Bernhard Eisel was left as the impromptu spokesman for the riders at the Dubai Tour when the fourth stage was cancelled due a desert storm, filling in for the CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels Associés), after they failed to nominate a rider to represent them during the five-day race in the Middle East.
The CPA usually names its representative for each race but left the riders to fend for themselves as they held their annual assembly in Switzerland. So far the CPA has only publically nominated Adam Hansen as its representative at the Tour Down Under, announcing the news via Twitter. The last news item on the CPA website is from July 30 2016 and it names Iker Camano as the CPA representative for the San Sebastian Classic. The CPA claims it only nominates representatives for WorldTour races.
When the Dubai Tour organisers and UCI judges applied the Extreme Weather Protocol and called a meeting to discuss and decide on cancelling the stage, they automatically reached out to Eisel, even though he has cut ties with the CPA and is no longer a member of the UCI Athletes Commission. He stepped up to represent the other riders but was embarrassed that no CPA delegate had been officially nominated from the 126 riders in the race or other members of the CPA.
The teams were also chastised for failing to name their representative for the Dubai Tour.
"The UCI blamed us and the directeurs for not having a (nominated) spokesman before the race that they can go up to and talk to," Eisel told the media at the Dubai Tour after the fourth stage was cancelled.
"I take that, it's the CPA's fault. It's not my fault. I had nothing to do with that. There should be a representative and a sports director and this didn't happen."
A CPA spokeswoman told sbs.com.au that there was in fact no official CPA representative at the Dubai Tour but claimed the CPA was in contact with athletes "to make sure that in case of the Extreme Weather Protocol being applied they could be represented.
"Until now, we were organised only for the WorldTour and in case of need we asked some riders to be the Extreme Weather Protocol reps. Of course, it will be good if in all the important races, not only the WorldTour, the Protocol would be applied in case of need," the spokeswoman said.
Eisel was just one of several riders who dropped back and spoke to race officials during the sand storm on stage 3. He had previously expressed his concerns to race organisers about the forecasts for strong winds during stage 3 and 4 of the Dubai Tour.
However the lack of a clear CPA representative in the race peloton meant that lines of communication were blurred. Riders also did not know who was officially looking after their interests and their safety. Indeed, the stage went on as planned, with riders obliged to ride through the windy conditions.
The CPA has expanded in recent years and new countries have joined the umbrella association to boost the effectiveness of the global riders organisation. The CPA has been involved in talks concerning rider safety and the introduction of disc brakes.
Riders arguably need more representation more than ever but they seem to have lost Eisel. He revealed he has cut his ties with the CPA, claiming it is ineffective, especially in regard to the Extreme Weather Protocol, claiming a confusing 'grey area' has been created in the rules.
"It's still the same question that Extreme Weather Protocol, as long as you don't make it black and white it's still grey and that's why I stopped putting in an effort to help CPA," Eisel told SBS.
"What comes out of the UCI, when it comes out a grey rule - that's not a rule… I understand if you have proper rules, Extreme Weather Protocol, then you can explain it to the spectators, to the organiser and to the sponsors."
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