The world from Pat’s chair part III

  • By Mark Johnson
  • Published Feb. 8, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 19, 2012 at 11:33 AM EDT

Looking forward to 2012, McQuaid says “the Olympic games are going to be a huge thing for our sport.” He forecasts that the road race in London “will see the biggest number of spectators ever seen at an Olympic games road race. I would predict at minimum a million people on the roadside.” The 155-mile mens race and 87-mile women’s race from central London’s Mall will kick off two weeks of track, time trial, mountain bike and BMX events. “It’s going to be a huge boost to the sport, as long as everything goes well with it.”

In the political realm, “I hope we can come to terms with these teams who are thinking of breaking away; that they give up on that idea and decide, well, let’s work with the UCI and try and develop our sport together. Because we are certainly prepared to work with them and try to improve their lot as well.” But, he clarifies, by improving the teams’ situation, he does not just mean enrich team managers. “I don’t think we should be working to improve the lot of 18 team managers so they can take more money home at the end of the year. Extra monies that are coming in needs to be passed down to the riders as well.”

Concluding where 2011 ended, with the controversial Tour of Beijing, McQuaid says the Chinese race is again an important part of the UCI’s goals for 2012. “Despite the attempts of some to sabotage the event last year,” he holds that Beijing was a positive. “It’s a unique showcase for cycling even if there have been some problems with pollution.”

The UCI president is also tuned to the economic realities of running a money-intensive sport during the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression. “China has provided a new sporting destination for the UCI, and also a new economic opening for all sponsors in the professional sector. In these difficult economic times in Europe, and I think certainly in America as well, you have to grasp an opportunity like that with both hands.”

As for what keeps him going even though he is the target for a lot of tomato throwing in pro cycling, McQuaid chuckles at the image and explains that his energy comes from the fact that, “I love the sport. It’s probably not the right expression to use these days, but it’s in my blood and it always has been. And I’m in a position where I think I can do some good for the sport. I love to see development, and I love to see new kids coming along and kids coming from unusual places like Daniel Teklehaimanot from Eritrea.” (24-year-old Teklehaimanot signed with the Australian GreenEdge ProTour team for 2012 and 2013.)

On his travels around the world, especially to third-world and developing countries, McQuaid says that “when I see the enthusiasm and the love of cycling that these young disadvantaged kids a lot of the time have, it gives me great pleasure to see them succeed and see them come through.”

Mark Johnson has contributed to VeloNews as a writer and photographer since 1993. A category 2 rider, he also likes to go slow, having ridden across the United States twice on his loaded touring bike. On March 1, 2012 his new book on life with the Garmin-Barracuda team, Argyle Armada, will be published by VeloPress.

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Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Writer-photographer Mark Johnson's work has been published in titles including VeloNews in the United States, Cycling Weekly in the UK, Vélo in France, and Ride Cycling Review in Australia as well as general-interest publications including The Wall Street Journal and the San Diego Union-Tribune. His book on the Garmin pro team, Argyle Armada, was published by VeloPress in 2012. A Cat. 2 road cyclist, Mark has bicycled across the United States twice and completed an Ironman triathlon. He graduated from UC San Diego and has a Ph.D. in English literature from Boston University. His other passion is surfing, which he does frequently from his home in Del Mar, California. Follow him on Twitter @ironstringmark.

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