reinier Honig visits the race doctor during the 2013 Flèche Wallonne

To start this debate on a CPA 2.0 we’ll sum up the areas of improvement that we have identified and what we want to change by 2016.

16 changes by 2016
The CPA is setting the agenda and we have several suggestions which the CPA should address in talks with the other stakeholders in order to help decrease rider vulnerability and start talking with the riders instead of talk about the riders.

Together with the UCI, WADA, teams and race organisers we want the CPA to find solutions on 16 issues by 2016. This concerns issues around race rules, rules on ethics and the position of the riders in general:

  1. Race rules: Change UCI-rules which aren’t easy to check. The UCI regulations currently show rules which aren’t easy to check and they need to be changed and standardized. This concerns for example the rules on the transfer period, on the bike path or on motopacing after a crash / puncture.
  2. Prevent advantage and disadvantage due to vehicles in a race: there should be fewer motorcycles allowed in races because they often interfere in the race through motor-pacing, voluntary or not.
  3. Encourage more objective behaviour in the caravan: sport directors defend the interest of their own team, but this often interferes with the rules, safety and interest of others. Therefore we propose that the team managers get drivers, hired by the organizer. The independent driver will only change his position if he is called out to the front. This makes the race at the back of the bunch less subjective and more honest.
  4. Crowd management and race safety: stricter rules for crowd management at high risk areas of a race (for example at an uphill finish). This will make the race more honest. Also look at the crowds in the feeding zone. For example give every team a dedicated area so this part of the race gets less dangerous (like a Formula 1 pit zone). When courses are revealed and weather conditions make it dangerous the riders need to be represented in finding a solution with the organiser.
  5. Prevent delays in doping test results: all A-samples should be tested by one institution and within six weeks after a UCI-race. In case of a positive A-sample, the B-sample should be tested within six weeks after the request of running said B-sample has been made. This makes it easier to pay prize money, makes it more difficult to leak the news and prevents riders from racing for a long time after a violation.
  6. Arrange uniform sanctions after doping violations: have all sanctions for doping violations determined by one international organisation instead of a rider’s national federation. This makes the sport more honest and less political.
  7. Uniform testing bodies with uniform standards: Have one independent institution do all the testing, preferably WADA instead of different bodies finding different substances.
  8. Act and decide faster to prevent bad publicity for cycling: Procedures to sanction riders are too long. It generally takes longer for a final sanction to be pronounced, from the moment a positive test is published, in cycling than in any other sport. Faster procedures in close cooperation with WADA will help avoid long term bad publicity, like what happened with Contador and his clenbuterol-case. But the discussion on race communication should also take place in good consultation with a beneficial solution for all parties.
  9. Prevent doping cases attributed to normal nutrition or supplements which contain traces of prohibited substances. We make a case for a threshold amount for certain substances so we can avoid clenbuterol-stories like Michael Rogers last October.
  10. Have independent doctors look after the health of riders. Cycling teams hire doctors to guard rider health. Independent doctors will help prevent that doctors try to illegally enhance performance of the riders and they will focus on riders being clean. Therefore doctors who accompany the teams to races should be hired by the UCI and rotate between teams, or at least doctors should take a course and an integrity test at WADA. The teams will keep one doctor to coordinate out of competition activities and these doctors will follow an annual refresher course from the UCI, focused on attitude.
  11. Shared responsibility: set up rules to ensure that not only the rider bears responsibility for a doping violation, but that his team does as well.
  12. Make extra income and more attractive coverage possible: cameras and radios should be allowed on bikes so teams, riders and organisers can sell their images to the rest of the world for extra income and a more attractive sport.
  13. Earlier announcement of sponsorship contracts: something needs to be done to prevent another Pegasus, Crelan or team H2O, where riders found themselves without contracts in October, from happening. Have the UCI & its auditors Ernst & Young show and publish on September 1st which teams have a bank guarantee and signed sponsorship agreements for the following year so riders will not be unpleasantly surprised in October or even later.
  14. Prevent delay and difference in payments of prize money: we suggest all organizers should pay their race’s prize money to one international organisation before the race takes place, otherwise the race can’t take place. This international organisation should pay the teams and riders within six weeks after the race. This would make everything more transparent, easier to apply regarding tax-rules and faster.
  15. Use privileged position of pros: develop programs together with national federations on how pros can help change the culture in cycling and educate young riders.
  16. Easier access to post career programs: riders should get easier access to plan post-career opportunities together with their national federation. When a rider retires or is about to retire the CPA should inform and consult the rider on the possibilities. Review the solidarity fund to turn it into a more sustainable model and make it available for every year that someone was pro, instead of only for riders who were pro for five years or more.

We would like the CPA to discuss 16 solutions to improve the position of the riders and form a 16 point action plan towards 2016 together with a plan on how the CPA should be organized in the near future.

The above suggestions are a start of a debate towards a CPA 2.0.  Let’s continue the debate on the Wednesday evening before the Giro start in Belfast and set a definitive list with 16 goals for 2016. If you also support this ride to 2016 please share it and tweet your ideas: #rideto2016

  • INRNG: this is another guest piece. Riders and their agents could and do lobby the CPA, UCI and others in private but it seems the sport is changing all around but with very little input from the riders themselves who are often resorting to Twitter rather any other means so I’m happy to offer an extra platform to get some debate going
  • There is the CPA union but it’s rarely praised; the recent rises in the UCI minimum wage were largely the result of efforts by some teams. Similarly the UCI does have an “athletes commission” but with only three road cyclists: Marianne Vos, Bernhard Eisel plus, bizarrely, Team Sky PR and DS Dario Cioni, as if they can’t find a third active road cycling rep. As talented as these three might be, they don’t meet often and can’t represent hundreds of riders

29 thoughts on “The CPA Pro Cyclists Union: Ride to 2016”

  1. Very good piece!

    A very important topic imho and I very much agree with the 16 suggestions. Much more important than what UCI currently has it hands on re: calender and teams.

  2. I watched Honig in several races when I lived in the Netherlands. He’s a classy and able rider, and it’s a shame that he didn’t get picked up by a team for this season.
    I wish him all the best with these very sensible ideas. There are a lot of people in cycling who appear not to care about the race or the riders, but are merely there to network and be seen. There needs to be more support and care for the guys riding in the race, especially as most of them are not multi-millionaire playboys.


    • One or two look hard to achieve, especially on anti-doping where cycling and the UCI just has to dance to WADA’s tune. But in some ways the list could be longer too with more points, eg othersteve’s point below.

  3. Althuogh most of the points and the objectives are obvious, they could learn something on public affairs and politics: never name your proposals en ad examples first. You’ll find your proposals discussed and your examples ridiculed; thus undermining you’re goal.

    • Appreciate that your advice is coming from a good direction Rooie but also consider this: your points are true for politics and negotiation – not so much for publicity and marketing. Frank and his group are trying to get a little bit of momentum here so they need to add some details or no-one knows what they’re talking about. Nevertheless, it can be a fine line and always worth thinking about. In the end, its about lobbying & negotiation and the first priority is not the details, its establishing a presence which is recognised and valid.

      In terms of a model for this type of group, its an old example which is perhaps lazy of us but the F1 Drivers Association would seem to give some examples for cyclists to explore.

  4. Thanks for the feedback Rooie. Something to think about. The goal is improvement of the position of the riders. Riders arent interested in lobby, policy and politics so that is why we try to come up with actual improvements.

  5. Thanks for the feedback Rooie. Something to think about. The goal is improvement of the position of the riders. Often Riders arent interested in lobby, policy and politics so that is why we try to come up with actual improvements.

  6. All points seem reasonable.

    I would like to ask why not reduce race participants? Less riders stronger field, fewer accidents!
    Strength, and race IQ trump luck.

    • That’s an interesting one. It would suit many riders but a smaller bunch means fewer riders. If a union was to act in the interest of its riders, how would it balance having more members enjoying a salary vs protecting existing riders by reducing the size of the peloton?

        • No, that would have the opposite effect.

          Same number of races a team will race during a year + fewer race days for each rider = More riders needed.

          If it was coupled with fewer riders per race, it could balance out. What I would like would be:

          Fewer riders per race + fewer race days per rider + more races = more riders/teams.

          • Can’t edit my post before, so here goes:

            To give an example: Team Inner Ring currently participates in 30 races with some being stage races and therefore a total of 150 days of racing for the team. At each race the team fields 8 riders, so all the riders have together 1200 race days. Since the team consists of 20 riders, that means 60 race day a year for each rider.

            If Team Inner Ring next year wants to participate in the same amount of races, but with each rider racing less (down to 50 race days), it would need to hire four more riders: 1200 of total race days / 50 race days per rider = 24 riders needed.

          • There’s a mix-up here. I’m talking about the proposal/plan by the UCI to reduce the nr of total days of racing, not a proposal of fewer race days per rider, that’s not in any plan as far as I can see. The proposal is fewer races and/or fewer days per race (not clear at the moment), and no overlapping races so no need to field two full teams at the same time.
            Couple that to smaller peletons and you have fewer riders per race * fewer races= fewer riders.

  7. Seeing riders tweet only makes me feel sorry for them, they have nobody to talk to but their fans and followers.

    More power to Honig and the others trying to fix this

  8. History shows that riders best interests seldom lead to a united front.
    I must say that the list of proposals presented are in the main to be welcomed. The UCI should take a lead in helping the riders, especially those not in PT teams, have a real voice, otherwise money will continue to dictate everything.

  9. It maybe stretching the point slightly but the difference in the types of cycling under the UCI umbrella are akin to one federation controlling tennis, badminton and table tennis. A body that is purely focused on road racing would seem to be a good start, even if it were to sit as a part of the UCI.

    It’s also interesting to note how many of the riders concerns mirror those of fans. Besides my personal bugbear of 3726 motorbikes interfering with most races these days, clarity and consistency around the rules and regulations (bike paths, sticky bottles etc), rider safety (& crowd control) and the points in regards to anti-doping, are often discussed by fans with the majority seeming to seek the same outcomes.

    Hopefully 16 for 2016 will have success and that the fans can help in whatever way possible.

  10. Point 1 is a no-brainer.

    It is often downright impossible to find out what the relevant rules for a cycling race are.

    The UCI’s rules need a thorough reorganization, and they also need to impose standards such that national, local, and race-specific rules are consistently presented and clearly written.

  11. Oh, but these proposals generally make sense, ranging form interesting to very good!! I was already bracing for something like “road races should take place in a climatised velodrome, with a minimum number of participants of 700 riders (but if there’s a crash the course will be to blame of course), the race will not last more than 20 minutes (to minimize risk exposure). and participants will not be allowed to race again in the same month (to minimize doping risk)”. But it’s actually quite good: especially everything related to doping.

  12. It’s time to get an indipendent car in the race right behind the jury car who can stop the race when it is to dangerous to ride and who can adres rider when they are a risk for others. When riders come up with a set of rules how to behave on the road, somebody has to check if they are followed. When the race is stopped or riders are pulled out the organisation or/and sponsor wil start to think becourse it wil cost. Everybody is looking at their own monney and forget the normal behaviour. Riders are orderd to do things they would normaly not do.

  13. The riders need to establish a real labour union, not merely one for show, with collective bargaining power. But this means nearly all riders have to be on-board, including the rich and famous ones, in order for the union to have some leverage at the bargaining table in case a strike is necessary. Then, the union needs to hire experts, e.g., lawyers, negotiators, managers, business consultants, with experience and knowledge of labour laws and contracts, rather than trying to do it themselves. Even team managers and former pros would not be up to the task. All in all, a daunting task indeed given the structure and multiple layers of pro cycling.

    • There have been attempt in the past but the peloton’s an international one with riders competing against it each other and the unions have never united all the riders. Plus even within a nation the bunch is never full of workers, it’s got its share of stars and well paid riders. All want safety but when the subject comes to pay things may become more divisive.

  14. cameras on bikes, yes please! imagine bombing down the alps on board with one of the pros … obviously not wiggo, I mean like some who can handle a bike.

  15. I particularly agree with the points about doctors. As a doctor myself (though not involved in cycling), I don’t know why doctors Ferrari et al are not sanctioned by their own medical authorities for unethical behaviour.

  16. Is it not now, in a cleaner era of the sport, more difficult for sprinters/domestiques etc to be finishing within a % of the time limit of a stage winner in a seriously hilly stage of a Grand Tour?

    As the Vuelta, Giro etc all try outdo each other with horrific climbs akin to walls, it was all very well for Zabel, JaJa in the days when EPO was rife to climb impressively and finish within time limits, surely these limits need slight relaxing, from (I think usually) 15% of stage winners time to something a bit less severe…. one could argue during those heady days in the 80’s and 90’s the stage winners time was incrementally faster as they were also doping but I do feel on a level playing field, with clean athletes asking a Cav or Kittel to be within 15% of a Froome on the Ventoux isn’t the same as it was 15 years ago when all riders topped up accordingly prior hilly stages……. thoughts?

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