UCI Pres­i­dent Dav id Lap­par t ient faced back lash over h is ideas to curb Team Sky’s dom­i­nance at the Tour

Procycling - - CONTENTS -

In­sight, opin­ion and in­ter­views

It’s not been a year since he took of­fice, but UCI Pres­i­dent David Lap­par­tient al­ready ap­pears to be strug­gling to get the riders on­side when it comes to his ideas and re­forms for cy­cling’s fu­ture. No sooner had the lights on the Champs-Elysées dimmed, the podium dis­man­tled and the teams had dis­ap­peared into Parisian night­clubs, than Lap­par­tient had opened the now an­nual post-Tour de­bate about ways to curb Team Sky’s dom­i­nance. Some of Lap­par­tient’s ideas in­clude fur­ther re­duc­ing team sizes to six, ban­ning race ra­dios and power me­ters, and im­pos­ing a salary cap on teams in or­der to more evenly dis­trib­ute wealth and tal­ent through the sport.

For six of the last seven edi­tions of the Tour, the race has fol­lowed a very sim­i­lar script: Sky rider takes the yel­low jersey early in the race; Sky leader rides be­hind a train of other Sky riders in the moun­tains; Sky rider wins the Tour. And the same dis­cus­sion has fol­lowed each time: is Sky’s big bud­get – re­ported to be well over 30 mil­lion - giv­ing it an un­fair ad­van­tage? And if so, should its stran­gle­hold on the race be loos­ened? Lap­par­tient is the lat­est in a long line who thinks so. He said: “They win, and they’d be wrong to do oth­er­wise, but the pub­lic sees things dif­fer­ently. They want a show. Sky are like a football team that plays very well but with­out ex­cit­ing its fans,” he was re­ported as say­ing in French pa­per Le Temps.

“When the viewer sees eight riders of the team lock­ing down the race, they quickly change chan­nels to watch a soap opera. It’s up to the UCI to make sure that its races are at­trac­tive.”

But feed­back from riders sug­gested they didn’t all agree. Ka­tusha-Alpecin’s Wil­lie Smit wrote on Twit­ter that Lap­par­tient should “fo­cus on mak­ing our sport a bet­ter place and cre­ate sus­tain­abil­ity” rather than con­tin­u­ing a “per­sonal feud”– the lat­ter an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to Lap­par­tient’s war of words with Sky’s prin­ci­pal David Brails­ford dur­ing the Tour.

And is Sky’s Tour de France dom­i­nance ac­tu­ally a prob­lem? The Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España don’t suf­fer from the same ‘bor­ing

rac­ing’ back­lash as the Tour does, de­spite the fact Sky have won the last edi­tions too. Mean­while, praise was heaped on Quick-Step Floors this spring when they won al­most every one-day Bel­gian race.

Lap­par­tient’s sug­ges­tion that ban­ning race ra­dios and fur­ther cut­ting team sizes to just six in grand tours is just an­other spin of the cy­cling merry-gor­ound that oc­curs each sea­son. Team sizes have al­ready been re­duced from nine to eight in grand tours and eight to seven in all other WorldTour races this year with the aim of im­prov­ing safety in the pelo­ton and bring­ing ex­cite­ment to races. Yet if Sky were still able to dom­i­nate at the Tour with eight riders, who’s to say it would be any dif­fer­ent if they were re­stricted to six in the fu­ture? A race ra­dio ban was tri­alled at the 2009 Tour but teams protested.

One team dom­i­nat­ing like Sky does at the Tour is noth­ing new in cy­cling or sport. But in a digital world where the land­scape in which sport is watched has changed, Lap­par­tient’s ea­ger­ness to make cy­cling more ap­peal­ing and at­trac­tive for view­ers – and thus spon­sors – is not a bad idea. Cy­cling’s spon­sor­ship-re­liant model is proven time and time again, when­ever a team folds, to be on shaky ground. Any way that bring more money into the sport can only be a good thing.

“While I have not been a fan of Lap­par­tient; quite a few of his ideas said here make business sense,” EF-Dra­pac man­ager Jonathan Vaugh­ters said, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously dis­miss­ing Lap­par­tient’s ideas of ban­ning race ra­dios and power me­ters. “The par­ties in cy­cling need to stop fo­cus­ing on their in­di­vid­ual needs, and start look­ing at how to make the sport more com­pet­i­tive in a 21st cen­tury en­ter­tain­ment/ me­dia land­scape.”

Sky’s reign of Tour dom­i­nance will even­tu­ally come to an end, but it’s likely that – as has hap­pened be­fore – an­other team will step in and re­place them. View­ing re­form through the win­dow of stop­ping Team Sky could prove worth­less. And let’s not for­get the UCI is al­ready try­ing to bring in ma­jor re­forms to the WorldTour in 2020 by re­duc­ing the num­ber of top tier teams from 18 to 15 and in­tro­duc­ing a pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion sys­tem. It is some­thing which has caused waves of dis­con­tent among team man­agers. Lap­par­tient’s lat­est pro­pos­als, at least for now, look to be at­tract­ing the same level of min­i­mal en­thu­si­asm.

I felt un­der pres­sure in the climbs, whereas pre­vi­ously I've felt quite at ease. That was quite a big dif­fer­ence Chri s F roome, see page 122 fo r f u l l s tory

The re­duc­tion to eight-man teams at the Tour didn't re­duce Sky's dom­i­nanceLap­par­tient was crit­i­cised for his ideas about how to make the Tour more ex­cit­ing

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