UCI (Union Cycliste International) Director General Amina Lanaya.

The Puppet Masters of World Cycling

We cheer the riders. We revere the team owners. We hang off every word of the commentators. But who actually shapes world cycling? Peter Maniaty peeks behind the curtain to reveal 10 of the most powerful people in the sport we all love – and you’d probably walk straight past most of them in the street.

Jean-Etienne Amaury

President – Amaury Sports Organisation

His octogenarian mother, Marie Odile Amaury, remains the figurehead of the family owned Amaury Groupe. But when it comes to the day-to-day strategic direction of Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) and its glittering cycling operations, Jean-Etienne Amaury, 46, has risen to become one of the most powerful people in the sport since first assuming the ASO Presidency back in 2009.

The direct boss of Christian Prudhomme (Tour de France Race Director) and Yann Le Moënner (ASO, CEO), Jean-Etienne Amaury has ultimate responsibility and influence over cycling’s biggest and most lucrative events. 

Jean-Etienne Amaury.

Headlined by the Tour de France itself, the current ASO stable also includes Paris-Nice, Critérium du Dauphiné, Volta a Catalunya, La Flèche Wallonne, Tour de l’Avenir, Arctic Race of Norway, Paris–Tours, Tour of Oman, Deutschland Tour, Saudi (AlUla) Tour, L’Etape and Vuelta a España, which is organised by the Spanish-based ASO affiliate, Unipublic.

If that’s not enough, ASO also owns Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, whilst the Amaury family has controlled the influential French sports newspaper, L’Equipe, since 1968. Such is the power wielded by ASO in modern cycling, the Amaury family has often been criticised for monopolising control of the sport, not to mention its finances.

Amina Lanaya

Director General – UCI

UCI President, David Lappartient gets the bulk of the media spotlight each year. But when it comes to overall day-to-day influence, UCI Director General Amina Lanaya is one of the most powerful figures in world cycling. During her 18-year career with the governing body in Switzerland, Lanaya, a qualified lawyer with dual French and Moroccan nationality, has risen from working on doping cases in the UCI legal services team to its first-ever female Director General, a position she’s held since September 2017.

Today, Lanaya oversees the business operations of UCI, with direct control over everything from competition calendars and marketing to UCI communications and finances. Pivotally, she also has a well-stated goal of driving greater gender parity within both the competitive and governance sides of the sport. 

Bonnie Tu 

Chairperson – Giant Group

Now in her mid-70s, Bonnie Tu is a true giant (yes, pun intended) of the global cycling industry and over the past decade has become one of women’s cycling’s greatest advocates.

Bonnie Tu of Giant and Liv.

As Chairperson of the Taiwan-based Giant Group – with reported revenue of more than AUD$4.4 billion in 2022 – Tu sits at the helm of the largest bike manufacturer on the planet, stewarding the Giant, Liv, Momentum and CADEX brands.

Amongst her many areas of influence within the sport, Tu has been the driving force behind the rise of the LIV brand of female-specific bikes and cycling gear; a personal mission that was inspired by her involvement in the 2007 Tour of Taiwan, when aged 57. Women’s cycling is changing fast, and Tu has had plenty to do with that.

Yozo Shimano

Chairman/CEO – Shimano

Yozo Shimano.

Shimano first. Daylight second. The iconic Japanese brand holds a commanding position as the world’s largest bicycle component manufacturer, supplying groupsets to 14 of the 18 men’s teams on the UCI WorldTour in 2024 and kitting out a similarly high percentage of bikes sold around the world. With 2023 revenue of more than $6.7 billion it’s a global cycling behemoth (fishing gear aside) that continues to exert huge influence over the technology that shapes how and what we ride.

The Shimano business was established by the late Shozaburo Shimano in 1921 and his grandson, Yozo Shimano, has sat at the head of its corporate table for close to a quarter of century, becoming Shimano’s fifth President in 2002 before ascending to Chairman and CEO in 2021. Yozo has stewarded an extraordinary period of global growth and innovation at Shimano.

Alongside current President Taizo Shimano (Yozo’s cousin), his influence remains significant, however, his leadership has been seriously tested in recent years with a major ransomware attack and data leak in 2023 coming alongside the ongoing fallout of the ‘cracking cranks’ saga and global safety recalls.

Wouter Vandenhaute

Founder – Flanders Classics

Given he was born in Ghent, it’s no great surprise cycling has always been in Vandenhaute’s blood. After building a highly successful career as a sports journalist and media entrepreneur, Vandenhaute acquired the rights to both the Tour of Flanders and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2010 which he united under the ‘Flanders Classics’ banner. In the 14 years since then, Vandenhaute has grown Flanders Classics to be one of the most powerful race organisations in world cycling.

Wouter Vandenhaute of the Flanders Classics.

Vandenhaute’s ability to shape the pro cycling landscape is especially prominent during the European Spring each season, with Flanders Classics today operating the Tour of Flanders, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Gent–Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Scheldeprijs and Brabantse Pijl (not to mention a multitude of cyclocross and mass-participation events). 

In 2023, Flanders Classics also became a shareholder in the Tour de Suisse, while 2025 will see it assume the reins of the Amstel Gold Race, the largest one-day classic in the Netherlands. Vandenhaute may have handed over the day-to-day running of his organisation to ex-pro basketballer Thomas Van den Spiegel back in 2018 (a hugely influential figure in his own right), but make no mistake, Flanders Classics is still Vandenhaute’s baby.

Paolo Bellino

CEO & General Manager – RCS Sport

Whilst perhaps not as dominant as their French contemporaries at ASO, Italian giants RCS are still a potent force in world cycling and Turin-born Paolo Bellino sits firmly at the sharp end of its spear. Bellino became General Manager of RCS a decade ago after leaving his role as General Secretary of the Italian Track and Field Federation in 2014 and was promoted to CEO of RCS Sport four years later.

Paulo Bellino Of RCS.

Bellino has also been an Operations Consultant for the International Olympic Committee since 2010, keeping him extremely well connected within elite sporting and media circles that extend far beyond cycling.

With a stable of UCI WorldTour races including Milan–San Remo, Il Lombardia, Tirreno–Adriatico, Strade Bianche and the UAE Tour, together with major European UCI Tour events including Roma Maxima, Milano–Torino, Giro del Piemonte and Giro di Sicilia, RCS commands a significant slice of the global cycling calendar each year, further enshrining Bellino’s considerable influence at both a sporting and commercial level.

Richard Plugge

President – AIGCP

A former editor-in-chief of both Bicycle magazine and NUsport.nl, Richard Plugge hasn’t merely become the boss of the world’s most successful pro team, Visma-Lease A Bike, guiding the fortunes of iconic riders such as Jonas Vingegaardand Wout Van Aert.

Richard Plugge and Adam Hansen.

The polarising Dutchman has also been the President of AIGCP (Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionels) for the past three years and is a key player in the potentially seismic ‘One Cycling’ project with ties to Saudi Arabia’s leviathan Public Investment Fund (PIF)* that, depending on who you listen to, may or may not be targeting a launch when the next UCI WorldTour cycle begins in 2026.

In recent years, Plugge’s multiple roles within elite cycling have increasingly come into question with conflict of interest claims never too far away, most recently the Cian Uijtdebroeks contract saga in late 2023. It’s also been well reported that his relationship with several rival team bosses isn’t always smooth, with Cofidis General Manager, Cedric Vasseur, a particularly vocal critic.

Despite Plugge recently announcing he will not seek re-election as AIGCP President when his current term ends, his influence remains significant, both on and off the road, making him a figure to watch closely – especially as One Cycling continues to take shape.

Witold Banka

President – WADA

Poland’s Witold Banka may not be as universally well-known as some of his predecessors (yes, we’re looking at you Dick Pound). But given cycling’s chequered history and the fundamental role played by WADA in the ‘cat and mouse’ game of doping, he still sits firmly in the frame of the sport’s more prominent figures, even if his influence is perhaps a little less overt than others on this list.

Poland’s Witold Banka, the head of the World Anti Doping Authority.

A former 400 metres runner and minister in the Polish Government, Banka was first elected in 2019 to replace Scotland’s Craig Reedie as WADA President—one of the most diplomatically-charged roles in global sports administration.

In addition to the hugely complex task of ensuring WADA and its national affiliates keep pace with constantly evolving doping practices and substances, Banka has been a central figure in attempts to realign the often-fraught relationship between the USA anti-doping administration and WADA.

In the face of intense global scrutiny, his position also means he will be a key player in reshaping the involvement of Russian athletes in elite-level sports for the foreseeable future, cycling very much included. No small task. But a critically important one. 

David Zaslav

President & CEO – Warner Bros. Discovery

Sure, he isn’t a cyclist. But New York-born David Zaslav, along with Warner Bros. Discovery CEO and President for Global Streaming & Games, JB Perrette, will have a major say in the way the world watches pro cycling in the coming years – and how much we all pay for it.

As Warner Bros. Discovery CEO, Zaslav is the ultimate boss of streaming mega-platform, Max, (formed with the merger of Discovery+ and HBO Max) that has heavily disrupted the broadcasting landscape for the 2024 season by absorbing most of the content and racing previously available via GCN+.

Whilst details are still a little scarce, it appears Max – already available in many parts of the northern hemisphere – will eventually be coming to Australia, most likely in 2025. But for now, it seems the 2024 Paris Olympic Games are the main priority for Warner Bros. Discovery and Zaslav.

* Should the One Cycling project get off the ground in 2026, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and PIF Governor Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan would instantly rocket up the list of cycling’s most influential figures. 

Honorary Mentions

Peter Van Den Abeele – Sports Director, UCI

Heads up sporting activities at UCI and answers directly to the President and Director General. When it comes to events and rules (think flared brake levers, sock height and time trial helmets) the buck stops with him.

Torgny Fjeldskaar – Industrial Designer

The design brains behind the BMC Roadmachine and Teammachine, as well as the original Cannondale SystemSix. Colnago dubbed the Norwegian, “one of the world’s greatest bicycle designers.”

Mike Sinyard – Founder & Chairman, Specialized

A true doyen of the cycling industry. Sinyard may no longer be CEO of the company he founded in 1974, but the American legend still holds plenty of sway and rightly so.

Eric Min – Co-Founder & CEO, Zwift

Zwift has been cycling’s ultimate digital disruptor and as eSports continues to grow, so will Min’s likely influence as the boss of the clear market leader.

Dan Bingham – Aerodynamics Guru

The Brit is one of the most revered performance engineers in cycling and was the Hour Record holder as recently as 2022. He’s also the current European Champion in the Individual Pursuit.

Jef Van den Bosch – Rider Management

Co-Founder of ISEA Sport Management which looks after most of the top Belgian riders not named ‘Remco’.

Claus Fleischer – CEO, Bosch eBike Systems

The boss of one of the world’s largest eBike motor manufacturers. Enough said.

Janus Smalbraak – Chairman & CEO, Pon

Oversees one of the world’s largest mobility conglomerates and many of cycling’s most iconic brands including Cervelo, Focus, Cannondale, Santa Cruz, Schwinn, BBB and Lease a Bike.

Robert Wu – Chairman, KMC Kuei Meng International

Chairman of the world’s largest bicycle chain provider. No chains. No bikes, right?

Mr Igor Makarov was originally included in this article.

Having been contacted by representatives of Mr Makarov, Bicycling Australia now recognise that this section contained statements which were incorrect, and retracts them in their entirety. 


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