Questions I’d like the UCI presidential candidates to answer

We heard yesterday that Brian Cookson, the president of British Cycling, has decided to stand against Pat McQuaid as the present of the UCI (the International Cycling Union).  There are a lot of people saying that we should support Cookson on the anyone-but-McQuaid card, and there is a point to that – but Cookson isn’t exactly an uncontroversial character without conflict of interest – the deep and inseparable links between British Cycling and Team Sky are problematic as they are, without adding the UCI into the mix. Of course, McQuaid has actual allegations of corruption against him (around the Lance Armstrong doping issues, for example), and Cookson doesn’t, and the McQuaid presidency has been dogged with issues on many levels, but it’s not as simple as Cookson as a knight in shining armour coming to rescue the sport.

From a women’s cycling perspective, both McQuaid and Cookson seem as bad as each other.  McQuaid famously said in 2011 that women cyclists didn’t deserve a minimum wage, because “We have an agreement in men’s sport, but women’s cycling has not developed enough that we are at that level yet”, which was a bit rich, given he is in charge of that development!  But last year Cookson said he also didn’t think women deserved a minimum wage because “If you passed a rule tomorrow saying that a women’s pro team had to have a minimum wage, the first result would be you’d lose half the teams, because they couldn’t afford it.”  This is more nuanced than McQuaid’s position, but it ignores the fact that a) it might be better for exploitative or badly managed teams to go, b) it’s not that black and white – what a lot of people have been calling for is a second tier of women’s teams, the pro tier of which could have a minimum wage, and be voluntary, and c) as UCI Road Commission president, he’s had a lot of power to help change things.

I have some deep issues with British Cycling – I cancelled my membership last year because I couldn’t carry on supporting them, while they treated women’s cycling so badly (I had asked them questions about this first by email, but BC aren’t very good at replying to member emails).  I’ve never seen a good explanation for why, when we have such a well-resourced Federation, there is no UCI-level women’s road race, or cyclocross race, for that matter, in the UK – and when British Cycling has been resourcing Team Sky in so many ways, why they have never had a women’s team – especially when such stars of the sport as Olympic and World champion Nicole Cooke and World Champ and Olympic medallist Emma Pooley had been struggling through multiple team collapses, and both have been very vocal about the challenges they’ve faced.  And we all know how badly the UCI has supported women’s racing, with races collapsing by the dozen every year – and the UCI couldn’t even be bothered to make a statement or answer journalists’ questions when races cancel 24 hours before they were due to start!  It’s really hard to find how the UCI are helping women, because it’s as though they don’t exist!

But!  All people can change!  And in an interview with Cyclingnews yesterday, Cookson says he’s changed his mind about women’s racing, and Pat McQuaid says women’s cycling is a priority for him.  So when the pair publish their manifestos, here are some specific questions I’d like to see them answer:

Women’s cycling

  • Your statements on women’s cycling are very different to what you were saying last year – that women shouldn’t have a minimum wage etc – what has changed your mind?
  • What concrete plans would you implement to support women’s cycling (especially women’s road cycling) in your first year as president, and by the end of five years?
  • What will you do about the specific problem of collapsing races in your first year as president, and by the end of five years?
  • What will you do to support tv coverage of women’s racing?
  • You have both been involved in the UCI for a long time – what have you done to support women’s road racing, in the face of the continual collapse of races?  Looking back, would you have done anything differently?
  • There are no women’s UCI-level races in either of the countries you represent – why is this the case?  As UCI president, how would you persuade your own and other Federations that don’t have races to support women’s elite racing?
  • How will you boost women’s participation in the other elite cycling disciplines?
  • Other the past years, we have heard about women riders who haven’t been paid according to their legal contracts with their teams, and that there hasn’t been support for them from the UCI, when they’ve asked for it – what actions will you take against teams that break riders’ contracts in future?

Questions about other disciplines

  • You seem to be focusing on road cycling – what are your priorities for all the other cycling disciplines?  What concrete plans would you implement to support each discipline in your first year as president, and by the end of five years?
  • How will you support the internationalisation of the other disciplines, such as MTB and cyclocross?
  • In track, how will you narrow the gap between the best-resourced nations, such as the UK and Australia, and those nations that don’t have the resources, or even a velodrome, in their country?
  • Given that the countries holding the Olympics have to build a brand-new velodrome, BMX course and MTB course, will you be pushing the IOC to have more cycling events in the Olympics?  The IOC’s arguments on number of medals etc don’t seem to apply to other sports (athletics having track & field, marathon, walking etc) and it seems a waste of resources to spend all this money for such a small number of events.
  • There are no UCI-level cyclocross races in either of the countries you represent – why is this the case?  As UCI president, how would you persuade your own and other Federations that don’t have races to support elite cyclocross?
  • The current “riders’ union”, the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP), only represents professional men’s road cycling.  What will you do to ensure that riders from all disciplines, including women’s professional road cycling, will have proper communication channels with the UCI, and ways to raise issues and influence decision-making?

Specific questions for McQuaid

  • You have been in charge of the UCI for a long time – why is it that, under your watch, the number of women’s races has drastically declined, and riders and teams have lurched from crisis to crisis, with no support from the UCI?
  • How will you ensure a separation between your own personal statements about your candidacy, and the general UCI press releases?  Why hasn’t this happened so far?

Specific questions for Cookson

  • You have been in charge of British Cycling for a long time – why is it that, under your watch, there has been no women’s Team Sky, and riders of the calibre of Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley and Lizzie Armitstead have seemingly had so little support through the troubles with their teams?  Why does BC support so few elite women in road racing?
  • Please can you tell us if any of your other views on women’s cycling in the Cycling Weekly article last year have changed, and why?

Of course, I’ll also be very interested in their answers to the questions I’m sure everyone else will answer, about doping, conflict of interest, corruption!  At this point, I’m not really bothered by the fact they both seem to have changed their minds, and I don’t even care if they’re just saying all the right words in the hope of being elected, as long as they now implement real change.  On balance, I’d prefer Cookson over McQuaid, because I think change is important at the moment – but what I’d really like is a bigger range of candidates…..  Step forward former racer, President of the UCI Oceania Cycling Confederation and former head of the Amy Gillett Foundation, Tracey Gaudry!


If you have questions you’d like to see answered, put them in the comments, or tell me on twitter.  I’m really interested in this!  And if you see them answer questions like these anywhere, please let me know, and I’ll pull them together in a post.


You can find out more about Cookson on his website and by following his PR twitter.    McQuaid hasn’t got any of that (he’s been using the UCI PR for this) but he has commented on Cookson’s bid.  The elections will take place over the World Championships in Florence, in September.


Dan and I have been talking and thinking and writing about what WE’D do to help women’s cycling a lot over the last year.  Some simple things I’d implement in my first year?  Where men’s races also have women’s races, especially the World Tour races, add a clause that the tv/streaming agreements have to show some of the women’s race and especially the finish, live – and of course, the Four simple ways to develop women’s cycling I wrote for Cyclingnews last year.


31 thoughts on “Questions I’d like the UCI presidential candidates to answer

  1. You could also try talking to Matthew Knight, sports coordinator for the Road Commission at the UCI. Apparently it’s his job to promote women’s cycling.

    • Good point!

      I never replied to your previous comments – really sorry about that, I haven’t got around to it, but it’s definitely on my list. Thanks very much, though – it’s just life’s a bit on top at the moment

  2. Everyone always goes on about a ‘Women’s team SKY’ you lot have one right under your noses & don’t give it the support it deserves! Wiggle Honda – UK based team, main sponsor is UK based (and cycle industry!),with 5 UK athletes, most of which wouldn’t be riding road if it wasn’t for the team.

    • How is Wiggle Team Sky? It’s not funded by Sky, it’s not supported by Sky, it’s sponsor is Wiggle!

      I’m also a little bit surprised you say I don’t give Wiggle support – I’m continually linking to and tweeting their press releases, their videos, videos of their riders winning, blogs their riders have made, article about them, celebrating their results, telling people how to buy their jerseys etc. What would you like me to do that’s more than that?

    • (Plus bear in mind Rowsell, Trott and King have ridden for road teams before, and changed teams to race for Wiggle and Elinor Barker has just come out of junior ranks. I love that they’re riding, but it’s not the case that without Wiggle, British riders wouldn’t be able to ride road. Armitstead, Trott and Martin race for Boels-Dolmans, Colclough races for Specialized-lululemon, Laws races for Lotto-Belisol, Garner rides for Argos-Shimano and Pooley rides for Bigla – it’s not at all the case that without Wiggle-Honda, Brits wouldn’t get to ride on the road) (although of course it’s fantastic having a new team around, and i love what they do)

  3. Apologies, it’s not you specifically but the press & pundits generally who referring to a ‘women’s team Sky’ (rather than just saying a British pro team with proper funding & resources) like just having the sky name will magically transform the team into something better! Of course it would be amazing for a women’s team to have the resources of team Sky but it’s chicken & egg, someone like Sky wouldn’t invest all that money on a sport that has little in the way of media attention in their target countries of UK & Italy. Trott et al have even said in interviews that they probably wouldn’t be riding road otherwise. i think it’s great to see the cycle & motor industry getting behind a women’s team independently of Team Sky & British Cycling especially since the latter doesn’t seem to have done much t support it of late. That Garner, Pooley etc. have continued racing for Euro teams is testament to their fortitude, most have them have been at the sharp end of teams folding etc. or have been stuck in a rut racing in the limited British system!

    • Yes indeed, re Pooley – and one of the things I love most about her (apart from her lunatic, endless attacking, and fabulous look as if the steepest mountains are a gentle roll around the park!) is the way she’s not afraid to talk about it! Emma Pooley interviews are one of my favourite things in cycling!

      The reason there’s such a call for a women’s Team Sky is that in 2008, Braildford and BC had the Halfords team, mostly GB riders, set up around Nicole Cooke. They rode a partial season and were ridiculously successful, with Cooke, of course, winning the Olympic and World double – and riders like Lizzie Armitstead, Sharon Laws and Emma Trott riding for them. But then, as soon as the Olympic goals were reached, they were dropped – and it seemed like adding insult to injury that, when he was setting up sky, Brailsford kept referencing Cooke’s wins as proof his “marginal gains” techniques worked. In the first year Brailsford said they weren’t ready to start a women’s team yet… and while other super-teams, like the Cervélo Test Team, launched with both women’s and men’s teams, that seemed believable – but then nothing materialised, and in the meantime, Cooke, Armitstead and Laws have been left with team disasters at least once – and things like the SkyRides have been fronted by Page 3 girls and underwear models, rather than our cycling superstars (Vicky Pendleton the occasional exception).

      It’s also hard when Sky kept having press releases about the lighting on their magic bus and all that year 1 nonsense, because they have SUCH a large budget, and a women’s team would cost €250k-€400k, which is a drop in their funding ocean – and when part of that funding comes from British Cycling, who are supposed to be developing cycling for everyone, not just the boys, it hurts…

      Sorry for the giant reply! I get a bit exercised about this, all this is said with a smile, and apologies if I’m telling you stuff you already know inside out! 🙂

      (What is interesting is how much press attention Wiggle Honda are leveraging. Women’s cycling, outside Worlds/Olympics/track in the Guardian, Times and Telegraph! Their fantastic videos! They’re definitely punching above their weight, and, I hope, demonstrating to UK media that women’s cycling is interesting, in the same way ORICA-AIS and Cycling Australia have shown in Aus, and Specialized-lululemon have shown in the USA. And then there are the top countries for women’s cycling – Italy and the Netherlands, where women’s races (and junior races!) are shown on national tv – maybe one day we can reach that over here!)

      • Much as we often agree Sarah, I’m afraid you’re wrong on Orica-AIS in Australia. The men’s team barely rates a mention in the media and the women’s team might as well not exist because they get absolutely nothing. People like you and I tweet it, talk about it. But truth be told for the most part we’re telling like minded people about stuff we know they’ll be interested in.

        Compared to other sports where Australian women are successful, Cycling gets nothing. Chloe Hosking lead in Qatar for 3 of the 4 days and it didn’t rate a mention anywhere. That’s not to say women’s sport gets much coverage in Australia by the way…

      • Oh, interesting. It always seems to me like the women get good coverage because of the fantastic CA videos and things like that – thanks!

  4. Good questions there. I would also be especially interested to know if they are aware of the ever-growing interest in women’s cycling that can be seen in social media. This could be a powerful tool to measure people’s interest on this discipline.

  5. Without the support of the industry and sponsors with deep pockets, the UCI has little impetus to move women’s cycling forward. Money talks, and it is just not there at present from the company’s that profit from sale of their products to women. Add the European attitude towards women’s rights as compared to the US model and realize that is a separate battle to fight. I don’t see Cookson as the answer to right the ship at UCI. His association with BC and the UCI make him just another insider. What is needed is an outside management professional that owes no favors and has zero association with cycling. The preconceived notions brought to the table by insiders will not move the sport forward. This is a business that happens to involve cycling, not a cycling program that involves business. I fully support parity for women’s cycling and wish them good luck in their quest.

    • The thing is, there’s tons of research that women control the majority of household spending – and there are all kinds of products bike sponsors sell that want women to buy them as much as men – Garmins, eg – and remember when OPQS was Predictor Lotto? Pregnancy tests!

      It’s interesting to me the reasons people give for not wanting more women’s racing. I was interested in Cookson saying that women’s cycling isn’t on tv because no one would watch it, just like football/soccer – which is bizarre, given how much work FIFA has done to promote women’s football, and the (some would say) surprisingly large audiences that tuned in to watch the womenn’s football World Cup when it was on tv. But then, we demonstrate over & over again that when women’s racing is shown on tv, people love to watch – whether it’s overloading the RTV Drenthe servers for the Ronde van Drenthe stream, or the overwhelmingly larger number that tuned in to watch the women’s Olympic road race than the men’s (on UK tv/online, at least)… it’s only a matter of time, this is an area perfect for development!

  6. Cookson has at least indicated that he wants more female members in the management committee of the UCI (aside from the 1 currently in place). Perhaps what’s also needed is a female member (or three) on the UCI road commission (headed currently by Matthew Knight – all 7 members are male). Maybe some lobbying in that direction, prior to the September vote, will see some women elected to both areas.

    • Heh, what he actually said was he wanted A woman on the management committee, forgetting Tracey Gaudry! 🙂 But I take your point – and damn, they need more. He also pointed out that Pat McQuaid last year was saying he wanted a woman on every UCI committee, but there doesn’t seem to have been any action on that. I do think, overall, that Cookson is better than PMQ, but I really want to see some concrete plans, from both of them, rather than just words….

  7. I was optimistic that perhaps he simply meant an elected woman member (aside from Tracey, who was appointed by virtue of her Oceania presidency). And yes, plenty more needed. I note all the statistics regarding each confederation’s relative proportion of countries represented (by %) and votes at congress (by %). I haven’t seen any statistics on the representation of professional female riders at UCI, by % – have you? Seems to me that if there are, let’s say, 5% pro’s (out of the total) that are female, then 5% of the representation at UCI (commission and management level) ought to be female. What do you think?

    (Pat has magnanimously indicated that UCI staff (i.e. clerical / administrative) are 52% female, or something like that. But this is hardly useful, when they don’t have a vote.)

    • Oooh, I don’t know re pros. It’s interesting, because the ratios seem different across disciplines – eg it feels like there’s a better proportion in top-level MTB and track, but a much worse one in CX – and then there’s Para-cycling, and that is different again – and of course, in road men have the World Tour/Pro-Conti/Conti levels, to the women’s one UCI category. I reckon it’s more than 5%, taken across the board.

      But then, I’m interested in how cyclists from all disciplines have representation – because I sort of can see how the pro men (I think that’s just the WT men) work through the AIGCP – and I guess maybe some CX has a voice via the Belgian and Dutch Feds? Maybe? I know they invited a cross-discipline group of riders to talk to them last year (Marianne Vos and Meredith Miller were included) but I don’t now what happened to their recommendations, if there was any promise to consider/act on them.

      I find it all so confusing! I’ve worked in the civil service, and for charities and universities in my time, so I’m usually good with bureaucracies, but I’m stumped by the UCI completely. I was reading this great article on Cyclingnews, on exactly who gets to vote for the UCI President, and I had to give up and pour myself a glass of wine, because all the UCI rules are bizarre!

      And re admin staff…. it was often the way, back in the day, that companies will happily show off that they’re 50% female, without mentioning that the women were almost all in the low-paid jobs…. It’s another reason Pat is a dinosaur, that he can put forward that as an example of parity… aaaargh, more wine needed!

  8. Yes, I’ve read that article (“Confederacy of Dunces”). I’ve also read the UCI constitution fairly thoroughly, and it’s not quite so convoluted once you get into it.

    One question I’ve yet to find an answer for though, is – Article 34 of the UCI Constitution states that the president “shall open Congress and control the discussions and voting operations”. In an impartial and democratic electoral process, how it is that the incumbent president, vying for re-election, controls the voting operations? (Got any friends in political law that would know the answer?)

    • Oh my word! That just doesn’t sound right on any level!!! I guess it relies on a decent person who respects democracy being in charge? Gentlemen’s agreements? Stuff like that?

      (I know, I know…!)

      • It’s been revised since it was first posted – so thanks! Another informative read. Unfortunately, still no stats on the gender issue anywhere, but I’ll keep looking. It’s all getting gradually more interesting though. 🙂

  9. No doubt , if you had been aware of my Blogs ( ,etc ) you would have seen my advocasy for @gaudryT since earlier in the year . Last year i even proposed an Aussie Female to take on phat the rat’s current sinecure !

    Removing rats from a sinking ship , is as you know , hazardous to ALL concerned ! So many arriving in Firenze have had their snouts firmly entrenched , so much so that they fear change , perhaps even exposure of their misdeeds over the years ?

    Wishing i had seen your blog in earlier days , since you are the source of some additional info that i may use in the days leading up to when i once again greet jim burn , as i did in Porto Vecchio . He corrected me with the fact that it is Burn and he was proud of what he had done , back then !

    Jacques Rogge is retiring this year , but even he should be hanging his head in SHAME , having allowed his mate , nein fordruggen , to persuade him to overlook the ” Banning Order against burn/mcquaid of 1972 “!

    In conclusion , have you had ANY ANSWERS , to your well thought out questions , from either party ?

    I will be tweeting the link to this Post to Cookson , as my next action , asking that he address each point , in his blog . Time there were no bushes to hide behind ! Please see if you can turn up the ” Cooke Resignation Letter ” which , Cookson should also address as urgent !

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