Postman Pat’s Bad Mail

I wasn’t going to comment on this unless it became public knowledge, I saw the letter yesterday and was hoping it would blow over and a clarification of a clarification was going to be issued. Unfortunately it’s not, the resulting chaos is one that could affect the development of the sport and avoid riders joining their UCI recognised national cycling federation, for us in Scotland, that’s essentially Scottish Cycling, but as I’ve explained before it’s really British Cycling who issue the licences.

CyclingNews are carrying a story on it here.

The Letter, in full, from Pat McQuaid to US Cycling President.

Dear President,

It has recently come to our attention that some National Federations are experiencing difficulties in the interpretation and application of the rules relating to “forbidden races”, namely Articles 1.2.019,

1.2.020 and 1.2.021 of the UCI Regulations.

With this in mind, we would like to provide the following clarification which we hope you will find useful. Article 1.2.019 of the UCI Regulations states:

“No license holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognized by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI.

A national federation may grant special exceptions for races or particular events run in its own country.”

The objective of this regulation is to protect the hard work and resources you pour into the development of your events at national level. It allows for a federative structure, something which is inherent in organized sport and which is essential to being a part of the Olympic movement.

Of course the regulation also allows the UCI, in line with its mission as an international federation, to guarantee uniform regulation.

Article 1.2.019 applies to all license holders, without exception. It does not solely concern professional riders or just the members of UCI teams, contrary to certain statements in the press and on some blogs.

The second paragraph of Article 1.2.019 affords each national federation the facility to grant a special exception for specific races or events taking place in its territory.

Special races or events are understood to be cycle events which are not registered on the national calendar of the country’s federation or on the UCI international calendar. This generally concerns events that are occasional and which do not recur, most often organized by persons or entities who do not belong to the world of organized sport. For example, an event may be organized by an association that does not have a link to the National Federation, such as a race specifically for members of the armed forces, fire fighters or students or perhaps as part of a national multisport event.

With the exception of these special cases, the National Federation is not permitted to grant an exemption to a cycle event which is held, deliberately or not, outside the federative movement. For example, in no case should an exception be granted to a cycling event that is organized by a person or entity who regularly organizes cycling events.

CH 1860 Aigle I Switzerland
Q)+41 24 468 58 11 fax +41 24 468 58 12
http://www.uci.ch

The objective of Article 1.2.019 is that exemptions should only be granted in exceptional cases.

Licenseholders who participate in a “forbidden race” make themselves liable not only to sanctions by their National Federation, as scheduled by Article 1.2.021 of the UCI regulations, but also run the risk of not having sufficient insurance cover in the event of an accident.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please accept our kindest regards,

Pat McQuaid

President

What it means to us

I was hoping for a clarification, because this has very far-reaching implications in Scotland. Consider all the sportive events which are not on the BC calendar, any TLI events, some grass track events etc, they would all represent cycle events that could carry sanctions for riders who also have a UCI licence (you can see on your licence it has a UCI number, you have a UCI licence). It’s even worse for our friends down south, who have all time trials out with UCI governance!

This kind of draconian attitude is going to put riders off from a normal progression of sportive rider, to club rider, to racer. If sanctions are implemented here, then we’ll have no riders coming through into the sport from unsanctioned sportives, of which there are many, they would lose the ability to go back and ride those events if they took out a racing licence and were fined & sanctioned as a result. It looks like the UCI are trying to reduce their market, by excluding all but the current club riders, either that or Pat McQuaid is a complete idiot. I’ll go with the latter.

UPDATE:

http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/uci-postpone-enforcement-of-rule-1-2-019

Carry on camping

It’s coming up for training camp season, the time of the year that the riders who’ve been on vitamin D supplements since ‘that week in July’ that they last got some sun shining on their skin decide to go abroad, with a bike. We/they decide to visit hot southern coasts & islands in search of a ‘fast looking’ tan or possibly some decent form for the upcoming season. The realities are often different, too many pizza’s at Tolo’s, too many post ride bieres, and too many colds brought back home after a pile of time on the bike and a weakened immune system, can lead to putting on weight & getting ill. But do it right and the training camp is an incredibly useful & enjoyable tool towards a great season, do it wrong and you’ll be in your bed & off work for a couple of weeks on your return, it’s often down to your own choices.

Training camp types

On your pre-season training camp, you’ll either be going there with friends, clubmates (possibly not all your friends), complete strangers on an organised training camp (with possibly a cycling celebrity host), or a mix of all of these. Here are some of the individuals you’ll encounter in the sunshine.

#1: The ‘pro’ wannabe. This rider tends to be slightly overweight (sometimes more than slightly), has full pro team kit in unflattering white for their body type, talks like they’re a top sprinter (which excuses their lacklustre climbing) & thinks they’re a big hit with the ladies/waitresses/barmaids. They tend to go on training camps for different reasons from the other types, and rarely go with a big group of people they know. This is part of the plan, so that their heroic riding, demon descending & general all round pro-like training camp performance can be talked about in the same terms as an angler talks about how big their fish was. Often the tales will be vastly exaggerated on return to the cold north lands & without any viable witnesses, the tales of bravado will be boosted again at next years training camp, and so it continues, only with a new full set of next years white pro team kit. These individuals rarely perform very well, so if you’re looking for an easy day choose a bunch of these guys to go out with, easily spotted by immaculate kit & pro level bikes under the UCI weight limit, even though they’re all carrying at least 15kg excess body weight.

#2: Ageing lager meister. This guy enjoys himself, he’s generally an older gent, but there are some younger early ageing guys who drift into this category their 30’s, so ‘ageing’ isn’t a true definition. You’ll spot these guys easily, first you’ll see either an immaculate classic Colnago sitting outside a pub, either that or a pristine & beautiful ‘retro’ steel race bike. Very close-by will be a fella sitting with a €1 pint, a big smile on his face and will always give you a welcoming nod if you’re in bike gear. He’ll be wearing either brand new club kit, or very old club kit, but definitely nothing in between, he keeps that for under his winter tops, it’s a nostalgia & modern-day thing, the new stuff he’s wearing will be hidden for a few years soon, only to reappear in a sunny bar with a sea-view somewhere overseas. He’ll meet up with other similar types for a ride, all with skinny arms & legs, but a few spare tubs in their midriff, out for a nice sedate pace in the sun, only to return later to another watering hole. They return home with a cyclist’s tan lines from mostly sitting in bike gear at the pub, stories of riding the bike each day to tell the wife & spread the embarrassing stories about what happened to the newbie on his first training camp with seasoned clubmen.

#3: Wide eyed newbie. The fate of this type really depends on what company they keep on the training camp, it could be any of the other types, so if you’re new to cycling choose wisely. This guide will help you identify what you want to do with your time off work & who you will associate yourself with. Most newbies will be talked into the training camp by others for a purpose, either to genuinely help them progress and get some form as the club’s early season secret weapon, to have somebody to ‘drop’ on the training rides, or as a good wheel to sit on. So make sure you ease yourself into the training camp and don’t choose the hardest ride on the first day, it’ll likely ruin the rest of your week. Gravitate towards the faster rides and the days pass, but a complete pummeling on day one will make your week a disaster. Beware of the seasoned clubmen (type #6), they’ve been riding & drinking for years, so treat the evenings as the training rides, ease yourself into the night stages.

#4: The Racer. There are large numbers who take their hard-earned holiday from work very seriously indeed, they are solely here to get absolutely pummelled on the bike and get some serious training in the bank. This group will tend to be the most multinational training ride at the camp, with some serious kudos to be earned & routes including the local major climbs. If you want a very hard ride, with no let up and often no stop, go with these guys, but take plenty of water & food, it’ll be a while before you stop. The racer won’t often be seen at the local bar in the evening, although may make a brief appearance a couple of nights to appear to be social, but will quickly scamper away to bed & will make sure that he rooms with another of his type.

#5: The Triantelope. Famed for an inability to handle a bicycle, they leap from their bicycles like antelopes in the Serengeti, hence the name. The value of the bikes the triantelopes ride will often compare with type #1, but these riders are much fitter. But beware of the bunches, especially if ‘silly bars’ are being used, it’s a recipe for disaster. There is a reason for the poor bike handling though, remember they do three sports, you likely just do one, the technicalities of the transition from cycling to running means that a different position is adopted, so saddles are flung very far forward (way beyond UCI regs) and more weight is focussed ahead of the front wheel, not ideal for unknown mountain descents on a far away island, or close bunch riding. You’re best advised to stay away from this group at the training camp, they tend to ride alone most of the time at home, so bunch etiquette is almost completely unknown to them, you’d probably get a good workout but it’s not really worth the risk, it’s a different sport, leave them to their own quirks & oddities, we have plenty of our own.

#6: The Clubman. This one is your ‘true’ training camp type, they know the score, they’ve done it before, they can hang onto the fast guys and give a pasting to the slow guys, they’ll pick & choose which group they ride with & generally get more out of a week away than most of the other types. Most training camp aficionado’s will eventually gravitate towards #6 (apart from #5), while #2 is an even more experienced form of this type, he’s gravitated past #6 into #2. The clubman will also enjoy a couple of good evening visit to the local watering holes while you’re away, while treating the daily rides as serious training & the rest of the camp as their annual warm weather social event with riders they’ve literally known since they were teenagers. If you’re a newbie & you get in with a good group of clubmen, they’ll open up a number of opportunities for rides to you, provide evening entertainment and cement yourself into the bizarre world of bike culture in a week-long crash course (this bit not literally).

Survival Techniques

The training camp is going to be very demanding, so there are a few things you need to bear in mind and keep under control, especially if you’re not used to riding every single day for a week or two.

  • Before packing your bike, make sure it works correctly, the bike you take may have been put away all winter, it needs a road ride to make sure everything works & nothing is broken from last year. Do this at least 2 weeks before you leave, not the night before, so you’ve got as chance to get your local bike shop to fix it.
  • Pack your bike properly, a damaged bike on arrival is your worst nightmare, that’s what you’re here to do, so use all means you can to make sure your bike arrives in one piece and survives the onslaught from the worst of baggage handlers.
  • Chamois cream – Get yourself some & use it from day 1, smear your chamois with it, you’ll sweat much more in the heat & you’re also likely to be sitting having a coffee after a ride for some time before getting changed, the ideal environment for germs to grow.
  • Clean your kit – Never wear undergarments that have been worn the day before without a wash, again this is just common sense, your hotel will be able to wash clothes for you or use the sink in your room with a non-bio cleaner you bought at home.
  • Sun Cream – This goes without saying, don’t come back looking like a lobster, you live in a cold damp place & if your skin has ever seen any sun, it’s not seen it since last summer. You need to make sure you never forget to put it on, it will ruin your training camp if you forget, so even if it’s overcast, wear sun cream.
  • Drink lots & lots of water, on the bike, after a ride, just keep drinking water. If you’re doing any post ride pub visits, it becomes even more vital to rehydrate after a ride.
  • Eat as soon as you can after a ride, it’ll help you recover for the next days training.
  • Check your bike before each ride, check your tyres especially, locate the local bike shop on day 1, if there are any mechanical disasters you’ll need to know where this place is.
  • Don’t assume it’s all going to be sunshine, prepare for showery days and for it being cold at the top of hills. It’s tempting to just take shorts & short sleeves, but check the forecasts and make sure you can get out every day no matter the weather.
  • Above all be self-sufficient, you’re in a foreign country, so take a multi tool, spare tubes & a map so you know where you are and how to get back to your digs, as long as you get home every night you’ll be fine.

Conclusion

The training camp isn’t something to be worried about if you’re prepared for it, get some winter training in before you go and you’ll be fit & ready for a big increase in training load. The key to it is enjoying yourself, this isn’t meant to be purgatory, it’s a week away where you’re main focus is doing something you really enjoy, riding your bike. If the rides are too much, choose an easier group, but make sure you get out every day, you’ve earned this holiday, make the most of it.

Where would we be without the UCI?

There’s an unfortunate dilemma unfolding in the hierarchy of global cycling, the UCI appear to have dug themselves into a massive hole regarding possible protectionism or treachery at some level regarding that cheating American guy who’s proved that “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” (I’m not going to delve into this, or dwell on his name, as he needs no further publicity, no matter from how small a readership, but you must all know the story by now). Some say the future of the UCI itself is in jeopardy & it could be removed as the entity that controls cycling, with no obvious replacement organisation ready to go, this could cause massive problems worldwide in cycle sport, jobs & businesses. This all seems like a million wheel revolutions away from our little sport, in our little country, but all may not be as it seems and a collapse of the UCI may result in an unexpected collapse of domestic racing & a cycling power struggle within each country.

First some definitions…..

IOC: The International Olympic Committee, it governs all Olympic sports and holds a massive influence over each sports governing body. Former Mars confectionary sales manager Hein Verbruggen was president of the UCI between 1991 & 2005, but the Dutchman now holds the role of honorary member of the IOC. He was implicated by the BBC in 2008 with regards to $3million ‘expenses payments’ by Japanese race officials, which sources told the BBC were for including the keirin in the Games, Verbruggen denied the claims. In 2010 he was accused by Floyd Landis of taking a $100,000 bribe to make a certain riders positive test go away, Verbruggen denied this. He is also quoted as saying “There is nothing. I repeat again: Lance Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never. I say this not because I am a friend of his, because that is not true. I say it because I’m sure.”

UCI: The Union Cycliste Internationale is the governing body recognised by the IOC as the one that controls cycling. It creates the international rules regarding racing, bikes, positions etc. They also issue licences to the various levels of UCI registered teams, the various UCI events and have a dubious reputation as being incredibly undemocratic & change rules to suit their mood on the day, ruining riders careers, established events futures & teams abilities to continue to exist. Pat McQuaid is the current president, banned from the Olympics for life as a rider, for racing in South Africa under a false name during apartheid, McQuaid was seen issuing medals at the 2012 London Olympics. He’s seen, rightly or wrongly, as Hein Verbruggen’s puppet, and the two are very closely linked.

BC: British Cycling is the UK’s governing body for cycling, it has representatives at the UCI table and can vote on UCI matters. It has a chequered past, and is the result of an amalgamation of several different national cycling governing bodies after a turbulent past involving who controlled cycling in the UK. They’ve grown a lot in the last few years after some alleged corruption was exposed by Tony Doyle and the organisation had to be rebuilt from the bottom up. It now prides itself in the vision of the GB track team, with the likes of Peter Keen, Chris Boardman & currently Dave Brailsford all being key people in it’s rise to the top. Brian Cookson is the current president and has been there right through the rebuild, he is a member of the British Olympic Association executive committee & the UCI Management Committee. Cookson has been one of the recent people speaking out about change within the UCI, he also attends UCI meetings as a representative for BC.

SC: Scottish Cycling currently exists as a limited company, it was formerly the SCU (Scottish Cyclists Union), BC consider it a region of their cycling umbrella, but SC consider themselves as a national governing body. Their race licences, rider & race insurances, coaching structure & part of their ability to raise funds are controlled by BC, so a slightly inconsistent & occasionally strained relationship exists between BC & SC. They have zero influence internationally outside of the Commonwealth Games once every 4 years, apart from their presence on the BC national council, which can decide how to vote on UCI matters, just like other BC ‘regions’.

So as far as the chain of command goes, the UCI are affiliated to the IOC, BC are affiliated to the UCI & SC are affiliated to BC, no matter how people don’t like the latter affiliation, it’s the current situation with Scotland still part of the UK.

Where we currently stand

As far as racing goes in Scotland, most of it is covered by UCI rules, there’s a different situation south of the border, where time trials are governed by CTT (formerly RTTC) who exist outside BC and don’t represent an international governing body. There are also a small amount of TLI (The League International) events in Scotland, which is another cycling governing body, not nearly as widespread as the UCI, but it is not recognised by the IOC or the UCI, so has little or no influence in cycling globally. So the UCI is the primary racing body for Scotland, much more so than in the rest of the UK, so we’re more affected than others if anything happens.

No UCI, what happens first?

If the UCI completely collapsed, where would racing in Scotland be left? Check your racing licence, you have a UCI number on it, which shows you race under UCI rules, so if there’s no UCI, there’s no UCI rules, these govern the sport, without the rules & a way to implement them it’s a different sport. The affiliations I listed above would also fall apart, all national governing bodies immediately lose their direct link to the IOC, so no National teams in the Olympics for cycling, in fact no cycling in the Olympics at all.

What we’d likely see is yet another massive power struggle internationally for the control of cycling, this could go on for some time, with different factions waiting in the wings to form groups with others to create something attractive to the IOC and to all the national governing bodies, a tricky & costly task, possibly an impossible one. There’s always power struggles going on for TV rights, but this one would be particularly ugly, as there really is everything to play for if there’s no UCI.

Who’s affected?

No doubt races can be run in Scotland without the UCI, but expect everything in complete disarray for at least a season. A new insurance agreement to run races on the public highway would be needed by a vastly changed BC, this may take some time and would allow the opportunity for TLI to step in, but TLI rely on BC to deal with authorities in an official manner to some extent, so don’t expect that to run too smoothly. With no internationally recognised governing body controlling racing & dealing with politicians who want to see themselves next to Olympic cycling stars, with there being no cycling in the Olympics, expect the motor car lobby to get involved, to try to remove those pesky cyclists from the road once & for all. But we may have to rely on SC to start dealing with all this if the link to BC goes as if there’s no world championships or cycling in the Olympics, then BC don’t require to keep their tricky relationship with SC, you’d expect this to rapidly splinter. Consider the effect this would have on our sport in our country, it would again become an underground sport hidden away from the public, the exact opposite of it’s current direction.

Your young riders will lose most opportunities to compete on an international stage, so there will be a lack of progression & cycling as a popular national sport will start to decline. Outwith the IOC & presumably WADA, dope controls will be non existent in cycling and further tarnish it’s image as a drug ridden sport.

Remember that teams & races pay the UCI for licences, so we could see the teams going bust and races lost, regardless of who takes over, if it’s not the UCI that money is lost forever.

Obviously, this is all the worst case, but if any sport suddenly loses it’s international governing body it’s going be in a huge mess.

What will really happen?

We all probably would like to see the UCI to fall apart, for our own vindictive pleasures, Pat McQuaid being publicly humiliated, Verbruggen dismissed from sport for good. But this would be catastrophic for cycling everywhere, we need to keep the UCI in some form, hopefully it can continue in a more democratic and transparent manner, if it doesn’t, then we all suffer the consequences.

I don’t believe for a minute that the UCI will actually cease to exist, it’ll be reborn with a few notable names missing and an ethical charter in place, until the next time. A crucial part of virtually all global sports organisations citing themselves in Switzerland is due to the laws regarding ‘non profit’ organisations and the legal ramifications of existing anywhere else but Switzerland. The Swiss have lighter laws for scrutiny of these types of organisations, along with some hefty tax exemptions for sports federations, so it’s no surprise that 47 sports bodies are based here, including the IOC, UCI, FIFA & many other well known sports organisations.

So don’t panic, there’s going to be a big bun fight over the next few months, then things will calm down once the current problems are fully dealt with and publically revealed. But don’t hope for the UCI to go away, organisations of all sizes rely on each other these days and it won’t take much for the house of cards to tumble, take banking as a prime example. So sometimes it’s better the devil you know, clean him up, make him transparent, give him a new voice & mandate, the alternative is even less palatable than change.

Your local bike shop, your wee pal.

Now is the time of year all those who’ve purchased from big bike retailers online will be getting a pile of emails every day, with news about January sales, massive savings, stock clearances etc, etc. I expect this is most of us, most of us have also tried to stop these emails, but it usually appears impossible to cancel your ‘subscription’ to the mails. An annoying but sometimes intriguing invitation to find some shiny bike bits you didn’t really want but at bargain prices (if somebody really did want them, they’d likely not be at those bargain prices). Drawing you into a slick marketing campaign, the bargains appear first, then pictures appear of other things you may like (based on your previous purchases or recent google searches, this isn’t accidental). Those other shiny bits you desire don’t have anything like the reductions you first saw, but you want those parts, you’re hooked and their plan has worked.

But spare a thought for your local bike shop at this time, they’re also trying to shift stock, without the money or audience to launch a slick marketing campaign, there’s nobody in the background when you walk in raising signs with components you might like, at massively reduced prices. They also don’t have the huge buying power that allows them to purchase bikes & components at super low prices (grey imports rear their heads here too), they don’t send you an email every day to try and part you with your hard earned money, in fact, if you’re a regular, it’s more than likely you’ll have a cup of tea put in your hand, maybe something’s not working properly and they’ll stick your bike on the stand to have a quick look at it for you. All part of the service, no pressure sales, real people selling products at sustainable prices, doing the best they can.

This is the reality of the modern day bike industry, small local bike shops dotted about the countryside, providing good knowledgable service, free information & advice on products, likely supporting your local bike club, offering discounts to loyal customers, this in stark contrast to a multinational online warehouse retailer with no after sales service, not even a phone number you can contact if you have a problem. We’ve all bought from the warehouse bike retailers, it’s essentially the same products, a bit cheaper, but as with a dying high street, where would you be without a bike shop you can go to for an emergency repair, a broken spoke etc. That’s essentially what you’re paying a little bit extra for, making sure that bike shop keeps paying the bills, keeps employing the staff (those guys that help you out when pay a visit, maybe slag you a bit too) and allows the owner to make a living, without those requirements nobody is going to run a bike shop, or any business, just to give you a convenient place to get your bike fixed.

So just a thought, support the local bike shops that provide the service you like, don’t support those that don’t, check with them before you make a big purchase, or any purchase, you might be surprised at what they can do for you. But don’t expect them to match exactly what your online warehouse is charging, you may get a ‘sigh’ and a blank stare, these guys are up against it every hour of every day, people telling them they can get this & that for this price here & there. You need your local bike shop & it needs you.

p.s. I don’t work for or in a local bike shop, I just like local bike shops, not just one, but all the good ones, they’re everywhere, try one.