UCI chief David Lappartient called rumours of a new union in cycling ‘fake news’ back in September, but that rumour is now a reality after the organisation, which will be known as The Riders Union, was launched this week.
Cycling agent and lawyer Andrew McQuaid, who is one of a five-strong board, spoke to Eurosport’s Orla Chennaoui about the announcement and what comes next for The Riders Union.
This is kind of a rival union to the CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels Associés). How big a deal was it to get this off the ground?
"To get to this stage it wasn’t such a big deal because this is just the beginning.
"Yes the CPA is the recognised rider union and that might always be the case, this union might work alongside the CPA. But for me the hard work starts now."
Exclusive interview with Andrew McQuaid, board member of new cycling organisation The Riders Union
How much support do you have from the riders?
"There is definitely support out there from the riders. Let’s see how that manifests over the next few weeks and months."
When discussion about a rival union came to the fore David Lappartient called this ‘fake news’. What has his reaction been?
"I don’t think there has been a reaction from the UCI yet, I definitely haven’t heard anything yet.
"The old norms of the UCI and CPA are all in place and have been for some time. A lot of these institutions are very reluctant for change, so it’s not surprising that if change comes along they don’t want to embrace it straight away.
"So that will no doubt be a long process, even if it does get to the point where the UCI recognise the Union."
On the women’s side the cycling alliance has been working alongside the CPA for a number of years and seem to have affected real change without having an official seat at the table. Does that encourage you?
"Yes, definitely. They’ve done a great job and their model is why I am interested in helping this union get off the ground. I represent riders and I have problems for my riders that I can solve, as their agent I can fix. But there are certainly problems that I cannot fix that are part of the UCI rules.
"So for me this is a way to lobby, because if this union can help all riders then it will help my riders, and I know from being an agent for so long I have a good idea of what those problems are.
"For me, over the next three to five months, I can help this union really delve into what issues face the riders, how they can be fixed, and a more holistic approach of the union helping the riders. They won’t just lobby and petition for change, they’ll have legal advisors for riders if it’s needed, it’s more a one-stop-shop for a rider who needs help to go and get help."
If you look at the protests at the Grand Tours this year, how would you have handled those better?
"It’s more that there’d be a plan. The riders at the Giro and Vuelta did a good job and they got their voice heard, and they did stick together which has always been the problem.
"It’s about them knowing that they have a union that they can trust. If the riders really buy-in and trust the union then they will be able to plan and… not demonstrate, nobody wants to not race, nobody wants to delay a race, it’s just they want their working conditions to be acceptable like any normal person."