Cycling needs to be globalised – that much Anthony Tan agrees with – but it should be done without fear and favour"¦ something not altogether certain with the Tour of Beijing, the newest WorldTour race on the block.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

No-one seems game enough to say it so I might as
well: if the Tour of Beijing was not owned and operated by the UCI, it
would have not received an off the bat four-year World Tour licence.

If
one remembers, it wasn't initially part of the original 26-event UCI
WorldTour at the start of the year. In fact, it wasn't till 2 August, a
week after the Tour de France had finished, that an email popped up in
my inbox, alerting me that the Tour of Beijing was set to run as part of
the World Tour – just nine weeks out from race kick-off last Wednesday.

How did this happen?

Well,
the owner and co-operator (along with a local organising committee) of
the Tour of Beijing is a company called Global Cycling Promotion (GCP). A
wholly-owned commercial subsidiary of the UCI, GCP was conceived in
September 2009 using revenue generated by the UCI ProTour – the calendar
predecessor to the WorldTour – of which more than half of said revenue
came from the 18 participating teams.

In fact, according to UCI
financial reports from the 2009 and 2010 calendar years, over 600,000
Euros (approx $A850,000) of UCI income was diverted to the establishment
of GCP. And the director and chief protagonist of GCP? Alain Rumpf, who
held the position of UCI ProTour manager from 2005-09.

In other
words, the UCI Licence Commission gave the imprimatur to a race managed
by a founding director of its committee. How could they refuse?

Other
directors of GCP include none other than the UCI president himself, Pat
McQuaid; ex-UCI finance director, Jean-Pierre Strebel; and another UCI
employee, former cyclist Rocco Cattaneo.

It's no wonder certain
ProTeam staff and riders seem less cheesed off about the Tour of
Beijing's late inclusion than the patent and multiple conflicts of
interest at stake, which, to the bystander, smack of nepotism.

* * *

There's
also the alleged threatening letters from the UCI to certain ProTeams
who previously indicated they might boycott the race and/or be involved
in the putsch for a breakaway league, which stemmed from the UCI's
initial decision to ban race radios at WorldTour-level in 2012.

(With
regards to the radio debate, a truce of sorts has been reached, whereby
the UCI will hold off implementing the ban till at least 2013; neither
the UCI nor the association of professional cycling teams [AIGCP] have
changed their stance, however.)

Part of one letter, from president McQuaid and obtained by Cyclingnews,
read: "I can also assure you that any team who does not take the start
line in Beijing will be brought before the UCI Licence Commission at the
end of the year and risks losing its licence and all the associated
benefits."

One way or another, the UCI got its wish. All 18
ProTeams (and the Chinese national team) showed up to the start; some
more enthusiastically than others.

* * *

While the UCI
financial report from 2010 (Link here) indicates a modest net profit of
114,223 Swiss Francs (approx. $A 126,000), cycling's governing body
incurred a net operating loss of CHF 1,592,978 ($A 1.767M).

The UCI may be a non-profit organisation, but ideally, it should also be non-loss in its operational activities.

Now,
given 34 percent, or CHF 8.585M ($A 9.5M), of their total 2010 income
came from that year's road worlds in Geelong, race organisation and
promotion is one way to put them back in the black.

I don't have a
problem with the UCI's mandate to globalise cycling – apart from China,
target nations include Brazil, Russia and India – broadening its reach
into fast-developing, untapped markets with little cycling
infrastructure and know-how.


To give an example of just how lucrative a segment China is, Trek China
expects to record sales of 100 million Yuan (A$ 16M) this year and have
260 stores – up from just 2M Yuan (A$320,000) in 2006 when they first
entered the market. (For the burgeoning middle class, however, the car
is king; the Beijing government therefore wants to restore bike lannes
in the city and provide 50,000 bikes for hire Рmuch like Paris' V̩lib'
scheme – by 2015.)

That the UCI is using money part-generated
from ProTeam licence fees towards GCP? Still no problem –the money has
to come from somewhere, and neither its source nor use is what I would
consider in any way unscrupulous.

However subsidiary,
profit-making entities such as GCP should be treated as such and
separately audited; we should know how much was earned and who earned
it. And for reasons of ethics and impartiality, those individuals/groups
involved in issues concerning governance should not be involved in race promotion – period.

To
remove prejudice and conflicts of interest, any member of GCP should
abdicate whatever co-existing role they have at the UCI proper, or vice
versa.

That way, if another race promoter wants to become part of
the World Tour, they can be confident of receiving the same treatment
as GCP from the UCI Licence Commission – rather than lament a lack of
bias and have their application quashed, perhaps only for GCP to create
the same race one year later.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan