Gilbert: If the riders are united, we can make things change

Belgian tipped as future CPA rider’s union president

David Millar’s attempt to take on Gianni Bugno for the presidency of the CPA rider’s association may have ended in defeat, but Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) believes the furor over the voting process may have the collateral effect of leading to greater engagement between professional riders and their representative union.

Bugno was elected president for a third consecutive term during the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck amid vocal calls from the likes of Team Sky's Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome for a reform of the current voting system in which some rider unions – those of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and North America – vote en bloc, while individual riders from other nations can only vote in person on the day of the election. The Belgian and Dutch riders’ associations withdrew from the CPA earlier this year.

In the aftermath of the vote, Gilbert’s name was quietly mentioned as a possible future president of the CPA, whose next elections are scheduled for 2021 or if Bugno offers to step down.

Speaking to Cyclingnews at the Tour of Guangxi in China, Gilbert neither confirmed nor denied his interest in running for the role of CPA president, but he stressed the importance of professional riders forming a strong and united representative body. Gilbert has often defended rider interests, this week taking to social media.  

“I heard that also, that some people would like me to do this,” Gilbert told Cyclingnews.

“It’s almost 10 years that I’ve been helping out, being the link between the riders and the CPA. And I was also back then on the [UCI] Athletes Commission. I did a lot. And the only thing you can say is that only now some riders are waking up and realising that we have a voice.

“It’s just too bad that they realised it so late, because if we get united we can be a powerful part of cycling. If the riders are united, we can make things change. It’s the only way.”

Although Millar lost to Bugno by 379 votes to 96, Gilbert believes that the Briton’s candidacy has done the state of the CPA some service.

“I think we can be thankful to Millar because he made a move and woke up the CPA and now it is more active since then,” Gilbert said. “It’s a good thing.”

Back racing at the Tour of Guangxi

Gilbert is currently in China at the Tour of Guangxi, his final race of a 2018 season that risked ending prematurely when he sustained a fractured kneecap after crashing on the descent of Col de Portet d’Aspet at the Tour de France.

Remarkably, the 36-year-old returned to action in late September and claimed his first win of the season that same day, soloing to victory at the GP d’Isbergues.

Winning at the first attempt might, however, create a false impression of the speed of Gilbert’s recovery. He explained that he is not entirely free of the lingering effects of the injury.

“It’s still not really good because I still have some problems with my knee and my leg, but I think for next season it will be OK,” said Gilbert, who is in Guangxi largely with an eye to 2019.

“For me, it was important to race again this season and get some form again.”

Gilbert was prominent on the final climb to Nongla on stage 4 of the Tour of Guangxi, but acknowledged that he was lacking the top-end speed to track the acceleration of stage winner Gianni Moscon (Team Sky). The Belgian later found himself stranded between the first two groups of chasers as the road flattened out, and he the finish line 28 seconds down in 13th place on the stage.

“There were some attacks at the bottom, but I didn’t know the climb because there were no images from last year,” Gilbert said. “I was really conservative on the first part and then I moved up. I was really dying at the end. I tried to follow the group who passed me, but it was a really hard final.”

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