Radio Ban battle. Teams walk out on UCI and McQuaid.
Lessons not learned.
UCI president Pat McQuid, for all his incompetence, at least has the virtue of consistency. The man can’t help but be himself, one dimensional, clueless and blind but predictable.
Radio Ban war, escalation part 29. McQuaid had been pretty quiet — shocking for him — ever since rumors began circulating that Jonathan Vaughters — among other team leaders — was considering the extraordinary step of forming their own union and exiting the UCI.
The hope was that McQuaid had finally noticed Rome was burning and it was time to put down the violin and cocktail glass. Faced with the possibility of a dead-serious insurrection led by the widely respected Vaughters of Garmin-Cervelo, the assumption was that the word “compromise” would finally reach McQuaid’s brain.
Wrong again. The war of words and radios took another step into the abyss at a hotel outside Brussels. Ostensibly a rational pow-wow between the UCI and 39 representatives from the 42 ProTeam and Professional Continental teams, the meeting degenerated into a walk-out protest.
Once the subject of the radio ban came up, the continued unwillingness of the UCI to alter their position led many team leaders to simply leave while McQuid was still speaking. Only Katusha and Astana stayed — maybe because they dig that soviet-style, one party rule.
Major players like Bjarne Riis of Saxo Bank-SunGard, Roberto Amadio of Liquigas-Cannondale, Johan Bruyneel of RadioShack, Rolf Aldag from HTC-Highroad and representatives from Team Sky and Garmin-Cervelo walked out. A majority exit that left the room empty except for the hot air.
Afterwards, McQuaid was at his usual inflammatory best. “It doesn’t surprise me (that they walked out). They have a completely closed mind to anyone else’s opinion. If is not their opinion, they don’t accept it,” he told the folks from cyclingnews. This is a priceless irony from a dictator unwilling to make any adjustments, who governs like an old school Stalin.
The UCI president had already dialed up the rhetoric another notch in an e-mail to Vaughters. “I have had enough of this High Moral Ground from you and I am refraining myself from writing exactly what I am thinking,” wrote McQuaid. “Enough to inform you that when I have finished with the teams today you will have plenty to “reflect” on and communication will be the furthest thing from your mind!!”
Is this any way to run an international sport? McQuaid will never be offered a peace-keeping role at the United Nations. Note the consistent use of the dictator first person, the I, not the we. The threats, the demeaning tone, the royal lecture to ungrateful servant. This is textbook stuff on how not to manage a volatile and complicated issue. Not to mention the ugly, public display of dirty lycra laundry.
Contrast that bitter noise with the media-savvy and far more constructive press release from the team union, AIGCP (Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionels). “At today’s meeting with the UCI in Brussels we hoped to agree the setting up of an independent expert review of all aspects of race radio usage including the best way to broadcast race safety warnings and the legal liabilities of a change to the existing system, alongside its use for tactics and team building. Sadly our approach was rejected by the UCI leadership.”
The sport of cycling is no longer a small, European affair run like a family business. Teams are based all over the world and with that new international stature comes new ways to organize and structure the sport. Evolution versus ossification.
Powerful men with deep pockets like HTC-Highroad’s Bob Stapleton or BMC’s Andy Rhys don’t take orders, they give them. They will ultimately not accept a King George approach to a sport they in which they’ve invested fortunes. Smart guys like Bjarne Riis and Jonathan Vaughters wish to move the sport forward. They don’t appreciate being forced to wear a bark collar and besides, it doesn’t match Vaughters’ wardrobe.
The irony of the radio ban debate (or lack thereof) is that fundamentally it’s about listening. It’s a question of dialogue, of hearing both sides of the story and finding a constructive solution. Mr. McQuaid continues to rule with both fingers in his ears.
In light of what happened in Brussels, maybe he is the one with the walking papers.