A nervous month of campaigning for Tracey Gaudry ended on Sunday when the Australian was elected unanimously Oceania Cycling President, succeeding incumbent Mike Turtur. The enthusiasm in response to the news was emphatic, but as Al Hinds writes, it should be tempered. The same challenges the region has always faced, still remain, and the road ahead is far from certain.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

Partying in the streets, rapturous celebration, the coming of the messiah. The groundswell of support for Tracey Gaudry's campaign for the Oceania Confederation presidency by the cycling social media universe was overwhelmingly positive.

Gaudry brings a wealth of experience in the fight against doping, has been and will continue to be an important advocate of the Amy Gillett Foundation as its chief executive, and becomes just the second woman to sit on the International Cycling Union's management committee.

But now the real work begins.

The test for Gaudry is just how she will overcome systemic problems at both regional and international levels of cycling. This job isn't going to be easy, thus the need for caution.

On Friday, when Guam confirmed its vote would go to Gaudry, Mike Turtur in his final public statement as Oceania President, said: In respect to the likely outcome of the election, I wish the (Oceania) confederation all the best for the future and I will be watching with interest the development of the Oceania calendar in the next period (to 2015).
Much of the criticism that was levelled at Oceania during Turtur's time as president focused on the calendar issue, and some remain unconvinced as to how this might change.

Why? Because they are the same challenges Gaudry's predecessor faced.

Oceania will have just three UCI Continental road teams in 2013. It will have a single UCI event, the New Zealand Cycle Classic. Growing that has been, and will be hard.

Confederation Secretary Graham Sycamore explained one of the key issues to growth and the calendar's atrophy in a recent interview on Cyclingnews.

Sycamore says Oceania's ability to foster a stronger road calendar is reliant on relaxing the UCI rules and regulations, and aligning them more with the special dispensations given to Africa.

"We have been trying to get the UCI to give a dispensation for these Oceania events just for a certain time of the year; to allow mixed teams and things like that but they won't budge on it. So, the events have all become national calendar events," Sycamore said.

The mixed team issue was discussed earlier in some depth, and overcoming it will require a positional shift from the UCI's Road Commission that it has as yet been stubborn to move on. Compounding matters, Gaudry, like Turtur will not have a seat on the commission. She will have influence, but to what degree remains to be seen.

This article by Cam Whiting of CyclingIQ on some of the other regional problems is also worth a read. Two of the events that have previously featured on the Oceania calendar, Melbourne to Warrnambool and the Tour of Southland, voluntarily downgraded their UCI status for what essentially amount to financial reasons.

Whiting argues that this is in part precipitated by Oceania's legitimacy as a region. The question is posited "did Oceania ever have the fundamentals (cycling population, nations, proximity, funding, institutional support, teams) in place to continue as a standalone proposition?"

Perhaps such an idea goes to the heart of Oceania's problems. The fight to show otherwise will be a key test of Gaudry's leadership. Throw in international circumstances, the attraction of major regional events, and the cross promotion of other disciplines, and Gaudry has a lot on her plate.

All that said, one person's problem, is another's opportunity, and there are opportunities for growth. In the short term, things like a bundled TV deal for a portfolio of hypothetical Oceania events, an engaged and responsive online presence, and minor concessions from the UCI may be enough to revitalise things. Whatever happens, Gaudry's first term in charge will be watched with interest. It will be key to the future of the region.