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Pat McQuaid and UCI and the Open Letter to Riders

Posted by bikezilla on March 20, 2011


HERE is the linked Open Letter to Riders.

I’m not summerizing the letter, I’m giving my thoughts on sections of it. So, if you haven’t read it, doing so would make following this article easier.

— Pat begins by telling riders that “discussions are heated”. He fails to mention that this “heat” is the result of UCI arrogance, its heavyhanded use of power and its refusal to negotiate important aspects of the rules with those that they most affect; riders and teams.

— He blames “others” for making the situation “increasingly tense and therefore extremely difficult”, but fails to acknowledge that the tenseness and difficulty are directly related to the above mentioned behavior on the part of himself and UCI.

— He admonished “respect from both sides”, yet UCI has shown none at all.

For instance, excluding AIGCP president Jonathan Vaughters and CPA’s Gianni Bugno from meetings as retaliation for a planned boycott of the Tour of Beijing.

That disrepects not only Vaughters and Bugno, but the teams and riders that their organization represent.

In fact, the entirety of McQuaid’s words and actions seems designed to ensure UCI’s continued unfettered and unchecked power and that said power will be shared with noone.

McQuaid wants to break any formal efforts to unionize, because he doesn’t want teams and riders to have a hand in advancing and safegaurding their own destinies as well as the destiny of professional cycling.

The irony is, that if McQuaid had simply been more reasonable and less overbearing in his decisions, then teams and riders would likely have been content to allow UCI to reign unchallenged for years or even decades more.

It’s McQuaid’s own words and actions that have brought us to this “increasingly tense and therefore extremely difficult” crossroads.

— McQuaid tells riders that the threatened boycott in Beijing and similar “actions and the ultimatums” will only see things heat up further.

He wants this to seem to say that barring any of that, that we’d see fair and reasonable progress in the ongoing debate regarding radios.

But that’s not really what he’s saying at all.

Because he spends much of his remaining time giving us all the reasons that UCI’s actions regarding the radio ban are fair, reasonable and just, and that UCI is and will be unflinching in this matter.

No, what McQuaid really means when he says that things would be less heated, is that we would go back to the status quo. He means that we would continue down the same decaying road, with UCI expanding its power unchecked and with teams and riders ever more irrelevant in the overall scheme of UCI’s plan.

— Pat wonders,”what will set off the next conflict after that of the earpieces”.

He’s willfully missing the point that this isn’t so much about earpieces / radios as it is about the sharing of power and teams and riders having a say in their governance.

The situation will not stablize until THAT issue is satisfactorily resolved.

What would it take to see that stabilization?

1. Teams and riders formally unionizing.

2. A formal contract and collective bargaining agreement involving those three entities.

You may even need to include manafacturers and organizers on some level, in some way.

Alternately, and this idea is seeing rapidly increasing support, teams and riders could leave UCI entirely and rebuild things from the ground up with their own system.

Tennis did this. It was an ugly and painful, but necessary process. And the sport of tennis is better and healthier today because a few brave and selfless individuals were willing to put everything on the line and endure what pain there was to suffer.

That’s another big problem; teams and riders want change, but they want it to be painless and easy. They lack the guts and the resolve to do the hard things.

Here’s the only piece of information anyone really needs to understand McQuaid’s first motivation for the race radio ban:

“I begin by informing you that in 2008 I was convened to a meeting with the biggest producer of television images of cycling, France Television, and was told by senior executives clearly that if radios were retained in cycling and used as they were being used that the coverage of cycling on television would be reduced.”

Money. Reduced coverage, reduced exposure, reduced sponsorship, reduced revenues.

It’s a big one and understandable.

But that doesn’t excuse UCI’s unreasoning, overbearing, uncompromising arrogance in its formulation of the ban.

Compromises are possible. But, McQuaid is more interested in flexing his political muscle than in the interests of teams, or of riders or of the sport.

— While McQuaid makes a valid point regarding communication of information, he willfully “forgets” that because there is no formal unionization there is also no formal representative system and no official hierarchy for transferring information to the masses.

But the fact remains that AIGCP and CPA both had all of last season that they could have been working on some form of compromise.

Instead all we got was a hastily thrown together rider initiated protest for one radio-free test Stage during the Tour de France. That rider protest saw no input or support from AIGCP or CPA.

Where were the very organizations that are and were supposed to represent these teams and riders? Why haven’t they given a word of explanation for their extended silence and belated participation in this struggle?

And if AIGCP and CPA were negligent, then riders must share in the responsibility for that negligence.

Why is it that less than 25% of AIGCP’s membership bothered to respond to then-president Cedric Vasseur’s inquiry for or against the radio ban?

There’s no guarantee that UCI would have listened to their united voices even then. But, they were at least given the opportunity to contribute their opinions and they couldn’t be bothered.

Doesn’t that make the riders themselves at least partially responsible for the position they find themselves in now?

— I find it interesting to see McQuaid implying that riders are being coerced into acting and thinking maliciously against him, and not only because this makes him seem to suffer paranoid delusions.

First, because UCI itself is clearly attempting to strongarm, bully and intimidate anyone involved in the efforts on behalf of teams and riders.

For instance, as mentioned above, their exclusion of Vaughters and Bugno from recent meetings as punishment for their intention to organize the boycott of the Tour of Beijing.

Second, because McQuaid (Verbruggen before him) and UCI have always been complicit in the mafioso culture of doping within professional cycling. They coerce riders into doping, then protect teams, managers, medical staff and organizers while squashing “doped” riders and anything they have to say.

Third, because there is no hardcore structure, like formal unions, in place to put pressure on riders and teams to join against UCI. That is, by the way, a reason that I despise unions and worry about the potential negative effect they might have over the long term. But that’s for another time.

But if McQuaid and UCI are deceptive about issues and the reasons that things are as they are, then AIGCP is no innoncent.

Here’s a long quote from a recent Bikezilla article:

“Finally, it does seem that AIGCP president Jonathan Vaughters has misrepresented the issue, claiming that radio communications of a purely safety based nature would turn cycling from a team sport to an individual sport.

His premise assumes that riders are incapable of communication amongst themselves. The evidence of cooperation between riders in any break should easily dispel that, as should the fact that cycling was a team sport long before the introduction of race radios.

Or should we believe that this year’s slate of radio-free races has been nothing but a free-for-all of individuals and a total abandonment of the team concept?

I didn’t think so.”

— Regarding direct communication with rider / players: Both McQuaid and Vaughters make valid points.

There is no other major sport that refuses communication with riders / players — Vaughters

There is no other major sport that allows constant, unrestricted communication between the coaching staff or management and riders / players — McQuaid

There’s lots and lots of room for compromise in this, and many ways that such a compromise might be achieved.

But McQuaid insists on zero communication between the DS and riders, while Vaughters insists on unlimited and unrestricted communication.

McQuaid is undoubtedly selfish and unreasonable on this issue, but is Vaughters any less selfish? Any less unreasonable?

— Again I have to say, that if safety is a valid concern, as McQuaid has finally acknowledged, then is it not incumbent upon UCI to lift the radio ban until such time as that issue is resolved?

I agree that Vaughters and Jens Voigt and many others grossly overstate the danger involved in racing without radios. To be honest, I greatly resent this fact and the feeling of being manipulated and disrespected in this manner.

But even if the potential for death or injury is only a tiny fraction of what we’re supposed to believe (according to Vaughters and riders), and if the temporary unrestricted use of radios would alleviate that danger, then isn’t it only sensible that the ban be delayed until this can be thoroughly remedied?

— I give you a direct quote from the Open Letter, because I agree with it so completely.

“The sporting aspects of the race can also be interpreted differently depending on the view of each person. Jens, if a rider loses a race in the last kilometres, his directeur sportif and his sponsor will most certainly be unhappy. However, somewhere in the line of cars following the event, there will be someone who is delighted; therefore allow me not to go back to this argument. It is swings and roundabouts: one day it is you and your team another day it is another. Except maybe to deduce that this point in your letter is probably the most meaningful to explain the enormous danger that hides behind this discussion, but which apparently you are not aware of: the denial of the fundamental values of sport.”

This reminds me of the “bad call” argument for using instant replay in NFL (American football) games. To my mind instant replay is unneeded, because in the end there is balance. Your team has a bad call go agaisnt them today, but over the course of the season the bad calls tend to balance, and human error will never be eliminated. Do you just keep applying more and more interference with the game in an effort to eliminate every possible occurance of a missed or bad call?

Let the players play, let the riders ride.

That’s not to say that I support the radio ban, only that McQuaid makes point that’s worth considering.

— McQuaids PUBLIC stance on doping is identical to his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen’s. He pretends that it is entirely the fault of riders. He feigns ignorance of his awareness of the enormous fiscal and logistical burden associated with doping. These burdens require the complicity of teams, of managers, of doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and of the UCI, WADA and IOC.

McQuaid is not only a hypocrite but a coward and a bully, and he is only representitive of the cancer rampant within UCI entire.

It’s clear that if professional cycling is ever to resemble “clean”, that UCI must be removed.

— McQuaid finally acknowledges that this is NOT about radios, but “power and control”.

As I’ve said before, UCI has all the power and they do not feel motivated to share it. If things are to level out for teams and riders, then power will have to be taken forcefully.

McQuaid is so blinded by his own need to rule without challange or reason that he cannot see that the time has come where he has two choices:

1. He can lead the effort to integrate professional cycling’s power structure with teams and riders (and possibly others).

2. Or he can fight until the bitter end, and lose all that he fights for.

Change is coming. How ugly and chaotic the battle for that change will be, is largely in Pat McQuaid’s hands.

I have no faith in McQuaid’s character, nor in his capacity for reason or altruism.

Be prepared for the worst, and don’t be surprised when the casualties begin mounting.

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One Response to “Pat McQuaid and UCI and the Open Letter to Riders”

  1. SuperFred said

    This is the bucket that holds McQuaid’s bullshit:

    “– McQuaids PUBLIC stance on doping is identical to his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen’s. He pretends that it is entirely the fault of riders. He feigns ignorance of his awareness of the enormous fiscal and logistical burden associated with doping. These burdens require the complicity of teams, of managers, of doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and of the UCI, WADA and IOC.

    McQuaid is not only a hipocrit but a coward and a bully, and he is only representitive of the cancer rampant within UCI entire.”

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