Our recent conversation with a little outfit known as the UCI, something is cooking up…

For those unaware, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is the world governing body of cycling. It groups together 190 National Federations and oversees international competitive cycling events. The UCI is based in Aigle, Switzerland.

The UCI issues racing licenses to riders and enforces disciplinary rules, such as in matters of doping. The UCI also manages the classification of races and the points ranking system in various cycling disciplines including road and track cycling, mountain biking and BMX, for both men and women, amateur and professional. It also oversees the World Championships.

uci gravel fondo world series

Contact from the UCI

May 14, 2020

The UCI reached out to me on this date with a proposal for a potential gravel gran fondo series. My response is below.

11:50am Note: Our original article was edited due to the threat of legal action from the UCI. It should be noted they contacted us, without any solicitation from us, and there was no mention of confidentiality in those emails. We kept their proposal confidential, out of courtesy.

Additionally, the UCI did not present a non-disclosure agreement or a request for confidentiality in any way. We never signed anything! This is the definition of bullying 🙁

Gravel Cyclist’s (JOM) response to the UCI Proposal

Due to my respect for confidentiality, I cannot share the UCI’s proposal with you. However, you get the idea in my response to the UCI.

Good morning,

Essentially, your presentation is the antithesis of gravel riding. Regulations, tyre widths, distances and so on.

Other points:

1. UCI Gran Fondo World Championships is an oxymoron. It’s the champion of non-racers. Leave the championships to real races. Not tours. This is akin to having World Championships for all categories. Category five world champion, means what? Fastest of the not-so-fast guys?

2. UCI Gravel Grand Fondo or World Series… see above.

3. The gravel world developed independently of UCI and other organizations because those organizations are toxic to the spirit of Gravel riding. UCI rules, categories, championships etc, are antithetical to the grassroots, participation oriented gravel cycling phenomenon.

4. Yes, you will find some former and current roadies who want to line up with the best ProTour guys. Most will never see them again, a few stars will hang with them and beat them occasionally. You will also get a few former World Tour Pros who have reached the end of their competitiveness as World Tour Pros and want to extend their careers by racing against folks they can still beat.

5. The UCI and satellite organizations are largely responsible for the culture of bike racing that led to over-commercialization, doping, cheating, poor financial models that teeter on the brink of disaster at all times, risking the viability of the sport.

6. Gravel rides and races do not need or want the UCI involved. That they exist and are so popular without UCI involvement is a testament to the lack of need. They are working so well because they were developed and attended by the people who wanted to do them.

7. The UCI and national organizations are only interested in Gravel because their poor financial and membership status is making them desperate. The UCI wants to monetize the Gravel genre for its own needs, not the needs of the riders. The riders are fine (see point 6).

8. The UCI model will result in the Gravel genre suffering all the ills that UCI road cycling has experienced, and will risk the viability of gravel as it has road.

This isn’t necessarily what you wanted to hear. I would like to ask, can your presentation be shared with my audience for their feedback, or is it confidential?

58 comments on “Our recent conversation with a little outfit known as the UCI, something is cooking up…

  1. UCI has become a corrupted organization, selling itself out for money in support of dreadful violations of human rights around the world. Gravel should have nothing to do with them.

  2. Much like the IOC, the UCI has become a money maker serving their interests, not the athletes. Athletics meaning track and field has a diminished fan base due to the management of the IOC

  3. The UCI is a poorly conceived, archaically structured, and financed solution looking for a problem to solve. It thinks it needs gravel, GRAVEL does not need or want, it. The problem is the UCI and outrageously gender-biased European race owning organizations like ASO, all wishing to maintain the status quo. UCI and ASO begone.

  4. Great response. Only thing I would add is that we would not want UCI gender inequality to contaminate the gravel scene and restrict women from racing head-to-head with men in major events.

  5. The UCI should pay attention to your survey results from last year.
    I think the demographics from the survey probably reflect the gravel community
    as a whole.

    A lot of the community is older, have families and careers. They are there
    for the experience and to test themselves. They fit the training and the events
    in around their busy schedules. Having a gravel series is not going
    to make most of them go to more event to qualify for a UCI series.

    As someone who raced the road in the 80’s hopefully the gravel promoters pay
    attention to the lessons learned there. Cycling in the early 80s was a small counter culture community where you could race the weekly race and the time trial for a dollar. Fast forward to the 90’s and you could not race the weekly race without a license in addition to the fee or you had to pay a high on a relative basis fee to get a one day license. Liability insurance had become an issue as racing got more visibility. Most of the large races in urban centres also became cost prohibitive and a logistical challenge. For those old enough remember the Red Zinger stage race, Ore Ida stage race and some of the major one day races. Most are gone or had to take a hiatus due to the cost and the logistics of holding large events. Larger events meant larger sponsors and larger events ended up with a lot more people with their hands out to get a cut of the pie, cities included.

    As someone who only discovered the gravel community late in 2018 and have returned to riding after a multi-decade hiatus I have been racing, pun intended, to experience the events as they should be before they change. I already hear comments about the change in the way the events are run and the make up of the participants in this short period of time.

    The change part is inevitable how the promoters choose to manage it is not. They can be the short flash in the pan that was the road scene in the 90’s or they can choose to grow more slowly and deliberately.

    We saw similar trends in triathlon and the Red Hook fixed gear series. In some case the big events have managed to survive but the communities are smaller. In other cases the big events are gone completely.

    Hopefully the promoters and the community though what events the choose to participate in choose wisely.

  6. This is hard stuff from the uci to go this way and to threaten you with lawyers. i agree with your opinion and i am afraid that a uci race series will not be good for the gravel scene. So far everything has worked wonderfully and very well without the uci.

  7. If we can get the top level gravel “racers” to all come together and participate at gravel worlds, in Lincoln, NE I think we could have a shot at flashing the bird at the UCI. Show them that the racers want grassroots, not drug tests, and tire width enforcement.

  8. To hell with the UCI. They’ll take away the essence of gravel too and only add costs that the cyclists have to pick up. HELL NO WE WON’T GO!!!

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