Bikezilla

Ride the Puddles

Jonathan Vaughters and His Growing Power Within Professional Cycling

Posted by bikezilla on March 25, 2011


Here are some things that have been swirling around my head. Since I’m organizing them for me, I figured I’d let you read them.

— Jonathan Vaughters, president of the teams’ union(AIGCP), president of the advisory group MPCC, and head guy at Sliptstream Sports and at team Garmin-Cervelo, plus only he and God know how many other titles, has spent years quietly weaving himself into the fabric of professional cycling.

He hasn’t done it in the mafioso, underhanded, weasely way that Johan Bruyneel has, but legitimately.

Rather than becoming a Made Man, ruthless and cold, he’s taken on an ever-increasing load of responsibilities and authority.

He is, however, no less calculating and watchful than Bruyneel.

Vaughters is applying considerable effort to making his various positions meaningful. His current level of real power, regardless of how far ranging his web of connections and control may spread or seem to spread, is tenuous. It has the potential to shred and collapse almost entirely, or to firm up into something substantial.

He works at forming ideas and implementing (or at least proposing) plans to steer professional cycling in his desired direction.

He’s presented thoughts on how to reinvigorate professional cycling, he’s possibly the most important player in the fight to gain teams a voice in the governance of cycling and against the ban of race radios, he attempts to influence efforts vs doping, including suggestions for a sort of dopers rehab and for some form of punitive action vs teams when their riders fail doping controls.

Part of me thinks, “At least he’s making SOME effort. What’s anyone else doing?”.

Part of me thinks, “Great. Thanks for the ideas. Now will you PLEASE stop JUST talking and DO something with them?”

You might look at how JV’s presence creeps further and further into the world of professional cycling and think he is a power whore, just grabbing up positions of authority to strengthen his own hold on the sport and fatten his wallet.

JV isn’t paid for his work with AIGCP or MPCC, and he confirmed that via Twitter when I asked him about it. All of his work with those two groups is as a volunteer.

That’s a lot of effort for uncertain and sometimes negative reward.

Like when UCI excludes he and Gianni Bugno (head of the rider’s union) from meetings for helping organize the boycott of the Tour of Beijing.

JV said via Twitter, he takes the blows, because it doesn’t bother him like it does a lot of other team managers.

He would also seem to be a lot more patient than the other managers.

In our Twitter conversation today JV conceded that formal unionization of teams is “a long way from where we are now”. But he also stated, “. . . if the teams can show themselves that they can win just one tiny issue (the radio ban), it might encourage something more formal.”

JV has a bigger plan than what’s out there in front of the world, and he goes about guiding the events around that plan in a patient and methodical manner that most of us don’t see or appreciate.

Fighting the radio ban isn’t simply about the use of race radios, and it isn’t just about the issue of fair governance. It’s also about showing teams how to take their first baby step in discovering that they CAN have some measure of control, that they CAN share power with UCI. It’s a motivational tool.

Someone that patient and relentless is a little scary. Maybe unnerving is a better word. Or maybe I’m just sick with envy because I don’t have a patient bone in my body.

Here’s another small insight into JV’s mind. Why does he do it? I mean, why does HE do it?

He says, “Well, if I don’t do it, the teams will just muddle along in a poorly designed system. I have to try. If I fail, oh well…”

What I think is really, really interesting, is that I believe that’s exactly true.

He’s entirely willing to invest himself in this venture (and I’m not claiming to understand the full limits of what “this venture” is), to sweat, prod, push, pull, coddle, bully, to give and receive what blows there are to exchange, and whatever else may be required to see teams through to the destination that I’m not sure even JV is 100% sure of.

But if he fails? “oh well” and on to the next thing.

That makes it even harder to calculate his final goal, his final design.

Is it noble that JV is willing to toil for so long with so little reward and that he’s already accepted the possibility of complete failure?

Or is there some prize that he covets? Something of such great value that his long-suffering efforts now will be repaid with interest should he finally attain it?

What would be his aim? The presidency of UCI?

If you consider the character of Verbruggen and McQuaid, Vaughters would not seem to be the type of guy promoted to that leadership.

That would seem to be more a Jim Ochowicz, Bill Stapleton, Johan Bruyneel or even Lance Armstong thing, at least if anyone inside of UCI had a hand or a say in things.

Or maybe JV is just a selfless guy. Maybe he sees a job that needs doing, sees that no one else is gonna even try to do it, and so he puts himself out there, not really expecting so much as gratitude for the considerable time and effort he invests on behalf of so many.

Maybe he’s the Patron Saint of Cycling, fully willing to be martyred for his cause.

Maybe.

Maybe eventually his mad power grab will infuse him with the ability to cast lightning bolts and pile his desk with fat stacks of cash, but for now, not so much.

I’ve asked for some opinions on where JV may be aiming himself, about just exactly what his goals might be. No answers so far. Not even any guesses.

But I’m not the only one wondering.

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