[This article first appeared on Monday 5th June and has now been amended slightly following calls from Eddie Eccleston and Brian Montgomery]
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 some of the policies of the former COLIBI president, Brian Montgomery of EBMA, who 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 UCIs 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 observers 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 isnt against innovation per se but he wants the man the win, not the machine. 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 and other industry players weree 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."