The Friday Group Ride #186


So today an event took place that will make the activity of the UCI worth following. We’ve no guarantee that Brian Cookson will make all the changes to professional cycling that any of us believe aren’t just helpful, but necessary to its survival. And while the cynics among us may be ready to quote The Who’s line from “Won’t Get Fooled Again”—”Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” Cookson deserves the distinction of at least being different from Pat McQuaid because he was never banned from the Olympics.

A brief reminder of that event. McQuaid organized a trip to South Africa for the 1975 Rapport Toer. He talked brother Kieron, John Curran, Sean Kelly and Henry Wilbraham into violating the ban—due to apartheid—on competing in the country. The five riders were competing under assumed names. A journalist following the honeymoon of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor discovered what was happening and when he published his story, they were found out. As a result, the entire bunch, the majority of whom would likely have been part of Ireland’s 1976 Olympic cycling team, were banned from the Olympics.

Cookson, on the other hand, has no such sordid history. He’s known as the man who helped forge the alliances that turn British Cycling into the powerhouse it is. Team Sky simply wouldn’t exist had he not laid the groundwork with the British federation.

But the successes Cookson has enjoyed could be harder to notch once he’s in Aigle. Many of the UCI’s staff have been close to McQuaid and it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone there will be eager to dismantle McQuaid’s legacy, such as it is. But change is as necessary as it is imminent. A great many practices will need to change if only to demonstrate that it’s not business as usual.

But just how much will change and how soon? Will the Tour of Beijing survive? Will the UCI persist in promoting races other than the World Championships? What of the frame certification process? Will positive tests by the leader at the Tour de France take three months to announce? Could a Truth and Reconciliation really happen now?

Rather than air suspicions and reservations, let’s make this positive. If you had an audience with the man, what would you ask him to change first? Which fire, in your mind, burns brightest?

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  1. wayno

    In no particular order:

    Get more exposure for womens cycling both alongside mens events and as stand alones.

    Get out of the UCI “branding” business. For frames, wheels and equipment just go back to standards that can be changed annually to keep up with technology, frame weight comes to mind here, let innovation thrive. For races, gran fondos, endurance events get your paws out and let national federations sanction if they wish.

    For lack of a better term, T&R and model after what USADA did, 6 months for the admitted sinners and lifetime bans for those who didn’t fess up before the line was drawn.

    Let regional differences of what is popular dictate what you get behind and throw money at – let it grow organically, don’t force feed it.

  2. hoshie99

    1) Create an environment for ethical sport, as this paves the way for a healthy business and culture of cycling. I think Cookson has articulated this as his top priority and it makes perfect sense to me. Without trust and credibility, you are building on a poor foundation. In some sports, like the WWF, it probably doesn’t matter. However, that is not where cycling is at.

    2) Create the programs and outreach to bring more media and sponsor dollars into the sport. This is second because I don’t think you can be successful until the first is addressed.

    3) Build on regional and emerging growth aspects of cycle sport into focus (ie cyclocross) beyond the tentpole events like the Tour De France and foster things that build new audience.This is similar to Wayno’s last point above. However, road cycling audiences are skewed older and that poses some risk to the sport mid and long term.

    4) Work w/ national feds to encourage youth programs to ensure the next generation is cultivated.

  3. Garuda

    There hasn’ t been a WWF ina while. WWE ate them a long time ago. But I get and agree with your point to a certain degree, it is still an entertainment form whose future depends on the youth. The same youth that needs to be taught that drugs are bad.

  4. Tony

    First thing. Check with the lawyers about what he can do on day number one to assert control without violating any rules.

    Second. Ask the lawyers what he has to do when dealing with all the fallout from asserting his control on day one and maybe the eggshells.

    Third. Write about the lawyers handling the flack.

    Number four. Sell the whole thing to the BBC as a reality series.

  5. SusanJane

    I would find some diplomatic way to talk about the old boys network that permeates UCI governance. At the very least the majority of power should not be with the UCI — it should be a balance between teams, riders, sponsors, federations, etc. The UCI needs to be a governing body, just not one that is based on a dictatorship, and policies and rules that serve that dictatorship to the exclusion of the rest of the sport. The UCI should be ambassadors to the sport providing resources and expertise, not running races or doping programs. The UCI needs to clean house all the way down to the cockroaches. Prying loose the lawyer happy old boys will be dramatic, I know. No more secrets. No more dirty deals, No more self-serving CYA policies. No more avoiding past mistakes. Credibility is established through good governance, hard work, transparency, inclusion, and a serious look at the rules and regulations that Pat and his cronies used to stay in power.

  6. Tom in albany

    So you asked to choose the ‘one’ topic. I’d like to see a rational approach to approving bicycles for racing. I don’t mind resepecting the ‘traditional’ geometry, though I’m not married to it. I’d like to see it not be at all arbitrary. I also believe that some faith should be placed in the manufacturers that they know how to produce a safe ride for pro and amateur cyclists.

  7. Souleur

    tony has a good point, nice one

    but i would also ask some deep and thought provoking considerations such as:
    -what beans do you prefer in your morning grind and one shot or 2?
    -I would ask him if he had the chance to eat dinner with anyone in the world, without time restriction, who would it be
    -then ease him into the topic of adding gravel grinders to the UCI circuit calendar, with the ultimate goal to make all UCI events on dirt roads, gentleman races only, without entry fees and all that jazz, no more corporate giants and money involved, just clean racing ALL the way around…call it a purity test.

  8. Patrick O'Brien

    I think the UCI should not be involved with professional racing in any way. The money is what corrupts it. And this corruption infects the “so called” amateur ranks. This corruption is endemic in amateur sports around the world. Add a dose of nationalism, and you have the situation that Mr. Cookson inherited.

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