By CEO Nick Jeffrey
The feedback since our announcement last week on the PowerNet Tour’s parting of ways with the UCI has been interesting.
Internally, the overwhelming sense is one of relief. Relief that finally, after 18 months of trying, cycling’s international body has provided some belated direction on our Tour’s ability to continue to operate under the UCI’s onerous road rules. Clarity at last.
In any sport, gaining the endorsement from your international body should be the ultimate – something to aspire to, something that once you have it you don’t want to live without it. In this case however, I am still struggling to find anyone who can provide a concrete benefit in favour of fighting to retain UCI status.
After reading this paper on Saturday, I suspect the only benefit might be to offer “bragging rights” over other similar events. I apologise to our Tour of Wellington friends if that appears a “loser attitude,” but on the evidence of the torrent of correspondence and calls I have received since our announcement late last week, it seems team managers, officials and cyclists generally agree.
The rules have become so prescriptive there seemed a real danger the life could be squeezed out of the “friendly Tour.” With the outstanding support we receive from volunteers, riders and sponsors, headlined by PowerNet, I know we all now have that little bit extra motivation to make this year’s PowerNet Tour the best in recent memory.
Here’s the crux of it for me. As New Zealand’s reputation continues to rise in the world of cycling, the number of Kiwi riders in UCI racing teams around the globe will also increase. How ridiculous would it be, in time, if the country’s top twenty bike riders couldn’t take part in the PowerNet Tour because of UCI fineprint?
Last week we couldn’t entertain the thought of seeing the likes of Greg Henderson, Julian Dean, Hayden Roulston, Tim Gudsell or Sam Bewley on tour. This week we can. (Yes, we’re already on it, don’t worry).
At its highest level the UCI is questioning the lack of events registered on its Oceania Tour calendar for this season. There is only one UCI calendar event in New Zealand and Australia. Instead of sending correspondence down under, the UCI should be asking itself serious questions as to why that might be.
Don’t get me wrong, UCI accreditation has served us well in the past. It elevated the Tour to the international stage at the perfect time in its life cycle. But we now have a timely opportunity to again re-focus our energies into what has always made the Tour of Southland great for 53 years and counting.
It’s a sad indictment on the international body, but last week’s news was truly a weight off our shoulders. We can now get on with running the country’s best Tour, with the riders we want and continue to showcase the racing, the hospitality and the experience that is the PowerNet Tour, without being suffocated by rules and regulations.
I'd welcome your views. Email them to me.