News

Riders revolt with protest letter ahead of union election

The peloton disagrees with the process laid out by the CPA for its presidential vote on Thursday in Austria.

Leading riders in the men’s pro peloton are in revolt against their own riders’ association.

Just days before a scheduled presidential election for the CPA — Cyclistes Professionnels Associés — in Austria, more than two dozen riders, including recent Tour de France winners Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, have signed a letter of protest against rules for the upcoming vote.

A version of the letter obtained by VeloNews — first released on Insidethegames.biz — represents a growing howl of anger from inside the elite men’s peloton not only about voting rights but the future of the riders’ association.

Joining Thomas and Froome are a total of 27 signatory riders which include some of the biggest names in the peloton, including Alejandro Valverde, Philippe Gilbert, Greg Van Avermaet, Richie Porte, and Tom Dumoulin.

The letter was sent late last week to CPA president Gianni Bugno and it questions the voting process for the upcoming vote and demands a delay in order to change the statutes.

Under existing rules, several key nations in Europe, including France, Italy and Spain, vote in a block via delegates that includes all members of that nation’s respective licensed professionals. Individual riders can vote but they must travel to Austria on Thursday to present their choice in person. The balance means that the voting blocks control the CPA presidency, and those delegates are expected to support Bugno for a third term.

Calls for an electronic voting system have been denied by the CPA, which stated in a letter sent to riders earlier this month that it was too late to try to create a viable voting system just weeks before the election.

In a letter obtained by VeloNews sent from the 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 CPA 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 two-term Bugno is seeing a challenge from David Millar, an ex-pro who presented his candidacy last month. Speaking to VeloNews on Tuesday, Millar said he expects to lose Thursday’s vote.

“If nothing changes, the expectation is that I go to Austria and get beaten,” Millar said. “It’s as simple as that really, because the voting system is grossly imbalanced.”

The key points include calling for a delay in the election to give time to reform the voting statutes. Here are the demands, according to the letter:

• The election of CPA President be scheduled in 2019, and with enough notice to give other candidates time to prepare and put forward campaigns.
• Before the election in 2019 the CPA pass amendments to the Statutes that will give an equal vote to all professional riders and an independently managed electronic vote.
• Immediately, all riders in the peloton must receive by e-mail the financial statements through 2017 of all accounts controlled by the CPA, including the Solidarity Fund, and including any reports from external auditors that reviewed the accounts.
• Modify the proposed 27-28 September General Assembly Agenda to include appointment of an Auditor to control the finances.

Despite the protest letter, many pros say they are unable to travel to Austria in person to vote.

It appears things will be coming to a head before Thursday’s scheduled vote. Millar’s chances seem doomed, but riders are voicing their dismay and anger in such a way that changes could be coming in the future.

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 and is the only group formally recognized by the UCI. 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.

The brewing storm among the riders comes as the UCI is at loggerheads with the major teams over reform plans set to be introduced by 2020.