As UCI president Pat McQuaid proclaimed via his personal website, www.uci.ch, he delivered a memorable speech during the Fifth World Conference on Women in Sport held in Los Angeles, in which he outlined his plan to save women’s cycling.
“For this reason the UCI is pleased to announce that 2012 will see the launch of a new practical training programme. In order to improve access to the cycling trades, and to enhance the expertise of those involved in organising races, the UCI has invested in a new educational platform which develops sporting career talent in situ, at the important Tour de L’Avenir. This training platform reaches out equally to women and men wishing to become commissaires, radio announcers, information outriders, etc.,” declared McQuaid during his speech.
McQuaid also outlined how the very first woman completed the UCI Director Sportif programme just this past year. However critics were already lining up to take shots that the UCI is not doing enough, fast enough, in order to promote equal opportunities for women in cycling. One women’s director, who wished to remain anonymous, even went so far as to say that the efforts of the UCI “aren’t even on a par with women’s rights in Afghanistan.”
Cyclismas scribe Frank Mercer was granted semi-exclusive access to the UCI president, who has been on a public relations junket, granting exclusive interviews with VeloNews, Rouleur, Procycling, Cyclingnews, and even Bicycling. Mercer sat down with McQuaid at the Beverly Hills Hilton over a nice seven-course meal, courtesy of the UCI expense and entertainment account.
Frank Mercer: The certified human Meyer Ranch sirloin steak was outstanding. Not convinced on the pork tacos appetizer.
The pork here at the Hilton can be hit or miss, but I’ve become a fan of lime mayo. The cafeteria in Aigle still can’t copy it, so I have it FedExed once a week from California to back home.
FM: So, you’re taking some heat on the front of women’s cycling. Chole Hosking called you “a bit of a dick.” Did that spawn this PR offensive? Have you ever spoken at the conference before?
After that and several other embarrassing public displays that broke ranks within our fiefdom, we all sat around the boardroom to say, “How can we fix this? What can we say to spin this in our favour?” And by we, I mean Enrico [UCI spokesperson Enrico Carpani] and I, as really, no one else has any say with what we do for the sport anyhow. Enrico thought doing a speech and giving out a few token positions at a race of no consequence would be the best solution. He called the ASO, and they didn’t seem to care, so that part was easy. Heaven forbid we try to do that at the World Championships of any discipline, or at the Tour. It could be chaos. You never know what a woman could do. That’s why the corporate folks have never wanted an American woman as president. If she has a bad week, the world could actually end, if you know what I mean.
FM: Right. So why create positions in adminstration? Why not expand the Tour de L’Avenir to include a women’s race? You could have a whole junior segment of women gain valuable racing experience.
The ASO would never go for that.
FM: Did you ask them?
FM: But what if they gave you a different answer?
Look, the ASO is like my wife. I know what they’re thinking, I know what they like, I know what they don’t like. They’re a dependable spouse that knows how to cook and clean.
FM: But wouldn’t making those sorts of assumptions eventually lead to a divorce? There’s no dialogue. Isn’t that bad for the sport?
Why? If I’m happy, then there shouldn’t be any problem.
FM: Moving on, if in 2009, as you said in your speech, you put bank guarantees into place for both the women’s and men’s pelotons to create a more stable environment, why didn’t you, at that time, put in a minimum wage for women?
Because the teams didn’t want it, and frankly, women are only part-time athletes.
FM: What do you mean, part-time athletes?
Well, they still have to cook and bear children.
FM: Wow. Okay, yes they bear children, but cooking is a partnership. And in some cases, women do it all on their own these days.
Sure if they embrace alternative lifestyles.
FM: No, I think it’s a little different than that.
Well sure, if a man knocks her up and leaves, then she’s on her own. But that’s not the UCI’s problem, and therefore, neither is a minimum wage.
FM: But you provide a minimum wage for men?
That’s because they, as they say here in the States, “Bring home the bacon.” We need to ensure that families are provided for, so we created the minimum wage for the men’s peloton. For men, it’s a job. For women, it’s a hobby.
FM: So isn’t that rather sexist?
Sexist? No. We recognize that women aren’t as strong as men and we need to account for that.
FM: That doesn’t make any sense. What about Marianne Vos? There are many men to whom she’s superior to when it comes to physical ability and racing.
I have no comment on the Vos situation. That is an open case that I will refuse speculation on in any way, shape, or form.
FM: Open case?
FM: Final question. Are you going to expand the number of races available to women?
My track record on women’s cycling is impeccable. We have increased the number of teams, the number of races. It’s not my fault Verbruggen was slow to the party. I think we’ve done just fine. You can ask any team manager in the women’s peloton. Or rider for that matter.
FM: Okay, well Stef Wyman, Nicola Cranmer, Jonathan Coulter, Bridie O’Donnell, Naomi Cantele, and Chloe Hoskings all disagree with you. And that’s just naming a few.
They don’t count.
FM: Why not?
Because I said so. Look, the bottom line in my memorable speech is the final defining commentary on our record with women’s cycling. End of story. It’s time to move onto other things.
FM: Like dessert?
Yes!! They make an outstanding triple chocolate cheesecake here. Fabulous.
FM: Thank you for your time, Pat.
You’re welcome. You should join me for Langkawi. Fine entertainment in that part of the world.