The Secret Pro: We’re unionising against the union

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Apologies — this is about to get political.

Some of you might have seen my colleagues go on Twitter and complain about the CPA, the pro rider’s union. Or maybe you read Neal Rogers’ piece here — I did. If you saw either of those things, you’ll know there’s a bit of an uprising going on.

This isn’t out of the blue. Here’s the quick recap of what you need to know. After this bit, I’ll explain what we, the riders, have heard and know.

CPA? It’s the professional cyclist’s union. It’s the only one recognised by the UCI and it is representing all the professional riders (in theory). The president is Gianni Bugno, a former pro. I hear he’s nice, but who knows. Never met the guy.

We pay 7% of our prize money for the CPA to be run. So all the money from the Tour de France, Flanders, every other race on the ever-expanding UCI calendar. I think the Tour paid out about 2.3 million Euros this year — so about 160,000 went to the Union. It’s not a huge amount of money, and, in my opinion (which is the only one that matters) we should actually pay more to the union. If we want it to work, that is.

With more money, it would gain more standing, more stability and more credibility. It could do more. Plus riders would maybe demand more from the CPA if there was a more substantial amount of money coming out of their own pockets.

All this said, if the CPA can’t get their own house in order, more money won’t give us anything.

Don’t get me wrong, the CPA has done a lot of good. Think extreme weather protocol, higher minimum wages, some better insurance, and all that. But it’s pretty much run by seven nations – France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, USA, Canada and Suisse. That’s less than 50% of the actual riders it says it represents. And of those, France, Italy, and Spain really run the show. There are a lot of riders out there — including guys you might have heard of, like Chris Froome and Peter Sagan — who are not really represented.

How can they make decisions for all of us? I don’t know.

No, I do know. They can’t.

Once upon a time, Adam Hansen made a software program which was used to tally up our votes for or against the use of disc brakes in races. It worked great but needed some maintenance and Adam was generous enough to try and pass it to the CPA, but they couldn’t figure out how to run it even though Adam tried several times through different channels to explain what needs to be done. This could possibly be because Gianni apparently doesn’t use email. I’m not kidding. Nobody I know has ever received an email from him.

Maybe he skipped it and went straight to Snapchat? I’ll try there.

So here’s what has been going on lately. It was public information that elections were coming. How many riders actually knew, or cared? Not that many. This goes back to the CPA not communicating with us all that frequently. There have been some discussions on the presidency and how we need to change it. But for a long time, there were no other candidates than the current president, Mr Bugno.

The first time most heard about David Millar’s candidacy was September 5. He informed as many people as he could about his plans via email. David explained what he wants to accomplish and asked for us to spread the word to teammates and other riders. That was still less than a month before the election, so he must have known it’s kind of late in the game.

I heard there were groups of guys meeting at the Canadian one-day races, talking about the election. It was clear that, under the current system, most of us have no real way of influencing the result. And there was finally another candidate besides Bugno, so a little online petition got going. Riders could sign up if they were in favour of everyone having a direct vote. No country voting blocks.

Interestingly, I am not even sure Gianni made a public announcement he’ll go for the election again until after Millar did. What I am sure of is that I have never actually seen his platform, or any form of what he is planning on doing if he does get elected.

Is it funny or sad that I guarantee at least 70% of the riders represented by Bugno don’t know what he looks like, haven’t talked to him, or ever heard from him? That is our president.

So now we have a fight. Status quo vs the new guy.

Honestly, I have to ask these two: Why the hell do you want this job? The pay is kinda crap. Whatever you do, either the riders, the UCI or whoever else will be mad at you and resent you. What’s the point? No wonder it’s the first time we actually have two candidates. In the past, it’s always just someone that pulled the short straw and got stuck doing it.

So, of course, there is no good way of voting. As soon as there were two candidates, the current system’s flaws became clear. There has to be a better way than allowing the six CPA board members to vote for the entirety of their nation (meaning about 150 votes for Italy) and the suckers who aren’t from one of those six nations getting just one vote per rider.

Imagine you’re standing in line after the French representative and he drops in a huge stack of 150 votes while you have this one silly piece of paper. Might as well just use it to wipe your arse. Plus, you have to be at Worlds to vote. That means if you’re one of the single-vote guys you have to pay for your travel to Innsbruck from wherever you live or, if you’re on the Worlds team, somehow make an effort to come between some of the biggest races of the year.

Yes, the bylaws are hard to change and yada yada yada, but hey, either postpone the election or get something sorted quick, because this is BS with a big B and a big S.

While I’m on the subject of bovine excrement, I’d like to call out the CPA on one more thing. They keep saying that they are very welcoming to other nations that want to join the board with one member. In other words, allowing other nations to vote in big blocks just like Italy and Spain. Yet I heard that in one instance, a nation tried to join and was not offered even the full voting power of their riders. They would get fewer votes than the number of riders they represent. Why? No idea. Maybe if you’re not from a couple countries in mainland Europe you’re just not important enough.

Just to end on a fun note I’ll tell you how the French and the Italians are going to vote. They will vote for Mr Bugno. How do I know this? Because all the riders from those nations got a nice little email from their representatives saying “Hey, FYI, we’re voting for Gianni for you.”

I talked to some of these guys and their representatives didn’t ask them who they wanted them to vote for. Riders’ opinions? Nah, don’t need them. If France and Italy go to Bugno, then all the single votes from everyone else in Innsbruck — literally every other rider at Worlds and not from those France or Italy — aren’t enough to swing the election.

So here’s to another four great years, Gianni!

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