Fathers, sons and cycling: Let’s find out about cycling’s favorite despots

If you subscribe to the thoughts of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, change is the only constant in life. If you subscribe to CyclingTips, you’ll know that change has swept through Turkmenistan.

The former dictator has retired. The new dictator – his son, Serdar – was (probably not very) democratically elected by an overwhelming majority. The cycling world wondered if this was the end of our fascination with the country.

Wonder no more. In our latest edition of Dictator-Watch, we have an update from the President of Turkmenistan, speculation on Road Worlds and the exciting emergence of the dictator of another country, too.

To start:

Serdar “I will wring your neck” Berdimuhamedov, the supple-faced 40-year-old who has just been given the reins of the country, dispelled any questions about whether he would be softer than his father. At his inaugural meeting of the Security Council, he sacked the interior minister not to do more to curb speeding on the roads. Two days later, he received a warm congratulatory phone call on his “election” from the beloved Vladimir Putin. Shortly after, he introduces a series of measures monitoring women’s bodiesbanning beauty services – including eyelash and nail extensions, botox and hair bleaching – as well as “sexy” outfits that erode traditional Turkmen values.

Off to a flyer.

A playful and naturalistic shot of Serdar Berdimuhamedov in his home office. Source: State media.

Meanwhile, Serdar was appointed head of the Turkmen National Olympic Committee, providing oversight of the sport in the country. Despite holding the title of “Honored Coach of Turkmenistan,” Serdar doesn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm for sporting endeavors as his fat-bike-loving father Gurbanguly, though pro-cycling initiatives continue to pop up. on the Turkmen radar. Serdar has launched a series of initiatives aimed at improving the ecological footprint of Turkmenistan, including the “wonderful tradition [of] regular bike rides… one of the most popular socially significant events held in many countries to support various social, sporting and environmental projects and ideas, and in Turkmenistan they unite the inhabitants of cities and towns, the older generations older and younger.

And the 2026 Road Worlds?

Beyond the introduction of these “wonderful traditions”, the question remains whether Turkmenistan is set to host the 2026 Road World Championships.

From 2019, UCI President David Lappartient and Berdimuhamedov Senior met to discuss this event, Lappartient reportedly noted that “Turkmenistan has all the necessary conditions and infrastructure to organize such competitions”. This had firmed up a few months later to a certainty – a Turkmen report at the time boasted that “Turkmenistan will hold two world cycling championships and open a sports school under the auspices of the UCI”.​​

Igor Makarov – UCI board member, power broker and Russian oligarch who is currently being sanctioned by Australia and Canada for his ties to Putin, not that the UCI is ready to answer any questions about it – then traveled to Turkmenistan to offer support. Deal done, it seemed.

This is your periodic reminder that the UCI’s measures against Russian aggression in Ukraine have resulted in the loss of their jobs by several non-Russian riders – including a Ukrainian – while a member of the management committee continues to serve in the organization although it is literally illegal for him to visit or do business in the country hosting the UCI Congress this year.

After the 2021 Track World Championships that were slated for Turkmenistan collapsed due to a wave of human rights issues, COVID concerns and “harmful dust” concerns, the Worlds proposal on road 2026 started to look a little more flimsy.

The UCI originally introduced a deadline for bids in September 2019 and was supposed to announce the 2026 host at the 2021 Road Worlds, but did not. despite a viable offer from Montreal being in play and Portland also raising their hand. In fact, a 2022 Application Guide reveals that the UCI is still seeking proposals – they are seeking CHF 8,000,000 (approximately $8.4 million) for the hosting rights for the 2026 event, with bids due to be finalized by this month and announced by Wollongong Worlds in September.

Whether that means the UCI has a live proposal from Turkmenistan ahead of them is, of course, the big mystery, but I still can’t rule it out.

Maybe they’re just waiting for the dust to settle on the mess of 2021 before announcing it. Perhaps they have definitively abandoned Turkmenistan. Perhaps they will delay the announcement for another year. These are the fun adventures of hosting international cycling competitions.

Hello, Tajikistan!

Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding the World 2026 routes, I am delighted to report that another Central Asian dictatorship has entered the UCI’s good graces. In March, Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, hosted the Asian Road Cycling Championships, receiving illustrious visitors as part of the festivities.

According to local media, the president of Lappartient and the Asian Cycling Federation, Osama Al Shafar, stopped for meetings with both Prime Minister and Tajik dictator’s sonthe speaker of the National Assembly and mayor of Dushanbe, Rustam Emomali, 34 years old.

According to Tajik state media:

“Lappartient and Al Shafar expressed their gratitude to the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon and the President of Dushanbe Rustam Emomali for their full support.

Rustam Emomali offered to organize an international mountain bike race in the coming years to introduce and develop this sport in Tajikistan.

In this regard, the parties reached an agreement and noted that after the submission of the necessary documents by the Cycling Federation of Tajikistan, this sporting event will take place in the near future.

It was noted that in recent years, with the constant support of President Emomali Rahmon, Dushanbe has the opportunity to organize all international sports competitions.

Emomali Rahmon – “Founder of Peace and National Unity, Head of the Nation” – oversees an authoritarian regime that flirts with a cult of personality.

from Tajikistan human rights record has been described by Human Rights Watch as “disastrous”, with limited freedom of political, religious or sexual expression. He is class 152nd out of 180 countries for press freedom.

Seems a good place for a bike race.

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