Michael Pavitt ©ITG

Generally, I find strategic plans with grandiose names quite a painful experience to read through. So my hopes were not high when I set about reading a press release about the International Cycling Union's (UCI) Agenda 2022 roadmap.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that their near 2,000 word release was actually very interesting.

The roadmap for the next four years has been touted as focusing on the five main areas of David Lappartient's manifesto during his Presidential campaign.

As a reminder, the Frenchman's campaign prioritised strengthening the authority of the UCI with "real and effective leadership", "placing the organisation at the service of national federations", "making cycling a sport for the 21st century", "developing an ambitious vision for professional cycling" and "ensuring credibility of sporting results and protecting athletes".

There has been some movement on the last pledge since his election, with Xavier Bigard and Jean-Christophe Péraud joining the UCI. They took up respective posts as medical director and, the slightly wordy, manager of equipment and the fight against technological fraud.

Lappartient was also pictured proudly next to the UCI's mobile x-ray unit in March as the governing body rolled out further tools to tackle technological fraud, while he continued to be vocal in the ongoing case involving Chris Froome and asserted that corticoids and tramadol should be banned.

The latter now appears likely to be achieved for the start of 2019.

There certainly is a case for claiming that the Agenda 2022 release is the first major batch of policies from the Lappartient Presidency, and while the corticoids and tramadol information is interesting and topical, there were several other plans that caught the eye.

The most eye-catching was the UCI Management Committee's approval of a combined World Championships featuring numerous cycling disciplines.

The UCI expect the Championships to be held once every four years, prior to an Olympic year.

Agenda 2022 is aimed at fulfilling David Lappartient's manifesto pledges ©Getty Images
Agenda 2022 is aimed at fulfilling David Lappartient's manifesto pledges ©Getty Images

It is claimed the Championships would feature road, cross-country, marathon and downhill mountain bike events, track cycling, BMX racing and urban cycling - consisting of BMX freestyle park, trials and mountain bike eliminator. Para-cycling road and track events, Gran Fondo, cyclo-cross and indoor cycling - artistic cycling and cycle-ball - would also take place.

Given the proposal in Lappartient's manifesto was to hold a combined World Championship for each of the four Olympic disciplines every four years, the latest concept builds upon on what was an already ambitious idea.

The reasoning makes sense, with the UCI claiming the event will help bring exposure to different disciplines.

From a British perspective, I would argue that only road and track cycling have truly broken into the mainstream, with the likes of mountain bike and BMX racing receiving similar attention when multi-sport events such at the Olympics come around. I am not sure your average person on the street would know artistic cycling and cycle-ball even exist, as harsh as that may sound.

Bringing the events together would certainly raise the profile of the lesser known disciplines, with the UCI billing the Championships as a "festival of cycling" which would be held over 17 to 19 days.

One wonders if bringing the disciplines together once every four years would also lead to greater sponsorship than they do as separate World Championships, which would continue to take place in the other three years of the quadrennial cycle.

Could a combined World Championships offer up a chance for the UCI to boost their coffers further?

The idea is certainly an interesting one, but there would appear to be several challenges that it could pose.

Finding suitable dates and venues for a combined World Championships appear key issues for the concept ©Getty Images
Finding suitable dates and venues for a combined World Championships appear key issues for the concept ©Getty Images

The first would be the month the Championships would take place in, particularly as it would need to fit in with athletes building-up towards the Olympic Games the following year.

Given that the start of the track cycling and cyclo-cross season normally coincides with the conclusion of the road racing one and vice versa, I struggle to see where a combined World Championships could take place for cyclists across all disciplines at the peak of their form.

It would also seem extremely strange to start a discipline's season with a World Championships, unless a dramatic overhaul of the calendar took place to avoid that possibility.

With a good number of cyclists featuring in two disciplines, such as track and road cycling, it also seems likely that they would have to choose between them for that particular season.

A similar issue would surely be the difficulty of finding hosts that have the facilities for each of the disciplines. How many places have both a velodrome for track cycling and international standard mountain bike courses, particularly for downhill competition?

Perhaps the devil is in the detail of the UCI proposal, with their release stating that the Championships would be together in "one region", before then referring to a "host city".

The first may be achievable, particularly if it is in say two countries, but finding a single host city would seem a very tough task.

Another challenge would surely be the scale of the Championships, with the UCI stating the event is envisaged to feature 120 countries, 2,600 elite athletes, 6,000 amateurs and 10,000 accredited individuals, including 700 journalists.

A total of 8,600 athletes would be a major task for any potential host, before you even consider journalists, accredited officials and spectators. As a comparison, the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics had just under 3,000 athletes, the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games had nearly 4,500 athletes and the Rio 2016 Olympics had around 11,500.

In short, 8,600 athletes is a significant amount of people you would need to house for up to 19 days.

The combined World Championships are expected to be held for the first time in 2023, a year before the Paris 2024 Olympics ©Getty Images
The combined World Championships are expected to be held for the first time in 2023, a year before the Paris 2024 Olympics ©Getty Images

Given the challenges major event organisers are having finding hosts, would there be many takers to host a Championships of this scale?

Clearly there is time to work through some of these issues, given that the UCI expect the first edition to take place in 2023.

While the ambition is admirable and it is an interesting concept, I can't help but think a cut-down version of the proposal will be the ultimate outcome, whether that is fewer disciplines, fewer athletes or both.

For the second successive blog, I also feel the need to offer some praise to a sporting organisation for paying attention to gender equality and taking the issue of harassment seriously.

The governing body have stated that employees of UCI women's teams will be required to sign a "strict" code of conduct for the 2019 season which they claim would raise awareness of and increase responsibility around the harassment that certain riders may face, including from within their own teams. Signed documents would be sent to the UCI with teams' registrations, with the threat of sanctions should the code of conduct not be respected.

This would seem a positive step towards protecting riders. Hopefully this will go a long way to stopping the horror stories you sometimes hear about riders not being paid in women’s teams.

Ensuring parity in prize money paid by the governing body is also a welcome step, and you hope race organisers will follow suit. Some have taken the initiative themselves, such as the organisers of the Tour of Britain and Women's Tour.

The development of a charter on gender equality is another interesting step, and the creation of a policy within the UCI administration to ensure fair treatment, particularly within recruitment, is surely something to be welcomed.

The governing body also stated that their 2017 annual report provides comparative male/female average remuneration - a first for an international sports federation - which they claim to be an example of their "commitment to achieving equal treatment for women in all areas of the sport".

Amina Lanaya was appointed UCI director general earlier this year and the governing body are now developing a charter for gender equality ©UCI
Amina Lanaya was appointed UCI director general earlier this year and the governing body are now developing a charter for gender equality ©UCI

Again, each seems to be a positive step from the UCI, following on from their appointment of Amina Lanaya as their director general earlier this year, after she previously served as the deputy. To the best of my knowledge Lanaya's appointment made the UCI only the ninth Olympic federation to have a female chief executive or secretary general.

Similar to my thoughts on the Oceania National Olympic Committees' discussions on gender equality, I hope the UCI's policy sets out a plan for increasing the role and representation of women at the top of the organisation, when it is presented.

After all, only two of the 18 members of the UCI Management Committee are women - Australia's Tracey Gaudry and the Czech Republic's Katerina Nash.

The latter’s place is only due to her being co-opted onto the Committee as the President of the UCI Athletes' Commission.

On a separate and much shorter note, I also could not help but wonder about the UCI’s creation of a Snow Bike World Cup, which could launch with a four-round series in 2020.

Given international federations' recent fascination with developing winter versions of their sport - snow volleyball anyone? – with the view to Olympic inclusion, I wonder whether snow bike might be the UCI's future attempt.

The idea of staging a downhill event on a pre-existing Alpine ski slope does sound like quite a fun idea to be honest.

However, like most of the ideas in Agenda 2022, it will be intriguing to see how it plays out in practice.