If the reaction to Pat McQuaid’s presence on the podium at the Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville Kentucky was anything to go by then the International Cycling Union (UCI) has some work to do in winning the hearts and minds of true cycling fans, but I’m more worried about another less informed group.
Institutions the world over are rarely loved but globally we’re seeing a serious loss of confidence in many of them, from government to business and the media. Those who run the show are on the nose and accused of either not representing the ‘will of the people’ or only working for the one per cent.
This of course applies to cycling as well, including the UCI and its president and extending to the riders themselves, in particular the generation that shadowed Lance Armstrong as he rode to seven Tour de France titles.
The reaction to McQuaid in Louisville is to be expected from a crowd that is really keyed into the sport. Who else but a seriously switched on cycling fan would stand in the rain, sleet and snow of Louisville to watch an hour of some of the best racing you’ll ever see?
But there is also a second, less informed group that we need to keep an eye on because it is this cohort the sport will rely on for its future growth and globalisation.
People like the Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter FitzSimons, who asked a pointed question in his weekly column. Why is it a tennis player, alone, saying this about a cheat in another sport? Where are the contemporary cycling champions saying the same thing but even louder? There are any number of former champions, most of them acknowledged cheats themselves, decrying Lance. But what of the current crop? This bloke cheated you out of all those Tours de France, and you haven't said a WORD? Where are you, for example, Cadel Evans? I do accept your own many achievements are drug-free but why the silence? Not even a mention on your Twitter account, about the most significant cycling news since forever? Why the uncomfortable silence from all you blokes?It’s a good question from someone who does not have a serious grounding in cycling and one I’m regularly asked by friends who don’t follow the sport with any frequency. Then I have to explain the subtleties.
Of course Evans has commented, but only to take a big picture view that looks to the future. Whilst these events are difficult and confronting to deal with now, both for those directly involved in the sport and for many around the world who follow cycling, let's commend the authorities who are succeeding in the battle against doping; learn from these events which are the driving forces behind major changes and clean-ups in cycling, and have bought the sport to where it is today - not on the front page of tabloid newspaper - but to a level playing field where the hard work, meticulous equipment preparation and natural ability are winning the big beautiful prestigious races.We know Evans has never been an outspoken advocate, but a quiet and reserved personality who just wants to get on with the business of riding his bike. Yet the perception from people like FitzSimons remains and until its addressed the sport can’t move on to a wider audience and level of respectability.
What do you think? Should the current crop of riders be more outspoken?