The Velon group is not just out to make money says BMC Racing team manager Jim Ochowicz. The fledgling organisation is looking at different ways of bringing in extra revenue but Ochowicz hopes that, with widespread changes due, they can have a bigger influence in the way that the sport is run as a whole.
“The most important thing that we need is a vote in the groups that are making decisions about the future of the sport. The teams seem somewhat isolated from those decisions at the moment,” Ochowicz told Cyclingnews at the end of last month. “I think what we need is the right people in a fair representation to make decisions about how this sport is going to be changed, if it needs to be changed. That’s still up for debate as well.”
Currently the UCI hope to overhaul the present WorldTour set-up, which sees 18 teams of up to 30 riders competing across 29 races (plus innumerable lower level races), for the 2017 season. The projected plans could see several races be downgraded or disappearing altogether while the number of teams and riders could also be slashed. The changes have been met with a mixed reaction, and the UCI has been in talks with teams and organisers over the past few months with nothing currently set in stone. Ochowicz agrees with several of the proposals but says that the finer details need to be discussed.
“There’s a balance in there and we need to find it. Those things are debatable,” he said. “I agree with the reduction of the riders, the road just isn’t big enough anymore to manage the peloton. We need to reduce the size but I don’t know how you do that. Is it a reduction of the riders on the team? There’s also number of days we race.
“Anything and everything seems to be being debated at the moment but I don’t know if anyone has come to a conclusion as to what is the best way to move forward. We’re prepared to go forward as we are, and I think that we need representation on an equal basis with the UCI and organisers at the roundtable, discussing the future of the sport.”
Velon was spawned from meetings that began back at the 2013 Tour de France, dubbed Project Avignon after the place they first met on the second rest day of the race. The launch of Velon was not made public until the end of November. Their other main goal is to look into increasing the revenue streams of its members. One of the ways that they’ve done this was with on-board cameras during races, which was then sold on to race organisers and television channels. Ochowicz hopes that they can work alongside organisers more often in the future.
“Now we’re operating as a group, we see the UCI, ASO, RCS, the Tour of Flanders and everybody else in this business as partners. It’s not us against them, we’re all in the same business, we’re doing the same thing and we’re trying to make it successful.”
Currently Velon is made up of 11 WorldTour teams that includes BMC, Team Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo and Etixx-QuickStep. Six teams have not signed up to Velon, including WorldTour winners Movistar who were part of the initial Avignon discussions but decided to opt out.
Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana team are also not part of the initial 11 to join Velon. The Kazakh outfit had a tense end to the year when the UCI requested that their WorldTour licence be reviewed after a series of doping scandals. With Velon looking to increase the marketability of cycling the presence of Astana could make that difficult. While Ochowicz admitted that scandals were bad publicity refused to rule out the possibility that they could join Velon in the future.
“Every single eligible team would have to be reviewed by the board and that decision would be made by them and not by me,” explained Ochowicz. “There not members right now so it’s not a problem for us at the moment. Certainly the negative publicity generated by that is true and fair and you read about it in the papers. That type of publicity is not good for the sport, everybody knows that but it’s happening and they and the UCI have to deal with it. I don’t want to comment if they should or shouldn’t be in the Velon group, that’s not up to me.”