The UCI: Union Cycliste Internationale
UCI is the Union Cycliste Internationale, which is the governing body for competitive cycling. How did this entity come about? We'll tell you more here.
UCI stands for the Union Cycliste Internationale, which in French, means the “International Cycling Union”. This is the world governing body responsible for regulating competitive cycling. It also ensures that people at international events in this sport are competing under the regulations they established.
The UCI is the union of the main national cycling federations, such as the Real Federación Española de Ciclismo (RFEC), which is the governing federation in Spain. As such, it’s responsible for representing these groups at the International Olympic Committee, or IOC.
But, you might ask, why was it necessary to establish the UCI at all? And what is its role in helping to guarantee that people practice cycling as a sport in a professional and ethical way? In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of cycling and its principal representative body, the UCI.
The origins of competitive cycling
You might find it easy to believe that the origins of cycling are deeply connected to the invention of the bicycle. This popular mode of transport only began to emerge during the last years of the 18th century. Before that, there’s no record of recreational or competitive cycling.
In fact, the first cycling trial (of which we do have records) took place in May 1868. Only seven cyclists participated in this event. That competition crowned Britain’s James Moore as the champion at the small circuit located on the outskirts of Paris. This athlete rode on a fixed gear wooden bicycle with iron wheels.
Aside from that, the first official sports cycling race would take place almost a year and a half later, near the end of 1869. More than 100 cyclists started this outdoor competition. Only about 30 would finish the 123 km course between Paris and Rouen.
An interesting fact about the first cycling competitions and exhibitions is that they tended to be aimed at promoting bicycles. They wanted to show that this wasn’t just a toy or a recreational gadget, but that it was a serious mode of transport that could take people across long distances. As such, the race circuits started to become longer and longer as time went on.
From the first organizations to the founding of the UCI
It didn’t take too many years for this new sport of “cycling” to gather popularity and attract thousands of followers. In fact, people created the first cycling club in the world in Florence, Italy in January of 1870. That wasn’t even two years after the first official race.
One year later, in 1871, the same thing happened in Holland. The UK and Spain came next in 1878. People would create the first national cycling association in France around the middle of 1881. This paved the way for holding the first national road bicycle racing competition.
Ultimately, cycling would only gain international representation in 1892 through the creation of the International Cyclists Association in London. Eight years later, the International Cyclists Union – UCI – would be founded with the support of six countries. The six founding countries were Belgium, Spain, the United States, France, Italy, and Switzerland.
From that time on, the UCI was consolidated as the principal regulatory body of cyclists and their competitions, events, and exhibition at the international level. Today you can find its headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland. 184 national associations comprise the organization. These are further subdivided into five continental confederations.
The UCI: functions and competitions
As we mentioned in the introduction, the broadest and most fundamental function of the UCI is the regular practice of cycling competition at the international level. In actions they undertake together with the national organizations, they’re in charge of ensuring that their cycling regulations are followed at all levels. This is especially important for international competitions and events.
Additionally, the International Cyclist Union carefully controls what equipment and accessories people can use during competitions. We’re not only referring to regulation bicycles for each discipline but also the accessories that people can use too.
In recent decades, the UCI has also been taking concrete steps to promote clean play and combat doping. Ultimately, they’re also trying to guarantee transparency and standardized conditions for everyone who competes in the sport.