Bruyneel slates UCI, doesn’t rule out rumours of a rival league
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bruyneel slates UCI, doesn’t rule out rumours of a rival league

by VeloNation Press at 9:20 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Says UCI treats people ‘like kids’

Johan BruyneelTeam RadioShack general manager Johan Bruyneel has criticised cycling’s world governing body, claiming that it doesn’t do anything to develop the sport and doesn’t allow new advances to be introduced.

The Belgian has been one of the strongest critics of the radio ban, and has also been linked by UCI President Pat McQuaid to a rumoured rival league, which could debut in 2012.

“The UCI does nothing for the evolution of cycling. They always take a step back in time instead of evolving our sport,” he said in an interview on the website. “They take a stand against technology and forbid new things. You can not get around that professional cycling is a business where huge commercial interests are at stake.”

One of the issues that Bruyneel complains about is the ban on race radios. The communication devices are currently permitted in WorldTour events only, and will be phased out of those next year.

The teams’ association AIGCP has voiced its opposition to the ban, saying that radios are important for safety and other aspects. The UCI is working on a compromise measure, and argues that it wants riders to take decisions for themselves in races, thus minimising the impact that sports directors have.

Bruyneel said that he rejects the latter notion. “I have said to Pat McQuaid many times that I don’t know any relation between a boss and an employee where the boss cannot give orders. If you pay someone, then you must be able to give them direction.

“McQuaid complains that riders do not make their own decisions. That's right. Indeed, riders in a team have no total freedom to decide on tactics. If I have a leader and if I have a strategy, then everyone must respect that strategy. A rider who does not agree will have a problem with me. Or he can choose to ride for another team.

“It is not up to the UCI to decide whether I can do that or not. The UCI must realize that we have commercial interests to defend and that professional cycling in the first place is a TEAM sport. No, riders can not completely decide for themselves. If McQuaid accuses us of preventing them from disobeying us, he is right.”

Suspension and rival league:

Bruyneel is currently suspended due to the RadioShack team’s wearing of non-regulation jerseys on the final day of last year’s Tour de France. They started the race with black jerseys bearing the motif ‘28’, referring to the number of millions of people living with cancer at this point in time.

The UCI stated that while one-off kit changes are permitted, the team did not attempt to clear this with the commissaires, as is required. The team was forced to change into its regular kit, disrupting the final stage of the Tour.

That might have escaped penalty but the situation was provoked again when the team wore the jerseys for the podium presentation. Bruyneel also criticised the UCI on Twitter, but later apologised for this. He was handed a two month ban by the governing body, running from February to March.

During that time, he has hinted that he has plans for 2012 which might run contrary to the UCI. One example is his Tweet of March 17th, when he said “When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right." - Victor Hugo.”

McQuaid told VeloNation yesterday that Bruyneel is one of the main forces behind plans to set up a rival league to the UCI.

“I have heard about these rumours for several weeks now. This discussion has been going on, it has been led by a couple of team directors. I know [Johan] Bruyneel was involved. [Bjarne] Riis may have been involved too,” he said.

“Meetings have taken place in London and also in parts of Europe with business people in relation to teams investing a certain amount of money and those business people investing a certain amount of money. They would create something out of that, they think they can set up a private league.”

HLN asks Bruyneel about these claims. He initially plays down talk of a rival setup, but later hints that there could be some substance to talk of a future split.

“McQuaid quotes from a blog of mine. I checked what I wrote. If he makes an association with something on which he is stressed, that's his problem. RadioShack’s contract ends this year and maybe I have spoken with companies about a new sponsorship contract. Maybe I want to leave cycling. Or maybe I am talking about something from my private life. McQuaid makes his own conclusions in an open letter to riders and dares to send similar letters with similar content to organizers…"

"Of course there are rumours. Teams come together to exchange opinions. We must unite and stand up for each other. That is also a consequence of the way the UCI has treated us. In his open letter McQuaid attempts to disrupt the unity. His approach is to divide and conquer and that is very short-sighted. He tries to create discord between riders and team leaders. It is a desperate letter.”

"Whatever comes - a private league, a system like in Formula 1, or anything else, cycling will not exist without the UCI, I presume. The UCI remains the authoritative body of cycling and the professional cycling teams. But if a number of teams come together it already seems to be a problem for the UCI. Then there are calls and threats. You know, we don’t care anymore about the threats of McQuaid. If he goes on the way he has been going, maybe we will stop with everything or maybe something else will happen.”

Says teams have no input into decisions:

Pat McQuaid told VeloNation yesterday that while the UCI’s management committee won’t ever have a team representation – and that it is the same in other sports – that the governing body does take input from others prior to major decisions. He said that there is scope to be heard and to contribute to debate.

The AIGCP has said that it doesn’t believe this to be the case; Bruyneel says the same, using what he said are specific examples.

“There are so many committees within the UCI. McQuaid can always hide himself somewhere and give the responsibility to an obscure committee. He speaks of the Conseil du Cyclisme Professionnel, but that committee has no vote. And the Management Committee is not elected democratically at all,” he said.

“I attended a UCI meeting in Geneva. It lasted six hours and brought us nothing. In the last week of February, Bjarne Riis, Patrick Lefevere and Harold Knebel traveled again to Geneva. After five minutes they understood that their opinion was not desired in the debate. They returned home angry. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Bruyneel claims that he and others feel like they are being treated like ‘little kids,’ and is critical of the UCI’s chief. “If you persist in misrepresentation as Pat McQuaid does, then you are not a good president.”

Given that he has already been suspended, in part for criticising the UCI, it will be interesting to see if his comments will lead to further issues. Bruyneel is clearly impatient with the current situation, and indeed states that he will fight on as regards the issue of communicating with his riders. He said that he will persist, whether or not radios are allowed.

“Again about those radios: the UCI may ban the radios, but it will not prevent me from communicating with my riders. If no radios, then I will give my instructions in a different way,” he said. “As long as I’m in a race, I will give instructions to my riders. The only way to prevent me from doing that is to kick me out."


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