Friday Group Ride #190

Brian Cookson

I am still not quite sure I believe that Brian Cookson has been elected president of the UCI. In my mind, there is still room for a CAS appeal or some other evil legal machination to reseat Pat McQuaid, returning us to the dark ages from which are only just now stumbling, blinking, into the half-light of the modern day.

If however it is true, and Cookson is the man, then we can begin to ask the very serious question, who is Brian Cookson really? Up to this point, it has been sufficient for him only to be Not Pat McQuaid. Not Pat McQuaid is enormously popular as it turns out. That guy has global appeal.

But this Brian Cookson could be anybody. I don’t think I’m alone in adjudging his campaign statements as nothing but anodyne crap aimed at not offending anyone. His was the sort of promise-rich, plan-poor presentation that would almost certainly never earn my vote, even for a seat on the local garden committee. If I’m honest though, in this case I would have supported the guy even if I thought he was incompetent. At least, we’d have had a different incompetent to talk about.

But defying my skepticism, there is already good stuff happening, right things being said. There is this, and then there is this. In fact, the very first thing the new man did was this, which was probably a good idea and shows just how low the incumbent had sunk in reasonable people’s estimation.

Who knows if any of the stuff on that laptop will see the light of day, but the simple act of seizing it shows where Cookson’s head is at. Stay tuned for the next story where all of the office furniture in the UCI’s Aigle headquarters gets dragged out onto the front lawn and burned. Stay tuned for pictures of the Bishop of Lausanne getting invited down for an exorcism. This could get fun.

This week’s Group Ride asks, now that Cookson is elected, what ought to be his top priority to move the sport forward? I am guessing that many will want a Truth & Reconciliation process first, but the sport has so many pressing challenges. There is the ongoing effort to drive doping from the sport through proper testing and maintenance of the Biological Passport program. There is the alarming exodus of sponsorship money at the top of the sport. There is the promotion of women’s cycling, and the reorganization of the UCI World Tour. Do we look forward, to borrow a phrase, or do we look back? What is most important now? What are your top three items for Brian Cookson’s to-do list?

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  1. Paul

    1) T&R on past doping and draw a line in the sand – Can’t change the past but can affect the future.

    2) Speak to the “old long time” sponsors who have left the sport (Rabobank, etc) find out what, if anything, would persuade them to come back.

    3) Implement an independent and more rigorous anti dope system.

    4) Listen to the teams/riders/ordinary members/etc.

  2. Tom in albany

    Objective #1, Repair Cycling’s reputation and attract the sponsors. Without that, frankly, none of the rest matters.

  3. Shawn

    I certainly know very little, but the Cookson team’s seizure of McQuaid’s tech goodies seems a tad retaliatory and heavy handed. “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. We won’t get foo-” Wait … nevermind.

  4. Souleur

    a. look forward
    b. recognized and mitigate the conflict of interest between big money/corporate sponsors and sport. the biologic passport helps in this, but it will continually take more, in that dopers will always have a leg up on the testing, and sponsors have in the past had lucerative interests in podium winners. its a delicate thing, and forget any other sport being able to say they have done as well as we have in mitigating this conflict of interest, but all sport does have it.
    c. i think it is fair to say that repairative and restorative reconcilations of the past is also important going forward, in that it wasn’t JUST Lance that doped, yet his is the poster child of late in it. Recognizing a by gone era, with an asterisk, repairing it, restoring it for what it did have and do, scars and all will help reconcile going forward

    d. hardest of all, being simply honest, lay politics aside, and be honest in oneself, ones sport, ones relationships with others

  5. Jim

    Set up bio-passport and drug testing independent from UCI.

    Establish clear qualification criteria for ProTour, Contental Teams etc.

    Initiate independent investigation of UCI role, if any, in USADA’s Reasoned Decision findings.

  6. Aar

    1) Fix doping: Gain WADA alignment, kick all past dopers out of the sport and implement a zero tolerance policy for the future that covers people filling any role within the sport from rider through DS to janitor, manufacturer rep and all UCI seats. Then, truth and reconciliation that lets no doper back in (I know, why would people participate if they have nothing to gain. That’s the point). This is the only way to get fully invested, long-term sponsors to return – short-term pain = long-term gain
    2) Expand the diversity of the sport both internationally and across genders
    3) Get traditional individual and team track events back and add a national team time trial into the Olympics
    4) Fix the technical rules governing bicycle dimensions (sorry, had to kick that one in)

  7. Mike C

    Sounds like quite a bunch of good ideas.
    Now, about the UCI rules. Specifically their crazy dimension requirements. If they want to implement a ruling about the bike, justify some solid reasoning behind it and allow some grace period for compliance. Get rid of the minimum weight requirements and allow manufacturers and teams to develop new technology. If a team wants to ride ten pound bikes, let them. They will be chancing reliability. Here’s the kicker… if you ride a ten pounder up the mountain, you’re going down on the same bike.
    Enforce feed station rules. You forget to eat, YOU get penalized for munchies outside the zones if you are the beneficiary of a situation like Froome. I like the guy but HE should have taken the penalty for the gels. Just my .02

  8. Hoshie99

    I think the principle of the dimension and weight restrictions was to keep the sport a contest of humans as much as possible – ie, a very elongated fairing could make a real difference, but let’s not turn the sport into that type of affair. Not saying it shouldn’t be revised, just giving you the supposed rationale. Parts of it, I agree with.

    But, I do find that ironic given how complicit it appears the UCI was in helping with human lab experiments, but I digress.

    I’d like to see Cookson do what he is doing which is simply following up on what he promised to do in his manifesto. One of his main points was to restore credibility (which brings trust and dollars ultimately) and hold people accountable and I think the laptop seizure is no doubt part of that.

    For what I’d want? I agree with most of the above. Let’s also see if the UCI can help grow the sport at a grass roots level. Lofty perhaps…


  9. Aar

    Hoshie & Mike:

    I think we’re all dancing to the same beat here. IMHO, bike dimensions should be proportional to the rider. Watching Cancellara, Martin & Phinney scrunch their large bodies into TT rigs that fit UCI dimensions while tiny people like Cuntador are ridiculously stretched out is kinda like watching Looney Tunes. Meanwhile, average size riders like Zabriskie and Vande Velde get TT bikes that fit perfectly. To me, there should be a ratio of rider height to bike dimensions. I also think leg length to height and femur to leg length ratios should be factored in but that just goes too far for a Commissar to measure in the minutes prior to a race.

    The same goes for weight. Why should a little guy riding a 52cm frame whose FTP is half that of a big guy riding a 58 cm frame be subject the same weight limit? Allowing a 6′ rider on a 10 pound bike is just begging for him to take out others when the frame fails on an Alpine descent but A 5′ rider should do fine on a bike of that weight.

  10. Hautacam

    @ Aar 8:38 pm — is that a really unfortunate typo in the 2nd sentence of your followup comment, or an intentional misspelling with editorial intent?

    Just askin’.

    I’ve nothing to add to the actual discussion here. So glad there is someone else in charge. At least there is hope . . . for now, at least, that is something.

  11. SusanJane

    Just read McQ’s reply to the laptop seizure. Does this guy know when to stop or what?

    There certainly are some panic items in front of the UCI right now. Getting all the parts of the doping picture down to priorities is difficult. If truth & reconciliation more important then WADA/Bio passport? Or any of the other items? I do have a sick need to know how many people called McQ’s bandaid anonymous hotline or if the phone was a “call cannot be completed as dialed” message.

    One not mentioned is some changes in governance itself. The meeting structure McQ abused with what should have been opened meetings that ended being his agenda with nary a moment of consideration to teams, riders and sponsors. Remember when everyone walked out of that meeting? The guy was a dictator with a lawyer behind every move. Nothing changes at fundamental levels in the peleton if they are not part of the process of change. Top down is not the answer. Fixing the rules is a huge part of fixing cycling.

  12. Robot

    A new rule requiring riders to ride the positions prescribed to them by professional fitters.

    A new rule requiring women’s races to provide the winner with podium dudes, whom they may objectify as they see fit.

    A new rule that requires racers to carry all their own empty bottles and garbage to the finish of each race in a large, brightly colored garbage backpack.

    A ban on the words “sensations,””stiffness,” and “vertical compliance.”

    A requirement for each pro team to wear a different and uniquely colored helmet.

    Introduction of a commissar to patrol the front of mountain stage races with a tranq dart gun to put down the idiots who insist on getting too close to the talent.

    I could do this all day. Priorities people. Priorities.

  13. Gary

    I agree with all the suggestions about the rear view cleanup. However, that just give a clean slate to think about improving the future. The team/sponsor model is really broken and has been broadcast by multiple authors in the last couple years. While there is plenty to not like about Tinkoff, he has some really good points regarding the business model in this interview:

  14. Emil

    Most of the suggestions mentioned are going to be good for cycling.
    Overall I feel that the biggest change Cookson can make is transparency within the UCI; lets do away with the ‘good ole boy’ network that now exists and join modern society.

  15. Patrick O'Brien

    Robot, word, yo. Please give us another 6 to keep the laughs coming. Trank gun? Now, that’s funny right there.

  16. Full Monte

    Regarding a T&R commission.

    Lance has already come out and said, if there was a T&R, and he got a get-out-of-jail-free-card, with no possibility of future litigation against him, he’d spill the beans.

    Which means, Cookson better be careful of what he wishes for.

    Right now, the majority of derision about cycling’s transgressions is aimed at Lance. He’s even implied he’s the fall-guy for the entire sport. Of course, the Inside-Baseball cycling fan knows it runs much deeper than Lance — how much deeper is anyone’s guess. But for now, much of the casual fan sentiment and stick-and-ball reporter focus is on Lance, which allows the sport to proceed — under a dark cloud to be sure — but proceed.

    If there’s a T&R, and Lance spills the beans on everyone, where will it stop? Or a much better question: How far does it go?

    Others posting above have said “kick out all the dopers” as a suggestion for Cookson going forward. Well, what happens if Lance puts some very, very big names on the board as enablers, abettors? What if this goes all the was to the leadership of USA Cycling (which, given the key players at Tailwind, is no stretch)? What if this goes all the way to the top leadership of corporations key to cycling sponsorship? What if this includes almost all the directors and managers of every pro team?

    In short, if Cookson lets a T&R move forward, is he prepared to live with the fallout, which could be so bad, it would require nothing short than rebuilding the entire sport from scratch, with much more limited sponsorship funds, and with even less fan support?

    Can Cookson live with that? Can we?

  17. Author

    @ Patrick O’Brien – Only because you asked:

    1)Race organizers must provide a throne, rather than the customary plastic folding chair, for race winners to sit in, pre-podium and again at the press-conference. The Paris Roubaix throne should be made of stone and referred to exclusively as the Stone Throne.

    2) Every time a pro rider is convicted of a doping offense, everyone on their team should sign over one paycheck to WADA. (How to reverse the omerta).

    3) Race organizers should be required to offer equal prize money for men’s and women’s races. This is not meant to be funny. Just fair.

    4) Any World Champion (road, TT, etc) should eat free for the whole year at Bennigans.

    5) It should be legal to draft off the team cars, as you work your way back after a mechanical, but you should then be required to perform an oil change on the race leader’s team car after the finish.

    6) If a breakaway stays away for more than 100km, it should be allowed to contest the win, but the peloton should be given the same time as recompense for not being assholes.

  18. slappy

    all those who ever sniffed the dope get to start any races they want, at the back, on fixxie’s, it’s a spectacle people, oughta give the hipsters some more reason to get excited. . and give a nice gap to those who are clean enough to race gears. . Burt would love comin down out of the alps at 150 rpm, skidding around the corners ..

    actually my true dream race has no motor vehicles in the caravan. . just mini drone copters, and power assist tandems for the support vehicles, people pedaling who can artificially maintain the pace for camera duty. . and whoever draws the short straw has to FIX THEIR own damn FLAT

    and i luv the pack it out protocol!

  19. Patrick O'Brien

    Robot, thanks! Those were great.

    Referring to number 3, I think that is why Epic Rides attracts good racers, men and women. They pay equal purses.

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