By Gregor Brown
The Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) will host a retreat this December 18 and 19 in Barcelona for 60 ProTour and Professional Continental cyclists. It aims to have open discussions with cyclists outside of their working environment and to study the profession.
"Most of the time the riders meet during the season when they are at war with each other's teams or they are in the hotel – massage and dinner – with their mind on racing. ... If you have a drink with another rider you can get to know him better. This type of meeting can resolve a lot of problems that exist in cycling," said Frenchman Cedric Vasseur, president of the association, to Cyclingnews.
The CPA, established in 1999, acts in defence of pro cyclists and aims at improving their working conditions. Vasseur remains in contact with the riders throughout the season via phone calls, e-mails and face-to-face meetings at races. The association holds its main meeting with its 20-member Riders' Council annually in Liège, Belgium, between the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège races.
"My aim was to have a meeting with the riders away from competition, when their minds are not 100 percent concentrated on the race. ... We tried to find a date that worked best for the riders, this comes after most teams have their first training camps and before Christmas, when most guys are at home. I think Barcelona gives a little bit more of an attractive aspect then Brussels, Paris or Geneva.
"We will talk about what is and what is not going well in cycling. It will allow me to say to the riders what the CPA can and cannot do. They don't know what they can expect [from us] and what they have to look for from their lawyers or [personal] managers."
The idea for the off-season meeting existed for sometime, but funding it was a problem. Vasseur found a solution though the ASSER international in the Netherlands. Representatives of the sports law centre will be in Barcelona to research the cyclists and their activities.
"We needed the budget for it and we had a talk after the Tour de France this year with representatives from the European Commission, who are working on putting cycling in the social dialogue. They have done studies on football, basketball and they want to do it in cycling.
"[ASSER researchers] would like to explain to the riders that they are researching cycling. To know how long you can expect to be a bike rider, how the riders negotiate contracts with the teams, what percentage of riders have a personal manager and lots of other items like that. Right now we can not give concrete answers, and so they will be working on the ground."
The riders' association will meet twice in four-hour meetings. Vasseur confirmed 35 riders to date, including Philippe Gilbert, David Millar and Juan Antonio Flecha. He wants a representative from the USA, but admitted it is hard because most are in America for the holiday period.
Vasseur responds to Albert
Vasseur also responded to Niels Albert's recent comments on road cycling. Last week, the cyclo-crosser said that a Grand Tour could not be won "without the use of prohibited substances."
The CPA president clearly refuted this. "He is judging something that he does not know," he said to velo-club.net. "At 22 years of age, one is not very mature yet, ... but if you have a little bit of intelligence, you don't go off launching declarations like this one. If he has capacities in his discipline, he should recognise that other athletes have capacities in other areas. I never shined in a cyclo-cross but I competed and finished the Tour de France ten times. He should concentrate on his job rather than talking rubbish."
Albert is currently out of competition after crashing during a race warm-up and tearing his spleen. His 2008/09 cyclo-cross season is "not entirely over, but almost," according to Albert's manager Christoph Roodhooft.