What's Cool In Road Cycling

Comment: Absolute Bullshit.

The Giro and Tour selection process and the UCI’s seeming inability to create stability might seem to be at odds but are birds of a feather. And that bird is sitting directly over the riders…

Astana being booted is pretty sensational. Michael Ball’s Rock Racing outfit is on a different level of sensationalism to be sure, but both are news worthy partially due to the same lack of solid rules and leadership for the sport…

Rock racing is simply playing by the rules. They’ve signed eligible riders and are speaking to people that may be eligible. They’ve not broken rules, yet the guys making the rules (and a generally snobby an opinionated road racing public) are up in arms at the fact that it’s not what the sport needs right now in “the war on doping” (which also sounds strangely like our own government’s heavy use of “the war on terror” as the chief vehicle for pushing an agenda that sometimes is more about money)…

Contrast Rock to a team like Slipstream who are simply putting down harder rules than the sport requires but also making a great go of putting their riders in the unique position of having a far less stressed place to work… Personally I’ll take the Slipstream formula, but I don’t discount that both are contributing, regardless of motivation or percieved ethics…

Something I find interesting (and some humor in) is that while Jonathan Vaughters and Michael Ball are almost polar opposites, they are both advancing change for the better…

Most folks won’t see it like that and are making Ball out as a target. Fair play as the organizational side is definitely not the cycling norm, but the man is standing by his riders and making people play by the rules and in my opinion, I appreciate what Ball is doing far more than a team principal that will toss his rider out at the first sign of trouble in an effort to save his own skin…

I would rather ride in a team structured and run like Slipstream, but could it be possible that Michael Ball forcing the rules (including supporting the law suit from Kale Leogrande vs USADA) is doing more to change cycling than Jonathan Vaughters is in creating tougher rules within his team? In a way Slipstream is simply putting in a structure outside the system while Ball could ultimately be doing more to change the system it’s self.

Now for the Crap
Skip ahead to the Giro and Tour in what some will call an effort to “take the high road” by ignoring arguably the sport’s strongest team on “principle”, while allowing others with arguably more or equally dubious history to participate.

My point isn’t that Danilo Di Luca should be allowed in the Giro even though he’ll be the star with the most recently dope-related suspension. My point isn’t that CSC has a great image with the “defrocked” Bjarne Riis at the helm (regardless of the rest of the podium that year). My point isn’t that Cofidis is recently squeaky clean or that Rabobank are righteous because they say they didn’t know where the Chicken was training…

My point is that Astana isn’t really any more tainted than these teams.

What this situation clarifies is what has always been at the root of the sport’s struggles. The almost Mafia like organization of the sport…

Simply stated: Both the Grand Tour organizers and only recently to a lesser degree the UCI have simply avoided creating solid clear cut rules and taking full responsibility for what they want control over.

Why is anyone’s guess, but if you asked me, this is down to the fact that if solid rules are in place, everyone has to follow them… including the guys making the rules…

And while the sport, its athletes and sponsors would clearly benefit from the stability of a clearly defined rules process, organizers and governors would lose the constant “benefit” of having to be courted / lobbied / compensated if they eliminated the ambiguity that results in their continual flow of “decisions” rather than “rulings”…

Want a tour spot? Come see me…
Think Unibet shouldn’t be allowed to race? Come see me…
The team folded but if you want your money from the bank guarantee, come see me…
Think a certain type of equipment shouldn’t be allowed? Come see me…
Want a wildcard invitation? Come see me…
Want a stage start/finish? Come see me…
Should a rider be suspended, and for how long? Go see someone else…
Should a rider be allowed to race? Come see me / go see them
Has a team done enough to make up for past mistakes? Maybe if they came to see me…
Want a spot in all the big races? Come see me and pay mebut that’s no guarantee you will be racing, I can only guarantee that you won’t if you don’t pay me…

And one of the bigger shams…

Stripping the riders of UCI points and taking away that leverage.

Cycling is making an absolute joke of itself at the executive level and we are absolutely at a critical tipping point, much like a buss balanced on the edge of a cliff…

The problem is that the fat greedy guys simply out weigh the skinny ass riders and staff in this battle, and if governing fat cats don’t move toward credibility and the betterment of the sport, they take themselves off the cliff too.

In the past couple of years, the efforts to control doping have taken a substantial step forward in that we actually have doping being acknowledged and commented on by riders (and by acknowledgement I don’t just mean in the form of one pro dropping back and threatening someone for speaking up) as well as being addressed by teams. But the UCI are simply floundering by still allowing countries to control sentencing and enforcement…

That’s simple incompetence and can be forgiven to a degree, except that it’s enabling the Grand Tours rapaciousness.

Simply put, it’s the lack of rules and of in house organization, responsibility and enforcement that allows the ASO and RCS to use the fight against doping as a guise to make rulings against teams simply to self serving ends…

“We’re eliminating Astana on principal” is nothing more than a scam.

Either way, or rather, in both cases, the UCI and Organizers are not moving things forward enough to make the sport a better place and take full advantage of both the progress against doping and the increased popularity of the sport.

In fact, the sports executive level has done the opposite.

The power struggle and greed during the massive increase in exposure have simply lead to a far more negative perception of the sport…

We’ve in a sense demolished the Idol that was cycling… Leaving it in a heap at our feet.

That it’s happened is a shame, but it would pale in comparison to us simply gluing the broken pieces back together, putting the same false idol back onto the same foundation of greed.

The UCI are trying, but in current form and under current management are simply not nearly professional enough for the job they’ve got before them.

I made a comparison to the Mafia, and I guess I should really apologize for that…

While both the Mafia and Cycling have brutalized people while developing, the Mafia don’t deserve the insult of comparison to cycling’s leaders, as several Mafia organizations have done a better job of going legit and developing extremely successful, professional and profitable businesses…

Cycling on the other hand seems to be stuck in a struggle between the UCI who are struggling for credibility and relevance and the Grand Tours inability to see past the next short term pay day.

So what now?
Well for starters, there is one group that have finally stepped up and made a statement, but need to have the balls to go one further and put both the UCI and ASO/RCS on notice.

The CPA needs to step to the front and do so right now.

Today.

This minute.

The riders union simply has not been a strong enough force in cycling.

The day the AIGCP decided they would agree not to hire a rider, regardless of reason, beyond that rider’s suspension, the CPA should have put a stop to all racing.

I’m not saying Ivan Basso should not have been suspended and I am not for doping. But I am for following the rules and not allowing the AIGCP or anyone else for that matter to continue to make things up as they go.

Teams that are complicit in doping at any level should not be able to wash themselves of responsibility and they certainly should not be able to limit an athlete’s ability to provide for their families and themselves in any way that is not clearly defined by the governing body of the sport.

What professional cyclists (and I believe the non management support staff of teams should also be represented by either the CPA or another union) should do is start to require the people running the sport to treat them fairly.

The CPA should, quite simply, Strike.

The riders should not be subject to decisions “on the fly”. Riders should never be worried about being black balled, but it’s going to take balls to make it happen, and I don’t mean sitting in the road for a few minutes… I mean nobody should kit up and show at all…

Damn it men, you can’t make a point by riding a stage slowly and generating 7 hours of TV revenue instead of 5 and a half and call that “making a point”!

Neither can riders sit in kit on the road with frowns on their faces…

Guys when you show up full tilt in protest, you’re generating TV interest… You’re showing sponsrs logos…

And you’re giving the same people you are fighting a spotlight and a microphone to promote themselves even more…

Don’t feed the beast any longer…

Simply don’t show.

Have your fairly new president (Cedric Vasseur) call a press conference and state your case.

You should, plainly state:

• There will be no Giro and no Tour unless criteria are clearly defined for selection and rejection.

• There will be no participation in any event for any organizer than will black ball a large group of your compatriots.

• There will be no paying of dues to the UCI unless the UCI clearly define and enforce rules world wide and remove the bulk of the threat of nationally motivated race interruption.

• There will be no racing unless all riders have the full benefit of medical and disability insurance.

• There will be no racing for any team organization or governing body that try’s to enforce a rule retroactively to its establishment.

• When a team folds, there will be no racing by any of the riders on that team until all the riders on that team have had their financial situation resolved.

Gentlemen (and ladies) your livelihood is under tremendous threat.

Look no further than Unibet to see that the UCI and organizers simply do not have your best interests at heart.

In fact, the CPA can do more to ensure sponsors get their money’s worth than the sponsors themselves can, because only THE RIDERS have full control of the sport.

You have been downtrodden and forced almost into indentured servitude for decades… To some degree you also have your team leaders to blame as well, but with what’s happening to the top tier athletes at this point, with the money tightening and the sport losing its credibility and with sponsors coming and going faster than Brittney Spears through a rehab clinic, everyone now needs to step up.

I mentioned the war on drugs / war on terror above, and the ASO and RCS and lately to a lesser degree the UCI seem to have something in common with terrorists just like they do the Mafia…

Terrorists tend to want to break down society and keep people poor, starved and desperate. That’s the only way they can maintain control. To a degree, that’s what’s happening to cycling and to its riders… Happy just to have a contract or to get to participate and not fully realizing that it’s them that are empowering their oppressors.

I think it’s past time for revolutionary change. And what better place to start than Italy or France… Two places that know how to treat oppressive regimes.

The CPA needs to force the issue and stand up and take it’s place.

The power of the riders has simply never been properly heard despite the fact that they are easily the strongest voice.

You pro’s don’t owe anyone anything. You have absolutely earned your place and should stop feeling as though someone is doing you a favor by letting you slave away on the bike and ravage yourselves. You don’t owe anyone as much as you owe each other.

The time has come to effect things beyond just today.

Charles Manantan


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