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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 13, 2008
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"Pro" Cycling Teams
After reading today's news I just had to write in to ask.... what's the deal with everyone slapping the "pro" tag on their team name? (See "Richmond gets new pro cycling team") I believe that there are only 17 UCI teams registered in the USA. These teams are not "Pro".
In fact they are by definition, according to both the UCI and USA Cycling web page, amateur teams. I believe these teams are defrauding the public and their sponsors. After reading today's news I felt compelled to visit the team's website. A quick call to the marketing department at the teams main sponsor confirmed my theory... they didn't even realize what "product" they had been sold. They were shocked to here they were not actually sponsoring a "professional team".
I have no doubt that these teams have good riders but adding the letters pro does not make you a professional team. Someone needs to put their foot down on this before we have Cat 5 Pro Team's, Junior Pro Team's, Masters Pro's Teams.
All this whining going on in pro cycling! They're all like 5 year olds on the playground. Each trying to take control and getting so out of hand that everyone loses their playtime!
If cycling wants to be seen as a legitimate professional sport then all the players should look around at all the successful pro sports. They all have ONE governing group. There are privately owned teams, teams and venues that are not owned by the governing group or, in most cases, by the teams. The successful pro sports work because they all work together. They realize that the only way to be successful (i.e. make money, grow the sport) is to work that way.
That's not to say that there are not complaints and things that need to be fixed or changed but it's done according to preset rules that all abide by. Can you imagine FIFA allowing crap like this to take place? Cycling as a whole and the cyclists themselves need to decide if they want to be an organized professional sport for the good of ALL or they want to be just a bunch of guys on bikes who get paid to ride.
However ineptly the UCI may be managing it, they are trying to run and grow the sport of professional cycling and they do have the best interest of the riders at heart. ASO and the other grand tour groups have one interest only - make as much money for their private organizations as they possible can. If they could get away with running their races with amateurs and not paying out anything - they would do it in a New York minute!
Anyone who seriously believes that ASO gives a crap about the cyclists or the sport as a whole is living in a dream world and someone should give them a quick kick in the butt! If they honestly cared about cycling and the cyclists, they would try their hardest to get the best riders in every race they run and not randomly pick only those teams who don't go against their private interests. As for their claim of interest in freeing the sport from doping, their own actions show their duplicity. If the desired result is to remove anyone rider or team that has been associated with doping, their races would be ridden by cyclists that most people have never heard of.
A good half of the pro-teams would be excluded including CSC, High Road, Cofidis, Slipstream (David Millar anyone?), and on and on. Also, Festina would no longer be a sponsor of the Tour! The organizers of the Vuelta and Giro need to realize that the ASO has no interest in what is best for their races; they just don't want to be seen as self-serving profiteers all by themselves.
Riders, rather than crying that you all are stuck in the middle, get out of your pity party and use the strength you have - no riders, no race. No race, no huge amounts of money pouring into the coffers of the ASO. Your sponsors should understand that having one group in charge and running the show will come out best for them as well. Who knows who next year's Unibet.com or Astana is going to be? The next rider excluded could be you!
ASO vs. Astana #2
The real tragedy here surrounds exactly what has been pointed out in previous posts. This is NOT the Astana team of 2006/2007. This is essentially a new team; or arguably the continuation of the now defunct US Postal/Discovery franchise. The sports' governing bodies are effectively punishing Astana as a sponsor when they should be rewarding them for continuing to pour their sponsorship dollars into the sport we all love. After the number of major sponsors we have lost, not to mention the bad publicity surrounding the Astana team from the past year(s), we should be celebrating the continued support that Astana as a brand has shown professional cycling. They have put their faith to the test only to be slapped in the face. Can we really expect their continued involvement after this? Certainly not. All we can do is hope for it. If there is one thing that CAN be agreed upon these days it is that we desperately need to retain the sponsors we have, rather than seemingly doing everything in our power to drive them away. Perhaps if we were to reward them for their perseverance, we might even attract new sponsors to fill the void left by those that have been lost due not only to doping, but to the petty infighting which is threatening to destroy cycling from within.
I find it funny that people honestly believe that a privately owned company can have the best interests of cycling at heart. Yes, they have the best interests of their shareholders and their stakeholders but it doesn't necessarily follow that they have the best interests of cycling at heart. The UCI is the world governing body, yes the ProTour needs a re-think but having a few arrogant federations rebelling against the UCI as well as ASO is not the answer for future prosperity.
People seem to forget that the UCI has already given hundreds of compromises negotiated over the last two years and now they have decided they care little for the UCI at all. The idea of the ProTour is to have the best riders racing, to give sponsor security and to slowly raise the profile of cycling globally. The Grand Tours can have their own criteria if they wish but it will be to the overall detriment of cycling in the long run.
Is anyone else growing weary of the rows between the UCI and ASO? This has really been blown out of proportion and someone needs to grow a pair and find some resolutions. I feel we were all looking forward to a drug scandal free season, and we may be treated to it, since no one will be racing if the UCI carries through with its planned suspension strategy.
I don't know who thinks all this arguing is good for anything from a fan's perspective, but I can say I am tired of it and almost to the point of saying to heck with all this pro cycling crap. I like riding my bike, so I'll just focus on that and maybe put in some overtime to save up for a sweet little number from a hand builder at the NAHBS. ASO vs UCI? Yawn....I'm going for a ride and a burrito.
Paris-Nice has now started and all invited teams have started. Apparently because the team management has put pressure on the riders, and due to pressure from the sponsors. This is such a pity. Pro cycling has been thrown into a mess where the money controls the sport.
But if the sponsors want to control cycling there is only one way for a cycling fan to let her voice be heard, and that is by boycotting the sponsors of the teams that do not have the courage to stand up for cycling. The spokesman of the riders say that the riders just want to ride. That is a noble wish, but if nothing controls their riding it is not a sport, it is just 200 men having a nice day on their bikes.
The fans want to see the best rider's battle according to a predetermined set of rules. We do not want to see French teams in French races and Italian teams in Italian races. We do not want race organisers to influence the result of the race by handpicking the riders they want to participate and more likely, those they don't want to see.
By participating in Paris-Nice the riders, the teams and their sponsors have chosen a way that has very little to do with sport.
I can only encourage cycling fans around the world to let their voices be heard - boycott the Tour, boycott the Giro and boycott the sponsors of the teams who do not care about the sport.
The conspiracy theorist in me loves issues like this one. In keeping with that theme, here we go......
Keeping it simple, ASO had a clear opportunity to stop an American from getting on the podium. American riders have held a spot on the podium for how many of the last nine years? Were it not for Contador having to cover Rasmussen, Leipheimer would have been supported more heavily through the Tour and been the eventual victor. Both Contador and Leipheimer are both valid contenders for the podium again and, frankly, I imaging the organizers of the Tour are anxious for some new blood. It seems as if they simply do not want it associated with Bruyneel or an American rider.
Cofidis was not uninvited, making me believe that the doping history argument against Astana is bunk. Cofidis had doping scandals of their own. Why eliminate Astana? I think it was a combination of memories of Lance, another American on the podium, the virtual undefeatable and everlasting dynasty of Bruyneel, and the lack of a European contender.
Cadel Evans is the clear candidate of choice. Evans may not be a European, but he is not American either. He is liked, not associated with Postal, Discovery or Bruyneel and not American. We see a single rider with incredible talent but likely would not stand atop the podium if things did not change. Let's face it; he would suffer at the hands of the incredibly powerful Astana team. How does one steer this situation and put a favourite rider on the podium? Use dirty politics to get rid of the ones who would beat him, that's how! If you look at last year's results, Cadel Evans fought a virtually solo battle. He had some help in the mountains, but battled a large portion on his own. Save for Contador and Leipheimer, everyone else was seven minutes back. So, we have a contender that does not fall into any of the categories mentioned above, has built the credibility for a TdF win, and is on a European team. This in addition to not being directly or indirectly related to drug scandals, he is the perfect choice to put on the podium. Interestingly enough, his team, Silence-Lotto, divested a major asset to Evans in the mountains (where the Tour is most frequently won) - the American Chris Horner.
Silence-Lotto has already announced its team for Paris-Nice, showing that they side with ASO over the UCI.
It is easy enough to believe that the ASO has very detailed plans for how they want the Tour to go.
According to my knowledge, here's why Tyler couldn't race in the Tour of California.
Hamilton was suspended after testing positive for blood doping in the 2004 summer Olympics. His ban 2 year ban from cycling for testing positive at Athens - I'm not sure when exactly it began or ended - is over. However, evidence surfaced during Operation Puerto that, while under suspension for his 2004 positive test, he was involved in trying to acquire doping assistance. Hence, he's being investigated for an entirely separate affair - one that comes entirely after being suspended the first time. That is why he could not race in California.
I agree with you absolutely 100% percent. Frank has served out his suspension yet the crap continues. Let the guy ride. No wonder he has had problems with depression, suicide, etc. Nobody will give him a break. It is absolutely unfair he continues to be punished for events occurring 6 years ago when there are other riders who are in the thick of racing even though they have been implicated in current doping affairs.
The solution to this problem seems so simple.
The pro teams show need to some backbone and solidarity and stand together to make a decision.
A union is only as strong as its membership. If the teams don't like the rules of their union, then act to change these rules. But to step outside their union is to lose all their power.
Collectively, if they stop crying poor me, the teams have the power to sort this out quite easily. And really, they are the only ones with the power to sort it out easily. Standing together, they can instruct ASO to operate under the rules of their cycling Union, or none of the union members will take part. Standing together, they can choose the structure of the ProTour that they want. To fail to stand together is so short sighted it is hard to believe.
Operating as a union, members can be assured of entry to the races according to their own union rules. Instead they seem willing to risk letting participation be decided ad hoc by whoever is flavour of the month in the blind hope that they wont be next months victims. Surely the teams must see where this leads....
Forgetting the doping scandals of the past, can the leadership of these pro team organisations really be SO short of moral courage?
David Mc Cann
I just read with dismay and outrage about the cyclists that were killed in CA by a "law enforcement officer" who crossed the centre line after falling asleep?! Am I to understand that someone who we might rely on to keep us safe fell asleep at the wheel of a state owned vehicle and killed 2 cyclists who were obeying the law out riding? It's beyond comprehension. The article mentions that there was a similar incident where a man was killed by a gravel truck and that driver got a year in prison. If the cop gets no time on this, it'll set a sad double standard and will indicate that our "justice" system is truly flawed.
In response to Andrew's question about the British track team helmets:
The helmets used by the British track sprinters, along with members of the German and Dutch national teams, are Casco "Warp Carbon" helmets. See the link below for details:
As far as I know there is no U.S. importer for Casco, but they are available online through European mail-order retailers. Be ready for sticker shock though, the weak US dollar makes it an expensive purchase.
Without making a judgment on the man or his methods, I will say that Rock Racing definitely makes a statement at every race they're at. From the Cadillac team cars, loud graphics, and the love 'em or hate 'em kits, there's no mistaking or missing them at a race. I've seen it twice now in person, at the Tour of California and at the NRC opener Merco road race.
They make a loud statement and that's not a bad thing for the sport.
I would like to point out to Mr. Mike Teglas that while Richard Virenque was indeed back at le Tour, Jean-Marie Leblanc made it absolutely clear that he was not welcome, and did everything he could to ensure that he would not ride. It was the UCI that forced ASO/Leblanc to invite Virenque.
While Virenque may have been idolized in France, he was public enemy number one at ASO.
The real problem with the ASO is that it is sports marketing company, one which does it for profit. As far as they are concerned, all they are doing with the Tour de France (the jewel in the crown of their vast portfolio of events) is protecting their investment. They learned a very heavy lesson when sponsors left in droves after the Festina affair.
ASO is run on a capitalistic business model and the best way to topple it is to start a rival company with a rival race with better money and more prestige. That means doing another big race away from Europe...away from the ASO, RCS, Unipublic power-base. For that to happen you first need an international racing calendar...wait a minute...like the ProTour.
Why do you think the ASO and the UCI are at logger heads? That's the real problem.
I have loved the Tour since I first watched every stage in 2003 and saw Lance win in an epic battle!
Since then I have not missed a stage and have been lucky enough to keep watching since Sky TV NZ plays every stage in full - even if it is in the middle of the night, I am used to getting no sleep in July!
But with the ASO taking such a hard line with Astana and effectively "kicking out" the Champion and 3rd place getter - they have completely turned me off!
I know with such a huge audience around the world that one guy in New Zealand not watching the race will hardly rate on any scale at all... but I find it very sad that cycling has continued to wallow in drugs and scandals. The 2008 Tour should have been one without scandal and regrets, one that let the "legs do the talking", but sadly the ASO have created one before the Tour ever starts.
I know my argument is not full of points of fact and I can see it from both sides. However I really did think that the ASO wished to clean up cycling and should have been the first to welcome the moves at Astana to get this team back on track!
It is such a shame with so many people ready to bag cycling because of its drugs history I really did think that cycling would come together with a view to make the 2008 Tour the best ever!
I guess I am just disappointed that so much effort will all have been for nothing in July. It is with a heavy heart that I will move onto another sport!
So in addition to all the other complaints we can level at Pat McQuaid and the UCI's running of our sport we can now add 'poor negotiating skills'. Are they really going to be so stupid as to sanction the French Federation, the teams and (importantly) the riders? Do they really think that the future of cycling will be second rate teams riding a UCI sanctioned Tour of Bulgaria or wherever or that their flawed 'ProTour' can ever be as big a pull for sponsors and the public as Tour de France, Giro, and Vuelta?
Rather than let their inflated senses of self importance rule their heads they'd be much better advised to both sort out all the problems the teams riders and sponsors have with the ProTour as currently organised and properly sort out a thorough and credible drug testing programme. Then and only then can they be in a position to sensibly negotiate with ASO and others. If UCI had all the riders' teams and sponsors on side then this situation could never arise. The reality is that the team's riders and sponsors don't have faith in the governing body.
One of our favourite cycling commentators would describe this as, "Complete and utter hypocrisy." Yes friends, the UCI has dug far deeper into its suitcase of cynicism that ever before. The UCI Boss recently told the riders' association:
"Without the UCI, the future is ever more powerful organizers dictating the terms on which you are able to practice your profession."
Earlier this week the same UCI told Team Mitsubishi-Jartazi that they qualify for ProTour wild Card status, as long as they don't bring Frank Vandenbroucke. Whatever you think of VDB he has served his suspension and now holds a valid UCI license. Does this look like "dictating the terms on which he is able to practice his profession" to anyone else? Once again the UCI tells the cycling world that everyone else must play by the rules, but not them.
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