Sunday, March 20, 2011
A major revamp of cycling could put the sport on a par with the Premier League, says Garmin-Cervelo's director.
Jonathan Vaughters, who is president of the Association of Pro Tour and Pro Continental teams, has given BBC Sport a 10-point plan to rebrand cycling.
"If you look at cycling's demographic it should be infinitely more successful than it is," said Garmin's Vaughters.
"It should be on the level of Premier Football. The Tour de France is maybe the world's greatest sporting event."
Doping has cast a giant shadow over cycling and the UCI - the sport's governing body - has until 24 March to appeal against the overturning of Alberto Contador's one-year doping ban by the Spanish federation.
While admitting that doping is cycling's "Achilles heel", former professional rider Vaughters mounted a rigorous and passionate defence of a sport he calls "human F1 car racing" and the "exploration of the ultimate in human performance".
"Cycling has introduced the most strict enforcement of anti-doping regulations of any sport, so you will always see more people caught," said the Garmin-Cervelo chief.
"Cycling is absolutely transparent. What do you prefer - struggling with scandals but with a fair competition, or do you want to bury the scandal and the competition is unfair?"
As a way of boosting the anti-doping fight, Vaughters called for teams to be given long-term entry to the Tour de France in return for a significant donation to combat doping.
Garmin's Vaughters is also the ACIGP president
At present teams are given entry on an annual basis, but Vaughters believes a deal of five, 10 or 15 years could help provide cycling with financial stability and also beat the drugs cheats.
"Guaranteed participation could help teams generate more sponsorship," said Vaughters. "In return teams would be obliged to donate 20% of new money to combat doping."
The Garmin-Cervelo director argues such a proposal could generate a donation of up to 50m euros for anti-doping initiatives over a five-year period.
Vaughters put the proposal to the UCI soon after his election as president of the Association of Pro Tour and Pro Continental teams (AIGCP) in 2009, but never heard back from the sport's governing body.
"The UCI's willingness to hear and give credence to ideas put forward is fairly limited," added Vaughters, who is unhappy that he has so little say in the running of the sport, despite representing 28 teams and over 3,000 employees.
"My ability to vote on any regulation is essentially nil. The AIGCP is cycling's biggest stakeholder, but has no power to veto new regulations. That is ineffective governance."
The AIGCP is already in dispute with the UCI over its ban on radio communication in races and has threatened to boycott the Tour of Beijing in October if the sport's governing body does not withdraw its veto by 1 May.
"This a team sport that is conducted at 80/kmh," added Vaughters. "If we are going to have a modern sport there has to be communication and just as importantly that rule was introduced without speaking to anyone in the field.
"The regulations are limiting creativity, intelligence and engineering. There is so much more that could be done to improve cycling, but we're being held back by decision making."
Vaughters' 10-point plan to reinvigorate cycling:
1. More races of the highest level outside of Europe.
2. Consistent, understandable formats for cycling fans.
3. Long-term guaranteed entry to the Tour de France for professional teams.
4. More focus on prevention of doping, in the first place, as opposed to catching cheats.
5. More team-time trials more often.
6. Technical innovation, such as cameras on bikes, inside cars, helmets, inside team buses to make the "craziness and danger of the peloton more real to the viewer".
7. Equipment innovation to see if the the smartest team wins sometimes, rather than the strongest.
8. Open radios to the public and listen to your favourite team and what they are doing.
9. GPS tracking of individual riders to make races fun to watch.
10. Have an understandable and consistent way of determining the best rider in the world and the best team in the world. That might mean riders have to ride Paris-Roubaix, and if they do not finish they would be docked points.
Article by John Sinnott on BBC Website