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UCI backs CPA riders association as threat of breakaway emerges in men's WorldTour peloton

UCI President David Lappartient
UCI President David Lappartient (Image credit: Getty Images)

UCI president David Lappartient has backed the CPA as the officially recognised riders association, as a large coalition of WorldTour riders continue to push for a one rider, one vote system instead of the CPA national association representation.

Lappartient also confirmed rumours of a possible breakaway riders association and division between riders. He even went as far as describing information sent to riders as ‘fake news’, suggesting the attack on the CPA was “part of a global strategy to destabilize the UCI”. 

He would not say by who when asked by Cyclingnews

“It’s true there’s a destabilization around the CPA but it's coming as a part of a global strategy to destabilize the UCI, the governing body and the other existing bodies,” the Frenchman said during a press conference at the World Championships in Imola. 

 “There are probably some governance things to improve in the CPA. However there’s a lot of fake news. I saw the document sent to riders by people who wanted to create a new union. It was clearly fake news, it was manipulation, to explain some things that are not true. And when it was explained to the riders, they understood that. I know some riders received the right information and now the situation has decreased.

The group of WorldTour riders claim they are only trying to create a balance in voting power that will unite the riders and better protect their rights. 

The group of WorldTour riders apparently includes Chris 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. 

Several big-name riders criticised Lappartient’s comments when a video extract of his press conference was posted via the CPA social media channels. 

“We want a 'one rider, one vote' system, nothing fake about that,” Koen de Kort wrote on Twitter. 

Cyclingnews understands the group of riders have mandated former Jumbo-Visma rider Stef Clement and 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.

The group of 300 riders first emerged in late June, with the COVID-19 lockdown apparently giving riders time to reflect on their rights and representation. After years of suffering under the dominance of the UCI, race organisers and teams, riders want a stronger voice and more influence on how professional cycling is managed.

Former two-time World Champion and 1990 Giro d’Italia winner Gianni Bugno was again elected as CPA President for a four-year term in 2018 and the next CPA elections will be held in 2022 if Bugno opts to remain in the role.  

The CPA 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 statutes and is registered under Swiss law.

Representation is the biggest gripe for the new rider coalition. The CPA is an umbrella association or national associations, with the historically strongest nations such as Italy, Spain and France dominating the CPA thanks to block votes. The CPA has worked to create new national associations to represent some of the minor nations but a lot of riders feel they are not well presented by the CPA.

“We have organized a petition around the idea of one rider, one vote, that was signed by 350 riders within the first two days. All they want is one union with a balance in voting power,” Eisenga told Cyclingnews.

“The last CPA general assembly was in Innsbruck in 2018 and promises were made that the CPA would look into a one rider, one vote system but in 2019, no assembly was held. So far no proposal has been tabled to change the voting system. A step was made to allow electronic voting, but still with block voting in place.

“The current system will not unite riders. Tackling issues in cycling calls for unity and only through a balanced association will riders will have a true say.” 

Bugno and CPA general secretary Laura Mora were in Imola on Saturday and held a steering group meeting with other key CPA officials. They were critical of the attacks by the rider coalition and insisted they were working for changes in representation. 

“We’re working on moving towards a one rider, one vote system, we’ve made that clear to the riders but it takes some time,” Bugno told Cyclingnews.

“We need time to ensure a secure voting system that is anonymous and protects the voters' rights and confirms their identity. I’m sure we’ll soon get there. Of course, we have to follow the democratic process and respect the CPA statues.”