Race radio top item on the agenda
By Gregor Brown in Belgium
Professional cyclists will have more of a say in the issues surrounding cycling following Friday's meeting of the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) in Liège, Belgium, headed by its President, Frenchman Cédric Vasseur. The association moved to have riders better represented via rider representatives from each team, and at the top of the list of issues for the soon to be appointed representatives will be the right to use race radios.
"Today we had this meeting with the riders [of the riders' council] to inform them of all the new items," Vasseur, a former professional cyclist, told Cyclingnews Friday evening. "Particularly the ear pieces and the prize money of the Tour de France, which has been blocked for eight months, but also the solidarity fund that will provide money for retiring riders, those over 30, who have been riding for more than five years."
According to Vasseur, the need for riders to be heard is paramount. However, in the CPA's current structure some are not given the chance to have their say. To that end, the association has stated it will have representatives from each team – both ProTour and Professional Continental – cast their vote any time there is a key issue.
"The riders were complaining that in the past the CPA was talking a lot and not making any real action," said Vasseur. "To make real action you must follow the wish of the majority, and it is currently impossible for me to get in touch with all the riders and make any decision about this or that. For the future, which is going to come next week, I will have direct contact."
The move will have each team's representative polling his team-mates before sending his decision into the CPA, which is based in Morges, Switzerland. "When we have to make a decision, like the [use of] ear pieces, we can make a fast meeting somewhere and each rider will have to say what is the decision of his team.
"We have to work like a democracy; if 55 percent of the riders say 'yes' to that then we have to follow, otherwise we will never move. [Currently] we always go one step right and one step left, and in this kind of working we never move. Today, the riders have the feelings that even when they say something nobody is following. Therefore, if we want to have a little bit of power we need to ask the riders what they think – like in a real democracy – even if you do not agree. But when there is 80 percent of the riders that think like that then you have no choice, you have to follow the choice of the majority."
The democracy would be run by 43 "superdelegates" – 18 ProTour and 25 Professional Continental – that would report to Vasseur and the CPA's Communication Manager, Pascale Schyns.
"All the teams are going to be registered by Pascale Schyns and we are going to send them an e-mail saying that they have to give us a guy who will be the reference for the team. Then, every time there is an item, we will send [the ballot] to that person, and if he does not give an answer that is the same as not voting."
The first item likely to be voted upon is the use of race radios in professional races. The International Cycling Union (UCI) has recently banned the use of radios in Under 23 races this season and Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France, is considering a ban in his race.
"Race radio is really at the centre of the news," said Vasseur of the communication device that was used by him until his last year as a professional with Quick Step in 2007. "The ASO has talked about removing them from the Tour de France and the UCI is making a study if it should or should not stop the use of radios. What we want is that we are able to say that the riders want that [to use or not to use the radio]. If what happens [with the ASO or UCI] is against the riders' decision then maybe we will take action."
The decision on race radio use is expected by the CPA within the next month. Vasseur explained, "This will come in two or three weeks, for sure. We have to hurry up and be ready by the middle of May, and for the Tour de France. Because if the decision is taken to remove the radio from the Tour, it will be taken for July. We want, as the riders' association, to be ready to face this."
If the decision is counter to the majority of the teams' representatives then the CPA would be ready to take action. "Why not strike in the Tour if the riders say they want the radio and they [ASO or UCI] said they don't have the right to use the radio – why not?"