Iwan Spekenbrink, the president of the AIGCP teams association and the manager of the Team Giant-Alpecin, believes that the planned reforms to professional cycling revealed by Cyclingnews on Monday are widely supported by the different stakeholders in the sport, including teams, race organisers, riders and the UCI, who have lead the work to improve the structure and rules of the WorldTour. Despite obstruction from Tour de France organizer ASO, Spekenbrink is hopefully the reforms will eventually be approved and go on to help create a more stable future for professional cycling.
The proposed reforms would allow for an expanded WorldTour calendar, without cutting the length of any current races. It will also allow teams to opt out of any new races. Teams would be reduced to between 23-25 riders and current WorldTour teams would be given a three-year licence for an interim period of 2017-2020, while details of a final reform to take place after 2020 are hashed out.
Spekenbrink wanted to respond to what he considers as “innaccuries” made by UCI vice-president and president of the French Cycling Federation David Lappartient in an interview with Cyclingnews.
Despite being involved in the development of the reform proposals, Lappartient sided with ASO and voted against the reforms in a key meeting of the UCI Professional Cycling Council (PCC) on June 16. The PCC is entrusted with the technical and administrative organisation of the WorldTour.
A few days before the PCC vote, ASO threatened to withdraw its races, including the Tour de France, from the 2016 WorldTour calendar. Consequently the UCI Management Committee baulked at voting through the reforms last week, asking for details and consequences of the reforms to be given further consideration.
In his interview with Cyclingnews, Lappartient suggested the reforms lacked a spirit of openness and performance-based rules for deciding who has a place in the WorldTour. Lappartient said any North American style closed system went against his and the UCI’s philosophy for sport.
Spekenbrink responded by saying the 15-page reform proposal document included a specific criteria that ensured stakeholders share the commitment to an open system and that it included provisions that meant that the WorldTour would remain open, despite giving existing teams a three-year licence.
“Everybody involved in the reform process, including the teams, agreed there should be an open system, now and in the future,” Spekenbrink told Cyclingnews.
“We want the future of the sport to be built on two main objectives of the reform: to restore credibility and offer stability to the race organisers and the teams, all as part of an open system. The UCI has lead the reform process in that direction. There are several ways for teams to join the WorldTour and also to be removed if they fail to live up to financial, ethical, administrative, organizational, and sporting criteria. Teams will also have to respect the so-called Cahier des Charges – rules that govern the structure of teams, that puts emphasis on the quality of an organization. It’s not a closed system at all.”
Spekenbrink said that the working group that produced the reform document includes all the major stakeholders in the sport and that they were largely in favour of the plans. The UCI Professional Cycling Council then voted in favour of the reforms, with a simple majority of six in favour, three against and two abstained votes.
Cyclingnews understands that the final total would have been 7:3:2 had Team Sky’s Bernhard Eisel been present and voted. The Austrian is a UCI riders’ representative but was racing the Tour de Suisse when the vote took place. Despite submitting written support for the reforms he was not eligible to vote under PCC rules due to his non-attendance.
Teams in favour of reforms
It has been suggested that the Velon group of teams has a growing influence on the stance of the AIGCP. But Spekenbrink denied this, pointing out that the AIGCP is the only official recognized representing body for teams and represents all WorldTour and Professional Continental teams in the peloton. Velon is a joint business venture of 11 leading teams.
“The AIGCP has a board elected by its members, who are both WorldTour and Professional Continental teams, some are members of Velon but also of the MPCC. All voting is based on a ‘one team, one vote’ principle. The AIGCP leaders were given a mandate by the AIGCP board and followed that during the reform process. The AIGCP teams were in favour of the reforms proposed,” Spekenbrink insisted.
Spekenbrink reaffirmed that the AIGCP teams wants work with the UCI and under UCI rules for the future of professional cycling.
“The teams expressed their commitment to be governed by the UCI rules. That’s clearly stated in the reform proposal document,” Spekenbrink said.