The news that trade teams would be barred from racing track World Cup events has been met with uproar from one outfit in particular - the British Huub-Wattbike squad.
As the underdogs of the track cycling world, the Huub squad have beaten national teams and set records as they have innovated their way to the highest level without following the traditional route.
The UCI announced wide-ranging changes to the track calendar last Thursday (June 20), which include barring trade teams from World Cup events and moving the indoor calendar from the summer to the winter.
In response, the Huub-Wattbike team, made up of John Archibald, Dan Bigham, Jacob Tipper, Jonny Wale, Ashton Lambie and George Peasgood, published an open letter to the UCI, condemning the international governing body's decision.
Here is the full open letter, signed by the team and their sponsors:
Date: 24th June, 2019
Dear Mr. Lappartient and UCI colleagues
We discovered by means of press release on the evening of Thursday 20th June that you intend to make drastic changes to the track cycling calendar.
As a multiple World Cup winning trade team which has broken records and developed world champions, the announced changes have severe implications for us and will ultimately kill off the existence of trade teams completely.
Whilst you said you will “encourage dialogue between stakeholders prior to any decisions”, it seems you have forgotten that trade teams are now some of the biggest stakeholders in track cycling and consequently we are very disappointed we were not consulted at any point during this process.
Furthermore and putting our personal situation aside, we feel the changes are brutally destructive to the sport we know and love and in this letter we want to argue why.
1) Sponsors and partners who have committed investment will now disappear
Trade teams drive commercial involvement and development at grass roots level. Trade teams exist because of their commercial arrangements. We couldn’t race without the help and support of our partners and sponsors and they couldn’t enter the sport if it wasn’t for teams like us as the barriers are too high.
We return the favour by developing and pushing forward the technology and equipment that is available in the commercial domain. The sport is growing and becoming faster because the technology that we develop is immediately available and not locked away in a R&D room. Cycling needs an open and level playing field, we help to provide that.
2) There will be less opportunities for riders
With limited space on national programmes, trade teams present riders with opportunities they would otherwise not have. We have provided a huge amount of opportunities for riders who exist outside of national programmes to grow, develop and perform on the world stage. Charlie Tanfield, John Archibald, Ashton Lambie, possibly three of the greatest pursuiters of all time have come through our team.
Without these opportunities riders without national backing will now lose the ability to compete at the highest level and inspiration that you can achieve success outside of national programmes will go.
Furthermore, the banning of trade teams from the World Cup and new projected series will only serve to remove healthy competition and move power back to nations.
3) Fan interaction and engagement in track cycling will be diminished
We have grown from relative obscurity to challenging the biggest cycling nations in just two years. We pride ourselves on innovation, ingenuity and making cycling fun for all involved, especially fans and spectators.
We actively seek out and involve ourselves in all fan engagement opportunities and strive to let fans look inside and see how we function. At every opportunity, we push to engage with fans at races.
We spend a lot of our time at world cups in the stands and outside the velodrome, meeting and speaking with spectators. Trade teams do this because fan engagement and support is the life blood of the team. To remove trade teams is to remove personality from the sport.
4) Track and road calendar clashes will reduce fan numbers and the quality of each field
Moving the calendar to directly clash track competitions with the biggest road races in the world will only serve to reduce spectator and fan interest in track, as well as force athletes to decide between track and road competition. There is no way an athlete can do both. Cavendish, Viviani, Norman-Hansen, Ganna, Wild, Dygert, Archibald, Balsamo, Paternoster, Brennauer etc would all have to choose. This would do nothing but reduce the quality and depth of field across both road and track events, significantly damaging cycling competitions - counterintuitive to the objective of increasing fan engagement and excitement at each event.
In conclusion, the announcement has been roundly condemned across social media and news outlets by athletes and fans alike. As such we are left with no alternative but to challenge the announcement and seek to ensure we do actually have Cycling for All and not just for a select few nations.
If drastic changes aren’t made to these plans then you will be left solely responsible for the consequences, as the sport of track cycling is forced to battle head to head with road racing without the support of trade teams, their characters, personalities and all of their commercial partners.
With the above in mind we call for answers to a few key questions:
- What are the reasons for trade teams being banned from World Cup competition?
- How are athletes supposed to develop outside of the national system without access to world class events?
- Why were stakeholders not engaged in the decision making process?
- How do you intend to compensate riders, employees and commercial partners affected by the restrictive announcement?
Dan Bigham, Jacob Tipper, Jonny Wale, John Archibald, Ashton Lambie, George Peasgood, Will Perrett, Kyle Gordon, Team Huub Wattbike
Dean Jackson, Huub
Tim Rees, Vita Coco
Martin Le Sauteur, Argon18 & Notio
Richard Oakes, O10 Group
Michael Kirkland, Bowmer & Kirkland
John McGee, Durata UK
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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