David Lappartient at the head of the UCI: eighteen months of progress - First part

Apr 12, 2019, 15:16 PM

Since my election as UCI President in September 2017, we have made a great deal of progress in areas of vital importance to cycling, in terms of its appeal, credibility and increased support for the National Federations who need it. Having expressed my vision in my campaign manifesto, I then translated it into objectives and revealed them in the UCI’s Agenda 2022. It gives me great pleasure today to give you a first glimpse (the second part will follow next week) of the very positive key results that have been achieved to date. Though much still needs to be done, I am delighted to continue pursuing the mission with which I have been entrusted.

 

The fight against technological fraud

One of my campaign promises was to step up the fight against technological fraud and thereby guarantee the credibility of the results of cycling competitions. Within a month-and-a-half of my election, I appointed the former champion cyclist and qualified engineer Jean-Christophe Péraud to head up the unit leading the fight against technological fraud. Four months later, we presented a strengthened plan to combat the problem and rolled it out during the course of the 2018 season. The plan includes the following:

  • new X-ray checks carried out by a technician travelling to races in an autonomous mobile testing unit;
  • the launch of the development of a new magnetic scanning tablet that is considerably more powerful than the existing tablet and which can easily be deployed by our National Federations. The tablet can be used to scan bikes and detect the presence of motors concealed in the frame or other components;
  • a partnership with the French Atomic and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA) with a view to developing a detection tool enabling real-time and continuous monitoring throughout an event.

In the process, we have acquired an innovative, upgradeable, effective and dissuasive range of tools that removes all doubt when it comes to mechanical doping in cycling.

During the course of the 2018 season, we carried out some 16,000 inspections with the aid of magnetic scanning tablets and nearly 650 with the assistance of X-rays.

 

Reorganisation of men’s and women’s professional road cycling

Following years of uncertainty and entrenched views, there was a need to bring all the leading stakeholders of men’s professional road cycling – teams, riders and organisers – around the table in a peaceful and constructive atmosphere to work together on a solid and ambitious reform that would benefit all the parties in question and increase the appeal and popularity of our sport. In September 2018, at the end of this exhaustive process, the members of the Professional Cycling Council – a body comprising the three aforementioned stakeholders – gave unanimous approval to the reorganisation of men’s professional road cycling. The UCI Management Committee also approved this new organisation unanimously. The roll-out of the new reform began this year and will be fully in place by the start of the 2020 season. The main aspects of the this structure are as follows:

  • three divisions of events (from 2020): UCI WorldTour (comprising a new UCI Classics Series, which I will touch upon below), UCI ProSeries (featuring a selection of existing HC and class 1 events) and UCI Continental Circuits (still regrouping Class 1 and Class 2 races);
  • three divisions of teams (from 2020): UCI WorldTeams, UCI ProTeams (formerly UCI Professional Continental Teams) and UCI Continental Teams;
  • simplified rankings adapted to our sport: as of this season the UCI World Ranking – individual, teams and nations – is the only international ranking; the UCI Continental Rankings, however, will remain unchanged. Furthermore, to take into account cycling’s specificities, the UCI World Ranking is now presented into two specific rankings: a one-day race ranking and a stage-race ranking.

The UCI Classics Series will launch in 2020 and will be comprised of UCI WorldTour one-day races with common terms of reference. Its aim is to create a better and more profitable economic model for cycling’s stakeholders and to further internationalise our sport. The new UCI Classics Series has garnered a widespread interest from the media and other concerned parties, namely organisers.

Women’s professional road cycling has come on leaps and bounds over the last decade, though it still lacks the visibility of men’s road cycling. The riders deserve better and it was therefore incumbent upon us to engage in genuine reform with a view to making women’s road cycling more professional, speeding up its development, enhancing its visibility, and increasing its popularity. It is with those goals in mind that a series of measures will be introduced at the start of the 2020 season:

  • the creation of three divisions of events: UCI Women’s WorldTour, UCI ProSeries and UCI Continental Circuits (regrouping Class 1 and Class 2 races);
  • the introduction of enhanced organisational standards for the organisers of the UCI Women’s WorldTour and the UCI ProSeries, aimed at providing a better visibility of the events;
  • the implementation of a distinction between two types of teams enabling the creation of a first division with higher requirements: the UCI Women’s WorldTeams (first division) and UCI Women’s Continental Teams (second division);
  • the introduction of a minimum salary and other benefits for riders, among them a maximum number of days of racing, sickness cover, maternity cover, life insurance, and increased prize money;
  • the reinforcement of the fight against doping with an increase of the number of riders in the UCI registered testing pool of athletes subject to doping controls.

As with the men’s reform, the women’s reform was elaborated with all the stakeholders who are members of the UCI Road Commission and the UCI Women’s WorldTour Committee.

The stakeholders of men’s and women’s professional road cycling have been waiting for these two reforms for many years. Thanks to a lengthy consultation process and a genuine desire for collaboration, the terms and conditions have been approved and are now being implemented. Elite road cycling now finds itself in the best possible position to consolidate its status as a major global Olympic sport.

 

TV/Support Commissaire

Road commissaires have a very difficult job: supervising how races unfold and making good decisions quickly. To support our Commissaires, who play a vital role when it comes to ensuring fairness and safety at competitions, we have created the position of TV/Support Commissaire. This person works from a TV van, belonging to the UCI, equipped with several screens, and monitors all images available (not just the images that go out live on TV), immediately reviewing any images that may be of interest. The TV/Support Commissaire also has the power to monitor messages and visuals posted by users on social media during the event. This UCI initiative, which was used for the first time at Milan-Sanremo in Italy in March 2018, has enhanced the quality of officiating at races, improving fairness and the safety of riders, the followers and spectators. 

 

Tramadol ban

I also promised to ban tramadol when I became UCI President. Widely used by cyclists, the substance is dangerous on a number of levels and can cause drowsiness, leading to an increased risk of race crashes and a risk of dependency. As tramadol is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List, I have  decided to take action and ban it in all disciplines and all rider categories for health reasons. Its use has thus been subject to penalties since 1 March this year, and a testing protocol to this effect has been instituted.

This course of action has been very warmly welcomed by the cycling family. It forms part of the drive to bolster our policy of protecting the health of riders, which also led to us to appointing Professor Xavier Bigard as Medical Director. Having joined us in June 2018, Professor Bigard, who is based at the UCI headquarters, is currently working on the development of a major athlete health protection programme.

 

Changes to the UCI World Championships

Our World Championships are the major event on the annual calendar in each of our disciplines. Earning the right to wear the iconic rainbow jersey as UCI World Champion sets those riders apart and secures them a place in cycling history. Nevertheless, our World Championships must evolve if they are to maintain their prestige and become even more popular. It is with those objectives in mind that I have implemented a number of initiatives.

It was my aim to hold, once every four years, UCI World Championships encompassing every discipline that comes under the auspices of our Federation. It is with this objective in mind that the inaugural UCI Cycling World Championships will be held in Glasgow and Scotland, in 2023, as we announced at the beginning of February. The event will be an unprecedented sporting and popular celebration of cycling and will bring together all our sport’s families in one place for nearly three weeks, generating the kind of media coverage cycling has never enjoyed before. It will be a unique and truly historic event.

The UCI Road World Championships will celebrate their 100th edition in 2021. Over the course of their long history they have visited four continents, with Africa the only notable absentee. Given the emergence of a growing number of champion cyclists from Africa and the fast-improving quality of the events staged on the continent, which has hosted a number of global competitions in other cycling disciplines, it was only right that Africa should have “its” UCI Road World Championships too. This dream will become a reality in 2025. We are currently working with potential organisers to ensure that everything will be ready for the event and that Africa can take its opportunity to offer the world a show that is both memorable and historic.

We have also stepped up our efforts to promote our World Championships to potential organisers, most notably by showing them the many benefits – financial, image-related and others – that cities and regions can enjoy from staging such an event. This work has paid dividends, as reflected by the fact that all our Road and Mountain Bike World Championships for the period between 2020 and 2024 have already been awarded:

  • 2020 UCI Mountain Bike Cross-Country Olympic World Championships: Albstadt (GER)
  • 2020 UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Championships: Leogang (AUT)
  • 2020 UCI Road World Championships: Aigle and Martigny (SUI)
  • 2021 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships: Val di Sole (ITA)
  • 2021 UCI Road World Championships: Flanders (BEL)
  • 2022 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships: Les Gets (FRA)
  • 2022 UCI Road World Championships: Wollongong (AUS)
  • 2023 UCI Mountain Bike and Road World Championships, as part of the UCI Cycling World Championships: Glasgow and Scotland (GBR)
  • 2024 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships: Vallnord (AND)
  • 2024 UCI Road World Championships: Zurich (SUI).

Furthermore, we are looking to awarding all UCI World Championships in all our Olympic disciplines for the 2020-2024 period between now and September 2019. Awarding championships up to five years in advance – a record - gives National Federations and our sponsors the opportunity to prepare for them in the best possible way and, also, demonstrates the popularity of our events. 

 

Inclusion of new specialities in the UCI Regulations in 2019

Cycling is an extremely vibrant sport that is continually reinventing itself. The UCI is intent on promoting all its variations, because, as the well-known phrase has it “nothing a cyclist does is foreign to us”. It is in this spirit that I have sought to bring the following specialities into the fold.

First of all e-cycling, which has seen huge growth in the last few years and is enjoyed by a growing cross-section of cyclists. A number of fun apps have been developed along with smart trainers, and people are taking up the sport in large numbers, attracted by the many advantages it has to offer. Enthusiasts of e-cycling can train and take part in races (some take place on routes used at previous UCI Road World Championships), in a very realistic manner and as part of a network, regardless of the weather outdoors.  The UCI must support and promote this growing trend, which is why we have included e-cycling in our Regulations and are organising the first UCI e-cycling World Championships in 2020.

The key role the UCI plays in this area has been recognised through my appointment as head of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) e-sports Liaison Group, which will facilitate communication between e-sports and the Olympic Movement.

E-mountain bike: electric mountain bike has attracted a whole new audience, a development that I am delighted to see. More and more races are registered on the UCI International Calendar, and a growing number of National Federations organise National Championships of this speciality. Notable athletes take part in these competitions, such as Julien Absalon, double Olympic Champion, five-time UCI cross-country Olympic World Champion. To ensure its growth, we have added E-mountain bike to our regulations and will this year be organising the first UCI E-Mountain Bike World Championships as part of the 2019 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes-Benz in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, which get under way at the end of August.

Enduro: this mountain bike speciality has been popular for some time now (the first Enduro World Series was held in 2013). An Enduro race features several liaison stages and timed stages, held on all types of terrain. Timed stages generally take place on downhill terrain and the final standings in a race are determined by adding together the times recorded in these timed stages. We have added the Enduro World Series to the 2019 UCI International Mountain Bike Calendar.

Alpine snow bike: we have included this speciality in the UCI Regulations, and we have introduced three events on the 2019 UCI International Mountain Bike Calendar. A UCI Alpine Snow Bike World Cup will also be held from 2020 and will feature five rounds held on several continents.

Pump track: a close relative of BMX Racing, this speciality takes place on a track featuring rollers and banked turns, not unlike a small BMX track. These features enable riders to gain momentum without pedalling. Often set up alongside BMX Racing tracks, pump tracks are more accessible, particularly for younger riders. The UCI has embraced pump track as a way of encouraging people to take it up, part of its plans to develop off-road disciplines. The UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) incidentally has such a track.