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Echoes

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As promised on the UCI election thread (Dark Side), I'd like to share thoughts on Marc Madiot's book. However I found it so interesting that I took the trouble translating whole chapters for you, especially related to the UCI and Marc's critical stances towards globalisation.

Thereby I'm leaving aside many interesting thoughts but I've always liked Marc Madiot. Even when he was a rider, though I've only lived his later years.

The way he talks about Paris-Roubaix has always moved me (already in previous interviews and TV shows). He loves Belgium and Belgian cycling, the fervour of Flemish spectators. His book contains loads of real punch lines, especially against Greg LeMond who was an avid Coca-Cola fan.  :lol "He's been drinking it since a small kid." The book is an interview with Mathieu Coureau, a reporter for Ouest-France. It was first published in 2015 and has been augmented since, with new anecdotes.

You can also feel how Marc loves his country and especially his own region, the Mayenne, his town Renazé. His love for the peasants in the area he's been raised in, especially his own father. The brotherly love with Yvon, they've done everything together. Yvon has been active with La Française des Jeux right from the start. Nice anecdotes about his riders. I had to laugh when he talked about Thibaut Pinot and where he actually lives: ... at the very end of the last path at the end of the last road of Melisey (Haute-Saône) :lol with his goats and sheep.  :)

There are however some craps in that book, in my opinion. I was shocked when he said that Bernard Tapie was a man who kept his word, though perhaps it's just how Tapie behaved when contracting him or else when he sayd that Sagan has a personality. I mean Hinault's personality compared to Sagan, it's an adult compared to a kid, definitely. But globally it's a book that I would recommend every cycling fan who can speak French, hopefully it can be translated into English someday but I'm not sure because unfortunately, Madiot does not have the same prestige in Paris than Fignon did.  :(

So here's my translation of the parts related to the UCI. Be indulgent, translating is not easy but I love doing it.  ;)


Globally, we, the French, do not defend our heritage enough, methinks. Example: the language. We do not appreciate enough the fact French is cycling's official language, that it should be written in the UCI's and the IOC's stones. We complacently get nibbled. Whether it pleases the Anglo-Saxons or not, France is the centre of the cycling world to which we should add Italy, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, all those countries that are cycling's roots. We should protect what exists in our country. I'm sorry British friends but you did not invent cycling and you are not the roots of our sport [here Marc is making a small mistake because there existed many British races in the 19th century but they quickly vanished in the 20th century]. You might be in command but you did not invent anything and you should take heed of that fact.

We should sit at the table but we are not there enough. I'm not against racing in China, in Asia or at the other end of the world since I've been there before the World Tour was set up but all this should not be made at the complete detriment of what is existing in our country.

It's like factory relocations: after 10 years you do realise that there are jobless people in our country. No, no and no! Cycling in France gives jobs to a huge lot of people, feeds riders, mechanics, kinesists, assistents and develops a whole economy in our regions. During the "Star of Bessèges', hotels are sold out for several days. Circuit de la Sarthe, ditto. When we race the Boucles de la Mayenne, it runs the economy of the whole département. Of course these drops in the French economy but their impact is for real and it should be preserved.

We should think about it. What annoys me is to constantly give overseas. Because those races are on the other end of the world, they should be wonderful? No, it's not true! They might be good but not any better. One day, I landed in a commission with Pat McQuaid when Chinese projects were setting up. We discussed the Tour of Lombardy and most of all the Italian build up races [footnote by Mathieu Coureau in the book: the "Tre Valli Varesine, Milan-Turin, the Tour of Piedmont, the Coppa Sabatini, the Tour of Emily, the Tour of Romagna, ...]. He swept them away. He could not care less about them. I told him:

"But, Pat, you cannot do that! They've been in the calendar for fifty years!" [many of them are even much older than that]

He asked me: "Are they World Tour level?" Me: "No". Him: "Then, I don't give a damn."

Saying that is hugely significant and serious. It's something I cannot stand about them. Because they are not World Tour like in China where they've loaded on money, they should get scrapped? I do not agree. Four years later we are not going to China anymore and meanwhile we are leaving races in Europe for dead, races that we will never see again because you do not turn back the clock.
Yes we had to go to China but the Chinese got hooked themselves. They were told that the big ones from the Tour of France would come and they were deceived. None of them went. Same about Australia: none of the greats are going and will ever go to the Tour Down Under. You do not go from -2°C to +32°C and back to -2°C ten days later when your name is Tom Boonen or Alberto Contador. You need a whole month to recover afterwards. Do not dream. It is not tennis.

Mathieu Coureau: The noughties propelled cycling on every continents [...]. The 2014 Tour of Italy started from Ireland... Is it not a wonderful promotion for a sport that is basically universal?

Those races can only develop and persist in times if they really have a genuine cycling DNA. Nowadays we do realise that it can work in Montreal. It's a race in laps with Mount Royal. Peking looks like nothing. No spectators. It's prefab just set there, somewhere where only the background of the postcard has been changed. That's it. No local roots, no relationship with the country. Why does it still work in Australia? Because there a  relationship with the country. We want to go ahead of ourselves to make money. We want to accelerate time instead of rooting an event or a sport in a region, a city or a country. We sell a baby Tour of France to the Chinese, the Australians but it does not work that way. Cycling is not tennis. When are we going back to China? I wonder. What does promotion mean in such conditions?

Mathieu Coureau: Did your rider like the Tour of Peking?

First there was a pollution problem. After two days they got sick, Coughing incessantly but you should not say that, no posting on social media. Perhaps it was not uninteresting to go there but it was not as wonderful as meant to be. Media went at the first edition of it, less at the second and during the third one it was like "when is that over and we go back home". After two years though we were sold two races over there! The riders were at the end of the season, exhausted but they needed to go over there for three extra weeks. A disaster! Only to make money. I don't mind the UCI making money, millions of euros but we should not go so quick and even less doing nonsense. !

Coureau: Wasn't the crossing of Yorkshire on the Tour of France at the start of the July 2014, something marvelous?

That the Tour of France starts from abroad from time to time is fine, you need to eat and it's part of the game but it should not be anything systematic. Twice in three time is fine [that's an awful lot if you ask me]. The 2014 Tour of Italy starting from Dublin, meh...

The time you need to mobilise a team to go to Dublin and that you dispatch the equipment to Ireland and in Italy when the riders come two days later, there's nobody left to go to the Four Days of Dunkirk anymore, which nobody gives a damn about. Where is the UCI in such cases, in order to secure the good working of our sport? Absent! All this gets on my nerves. If we are starting from New-York it's going to be very very hard. Then you are out of touch and lose the tide.

Coureau: Did the Tour of Peking fail allow for some kind of a wake-up call?

Nothing. Zero.

Coureau: Why are you so critical of Anglo-Saxons?

I have nothing against the people but I do not share their views on cycling. They are too much in efficiency and output. Because they did not invent cycling and do not have 100 years f cycling history behind them and they are pecking the whool on the back. Nobody is telling them anything. ASO wants to keep its business, which is normal. For the rest, you hear: "if you get angry with them, it is going to be evn more complicated in the race". It is a power balance. Even the bosses are no longer coming to the meetings of the AIGCP (Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionels). They don't care!

Coureau: Which means?

The Friday that precedes Paris-Nice, ASO and the teams always meet in order to discuss technical details about the Tour of France to come. Bosses of the bigger teams do not even come, nothing to do. In the afternoon, we are doing the meeting of the AIGCP and they are represented by the 4th or 5th DS of the team or even by somebody who just belongs to the team. Nobody says a word about it. I am one of the few that dares to go and to defend my ideas. It's symptomatic: we are almost just speaking English, which cost me a few tantrums.

Coureau: Like at Cholet - Pays de Loire in 2014

I was a DS for Cholet - Pays de Loire. I arrive at the reception centre at the town hall. [...] Didier Simon, a breton commissar, comes to tell me: "Marc, there's a little problem. The President of the Jury does not speak French. Keep Calm"

And I answered: "Are you kidding? No question I should keep calm. If he does not do his meeting in French in a French town hall, on the eve of the town elections, I go out, take journalists and I disclose the whole thing. It is a matter of principle. You translate into English if you want to but you do not strictly do the meeting in English."

[...] If I wasn't there - and this is not bragging - they would have done the meeting in English and nobody says anything ! Cycling is also a power balance, like in many fields.

If we, French, are not able to say stop, how do you want to get out of it? Next on a beautiful mrorning, they are going to put a gun on Mrs Amaury's temple telling her: "Now you should put so much on the table".

Everything has a price and it can quickly get dangerous. Is this what we want? No. That is not cycling. If you want to become a billionnaire, you should play football or tennis. That's it. We are so lucky enough to have a beautiful country, with the greatest calendar on earth, the greatest race on earth with Paris-Roubaix, Paris-NIce and the Dauphiné-libéré. They are the ones to come and race in our country. They are guests. They do not decide. Once again it is a power balance. We should make them feel it. There is not even a single Frenchman at the AIGCP office. Is that normal? They do not like me, there. No risk I should ever get elected.

Coureau: Are the French bad at politics?

Personally, I am dead, have been condemned for a while. I am not on the same wavelength as they are. They do not want a bike race in every village. Fine! But we are all coming from it. From a rooted rural cycling! They do not have the same approach.

Coureau: Who?

Guys like Patrick Lefevere, Dave Brailsford [...] and all the clique. I am not in their tribe. They would like me to join their Velon group, the company that they created in order to economically develop cycling but it is most of all in order to shut me up. Lefevere - who loves cycling but wants to make money - dared to say at a UCI meeting (Madiot is imitating him): "Cycling, today, is the big ones eating the small ones, like everywhere."

So if you are a small one, you have the right to die. I do not prevent anyone from being big. Perhaps I am now one of them but I think everybody has the right to eat. 1998 has also been a political turning point. The man who should have replaced Hein Verbruggen was French, Daniel Baal, then UCI's Vice-President. He was thrown out. He wanted to go faster than Verbruggen in 1998 during the doping affairs. He spoke out during the Tour of France in the former's absence. I think Verbruggen did not really appreciate it.

Likewise it was hard for the latter to be brought to a French court in order to answer questions about doping. There was a (maybe unconscious) split with Baal and France which was exacerbated by the set up of the ProTour [now World Tour], with ASO then led by Patrice Clerc. We even managed to make a Tour of France under the aegis of the FFC, presided by the couragous Jean Pitailler, as ASO did not accept Verbruggen's reforms. It all created a fracture and it was the moment cycling escaped France.

Coureau: And when Manolo Saiz is President of the AIGC, late 1998?

Yes, it is clearly a period when they wanted to remove us. If they could get rid of the "sh*t Frenchies"[1], they would have done it.

Coureau: You put Oleg Tinkov, the Russian magnate of Tinkoff-Saxo, in the same basket, he who said last 31st March [2015] that cycling was a show that should be modelled after football, Formula 1, tennis, etc, which all do it at best.

All this is the same lemonade. We do not have the same view of the world. Of course it is unavoidable that you need money at the highest level but we should be careful with what we are doing.

In motor sport, there's a lot money on top of the pyramid but below it is the desert. Cycling should not look like that. The elite should also let the rest live. On the other hand I also think the base should not expect everything to come from the top of the pyramid.

Everybody should contribute to the building. One example: 15% of the whole budget of the Ligue nationale - €150,000 - go back to the amateur milieu. I am sure that few clubs know that, that they believe pros have bucks but keep it for themselves.
[...]

Coureau: Can the return of French teams at top level impede or oppose to the Anglo-Saxon leadership that you denounce?

As President of the "Ligue nationale" I can say that if we think we are able to have a strong French family, with our races, our teams, our riders, whether they like it or not, they will be forced to cope with us. That is what should be preserved.

I struggled in order for the Armée de Terre team to exist because, among other things, it is one more team on our side. We have the most team, most races and the best social protection. [...]

Coureau: Yet the more we have competitive nations, the more cycling is strong and shining.

I have no problems with that but it should not be built with ease overseas and with a lot of trouble in our country just because they are at the other end of the world they should be rolled out the red carpet. I do not agree. The foreign teams are coming to France in order to get some fame and to take what is good to take but once they have access to the Tour of France, they are no longer riding in our country. It is not normal. It is too easy. They should be compelled to race three, four or five years in our country. You do not get away with it like that, you do not let people die. You are coming, fine! but you need to stay for a while. The debate is still open for the formal aspect of it. I do not own the truth but some things need to be invented, set up.

Coureau: Have you talked with Dave Brailsford about it?

I hardly know him. He never comes, you never get to see him. They don't give a damn.

Coureau: What kind of relationships do you have the great leaders of World cycling?

None. Brian Cookson [...] it's "Hello, goodbye" at meetings. I am going there to annoy them. I am only asking them one question: "If tomorrow I have a €20 million budget at FdJ, great riders and I do not want to be a part of the World Tour, what happens?" They do not like it when they are told that. If I had the means to do it I would blow the system up. Let us dream a bit: I have 20 millions, the best riders in the world with me. What do I do? I am leaving the World Tour and I race wherever I want.

That would be awesome. We would go to Milan-Sanremo, to the Tour of Lombardy, etc. When you think that at a moment they wanted to put the GP Plouay at the same level as Paris-Roubaix, they wanted to give 30 points to the Nationals...

It is a very Anglo-Saxon reasoning. So from time to time, I am writing them, defend my stances but they could not care less. Keep talking, my friend. After the Cholet - Pays de Loire episode, Cookson still told me I was right, we had to speak French at meetings. McQuaid on the other hand threw me out.

[...] Coureau: We have the feeling that nobody has any grip on all that. A bit like on the world of finance.

I second this: They do not care about small races, about the common people, about Cholet - Pays de Loire. An insane system has been set up.

Coureau: Shouldn't the French model adapt and show a bit more flexibility?

No they are not the centre of the world. I wish they could show that all they are setting up works. The Leeds Classic [Wincanton Classic : World Cup event from 1989 to 1997, meant to be equal to Paris-Roubaix among others], no longer exists. Neither does the Eindhoven GP, a former August race in the nineties. Neither does the Tour of Peking. But Montreal all they've set up has disappeared. Splash! Everything collapses at regular intervals. From my point of view you can only develop with solid and healthy bases. Those bases are our races in Good Old Europe. You may not sow seeds here or there once in a while in order to get a couple of million euros. In the meantime the tree is losing its roots.

Coureau: Are you not sandwiched between your fights and your team which could be even more efficient on the international scene if they raced less on the French agende? Aren't you slowing it down a bit?

Perhaps but it also makes life possible. Who can say that an FdJ team could exist without the national calendar? This relationship with our public, with our roots is essential. In the Mayenne [Madiot's département] as in every corners of France there's an FdJ point of sale. We need to keep this relationship. We need it.

Sportingly speaking it is also my job to have a team that enables us to be present at best both on the national and on the international scene. A rider like Thibaut Pinot is racing more and more on the World TOur but also La Marseillaise, Bessèges, the International Criterium, etc. Arnaud Démare has raced Picardy, the Four Days of Dunkirk, the Denain GP. Arthur Vichot should have raced the Vimoutiers GP. I'm trying to feed the national network, it is a part of the little things that we can do without any major consequences on the main objective. If tomorrow, we quit racing on the national calendar, it disappears and the continental teams risk dying with it.

[In his best years, Francis Mourey was criticised for racing the French "Challenge national" of cyclocross instead of the major Belgian races (Superprestige, etc.). He defended his position stating that if every great riders were riding in Belgium the Belgian organisers would have rubbed their hands while other organisers would be dying. He was on Madiot's line.]

This means that within two or three years the peloton will consist of but 40 or 50 riders. I do not want that. Then there is something else: Cholet - Pays de Loire, La Route Adélie, le Circuit de la Sarthe are the races that enabled our teams to live during the darkest hours and somehow I feel I owe a lot to them. I have a duty for respect. WIthout them we would have been swept away. We would be dead.

Coureau: The organisers would very much like to have the FdJ leaders on their startlists.

I know but you cannot focus on one race only. At a given moment, we are confronted with the calendar dates. Sometimes some thank me for having subscribed this or that rider. I answer that they do not have to thank me, I just make my agenda from a sporting perspective. Some organisers are lucky enough to be at the right moment regarding the timetables of some riders, others less so. It is neither their fault nor mine. Second point: I have sometimes been bawled out for just having sent Nicolas Vogondy or Jean-Patrick Nazon on a given race. Of course they were just neopros back then but Vogondy is a dual national champion bunch race and once in the ITT, Nazon was a stage winner and leader's jersey at the Tour of France. They are on those races' palmares. If this year I come to the Boucles de la Mayenne with Marc Sarreau or Lorenzo Manzin, they might be equal to Nacer Bouhanni or Arnaud Démare in two year time [not really, this was still a 2015 comment] and the organisers could claim it in a couple of years when they need a new partner. Arnaud Démare won Cholet - Pays de Loire when he was a neo-pro. So did Bryan Coquard or Thomas Voeckler, etc. The organisers should also internalise this. I know that they are also under pressure. They should not get ahead of themselves. In any circumstances, it remains sport.

Coureau: The "Church Tower Races" are disappearing from the calendar. It is almost the same phenomenon as deforestation [The "Church Tower Races" ("Courses de clocher" in French) are the French equivalent term to the Belgian kermesses, id est non-UCI sanctioned race but no criterium either. This races are supposed to be true competition and about 150km on an average while criteriums are limited to 100km]

It is the right word, yes. They are disappearing because it costs more and more because it is getting hard to get authorisation. When you see all the necessary administrative steps that have become mandatory for the good organisation of a bike race, it is staggering. At the end even passionate organisers are tired and exhausted. I understand them. All this while not having any consideration from the UCI on top of that ... Governments should wonder: how to encourage people in their initiatives to develop the sport? How to mobilise, to motivate? Here we are doing the exact opposite. We are adding layers, are complicating everything. Now racing like Cholet - Pays de Loire or the Boucles de la Mayenne are hit by the phenomenon. People are jumping off, they are fed up. [...]


Coureau: The "gendarmerie" expenses in order to guarantee the race's safety are increasing crescendo, among other things.

Yes. We are trying to pressure on the politicians at the mawimum. I think reason is ultimately going to prevail. We will find a solution with the authorities. It is unthinkable for anybody to see bike races disappear. I also think that the positive image that the police forces are coveying in accompanying sporting events is important.

Coureau: Cycling is also a sport that is basically ageing.

Yes, in a society in which voluntary work is dying little by little. The organisers are ageing, of course. Many of them were already there when I was a rider. It is one of my worries at the league. How are we going to do it? It is frightening, I know it. The pyramid is relying on voluntary workers who have dedicated themselves to bike races for many years, who are securing the crossing of crossroads with flags, with only a sandwich or a soft drinks in return. They are part of the heritage. Of course the major World Tour races are necessary but without those people at the end of every road, the whole building collapses. When we are talking about globalisation and reforms, this often forgotten about. It is a serious mistake.

If you lose the ability to gather people around a bike race, around a churchtower, on the roadside, you lose everything because that is what cycling has been built upon. In the same vein, when I hear Oleg Tinkov suggesting every roadside spectator should pay one euro, I'd say he did not understand anything. Nothing! Our sport is for free, so it should remain, even if all other sport someday are not. For free and accessible.

Cycling is based on suffering, pain but also friendliness, gratuity, voluntary work, a father putting his son on a bike in the hope that the latter would be the rider he never could be. We should preserve this notion of handing on. Though this sport has had misery and flaws, it is in men's image and show that it offers is worth others.


[Let us remember the Nieuwsblad/Gazet van Antwerpen poll last February in which most Flemish organisers considered it inevitable in the long run for them to make spectators pay. Now only the Nokere Koerse does it in Belgium.]

Coureau: You lack the budget but also and most of all a strong sporting power in France

Yes, we do not have it.

Coureau: Even at the league which you are the President of?

Yes... I know and am aware of it. It is "peanuts". We have the power to influence the calendat. I am trying to convince the organisers, sometimes, to change the dates of their races in order to improve their fields. In France, the organisation of races is often conditioned by a local event, the weather in some regions, a route, etc. It is difficult and it is hanging by a thread but it does not stop me from knuckling down. With the years passing by I've learnt that in France we are very strong when we have our feet in the sh*t. It is one of our strengths? We should never give up. I am trying to gather people around the word "bike". Modestly but as strongly as people. That's it.

I am trying to let everyone speak in meetings, to motivate everybody. It is my life and a matter of passion (silence) ... and then I am reaching an age at which I know that someday I will have to leave this sport.

I wish to hand something over. People have given a lot for cycling before me and I feel like giving this sport over in the best possible conditions. I do not know we will manage it but then it is humbly the idea. I did not think about it 15 years ago. I am ageing. [...] We have a great sport. It got slaps, often rightly so but it deserves to be defended and if we - the actors of this sport - do not do, nobody will. I have nothing against Anglo-Saxons. I had some of them and will have others again in my team but I am talking about a block which does not have this cycling culture.

Coureau: the great calendar reform initiated in Patrick McQuaid's time must be completed by 2017. Your fear is that what is existing would be denatured.

Indeed we need to be extremely watchful. Even if we may look rather extremist: if we see that it is going into spin, everybody should alight. Nothing should be organised any longer. We stop everything. The risk is being too much in thrall to the Velon people. In a nutshell, Velon wants to it like Bernie Ecclestone with his Foca. A challenge in all corners of the world but for the moment we do not know where Cookson wants to go with his great reform. Not even sure he knows it himself.

Coureau: Cycling is already heading in that direction, isn't it?

They want to get as close to it as possible in any case. In the meantime, there is also a growing phenomena with cycling's globalisation: we've got bored. It is a problem. Why? Because we are depending on points, because races are locked up, because we are all racing with the same scheme. We have created a new cycling... the most monotonous that can be. I am a part of it. I am also in that system but if you are not in this scheme. You are dead. You do not exist.

Coureau: You were less bored on Paris-Nice ten years ago?

I once knew an era in which everything moved a lot more, yes. Now we have the same teams, the lead-out trains, ITT's, boredom. Before the team with the leader's jersey was alone making the chase.
Nowadays, four or five teams are coming to make the finale of a stage and even if it is riding very fast, even if it is fighting to keep position, the TV-viewer gets bored to death.[/b]
Me first. On the Tour of France, Christian Prudhomme found a way out with wind and cobbles. He is not mad. He understood.
But until when and where? [...]

--------------------------------------


[Texts added in 2017, so previously unpublished]

Coureau: French cycling is flourishing now [...] and the sponsors are still there too.

Yes, la Française des Jeux, but also Cofidis, Jean-René Bernaudeau, AG2R, Aubervilliers, Roubaix ... the guys have been there for thirty years. There are roots. All this creates a global and coherent movement to get upwards. Today, the photograph is beatiful.

Coureau: Undoubtedly beautiful but the whole thing has never seemed so fragile

It is correct. We realise that with regards to organisers, there is exhaustion, age and a lack of gratitude/acknowledgement. It is related to globalisation, to the fact we no longer have access to the best teams nor the best riders. There is disillusion. They are demanded a lot more in a lot of fields such as safety, adminitrative papers, costs and they are no longer living confortably at all. So it is no longer possible. In the very short run we may lose everything. In 2017 all in all we lost seven or eight race days in France: Cholet - Pays de Loire - even if that is a feud between two people -, the International Criterium and the Mediterranean Tour... It is huge. It has an impact on the League's economic model. We are mutualising the costs. Licences, antidoping, insurances, ... The more the cheaper. Now everything is rising and we have problems. We have started to attack our own funds in order for the costs of our licences do not rise (or very slightly so).

Coureau: Some organisers are also blaming you for not having your best riders race their races. Example: Arthur Vichot on the Route Adélie in Vitré. How to do it?

I like pleasing, especially Roland Montenat, the organiser [of the Route Adélie, but he's retired now I think]. I have had the same problem with the Roue Tourangelle. I did not even have 8 riders for it. The Three-Days of De Panne? Zero, no riders. For the first time in 20 years, we did not go there. Why? First the riders are racing less. They are a lot more often in training phases, sessions, build-up than we were. Second I am also a prisoner of the new World calendar which has gone from 27 to 37 races, the new functioning needs of the team. The Tour of Italy, we did not go there full of innocent enthusiasm. We have prepared it with a training session, a specific agenda of mountain build-up races, etc. Add the race itself to it and it eats a month and a half of the calendar. Nowadays I am no longer able to satisfy many French organisers, who however would so much deserve it. That is why I am fighting at the international level in order for the World Tour reform to be radically revised.

Coureau: You are torn between your occupation as FdJ manager and President of the National League?

Yes but that is not the whole thing. I am fighting. I want to win the Roue tourangelle. I am aware that the organiser ends up telling himself "Madiot is all very kind but I stop, I am fed up." He will also blame me because I am the League's President. So I am saying it. The only solution is banging one's fists on the table, to place safe-guards and to have influence on the international scene.

Coureau: if we are pushing the reasoning a bit further, what are the mid-term dangers of the international calendar reform, for cycling in general?

Very simply: national races are going to disappear and thereby also teams. We will have unemployed riders, valuable people, mechanics. About 500 people are now living on cycling in France, including team staffs and riders. It is like a big mobile factory which is also directly feeding the hotel sector, catering, etc everywhere it passes.
[...]

A lot of teams are racing in the desert, in Abu Dhabi and such on formulaic races. But what when they get back on the Old Continent? What did Kittel do on Paris-Nice? Nothing. Richie Porte? He didn't win Paris-Nice. When you give him the least wind blow askew, a cold blow or a rain blow, you have a different story. Not talking about those who come back and get sick for a few weeks. When we are going to Australia late January, we are doing the minimum. We are jetting off at the last moment, we are racing and come back. Game Over! Despite all that, we have sick riders, guys you know you won't get back before March... It's not good.

Coureau: 2017 is an election year at the head of the UCI. Is it a turning point?

It is a crucial year. If Brian Cookson gets reelected and keeps the same logic, it is going to be a disaster. Not just for us. The roots of cycling, in all founding countries, are going to die because Cookson does not know what cycling is, he does not understand. His only objective is to get reelected and we are going straight into the wall.

Coureau: But what are you exactly blaming him for?

His races, the new ones, are not meant for longue durée. The Tour of Qatar has not been held this year. How am I surprised.... It was obvious though: it was not in their culture, there is nobody on roadside. If you have no spectators in a stadium nor on the roadside, it stops at a moment or another. You may insist if you have bucks but it is a losing battle. It does not work.

Coureau: You did not appreciate the Worlds in Qatar last September 2016?

The echelons and the peloton cut into pieces will probably remain a little bit in History. But once they got on the local circuit, nothing happened. It was insipid. There is more fervour at the top of the Montaigu during the Boucles de la Mayenne. For cycling's image, for those who only watched the last hour of the Worlds' race [I am among them], it is not good at all.

It does not work. We expect something else: adrenaline. [...]

We are no longer working on our main assets. For example: the weather conditions. It was one of our sport's strengths. We are deleting it. If it is too windy, too cold, too rainy, too hot... You always hear that now. Where is the Bernard Hinault of the 1980 Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I raced Paris-Nice with snow on the roadside. Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle won it because of the snow! That was good. [The 1980 Paris-Nice won by Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle was dantesque, especially stage 4 Villefranche-sur-Saône - Saint-Étienne with black ice, snow and icy wind. Duclos-Lassalle took the leader's jersey there and withstood for the rest of the race despite an MTF in Villars de Lans while he was not a climber. Stage 6 from Digne-Les-Bains to Mandelieu-La-Napoule was raced under storming rain as well]

Coureau: It is in order to protect the riders

Yes, but I am telling them that they are not forced to finish the race! The Gavia pass in the Alps [Dolomites], I did it. It was in 1988, the 16th stage in the snow. I ended it in pitiful conditions at that time and I still remember it but retrospectively I am proud to do the Gavia. It is also where you write the history of this sport.


I would like to hear again things like: "Those cycling riders are climbing up to 2500m, in the snow, in short short, in the hail, the wind, the rain, the this or that and they keep going".

Hearing say that it is quite different those who are playing on tip-toes on a football pitch or in a hall at the right temperature in other not to sweat. Neither too hot nor too cold and give me a sponge between two match points. If we lose that, we have the Abu Dhabi stages everyday on TV. We are quickly going to get bored... We are losing our culture. Now on every World Tour race, there a commission that is busy with the weather. Funny that they never suggested me to get into that one... With them, soon we are no longer going to race Paris-Roubaix if it is too fat! I am pushing it a bit far but it is almost it.

[...] We should not asepticise our sport. If it is execrable weather on a classic, well too bad, we go, we race. The guy who wants to retire, he retires. If at the finish you only have 10 riders, that is no problem ! It is only testament of the hardness of the stuff. You are building up on the "road convict" myth ("forçat de la route").

In our cycling milieu, we often think we are the centre of the world. It is a mistake. We are in a constant competition with football, rugby, etc. If we are too dumb not to develop our main assets, we are dead. Yet we have such a great attraction power... We need to keep this rough and virile aspect of our sport. We do not play, we race. We should not get bourgeois. The riders are happy. They are staying in five-star hôtels in Abu Dhabi. Fine, nothing against it but a Campanile from time to time would not hurt. Sometimes you have a nice welcome in Campanile because you meet nice people ... (silence) We are not a sport for the rich. If you want to be a billionair, you should not do "cycling". You should do "Formula 1", tennis or football [I agree but you tell Sagan about that, Marc!]. If you do "cycling", it is only misery. It is a bit of a masochist thing but it is our DNA. When you are in such a world, real personalities are emerging: Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, Raymond Poulidor, Eddy Merckx, Luis Ocaña. It emerged. Froome and such are all kind but if you put them on the Champs-Élysées, nobody would recognise them.

Coureau: Back on the UCI, do you think Brian Cookson and cycling's world leaders are not in tune with this sport?

They do not know what cycling's DNA is. I am very very disappointed. All the more since I had a favourable opinion at the start. At the end of the day it is pathetic.

Coureau: Pathetic

Yes, Cookson sacked all the people who had true cycling knowledge, who could have guided him, advised him. You may say what you want about Hein Verbruggen or Patrick McQuaid [...] but they at least knew what cycling was. I often disagreed with them but at least you could talk. I sometimes still have good conversation with Verbruggen on the phone [book published in June 2017 but the conversation happened before the latter's death apparently].

Cookson is topsy-turvy on everything. When a UCI President, after 25 requests, is answering to you by post that the problem with French races is the French Federation's problem, it means that somehow he does not know that our races are part of the international calendar.

It is dramatic. He does not even know about the specifities of Belgium, France, Spain or Italy but whether he likes it or not this sport has been shaped and built up in that continental Europe. The roots are there. Base-ball is American, its roots are over there. Cookson is unable to rely on us. It is all well to make parties in the whole world, in China, in Oman, in the United States, why not, but all in all it is a disaster. They are off the mark in their view, in their approach.

Coureau: In the end it is all a matter of rooting if we undersand you well.

You need local roots, a culture. It is true for cycling as for other sports. You sold the Chinese that they would have Tour of France winners on their races, stars of the sports. None went. They are not dumber than others: the organisers did realise that had been hooked. If the spectators do not have Froome nor Sagan, it does not appeal to them and they are disappointed. ASO had an idea: go to Japan with the Criterium of Saitama. It is a good idea. I would even say we could do a world tour for a fortnight by season end, in South America or Asia [...]. Footballers are not mad: the Premier League remained the Premier League but on the odd occasion, they are doing a super match of no-matter-what in China or sessions... They are making their promotion, get the money but do not denature their Championship for that matter. People are seeing Ronaldo, Messi and all the jazz, they love it. [...]

Coureau: The amount of World Tour races has increased in 2017, 27 to 37 ones, and so did the amount of race days: 150 to 180 ones and it will keep increasing.

Only those new races do not have the level for their ambitions. World Tour is meant to be the ultimate level, the best riders, the best teams, on the best races. Now, beside the three grand tours, you have 20 single-day races and 14 stage races. I am sorry but some of those new races have nothing to do in there. The Tour of California, the Cadel Evans Classic, London... You will not get to the top of our sport with that. We are heading in the wrong direction. [...]You cannot put Abu Dhabi and Paris-NIce in the same basket. It is impossible. [...]

Coureau: This reform [...] is just starting to strangle the national calendar.

It strangles everything and worst of all is that everything that has been set up does not persist in time. China? Splash. Leeds Classic [Wincanton]? Long gone. Nobody wants to understand that! It is all electoral. We are putting the cart before the horse. We are creating new races while they have no money but that way, we are securing votes on all continents. It is not serious! It is fake. Vincent Lavenu wants to go to the Tour of California. It will cost him €40,000 of his own pocket in order to take part in a new World Tour race. That is not the World Tour! [...]


Coureau: In the end, it is rather reassuring to think it will not work

Yes but at the same time we are skidding and killing everything beside it! That is the problem.

[...] Coureau: The great quest is financial, as is often the case.

That an international federation raises some money is something needed. I have nothing against it but it should not be the primary aim. What is the present-day delirium is that we are raising in order to get reelected. It is not nice. You should not mix Paris-Roubaix with the Cadel Evans Classic, nor Abu Dhabi with the Dauphiné libéré. Everything in its right place. Everything has a value.

Coureau: You are not forced to take part in the Cadel Evans Classic?

No and I did not go there but it costs me points in the ranking. I am indifferent to that since there is no promotion system in 2017. However if it is the case tomorrow, do not score any point and can be relegated at the end of the year, we will have to make choices. That is what is expected if Cookson is staying. So he has to go. At first I was not so reluctant with this point system with promotions. I am radically opposed to it now. It can be an encouragement to doping.[...] Besides sometimes the promotion are done by themselves. Some years there are 20 teams, other years 15 or 16, mainly for economic reasons. The selection is natural.

Coureau: If Cookson gets re-elected?

Half the French calendar will disappear in the three years to come. For example: late July, the London Surrey Classic is held at the same time as San Sebastian and the Tour of Poland. The bigger teams will go to London. We, in France, have the Polynormande. How do we do? That's it. We are all gonna die. So will the teams because there is no room for anybody.

Coureau: There are no remedies? Have you written to Brian Cookson? Have you initiated proceedings?

We have never had any responses to our requests for an interview about this World Tour calendar reform. We wanted to expose our difficulties. We wanted them to revise their plans. Sponsors like Cofidis, AG2R or La Française des Jeux have injected money into cycling for 20 years or more. I consider they are major actors. They have never been asked their opinion, they have never even been listened to. Nothing. Not even a dialogue. The French problems regard France.

So we attacked them at a legal level, yes, at the League. We wanted meeting minutes. Then actually you noticed that there was no trace. They are deciding with a few of them, according to their own interests. Whether we are losing or winning before the CAS is after all not really a problem. What I want is to get till the end in order for them to understand that it is not because they are the UCI that they may do whatever they want. At least daring to lead an action against them while nobody believed in it, settles things. I am sorry but I have lived more things in cycling than Cookson has. I have brought a budget to a cycling team for 20 years. What has he brought?
He has disappointed me. He is rather friendly and I have nothing against the man but what he is undertaking makes no sense.

I have sixty people to feed at the end of every month. Cookson is not the one to come and tell them "I am sorry but I have no more job for you". I am the one. Some of the guys have a wife, kids and need to work in order to eat. So I am fighting. I might be virulent and aggressive but I am going to keep on. I will not give him any presents. A matter of principles. We are here, we exist and you are going to cope with us even if we are small. I am not completely work, it is not possible.

Coureau: It seems that you are at the same wrath level as after Manolo Saiz' "sh*t Frenchies" in 1998?

Something of the sort, only now I notice that on the international scene, they seem to look at me in a different way. My foreign colleagues are saying "He has got a big mouth but he acts. He dares to. Not us."

Coureau: Some French credibility has been established with the help of your results?

Yes you may say what you want about French cycling but it is standing. Exactly.

Coureau: Cookson is cristallising your disappointment but more globally, you are targeting the Anglo-Saxon model, aren't you?

Yes he and all the guys around him. They are still ruling on the team reform which the "Université des Science et du sport" of Lausanne wanted. That stuff has been prepared for three years and they are still discussing issues such as "Can a doctor also be a trainer?" I raised my voice in meetings with them and said: "Wait a minute, do you want to turn back the clock with doctors such as Ferrari or Conconi? I was there in 1998. All over again?" They are wide off the mark. [...]

Coureau: You only believe in David Lappartient?

I feel like believing in him, yes. First because he is Latin and thereby has a solid culture of this sport, knowledge of its base. He knows what a village race is ["course de village", just another phrase in French as equivalent to the Belgian kermess, like "course de clocher" ("Churchtower Races")], he knows how race organisations work. He is a politician but I think he feels like defending this cycling DNA and if he gets elected in Bergen in September 2017, he will not have any other choice than trying to do something and move the lines. Otherwise I fail to see how we are going to overcome.

Coureau: Has worry gained grounds?

Yes and then 80% of race organisations are the works of associations and voluntary workers. If you do not bear that in mind, you are massively wrong. You are dead. David Lappartient knows about that. The voluntary workers are also ageing.

Coureau: You may be a young President of the Boucles de la Mayenne like Pierrick Guesné and be fed up sometimes ...

Yes it is also an all-French affair. Whatever the sporting event you organise you have an administrative overload. You really need to be motivated to organise, feel like having responsabilities... If there is a crash on your race you have the handcuffs in detention. It is troublesome. Also in this respect people's lives can be made easier.

Coureau: the gap has increased between those voluntary workers like Guy and Jocelyne Leriget in the Mayenne, real mainstay of the same Boucles de la Mayenne and the authorities?

The UCI's disdain is complete. These are rednecks who were unable to evolve, that is what they are going to tell you up there if ever you are telling them about those admirable voluntary workers. It is a bit like in the world of labour, this cult of companies against the craftsmen's world. I am sorry but we need craftsmen. The little ones have a right to live. The problem is that there will always be people like Patrick Lefevere to tell you in a meeting:
Quote
Marc, in cycling just like in life, the big ones are made to eat the small ones
Cookson is on the same track. He's planting flags on sand and I am not talking about geography, in places where people have money and who are pleased to see a bike race at a given moment. It cannot persist in time. It is a bad start. The day they have no more races, half as many teams and riders, what will they do? They will invent a new policy in order to restart the machine? Probably. The old farmer in me is still present: the land of the farm is handed over from father to son and I hope I can raise my son enough in order for him not to get rid of it. For what it's worth cycling is like a land that you hand over. I reached the final part of my career and I need to hand something over. If I am not fighting for it I am neither honest towards myself nor towards the people who had worked before me. People like Colonel Richard Marillier or Cyrille Guimard [Marillier was the French national coach from 1969 to 1981, a former resistant during WWII, he was a major influence to Madiot before the latter turned pro. He passed away in January this year] and many more. Towards all those who have built up this story with its positive and negative aspects, the wounds, the plagues, all. I am not alone. I am sure that Jean-René Bernaudeau is on the same track even if we have never talked about it, so is Vincent Lavenu, David Lappartient, Christian Prudhomme... We have a common DNA

Coureau: Don't you feel it more strongly than they do?

Perhaps because it is my life, my trip, my thing. It might translate with a lot of virulence towards Cookson because I am fed up with him but as far as I'm concerned, it comes from here (he puts the hand on his stomach). When I go and eat a bit in the small restaurant in Saint-Martin-de-Lumet on the side of the "national road, many memories are coming back. I see myself back 30 years back passing there in training. I finished my rides and came back to Renazé. On a sunny day, you are raising the chin a bit and you breathe it. That is what I would like to hand on. If those things stop after you, without any extension, though it would not be terrible, I would just feel like it would have been useless.

Coureau: The Sky Anglo-Saxon model tottered a little bit in the 2016 Autumn.

Sky... (Silence). They are in high-tech, they are searching, looking. That is good but they are not making me thrill. In their race philosophy, there is no place for charm, seduction, shiver. The least shivering the better they feel because they may lose the grip a bit. Black suit. Armada. It is mechanical, almost metallic. If you are a kid and you see them passing on the roadside, you cannot identify. [...] You do not have to get back to Eddy Merckx or Luis Ocaña, just take Bernard Hinault. That was much better than Froome and the likes and there was a soul. He was able to explode Paris-Nice and punch a guy. That was in 1984 because there was a demonstration on the road and it annoyed him.

He is World #1, he stops, goes straight towards the guy and punch him. Just imagine that today ... It would be an absolute schandal, crisis meetings, expulsion, etc.

Coureau: and public apologies demanded!

Yes and the Badger has never apologised!
He had an unbelievable personality, didn't he? When his face was a bit wonky you thought "he is angry, today" and he would say "I am stronger than you are and will monumentally crush you". There was life, authenticity.[/font]
 1. Saiz's phrase after the Festina Affair when he showed the middle finger in front of the cameras
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  • "Paris-Roubaix is the biggest cycling race in the world, bigger than the Tour de France, bigger than any other bike race" (Sir Bradley Wiggins)

    M Gee

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    • The user formerly known as hiero
    Thanks for the translation! Chapeau!

    I have to say, he has some good points, but he is also stuck in time. That may not be a bad thing, but it also might not be realistic. But I am glad his voice is in the world.
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  • . . .He had the bit between his teeth, and he loiked the taste, mate . . .

    Echoes

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    If I wasn't so time starved I would give Marc Madiot a biography like I did in previous year. Perhaps someday, I will do that. Such a fascinating character whom I admire more and more.


    In 2013, he gave his opinion on the main races on the calendar:

    Here about the Tour of Flanders:



    For us at the Française des Jeux, it's almost the most beautiful week of the year that starts. Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, in terms of emotional load, in terms of adrenaline, is what you can do best, really. The Tour of France is something else, I mean. Tour of Flanders + Paris-Roubaix, it's bland after that. It's bland.

    (Interviewer)What's making you thrill today on this race with your riders? Last year David Boucher was in the breakaway but we knew he was not going to win.

    Nah but we were apprehending Paris-Roubaix. On Paris-Roubaix with Matthieu Ladagnous we are not far, you see. These races in which we are in a certain state of mind, you see. We have some sort of a commando squad with a dozen riders. A restricted staff around these guys. We are in immersion up there in Belgium. We are living in Flanders. We had settled in Flanders. We are in our second country, in a way. We are at home. We are both abroad and still at home because we have the flavour and appetite of that race.

    (Interviewer) There have always been FdJ riders that could make you dream on this race?

    Always. We've always made sure to have some because these races are what makes you want to do this job. These are places where cycling's life is made and develops.

    (Interviewer) Marc, wouldn't you like to see this race as a warm up for Paris-Roubaix

    In France we've seen it that way for long but now objectively speaking Paris-Roubaix is almost the downhill after the Tour of Flanders.


    (Interviewer) That is because you've never won it.

    No, no, no, no. I'm looking at the popular infatuation, the euphoria around the race. Honestly, objectively there's more euphoria around the Tour of Flanders than around Paris-Roubaix. We need to be honest and realistic.

    (Interviewer) Why is that?

    Because the people of Flanders has managed to aggrandize and to give an extra boost to that event which we were not able to do in France. We have to be realistic.


    (Interviewer) The Tour of Flanders might be more open than Paris-Roubaix is today?

    It's not a matter of being more open to this or that rider. It's more about a sphere around the race. In the public, the population. You can see it very well when you are going to Flanders. The whole country is behind that race. You can feel the impregnation of a whole people behind a race. It's one of the rare moment in the year when you can feel it. You can feel it in our country during the Tour of France because it's holiday, it's July, it's the attraction or the great circus of July that moves. You can feel a bit of that at the Tour of France but the Tour of Flanders is really something special for a whole country. We feel it. We live it and feel it. When we are there you feel it. My dream would be to have a French rider winning the Tour of Flanders with the Française des Jeux. It's everlasting recognition.

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