Commentary: How would you fix pro cycling? The UCI wants to know
Lost in the shuffle of this week’s Tour de France news was an announcement that came from our sport’s governing body, the Union Cycliste International.
The UCI, it seems, wants to improve professional road racing, and it is seeking our help in this quest. In fact, the UCI has created a survey regarding ways to improve road racing for us to fill out. And, the governing body wants to hear our ideas — no matter how bizarre they may be — in its effort to fix road racing.
From the UCI’s press release:
An on-line survey enables interested parties, until Tuesday 16 July, to give their opinion on points that may — or may not — make road cycling even more enthralling: use of earpieces by teams and their riders, use of power meters in competition, team size and budgets, format of events, how events are broadcast and provision of on-screen data during races, to cite just a few… This survey is one of the elements of a wide consultation procedure involving cycling’s stakeholders which also includes interviews with numerous people from cycling’s different extended families, and an ad hoc working group comprising representatives of road cycling’s teams, riders and organizers but also, and importantly, media and broadcasters.
Of course this effort comes amid an intense period of navel gazing within our sport, as cycling’s major stakeholders, fans, and even brands look for ways to improve cycling. Even media have gotten in on the trend: Just last month we published the soaring 10-part Rapha Roadmap on our site.
The UCI’s questionnaire wisely focuses on topics and concepts that fall under the UCI’s powers of regulation. Should cycling ban the use of power meters, race radios, or other technologies that impact the racing? How much do team budgets factor into our enjoyment of watching a race? What is the ideal team size for the Tour de France? What type of information would we like to see on your television screen during a cycling broadcast?
Now, I applaud the UCI’s step forward in this effort, and I suggest that you all click on the link and take the survey, which took me about 10 minutes to complete. The final page of the survey includes a text box where you can copy and paste in your own 100,000-word research project on how to address cycling’s various problems.
And please, after you send the UCI your ideas, send them along to us here at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would also love to read your ideas, no matter how far-out they may be.
Before I conclude this column, I feel obliged to include some of my own ideas for fixing pro cycling. Now, be forewarned: These ideas are highly unserious, and would have undoubtedly been edited out of the Rapha Report. They do not take into account pro cycling’s much-maligned business model or competition schedule.
But it’s Friday, and we just finished watching the longest stage of the Tour de France. I’m still giggling from Rupert Guinness’s report on the pranks that, decades ago, riders would play during these long and boring stages. So, without any wait, here are my not-so serious ideas for how to improve pro cycling:
Mandatory mountain-bike stunts over the peloton
— Outside Magazine (@outsidemagazine) July 27, 2018
One of my favorite July traditions is scanning YouTube for the latest edit of some daredevil mountain biker jumping over the peloton. The list of mountain bikers to use road races as their personal launchpad is long: Alexis Bosson, Dave Watson, Szymon Godziek, Romain Marandet, among others, and I highly recommend reading this column on the history of this zany feat. The first guy to attempt the stunt was Canadian Dave Watson, who in 2003 rode off a 45-foot cliff on the side of the Col du Galibier. Scary!
Now, I may be on my own island with this opinion, but I have an unlimited appetite for these big-air huck videos. And, to cater to my own personal self indulgence, my first rule is this: Mandatory mountain-bike jumps over the peloton during mountain stages. Yep, race organizers must budget in a small payment to whichever local dude bro (or bro-ette) is willing to sky over the peloton.
Zwift/Strava qualification for the Pro/Am Tour
The Rapha Report included various suggestions for how to break down the walls surrounding pro racing and to allow schmoes like you and me to compete with the pros.
Here’s an idea: What if we just ditch the pretenses and simply open our sport’s biggest race, the Tour de France, to amateur nerds from around the world? Now, there need to be standards, of course. Luckily, we live in the era of Strava and Zwift, which I believe could be used as a qualification standard for the Pro/Am Tour.
My rules are pretty simple: Beat a WorldTour pro on Zwift or on a Strava segment, and BANG!, you’re in the Tour de France. Based on my understanding of hyper-competitive amateur cyclists, nobody will try to, you know, use an e-bike on a Strava segment or fib about their weight on their Zwift account.
Tractor field art classification
The locals in France, Italy, and Belgium love to design field art with tractors. We should repay them with some type of season-long competition. Fans vote, and the winning tractor artist receives… a new tractor.
The above image, my friends, is an hors catégorie example of tractor art.
Mass-start Tour of Flanders
Again, this idea follows in the tradition of bringing the pro riders closer to the amateurs. Why not mate pro cycling’s biggest amateur sportive — We Ride Flanders surpasses 16,000 participants — with the actual race? Send all 16,000 riders bouncing out onto the cobblestones at once, and force the pro riders to navigate the chaotic We Ride Flanders peloton, where side-view mirrors and extra baggy jersey pockets are de rigueur.
Everyone must stop at the feed stations and wolf down 12 or so stroopwafels. Should any WorldTour rider fall too far behind, he must wait at the base of the Koppenberg — just like everyone else — for his turn to try and ride to the top.
Mandatory Mathieu van der Poel participation in all races
Mathieur van der Poel should be required to compete in every bicycle race. Mountain bike, cyclocross, track, road, cycle ball, bike ballet, and yes, even the indoor cycling gymnastics championships. Bike races are just better with MVDP.
Van der Poel would probably win every one of them.