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Back-room drama set to spice up road worlds

With the UCI pushing a major reform agenda and the CPA presidency up for election, extra intrigue surrounds the 2018 world championships.

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There will be two world championships next week in Austria. The first will be fought out on roads around Innsbruck, the second in boardrooms at race headquarters.

Back-room drama on dual fronts will produce palace intrigue against the backdrop of the 2018 world road cycling championships set to open Sunday.

There are two major issues to watch: the UCI 2020 reform initiative and the CPA elections, both set to play out next week behind closed doors during the bike races.

The UCI reform is already causing consternation among the major teams.

Members of the AIJCP sat down with UCI president David Lappartient and representatives from the rider’s group and race organizers earlier this month in Spain.

Teams said they would not accept a reduction of WorldTour teams from 18 to 15 as outlined in the UCI reform plan that would also include five Professional Continental teams and two wild-cards under a new qualifying system for grand tours. Teams are also worried about a sweeping plan for the UCI to create a commercial digital platform under control of the cycling federation that would share any would-be profits with teams and organizers.

Team representatives said the time is right for a broader discussion about the underlying business model and are insisting on a larger voice before taking on a major restructuring of cycling’s leagues.

Lappartient was not available to VeloNews, but he told last week that he is confident the reform package will find support among the major stakeholders.

“There were some questions, but in the end, we felt real support from all sides for the project,” Lappartient told “I am confident we are on the right track to reaching a global agreement.”

Teams are hoping Lappartient will incorporate their concerns into a 2020 reform document that could be voted on by the Pro Cycling Council next week. If approved, the UCI’s management committee could vote on the package next week as well.

If the reform plans are approved without the support of the teams, it could set the stage for a major battle in the coming months. It remains to be seen how far teams are willing to go if they feel their demands are rejected out of hand or if Lappartient can find support to push through the reform package.

The other major hot point will be the contested election for the president of the CPA. Gianni Bugno has headed up the pro cyclists’ group since 2010 in what’s largely a volunteer position. Upstart candidate David Millar, an ex-pro who announced his candidacy earlier this month, has drawn wide support from many riders within the contemporary peloton.

That is setting up a major showdown next week at the usually routine annual CPA meeting.

A simmering issue is voting rights among members for the election scheduled Thursday in Mutters, Austria. Under CPA rules, nations with an established riders’ group vote as a block via delegates. The most powerful groups are European-based, including Spain, Italy, and France, and they are expected to back Bugno.

The CPA recently changed its rules to allow riders to vote who are not represented by an established group. That pack of riders — which includes pros from nations with fewer riders such as Great Britain, Australia, Norway, and Germany — must attend in person to vote. Individual votes have less weight than the block delegates.

Many pros who are not competing in the world championships are not happy about the travel requirement. Electronic voting via email will not be allowed, CPA officials confirmed.

In a letter obtained by VeloNews sent from CPA to its members last week, officials said it was too late to try to introduce an electronic voting system before Thursday’s election.

“The CPA has nothing against the electronic vote,” the letter read. “It is not possible to apply it in a few weeks before the election. To change an established voting method, it is necessary to give guarantees on the integrity and validity of new methods, to avoid any manipulations of any kind. This involves time, costs [and] technologies that cannot be put in place a few weeks before the vote.”

The CPA election comes just as there is a major fracture within the pro peloton. Riders have been clamoring for changes within the CPA as well as insisting on a larger voice in major decisions made by the UCI.

The CPA is the closest thing that professional cycling has to a rider’s union but long-simmering voices of discontent are coming to the fore. Rider groups from Belgium and the Netherlands recently broke away from the CPA, and Millar’s final-hour candidacy reveals further cracks. A recently formed women’s group — The Cyclists’ Alliance — chose to organize independently from the CPA.