The Glasgow super world championships start today with all disciplines united together, all at the same time and with this a reunited UCI shorts piece. Ahead of the racing the big news is that the UCI is adding a second tier of teams for women’s cycling…
The men have had three tiers of international-level cycling teams: WorldTeams, ProTeams and Conti teams while women’s cycling currently has WorldTeams and Conti, with no middle tier. This is a big deal because WorldTeams come with all sorts of regulatory protections and UCI oversight while Conti teams have little of this, for example there’s no requirement to even pay riders. ProTeams sit in the middle, salaries and a minimum wage but not quite as high, a minimum team size but not as big, a wage guarantee posted with the UCI, budget checks for the licence by UCI auditors and more: it’s the World Tour but without the automatic right to start the big races. For the women it should mean relegated teams from the World Tour don’t fall off a cliff edge in terms of oversight and regulation. But exactly how much the women’s ProTeams will copy from the men’s remains to be seen, we’ve got the press release, not the detailed rulebook changes but it shows the rapid professionalisation of the sport.
Staying with UCI press releases, Ag2r Citroën’s Alex Baudin has a positive tramadol test from the Giro d’Italia. Remember this is a medical case and not an anti-doping matter as the UCI has got ahead of WADA here to introduce its own test under UCI rules. There are similarities and differences with Nairo Quintana’s case, the differences being that Quintana had two separate positive tests several days apart (the halflife of the molecule is such that it wasn’t one dose that lingered) and that it happened in the Tour de France when he was riding high on GC, and then just when he was close to signing a big contract so all in all it was a big deal; when many a reader might be forgiven for not knowing much about Baudin, for what it’s worth he’s Ag2r’s local lad, he grew up a tricycle ride away from the team HQ but alas now his name rhymes with tramadol. The similarity is that Baudin will appeal the case… and unless he can show the test was at fault or knows of some other flaw then the verdict stands and he loses his results from the Giro. That’s it. But from 1 January 2024 it’s on WADA’s prohibited list and in competition use risks a long ban.
No UCI press release, just a line added to a PDF file on the UCI’s website but an actual doping case, albeit the opening of an investigation and far from a verdict. Robert Stannard has been provisionally suspended for “Use of Prohibited Methods and/or Prohibited Substances” with his Alpecin-Deceuninck team stating this happened in 2018-19 as in not with them. Stannard was with the Australian Under-23 programme. His agent published a statement with an attributed quote of “I have never intentionally or knowingly used a prohibited substance” which deny a prohibited method but it’s probably just badly drafted rather than anything more sneaky. Now given Alpecin say this took place over two years so it’s not a leap to imagine this is about alarm bells in the athlete passport and blood values rather than one positive toxicology test for a banned substance but that’s a “best guess” rather than certainty.
Onto more certain justice and Filip Maciejuk got a 30 day ban for his dangerous riding in the Tour of Flanders. Social media had lots of “why so slow?” comments but presumably it takes time to get information from all sides, to hold hearings and then make sure a verdict stands as you can slap a cash fine on a rider quickly but denying them 30 days of work is a more serious issue that can’t be rushed. Perhaps the more complicated issue is why 30 days compared to 20 or 40 and why Maciejuk, it’s one of those incidents and accidents that look dumb but similar moves can go unpunished. It’s a point to return to as there’s no statement of doctrine from the UCI: they publish rules but won’t say how they are implemented in practice. Instead we’re left guessing and “punishment by consequences” is the implicit message. Pull a bad move and get away with it and you might be ok, take down lots of people in front of the TV cameras and you’re much more likely to get a penalty.
The Glasgow “super worlds” sees all disciplines together in one venue. Whether it’s a success depends on what you are holding out for. One measurable thing is that the road worlds has been the UCI’s big income earner. Hosting fees account for 30% of the UCI’s annual income and the road worlds fee is the single biggest item it banks each year. It’s got a queue of bidders and has banked partial cash fees from hosts yet to stage the worlds who have paid up already. A shared venue might mean shared costs but this cuts both ways, it also means having to book a lot more facilities so expenses can rise too. But just getting everything together sounds one every four years sounds like a good idea, we’ll see how it goes and there’s a political tone to it, we might enjoy watching a festival of cycling but an added motivation is to get all the UCI staff and interests together.
Finally on the UCI the annual report was published (PDF) on the eve of the Tour de France and you can see stable revenues of about 40 million Swiss Francs (CHF) for 2022 from the screengrab above. For the anecdote note this means some pro teams have bigger budgets but that’s to be expected, an energy regulator for example turns over less than the oil producers or electricity generators it oversees. It’s a line often repeated here that the governing body is based in offices next to a velodrome round the back of a Swiss retail park, as in it’s not a big organisation nor at the heart of power in a capital city. Now it almost looks like a hedge fund that has a sideline in sports governance, as the governing body made a loss for 2022 of four million Swiss francs (CHF). A big part of this was “the decrease in investment portfolio. On average, funds under management dropped by 11.63% at 31 December 2022. This strongly impacted the financial result with the recognition of an unrealised loss of CHF 4.7 million”.
Markets rise and fall but the governing body seems rather exposed to all this volatility as the red line from the screengrab of the report shows, you’d think it would be safer to avoid this kind of speculation. The good news is that the Tokyo games provided a buffer of CHF 22 million so a one-off hit of CHF 4.7 million is manageable… as long as it’s one-off.
With all this out of the way… a preview of the road race up soon