funny, in a way, that the name ‘UCI’ means so much still to so many. like ‘FIFA’ or ‘NBA’, those three little letters meant, for many of us who grew up with a passion for the sport, a stamp of authority, a measure of goodness and a sign of quality. attaching ‘UCI’ to ‘World Championships’ meant that the thing really mattered. it was real. it was glorious.
sure, the UCI was a bureaucracy, it connoted the shuffling of documents and filing cabinets and sausage-like, pink-skinned fat white men on the wrong side of the middle of their years in bi-focals with receding hairlines and ill-fitting cheap suits and sensible shoes and probably a few too many slaps on the backsides of young female secretaries, but it still felt good. it used the rainbow colors right there in its badge, linking itself very firmly to the kind of honest (or so we thought) endeavor and good ol’ hard work that defined our world champions.
sound a little naive? probably was, but through great swathes of the 80s and even the 90s the sport seemed like most others, there were crooks and cheats here and there but on the whole it was a healthy pursuit, governed by an association that might have been getting fat along the way but that essentially was taking care of this sport beloved by so many.
the truth was that Hein and his cohorts were building an shark-toothed behemoth on the squalid practises of the past, one that overlooked the culture of rampant doping at a time when the new dope on the block was killing otherwise supremely healthy and starry-eyed youngsters in their sleep. the UCI wanted the megabucks and they needed a star system and by golly they got it by both hook and by crook, fueled by EPO in a way that Hollywood has always been fueled by coke, staffed by Supermen and Terminators that were doing stuff up pretty high hills that now seem more akin to acts committed by criminals than sporting achievements.
yet still… it’s the UCI!
yes, there may be some bad apples but the thing surely, inherently, is good?
no. not now anyways. and yet still, when Vaudevillian Vaughters trotted out in his Little Boy Blue oh-so-finery and his feathered locks and began very strongly suggesting a breakaway league, my blood just got up. it bubbled. i could hear it a-cracklin’ behind my ears.
why? well, because:
first off, i don’t think he should be in the sport.
second, if that preppy-boy-my-momma-dressed-me style of his is really style, i’m starting a dirty protest.
third, he and the rest of his dirty generation milked that system for so long and did fine by it, without a doubt, so complaining now seems all a bit suspect. he gets control? no thanks.
fourth, we all love these races, we love the history, keep the Monuments, keep the Grand Tours, keep it all and stuff the rest.
fifth…. it’s the UCI! surely we can rescue it? surely the bad apples (all of them) will go? they can’t hang on anymore!
the more indignation i felt with every mention of ‘breakaway’, the more flustered and blustery i got, the more i dragged the feathers from my mouth, the more i realised it was pointless. there is NOTHING to be gained from the UCI any longer. it’s a derelict building teetering on a cliff edge. there’s mold in the walls and termites the size of Jack Russels rampaging through the timbers. there are individuals still inside refusing to budge, but like those mad sad folk who refuse to leave their houses as the volcano behind them roars into fiery life, they are nothing but depressing examples of the unfathomable potential for pointlessness that humans from time to time offer up to the sighing universe.
so today when i read that David Brailsford was saying that cycling has reached its ‘tipping point‘, i realised that for the first time since i’ve read anything about a breakaway from the UCI, i agreed – this is indeed absolutely necessary.
keep the Classics. keep the Grand Tours (though the Vuelta is increasingly looking like the injured wildebeest at the edge of the pack). keep the mini-classics, the Strade Bianche, Omloop, the Worlds. maybe, sure, create one or two more classics in Asia such as the Japan Cup, on great roads, tough arse routes with lots of spectators.
but yeah. rip it up.