"The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward." I'd like to quote an Englishman (Winston Churchill) when it comes to talking about the current governance of the UCI.
I've noticed that president Brian Cookson had time to travel to China to launch a new WorldTour race (the Tour of Guangxi) but he continues to snub the French race organizers. Most of them are volunteers, they spend lengthy hours collecting money from local shops to finance category 1 races and they'd like to know why the UCI has increased their race taxes by 20% for next year, what for and with what is the return for them.
I went to the recent WorldTour seminar in Mallorca with the hope of getting answers to the numerous questions raised recently by the extension of the WorldTour to 38 races instead of 27. But we, the team managers, didn't get a chance to ask anything. At least I manage to understand why this event took place in Mallorca when I saw some UCI officials and race organizers riding their bikes.
There was also no debate over the request by Flanders Classics, ASO and RCS to reduce the number of riders per team. On that topic, I've read some nonsense comments by some of my colleagues who said it would jeopardize jobs for riders and staff. The same people were saying that we don't have enough riders to take part in all the new WorldTour races. One rider less per team in Grand Tours and Classics would enable us to take part in more races.
WorldTour or not, we're always sorry to decline invites to many great races during the season. Luckily, the new WorldTour events aren't compulsory. The Tour of Guangxi is not part of FDJ's plan for 2017. Paris-Tours and Il Lombardia remain the best way to conclude the season in my mind. I have nothing against the globalization of the sport but the lessons of the Tour of Beijing (2011-14) do not seem to have been learned.
At the beginning of this year Mr. Cookson declared that the WorldTour would return to China but through the promotion of an existing event and certainly not with the creation of a new event. These are the rules of the WorldTour: a race has to be organized for at least two years before being promoted to WorldTour level. But once again the UCI doesn't respect its own rules.
China might be a new market for cycling but the sport isn't different there: it will not work without the development of competitive local cyclists. This year, six Chinese riders lined up at the Tour of Qinghai Lake, eight at the Tour of Taihu Lake! Is the UCI doing anything to help the Chinese to get a start in international races in China? How can those riders improve if they don't even start? When we ask Mr. Cookson to not forget the grassroots of the sport, it's not only about France, the founding country of bike races and the UCI, it's everywhere.
I've just been re-elected as president of the French National Cycling League. The members asked me to run for a third term and voted unanimously for me. My role consists of maintaining and reinforcing the cohesion between race organizers, riders and teams.
France hosted 22.5% of the international racing days in category 1 and above in 2016. We'll be losing a few next year, starting with the Criterium International. Economically, times are hard but unfortunately, the UCI knows how to increase taxes but not to listen to people, except for the Chinese.
They must have something we don't....