Exclusive interview with Cycling Australia President Klaus Mueller: Part Two

Cycling Australia is Australia’s premier cycling body. Traditionally the organization has catered primarily to overseeing elite cycling in this country, but exciting times lie ahead for Cycling Australia and at the helm is President Klaus Mueller.

Many sports in Australia are fighting to attract new participants and to retain those already enjoying their chosen sport.

It’s a competitive environment and one full of challenges.

These challenges, however, are not lost on Mueller.

“Cycling is a good sport. It’s healthy, it’s environmentally friendly, it ticks all the boxes.

I think the biggest challenge that cycling actually faces in attracting people into the sport, is that as a society we are becoming increasingly risk adverse”, he said.

As sports face increased competition to attract and retain participants in a highly competitive environment, Cycling Australia is currently undertaking a range of programs to meet the needs of cyclists in Australia.

“I think the real growth is going to be more in participation or recreational cycling. I think that’s the case in all sport. That’s where the trends are going.

People don’t want to go into stuff that’s organized, where you have to turn up at two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. They (participants) want flexibility“, he said.

Cycling Australia is also keen to see an increase in women’s participation.   Currently, women make up around fifteen percent of Cycling Australia’s membership.

“Aspirationally we would want 50% of our membership to be women. As an organization we need to create a whole range of products that cater for people other than competition cyclists.

Traditionally, we’ve been a competition organization and we’ve got to stop being a competition organization. We’ve got to continue to look after that sector but we can’t be exclusively that, because that’s not where the growth’s going to be. That’s not where the demand is and we’ve got to meet the demand”, Mueller noted.

Cycling Australia is currently busy working with a range of groups to help them meet these targets. With the additional of Jon Leighton, President of Bicycle NSW to the board, new alliances are forming.

These future plans include attracting and holding world class cycling events in a range of disciplines.

“What we’re now doing is, we’re changing that whole paradigm completely around and we’ve got a deal with the UCI (for) any event in Australia.

We’ve rolled out a whole range of events we want for mountain biking, from World Championships to World Cups to more local events and there’s a whole raft of events between now and I think about 2020.

Some of those events, look all of those events, in fact, have now been put out to the various states and the states now bid on those and then we become the entity that then contracts with the UCI for those events. They will now be our events.

We’ll obtain the hosting fees from the various states and so if say QLD wants the World Mountain Biking Championship, they will bid with us and then we will go to the UCI with the financial package in place and we now say to the UCI “In 2017 we want the World Mountain Bike Championship.

We’re going through exactly the same process with Track, so we’re going along saying these are all the Track events, international events that we want to put on, so by that process we are not only going to secure our financial future, hopefully, but we bring to Australia a whole lot of elite events, in relation to Mountain Bike and Road and Track between now and the year 2020.

This is a long term vision and it includes a real big dip at getting another Road Championship, which quite candidly, I didn’t think would happen again in my lifetime.

We want to put a package to the UCI which makes us financially attractive to them”, he said.

Cycling Australia is also branching out into other facets of cycling activities for everyday riders and fans.

“We’re now putting tours into Europe, so if you want to go to the Tour de France and have literally what is the best tour group and you want to follow it, we’re the only ASO accredited tour group that follows the Tour de France, so you get exclusive access to where the riders are, to the best spots on the finishing line.

We’re putting on those tours and to the World Championships as well, we’re putting on lifestyle and bike shows, which we’ve been doing for the last couple of years. We’re going to try to create a whole lot of membership benefit schemes which will attract more people for a whole range of reasons. Through that whole commercialization process we hope to build up our numbers enormously”, he said.

Mueller is passionate about cycling and about it’s future in Australia. He has plenty of plans to progress the sport but he also takes time to reflect on his three years as President of Cycling Australia.

“The highlight would probably have been the fact that we’ve conducted multiple World Championships in Australia. We managed to bring the World Road Championships to Australia. I wasn’t president in the formative years, I mean I was on the board, but I was President by the time the event was held.

Look I just got an enormous buzz to see the Australian public support it like they did.

The World Track Championships in Melbourne were another spectacular success”, he reflected.

Mueller is proud of his involvement in bringing these world class events to Australia but it is when talking about individual performances, that the cycling fan comes out. His passion for track and road cycling is evident as he continues to reflect on some of the standout performances over his time as President of Cycling Australia.

“You can get a buzz out of individual performances at various events.

Watching Michael Matthews win the U23s in Geelong was a great buzz.

Rachel Neylan was second in Holland last year and I got an enormous personal thrill out of that. I just thought for her to be chasing down the second last lap (with) Marianna Vos was just, it sent a chill up and down my spine”, he said.

And there are of course the performances of Cadel Evans and Anna Meares that possibly stand out the most.

“Look Cadel Evans’s win in the Tour de France has got to be one of the stand out highlights for anyone. And to watch the way the Australian crowd responded.

(Then there’s) Anna Meares both at Melbourne at the World Championships and at the Olympics. I mean to be at London and to be there when she won the sprint, look it was an emotional performance. And she so richly deserved it after all she’s been through. She’s such a professional and dedicated athlete as well”, he commented.

With a number of successes during his three years as President of Cycling Australia and a prosperous future ahead for the organization, it certainly is a good time to be a cycling fan and possibly, a good time to be the President.

First published on The Roar 14th June, 2013

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