Brent Copeland leans against a team car while talking on his mobile phone at a race.

Brent Copeland replaces Richard Plugge as head of teams organization AIGCP

The switch comes at an important time in the sport and amid increasing criticism of Plugge by his fellow team managers.

Joe Lindsey
by Joe Lindsey 20.03.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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The association of men’s pro cycling teams wasted little time in appointing a successor to chairman Richard Plugge, the Visma-Lease a Bike general manager who said just days ago he would step down from the role he’s held since July 2021. The [takes breath] Association Internationale des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels (AIGCP) will now be chaired by Jayco-AlUla general manager Brent Copeland.

The AIGCP effectively represents all men’s WorldTeams, acting as a central liaison for the teams to both race promoters and the UCI, as well as to the riders’ de facto union, the CPA. Under Plugge’s leadership, the organization helped roll out initiatives like SafeR, which aims to improve rider safety at events.

But Plugge came under increasing criticism in 2023 over a variety of issues, including his pursuit of the still-mysterious One Cycling reform plan and Visma’s controversial signing of Cian Uijtdebroeks from Bora-Hansgrohe despite Uijtdebroeks being bound by a valid contract. In a twist, one of Plugge’s chief critics in the Uijtdebroeks incident was Copeland, who now replaces him and publicly criticized Plugge on X.

Copeland, 52, has worked for teams for two decades, dating back to early 2000s stints as a director with Lampre-Daikin. He rose to become general manager there before the team’s license transferred and it became Bahrain, where he was operations director until July 1, 2020. Since then he’s been the general manager for Gerry Ryan’s GreenEdge outfit under its various sponsor names.

Copeland comes in to the AIGCP chair role at a pivotal moment. One Cycling, which Reuters reported just weeks ago was said to be imminent, appears to have stalled as some teams have reportedly backed away from the initiative amid unclear plans. And the UCI announced last week that it approved “the principle” of a budget cap for teams “to preserve sporting fairness by preventing excessive disparities between teams in terms of budget.” The WorldTeams, which range from well-funded outfits like Visma and UAE Team Emirates to far more modestly budgeted operations like Arkéa-Samsic, are not unified in their position on budget caps.

As well, last July there were rumors of widespread discontent with Plugge and AIGCP managing director Javier Barrio over their direction of the organization; CyclingNews reported that eight teams – including Jayco – had signed a letter expressing concerns about Plugge’s supposed conflicts of interest. While little became of that immediately, Plugge’s eventual departure may signal that the discontent never fully went away.

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