December 03, 2013 (Montreal, QC) – After Brian Cookson was elected president of the Swiss-based UCI on September 27, he brought about some major management changes. Louis Barbeau of Quebec, who had been president of the UCI’s Para-Cycling Commission for seven years, did not have his position renewed this month and instead was replaced by Belmahi Mohamed of Morocco.
Until this change, Barbeau had been busily splitting his time between Montreal, as director of the Quebec Cycling Federation (the FQSC) and then flying to Aigle, Switzerland to chair the UCI Para-Cycling Commission. We reached Barbeau in Montreal to ask him about his tenure with para-cycling and what the future holds for this discipline.
Whose decision was it that you leave the Para-Cycling Commission?
Louis Barbeau: I had indicated I was still available to serve on the commission, but I guess they wanted to have new people. There was no time limit to serve on the commission. I am happy with what I achieved on the commission during the seven years I was involved as president. Prior to that, I had been involved on the International Paralympic Committee cycling committee for six more years, before the transfer of governance to UCI.
What were your greatest achievements during your time there?
LB: My biggest achievements include:
1. The establishment of a Road Para-cycling World Cup
2. We have been able to obtain successive slots increases for the Paralympic Games since 2004: 145 (2004), 188 (2008), 225 (2012) and 230 (2016)
3. We have been able to obtain successive medals increases for the Paralympic Games since 2004: 32 (2004), 44 (2008), 50 (2012 and 2016)
4. Para-cycling is the discipline which has obtained the most significant gains/increases during that period
5. Hosting events (3 World Cups and 2 World Championships from 2010-2013) in Quebec:
6. If it was not for the fact that we have hosted these events during the last four years, several athletes would have never competed in para-cycling, and most certainly, there would be a lot less people who would know about the discipline.
And how has para-cycling done on a performance level?
LB: Para-cycling has become more and more competitive over the years and remaining in the top nations becomes increasingly difficult. Therefore, when we look at the medals tally and the nations’ rankings at the 2013 World Cup (Matane) and World Championships (Baie-Comeau), we can definitely say that Canada remains very competitive. In Matane, Canada finished 6th with nine medals, whereas in Baie-Comeau, Canada finished 7th with eight medals.
Who are Canada’s main competitors?
LB: Other nations that are very competitive in para-cycling on the world scene are: the USA, Italy, Germany, Australia, Great Britain, Spain, and China. Most of these countries have very strong development or feeding programs, as well as financial support. Therefore, I think Canada is doing a very good job.
How well do you know Brian Cookson?
LB: I have met him a few times in Great Britain (i.e., at World Championships and a London Olympic test event), but I don’t know him well. I think he has several challenges in front of him, but that he is well aware of them.
And your successor, Belmahi Mohamed?
LB: I don’t know him. I was surprised to see his name, since Morocco is not a nation involved in para-cycling. This being said, the fact that he is on the UCI Management Committee is a good thing. Hopefully, he will be able to help the sport grow in the next four years.
What are the greatest challenges facing para-cycling at this time?
LB: There are several challenges for para-cycling: including developing the discipline outside of Europe. At this point, Europe is very well-developed, but it is not the case on the other continents. In the Americas, for instance, there are approximately 10 nations which have para-cyclists, of which only four are well-developed: Canada, Brazil, Columbia and the USA. With the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, this is a unique opportunity to develop para-cycling in South and Central America. Once the Rio Games are finished, it will be much more difficult
What about Track Para-cycling?
LB: There are very few track para-cycling events, in comparison to road para-cycling events. For example, the World Championships for Road have already been granted for 2014 and 2015 for some time (over a year ago), whereas there is no confirmation for any World Championships on the track for the upcoming years. So there is still a lot of work to do to develop para-cycling, mainly outside of Europe. But I am confident that the new people who have been nominated will enable the discipline to reach new levels.
Thanks for your time and your good work for 13 years. What are your plans with your extra spare time?
LB: I will definitely have more time for myself; how I will spend it is another story. I have not been used to this kind of dilemma for a long time!