GENEVA, Switzerland (VN) — Team RadioShack team manager Johan Bruyneel told VeloNews on Sunday, after the Tour de Romandie finished in Geneva, that he remains unwilling to talk to the press about rumors that place him as a ringleader in the so-called breakaway league headed by 11 of the world’s top professional squads. But he did admit that he spoke at length on Saturday with UCI president Pat McQuaid
“We spoke about the radio issue again,” Bruyneel said. “We have very different views on how the radio ban was legislated. Let’s leave it at that.”
McQuaid, however, was more forthcoming.
“I had a long chat with Bruyneel,” he said. “I explained my position to him, and that my responsibility is to defend the interests of the UCI, to defend the interests of the sport, in an objective and global way. He has a vested interest in what he wants to do. So we did this swishing about. No hard feelings … he would remain a friend. But I disagree with his strategy.”
McQuaid was alluding to the teams’ not respecting the system that’s overseen by the UCI, which is the Olympic-recognized world governing body for all of cycling. Referring to Bruyneel’s and other teams, including Saxo-SunGard, HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervélo, McQuaid said that this group has been working toward “creating new finances for teams.”
“And within that scope I’ve had information there’s a possibility that the leaders of that group have been working away on a project — maybe without the knowledge of the whole group — to organize a series of events: World Tour or World Series, I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to be called.
“That in itself is outside the regulations of the UCI. Therefore, by extension, it would seem that this is the first step towards creating a breakaway league. From what I understand, the structure is on the basis of private investors, teams investing and organizers of events investing in a similar formula maybe to Formula 1. That is a threat to the UCI, and the UCI won’t accept it or take it lightly.”
As to what he does know, McQuaid added: “The teams have gone down this route without requesting any meeting or having any discussions with the UCI about their intentions. It would seem they want to wait until such time they have a fait accompli, and everything is in place, before they come back and approach the UCI.
“Private leagues and such may work in North America … but cycling is based on the European or world structure of sport. And that is with a regulatory body for the whole sport … from the base up. It’s run on the pyramid, hierarchical system that you get to the top via the various steps.
“It’s incorrect of this group to pull the elite end of this thing away from the pyramid. Because at the end of the day it’s all those clubs and volunteers around the world that actually develop these cyclists. They’re waiting until they get to the top and then pulling them away to make money.”
As for the teams’ threat to boycott October’s inaugural Tour of Beijing in China, Bruyneel said this did not come up in his meeting with McQuaid. Nor would the Belgian team boss discuss the May 1 deadline that the team association AIGCP gave the UCI in respect to rescinding the radio ban.
In a statement six weeks ago, the AIGCP said in a statement: “If the use of radios in all professional cycling events is not permitted by May 1, all of the teams have signed an accord that simply states that we will not participate in the Tour of Beijing, which is the only event that the UCI not only governs, but also promotes.”
Racing on May 1 has now taken place with no change in the rules. No radios were used at the Tour of Turkey, the Grand Prix of Frankfurt and other non-WorldTour events; but it is not yet clear how the teams can boycott a new race that could add considerable heft and prestige to their and the UCI’s international portfolio.
Ironically, while there’s been talk of boycotting their race, a delegation of 17 Chinese officials from the Tour of Beijing was in attendance at this week’s Tour de Romandie to study how a long-established WorldTour stage race is organized before they do their own.