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« Cyclists Misbehaving | Main | 1975 Tandem »


As countries around the world ruled by Kings and Dictators, rather than democratically elected governments fight for their freedom; it seems the UCI, the world governing body of the sport of cycling has its own dictator in the form of President Pat McQuaid. (Above.)

The former Irish pro bike rider has managed to piss off just about everybody, from the bike industry, to the promoters and now the professional cyclists. Without all of these different entities there would be no sport of cycling, and yet he still he remains in office.

Unfortunately we need organizations like the UCI just as countries need governments, democratic or not. Within separate countries there are smaller local governments, and usually within a democratic society these too are elected officials that can be voted out of office.

In theory that is. In practice there are cities within democratic countries where local mayors and other officials have been in power twenty or more years, about the length of time many of the world’s dictators have held on to power. Often they stay in power because there is no alterative candidate to oppose.

And so it goes on in any society, below any system of government there are smaller systems run by officials, some paid some not. Many unpaid volunteers do a job out of love for what they do, or for the benefit of the group as a whole.

It might be a group as small as a ladies sewing circle, or an athletic club; when the group gets beyond a certain size it needs structure in order to continue. That means a set of rules, and elected officials to oversee the day to day running of the club or organization.

I always tended to shy away from holding any official position within a cycling club where I was a member. I did on many occasions act as event organizer for bike races, it was something I enjoyed doing, but that was as far as my bike officialdom went. I was like the majority of members in any cycling club; I just wanted to race and ride my bike.

Here I have to generalize in my observations, which can be a mistake because there are always exceptions to the generalization. But over the years I have seen two types of people who become officials in cycling clubs.

There are the nice guys, they are the ones who step up because they have the ability to organize and do the job. Often it is time consuming and no one else wants the job, so they volunteer for the benefit of the group as a whole.

Then there are the control freaks; they want to see the job done their way, and by volunteering they will be in charge ensuring that things are run according to their way of thinking.

When it comes to club level elections of officials, the nice guys will often only take on the job only if no one else wants to do it, but if there is someone else willing to run they will not oppose. So the controlling types tend to end up in charge.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not necessarily a bad thing. A bike store owner may start a local club and put money into it. This could be considered a private enterprise, and not particularly democratic, but as long as it benifits the members what harm is there?

Also at a club level if the membership does not like the way things are run, they will leave and join another club, or form a new one.

It becomes a problem when it reaches National or World level as is currently happening with the UCI. We have a person in charge that is running this organization the way he and his cronies see fit. Not necessarily a way that is for the greater benefit of the sport.

The UCI President in theory could be voted out of office; however, the average members of clubs affiliated to their National Cycling bodies cannot do this. And like getting your local mayor out of office you also need a strong candidate to oppose the incumbent.

The only group with any power to oppose the Pat McQuaid and the UCI right now are the professional cyclists. Their demand of representation before major rule changes are made is not unreasonable.

Does the UCI need the professional cyclists more than the Pros need the UCI? It is going to be interesting.



Reader Comments (5)

Jonathan Vaughters for president!

I have to admit I was originally in favour of the radio ban. However, given the eloquence and honesty which JV (please excuse the unwarranted familiarty) speaks and writes on the subject, and the larger issue of representation with the UCI as a whole, my opinion has been changed. Cycling needs people like that in charge, not those who seemingly see the sport as their personal plaything.

Just my $0.02...

March 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark Roberts

I too was initially of the opinion that cycle racing had managed so far without radios, why do they need them now, but you can’t halt technology and progress.
Also this is not just about radios, it is about having a say in the implementing of new rules. Just as the bike industry or membership has not had any say on the “Approved” bike issue.
When I was in bike biz I sponsored three different racing teams and a few individual riders. Today, as a small business I could not do that because I could not afford the UCI fees to have my bikes approved.

March 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I hadn't followed the whole "UCI Approved" fiasco that closely so wasn't aware it was another UCI diktat.

I agree that it is more about representation than radios. However the radio issue seems to have become the nexus, at least in the eyes of the cycling public. The Cycling News Article seemed to be the UCI saying we don't have to listen to you if we don't want to and we're free to ignore you when we don't like what you have to say. So, in other words, a dictatorship :)

Given the UCI has to "represent the best interests of the sport" I'm not sure pissing off the teams, riders, manufacturers and suppliers is particularly sensible strategy. Without those you don't have much of a sport left...

March 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark Roberts

I've avoided racing because of the UCI. I wouldn't want to give them any race fees. I'm no racer, but it would be fun. I would say I'm voting with my feet ( or wheels). It's a horrible organization which has just about ruined pro cycling in the eyes of the public. The entire doping issue is because of the way they handle it. They dictate the bike design to an absurd degree. Now it will be communication device to be stymied. They really have held back bicycling for many years.

Let be rid of rid.


March 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEric W

Spot on, Dave. Too often, local government, school boards and other civic bodies are run by small-minded dictator types that are attracted to power and seeing things done their way. Then again....these are sometimes the only people that offer to hold these necessary positions.

Similarly, the UCI, IOC and national governing bodies are invite-only, backroom, gentlemen's organizations that have for a sole purpose the increase of their own power and control. Look at the blatant abuse of power the Spanish cycling federation just displayed in the Contador affair. What makes these guys worse than (democratic) govts is that you can elect another senator, president, etc.

March 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBig Mikey

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