Brian Cookson says negotiations regarding the overhaul of cycling's calendar are ongoing between the UCI, race organizers, and teams
Cycling’s makeover is still very much a work in progress.
That’s according to UCI president Brian Cookson, who told VeloNews it’s still too early to reveal a detailed roadmap on how elite men’s road cycling will look in the coming years.
Many were expecting more specifics to come out of a two-day WorldTour seminar last week in Switzerland, but Cookson said there is still no consensus among the major players about a planned reconstruction of the elite men’s racing calendar set for the 2017 racing season.
“Where we are at the moment, it’s still very much a work in progress,” Cookson told VeloNews. “The UCI, the teams, and the race organizers have different ideas on how things might work. The important thing is to keep talking and keep everyone at the table.”
Cookson admitted that refitting the expansive racing calendar is a complicated project, but rejected that negotiations have stalled or broken down, or the notion of any sort of ultimatum by the part of the cycling governing body.
“Sooner rather than later, we hope to put something in the public domain that’s acceptable to everyone,” Cookson said. “I am a little bit frustrated, but we have a good group of people, from the teams, the organizers, to the UCI, trying to make this work. It’s not easy. Sometimes you have to give a little bit to find a mutually beneficial resolution.”
The UCI is hoping to have a new calendar ready to be implemented by the 2017 season, which could include a tighter racing schedule, fewer race days, and smaller pro teams. Many agree that today’s sprawling calendar, from January to October, is too long and too jumbled. How that new-look calendar is shaping up, however, is still very much a point of contention.
The established major races, such as the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, are resistant to calls to reduce the number of race days in the grand tours. One major tenet of the reform effort is eliminate the overlapping of major races, such as Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, which coincide during March. Even smaller, weeklong races are not keen to give up race days, but something has got to give if a compromise can be hammered out for a more streamlined calendar.
Cookson refused to put a drop-dead date on the negotiations or press for heavy-handed tactics, and said it’s essential to keep everyone at the negotiating table.
“There is general agreement that cycling has to have a more coherent calendar, with less demands on the riders, with the best riders and the best teams in the major events,” Cookson continued. “I do not want to get into a situation where one side is dictating everything. We are working toward something that is agreeable to everyone.”
That’s clearly proving complicated. A series of meetings, informal discussions, and serious negotiations over the past year has failed to reach a general consensus. It appears there is a logjam among race organizers over a reduction of race days, especially based on what was released by the UCI as a broad blueprint last year.
“We’ve made some steps forward, and taken one or two steps back, or even treading water,” he said. “The reality is if this thing was pushed ahead more or less as it was covered months ago, that would have led to a breakdown with relationships. We have to keep talking.
“I want to reassure everyone this is no big fallout. We’re responsible adults, and we are working together to try to find a solution that works for everyone, and that’s not always easy.”
What Cookson wants to avoid is a replay of the major showdown over the initial WorldTour project that was handed down arbitrarily by then-UCI president Hein Verbruggen in 2005. That resulted in an ugly battle between the governing body and the major race organizers, led by powerful Tour owner Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO).
“What I am trying to do is lead, not trying to dictate, and get a situation where we can build consensus,” Cookson continued. “To my way of thinking, cycling is not Formula One, not football; I am not Bernie Ecclestone or Sepp Blatter. That’s not the way to govern sport in the modern era. Every since I’ve been elected, I’ve tried to build consensus. We’ve got to try to build on that, and that’s not always easy. The only way is to keep talking.”
Cookson said more informal talks and working groups will continue, and suggested something more detailed could be revealed early in 2015 to coincide with UCI management committee meetings scheduled in January and February.