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Rider petition sparks new power struggle with CPA riders' association

The WorldTour peloton
The WorldTour peloton (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

A growing group of at least 300 riders, that reportedly includes Chris Froome and other team leaders, are pushing for change at the CPA riders' association, igniting yet another power struggle on the eve of the CPA's annual general assembly.

The CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels Associés) is due to meet on Monday evening for a two-hour online video general assembly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with individual riders each given a brief slot to express their views and a number of other items on the agenda, the meeting is likely to be extended and only lead to more pressure for change.

Velonews' Andy Hood first revealed that leading riders had come together to push for change at the CPA. According to respected Dutch journalist Raymond Kerckhoffs on the Cycling Opinions website, more than 325 professional riders have signed a petition calling for reforms to the CPA after a call to arms and the creation of a list of requests for change. These include Froome, Nicolas Roche, Robert Gesink, Matej Mohoric, Jasper Stuyven, Sam Bewley, Jos van Emden and Koen de Kort, with several leading rider agents, lawyers and experts also offering their support. 

Former Jumbo-Visma rider Stef Clement is also involved after being contacted by his teammates, with the riders asking Luuc Eisenga to represent them. Eisenga was the managing director of the AIGCP teams association between 2013-2016 after different management roles at the Team Telekom and Rabobank team before leaving cycling for a position in Dutch football. He has recently left football and offered to use his experience and negotiating skills to help the informal coalition of riders.

"This represents a large number of the peloton. There is new momentum," Clement recently told Velonews.

"Having three months at home during the COVID-19 crisis made everything different. Before that, everyone is busy racing, and everything was moving along and the future seemed bright. But COVID gave people a chance to look at things, and consider the current situation. We want a more sustainable future, and a better position for the riders.

"There is an accumulation of things that have happened over the past few years and it caught fire when pro racing stopped at Paris-Nice."

After years of suffering the dominance of the UCI, race organisers and teams, riders want a stronger voice and more influence on how professional cycling is managed.

The riders were apparently angered by the CPA recently voting in favour of the UCI allocating €1 million from the WorldTour emergency fund to cover the costs of their legal battle with the Velon teams business group at the European Commission. The CPA claims they did this out of principle, to defend the international governing body of the sport. Riders are also questioning the management of the Transition fund, which is supposed to pay riders a pension-style lump sum when they retire.

Representation is the biggest gripe for the new coalition of riders. They understand they cannot force through rule changes at Monday's general assembly but want to begin talks with the CPA and intend to continue to push for change and different representation rules, with the ultimate goal of a riders association based on a concept of one rider, one vote.  

The CPA is the official, recognized body representing the riders at institutional level, with Gianni Bugno again elected President for a four-year term in 2018 in Innsbruck. It is funded by a two per cent stake of rider prize money, WorldTour fees and has received significant donations from the UCI over the years. It has a set of bylaws and is registered under Swiss law.

The CPA has a place on the UCI's influential Professional Cycling Council but has little voice in the running of professional cycling, with riders often preferring to put racing and training before unified efforts to improve their position. 

According to the CPA bylaws, riders are represented via national umbrella groups, which in turn represent their members. The established cycling nations such as France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland hold a strong sway on the CPA and especially the election of the President where block votes are decisive.

France has around 150 votes, Italy 120, and Spain 86, meaning they can easily outnumber any other individual riders attending elections in person to vote. 

The United States and Canada formed a new national association in 2014, the ANAPRC, and those for Australia, Belgium and Poland could be admitted to the CPA during a vote at the general assembly. However, riders from other nations feel unrepresented, with suggestions that that less than half of the peloton is represented via a national association.  

General Secretary Laura Mora has lead the defence of rider interests, recently fighting for rider's salary payments and their futures during the COVID-19 lockdown as teams moved quickly and targeted rider salaries as way of cutting costs. 

The CPA has recently developed a women's association lead by former Italian rider Alessandra Cappellotto and updated the centralized prize money payment system.

The CPA told Cyclingnews they welcomed the involvement of the rider coalition but called on them to do so by following the democratic process and the rules of the CPA.