The weekly spin: On rider representation, and David Millar’s protest candidacy

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David Millar is running to become president of the CPA, the professional riders’ union. He knows he won’t win.

The Scottish former pro has the vocal support of a group of high-profile tapro riders, perhaps even a majority of riders, yet he doesn’t expect to win next week’s election because most of the professional riders will not have their voices heard by the union that represents them.

Which, if you ask Millar, is precisely the problem.

The fact that a group dedicated to defending riders’ interests has created an election system that makes it very difficult for its constituents to have their voices heard perfectly encapsulates the core set of problems Millar would like to address as president of the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés, the non-profit association whose mission statement is to safeguard the interests of professional cyclists.

In essence, Millar’s candidacy pits old world vs. new world cycling. It’s a sort of analogy for the push and pull that has been going on in pro cycling in the decades since Western European nations ran the sport.

Though he cannot win, Millar says he’s running to shake up the status quo and, hopefully, highlight the ineffectiveness of the current rider’s union. It’s a protest candidacy.

A week from Thursday, at a four-star hotel near Innsbruck, the heads of the CPA’s national associations and members of its steering committee will convene for their annual general assembly. An election will be held to select a new president of the CPA. The election will be held under rules laid out two decades ago that allow riders to vote as member nation blocks. The system hands a near-insurmountable majority to just a few of cycling’s old countries: Italy, France, and Spain.

For the first time since its inception in 1999, the election for CPA president will consist of more than one candidate — which is why, for the first time, the CPA’s election bylaws are coming under scrutiny.

On August 20, Millar put his hand in the air to replace Gianni Bugno, the Italian former world champion who has been the figurehead of the rider’s union since his 2010 election.

Though he’d previously said he would step down after his second four-year term came to a close, Bugno changed his mind late last year following a meeting with new UCI president David Lappartient, who encouraged him to continue on in the role.

Millar, who has consulted with the CPA in the past — and who is also juggling race commentary for ITV and his new brand, CHPT3 — believes the time has come for new leadership.

“I love the sport, and I love professional cycling,” Millar said by phone late last week. “When I was a professional cyclist, I was very aware that the system didn’t really help us, that we were the bottom feeders, that we were the foot soldiers on the ground, we were often just collateral damage to things that went on. And I don’t think that’s fair.

“If there’s one common denominator in professional cycling, it’s the professional cyclists. And at the moment that they’re so conditioned to being trampled upon. They sort of just take it as the norm. And yes, there are cries for help, through social media or interviews, but that’s all they are, because they’re not actually facilitating much change.

“And the thing is, I know it can be changed. It’s not rocket science. In order to change it we need to disrupt it. We can’t allow this status quo.  It’s not healthy for the sport, it’s not healthy for the riders, and I just think… that’s just my respect for professional cyclists. And given the fact that I was one, and my friends still are, I think that we should try to make a difference. The worst thing you can do is not do anything. Even if it’s a losing battle, at least it’s a battle that will carry on.”

Earlier this month Millar launched a website stating his intentions, which can be summarized as making the riders union more professional, more representative, more modern, more vocal, and more transparent. He also launched a “Millar for CPA” Twitter account that has already gathered nearly 2,500 followers and regularly spreads messages from pro riders who support his candidacy.

It’s a move that will surely damage several relationships. Millar, who served a suspension for doping from 2004-2006 — and claims that the experience better helps him understand the pressures pro riders face — was told by former world road champion Alessandra Cappellotto, head of CPA Women, that he should consider himself fortunate that his candidacy hasn’t been targeted over his admitted wrongdoing.

“Alessandra Cappellotto essentially threatened me in an email,” Millar said, “saying she said she thought that I should be thankful I hadn’t been attacked for my past. She put it out to the whole committee, 20-plus people.”

It was an interesting tack to take, given that Bugno, who was named in an Italian investigation to have worked with EPO doctor Francesco Conconi, won two world championships and the Giro d’Italia in the 1990s, a period that is now recognized as being the most egregiously doped period in the history of professional cycling. Most impressively, Bugno led the 1990 Giro from start to finish, winning three stages and wearing the maglia rosa for three weeks uninterrupted.

“I’m being threatened that I should be thankful that I’m not being attacked for my past,” Millar said, “when I’ve got a letter of recommendation from David Howman, the ex-director general of WADA, when I have recently been invited by the President of the IOC to speak to a conference in Buenos Aires, the week after the presidential election, with whistle blowers about doping and doping problems in sport.”

One insider, who requested anonymity, described the CPA’s reaction to Millar’s candidacy and the criticism that has followed, as “siege mentality.”

Italian Gianni Bugno won the Giro d’Italia in 1990, as well as world road championships in 1991 and 1992. His palmares also includes wins at the 1990 Milan–San Remo, 1991 Clásica de San Sebastián, and the 1994 Tour of Flanders.

So… who cares about all this? The riders care. And if you’re a fan of pro cycling — if you understand that pro cyclists do not have the same level of influence, or job security, as athletes in other professional sports — you should, too.

Topics that the CPA focuses on include salary, anti-doping rights and policies, race safety, medical insurance, and a rider retirement fund.

While the CPA does not have a long list of accomplishments, among them are implementing the extreme weather protocol, which entered into regulations for the 2016 season for all WorldTour and HC races, raising the minimum wage, mandating best practices for safe course design inside the final 3 km, and and securing a joint agreement with the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP), which lays out minimum standard working conditions, such as salary and insurance policy requirements.

As the 2018 CPA general assembly grows closer, pro cyclists have taken to Twitter to voice their complaints. They’ve circulated a private petition requesting that the CPA board grant its members the ability to vote for the CPA president via a third-party electronic ballot; that the ballot is distributed to every rider from the WorldTour and Pro Continental peloton, of all nationalities, regardless of whether he is at worlds in Austria; and that the CPA board allow riders from its six member associations (France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, North America) to vote as individuals, rather than as a voting block.

Asked why he’s running when he knows he cannot win, Millar paused. “Duty, I suppose,” he said. “I can’t walk away. It’s just so much about duty and responsibility, isn’t it?”

This is a dense issue replete with 20-year-old bylaws first composed in French and plenty of other legal blah blah blah. I’ll present what we know below, and leave it to you to decide what’s fair and just. If nothing else, it might prepare you for what’s to come.

One more thing I’ll say, before diving in: In the simplest, most general terms, one has to question the motives behind any representative organization that goes to great lengths to impede or influence an election of those it claims to represent.

And for that reason, I don’t think this story ends after the election in Innsbruck next week; in fact, I think that’s where the next chapter begins.

But first, a quick background on the CPA, what it does, how it works, and how its elections are run.

THE CPA: WHAT, HOW, AND WHY?

The CPA was created on the eve of the 1999 Giro d’Italia and is run under the umbrella of the UCI. Its headquarters sit near the southeast bank of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland, about an hour’s drive from UCI headquarters in Aigle. Italian Francesco Moser was the CPA’s first president, serving two terms, followed by Frenchman Cédric Vasseur in 2007. In 2011, Gianni Bugno began the first of this two four-year terms. That makes just three presidents across five terms, and all have run for office unopposed.

The CPA brings together a number of affiliates, including the UCI, the teams organization (AIGCP) and the organization of race organizers (AIOCC). In 2017 it expanded to include a women’s chapter, CPA Women, led by Cappellotto, however that has been challenged by the newly founded Cyclists’ Alliance, led by former pro Iris Slappendel, who represented female riders in the UCI Athletes’ Commission from 2015-2017.

All riders under a contract with a UCI-registered WorldTour or Pro Continental team are automatically members of the CPA, either individually or by means of their national association. Continental riders and pro women are impacted by the CPA’s actions, but when it comes to voting power, they do not have representation.

Asked for clarification, CPA press officer Laura Mora replied via email, “The CPA is a body born to represent professional riders and Continental riders are not considered professional since they don’t have regular contracts with their teams. We take care of their problems when they ask us to do so, but we haven’t really represented them in all these years. It’s the same story with the women riders. Continental riders are under the control of the national federations and not of the UCI.”

As regulated by the UCI, the CPA’s annual funding comes mostly from a 7% share of total prize money offered for all elite international races, no matter which nationality of rider is earning prizes, as well as from an annual contribution paid by the UCI WorldTour. Of that 7%, 2% goes to operations, salaries, and supporting new member associations, while 5% goes to the CPA-managed riders’ solidarity fund, or retirement fund, which is currently underfunded because, the CPA claims, several race organizers have not fulfilled their financial obligations.

The CPA is composed of the general assembly, the steering committee, the executive board, and the riders’ council. The general assembly meets once per year, at the invitation of the steering committee. The upcoming general assembly, which coincides with the completion of Bugno’s second four-year term, takes place in Austria, coinciding with the UCI Road World Championships.

The steering committee is composed of the CPA president and a representative of each member association. There are currently just six member associations represented in the CPA — Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, and the ANAPRC, which represents American and Canadian pro cyclists. If it sounds like that’s not a lot of nations represented, that’s because it’s not. The total number of riders represented by these six associations amounts to just 44% of all WorldTour and Pro Continental riders.

Gianni Bugno, pictured at the 2018 Giro d’Italia.

In March, the Dutch pro riders’ association, the VVWB, left the CPA, saying, “Three primary European cycling countries [France, Spain, and Italy] control the politics of the CPA, and the VVWB feels this isn’t a true reflection of the men’s professional peloton in the year 2018.”

Shortly after, the Belgian riders association, Sporta, also left the CPA, with Belgian riders complaining that they hadn’t seen Bugno once during his two terms as CPA president. That criticism falls in line with what others have suggested — that CPA vice president Pascal Chanteur, chief of the French riders union, and CPA general secretary David Chassot, secretary of the Suisse national riders’ association, actually handle much of the CPA’s affairs.

According to a CPA release, Bugno viewed these departures “with regret” and tried several times to get them to reverse their decision. The VVWB released a statement on Monday supporting Millar’s candidacy.

Of these six member associations, it’s the ANAPRC — led by executive director Michael Carcaise, former pro Christian Vande Velde, and Colorado attorney Ian London — which is pushing for the electronic vote. It wouldn’t be wrong to view the struggle within the CPA as one between traditional, established cycling nations and nations who have grown into relevance in the sport over the past quarter-century.

To use cycling parlance, the ANAPRC, and the riders pushing for an electronic vote, are facing an uphill battle, into a headwind.

There’s just one mention in the CPA’s bylaws regarding the election of its president; Article 11(b) states that the election of the president is solely the responsibility of the general assembly. Additionally, Article 11(a) states proposals of amendments must be submitted to the committee in writing at least 30 days prior to the general meeting. So there’s that.

Member associations act on behalf of their riders and have the right to cast a number of votes equal to that of their members. Each rider who is not represented by an association is entitled to one vote, however, they must be physically present at the general assembly on September 27.

There are a total of 1047 voting members. Here’s a breakdown of how the upcoming election will look:

  • 150 votes will be cast by Pascal Chanteur, head of the French riders union
  • 124 votes will be cast by Cristian Salvato, head of the Italian riders union
  • 86 votes will be cast by Jose Luis de Santos, head of the Spanish riders union
  • 67 votes will be cast by Michael Carcaise, head of the North American riders union
  • 17 votes will be cast by David Chassot, head of the Swiss riders union
  • 14 votes will be cast by Joakim Andrade, head of the Portuguese riders union
  • 589 votes may be cast by riders not from a member nation. Each rider must be physically present at the meeting in Innsbruck to cast a vote.

It’s expected that every member nation other than the ANAPRC will vote for Bugno, totalling 391 votes. Based on an informal rider poll, Millar will likely receive the 67 votes from the ANAPRC, plus any votes from attending riders, however, it’s extremely unlikely that that total will make up the difference of 324 votes.

As Dan Martin (Team UAE Emirates) noted on Twitter, the day of the election falls between the individual time trial and the road race; riders who focus on the time trial will likely have left, and riders only doing the road race will just be arriving.

Simply put, two individuals representing France and Italy — delegates who are not professional riders — hold 274 votes, enough to overrule the total of every individual rider who might show up to vote, though it’s likely few will be in attendance.

Article 12 of the CPA’s bylaws states that a two-thirds majority of the votes of the members in attendance at general assembly is required to amend bylaws, something the petition calling for an electronic ballet is seeking to do. Likewise, the general assembly cannot pass resolutions on points that are not on a meeting agenda unless it is declared urgent by a two-thirds majority of the members in attendance.

The proposed electronic ballet would therefore need to circumvent two existing bylaws — the bylaw stating that the election of the president is the responsibility of attendees of the general assembly, and the bylaw that states that member associations act on behalf of their members and have the right to cast a number of votes equal to that of their members. It seeks to do away with these rules and instead allow each member one vote, without requiring attendance.

None of this is likely to happen. But read on anyhow, it’s worth understanding who is aiming to change the bylaws, who is aiming to maintain them, and what might happen if no changes are made.

THE RIDER PETITION: WHAT, WHEN, AND WHY?

A petition has been circulated among professional riders, calling for the right to vote via electronic ballet. It was sent out on September 8, and as of Tuesday, it had gathered more 280 signatures from a wide range of WorldTour pros including Tour de France champions Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas of Team Sky.

I’ve honored a request to withhold the name of the author of the petition, though I suspect those at the CPA and UCI probably have a good idea who sent it out. I feel free to name drop Froome and Thomas because they’ve made no secret as to where they stand. In a September 9 reply to the CPA’s explanation of its voting procedures, Froome wrote on Twitter, “Seems to me that the CPA is running a dictatorship, not a democracy which truly represents all the riders #fail.”

I’ve reviewed the petition and pasted an edited version of the text below.

We the riders who have signed this petition request to the CPA Comite Directeur (Board of Directors):
• the ability to vote for the CPA President who will serve in the next 4-year term via electronic ballot
• that the ballot is distributed to every rider in the WorldTour and ProContinental peloton, all nationalities and regardless of whether he is at Worlds or not
• that the CPA Comite Directeur (Board of Directors) allow riders from their nations (France, Italia, Espana, Suisse, Portugal, North America) to vote as individuals on the same electronic ballot as all riders

Background Info: Gentlemen of the Pro Peloton, cycling is a great sport, and it is our sport. Let’s get involved to make it bigger, greater, and safer! For that we need [is] to be listened and allowed to vote. Whoever becomes president should know that the riders want to be involved! We need strong leadership we believe in and he speaks on behalf of all of us.

On 27 September at Innsbruck Worlds the CPA — our only international riders union — will elect a President for a 4-year term (2019-2022). Gianni Bugno has been CPA President for 8 years (2010-2018) and he is a candidate again. David Millar is also a candidate for CPA President. Other candidates may also put their hand up to be President. But right now we the riders are not being allowed to vote for the CPA President. The CPA Comite Directeur / Board of Directors (only 6 people) vote for the President according to how many pro riders are from only 6 nations.

We the total pro peloton need to choose our representative. Sign this petition to tell the CPA that the entire global pro peloton should vote for CPA President. #GetInvolved

While it wasn’t Millar who created the petition, getting to the bottom of who did isn’t really the point. Rather, the point is that a large number of riders have demonstrated a lack of confidence in the current president of their union, and are demanding that they be given the opportunity to vote for themselves in selecting their next president.

Here are just a few comments from riders whose names, though withheld because this was a privately shared document, are those that any fan of professional cycling would know well.

“There are few emotions that cut to the core as much as the feeling of being disenfranchised. The CPA needs to listen to us. This begins as a request but ends as a warning to them.”

“This needs to happen! If this is for our voice then we need to be able to decide on who has that voice.”

“CPA is there to represent all riders and we all pay for the CPA so we should be allowed to vote.”

As mentioned above, it’s expected that every member nation other than the ANAPRC will vote for Bugno, totaling 391 votes. Millar will receive the 67 votes from the ANAPRC plus any votes from attending riders, which will not be a figure over 324 votes. However the number of riders signing the petition will very likely surpass 300 by the day of the election, meaning that Bugno may well be re-elected without a mandate.

“I understand I can’t win, because I know Italy will 100 percent will vote for Gianni Bugno, and as far as I know France will as well, and because they’ve got block voting, that means they’ve got 275 votes from two delegates and that means it’s impossible to win,” Millar said. “But at least the peloton and the media will now learn what’s going on. And then that hopefully will force change.”

CPA RESPONSE TO THE RIDER PETITION

Over the past few weeks, the CPA has posted several statements about the upcoming election to its website.

One, dated September 8 and titled “Voting procedure for the election of the CPA president,” aims to remind the cycling community that the CPA is a democratic association “governed by a statute,” and that “the very concept of democratic association is linked to compliance with its own regulations.”

“Changing the regulations before an election, as you know, is an instrumental and incorrect act,” the statement reads. “No one changes a statute a few weeks before an election and it is surprising that the riders or some other people, do not think in this way.”

The statement goes on to question why riders did not request an electronic ballot in December 2017, when Katerina Nash was elected president of the UCI Athletes’ Commission during an election at UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland.

The statement goes on to say that the CPA has attempted to encourage participation from new national associations such as England, Slovakia, Germany, and Poland, going as far as to finance travel and accommodations to CPA events, but that those who were placed in the role of rider representative never took action.

“If the new board that will come out of the next elections will change the bylaws and insert the possibility of an electronic vote it can do so,” the statement reads, “but now this is not possible. The CPA must act according to its own regulations.”

Another document, dated September 9 and titled “How the president of the CPA gets voted?” aims at addressing questions around an electronic vote, and allegations that the CPA is trying to conceal its voting methods.

“The CPA has nothing against the electronic vote, but it is not possible to apply it a few weeks before the election,” the statement read. “To change an established voting method it is necessary to give guarantees on the integrity and validity of new methods, to avoid manipulations of any kind and this involves time, costs, technologies that cannot be put in place a few weeks before the vote. It is especially necessary that our major body, the UCI, give us the consent to implement this new system. The Statute of the CPA does not provide for this type of vote and every democratic association, to be called such, must respect its given regulations.”

In a direct swipe at the ANAPRC, the statement pointed out that it had financed and supported the North American group, which began in 2014, and is now “surprised that we are getting attacked right by those people which we have supported and encouraged in the past.”

“We are surprised about some attacks we receive on social media because our Statute, in force since the birth of the CPA, has always been published on our website and available to everybody. Particularly, the members of the CPA such as the ANAPRC, which are requesting the electronic vote, should be aware of the regulations and could have requested a change of the voting methods in due time.”

Finally, the statement explains that, in an attempt to clarify the voting methods, the CPA asked the UCI’s legal department to provide its interpretation of the voting bylaws. “So it will be the UCI to finally say if the riders’ requests on a distance and electronic vote can be either applied or not.”

In the end, the response from the UCI seemed to validate the CPA’s claims and concerns, though UCI lawyer Nicolas Valticos went out of his way to state “the opinion given in this letter is only informative and cannot carry any legal value in case of disagreement during the general meeting of the CPA.”

Okay. So… what’s next?

RIDER REVOLT?

As it stands, a proposal for a statutory change will not be voted upon by a two-thirds majority on September 27. There will be no electronic vote for the next president of the professional riders’ union 30 days after the general assembly. David Millar will not be elected CPA president. A large number of professional cyclists will be unsatisfied, and feel disenfranchised.

The question is whether the riders will accept the status quo, or demand change. If they’re unable to change 19-year-old bylaws, will they move on? Or will they disavow the CPA and form a new union, one that permits electronic voting — and is accepting of professional women and Continental riders as well?

That would be complicated. They’d need to detach the CPA from the UCI. There would be a legal battle. New bylaws would need to be written. Relationships would be severed. The riders would need a leader. Millar may just be that person.

“The riders make the decision if they want to be part of this or if they don’t want to be part of this,” Millar said. “It’s within their power. When you have the two most recent Tour de France winners up in arms, and yet they’re ignored… okay. They’re the two most marquee riders in the sport, apart from Peter Sagan, and they’re impotent. And that essentially, sadly, sums it up.”

In the end, the result of the election isn’t the story, it’s what follows. The 2018 CPA presidential election will ultimately prove to be not just a test of the rider’s union, but a test for the riders themselves.


The weekly spin is a new column from our Editor at Large, offering commentary and analysis on topics ranging from racing to tech to industry to travel to simple observations from the saddle.

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