Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Oh the Drama!
In the ongoing and rather melodramatic death match between the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the two organizations took steps this week further ratcheting up the conflict. Recently, the ASO made an overture to the UCI to return the Tour de France to the UCI’s sanctioning if, in return, the UCI would drop its threat to engage disciplinary proceedings against all riders and teams that participated in Paris-Nice. Smart move. While that seems a reasonable quid pro quo, the UCI declined the offer. The ASO, needing a sanctioning body for the Tour de France (one must have rules … especially in France) turned to the French Cycling Federation (FFC).
If this is beginning to seem more Tom and Jerry than Israel and Palestine to you, that’s okay, the situation is as ridiculous as it seems. Easily the greatest failing in judgment belongs to the UCI. What Pat McQuaid and the rest of the UCI staff have lost sight of is that there would be no need for the UCI without the races that make up its calendar. Had bike races such as the Tour de France (and for that matter, the ASO’s other events including Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege) not been founded, there would be no need for the UCI. The UCI gets to exist because there are bike races. This is not a chicken or egg issue.
In legal proceedings, this relationship is referred to as sine qua non: “Without which it could not be.” It is fair to wonder what bicycle racing would be had Liege-Bastogne-Liege not been first run in 1892. Another 8 years would pass before the UCI was founded in Paris.
Okay, so the ASO turned to the FFC to sanction the 2008 Tour de France. It seems unthinkable that the Tour won’t be run under the guidance of the UCI, but there it is. Weirder yet is that the UCI has called the ASO’s actions “deeply regrettable.”
In the annals of passive-aggressive memos, this deserves to go down as a doozy. One does not regret the actions of another. One regrets one’s own actions. For anyone to consider an action on the part of another as regrettable what they are suggesting is that the other party will come to regret their actions. That is a classic passive-aggressive challenge. We expect this sort of language to be used in mafia movies: You can just hear Marlon Brando saying, "I find your actions deeply regrettable."
The UCI’s response to this “deeply regrettable” act was to assert that teams and racers that participate in the Tour will face as yet-to-be-determined disciplinary measures.
The UCI’s threat is utterly absurd. It issued the same threat before an important, though not monumental race when it threatened the teams and riders that raced Paris-Nice. In theory, it was possible to skip Paris-Nice without any great consequence to a rider’s season. The Tour is another matter. Riders and teams plan their whole season around the Tour. Under ordinary circumstance the only things that will keep a rider from the Tour are injury and non-selection. And now the UCI thinks that the threat that was utterly ineffective for Paris-Nice will somehow generate the fear of God when used against the Tour.
Bill Cosby had a routine about the high jump and his inability to clear 6’ 0”—his height. One day he decided, “If I can’t jump my height, why can’t I jump one inch more than my height?” This is precisely the absurd line of reasoning the UCI is using, which is why it’s okay to laugh in response to the UCI’s threat—it’s as hollow as a gymnasium, not to mention hilarious.
Simply put, if you were a PRO, what do you think would be more harmful to your career, the UCI or not showing up to the Tour?
Image courtesy John Pierce, Photosport International