SHOP TALK AT THE CPA
The Das Mei hotel, location for the four-yearly vote to select the president of the pro riders’ union, the Cyclistes Professionels Associés, is a postmodern block on NattererStraße in a village called Mutters. An aptly named locale, surely, considering the angry disillusionment that had emanated from the peloton in the past month about what they saw as the CPA’s shoddy constitution and management structures. David Millar, the recently-retired pro, braved verbal brickbats to challenge Gianni Bugno, the incumbent, for the presidency. The campaigning that had started swiftly in early September was still electrifying some riders right up to the eve of the vote; on social media they manned the proverbial barricades.
But on election day at the Das Mei, nary a mouse stirred. If sparks were flying in the conference room where the General Assembly was being held, all was quiet in the lobby. Two grey men supervised the apparatus of the election: a booth and the cardboard ballot box, with the CPA logo sellotaped haphazardly onto the front. Outside, representatives of four British media titles – Procycling included - were waiting. There couldn’t have been a clearer indication that this storm was largely contained in an English-speaking teacup. UCI president David Lappartient’s chauffeur-driven car was parked nearby in the shade from the autumnal Austrian sunshine. It wasn’t the president’s ride, but that of Bob Stapleton, chairman of USA Cycling, who was attending the assembly as an observer. Then the Czech Republic team turned up on their bikes. They voted, took some selfies and stopped to be interviewed. “The last week there was a lot of talk about CPA and the organisation and so I think it is important that we do something for it,” said Ždenek Štybar, through a mouthful of banana. He admitted it was the first overtly political act he’d taken as a rider. What did he want the CPA to act on? “There is a lot. We have to start somewhere. We have to prioritise the issues and then start to work,” he replied vaguely.
More time passed. A taxi pulled up and the Latvian, Toms Skujinš, emerged at the end of an impressive trip. He had an hour-long train journey from the team hotel into Innsbruck, then the bus to Mutters had failed to materialise and so he took a taxi. Because of the voting system and the dominance of ‘old cycling countries’ who voted en bloc, his vote for change made less impact than the story of his journey. Skujinš struck a faintly despondent tone. “The next vote is going to be in four years. What can we protest on? Not start a race? That just sucks for everyone: fans, sponsors... Yeah sure we can protest in a race but it doesn’t feel like the CPA will listen.”
Bugno won by 379 votes to 96. Just 17 riders cast a vote at the ballot. By the weekend, news of the vote had been overtaken by racing and the UCI’s announcements: yet more tinkering with the structure of men’s elite racing, a mixed-gender TTT relay; Worlds venues up to 2025. It’s a long wait until the next CPA election in 2022. Who will remember what started in Mutters?