Dutch bank Rabobank has published a report on the internationalisation of cycling. It’s worth a read and I agree with a lot of what it says. In summary, it says that the sport has been opened up to new countries and where success occurs in these newcomers, it can be built on to develop the sport.
But I think the report dwells too much on cycling as a national concept. For example elite cycling in Holland is dominated by Rabobank. Promising kids are dragged into the lab by a Rabobank-funded programme and if their power-to-weight ratio is impressive then they are made an offer that’s hard to refuse. This one-tracked detection system discovered the likes of Robert Gesink, Bauke Mollema and Lars Boom. But this isn’t a system that’s Dutch, it’s a system that’s Rabobank: it’s a corporate ploy to sift through thousands of hopefuls in order to find The Next Big Thing.
Similarly, when a cyclist succeeds, it is often not because of a national system. Contador did not receive special Spanish coaching and Luxembourg may sit high in the international rankings but that’s just because of one family, not one federation. In other words, luck.
But the report correctly identifies state-funding as one big influence, state-supported track cycling has provided rich pickings for Australia and Britain but for me, this is because they don’t offer much of an alternative for a budding cyclist. A decent pursuit rider in France or Italy will find more support and money from local road racing squads.
All in all the Rabobank report makes you compare nations but for me, the sport is subject as much to luck and corporate influence as national matters.