Brian Cookson says united front needed to meet pro racing challenges

UCI president addresses WorldTour teams and race organisers as two-day seminar opens in Chantilly

by Simon_MacMichael   December 4, 2013  

Brian Cookson at the site in Paris where the UCI was founded (source Brian Cookson Images, Flickr)

UCI president Brian Cookson has said that it is only by presenting a united front that the governing body, UCI WorldTour teams, and organisers of the races on the WorldTour calendar will be able to overcome the challenges facing the sport.

Cookson, who succeeded Pat McQuaid in the top job at world cycling’s governing body in September, made his comments at the start of a two-day UCI WorldTour seminar being held in Chantilly, near Paris.

It comes as the UCI prepares to draw up regulations early in the new year that will result in a sweeping reform of the men’s calendar, including the length of races and the number of teams participating, with changes that have already been agreed with key stakeholders due to be gradually implemented between 2015 and 2020.

“The UCI WorldTour is home to professional cycling’s leading competitions, and is for many people our sport’s ‘shop window’ and each and every one of you present has an important part to play in its success and its popularity,” he told an audience comprising representatives of teams and race organisers today.

“You are all key players in the WorldTour, and the UCI greatly appreciates your contribution and values your input into any discussions concerning the future of our sport. That is why, for the second year running, we have brought both the organisers and the teams together for this UCI WorldTour seminar.

“The 2013 UCI WorldTour was marked by great racing and great locations but there is work to be done and I am delighted to be here as the UCI’s new President to lead that work.

“Professional cycling must adapt to changes and new techniques and this is not always an easy path, but it is one that all of us who have the best interests of our sport at heart, can and must take.

“We must improve the financial performance of professional cycling, and to do this we must increase its visibility, make it clearer and more attractive. 

“By doing so, we will have a more stable structure that will support all those who wish to contribute to the development of our sport in both historic and new territories.”

Last week, Cookson told Bloomberg that while he rejected the concept of a ‘breakaway’ league as proposed under the World Series Cycling project, he acknowledged the necessity “to find ways of giving the teams a more sustainable economic situation, otherwise we’ll go into a spiral of decline.”

He added that such measures might include giving teams a share of television revenue.

That’s one of the topics that is likely to be the focus of discussions during the seminar in Chantilly, with Cookson explaining in today’s address:  “Over the next two days, we will discuss concrete issues which concern all of us: our different roles, new technology, television, and the culture of professional cycling. 

“Indeed, television coverage plays an important and growing role in the success and the promotion of our sport and a good part of tomorrow’s session will be devoted to television production."

The reference to the latter may be indicative that Cookson may be disposed to seeing TV production companies put cameras in team cars and on bikes as a way of bringing viewers closer to the action, something that his predecessor McQuaid resisted.

“We have a very full programme ahead of us and I am looking forward to getting down to business," Cookson concluded. "I repeat, once again, that we are at the beginning of a new era and it is together, united, and only united, that we will be able to rise to the challenges that await us.”