Tagged: UCI

USA Cycling, Steve Johnson and the Empty Appeal

Steve Johnson of USAC

Steve Johnson of USAC

this article originally appeared on The Roar

America leads the way in many spheres, from obesity to arms stockpiles, jacked-up baseball players to serial killers, and it has just gone and set another benchmark that the (sporting) world should sit up and take notice of – or rather, its cycling federation has.

Or at least I thought it had. Then I dug deeper and found that, yet again, we have a situation of the wrong people trying to make the right noises whilst doing very little whatsoever.

Sound familiar? A little like the UCI? Well after all, this is a cycling federation we are talking about…

One of the great oversights in the struggles and tussles that have gone on within the sport of cycling in regards to doping over the previous few years has been that, in general, the people who care about the direction that the sport is headed in and want it to face up to its dark and depressing past have felt that their voices have been marginalized, ignored and, at times, forcibly silenced.

For years world cycling’s governing body and its presidents, and infamously its most high profile rider, either looked the other way when anyone voiced concerns or suspicions of banned drug usage or went out of their way to ridicule and bully the doubters and accusers to the point where they were left isolated from the sport they’d grown up with.

We all know the Betsy Andreu story, the wife of former pro Frankie Andreu whom Lance Armstrong called “a crazy bitch” (but not fat, you’ll remember) as he duked it out with her over her allegations that he used several banned substances.

Former World and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke retired at the age of 29, explaining in her heartfelt letter that she was leaving a sport that was infected by cheats, stating that “I have been robbed by drug cheats.”

Graeme Obree, former world hour record holder, was forced to leave the first and only top-level European pro team he signed a contract with within weeks of joining them after he refused to dope, and when he made that news public he too was shunned by those in charge (the only people, in fact, with the power to have started to implement change in the drug culture of pro cycling).

These are three of the most famous examples of the marginalised, but for every Graeme, Betsy or Nicole there are hundreds if not thousands of clean riding individuals who have been left out in the wastelands by the cycling authorities’ refusal to allow their voices to be heard. Disenchanted, many, like Nicole, have walked away from competitive cycling.

And so I awoke to read that USA Cycling has just set a precedent that every cycling authority in the world can follow, if it has the gumption and the wherewithal to do so. And if they do and if the information gleaned is acted upon properly then perhaps, just perhaps, those who have borne witness to the dark practices that have for so long infested this sport will be heard, leading to getting more of the cheats out and the ‘good guys’ back in.

The letter, in full, reads:

Recently, UCI President Brian Cookson announced the formation of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) to investigate historic doping in cycling and allegations that the UCI has been involved in previous wrongdoing. As we all know, doping is not limited to the sport of cycling, but cycling is among the most aggressive sports in developing new levels of drug testing, and the new leadership of the UCI recognizes that we, as a sport, can only prepare for a better future by learning from the past.

The CIRC is a vital part of the process to bring integrity to every level of cycling, but this important commission can only work if the cycling world wants it to. Therefore, I am appealing to any USA Cycling members to come forward with any information that can assist the CIRC in its inquiry. This is your opportunity to take responsibility for our sport and help it become a sport in which we can have the utmost trust and confidence.

Below are important links to help you learn more about the role of the CIRC as well as an email address to contact the commission with any information you may have that will aid their investigation. I strongly encourage your full cooperation for the betterment of cycling.

As always, please feel free to contact us directly with any questions you may have about this process.

Sincerely,

Steve Johnson
CEO & President, USA Cycling

Bill Peterson
Chair, USA Cycling Board of Directors

We, the cycling public, should push for this exact same appeal to be made in Australia, the UK, Italy, France, indeed anywhere where competitive cycling exists.

But… then I remembered the name Steve Johnson, and started to check him out online. Then it started coming back to me. Johnson has ties to Thom Weisel, longtime Armstrong supporter, and to Armstrong himself, and to other shady characters who litter the American cycling landscape such as Jim Ochowicz.

Thom Wiesel with some dude in yellow on a bike that used to be loved and adored by millions, I forget his name...

Thom Wiesel with some dude in yellow on a bike 

I found this from the SF Weekly from September 2005, which succinctly sums it all up:

Johnson, the widely quoted USA Cycling official, appears to suffer from a serious conflict of interest between his organization’s role as a doping cop and his personal, institutional, and financial ties to the diversified business world surrounding Lance Armstrong. Financier Weisel is Armstrong’s longtime patron, employer, investment manager, and friend. Weisel is also Johnson’s longtime patron and friend and the founder of a nonprofit entity that employs him.

And then there’s this little fact: Johnson essentially works for Armstrong. In addition to serving as chief operating officer of USA Cycling, Johnson is executive director of the USA Cycling Development Foundation, an affiliated nonprofit organization founded by Weisel, who serves as president of the board of directors, according to the foundation’s most recently available IRS returns, filed in 2003. According to the foundation’s current Web site, the board of directors now includes Lance Armstrong.

“This whole thing isn’t a big deal for Americans,” Reuters quoted Johnson as saying of Armstrong’s doping troubles last week.

Reviewing the excellent Wheelman by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O’Connell on Red Kite Prayer, Padraig sums up my feeling on all this perfectly.

It is my hope that Thom Weisel, Steve Johnson and Jim Ochowicz receive the scrutiny they deserve. When I think of the harm done to cycling by the doping of the last 20 years, guys like George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer seem like small potatoes compared to the disservice done the sport by Weisel, Johnson and Ochowicz, and yet there’s no discussion of banning them from the sport. Justice is rarely just, huh?”

And yet here is the same Johnson, sending out his appeal that aims to “bring integrity to every level of cycling”, yet reminds us, like a teacher scalding a spoilt child, that “this important commission can only work if the cycling world wants it to.”

‘If we want it to?’ It’s what we’ve wanted all along, Steve. I can think of one way that you personally could help us to claw back some of that ‘integrity’ in an instant, and it will involve you putting a few treasured momentos in a box.

Sometimes you just have to step back and applause the bare-faced cheek of these guys. Quite spectacular.

 

 

 

Dr. Conor McGrane on the UCI’s Independent Commission

by Dr. Conor McGrane

Brian Cookson seems to have delivered on his election promise to set up an independent commission to investigate the UCI’s actions during the doping crisis which included the Armstrong era. In Dick Marty, Peter Nicholson and Ulrich Haas he has appointed a heavy weight group of politicians, sports lawyers and even war crime investigators.

Interestingly the UCI is fully funding this commission, one of the reasons I believe the one proposed by Pat McQuaid fell was that he wanted WADA to part fund it.

There doesn’t seem to be any guarantee of amnesties or reduced bans for those who co-operate and I suspect we all have mixed feeling on this.

Over all though it looks a strong group with a wide ranging remit and a large amount of independence.  They aim to report within a year and we should all look forward to this although I suspect many involved with the sport will do so with trepidation.

In parallel to this, other processes are ongoing.

The MPCC (of whom I am very proud Cycling Ireland was the first national federation to join) continues to examine the practices of medics involved in the sport. Not only do they look at WADA restricted drugs but they also look at the workings of other drugs. Recently they asked member doctors to stop prescribing the painkiller tramadol in competition. This is something that Sky’s doctor has said they used to do but have now stopped in competition and indeed was something I personally prescribed but have now stopped as well.

v_roger-legeay-le-dopage-ca-suffit-1362253328

The honestly of Sky’s doctor on this issue was something I found refreshingly open and honest and something to be applauded.

It also opens Pandora’s Box on other drugs permitted under WADA but about which there are concerns.

Cortisone in its many forms remains a useful drug in treating inflammatory conditions but is also a drug which can be abused.

There is also a drug used to treat high blood pressure called telmisartan which has reputed fat burning properties. I have heard anecdotal evidence it is being used in pro cycling (and presumably other sports). It should have no place other than in treatment of high blood pressure and again is something which needs monitoring.

I suppose my point is again that outside of banned drugs there is a large grey area where drugs which have a useful role in treating illness are being used in healthy athletes with the aim of improving performance.

The fight against doping is not just about avoiding banned drugs but also about avoiding inappropriate and indeed unethical use of others.

If we want fair and open sport then we need doctors who are bound by ethics somewhat above and beyond that of simply avoiding the use of banned medications.

We have a long way to go but with the UCI making moves in the right direction, organisations like the MPCC bringing issues like the above out into the open and doctors in teams starting to speak out openly and honestly, I see genuine hope that we are starting to change the culture of pro cycling.

There is however no room at all for complacency…

Encouraging signs to now from Cookson’s presidency, though time will tell

By Shane Stokes

This week’s news that Brian Cookson will ensure that the UCI looks into the matter of a long-running appeal for compensation from the widow of a pro rider who died in a race in 2005 is encouraging, even if the final outcome is not yet certain.

The Italian Alessio Galletti competed for Lampre, Saeco and Domina Vacanze during his career, and was in the colours of the Naturino Team when he collapsed during the Subida al Naranco event. He suffered a heart attack and died, leaving behind his wife Consuelo, their nine-month-old baby Marcus and their-then unborn son Manuel.

The insurance company which had backed the team refused to pay out compensation, claiming that only accidents were covered and not death from natural causes. In 2007 the Italian riders’ association wrote to the UCI appealing for its help, pointing out that the governing body had signed a convention dealing with the insurance riders should have.

The UCI answered by saying its legal department was looking into the matter. However, according to the Italian Professional Cyclists Association (ACCPI), it then ignored all further correspondence and has done precisely nothing in the six years since.

After the ACCPI issued an open letter to the new UCI president Brian Cookson, he moved swiftly.

“Many thanks for your email and the information you have provided about the sad death of Alessio Galletti in 2005 and the impact on his family,” he replied the same day that letter was publicly released. “Professional riders are central to our wonderful sport of cycling so please be assured that I do take this very seriously indeed.

“I will make sure that the UCI investigates the details and we will get back to you with a more substantive response in due course.”

The final outcome to that will become apparent over time but the fast response and tone of his answer suggest that the UCI might finally be moving to resolve the matter. If so, it will add to other encouraging signs which have been seen since Cookson took over from former president Pat McQuaid at the end of September.

UCI President Brian Cookson

UCI President Brian Cookson

Others include the news that the Briton had a team of investigators on standby outside the UCI headquarters in Aigle and, minutes after his election, directed them to enter the building and to lock down computers, documents and any other information that could be of value in the planned Independent Commission investigation.

Reports suggested that a computer belonging to McQuaid was seized, although the Irishman contradicted this.

A second sign of decisive action was the decision to end the services of the UCI’s longtime lawyer, Philippe Verbiest, who had been part of both the McQuaid and earlier Hein Verbruggen presidencies. Also shown the door was UCI director general Christophe Hubschmid, who along with Verbiest had appeared to try to ensure McQuaid’s re-election.

Thirdly, Cookson came through on a number of election promises. At the end of October he published the salary he will draw from the UCI (340,000 Swiss Francs [approximately 275,000 euro/$379,000], and 110, 000 Swiss Francs less than he said McQuaid was receiving). He also confirmed an Independent Commission would be formed in consultation with WADA, with the purpose being a full investigation of the UCI, claims of wrongdoing by it and how it tackled doping in the sport.

At the same time, he and the UCI also pledged their support for the new women’s commission, headed by UCI vice president Tracey Gaudry, which has the goal of developing that area of the sport. That goal will include one hour highlights of the women’s World Cup races, to be distributed free of charge to broadcasters.

In addition to those measures, Cookson has confirmed that the UCI is working on setting up a new and apparently completely independent anti doping commission, thus separating the roles of policeman and promoter of the sport.

This measure is one which many feel is necessary for the credibility of cycling, and should lead to greater confidence in testing results.

So far so good, then. Cookson has been in office two months and has ticked off several of his pre-election promises.

Other goals such as reforming road cycling and developing a structure that increases long-term financial stability in the sport will take more time to tackle.

However Cookson told Bloomberg this month that he was opposed to the so-called World Series Cycling project which had been proposed by some as a way of introducing that financial stability.

He said he had concerns about the effects the planned new races could have on cycling’s traditional events; under the original proposal, some key races would be shortened, while other long-standing events could be reduced in status below those which would be introduced.

“The heritage of cycling is very important,” he was quoted as saying. “You could have, say, a race from Paris to Lyon but it wouldn’t be as exciting as Paris-Roubaix.”

It remains to be seen what measures will be adopted in the medium and long term.

There was however an area that some may have been curious about; while the World Series Cycling proposal had been waved away, Cookson said that the UCI was still speaking to a number of organisations, including BSkyB.

The company said in a statement that it “maintains an open mind about whether there’s an opportunity to extend its relationship with cycling as a broadcast partner.”

It is also a long term supporter of British Cycling and is the prime backer of Team Sky, two bodies which Cookson has had an association with. He was president of British Cycling from 1997 until earlier this year, and was also previously on the board of the company which owns Team Sky.

If BSkyB does indeed assume a bigger role in the sport, that could in theory lead to questions about potential conflicts of interest.

One question that fans would have is if the involvement of BSkyB could mean that cycling would become a sport visible via that company’s satellite channels only. If so, this would potentially reduce the exposure cycling would have, and could force those who are not Sky subscribers to pay out a large sum each year to watch the sport.

This is all conjecture, of course; it remains to be seen if BSkyB does indeed get involved in a bigger way, and how that would impact on viewing habits and requirements.

It is however a reminder that Cookson’s presidency will be judged on what happens months and years down the line, not in the first few weeks.

It’s impossible to predict the outcome, even if signs are encouraging thus far. McQuaid too had promising beginning to his presidency before things started to become complicated with the UCI-ProTour spat, various doping scandals and Lance Armstrong’s red-carpet return.

Time will tell if Cookson’s honeymoon period is akin to that of a couple that grows closer and stronger over time, or if it will be the initial rosy glow of a marriage which descents into something far less enduring.

The sport deserves the former, and so here’s hoping that’s how things play out.

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Shane Stokes is the editor of VeloNation.

€450 for the GC at the Giro? women’s cycling still faces massive disparity

this article originally appeared in The Roar

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Changes are being rung in under the new presidency of the UCI by Brian Cookson – from confiscating computers and hard drives from MacQuaid’s people right after his victory to setting out a roadmap for the sport’s recovery – but one of the toughest challenges facing the governing body is the rehabilitation of women’s cycling.

Though it may be somewhat natural to think that any pro athlete is relatively well paid, for the women that push their pedals for cash, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the vast majority of female pros have to negotiate their own contracts, seek out personal sponsorship alone, struggle with the uncertainty that their scheduled races will even be held and generally fret over paying their bills, never mind putting money into the bank.

Here’s a little fact that illustrates this point: the Giro d’Italia forks out €90,000 to the overall winner while second place takes €50,000 and third place €20,000.

The winner of the women’s Giro received – wait for it – €450.

That is not a typo. There are not two, nor even one, zero missing from that figure.

The winner of the women’s version of the Belgian Classic, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, received just €360.

Omloop and Giro stage winner, Tiffany Cromwell

Omloop and Giro stage winner, Tiffany Cromwell

Once these winners have shared their ‘loot’ out amongst their teammates, they may have enough for a celebratory dinner – at McDonald’s.

Cookson though is making strides in the right direction, and when Brian Cookson appointed Australian Tracey Gaudry to the post of vice president, he was making a clear statement of intent.

Gaudry, who became the first ever woman to hold  the post, is known as a former professional cyclist and, interestingly, is a member of the Anti-Doping Review Violation Panel to report to the Board of the Australian Sports Commission.

Gaudry has been brought in by Cookson for several reasons, the first being that he considers her to be ideally suited to carry out the duties required of the vice president of cycling’s governing body, and also to specifically tackle the problems facing women’s cycling.

Gaudry is no stranger to the challenges faced by the female peloton, one of which is the cancellation of races due to lack of financial funds.

In 1999 Gaudry won the Tour de Snowy in her first  year as a pro rider, a race that was canned in 2003 due to the lack of sponsorship.

Gaudry is currently working on the setting up of a Women’s Commission that she says reflects the UCI’s new desire to diversify.

“We will have 6 or 7 members of both genders, Europeans and non-Europeans, from all disciplines, former and current athletes, National Federations, women coaches, organisers, teams and broadcasters,” she says in an interview on the UCI website.

“The Commission will be set up by the end of the year and we will present our strategy for the coming 12 months and beyond at the next Management Committee meeting in late January.

“In order to develop women’s cycling it needs, among other things, better visibility,” she continued. “But I want to specify that we will have a transversal approach: we will work with all the commissions [road, track, and so on] because the rise of women’s cycling must involve everybody. It is not something that concerns just one department.

“For the first time, there will be a woman in each commission, which is another clear sign from the UCI. We will take on board the proposals that the other commissions make to us and we will make propositions.”

The shortsightedness of the traditionally male-dominated UCI has led us to this point where there is a real and drastic need for measures such as this one.

Indeed, how and why there has never been a Women’s Commission is something that beggars belief. In a world where some 50% of the population is female you would imagine that the governing body of a sport that is suited to all would actually do something to get women on bikes, rather than neglecting them so forcefully all these years.

Speaking of male and female professional cycling, Tiffany Cromwell said to me in a recent interview that “you really can’t compare the two, they are completely different.”

Cromwell went on to state that the women accept that the two strands of cycling have differing histories, but also said that in many ways, the existence of most female pros is not that different – through their entire careers – to young, aspiring amateur men who live in team houses and in rooms above cafes at the start of their journeys.

Just about every female cyclist bar the very best riders also have to work or are studying, preparing for a later career, knowing that they will never become rich, or even well-off, from their cycling careers.

“We do it because we love it,” said Cromwell. ‘You might make a little bit of money but you’re not going to retire off of that. You don’t want to think about it. It’s how it’s always been, it’s sad but I guess we can show the beauty of the women’s side rather than comparing it to the men’s.”

And there, in a nutshell, is the answer to those who bemoan the lack of distance covered in women’s racing or the lack of brute power on display. What the women bring to the sport is different, and it is a difference that should be appreciated, not bemoaned.

Indeed, in many ways the shorter races that are a feature of the women’s side of the sport lead to far more exciting racing than many men’s events.

The sport needs to encourage women to ride, develop new races with UCI funding and outside sponsorship, and bring in television companies to help further support the enterprise.

Right now there is a female rider who may well be the greatest rider the sport has ever seen – men or women – and yet we barely see her. Mention Marianne Vos to casual followers of the sport and many will never have heard of her.

We may be getting somewhere though, thanks to Cookson, Gaudry and the spirit shown by the women riders in their pursuit of their dreams. In many ways, it is they who are the true carriers of the flame of passion and love of this great sport, simply because they do not do it for the money.

“You have to think about how lucky you are,” said Cromwell. “I am riding my bike every day, I travel the world and see beautiful places, and my passion is my job. There are not many people who can say that.”

A call to the UCI: What Asia Needs Next

The UCI has long been looking to Asia and to China in particular as the next frontier in cycling, offering the world governing body what it sees as the best opportunities to expand not only its brand but also its influence and to bolster its finances.

Pat McQuaid had first hand experience and knowledge of the Asian scene as race director of the Tour of Langkawi, the Tour of China, and the Tour of Philippines before he became President of the UCI in 2005. Indeed, it was this experience combined with the desire to open up the Chinese market to the UCI that saw the formation of the Tour of Beijing in 2011.

That event, the third edition of which has just finished, was hugely unpopular when first shoehorned in as the final event on the 2011 World Tour, with several teams plainly stating that they saw no point in turning up. The UCI responded with its usual finesse and threatened to strip those teams of their ProTour licenses if they failed to show in Beijing.

The teams responded in kind by demanding that the UCI postpone the implementation of the radio ban it had been ready to enforce. Both sides backed down, thus saving face, and we saw a Tour of Beijing where what crowds there were found themselves far from the action. Many of those present watching were said to have been bused in by the authorities in any case.

The inaugural Tour of Beijing was in fact a dull, staid affair that barely any real cycling fan had any interest in – much like the 2013 and 2013 editions, it could be said.

In Australia, where the cycling scene is more advanced than in Asia, there is the Tour Down Under, an event that can justify its place on the cycling calendar for several reasons, not least the competitiveness of the racing but also, critically, by the sheer volume of people that turn up to cheer the riders on.

Asia though demands a different approach. Even in the countries where the traditions of racing are quite well developed, such as Malaysia and Japan, there is nothing to match the depth of support seen at the TDU.

The kind of ‘trickle-down’ effects of top-tier multi-stage racing simply have not been shown to work in and real, tangible way here.

However, though the number of participants taking part in any sort of organized racing in Asia still remains relatively low, the number of people actually riding bikes continues to grow exponentially.

As someone who has lived in Asia now for 15 years, I continue to be amazed by the increase annually of the number of people out on the road (and in particular by the number of women). These people are riding top-end carbon fibre bikes with all the gear on – they are just not racing, with too many feeling that the leap from weekend ‘fun’ riding to competition is just too great, which, given the lack of racing culture and the lack of entry-level events here, in most cases is.

At the level just below World Tour events – such as at the 2.1 Tour of Thailand, 2.2 Tour of East Java and the Tour of the Philippines – you will find Pro-Continental and Continental teams that, though certainly competitive, do very little to inspire any real interest in racing from the locals beyond cheering them past for a few moments as the colorful peloton speeds by.

They also bring in very little economic gain to the local economies, the teams being packed with young, jobbing pro riders who have very little expendable income and whom are also unlikely to return to enjoy the local culture with a family any time soon. Not only that, some of these Asia Tour races are lacking completely in drug testing procedure. I know because I’ve raced in them and, as times, not a single rider has been tested over the entire race.

The whole approach to the Asian scene is misguided, like much of what we saw coming from the UCI under McQuaid.

So how can we combine the UCI’s desire to expand into the Asian market with the top teams’ desire to keep their riders interested in the racing, and to inspire the local riders to step into competitive racing whilst also putting something back into the local community?

I ’d suggest a series of one day ‘Asian Classics’ held over a two week period throughout the region in or around the time period that the current Tour of Beijing is held. Keep the racing exciting for the pros by having the races on courses that not only showcase the beauty of Asia – something the current events here just completely fail to do – but also choose routes that place similar demands on the participants as do Roubaix, Amstel or the Tour of Flanders.

To encourage locals to get out and participate also, an ideal format would be to have an early sportif on the Saturday, an amateur race version in the afternoon and the Pro version on the Sunday.

One event could be the Japan Cup, which has provided a very popular format of racing for several years now. Another could be in Taiwan, possibly mid-week, a third in China and another in whichever country the UCI feels would most benefit from such an event – or possibly a second in China.

This would mean a bit of traveling for the World Tour teams but would guarantee interest here in Asia and, I believe, in the rest of the cycling world too, and is surely more appealing than grimly pedaling around Beijing for a week. With one or possibly two races midweek, the whole ‘Asian Classics’ series could take place within a 2-week period, maximizing the appeal to sponsors and riders alike – and to any fans intent on seeing every race.

On top of all this, include a women’s event and make maximum benefit from the popularity of cycling amongst women in Asia, which on visual evidence alone far outrstrips Europe.

This has to be an improvement on what we have now, a race that is foisted on teams particularly that don’t want to be there and one that stands isolated from the real fans and the wider community.

Races such as the Tour of Thailand and Tour of Singkarak and others like it that make up the UCI Asia Tour should continue, but with just a little more thought the cycling community and cycling industry could be getting so much more from the Asian cycling scene – and, crucially, putting something back in.

New UCI President Brian Cookson is already making some strides with the women’s side of the sport. Let’s hope that the UCI can start to reevaluate its approach to the Asian cycling scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the times, they are a-changin’ – Cookson gets to work

images

Writing about hope again? For the second time in a week? Surely not! It must be the medication…

And yet here we are, barely over two weeks into Brian Cookson’s presidency and the rumblings of change are to be heard across the land.

I know, it’s too early yet to blow the trumpets and to get out the bunting but there have been three developments this week that have reeked of common sense and the bleeding obvious – two things that had been long banned under the presidency of Pat McQuaid.

Rumour has it that both common sense and the bleeding obvious have made their return after being rescued from a remote Swiss farmhouse where they were being held against their will by several of the Irishman’s cronies.

There were found after a dawn raid to be severely undernourished and very pale, though both are recovering in a Geneva hospital.

McQuaid, when interviewed about the case, said “I know nothing”, the most sensible thing he’s said since taking over the UCI captain’s seat in 2005.

So, what’s happened in the past few days that suggests that the winds of change are blowing?

First up is the fantastic news that the women’s Tour of Britain has been granted 2.1 status by the UCI.

This raises the race alongside the Route de France and the women’s version of the Giro and it is I feel hugely important not only in that it means that the women now have one more top event to race in, but it also provides evidence that Cookson’s claim to be ready to support women’s cycling has substance to it.

The organisers of the event, SweetSpot, are obviously thrilled at the news.

The SweetSpot director Guy Elliott said: “We are absolutely delighted that the UCI have awarded us 2.1 status for this exciting new event.”

The elevation to 2.1 means that the world’s top racers will be in attendance, thus allowing the British spectators a chance to see women’s cycling at its best, which can only help to counter the argument that women’s cycling is not as watchable as the men’s.

SweetSpot also announced that the event will have full road closure, accommodation provided and – shocker – prize money. Yes, if you thought that every women’s race has prize money you were mistaken.

How bad is it? I’ve been told that the winner of the women’s version of the Giro walked away with just 450 euros earlier this year, which, after sharing among her teammates must have left her enough for a fast food banquet at best.

The second notice of change was the announcement that Cookson contacted Paul Kimmage, the former pro and journalist who took on Lance Armstrong over doping allegations, to tell him that the UCI would be ending the legal action against him taken up by McQuaid.

The former president claimed that Kimmage had defamed the UCI when he published his opinion on the way the governing body was handling the sport and wanted his pound of flesh, taking on his compatriot over what seemed like a playground grudge when cycling was reeling from the Armstrong case and had no need for more mudslinging.

Cookson has looked at the case and decided that to continue makes no sense whatsoever (probably because Kimmage was right in the first place), and has withdrawn the action.

“I had a call from him, just before he went to Beijing,” Kimmage told VeloNation.

“He told me that they were in the process of issuing a release to the extent that the they are going to drop the case against me.”

So on that score I am sure most would agree, well done Mr Cookson.

Again, it’s little more than common sense and the bleeding obvious, but after what went before we are left in a state where we lavish praise on someone behaving in a civilised and sensible manner.

Perhaps that will prove to be McQuaid’s most lasting legacy: to make otherwise basically competent bureaucrats appear to be saints.

At this rate Cookson will get a bronze statue of his image on a plinth somewhere and a standing alongside the great revolutionary leaders from the ages.

Thirdly, and this is a little more tenuous to link to Cookson’s siege of the Bastille than the first two, there is the news of the dismissal by Belkin of Luis Leon Sanchez for being named in “too many” doping affairs.

“His name crops up in too many files,” said a Belkin spokesman, which could signal the end of the Spaniard’s career.

The team settled with the rider so that it could not be taken to court over the matter, but the fact that the team said that the “confidence between the team and Sanchez has been broken” sets a much overdue precedent that could be taken up by other pro outfits.

Could this have happened under McQuaid? Doesn’t really matter if it could or not, the fact is that it never did. I suspect that Belkin whiffed the smell of change in the air also thanks to Cookson’s ascendency too, and that this played its part.

And so yes, I think these three developments signal the potential for our confidence in the governing body to come out of hibernation.

The times, they might just be a-changin’.

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this article originally appeared on The Roar

CP on the World’s again, on The Roar

this article originally appeared on The Roar

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There was a moment in Sunday’s World Championships with only about a quarter of the mammoth race left to go when I caught a glimpse of Simon Clarke sitting at the back of a whittled lead pack, all alone and doing his own thing.

Whereas Clarke had nothing other to do than take care of himself, by contrast there were still some 5 Italians grouped like hungry barracuda at the front, looking twitchy and slightly nervous.

Sure, there can be advantages to being with teammates. You know the wheel in front and behind well, and that brings comfort as you hurtle through corners and downhill.

There’s always a guy there to hand over a wheel on case of an untimely flat, or to cadge some food off if you run out. And, crucially, there’s someone to take you to the line and to chase breaks down.

But then there are disadvantages also, evidence of which littered the men’s road race in Florence, leaving the best laid plans of three major teams in particular strewn across the road like so many of the riders who failed to keep the rubber side down in the wet conditions.

First there’s the pre-race pressure of having a team chock full of heavy hitters. The Italians were in that situation and also had the added stress of being in front of a home crowd. Sure, that will gee you on but the scrutiny also increases with it.

The British team were in a similar situation as were the Spanish and the largely unheralded Colombians, one of whom, Uran Uran, almost made it to the final kilometer with a chance, only to take a heavy and painful fall on a grass verge.

Then there’s the need to be able to constantly re-think tactics in-race. We saw that when Filippo Pozzato went awol inexplicably with still a long way to go, needing to be ferried back to the front by teammates, forcing all the team’s focus onto Vincenzo Nibali.

Similar with the Brits, who for some unknown reason spent all their powder in the early stages sitting at the front with Cavendish doing a massive turn, only for one rider after another to fall away into obscurity.

For them though it wasn’t so much a re-thinking as a battle of survival, and they looked very poor across the board on Sunday, prompting their coach Rod Ellingworth to question their commitment.

“Having a British jersey on their backs, they should be very disappointed,” he said later of Froome and Wiggins.

“I think it’s just not his type of weather,” said Geraint Thomas of Wiggins, a very curious thing to say of an Englishman.

Finally there is the sense of expectation that builds as the race goes on and your team is looking strong. The Italians looked for all the world like they would have the firepower to smash the race open, as they almost did a couple of times, but that can lead to over-work, over-thinking and over-confidence, as at times there are just too many possible options.

But there throughout it all was Simon Clarke, pedaling along, having to do nothing other than stay out of trouble. Another rider in the same position was Rui Costa, of whom no one spoke about until the last few kilometers.

If ever a budding racer wants to watch a display of steely composure and cycling intelligence, they need only sit down and watch a replay of the finale of this race.

A smart rider knows that to win a race you have to be prepared to lose it, and Costa demonstrated that brilliantly on Sunday. With Nibali desperately trying to chase down Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain with Alejandro Valverde on his wheel and imploring Costa to work too, the Portuguese rider simply shook his head and stayed at the back.

Rodriguez and Valverde had the numerical superiority but not the legs, and there seemed some discontent from Rodriguez at his teammate’s display, as though he expected more counter-attacks from the Movistar leader.

Nibali was the strongest rider there by a notch or two, though his chase from a fall earlier had him slightly depleted, and his nerves frayed on the final descent.

Not Costa’s though. He kept calm and pounced at the last possible moment, having sat in for so long of the race. To win, of course, you only have to go faster than everyone else for one single moment – but that moment has to be the right one.

And there it was. The first ever Portuguese winner of the World road race. A year in Rainbow for a few kilometers of tactical brilliance and a whole truck load of cool.

No teammates around, no support, nothing to do but let the others do the work.

A worthy champion of an epic race.

Singapore National Championships 2013: The Double, part 2

we were feeling good for this one, Tjarco and I, knowing after the ITT that we had decent enough legs, but the route was not exactly one to inspire confidence – not in me anyway.

with Stephen Ong, on the line

with Stephen Ong, on the line

the exact same route as the TT, it was 5km down a flat road to a u-turn, then back up 5km to another. i’m no sprinter and i knew it would be very hard to get away, as we were pretty much marked men in this race. the plan was for us to do nothing til the very end, when i’d try from 4km out and then Tjarco, a good sprinter, would take over if i failed.

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but, as ever, the best-made plans tend to crumble when faced with the realities of bike racing…

after 105km of the 140km race we ended up in a situation where there were 5 guys up the road, two from the OCBC team and three others. they started shelling guys at the 30km to go point and still then had just over 2 minutes lead on the peloton, which was largely still together. irritatingly, they’d actually increased it by 25 seconds over the last 10km lap.

just before the turn Tjarco said to me “ok i’m gonna do a 5km chase., this lead is too big.”

i looked at him and said “no, i’ll do it, then you win – ok?”

without waiting for an answer i headed to the front after the turn and started to ride an ITT with 50 guys on my wheel. after 5km the lead was visibly down, after 10 it was under a minute, and 5 later we had them.

the chase is on

the chase is on

then the attacks began, with Tjarco covering them, sometimes me. all during the chase for those 15km i kept thinking ‘ok after we catch them i will drop off, job done’ but i couldn’t seem to do that. the legs were hurting but i wanted to help Tjarco in any way i could. that is the great thing about riding 100% for someone else, it frees you completely.

with 4km to go Tjarco says he needs a lead out. damn. well, ok, let’s see what happens! this is it boys, do or die time!

the lead out!

the lead out!

i get on the front with about 1.5 km to go and get my head down and thrash, i’m going fast but fading slightly, when suddenly my friend Adam Taylor-Campbell of the Mavericks pops out in front of me in a bid for the line. perfect timing. i chase his wheel then thrust past him and with 300 to go, still with my nose in front, Tjarco bursts past on the left and i sit up, straining like a meercat to see whose arms go aloft at the line.

it’s Tjarco!

Cuppens wins! WhooP!

Cuppens wins! WhooP!

and mine go up too. i catch him on the turn and we hug and he immediately thanks me for my work – i tell him it’s a good flipping job he won! or there’d have been trouble.

and there it was. after excellent early work from Stephen Ong and a teammate I just met and whose name I cannot remember, and from Michel Velasco, despite having been injured for weeks, and from Tong Yong Kun, this was truly a team win in this usually individualistic sport.

i got 20th, the pack having been shredded, but it was the most rewarding and satisfying race of my career, after the Tour de Taiwan points classification.

and a word to the OCBC guys – not a great idea to keep attacking the bunch when you have two guys up the road – that’s a certain way to make old men very grumpy indeed…

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one last word to our beleagured manager, Brandon Teo. there may be raised voices, there may be stress, but at the ends of the day, when the job is done, it all comes together! great job, Mr. B! and a huge thank you to all our sponsors, including the team sponsors Lapierre Bikes, Wishbone wheels, CCN Clothing, Monotine and Bryton, as well as my personal sponsors: Lezyne, Specialized, 720 Armour, Infinit Nutrition, Ritchey, Selle San Marco and Xtreme Endurance.

pop that cork - you deserve it...

pop that cork – you deserve it…

McQuaid down for the count?

this article was written by cp and originally appeared in The Roar

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The drama and tension is supposed to belong on the road, not off it. Not in stuffy offices with strip lighting and Ikea desks, the characters wearing Hush Puppies and blue suits rather than Sidis and lycra.

Yet the battle this time isn’t for a stage win or a Tour jersey, but for the soul of the sport, and if the battle ground must be a dreary municipal courtroom in Switzerland rather than the majestic hairpins of Alpe d’Huez, then so be it.

Just yesterday news came through that Swiss Cycling had withdrawn its nomination of Pat McQuaid for the UCI presidential election, coming next month, a statement that was quickly denied by McQuaid, just before he ran off, chased in black and white by a gang of Keystone Cops.

He really does seem to live in a parallel universe, Mr McQuaid, in some farcical land where facts seem not to matter.

‘Dodge and deny’ seems to be his motto. That it’s stood him in such good stead until now is quite incredible.

“The managing committee of Swiss cycling has returned to its decision of 13 May 2013 regarding the nomination of Pat McQuaid and decided to withdraw the nomination of Pat McQuaid for his re-election to the presidency of the UCI,” the statement from Swiss Cycling read.

It’s worth remembering McQuaid was already bending the rules in seeking the nomination from Swiss Cycling, after Cycling Ireland had gathered its members to vote ‘no’ to the question or whether to back him for a third term as UCI president.

McQuaid’s interpretation of the rules did not align with the majority of people who care about cycling, and when voices of unrest began to be heard (despite McQuaid having a finger in each ear and singing ‘la-la-la-la’ at the top of his voice), he then scuttled off to Malaysia to ask their cycling federation to ask for a new amendment to the UCI rule that pertained to his case.

His position is now unenviable, and it looks for all intents and purposes as though this duck has had his day. But then, this is McQuaid.

He has shown to date a disregard for the valid concerns of the cycling fan and a refusal to accept the severity and depth of the problem this sport has with banned substances, preferring instead to preen his feathers and ignore any calls for real change.

The women’s side of the sport has been grossly neglected and the growth of cycling in Asia in particular is being encouraged with disregard to proper drug testing.

But what of the alternatives? Well, we have just one. I am dismayed by this, to think that our choice is limited to just two candidates.

The other candidate is Brian Cookson, who now looks to be set to win the election by default, not something, really, to cheer about, no matter the circumstances.

Cookson has been saying encouraging things and, though it is no real comfort, cannot possibly be worse at the job than McQuaid has been.

“The important principle in any democracy is that you must respect the rules as they are, not how you’d like them to be,” said Cookson, speaking of McQuaid’s position after Swiss Cycling left him high and dry.

“My hope remains that we have a democratic process based on the rules of the race when it started rather than those made up half way through.

“For my part I remain focussed on setting out the policies and the vision that I believe is needed for the UCI and the sport of cycling to move forward.”

A vision? Move forward? I’ll believe it when I see it.