Ladies and gentleman, it’s with little pleasure but great amusement that I introduce you to UCI President Patrick McQuaid’s Mini-Me: Stephen Roche.
What is it with crazy red-faced Irishmen at the UCI and their buffoonery? Sometimes it seems that no public statements are issued from the UCI until after the pub closes.
The other day Roche went on the kind of rambling nut-ball tirade that McQuaid specializes in. He lashed out at riders who unzip their jerseys, use the caravan to catch back up to the race and then he took on the the “robots” who can’t live without race radio.
The sport can barely stay afloat financially, sponsors are incredibly difficult to find, team managers are in open revolt and relationships between teams and UCI are so bad a breakaway league is still openly discussed.
Despite all these major issues, Roche, who represents the UCI on the Professional Cycling Council (CCP), is focused on unzipped jerseys and riders drafting through the caravan. This is a man with bold vision; this is his agenda for change.
Perhaps the scariest part is that Roche takes the same view as McQuaid of the UCI’s governing role: the wise parent who brooks no discord from stupid, unruly children. “Punish a kid the first time and they’ll despise you for it, but at the same time it’s for their own good,” said Roche.
Try taking that approach with Garmin-Barracuda’s Jonathan Vaughters. Pretty tough because he’s smarter, funnier and more insightful than Roche and McQuaid put together. You can be sure Vaughters collects all Roche’s quotes in a file labeled “Dark Ages.”
It’s the old Rome burning story. McQuaid and Roche clinging to power and fixating on things like unzipped jerseys and time trial bike fairings, while the sport as a whole suffers.
There’s no questioning Roche’s palmares — including the 1987 Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Road World Championships. We do question his small-minded vision for the sport of cycling.