A hotel in the mountains high above Innsbruck and a heated meeting is underway on a beautiful day in Austria. The general assembly of the CPA, the professional cyclist’s union – normally a relatively placid affair – has added spice this year.
David Millar is challenging Gianni Bugno for presidency of the association, a unique situation in the union’s 29-year history.
With the currently-existing block vote system, Millar stands next to no chance of pulling off this coup, which he fully realises before the day has even started. France, Italy and Spain with their overwhelming numbers will ensure the incumbent holds on to his position.
Apart from the struggle to head the association, Millar in conjunction with the North American representative Michael Carcaise, have a motion on the table to reform the current voting system that effectively rules out hundreds of professional riders from having any say in the outcome of its union’s activities, or who should be its president. Any rider outside the six country’s associations whose representative can currently place a block vote on their behalf must attend in person on one day in Innsbruck – not entirely practical, to say the least.
Alex Dowsett swung by early to vote before flying home. Simon Clarke popped in, clad in full Australian national kit, before heading out for a training ride. The entire Czech squad, Roman Kreuziger and Zdeněk Štybar at the head, registered their votes, followed by Boasson-Hagen and the Norwegians, but it was a slow day in the polling booths – not helped by being held in a hotel way out of Innsbruck. Toms Skujins, the Latvian Trek-Segafredo rider, described a journey involving trains, busses and taxis to reach the ballot box.
Predictably, the voting reform motion was rejected in the morning session, while voting went overwhelmingly in favour of Bugno: 379 to Millar’s 96. The challenger received the block votes of the Americans and Swiss, plus (one would think) the mere 17 riders who turned up in person.
A drained Millar emerged from the meeting room in a sanguine mood considering the circumstances. What now?
“I knew what was going to happen. You have got to be pragmatic. I’m not just going to be like a child and run away. I still want this to work and end up being a positive exercise. A lot of the mission was accomplished to a degree, which was forcing the debate, raising awareness, even getting the CPA to up their game slightly, which I think they have done.
“So it is already having an effect. Now it’s a matter of finding what my role could be within the CPA and how to change it. But if we can’t agree on them making changes, then there is no point in me staying. I can’t agree with them not fixing the voting system.
“There is a certain level of pragmatism you have to deal with in these things. Sporting associations like to stick by the book when it comes to their protocols and statutes, and they are fairly watertight as we have been shown.
“But I think the biggest thing now is to keep the riders’ attention. It would be easy for them now to just forget about it. We got them quite riled up there, and really involved, so now it’s a case of keeping that momentum and winning back the riders’ confidence.
“Strangely, the CPA has never really had a close relationship with the peloton, so now is the opportunity to build that. The foundations are there, it just needs to be improved.”
Day two of the CPA general assembly continues on Friday. Whether Millar emerges with any role within the union remains to be seen, but his campaign certainly stirred up a hornets’ nest.