Britain’s best bike trade
Wierd a wacky bikes could be allowed back into UCI competition,
thanks to the COLBI – the organisation that fights for European cycle manufacturers,
being given a seat on the UCI technical committee.
COLBI – the Comite de Liaison de Fabricants Europeens de Bicyclettes – is to be given
observer status on the technical committee of the Union Cycliste Internationale
This was decided six weeks ago at a meeting between Eddie Eccleston, the acting president
of COLIBI, and Hein Verbruggen, the head of the UCI, but was only revealed to COLIBI
members two weeks ago and was not due to be made public until the end of June.
The move is a significant one and is a personal triumph for Eccleston who was one
of the most vocifirous opponents of the policies of the former COLIBI president,
Brian Montgomery of EBMA, who was a sworn enemy of Verbruggen’s
attempts to make cycle racing more about the man than the machine.
Montgomery famously wrote strongly-worded letters to Verbruggen and members of the
UCI’s management committee. These were copied to journalists and published in magazines
and websites. Verbruggen wrote strongly-worded letters in return and this made it
difficult for any compromise to be reached.
However, after Montgomery recently resigned from his position as COLIBI president
after a vote of no confidence, the new acting president made conciliatory overtures
with Verbruggen and the April meeting was the result. This lasted three hours and
Eccleston came out with the trophy of a seat on the UCI’s technical committee.
The meeting was said to be “warm” after what was a ” frosty”
start and Eccleston has since had two friendly letters from Verbruggen.
The seat on the technical committee will only be an observer’s role to begin with
but it is hoped this will be developed in the future.
No member of the cycle industry has ever sat on the UCI’s technical committee and
it’s a significant move.
The move still has to be sanctioned by the COLIBI board but this is expected to be
a formality. The next COLIBI meeting is on 28th June in Portugal. Until then Ecceston
remains the acting president but he is not standing for election as president.
Verbruggen claims he isn’t against innovation per se but he states that what he saw
at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 was enough to convince him that elite riders were
in danger of taking the sport out of the reach of ordinary users because of their
increasingly sophisticated machines (oh, and weird seating positions aka Graeme Obree).
The UCI – 100 years old this year – famously banned Spinaci-type handlebar extensions
for “safety reasons” despite no riders claiming to have injured themselves
using them and went on to impose new and tight regulations on the shape of a racing
bicycle, in effect banning low-profile bikes.
Giant was later successful in getting these regulations loosened but the worldwide
cycle trade has been largely at odds with the UCI for the past two years and the
news teased out of Eddie Eccleston today will be warmly welcomed although tinged
with cynicism because the UCI has cost many companies many millions of pounds in
wasted R&D budgets (just ask Mavic) after pre-market designs were ratified but
were later rejected when the product was already on the market, making them useless
for competition use and hence useless in general.
Nobody at the UCI was available for comment today.
Brian Montgomery welcomed the news but isn’t overly optimistic about its usefulness:
“Anything that keeps the discussions open is a good thing but there have been
severe problems with the UCI in the past and their current regulations are intrinsically
anti-industry. The cycle industry may not accept any overtures from the UCI.”