The UCI’s 2030 Agenda

The sport’s governing body, the UCI, published a big document (PDF) yesterday setting out an agenda for the coming years. It runs to 126 pages and covers plenty, so much that achieving all of ideas inside is a tall order but it will set the direction for the sport’s governance in the coming years. It’s not just sports admin, it’ll affect the racing too.

Changes to the calendar, TV rights and team budgets could be coming. There will be discussions, debates and, over some issues, probably some big bust-ups.

This Agenda 2030, approved by the UCI Management Committee and presented to the
2022 UCI Congress, allows us to formalise our vision for the years to come.

That’s part of UCI President David Lappartient’s introduction to the document and the UCI President is all over the agenda, he’s in at least 10 photos throughout the document making him literally part of the vision.

Nota bene
First a reminder of how the UCI works, it is the umbrella union that sits over all the cycling federations around the world. These national federations are key, they vote on issues, they pick the President. You might have your views on the sport, but at best you’re a stakeholder. It’s the federations that vote and the President is accountable to them. According to the UCI there are 1,037,424 members of federations, 850,199 are men, and road cycling accounts for 365,840 members.

The 126 pages are peppered with more bullet points than an infantry rifle range, far too many to list and many are obvious (“contributing to world peace”), some are vague (“encouraging art around cycling as a source of inspiration”) but others are more to the point, for example the combined world championships like Glasgow in 2023 and Haute-Savoie in 2027 could deliver direct Olympic qualification.

The Pro Cycling Part
You’re here for the pro cycling angle. Here the agenda promises “an ambitious reform of not only men’s cycling but also women’s given the significant development of women’s cycling”, adding “the organisation of road cycling must be made more comprehensible in order to promote its appeal, encourage globalisation, bring in new sponsors, ensure the sustainability of existing structures, retain the interest of enthusiasts and attract new fans. The reform implemented in 2017 does not meet these goals”. There’s ongoing consultation this year and next to lay the groundwork.

Some of the ideas underpinning this reform mean “encouraging the advent of new events around the world”, “ensuring the stability of the rules”, “allowing teams to evolve in a stable environment” and “building a system that is based on sporting value and organisational quality”.

Many organisers are struggling to make ends meet and teams are almost exclusively dependent on their title sponsor. Furthermore, there are few sponsors that are global in size.

The UCI wants to bring “road cycling into the era of professionalism by becoming a major
global sport in economic terms”. There’s ongoing talk about pooling TV rights, at least among smaller pro races and underpinning this with shared production. Going beyond this they suggest “exploring the option to set up a new company to take on the marketable rights of all parties on the basis of an agreement between these parties, with a view to creating value”. There’s also “making the organisation of our sport more comprehensible” and “investigating the possibility of regulating team budgets” and with each quote you can see the big issues coming down the track.

We’re not done yet, there’s also changing the way pro cycling is governed. The UCI is the governing body for the sport but for men’s pro cycling is different from other disciplines it has a joint committee with teams, organisers and the riders – via their CPA union – called the Professional Cycling Council (PCC) which oversees this branch of the sport. The UCI now wants to place the PCC under its tutelage and give national federations a seat the PCC table too. The vision is to have a women’s version of the PCC too along similar lines.

The UCI wants to spice up some races, saying “some races, particularly stage races, may sometimes lack appeal, which can lead to disenchantment among the public and television viewers” which evokes the idea at least of changing the format of the Tour de France, but how and how much remains to be seen.

Calendar reform is also included with the plan to have races by geographic regions so as to stop the peloton flying somewhere, jetting to a new place, and then flying back, with a view “to reduce carbon emissions” and the plan is also to avoid overlapping events. After consulting with stakeholders the idea is “redesigning the calendar completely for the 2026-2028 cycle”. Part of this involves “encouraging the organisers of UCI WorldTour events to establish women’s events”.

What to make of it all?
To labour the point again it’s a big document with 126 pages and hundreds of bullet points. Inevitably separating the nice ideas from the firm priorities is the harder part. Some of the points regarding pro cycling are statements of the obvious, it’s achieving and delivering change that’s the tricky bit. It’s one thing to investigate regulating team budgets, quite another to actually implement budget controls. Yes a stage race has its slow moments but the product here belongs more to the likes of ASO and RCS, but at least there can be a dialogue as they have ideas to which the UCI has said no; more time bonuses than the regulatory 10-6-4 seconds for the top-3 on a stage comes to mind.

What will “encouraging” new events mean? It could span from the President giving a speech saying he’d like to see the Guangxi Tour back one day or that that many fans in Colombia deserve a World Tour race, all the way to the UCI funding and even promoting new events itself.

Environmental concerns feature and the calendar already has some sense here with the World Tour season starting in Australia, then going to the Middle-East, then to Europe and an American trip in September before China in October. New events would have to fit into this, for example where to fit a race in, say, Colombia, or Indonesia? But how much leverage can the UCI have over grand tours and the tendency towards lucrative but far away foreign starts?

Reforming the PCC sounds arcane but it’s the intersection of the UCI, the pro teams and the big race organisers like ASO. Here there’s been an equilibrium of late but partly because nobody is trying to tread on the others’ toes, it only takes an argument – you can see the “UCI in powergrab” headline already – for the quarrels to start anew and the sport quickly looks dysfunctional and wavering blue chip sponsors decide to back tennis or golf.

Calendar reform is sensible but simpler doesn’t always mean better. To outsiders it’s absurd that World Tour races overlap: Formula 1 would never do that. But it can make sense because unlike Formula 1 not every driver-racer is competing in every round because pro cycling is really a mix of events for different kinds of athletes, from flat sprints to mountain stage races: you can have one crew racing in Flanders and Roubaix, another doing the Basque Country and we can enjoy both. Even very similar races like Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico overlap but it works, allowing a big share of the peloton to get the stage race they need ahead of the classics, run them at different times and there’s some value in not having all the top riders clashing all the time, it prevents a season of repeats and heightens in interest in the prime races.

Pooling TV rights and even production is an interesting idea but the UCI’s been trying to do this for some time, the class of “.Pro” label races was meant to have obligatory TV and they’d all group the broadcast together but getting agreements across so many races in different jurisdictions meant it hasn’t happened. With more time differences can be worked out though, we’ll see although the real goal would be wide audience because whether it’s individually today or collectively tomorrow, the likely destination is Eurosport/GCN but the big value would be having big public channels around the world screen them instead but it’s a hard sell to get, say, the Vuelta a Burgos, on mainstream TV in some big markets.

Attempts to reform the sport go on and if things have been relatively quiet in recent years with the UCI, teams and organisers agreeing not to argue in public it’s been because there’s been less to wrangle over. Now this could come back with some lively issues on the table where there can be common solutions but some topics are bound to flare up, it’ll depend on how hard the UCI wants its vision to become the reality.

46 thoughts on “The UCI’s 2030 Agenda”

  1. Another great piece Inrng – as you’ve noted, there will be serious fireworks in the years to come over one major point – UCI moving PCC under its’ control.

    YEAH RIGHT! Imagine the NHL being forced under the IOC, or the MLB or NBA, etc. Although the PCC is not as powerful as these, it is more fractious, that is, getting a consensus vote to move it under UCI is impossible.

    Plus, the overarching model of our sport would suffer greatly if forced under a governing body.

    Anyways, I’m going to go back and re-read the full blog post and then sit back and watch the forum comments PLUS the UCI/PCC/Organiser battles for the next 8 years.

    One last point… UCI President putting his own picture all over this document… c’mon… a bit of a tool-move, no?

  2. IMO the ‘problem’ cycling has compared to other sports, and you mention it above, is that there’s far too many races, too many differing interests for different races in different regions/countries hence the lack of interest of blue chip sponsorship. But that’s the charm of cycling. Why does that need to change?
    I have a GCN subscription but I have to say I don’t have time or interest to watch a 2.2 race I’ve never heard of before. I suspect that’s the same for many. If you wanted to attract mainstream money than it would mean to condense the calendar to 5 or 6 major events over the year that guaranteed all stars attending. But that’s just not what cycling is about and why change it? Eternal growth?

    • Exactly, the “problem” is something that’s making me love the sport more and more as I grow, ahem, older. I wouldn’t change the wonky schedule for anything. It makes cycling interesting that for the TdF every top GC guy has taken completely different roads to get there.

    • The cycling calendar is more akin to the calendars of tennis and golf, then say formula one – lots of events of differing status week-in-week-out, with many overlapping, and a clear hierarchy of 4x grand slams in each. And those sports seem to do pretty damn well when it comes to blue chip sponsorship!
      I think the cycling calendar could be neater, and environmental impacts more considered, but I don’t see that it has to fundamentally change

      • Agreed, the calendar doesn’t seem too bad to me. Overlapping races can be a good thing, as explained in the article. I also cannot see how adding more races would help except to line someone’s pockets and even then it would be a very short term gain at the expense of devaluing existing events and fatiguing fans and riders.

        One thing that would simplify the sport for casual fans would be for the team names to stay the same for more than 10 minutes. I get that they are named after sponsors and obviously these change but surely they could come up with a “franchise” name akin to football clubs. Teams like bike exchange (if that is what they’re currently called) have had numerous changes of name, it’s hard to keep up. Coupled with this, riders change teams frequently (and occasionally en masse, like Sagan and his retinue), which for the casual fan makes it hard to retain any kind of consistent interest. I wouldn’t be surprised if many British fans think Chris froome still rides for Team Sky.

        • To be honest, as long as the 5 monuments, the grand tours and the worlds stay as are they can do what they want with the rest and I could fairly comfortably ignore it. As long as they don’t deliberately undermine established events by running new races with much higher prize money/exposure at the same time.
          At the end of the day cycling is, more or less like every sport except football (and the American sports in the USA), a niche sport. It can try, like all the others do, to expand and make as much money as possible but it will probably always wind up being about the core fans in the core areas and the established events that they follow.

          • “some races, particularly stage races, may sometimes lack appeal, which can lead to disenchantment among the public and television viewers”

            The line above worries me. The UICI and television producers may like the idea of non-stop drama but GTs are not made for that – to appreciate the high drama one needs long days of relative inactivity. We have enough races with gravel roads and walls now. Let’s leave it at that.

          • Richard S: I changed the name in your comment above to Richard S for you.

            DJW: it’s a tricky one, stage races are take hours a day but you can’t make every day exciting, nor every minute (nor can, say football, a game has plenty of dull moments and 0-0 draws). In a way the unique selling point of cycling, its mythology, is just how hard it is because of the distance and hours involved. So it’ll be interesting to see what ideas come along.

          • One thing though is that it’s not for the UCI to rule on all of this. I keep meaning to do a blog post about those races that are organised from the “top down” versus those that are done “bottom up” from the ground. You can probably tell “top down” races like the UAE Tour what to do, but those run by locals aren’t so easy to push around. Of course they can just be bumped off the calendar but each local federation won’t like the sound of it, it’s hard to see the Spanish/French/Belgian/Italian federations saying “sure we’ll tell the Vuelta/Tour/Omloop/Giro di [Region] to bin their 100 year race”. So more to debate… and argue over.

        • I agree about the team names, but it would require some sort of agreement with the press to make sure the sponsors are still named. After all, why would a sponsor pay to be a title sponsor when everyone uses the team’s (much easier/shorter) nickname while reporting?

          • There can still be a lot of value in being associated with the team as a sponsor without the naming rights. Not all sponsors are out to market to the wide world, take Deceuninck where consumers can’t go and buy their windows, it’s for building contractors so their sponsoring is more orientated around exclusive access, VIP invites, internal corporate communications and so on.

          • The name recognition part is still important for most sponsors though.

            And it shouldn’t be too hard to make people use the sponsor names most of the time, as e.g. live TV footage & press passes already come with a contract and/or a set of rules. It’s just not something the teams can do/decide on their own.

            PS: you can buy (some?) Deceuninck products to install them yourself here, but that’s obviously not their main market (e.g. they aren’t available in DIY chain stores).

  3. The only ‘problem’ with professional cycling is that it doesn’t make those involved rich. Obviously they want to get rich so they’re going to come up with loads of spurious reasons to justify that. So we can expect loads of races in ‘developing’ areas to help ‘globalise’ the sport. It’ll be entirely coincidental that these places will be oil rich and run by nutters. A private company will come in and run the sport on the UCIs behalf, presumably like in F1, and they’ll obviously have to demonstrate year on year (financial) growth to the shareholders. All in all it sounds like a bit of a nightmare to me.

    • I agree that globalising should look at those countries where the sport has some local popularity first. In that respect, Colombia certainly deserves some high level races, and maybe we should look into how to make that possible financially. In Africa some primary candidates would be Eritrea & Rwanda (although unfortunately they are both run by criminals…).

      PS: good riders, the owners/organizers of popular races (like ASO, RCS, Flanders Classics, Golazo, etc.), and the owners/managers of the top teams can’t really complain about the money they make now.

      • When did cycling become the “only race in countries with no criminals for presidents” sport? The Giro never had a hiatus during the Berlusconi years.

        • I didn’t say it doesn’t happen; the UAE Tour has been around for a long time too now.

          I think the fans in those countries deserve more high level racing, but unfortunately the criminals in charge are going to abuse it to promote & enrich themselves…

  4. The unattractive aspects of road racing to me are riders pumping the bilges on the go and throwing litter into paddocks.
    Together with that the endurance aspect is not what it was. They continually top up with fuel and water, get massages and are fed exactly what they need each night.

  5. IR touches on the fact that football can be boring too but, even in the depths of a 0-0 draw, excitement just might happen whereas 100km out from the finish of a long stage across northern France with a five man breakaway four minutes ahead, the sun beating down and no wind one knows excitement won’t happen. One could weed the garden, bake a cake, clean the bike or snooze and nothing much would have changed.

    That’s not a justification for change, it’s just how the sport is. We have enough walls, enough gravel and enough short stages too.

    • It’s also how many people have consumed cycle races for decades, of course: doing other stuff while listening and/or watching with half an eye, until the interesting parts happen, then they turn their full attention to it.

      (In the past it would be listening on the radio until the live TV footage started, now you can often switch on the TV/stream right away.)

  6. Can IR move back to the present for a little bit and talk about the UCI banning a reporter from the Worlds? If this is what the UCI is all about, why are we stuck with such an organization? Really smells bad to me to see this going on. Didn’t think the Iron Curtain still existed…

    • If you think the Iron Curtain, or its modern equivalent, doesn’t exist for journalists, then you’re not paying attention. Journalists are routinely jailed, harassed, and even murdered in many of the countries that were formerly behind that “iron curtain.” There’s even a ‘Remembrance Day of Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty’ in Russia. I think the UCI banning a reporter is pretty lame, but your comparison with the Iron Curtain is a touch silly.

      • In Russia less journalists were killed (for any reason and by whomever) since the USSR ended than, say, ecoactivists are in a single year in many a Latin America country. I guess that being that informed you may know what’s currently the most serious case of known journalism harassment relative to the Ukraine conflict, and it’s not on the side you look to be expecting.

        • What on earth does the comparison with eco-activists gave to do with it? And last I heard, the Ukraine was “formerly behind the iron curtain”, too.

  7. I work for an international sports governing body (not the UCI) so I’d rather post anonymously. My view is that governing bodies should fiddle as little as possible with the pro side of the sport. Let the market forces shape it the way they deem fit. A governing body (much like a state) should intervene either where there are market failures, or when there are negative externalities that affect the broader polity of that sport. The business model of men’s pro cycling is, one could argue, a market failure, as it allocation of resources is suboptimal (the relegation system isn’t a fix, because if destroys, rather than create, value). Similarly, a world without anti-doping would lead to doomsday externalities because nobody would watch cycling anymore. So these are the pro cycling areas where the UCI should intervene (and they do it quite well, especially the anti-doping and the team audit bits). Anything else is just growing one’s footprint, and getting a seat at the table, and advancing sports admins careers.

    • Interesting and I broadly agree, it’s also what the UCI does for the most part in that it manages the rulebook and deploys the commissaires etc, and forays into more commercial things tend to happen if the teams and/or race organisers are ok with it or even asking for it to happen. If they don’t want it then it’s hard for the UCI to force it.

      But as an aside, the relegation system can create value because it is creating scarcity, the World Tour as an exclusive club rather than for everyone but that’s conceptual, the practical side is harder, to achieve the omelette without breaking too many eggs.

  8. I love pro cycling and also riding my bike but there are sad and glaring problems with pro cycling including:

    > How the sport falls into a dull abyss in August after the TdF high. The season peaks in the middle then dies. Tour of Poland!
    > ASO has far too much power. They control cycling not the UCI.
    > TV coverage still terrible with very low quality use of data and graphics. Commentators assume far too much audience knowledge with no effort to explain sport
    > Marketing of riders as stars is dire compared to say NBA or Champions League
    > The fact that commentators often cannot identify the riders is a real problem. Sick of hearing “Followed by, er, an AG2R rider”
    > Doping doping doping. Many of my friends don’t follow the sport as they think everyone is doped up. Not much PR re what steps are taken to catch dopers.
    > Time trials are a terrible product. Liked by purists but honestly do they excite you? Do they build an audience?
    > Too many long pointless stages with no action. If TV can’t even be bothered to cover the first hours of each stage what does that say about the quality of the action!?

    I love the sport, I do, but OMG it has problems which need attention.

    • > Not much PR re what steps are taken to catch dopers
      Wrong strategy IMHO. Better if you just avoid any talking on the subject.

      > Time trials are a terrible product. Liked by purists but honestly do they excite you? Do they build an audience?
      They apparently work with the more general public on weekends or to start/end a GT (on public channels). Don’t ask me why, I’m quite puzzled indeed, but that’s what TV figures often say.

      > Too many long pointless stages with no action. If TV can’t even be bothered to cover the first hours of each stage what does that say about the quality of the action!?
      Oh, but they do bother now. It was just a case of common sense against reality, like, people won’t watch a train crossing snowy Scandinavia for hours. Only, people do. Same for cycling. Now the trend goes towards full live and different patterns of fruition.

      > The fact that commentators often cannot identify the riders is a real problem. Sick of hearing “Followed by, er, an AG2R rider”
      Absolutely so. That’s where good comments like you usually got on RAI with Cassani or Martinello makes a lot of difference. Saul Miguel in ES Spain is also good, considering that unlike the former examples he’s probably not got as many chances to have live direct contact with riding pros.

      > TV coverage still terrible with very low quality use of data and graphics. Commentators assume far too much audience knowledge with no effort to explain sport
      More of the same. Careful with the opposite effect, though (too obvious and dull). Anyway, I’d love more “predictive commentary” like, “what can you expect now?”, as in “there’s a such and such a climb in 5 kms, now we’ll see some fight for position, the climb is so and so…”. It’s risky, because it all depends on how the course is actually raced, but he can build up expectation to fill “boring” or “intermediary” moments of the race with explicative material which will help the viewers later on. You can fill the broadcast when much isn’t happening with narrative about what’s happening in the season, the lots of stories which most spectators aren’t aware of and which help hardcore fans to become passionate, besides making more meaningful what you see. Again, ES Spain is making this decently enough despite a couple of quite detestable characters. Same for Italian RAI comment of old. Bad pundits for cycling are those who stick to other sports’ model, like describing what’s happening full stop. That’s useful, sometimes, of course, and even “dull” moments of the race in case something *is actually happening*. But cycling really can take advantage of throwing in more and more background, historym context… the sort of things you find on inrng and some other privileged sites.

      Ah, and I partly also agree with:
      > How the sport falls into a dull abyss in August after the TdF high. The season peaks in the middle then dies. Tour of Poland!
      Autumn is also very very good but, besides the Worlds… it only is in Italy!

      • Belgian commentary would often include stories from cycling history in the dull moments.

        Like, a couple hours ago I learned from José De Cauwer that LeMond was arrested in Ireland once, after an altercation with a spectator or fan, not unlike what happened with MvdP last night…

    • You’re also being a bit harsh on the Vuelta ^__^
      I think that the season works rather as a series of “peaks” with the TDF being the main one, then – pause – and finally a sort of extra time to salvage the season with the Vuelta, Italian Classics and the Worlds. Pauses are important, I think, now that the Nats or Suisse are on a long-term decline pretty much nothing happens between the Giro and the Tour, either, so June is pretty much another weak month.

  9. Fundamentals:
    The Field of Play should be safe.
    Doping should not be allowed.
    Athletes should show respect.
    There must be a coordinated calendar.
    Sponsors are not more important than teams.
    Teams are not more important than athletes.
    Teams must respect and reward athletes.
    The finances should be sustainable.
    Race organisers must be encouraged by reward and sanction.
    There must be rules of racing per discipline.
    Waste and pollution shoukd be reduced.

    Sure, let’s have a bit of vision but the UCI takes from the sport it governs so must show long term reward for all the athletes, organisers, sponsors and media companies (plus national-level bodies in each country) that make its role possible.
    If nobody wants a Tour of Quangxhi, well let’s not have one. ASO nor RCS is gonna bend to anything that’s not in their commercial and long term interest, so why should any other organiser?

  10. “many are obvious (“contributing to world peace”)”

    I’m glad you find that obvious. I struggle to see bike racing’s contribution to world peace, personally.

    • It’s one of those Olympic federation ideas, bringing athletes together, the world singing in harmony etc.

      As an aside the document is quite interesting on the Olympics and their ballooning costs and dwindling popularity. I don’t follow Olympic sport politics so wonder if this is breaking a taboo to mention this out loud ,or whether it’s echoing a conversation all of the IOC are having (or something in between).

    • Well. I don’t know if it contributes to world peace, but I’m glad cycling teams are not bound to small minded national borders teams are mostly international.
      Small minded is if a team gets kicked out just cause it base is in Russia, while all the international riders in that team got punished for things they hardly had any influence in.

      • Remember the Gazprom team was based in Italy, not Russia, and the German arm of Gazprom which funded the pro team is on the edge of bankruptcy so the team would likely be finished by now anyway. Plus almost every non-Russian rider has moved onto other teams by now.

        • Also, the Gazprom team was owned by a sanctioned Russian, so any payments from/to the team would have been illegal, including membership fees & other financial duties. The only way it could have survived is if it would have been given away to new owners (sort of what happened to Chelsea).

  11. When you write ‘That’s part of UCI President David Lappartient’s introduction to the document and the UCI President is all over the agenda, he’s in at least 10 photos throughout the document making him literally part of the vision.’ I got a mental picture of Mr Bean with a big smile & a double thumbs up.

  12. Part question & part ponder, will Lappartient’s “open system” of 18 WT teams lead to infact an 18 team franchise system as sponsors hop from relegated teams to newly promoted teams? Newly promoted teams would welcome (need even?) extra funding to expenses, and apart from teams run by an enthusiast with deep pockets, it seems something logical.

      • The plans by Soudal to move from Lotto to Quick Step were made a year ago, I think, and it started with the CEO of Quick Step contacting the CEO of Soudal about working together, so I’m pretty sure it doesn’t really have anything to do with promotion/relegation.

    • Many teams that are in trouble, are in trouble because of a lack of funding, so I don’t see how the same sponsors that lacked the funds before would suddenly become able to sponsor more? And the only team that is in trouble despite having a bigger budget (IPT, with a budget that is close to that of Quick Step, I think) is owned by its two main sponsors…

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