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Tales from the Peloton

From the left chair: How the Sportsbook.com team came into being

By Bill Laudien, team manager

Just like every armchair quarterback who sits at home in front of the TV on Sunday pontificating on what an idiot their hometown coach or general manager is, I have spent years thinking, "if I were a cycling team director, I'd show then how it was done...".

So to all of the team directors whose fine names I quietly mocked while reading through the results of races in magazines and on the internet, let me begin by saying I apologize...I completely underestimated the difficulty of your work and you all have my growing respect and admiration.

I began preparations for the season starting back in October when Sportsbook.com generously agreed to choose cycling as an advertising outlet to promote their online sportsbook and casino. Since then I've spent countless hours on the phone and internet and virtually no time on my bike. I've gone from a guy with no riders but a little money to a guy with too many riders and still a little money. I've had the pleasure of talking with guys who months earlier I had been cheering for from the sidelines and asking for their autographs, and also have had the displeasure of finding out, first hand, how difficult it is for these elite athletes to make a living at their trade. I've lived for the last three months on a steady diet of coffee and I've gained 8 pounds...and the season hasn't even started.

Most of all, I've got to meet some really neat people and I've already had a ton of fun. This looks like it's going to be one heck of an interesting year.

December 27, 2002

I'm flying out to Boston this weekend to meet with five of the team's riders who live in New England. I started the team with the idea of providing opportunities for riders in the Mid-Atlantic region, but the further I got into things, the more I found that most of the quality riders from that area had already found homes with other pro teams or elite amateur clubs.

With a long history of producing quality racers and currently no professional teams, New England proved to be a good source of young talent. With the help of road captain Adam Myerson, we've put together a nice group of dedicated young riders who should travel and work well together. Ross Krause, Larry Perera, and Ryan Pinkham will meet with me on Saturday and veterans Matt Svatek and Adam Myerson will get together with me on Sunday. I'm also trying to arrange a meeting with one of our sponsors from Sportsbook.com who may be in Boston over the weekend. I'll have a similar pre-season meeting with the Mid-Atlantic guys next weekend.

The other thing of note is that it appears that John Wordin was unable to pull one more rabbit out of his hat and that there is now an influx of quality riders desperately looking for teams. I talked to one of the riders today, but with a limited budget I'm embarrassed by what I'm able to offer to riders who have previously won national calendar and international events. It's also disappointing to know that the best option for a number of these talented guys is going to be retirement.

While the quality of racing and of riders continues to grow in the Lance shadow, the opportunities for riders continues to be limited. My hope is that so long as companies such as Threshold can continue find new events such as New York and San Francisco, that have huge crowd and television coverage, that the situation will get better.

This might not help the current pro riders, but might provide opportunities for the Ryan Pinkhams and Larry Pereras of the world. With much of the focus on rider development and mass participation, it's going to be the event promoters that will really dictate the health of the sport domestically at both the national and local level.

Related story: Sportsbook.com announces pro cycling team

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