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CPA’s balance of power could change with influx of new members

The professional riders union is expanding its membership base which could lead to a sea change in how it pushes for reform and change.

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The Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA), the closest thing professional riders have to a union, is set to expand dramatically from an organization representing just eight nations to a true global entity representing the 44 countries from which pro riders hail. That’s according to representatives of ANAPRC, the CPA’s North American member, who say the evolution of the organization into a proper athletes’ union will have a transformative effect on cycling.

“With the weight of 44 nations behind us, we’re going to have some clout,” said Lucas Euser, a founding board member of ANAPRC and former pro for UnitedHealthcare. “We can do more than just take to Twitter.”

The CPA’s poor global representation has led it to be largely ignored by much of the pro peloton, apathy that has made it powerless against the sport’s major players. But Euser, who helped found ANAPRC, sees an expanding role for the CPA. Where race organizers—primarily Tour de France owner ASO — the UCI, and, to a lesser extent, the teams have waged war amongst themselves, a true athletes’ union would give riders a powerful voice in any discussions over the future of cycling.

“I have 100 percent faith that it’s something that can happen,” Euser said. “In the next three to five years we’ll see some incredible changes. There’s a big power struggle with ASO, RCS, UCI, Velon, and the CPA. The demand that the riders put on these organizations needs to be taken a little more seriously.”

The CPA voted on and approved its own expansion at its annual December meeting. It will add eight new national conglomerates, doubling the number of seats with voting power. Smaller cycling nations will be grouped together, much as the ANAPRC has done with the United States and Canada. Representatives from the UK, Scandinavia, and South Africa will be added. The precise groupings have not yet been released, and CPA president Gianni Bugno has not responded to requests for comment.

The organization also lowered barriers of entry for new members, removing stringent funding and non-profit status requirements that had deterred riders from smaller countries from joining. It will also pay to fly delegates to its meetings, taking financial burden off members with less funding.

Since its founding in 1999, the CPA has had only seven member nations on its board — France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Portugal. It added a North American seat (ANAPRC) in 2015. But with roughly 400 male professional riders spread across at least 44 countries, it was never truly representative of an increasingly global sport.

As the sport’s politics raged around it, the CPA rarely pushed its own agenda. The group’s stand this year for an extreme weather protocol, which has since been adopted by the UCI, was its first major policy ambition in some time. It is responsible for negotiating the Joint Agreement between riders and teams, which its bylaws state it must complete every two years, but the last Joint Agreement is from 2013.

As the UCI and Tour de France organizer ASO sparred over planned reforms, the CPA remained ostensibly neutral but in fact supported the ASO’s position. The move was one example of deeply entrenched differences within the CPA, largely split between old cycling nations and newer ones. The increase in global representation could therefore swing the balance of power within the CPA.

Given its internal differences, the CPA will first focus on areas in which its members agree, according to Euser. Workplace safety and closing an ever-widening income gap in the professional ranks, where riders at the top make millions of euros and those at the bottom are forced to return part of their salary to the team, top the list. “We need to take care of the income gaps in our sport, it’s gotten out of hand,” he said. “We need to have collective bargaining, we need to be able to go to teams and UCI and ASO as a whole, not just individuals. We need to be a strong organization rather than let the team represent us.”

The CPA’s move to double its membership is a step toward that ideal. A true rider’s union, in the mold of tennis’s ATP, would have the power to transform cycling’s messy politics, putting CPA in the same league as ASO, UCI, and team organization AIGCP. Today, riders are often an afterthought in cycling’s high-level discussions.

“Why can’t the CPA run the sport alongside the UCI? Why is the conversation only between the UCI and ASO? We need to have a stronger voice in all this,” Euser said.