Gianni Bugno – the incumbent president of the CPA (Professional Cyclists Association) – has refused calls to delay Thursday's presidential vote, promising to consider rule changes and an electronic vote only after he is elected.
Bugno, who was the road race world champion in 1991 and 1992, faces a challenge for the role of president from Scotland's David Millar, who raced until 2014. However, the current CPA statute allows block votes by the different national rider associations, with riders not represented by the French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swiss or North American associations allowed to vote individually but only in person in Innsbruck, Austria, on Thursday, where the World Championships are currently taking place.
Some will be in Innsbruck with their national squads as they prepare to race at the Worlds, but few others are expected to bother to travel to Austria.
The French, Italian and Spanish national rider associations are expected to stay loyal to Bugno, and their respective 150, 124 and 86 votes virtually seal Bugno's re-election. Millar can apparently count on the support of the 67 votes of the North American association and a few individual votes, but a significant number of the approximately 1,000 professional riders will not vote in the election of their president.
Millar confirmed his candidacy just three weeks before the vote, which was too late to propose any vote to change the current CPA statutes. He has run a vocal campaign, trying to finally awaken the interest and anger of the riders in the need for a better rider union. It appears to have worked, with 27 leading riders putting their names to a letter demanding that Bugno delays the CPA presidential elections until 2019.
Bugno argues that he has always helped defend rider interests without being paid for his time and effort. The CPA cites the creation of the Extreme Weather Protocol and an increase in minimum wages and prize money as achievements in recent years. On Tuesday, the UCI confirmed the WorldTour reform for 2020, which will force teams to hire between 27-30 riders, boosting rider numbers.
Millar has suggested that UCI president David Lappartient pushed Bugno to stand for a third term as CPA president and questioned the independence of the CPA if the UCI funds it annually with 100,000 Swiss francs (€88,000, US$103,000) – close to a third of the CPA's annual budget.
The likes of Greg Van Avermaet, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Marcel Kittel, Tom Dumoulin, Philippe Gilbert, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde are listed on the letter, but it does not carry their signatures. The letter claims that the CPA has already held its annual General Assembly and that riders were not correctly informed of the General Assembly. They also demanded greater transparency concerning the CPA financial accounts.
"We and many other members of the pro peloton feel strongly that the election is unfair and being forced through in order to guarantee your victory and leadership of the CPA for another 4 years," the letter to Bugno, obtained by Cyclingnews, reads.
"The riders that you claim to represent are spread all over the world and cannot possibly attend an election in person due to their contractual obligations elsewhere. Furthermore, our individual votes combined cannot compete against the power of the member associations.
"We understand that the bylaws do not allow an electronic vote now, but the bylaws can easily be changed at the General Assembly according to Articles 11 and 12 of the CPA Statutes. After the bylaws are changed the election can then be held fairly next year."
Bugno has apparently contacted Chris Froome and others directly to explain his position. He has refused to respond to Millar's provocative posts on social media but responded to the riders' letter, saying, "Thursday's elections cannot be postponed due to technical and accounting reasons."
However, Bugno and the CPA have indicated that they are open to changing the CPA statute and even change the way future elections are held. Statute changes are made by a similar block vote to the presidential elections, and so it is unclear if the leading national associations in France, Italy and Spain will ever allow, and vote for, major changes that will weaken their control of the international umbrella riders association.
"There is the commitment of the entire steering committee to start right after the elections some consultation with you and with the whole group," Bugno said in his letter.
"The aim of this is to study and share rules that should be effective and – foremost – be shared by all of you. After all, we talk about a statute that was written in 1989 and certainly not either by myself nor by the current members of the steering committee and at a time when cycling was quite different from what it is today."