The new issue of Rouleur has an excellent interview with UCI President by Herbie Sykes. While there were other issues that Mr. Sykes could have discussed one took up the majority of the interview: Expansion v. History. Doping was off the table, as per the rules of the interview (more on this later). The great radio debate is only hinted at. Sykes writes (among other things) the “Retro” column in the British magazine PRO CYCLING believes that we must maintain the history of the sport even while the sport expands into China, Russia, and South America. I understand that Rouleur is a bit pricey over here in the states, so if you have bike shop near by that has a couch you should sit down and give it a read.
I’m not going to recap the interview here (it takes up 16.5 pages of text in the magazine), but rather just throw out some ideas about McQuaid’s attempts to “square” some circles. The interview starts with the inaugural Tour of Beijing and the UCI’s attempts to add World Tour races in Russia and Africa. McQuaid brings up the fact that races are growing in Africa and Asia, which is good for the sport, but as Sykes points out we’re loosing races in cycling’s heart land. History matters!
Now seems like a good time to go back to the rules of the interview. Sykes lays them down:
One further caveat: Enrico Carpani, the UCI press officer with whom I arranged the meeting, quite correctly enquired what it was I wanted to talk about. When I explained that it was about the WorldTour and the UCI’s vision for the future of the sport he said it would be fine, but requested that I didn’t ask about doping. I agreed in principle, but specified that in the list of questions I’d prepared one related directly to the issue.
So…Doping is off the table. For Sykes, however it McQuaid five questions to blame doping for cycling’s ills in Europe. He falls back on this convenient excuse multiple times throughout the interview. I won’t claim that the doping hay days of the 90s and early 2000 haven’t had an effect on the sport. They have, though that is starting to change and will only continue to do so as those who were dominant in those days continue to retire. The focus of the UCI should be saving the sport in its homeland — where a majority of the sponsors reside — with a secondary focus on expanding the sport of Cycling’s to emerging markets.
However McQuaid has made one thing clear. For the remainder of his tenure it will be his way, or the … errr highway.
So, instead of working toward saving or upgrading races which have history, funding, and an actual base for sponsors returns, the UCI will throw its money at creating, and managing, races in places that have only the funding. Like Beijing. Which I might remind you now holds the prestigious title as last race of the season, subverting a true classic — The Tour of Lombardy.