Former UCI President Pat McQuaid has criticised the sport’s governing body for their part in the demise of the Tour of Beijing. The event formed part of the UCI’s WorldTour, and was the first and only event set up by the UCI’s commercial arm, Global Cycling Promotions (GCP). It was confirmed this week that the race would not be held in 2015.
“This has been brought about by incompetence at the UCI,” McQuaid told Cyclingnews.
“From the contacts I have in Beijing, the city wanted to re-new the contract and keep the race going but the UCI mishandled it. They tried to bring in sports marketing agencies to come in and run the race for them and by the time that didn’t work it was August and it was too late. At that stage the deputy mayor refused to meet the UCI President.”
Cyclingnews contacted the UCI to clarify the allegation that the deputy mayor of the city refused to meet with Cookson. They stated: "The UCI will not comment on the various discussions it has had with the Chinese authorities over the past months."
"The UCI would like to thank the Beijing authorities who have heavily supported the event over the past four years. Organising a UCI WorldTour event requires significant investment. We want to make sure that we keep the World in the WorldTour and we are looking at proposals from both new and developing markets."
The Tour of Beijing has been a controversial race, for many reasons, every since its inception. The event formed the battle ground for a conflict between teams and the UCI during its first season and the race has struggled to gain a foothold with some fans. However, the event certainly opened up new revenue streams for the UCI and, according to McQuaid, was an important element in his plans for globalisation.
“When Cookson comes along and says it’s not a disaster I have to ask, what is the strategy? One where he looks for new races but doesn’t try and protect the old races. It seems to be ridiculous.”
“I don’t know if Cookson wanted Beijing or not but he certainly didn’t act like he did. The PCC (Professional Cycling Council) talked about the globalisation of the sport though and they talk about the first Chinese rider to ride the Tour de France but at the same time the race is let go. To me that doesn’t make sense. There was a UCI race that showed that there could be a global sporting calendar and they let it go.
“I know that there are a lot of fans and commentators who will say that the sport doesn’t need the Tour of Beijing but facts are that for the sponsors and the bike manufactures, who are looking to Asia to increase their business, the Tour of Beijing was very important. Now the UCI isn’t in China and that’s a real pity.”
Conflict of interest
With no events to work on GCP’s future is unclear. The head of the organisation is set to leave the UCI in the near future and there are no plans to resurrect potential GCP plans in Asia or Russia.
“If we end up with a UCI WorldTour in which 70-80 per cent of the races are owned by one organiser, that’s not a healthy situation,” McQuaid added, pointing to a potential monopoly of races in the hands of ASO.
However, the Irishman admitted that the lose of Beijing does end the debate over the UCI’s conflict of interest as both a race promoter and protector of the sport as a whole. The Tour of Beijing for example was given automatic WorldTour status, putting it above the majority of the race events in the cycling calendar.
“I understand the conflict argument but I don’t agree with it. FINA, IAAF, FIFA all have commercial arms and run their own events. This new regime doesn’t seem to want that. You can claim that there’s a conflict of interest but it’s one that can be managed.”