What direction will the winds of change take?

News & Results

12/4/2012| 1 comment
by Neil Browne
Jaimie Fuller and Greg LeMond at the Change Cycling Now press conference

What direction will the winds of change take?

Is change in the wind or is it the sweet scent of revenge?

We can all agree that the UCI needs a complete overhaul from the top managerial level. To be clear: Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen must go.

Anyone who looks at the UCI’s history of intimidation of whistle blowers knows that McQuaid and Verbruggen are the major factors that have put the sport of professional cycling in its dire situation. Anyone who dared speak out about doping was threatened with lawsuits or maligned in press as “scum bags.”

In response Jaimie Fuller, head honcho at compression clothing company Skins, filed a lawsuit against the UCI for damages against his company claiming that McQuaid’s mismanagement of cycling damaged the brand reputation of Skins as they sponsor cycling teams and riders.

Some people scoffed at the lawsuit claiming it was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Others saw it as a legitimate and ballsy action against the sport’s governing body to enact change. From there Fuller’s plan of attack morphed into something called Change Cycling Now (CCN).

The Change Cycling Now group got together this past weekend in London to discuss how cycling can be changed. That irritated the former and now disgraced RadioShack team director Johan Bruyneel who called the group of people “douchebags” and recommended that Team Garmin-Sharp director Jonathan Vaughters should be a part of that group. Bruyneel must be psychic as indeed Vaughters was a surprise guest at the London meeting.

Bruyneel’s tactic is straight from the Lance Armstrong book of flaccid passive-aggressive attacks. What’s funny is this comment is coming from a person who is soon to be a cautionary tale in the annals of cycling. But I digress...

What and who is Change Cycling Now?

The group consists of several cycling luminaries such as journalists Paul Kimmage and David Walsh, Michael Ashenden, Jörg Jaksche, Jonathan Vaughters, Greg LeMond, Eric Boyer and of course Skins chairman Jaimie Fuller.

Rounding out the group was Professor John Hoberman from the University of Texas who according to Velonews “has dedicated nearly three decades of his life to studying doping in sport. Specifically, Hoberman has examined how performance- and image-enhancing drugs intersect with forces as large as international geopolitics and finance, and as mundane as our everyday human ambitions.” That seems like a good person to have as part of a group trying to wrestle with doping in professional sports.

Also attending was Richard Gorman, owner of Trois Etapes, Antoine Vayer – professor of sports and Andy Layhe – co-founder of Bike Pure.

In addition to former pro Vaughters, a couple of other former pro riders were sitting in: Gianni Bugno and Christophe Bassons.

Representing the fans of cycling were Scott O’Raw - co-founder of the Velocast podcast and Festinagirl – owner of an anonymous Twitter account who is a fan of cycling and described on the Change Cycling Now Web site as “social media mover.”

Reading from their “Charter of the Willing” the group believes a truth and reconciliation process needs to take place and “zero tolerance needs to be put on hold.” But it’s not all about holding hands and singing Kumbaya.

After a period of time truth and reconciliation will end and riders found positive for doping will be severely dealt with. And the UCI “shall develop a voice which is not dictatorial and aggressive but recognizes strong leadership which promotes confidence, trust, unity and transparency.” That’s code language for “McQuaid must go.”

In my opinion Change Cycling Now is a good start to the needed process of changing cycling. The CCN project has some powerful people involved, but there are some legitimate questions that must be asked.

All of the attendees make money from cycling. Not a bad thing, but would this lead to bias?

How many of these people have an axe to grind against the UCI or Lance Armstrong and are they using this as a method to strike back?

Representatives for the fans of cycling are two people who are on Twitter, one of them being anonymous. Does this mean you have to be on Twitter to be recognized as a fan of cycling? While I follow both those people on the micro-blogging social media platform and they seem like decent people who are fans of the sport, I’m not sure that qualifies a person to represent the fans of cycling in general. That’s a big responsibility. There’s no way I would dare take on the mantle of representative of cycling fans. In fact I’m not sure who fits that bill.

Since the Change Cycling Now press conference wrapped up I’ve gotten press releases and news from the weekend’s pow-wow. One news item that grabbed my attention is that LeMond is willing to be the the future president of the UCI if asked. As Velonation’s Shane Stokes points out LeMond has no experience with this type of role. Being president of any organization, from governing a country to your local Parent Teacher Association, requires a certain degree of people skills to get anything done. Does Mr. LeMond hold those skills? LeMond goes on to say that Michael Ashenden could be a better choice or Dick Pound, former president of WADA who has led a large organization.

I do recognize Change Cycling Now is a start and there will undoubtedly be some growing pains. Their immediate goal is admirable when you boil it down: Cycling that we can watch that is legitimate and real and not ruled by the few in their quest for power and control. Change Cycling Now is trying to gain supporters through social media and is trying to drive people to sign their online petition to remove McQuaid – a fine idea. Kimmage pointed out that some media have been complicit in building the false Armstrong legend – another valid point. But where to go from here?

Without a doubt the momentum for change is there. The Kimmage Fund was proof of that as cycling fans and other people donated money to support the journalist in his legal battle against the UCI (as of this morning the ChipIn for Kimmage has passed US$92,000).

Let’s just not get caught up in drinking the CCN Kool-Aid. We need to proceed with caution. It’s important to remember Rome was not built in a day and changing the UCI in a thorough and significant way will be a long haul requiring more than a couple of online petitions. It has been reported that Mr. Fuller has footed the bill of CCN. That will have to come to an end at some point. Where will future funding come from? We also need more than a feel-good choice for a new president of the UCI. Yeah, it would be a huge vote of no confidence to the UCI if LeMond was nominated as president, but other than that what would it bring about?

As mentioned before, Change Cycling Now is beyond a doubt a start. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the organization will stay true to the cause.

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When you're calling someone a "twit", make sure the correction you're suggesting is, in fact, correct. It is not "over hall", you twit, it's an "overhaul".

Neil, top-notch work, as ever. I'm looking forward to seeing where this CCN movement leads.