Who Speaks for the Riders?

That’s Luca Paolini and Manuel Quinziato in discussion with officials from the Giro d’Italia following the treacherous circuit around Bari where riders were sliding over the road. It’s often difficult to know who speaks for the riders and there are regular calls for a rider union, a collective body to protect and strengthen the rights of professional cyclists. Only this exists already, it’s called the CPA and every pro is compelled to pay for it. Only few seem to know about it.

As the sport reorganises there’s an alphabet soup of acronyms, each fighting for competing interests. There’s the UCI itself then race organisers like ASO and RCS who themselves are part of the AIOCC, a lobby group for race promoters. There are the teams, the employers, who form several groups for example their collective lobby is the AIGCP and many also subscribe to the MPCC and there’s the newly created Velon too. Will the riders and their union have a say too?

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Out of Contract, In For A Surprise?

Linus Gerdemann

As the year end approaches many riders are “out of contract” for 2013, the pro cycling euphemism for facing unemployment. Several riders have expressed surprise after their current team decided not to offer them a new contract for 2013 and they’re left scrambling for a new job. But with the new year fast approaching there’s not much time to get a spot, yet alone bargain for a good deal.

Only under the rules there should be no surprises as riders are supposed to be told by teams what is going on well before the season ends. Either the letter went missing in the post or the team didn’t follow the rules but mechanisms exist to prevent this. This post is just a short note to explain the workings behind this.

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The Invisible Forces in Pro Cycling

When Christian Prudhomme presented the 2013 Tour de France he started by singing the praise of the Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Crédible (MPCC), a group of teams who have signed up to an ethical charter. It does sound good only nobody knows much about it.

The same goes for other groups in the sport. Did you know there is a union that works for pro cyclists? And that the main pro teams are represented by a group called the AIGCP?

Each of these three organisations represents something important in the sport but at the same time they’re discreet to the point of being invisible.

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ASO involved in Tour of Beijing?

UCI Beijing

Time to step away from the Tour de France for a moment and reheat an issue that’s been simmering all year. There was a frustrating saga earlier this year when teams rejected the ban of race radios, the portable communications linking a rider with the team car. Things went so far that it set up a serious conflict between the top teams and the sport’s governing body, the UCI.

The issue is still a sore matter with the leading teams threatening to boycott the new Tour of Beijing, not so much because they want radios but because the teams are in a power struggle with the UCI, the radio issue is a Trojan Horse for bigger ideas.

Now comes news of a crafty tactic by the UCI. They are involving ASO in the organisation of the race. I’d heard this from a well-placed source last week but now the news is reaching the media too so let’s explore the idea.

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Team rankings: UCI conspiring against riders?

UCI plans

I’ve long wondered about the UCI ProTeam licence criteria. They rely on four pillars: sporting, ethical, financial and administrative but it’s a grey area. One example, we’ve seen teams like Pegasus can push back administrative deadlines whilst all along there’s no money secured. Or take the ethical component, it’s very hard to enforce, a suspect team can only really get ejected if senior management are directly implicated in scandal and even then it’s possible to keep the team going if the management changes, we saw this with Astana in the past.

Secret rankings
The sporting element of a team is determined by a points-based ranking system that has been kept secret… until now. Even teams and their sponsors did not know what was involved but lobbying by the teams has made the UCI open a bit here, after all teams trying to convince sponsors need to know the rules of the game, rather than sending off the paperwork and crossing their fingers that they’re ok. I’ve found this secrecy very odd and it’s something team managers openly criticised.

What’s interesting is that the UCI has given the scheme’s details to the teams. And a great scoop by Cyclingnews.com’s Daniel Benson and Stephen Farrand means they can reveal the way this works. The piece refers to the UCI saying:

The UCI has always refused to reveal the complex tables and points scales used to award the licences, claiming riders would use them when negotiating their contracts.

Just imagine that, a rider with points being able to negotiate with their team! This reticence by the UCI suggests the poor rider is a long way down the pecking order.

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If the UCI can’t mediate, someone else has to

UCI President Pat McQuaid opened the meeting… …He then informed the CCP members of the reason for the absence of Messrs Jonathan Vaughters and Gianni Bugno, who had been formally invited to choose between participating in the meeting and standing by the AIGCP and CPA in their threat to launch boycotts and strikes against the proposed ban on the use of earpieces during races.

You might think this is from George Orwell’s 1984, a confusing text from Franz Kafka or maybe the notes from of a Soviet Praesidium, as presented by spy novelist John Le Carré. Alas the text above is no fiction but a real statement issued today by the UCI.

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The Beijing boycott

UCI sign contract
Anyone know a good Sino-Swiss contract lawyer?

With the dispute over race radios rumbling on, there’s talk of a boycott of the Tour of Beijng. a five-day stage race scheduled for October. If you haven’t heard of this race, don’t worry since it’s a new one but nevertheless it’s on the UCI’s World Tour calendar. A surprising addition given it’s never been held before.

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A call for teams to be punished for doping scandals

AG2R La Mondiale, Bretagne-Schuller, Cofidis, Europcar, FDJ, Garmin-Cervélo and Skil-Shimano are the seven teams that belong to a grouping known as the MPCC, the Mouvement pour un Cyclisme Crédible. They are now calling for teams involved in doping scandals to be involved in any punishment. Normally it is only the rider who is sanctioned but … Read more

Race radios, what next?

The weekend saw two races held without race radios. Here’s a quick review of the issues. Tactics It matters more than ever in Belgium as positioning and tactics are vital, riders dropping back to the team car to pick up food or fix a mechanical can’t alert their team. As a result, team riders use … Read more

In place of strikes

The lastest is that the racing will go ahead this weekend… but there’s still confusion as to whether riders will start with radios or not. Either way, I put a message on twitter earlier saying the campaign to keep race radios was proving to be a PR disaster as it amounts to little more than … Read more