A ‘reign of terror’ in Team Cervélo-Bigla

Team manager cannot be held accountable for accusations of "manipulation, intimidation, and fat-shaming," says UCI.

Photo: TDW

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The manager of women’s team Cervélo-Bigla conducted a “reign of terror” on his cyclists.

A Dutch article outlines the 35 pages of evidence, riders accusing Thomas Campana of “manipulation, intimidation, fat-shaming, bullying, and non-payment of salary and prize money.”

The article printed by De Volkskrant said the UCI governing body failed to react to the claims. The allegations stem from the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The article states that Campana denied wrongdoing and that he gave health or dietary advice.

The German manager, and team owner, ignored medical issues in the team, a number of riders alleged. Riders in that period included Dutch star Annemiek van Vleuten.

German Doris Schweizer crashed in the 2015 Giro Rosa. She complained of blurred vision and could not even remember the incident.

“He made jokes about it,” said Schweizer. “Then I gave up. The only thing I wanted was to sleep.”

She was allowed to quit only after 100 kilometers into the following stage and a phone call from the team doctor. It took two years for Schweizer to finally overcome the crash’s effects.

American Carmen Small, now a manager at Team Virtu, suffered heart palpitations previewing the 2016 Tour of Flanders course. “It wasn’t normal, my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest,” Small said.

The article said that Campana dismissed the problem. Only after repeated complaints, she was taken to the hospital. Doctors kept her monitored overnight and put her on blood thinners.

Dutch Iris Slappendel, who now runs the Cyclists’ Alliance with Small, joined the team in 2015. At team meetings, she saw Campana “drilling riders completely to the ground”. She said, “He could really intimidate riders.”

She recalled that two 19-year-old riders were told not to eat carbohydrates because they were told they were too fat and were only allowed to drink water on training rides. In the season, explained Slappendel, he would punish riders by not allowing them to have their massage after races.

In 2016 after she left the team, Slappendel presented 35 pages to the UCI’s Ethics Committee with evidence and personal statements from 10 riders. They accused Campana of “manipulation, intimidation, fat-shaming, bullying, and non-payment of salary and prize money.”

The UCI would not accept anonymous allegations. Since a number of riders have identified themselves, but the governing body told Slappendel that the allegations pre-date the new code of ethics and Campana could not be held accountable.

The UCI did not respond for comment, but in recent months it rolled out new regulations for the top teams going forward that could help stop such abuses.

“There are really good people around in women’s cycling,” said Small, the only female team manager in the women’s peloton.

Slappendel remains skeptical, but the Cyclists’ Alliance is also accepting calls to help solve some of the problems.

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