2017 & Mens Pro Cycling

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Men’s pro cycling, the main focus of the cycling media, has been causing me some motivational problems as a cycling fan the last few months.  Living in the UK, the story of the jiffy bag & the tiresome Bradley Wiggins attitude has been dominating proceedings, with it getting murkier & murkier as time progresses, it really looks like the beginning of the end for  Brailsford, although he’s likely to slip into a highly paid role in another sport, these people usually emerge somewhere else. There’s obviously been a cover up, but covering up what nobody really knows, it looks unlikely the full facts will ever become available in the public domain due to the amount of mistruths that have already been told.

In general, it looks like there’s been a large turnover in riders in the peloton this year, with plenty of retirements, so there is potential for a bit of a renewal, hopefully without the same level of scandals, but I’ll not hold my breath.

Predictions

  • Team Sky to have an obvious split into two factions, those loyal to Brailsford & those loyal to Froome, who’s obviously unhappy. It could go the other way than expected as far as results outside the Tour go, it may mean that the highly talented riders that get burnt up as bunch engines benefit from the lack of unity & get their own chances, especially as they may be thinking about contracts in other teams for 2018
  • Spring Classics – Nothing particularly surprising here, showdowns between Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet & a revived & healthy John Degenkolb, with Boonen to win Roubaix & retire.
  • Giro – Esteban Chaves.
  • Tour – Bauke Mollema.
  • Vuelta – Tom Dumoulin.
  • UCI President to be a Frenchman by the end of the year, Cookson to be ousted in a big bun fight after British Cycling becomes more embroiled in the jiffy bag situation, with no realistic answers, tarnishing the organisation & Cookson himself.
  • Worlds – Peter Sagan (again).

 

Exploding the b-Omnium

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The UCI have overhauled the Omnium rules, the points system has gone topsy-turvy & there is large weighting towards the Points Race, which will now be run as the final event. It’s a relatively new event to major championships, although familiar to domestic riders in most track cycling nations, so we did expect a bit of jiggery pokery, but this is quite radical. Here’s how it’ll affect the event.

The Changes

The UCI have altered the scoring system, points allocation & weighted events, the full list of amendments can be found HERE.

In Omniums up to this point the winner of each event was awarded 1 point, 2nd place got 2 points, 3rd place 3 points & so on. All six events had the same allocation so if you won all the events you got an unbeatable perfect score of 6 points. The winner had the lowest total score when the individual points for the events were added together. Things are quite different from 20th June 2014.

The modified rules are as follows. We still have six events, run in the following revised order. Scratch Race, Individual Pursuit, Elimination (Devil), Time Trial (500m or kilo), Flying Lap, then finally the Points Race. For the first five events, the points allocation is as follows: 1st 40 pts, 2nd 38 pts, 3rd 36 pts, 4th 34 pts, 5th 32 pts, 6th 30 pts etc. From 21st down each rider gets 1 point. So the rider with the highest points total now wins, a major change in the Omnium’s culture.

This is the major event change, the 6th & final event (Points Race) has it’s event points allocation for each rider added to the score from the previous five events. So to give you an idea of how many points could be amassed in the final event, the 2012 Olympic Omnium’s points race had the top three with 79, 59 & 55 points each, the last placed rider had negative 40 points, from losing laps. This means that the riders with a Points Race total above zero will have those points added to their total from the previous five omnium events, any with points below zero will have those deducted from their total. The Points Race has become the key event in the Omnium.

What This Means

The UCI have been slowly removing endurance events from the track programme, the Omnium should have been left as an event for those riders, but sprinters have been able to gather points from the Flying Lap, Time Trial & the Scratch Race (by good positioning & waiting for the sprint). This will redress the balance & re-establish it as an endurance riders event, repeated sprints & taking laps are not the domain of a sprint athlete.

With the result now depending on a very good Points Race, it’s addressed the issue of the reducing opportunity for road/track crossover. The team pursuit has even become an event which favours a sprint orientated rider, such is the pace & duration of the efforts required, it’s also a very specialised event with much time being required to focus on it away from road racing.

Some were worried that the new rules would not favour a rider such as Laura Trott, but Hilary Evans (@OlympicStatman on twitter) calculated the totals from the last Olympics under these rules, Trott still would still have won by 1 point, with 208 points! This format could produce a thrilling finale to the Omnium, with riders fighting for every point in the last event, it’ll certainly be exciting from a spectators point of view.

The Future

I’d like to see this as the beginning of a revamp for the track events at major championships & World Cups. The removal of the 500m, Kilo & Pursuit was a great loss of traditional staple events for track riders, I’d like to see those return & to make an additional change to the Omnium bike rules to make a differentiation. I’d like to see the Omnium raced on one bike, with no tri-bars allowed in the timed events. With the focus now on the final endurance event & riders requiring less time training on a pursuit bike in a velodrome, it could open up the opportunity for more road stars to get involved. We’re really talking about road sprinter types, not the Grand Tour GC contenders, anything that could encourage them to the track could raise the profile & the status of an event like the Omnium.

So I’m suggesting re-introducing the Kilo, this time for both men & women (no 500m TT), plus the Individual Pursuit & then changing the Omnium bike rules to a standard track bike for all events. Would be interesting to hear what everybody thinks of that.

The Gist Of It

Track racing can benefit hugely from having recognisable names from the road scene present, I think the changes to the Omnium format are good for the sport, it creates a very exciting finale to the series & makes the Omnium more attractive to road riders. It could be an opportunity for female road racers to find another means to earn some sponsorship money by riding track too, if there’s not the same specialisation required on a pursuit bike, it could be possible.

The revised rules will also favour racers, rather than wattage slaves, you can’t win a points race by riding to a certain wattage, you require track-craft, tactics & a racing brain. Personally, I look forward to it all coming down to the final sprint on the final lap, it should be thrilling. I still don’t like those bloody handlebar boxed in the Devil, can we not do something about those UCI?

New Hour Record Rules

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Cycling Weekly today reported that the UCI are changing everything again. We’ll be reverting to one record, removing the rather silly ‘Athletes Hour’ on a Merckx type bike. We knew changes were happening, but this clarifies some things, I’m sure there will be more to come soon from the UCI, Obree will be smiling quietly thinking up a plan.

What do we know?

So far, according to Cycling Weekly, the 49.7km record of Sosenka (although caught for doping later) will be the target for any future attempts. This appears to indicate that all distances recorded on bikes that don’t meet current rules have been removed & we’ll continue with a clean slate so to speak, but having held the record will still be recorded, confusing eh!

Unfortunately for those who’ve gone further than this distance, on ‘Superman’, ‘Obree-Tuck’ & funny bikes with aero advances will not be valid, neither apparently will Mosers original record (although we now know he was blood-doping, which wasn’t banned at the time), or Indurain & Romingers. So it seems like the record books may show these as holders of the Hour Record, but we’ll not see a distance in the record book perhaps. Or will they be deleted all together?

The UCI had a tricky problem, advances had taken the record so far away from what was currently possible that nobody was attempting it, apart from that 100-year-old French superstar. It would be unfair to scrub the Hour Record holders from the books, but their distances will not be valid. We’ll start fresh with an achievable distance & the floodgates will hopefully open for a number of challenges on the record by a good number of riders.

This is actually quite exciting stuff for the cycling fan, it could be a very interesting year ahead. But does anybody apart from the UCI know when the rules change, on that day you can expect a number of riders to go for it & seal their place in history, but current UCI rules only allow one attempt in any given day, will that change too?

Will Graeme be brazing something up in his kitchen already?

“Pimp My Ride”: UCI Committee

StatlerandWaldorf

The UCI under Pat & Hein the UCI were committed to stifle development & innovation in the bike industry. This would end when everybody was riding an old steel frame & drilling out their chainrings as the only option available for performance improvement. Luckily things look to be changing again under the recent regime change headed by Brian Cookson.

It’s been reported by Road.cc that there will be a new committee involved in looking into the technical innovation rules, hopefully reversing some of them. With an expert panel, we may see some changes to the rules. It’s not known if the manufacturers will be given a reimbursement on the fees they have already paid. Their products had to be tested to destruction, in order to be awarded the wee UCI sticker which allows their wares to be used in competition.

It’s probably quite dangerous territory for the UCI on legal terms to continue with this policy. The reason that was originally put across for the weight limit rules was that the lightest bikes were perceived to be less strong by the UCI. Meanwhile any of us (if we had the cash) could put together a perfectly robust bike weighing less than the UCI minimum of 6.8kg from parts our local bike shop could order for us.

The UCI’s component approval process was to spread to most components, so consider the following. You could have a bike formed from components which all had been awarded a UCI sticker, this bike could easily weigh less than 6.8kg, which would result in the bike being banned by the UCI’s on safety grounds, even though all parts had passed their test. It wouldn’t take much for a manufacturer to contest this ruling, essentially they paid to have their products tested to be compliant, then the same body who tested them claimed the parts do not meet the required standard.

The UCI needs to sort this before there is an issue, not just that it’s unfair, as I commented on before, but that they are leaving themselves open to legal action from component, frame & wheel manufacturers. The committee is long overdue & will allow small manufacturers back into the professional peloton if the rules are relaxed.

Brian-Storm II

In June I wrote Brian-Storm, it’s now seriously out of date, so here’s my thoughts on the current situation, without going into too much detail.

*See update at bottom of post, my opinion may be changing.

Brian Cookson is under severe pressure to come up with ideas to reform cycling in all areas, women’s cycling, mountain biking, anti-doping, pro cycling. But are we trying to ask too much from him, before he’s got anywhere near being the presidential suite in Aigle?

Skills

If we look back to what happened at the BCF many years ago, which emerged from the flames as British Cycling after the chaos that erupted from Tony Doyle ‘blowing the bloody doors off’ debacle, legal threats in both directions, litigation etc. We emerged from that with a completely different organisation, Cookson wasn’t an instigator in the initial clean-up, but he became the administrator of it in his long  tenure as BC president, he found ways to help the change take place.

From what I can see, Cookson isn’t perhaps the ideas man that he currently being pressured to be, he’s likely a very good administrator & talent spotter. This is why I’d like to see him as president of the UCI, it’s obvious that we have little or no choice on the matter now, with the Pat V Brian thing, but without the emergence of a charismatic Spanish or Italian nominee, we are left with an election of (possibly) two potential Presidents, they are chalk & cheese. I think Brian can provide us with a solution for the current time period, a catalyst for huge change within the UCI, similar to that he oversaw during the metamorphosis of British Cycling, from small time minority sports federation, to a world leading model in a successful & professional sports body.

I’ve had occasional chats to Cookson, nothing mind-blowing in those chats, but as everybody says, you can tell he’s an honest man, somebody with integrity, as far as you can gauge from a brief chat. But the overall impression is that you get what you see. This is perhaps Brian’s biggest skill, he’s comfortable speaking to people, which afterwards you realised that he asked you some probing questions, which you realised you answered in a matter of fact manner. I’m assuming that he operates in this manner in more important matters on an international level, gathering information & choosing which questions need answered. Perhaps this is how he’s managed to employ the people with the ideas that have moved the sport in the UK forward, he can identify what’s needed, seek out the people with the ideas required to change an organisation, then recruit them & utilise their skills & ideas to help move things forward.

Anybody but Pat!

It’s often seen as a case of anybody but Pat McQuaid, some saying that we have just one poor choice. But I see Brian Cookson as the best person to instigate change, the questions over ideas will play second fiddle to the revelations that he will uncover if elected, the current cartel are protecting something. If there is something ‘profitable’ worth protecting, we could see a UCI with more of that profit freed up to allow the good projects to take place. But to make that happen, we need a good administrator, somebody who can understand the documents, dare I say it, perhaps somebody perceived to be a little bit boring?

After the deeds of the past are uncovered, we can then move into the new era of a modernised UCI, if it goes through a tiny percentage of the change that took place at British Cycling, then in a few years time we’ll have one of the best sporting governing bodies in the world. After that we can have the flamboyant leader, but we need the talented individuals in place to monitor the UCI first, Cookson can put those people in place & get back to Lancashire, I expect he’ll want to do that as quickly as possible.

*Update : Brian Cookson made a new statement today, quite a misguided one in my opinion. He’s implying that the treatment of Armstrong is unfair & he may try to reduce his ban! I had no actual evidence of McQuaids claims that Cookson was being financially supported by ‘the Russians’, so didn’t jump on that bandwaggon & went with what I did know. If there’s unwanted leniency for somebody like Armstrong being thrown up as some strange carrot for countries votes, this really isn’t what I want to see. If things carry on in this manner, the best outcome could be that Cookson is the only candidate, then does still not gain a sufficient amount of the vote, which he says he would pusue. So if that happened, we could in theory, have a completely new UCI election with some new candidates who didn’t come forward previously. That way we could get a proper election out of this, with a series of viable candidtates, and Pat McQuaid. Cookson Story.

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199 Laps

When a rider such as Wiggins decides that a weight penalty of (reportedly) an additional 8kg is for winning the Worlds time trial, when he’s beaten the opposition at his low le Tour weight, we know there’s something else going on, could it be a UCI record attempt?

Recent Patterns

We saw Brad winning the Tour de Pologne TT by some margin, this was over a distance of 37km, it took him approx 47 minutes, in this event he beat Taylor Phinney by a margin of 1min 14seconds. Roll on a couple of weeks & we see him finish 5th but beat Phinney by the much reduced margin of 2 seconds in the Eneco Tour, but in a much shorter & punchier 13km effort. When we wonder why he’s putting on some extra weight right now, the answer could be glaringly obvious, he’s preparing his body to withstand an hour & 400 velodrome bankings at 50kmh, it’s very hard to do that if you’re skin & bones like the 2012 Tour Wiggo. I’ve blogged previously about how reduced weight leads to reduced cross-section of arms, body, legs etc, resulting in reduced aerodynamic drag, we know Wiggins can TT with the best at his Tour winning weight, so putting that weight back on (as muscle) can mean only one thing to me, a dual objective to salvage & make his season exceptional, to bow out on a glittering career as I’ve suggested previously. I think he’s on for a pop at the UCI Hour Record, to write his name into that record book too.

The Worlds TT is 57.2km, he’s doing that in full aero kit, so the comparable time could be just over the hour, the double objective is so close physiologically, that it would be an opportunity to miss. This could explain why he’s not so good against the opposition over the shorter distance like in the Eneco TT, he’s possibly not training for that distance at all, so going into the higher zone over a shorter distance isn’t going to show him at his best, CP16 Versus CP60 for those power nerds (including me).

Why Muscle?

If you’ve ever ridden behind a Derny at 50kmh on a 250m track for a few minutes, you’ll understand what it takes to do that for an hour. The first visit to the track after you’ve been riding road for a few months is usually quite painful, not just in the legs, but arms, hands, neck & back, the G-Forces you encounter are something you just don’t have to deal with on the road, it’s a different sport.

To counter that you’ll find a lot of the to track riders carry a bit extra muscle in order to ensure they can deal with the additional forces the track applies to you, when riders leave the track to ride road again, they try to lose that extra upper body bulk, it’s not doing anything to help you in road races, in fact, quite the opposite. We can assume that his body fat percentage will be as low as possible to reduce drag, he could potentially go even lower as the temperature is carefully controlled in a velodrome record attempt, there’s no risk of getting chilled.

Where & When?

London would be the incredibly likely venue for a Wiggins Hour attempt, it’s due to open for public on March 4th, a precursor to that could be a Brad Wiggins Hour attempt, otherwise it would likely be Manchester. I can’t see him missing the opportunity to perform in front of his ‘home’ crowd at London, if he goes for it I’d expect it to be London.

The Worlds time trial is on 23rd September, I doubt that an attempt would be within 2 weeks of that, there’s probably a fair amount of adaptation to do, to get from tri-bars to drop bars & adapt to riding those for an hour at that speed, it can’t be done overnight. He can use this time to also reduce weight & possibly train exclusively at a currently ‘closed to public’ velodrome after the Worlds?

The Record

The current record is 49.7 km, so he’ll need to do about 199 laps to beat it, the magical 50km & 200 laps in one hour is right there as the big carrot. The UCI somewhat ruined the Hour Record when they introduced their current bizarre rules which negated years of technological developments & put the Hour Record back a few years. They wanted everybody compared to Eddy Merckx, but as we know, historical comparisons are pretty useless as there are so many different factors, sports science, diet, aerodynamics etc. So wouldn’t it be lovely if Wiggins, along with going for the ‘Athletes Hour’, also went for the UCI’s ‘Best Human Effort’ record of 56.375 km (held by Chris Boardman), which allows riders to use what would be a UCI legal pursuit bike & position.

For the ‘Athletes Hour’, Wiggins would have to use a non aero frame, shallow rims, a helmet within an agreed standard & dropped bars. So we could see an additional marketing opportunity for Pinarello to produce a special ultimate steel bike, “As used by Bradley Wiggins”. If this record attempt is actually going ahead & not just a figment of my imagination, the bike probably already exists, in BC’s secret squirrel lab & Brad’s already been in the wind tunnel on it.

What Will Happen Next?

If it’s on, you’ll not hear about it, I think they’ll wait until just after the Worlds and announce something then, possibly in October. I could be very wrong, but I find it hard to work out why else Brad would be putting on extra weight when he can potentially beat the likes of Cancellara at his Tour weight. It’ll all come out in the wash, but it would be a fitting finale to his season, it would turn an entire year of disappointments right around & leave him in the position to move on or stick out another year of classics & other objectives.

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Brian-storm

In January I wrote ‘Where Would We Be Without The UCI’, in which we looked at a cycling world without the UCI governance, that after a series of scandals we needed structure, so a reformed UCI would likely be better than a completely new governing body. It seems that tomorrow Brian Cookson will present himself as a candidate, running against Switzerland’s famous international rule breaking former cyclist, Pat McQuaid.

Who’s Who

Pat McQuaid, the Irishman who is now domiciled in Switzerland where the UCI are based. He has gained nomination in a roundabout way for the next term, reputedly from the Swiss federation rather than the Irish federation,the latter who had called an emergency meeting to discuss the matter after concerns were raised by the members. The Swiss are also calling a meeting to discuss their nomination too, so it looks like somebody will nominate the former PE teacher somehow. Those who criticize Pat McQuaid would have to consider that he is a decorated international sports prize winner for his good work, in 2008 he was awarded the accolade of ‘Commander in the Order of the Ivory Coast Sporting Merit‘. He has also been Irish Road Champion & is banned for life from Olympic competition (doesn’t stop him hanging medals at Olympic prizegivings though) for racing in apartheid South Africa under a false name.

Brian Cookson has not had the same racing career as McQuaid, but has organised many events in the UK. While Pat was getting plaudits in Africa, Brian Cookson was awarded an OBE in the 2008 honours list for his work as President of British Cycling. I don’t actually have any dirt on Cookson, I’ve met him a few times & he comes across as an honest & open guy. He retired in March from an administrative career in local government, so I think you can guess who my preferred candidate is, the qualified one without any sporting convictions would get my vote for UCI president out of the two.

How voting works

The winner of a presidential election must simply have the majority of votes, not a required percentage. Each Continental Confederation has a certain number of votes, I’ve copied article 36 of the UCI constitution below.

Article 36

1. Members shall exercise their voting rights through the agency of voting delegates appointed among each continental confederation. Each delegate must be a member of a federation of the continental confederation concerned.

2. The total number of voting delegates shall be 42 distributed among continental confederations

as follows:

Africa: 7 delegates

America: 9 delegates

Asia: 9 delegates

Europe: 14 delegates

Oceania: 3 delegates

3. Each voting delegate shall have one vote.

Possible Scenarios

McQuaid may not get nominated, if that’s the case then if there’s only one nomination they automatically become President. Otherwise Cookson being nominated may open the floodgates of pretenders to the throne from various nations who all want influence, Spain had a failed attempt to place a UCI President a few years ago, so this could become a battle for power over cycling & its future. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a very interesting time for cycling, it could really go any way from here.

Weight a minute.

Across all UCI events, there is a minimum bike weight limit of 6.8kg (that’s around 15lb to any SuperVets reading). Where the UCI got this number from is unknown, but is it really a valid rule in this day & age, where the governing body seemingly assuming there has been zero bike development in the last 10 years since they introduced this rule. What makes bikes immune from engineering advances?

The Rule (UCI Article 1.3.019)

Most manufacturers can build a bike much lighter than 6.8kg, probably many of us own one lighter than that race in ‘race trim’, so why is there a rule to stop us racing a commercially available bike that we can ride on the road any day of the week. The original rule was reported to have been introduced to allow developing cycling nations to compete on a level playing field with rich cycling nations. We now know that it wasn’t the bikes where the performance advantages were generally coming from, but that issue was too tricky for the UCI to deal with, so they focussed attention on bike weights & positions to show they were doing something to even things up.

Here’s the actual rule below: LINK HERE

The minimum weight of the bicycle (in working order) is 6.800 kg, considered without on-board accessories in place, that is to say those items that may be removed during the event. The bottles, on-board computers and GPS systems must be removed during the weight check. However, the bottle cages, fixture systems and clipped-on extensions are part of the bicycle and stay in place during the weighing. This is the mainly UCI regulation that is solely concerned with safety. This minimum weight may be reduced or withdrawn in the future, but only when it is possible to prove that each of the constituent elements of the bicycle conforms to specific safety standards that apply to competition.
The UCI has received several complaints concerning the quality of carbon frames, forks and handlebars that fracture immediately in a crash. It would be irresponsible to remove this regulation without putting a reliable system in place to promote the riders’ safety. Work is currently under way with the cycle industry to move towards a solution that is more in line with the current situation. Above all, the UCI wants to avoid competition between manufacturers to reduce bike weights to the detriment of safety.

Who does it benefit most?

Lets take two examples at the extremes of pro cycling to get an overall view, a 55kg climber & an 80kg sprinter. We’ll assume those are the clothed weights for this example & we’ll stick them both on a 6.8kg bike. We now have the climber with a total weight of 61.8kg & the sprinter with a total weight of 86.8kg. By adding the minimum weight bike, our climber increased his overall weight by 12.4%, the sprinter only increased his overall weight by 8.5%. So we can deduce that a minimum weight limit handicaps lighter riders more than heavier riders, what makes it more absurd is that frame breaking ability is much more likely to happen at sprinting wattages than at climbing wattages. By this UCI rule, the rider most likely to break a frame has a frame less able to withstand his maximum power output than the climber. If we take a guess at the climbers peak power of 1000 watts & the sprinters peak power of 1800 watts, both riders have an equally strong bike, but the climber has no ability to take it anywhere near the level required to cause damage. Surely the lighter riders should be able to race on lighter bikes?

In Practice

I understand that this may throw up additional & more complicated problems if we base it on rider weight, you’d have riders taking part on boxing style weigh-ins to hit the lowest weight possible & risk dehydration, so that’s not practical. What makes this rule even more unfair is that the UCI now have their infamous frame stickers to show which frames (and other components now) are strong enough to be allowed to be raced in UCI events. The weight limit is still in place, so bizarrely we can have a frame which has passed the UCI strength test but still cannot be built into a bike weighing less than 6.8kg.
Take another example: 2 sets of identical components, 2 different frames. Both frames have passed the UCI strength tests, record the same results & have a UCI sticker to prove it. Frame one weighs 100g more than frame 2.
Our build on frame 1 comes out at exactly 6.8kg and the bike is ok to race. The build on frame 2 comes out at 6.7kg, but this bike is banned, even though it has recorded the exact same strength measurements as frame 1. It throws the safety argument out, weight is not a measure of strength or safety, the UCI have this one very wrong.

The Answer

Hopefully we can get to a point where there is a solution, in the past pro teams have been found to place ice cubes in the seat tube for the weight-in, then the melted ice will flow out the bottom bracket holes during the very early part of the stage and the bike will be below the weight limit. Ingenious, but the UCI are onto that one now. Many track riders will also have found their steeds getting measured at national competitions around the UK, which is another absurdity, track bikes have no brakes or gears, yet have the same UCI minimum weight limit. It’s unlikely we’ll see any over zealous officials in Scottish events getting their scales out at the local Cat 4 road race, but they have every right to do so under UCI rules. The rule is plagued with badly thought out errors & does not account for any engineering material developments over the last decade, where stronger components & frames can be manufactured for less weight using state-of-the-art materials in the correct manner.
Please UCI, level the playing field, open up more technological bike development & stop placing a handicap on our skinny wee mountain climbers, they won’t break many frames, they have trouble just opening jam jars!

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

Back to the Future

The sport has yet again been brought into disrepute, this time by a repeat offender, how can we get back to a place where we can believe in our top riders, where what we see are genuine performances. It’s going to be a rocky & troubled road.

The current riders

The only chance we have of retaining any credibility in the sport, as the riders all say, the new generation of riders are in fact clean. But we cant say this is going to be the case, there’s always going to be bad apples, riders who try to do a bit of DIY doping like well-known idiot Riccardo Ricco, who kept his own blood next to the strawberry yoghurts & an old piece of stilton. He probably wouldn’t drink his chocolate milk after the sell by date, but proceeded to re-infuse a load of dead blood cells into his body, stupidity doesn’t even cover this, how he’s managed to survive to this point in his life is anybody’s guess. Ricco is an extreme example, but surely there will be plenty of others willing to take big risks if the majority of the peloton are following most of the rules, could that make a small percentage take extraordinary risks to become stars? Dope controls and testing procedures therefore need to be increased, even if the overall level of doping is reduced, otherwise you’re opening the floodgates for things to get very bad again, very quickly. The UCI & WADA really need to stay on top of this, but if they don’t start working together, it’s not going to happen, the UCI needs to change its structure.

We also have a number of riders proclaiming that it’s not anything to do with their era, this isn’t winning many fans over. Even Bradley Wiggins, who should know better, claimed that he’s never ridden against Armstrong in one interview, a glance over the 2009 top 4 Tour riders would surely raise some eyebrows to that claim. Andy Schleck is also saying it’s not his generation and things have changed, meanwhile his brother Frank is serving a doping ban from the 2012 Tour & previously was found to have paid Dr Fuentes several thousand euro’s for interval training, Dr Fuentes is famous for being a gynecologist & a blood specialist, not a master of interval sessions. The Schlecks Directeur Sportif in 2012 was Armstrong’s manager during all his annulled Tour victories, the DS who brought the Schlecks to prominence was Bjarne Riis, known as Mr 60% who went crazy on EPO to destroy Miguel Indurain. So somehow we don’t believe the Schlecks. Then we have the favourites for the 2013 Tour, Wiggins, Froome (he seems quite smart in all this, he’s keeping his mouth shut), Van Den Broek, Contador, Van Garderen, Evans etc. We all know about Contador and steak-gate, but ex US Postal rider Van Den Broek has admitted he used a doctor who is now under investigation for blood doping, he claimed he needed to see him as he needed information of what was & wasn’t on the WADA prohibited list, he could have just used this link? So a good many of the potential top 10 riders have links to dubious pasts, dubious doctors (the Sky Dr Lienders debacle) & dubious statements, if there is a new generation coming through, it’s intertwined with the old generation, it’s those people who still run the sport. Everybody likes Jens Voigt, but in his vast career he claims he’s never seen or heard anything, having ridden on CSC & Leopard Trek, even if he’s never touched the ‘hot sauce’, he’s complicit to the system by claiming nobody’s said anything to him. That’s the remaining problem, nobody’s seen anything until they themselves are implicated, nobody wants to ruin their career prospects by dishing too much dirt, if they keep their heads down then perhaps nobody will mention them.

The future

Somehow there needs to be an end to blood vector doping from doping products like EPO, these are the things that do actually turn an ordinary pro rider into a Tour winner, along with blood transfusions. Once that happens we can return to the time before 1990, since then riders who were naturally talented were perhaps forced to be absent from even pursuing pro careers, we maybe never saw the best talents on the last 20 years, they could have been hidden in the amateur ranks, unable to get the interest of the big teams. Those teams were busy recruiting ‘good responders’, riders with a naturally low hematocrit levels (HCT, the percentage of oxygen carrying red blood cells in the blood), so they could boost them massively. Consider that Armstrong was reputedly a rider with a historic HCT value of 38%, the rules allowed him to boost that to 50% without anybody asking any questions, while a more physiologically talented rider with a 48% HCT could only boost an extra 2%, that era changed the winners to losers and the losers to winners, just with the use of one drug. Spare a thought for the Colombians and other high altitude dwelling riders, they virtually disappeared over this time period, unable to boost at all with EPO as they had naturally high HCT values over 50%. I’m basing a cleaner peloton on seeing these riders returning to the top ranks of pro teams, we have a number of Colombians now racing at Pro-Tour level, this is a good sign.

If you want to read more on HCT, then there’s a very good interview with Michael Ashenden on this link.

What happens next

Without adequate testing for micro-dosing EPO, or a viable test for blood transfusions, riders will always find ways to cheat the UCI’s bio passport, whether or not they’re given any assistance. So things need to change in cycling, the responsibility lies with teams, sponsors, riders & fans. We can’t expect superhuman performances, we can’t expect 80kg riders to climb with the best Colombians, we can expect to see disastrous bad days in grand tours and riders blowing spectacularly. This is what we saw in the 80’s, that was as real as we can expect, the drugs they used didn’t make anything like the same differences to riders. The testing must increase, blood transfusions eliminated and the bio passport to become more extensive, or our sport will forever be a testing ground for the latest medical product, it can’t go on like this, we can’t have another Armstrong.

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.