UCI to vote on Merckx’s “End of Cycling” proposal.
The most famous pro cyclist in history, 70 year old Eddy Merckx, recently suggested that “it’s the end of cycling.” His dire pronouncement was in response to Tour de France champion Chris Froome releasing his physiological data.
When Merckx delivers a message about the sport, people sit up and take notice. He is one of the most influential people in pro cycling. And even decades after retirement, his opinion has a tremendous impact.
Therefore it’s no surprise that this Saturday in an extraordinary special session, the UCI will in fact vote on whether to end pro cycling. Brian Cookson, the head of the governing body, will count the votes and a simple majority will be required for the motion to pass.
“The Cannibal has spoken and who are we to argue?” said Johan Wouters, a member of the Belgian cycling federation. “If Merckx says it is the end of cycling, then we must pull up the stakes and close the show.”
Since emerging from yet another dark cloud of doping during the Armstrong years, the sport has struggled to repair the extensive damage. Sponsors have fled, teams have folded, races have died and those people who remain struggle to keep the sport going.
While Chris Froome’s decision to release his physiological data was a vote for clean cycling, the opposite effect seems to have occurred. “Merckx simply said what many people in the sport have been thinking for years. Let’s just end this foolishness and pay attention to soccer or basketball,” says Pierre Lefou, senior editor of L’Equipe, the French sporting newspaper. “When God tells you the world has ended, there is nothing you can do.”
UCI President Cookson, faced with a historical and shocking decision, has given no hint as to his own opinion. “Of course, we listened carefully to Eddie’s words. He cares deeply about the sport as we all do,” said Cookson. “The measure is now on the ballot and we will allow everyone to speak their mind.”
Already, the shock waves are moving through the pro peloton, as riders such as Tom Boonen, Mark Cavendish, Vincenzo Nibali and Richie Porte taking to social media to implore fans to make their feelings known and begging for Merckx to reconsider his edict.
Cavendish tweeted: “End cycling? Seriously? Eddie, are you effing crazy?” Meanwhile Boonen has reportedly visited Merckx in person to try and convince him to change his mind and cancel the UCI vote.
Besides Merckx, the other man at the center of the storm is Sky’s Chris Froome. While he stands by the decision to release his performance data, he is shocked at the subsequent outcome. “I’m trying to be a role model for clean cycling. It seems a bit extreme to shut down the whole sport,” said Froome. “I really thought things were getting better.”
Tour runner-up Nairo Quintana is currently in a remote part of Colombia with little media communication. As of the moment, he has no idea that his sport is in danger of ending.
However, at least one World Tour team manager was philosophical about Merckx’s call to end cycling. “At the end of the day, well, maybe it really is the end of the day,” said Cannondale’s Jonathan Vaughters. “I’ve got my MBA so really, I can do whatever I want.”
However, leadership at Team Sky is trying to spearhead a campaign to vote down Merckx’s point of view. “I have tremendous respect for Eddie Merckx. I don’t know what this is about and I don’t understand what he’s trying to accomplish,” said team principal David Brailsford. “Chris is going to the 2016 Tour for his third win and Eddie is not getting in the way.”
Stay tuned for future developments.