ASO say “Non” to Project Avignon

Monday, 10 February 2014

The city of Avignon is famous. Once the home of the Papacy many also know it for the song about dancing on the bridge. It’s also where many of pro cycling’s top teams gathered last summer to find new ways to reshape the sport. But just as the famous bridge is broken it looks hard for the pro teams to build bridges.


It’s worth revisiting the subject because the Avignon scoop by Stephen Farrand hasn’t got much attention or headlines elsewhere; such is the way of cycling media that when one outlet gets a scoop the others won’t report it – cyclingnews.com didn’t relay Velonew’s Horner to Lampre scoop – but they’ll all report a story from outside, for example an interview in La Gazzetta Dello Sport. As an imprecise metric The Avignon story attracted 16 comments on cyclingnews.com, one less than a randomly picked article from the site today where Alejandro Valverde asserts a truism to Marca.

But this matters. It’s about big teams collaborating and even conspiring to change the sport with a concept more profound than the World Tour. Last month I did a series of items that can all be threaded together.

The synthesis of the three pieces is that the current model of pro cycling isn’t easily understood and even the simple things like a World Tour website don’t exist so doing anything complicated is a big ask. By all means attempt it but nobody’s got the basics in place yet.

Non !
Having seen the talk of revenue sharing and even Oleg Tinkov’s provocative talk of boycotting the Tour de France, race organisers ASO blasted back. Here’s a quote in L’Equipe (owned by ASO):

“The historic rights of organisers aren’t a subject up for discussion. This has been the starting point for all harmonious cooperation between the mixed working group which works hard to bring solutions and extra value for cycling. These historic rights have been recognised by all stakeholders and reconsidering isn’t in the spirit of the working group”

That’s a translation and the textual equivalent of pulling up the drawbridge. The “mixed working group” means the teams, races, UCI and riders who are currently locked in discussion over the points qualification criteria for the 2015 World Tour and by historic rights, assume it means owning the broadcast rights and the ability to sell them. There’s also the matter of the UCI and its World Tour rules, any boycott of the Tour would put the Tinkoff team’s licence in jeopardy. But second order consequences are not on Tinkov’s radar, he’s just being provocative and as such he wins as he’s got the debate going.

But what of another Russian? Igor Makarov is a more discreet figure but arguably far more powerful and certainly richer. Makarov’s Katusha are not part of the Avignon Accord. We can only speculate why but note Makarov sits on the UCI’s Management Committee and is close to Brian Cookson. In other words he’s part of the system rather than an outsider.

UCI 2020
All this is with the backdrop of the UCI’s 2020 plan for calendar reform and associated changes. But Avignon is about more, it’s about finding a new commercial structure for the sport. Don’t confuse the two.

Meanwhile for 2015?
All these plans relate to some unknown point in the future but there’s a more immediate matter of the sporting criteria for the 2015 season. This means the relegation and promotion criteria for the next season. How many other sports start the season without publishing the relegation criteria? It’s odd and no wonder some teams are trying breakaway moves to encourage more stability.

In the dark
Nobody knows what’s going on. The UCI is aware of the teams acting in concert but seems to be a spectator rather than an actor. Fans have little to go on. Crucially the riders have little idea either, there’s no rider union to protect their interests. FDJ’s Jeremy Roy wrote about the uncertainty and added Philippe Gilbert tried to present some ideas but felt he wasn’t listened to.

Summary
The Avignon story seems to have gone unnoticed but it’s a clear attempt by most of the big teams to reshape the sport. What shape this takes remains to be seen. It’s impossible to come out in support of reform or not because nobody knows what it might look like; you might like novelty or you may be conservative but nobody knows what’s coming. Indeed this might be the pro cycling version of Waiting for Godot as discussions, leaks and more emerges… only for nothing to happen.

ASO’s rejection isn’t fatal for the Avignon project but the firm non suggests they’re not interested in discussions, yet alone reform but things can change if revenue sharing is off-limits. In the meantime the racing is back and with it the points system but there’s still no published system for promotion and relegation in place.

Photo: main image by Flickr’s Marcel Musil

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{ 43 comments }

Skippy February 10, 2014 at 8:45 pm

When i can’t get support for Cycle Safety :

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vision-ZERO-Worldwide/540123632761709

why could you imagine that Teams will cooperate to fight over the miserable ” treasure trove ” that SPONSORS provide ?

UCI is monitoring this ” Avignon Project ” as well as other ” issues ” , but count on the September shuffle of Teams being repeated !

As an outsider , i am still in disbelief , that Teams are STILL required to offer themselves for an Annual Inspection ? WHEN they are required to offer a ” Rolling 5 or 10 year Plan with Budgets ” , then it may be time to think that UCI will be taking CONTROL , rather than being at the mercy of the Elements , like HM Government in the UK currently !

Fires in Oz , Floods in UK , Olympics in Russia , Footy in Brasil , who knows what the FUTURE is about to offer ? Don’t laugh , i am living in Austria so that i can use my Touring Skis and Daily i roll the bike along Dry & Sunny roads , wondering if being dressed for Summer , is the prelude to an alarmingly wet Summer ? Le Tour in Yorkshire without Rain , would be a HUGE BONUS !

TheDude February 11, 2014 at 1:35 am

Nice effort on FB.
I will usually never visit FB, but Vision Zero is a reason to frequent.
Cheers to your dedication :-)

LM February 10, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Again, nice job.

I think it’s understandable for ASO, who has improved and thrived, to have any other stance than not wanting to share their hard earned profits. I doubt their margins are large enough to be able to.

And, while it is certainly important to understand exactly what reform would look like, it’s even more important to have, in this sparkling new era of transparency, a clear view of the way things work now.

LM February 10, 2014 at 9:04 pm

… not to have any other stance…

sorry

Evan February 10, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Maybe teams should work on innovative ways to bring value to sponsors rather than doing the same thing they’ve been doing for years (focusing on race results). Do sponsors care about race results beyond the supposed exposure it brings them? As a consumer I have a hard time making the leap from sponsoring a fast bike racer to providing a high quality of household products, for example. But bike racers are inherently selfish and lazy, they only want to chase the fame and fleeting glory of a good result, make money from doing something they’d do for free (ride bikes), and collect an easy bonus with the odd endorsement deal.

As much as I think JV is duplicitous and untrustworthy, he does a better job of this than anyone else. His value add to sponsors is that he engages the fans via “frank” interviews and heavy use of social media; Garmin creates an image of being “cutting edge” (it helps to have 2 tech companies as your sponsors); core values of clean[er] racing, developing emerging riders, and promoting a non-profit (WWF) also increase the appeal.

Qwerty February 10, 2014 at 9:25 pm

If the Tour says no then what can the teams do? Sounds like things are going nowhere

The Inner Ring February 10, 2014 at 10:43 pm

There’s plenty still to do. A proper a World Tour website, clear rules, obvious promotion/relegation rules would be a start.

Joe February 10, 2014 at 10:05 pm

The goal of all this would seem to be to increase the overall value of the sport and bring up the revenue potential for teams and event organizers. This is not about fighting over what little revenue the sport already brings in. In terms of media value, cycling should be able to do better, and that’s what this group is trying to achieve. If they succeed, everybody in the sport will benefit through more profitable event venues (leading to better events), increased life span of teams (leading to better infrastructure and organizational development), and increased salaries for athletes (which, though not a primary goal of the project, will be a consequence of it). It seems likely that they would collaborate with UCI on the calendar modifications, and will also collaborate with prominent organizers like ASO. This does not seem to be a “breakaway league.”

LM February 10, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Agreed. When the average professional cycling fan is a 53 year old male, there’s probably room for improvement.

Vanilla_Thrilla February 11, 2014 at 3:53 am

Really? That’s probably the most lucrative market segment to appeal to.

I’m not sure trying to tap into the teenage girl demographic would be a stable money spinner for pro cycling.

LM February 11, 2014 at 4:32 am

Improvement, not replacement.

LM February 11, 2014 at 4:36 am

And, clearly, the male baby boomer segment is not lucrative enough.

The Inner Ring February 11, 2014 at 8:11 am

The “average” is a varied concept. In several European countries the largest audience segment is senior men (60+) and stay-at-home mothers (say 30) but in large part because these people make up a big share of the TV audience on a Tuesday afternoon when there’s a stage of Paris-Nice, Giro, Suisse, Tour, Vuelta etc and most people are working; the majority of racing happens during a weekday afternoon when European TV is packed with 80 detective programmes and low-budget cookery shows. Combine a 75 year old and a 30 year old and you get a 53 year old. But the common theme is a low income. You only have to watch the adverts for funeral planning, adapting baths for inflexible 80 year olds etc, household cleaning products, sub-prime credit. It’s far from the tennis or golf audience where banking and BMWs are promoted.

Larry T. February 11, 2014 at 2:46 pm

While I’m far from a TV demographics expert, I wonder if the folks snoozing in front of the tube during golf tournament broadcasts are much different from the 60+ senior and stay-at-home moms. Who the hell else thinks watching an oversized game of billiards is interesting? I’m in the “what exactly is broken here?” camp. No doubt the current teams are having financial troubles, as are a lot of races, but is it because they’re doing something wrong, like creating teams with budgets that make no sense or is it the same economic problems affecting pretty much everyone except the 1%? I believe it’s more of the latter, but the UCI’s globalization of the sport has done little more than jack up the costs…which seems especially unfortunate in the current economic climate.

LM February 11, 2014 at 4:55 pm

I knew you would have a clearer picture. What I don’t understand is, all the bike shop customers who are buying Orcas, Venges, Dogmas and Teammachines, how large is that group and how are they following? They are following, aren’t they? I wouldn’t think they’re low income, grandfathers or stay-at-home mothers.

Are there a large, less easily counted demographic groups that are following the sport online and not on TV? I don’t know a lot of people that follow the sport at all, compared to other mainstream sports, but the people I do know who are fans are mostly riders who catch up in the evening or morning through velo sites, YouTube and rider’s blogs. I may not know anyone who watches many or any races from start to finish.

The Inner Ring February 11, 2014 at 9:12 pm

LM: the keen cyclist crowd is big, presumably why Trek, Cannondale etc sponsor teams. But it’s still a fraction of the audience. The value, if you want to go after it, is in chasing a large and more wealthy audience.

Richard EASTHAM February 10, 2014 at 10:37 pm

When it comes to the unholy trinity of race organisers, the UCI and the teams, my sympathies *always* reside with the organisers. They put on an immense effort in tough economic conditions with increasing difficulties with police and civic authorities. The races and the links with landscape makes cycling special. The teams and the UCI suits come and go… the theatre and traditions of the event, the spectacle and the race is what matters most.

Bob February 10, 2014 at 11:26 pm

There are several classes of organizers. Many just barely survive and everybody, including the teams, know that these events are fragile. Those races are a labor of love for somebody and we have to appreciate that they carry on as they do. Some races are stable and can run in the black, but are not very profitable beyond the ability to pay a few salaries. And a very few races, such as the Tour, are very profitable. But even ASO continues to operate other cycling events that are not profitable. Better collaboration among the various parties could make more events profitable, and eventually the sport can support revenue models that lead to increased profitability and stability for everybody.

Salsiccia February 11, 2014 at 10:04 am

Amen to that, Richard. Nice comment.

othersteve February 11, 2014 at 2:21 am

I suppose you can’t blame ASO for not sacrificing the golden calf ( TDF) for the benefit of all.

Yet as others above have noted perhaps start with some of the more miner events which are not so closely held and work to commoditize them in such a way that ASO might take another look!

The Inner Ring February 11, 2014 at 8:17 am

I think one view from ASO is that they’ve kept the show on the road for years despite repeated attempts by the teams and UCI to shoot themselves in the foot; it’s simplistic because ASO hasn’t been consistent but they run a successful business and can look across to a group of teams that verge on collapse and are still employing suspicious characters.

darrel February 11, 2014 at 2:32 am

off topic. Photo: main image by Flickr’s Marcel Musil has some really nice photos. just saying.

PT February 11, 2014 at 6:34 am

ASO are a private organisation who are doing just fine, they are not going to advocate for any change unless its completely on their terms. Perhaps understandable as they have invested over the years and have a pretty much gold-plated product but a conservative position nevertheless.

The people who shake the world are the ones with the most to gain, not the most to lose. Which, in this instance, would be a big, capable media-oriented organisation who understand how to run and sell large-scale events. Not a team or even a collection of teams.

Thesteve4761 February 11, 2014 at 7:23 am

Mr ring,
Great post as always.

Can’t it be drilled down to this though: The Tour de France has name recognition far above any other cycling related team, race, governing body, etc. Pro cycling lives and dies on ASO’s whim. In essence, ASO is the governing body, regardless of what Cookson thinks.

Why would they even consider sharing the profit that comes from that? if the UCI falters, something will fill its void. if Cofidis fails, Ag2r will step up. Etc etc. most tdf viewers could give a hoot about cycling politics, but everybody loves tuning in for a few days in July.

Target audience is not 52yr old men. It’s French spinsters enjoying the countryside and skinny young men in tights, no?

The Inner Ring February 11, 2014 at 8:25 am

Marie-Odile Amaury – the A in ASO – once told Vaughters she could run the Tour de France with amateurs racing, the point being that the riders make the story. It’s surely a provocation but there’s the old phrase that it’s the race that makes the rider and not the other way around.

We did see one example with Paris-Nice in 2008 when the UCI threatened teams who were going to ride Paris-Nice because of a spat between ASO and the UCI. ASO won and crushingly so, another tactical blunder by Team McQuaid. This illustrates the power. But it’s not complete, they still need the UCI in some ways.

Dennis February 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm

While I certainly hope nothing catastrophic happens to professional cycling, I would definitely watch a Tour de France with amateurs racing! I imagine the race would be more open than the last few editions, where the race for the lower podium positions was more interesting than the race for first.

RocksRootsRoad February 12, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Ah but amateurs would not be subject to the biological passport, so we would be back to square one.

That comment by Madame Amaury is therefore more revealing than intended. The “Golden Goose” (TDF) is obvously sacrosanct to ASO but they need to be asking themselves some hard questions on why there is an asterisk next to the winners list from 1999-2005 and what they have done, if anything. to help clean up the sport.

BC February 11, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Trying to extract money from the most powerful and successful business in bike racing is always going to lead to failure. Mm Odlile-Amuary is of course correct, amateurs could complete in ASO events and provide plenty of drama !

The Pro business model as at present operated requires change, everyone must agree on that point. However, not at at the expense of attacking the very organizations who provide the heart for their very existence.

WT. A UCI sporting and financial model that brings no financial rewards to anyone other than the UCI. The sporting model is little better. Best consigned to history.

gabriele February 11, 2014 at 2:38 pm

In my opinion, as in any kind of strategic (i.e. not frontal) conflict, the main problem is not whether the parts can live on without each other (running the TdF with amateurs, racing outside the UCI umbrella), but whether one of the fields can be split as to inflict significant losses to the strongest elements there, even if this means collaborating in the short term with the weaker elements of the opposite field. Some kind of… breakaway dynamics.

On the economic side (according to the data posted by inrng), the “ASO bundle” is about five times bigger than the “RCS package”, which means “a lot” but, literally, not another order of magnitude.

Whatismore, this means that the Tour, as such, can be estimated as 1.5-2 times (at most) bigger than the Giro, if you consider that RCS Sport’s other events aren’t in any way comparable to those managed by ASO, which should therefore be “weighed” much more (Mille Miglia is great… but, would it match Paris-Dakar? I love Italian monuments, but on the other side you have Roubaix and Liège. And, hey, ASO owns ANOTHER Grand Tour).
I wouldn’t say that, given the often makeshift, amateurish solutions RCS comes up with, in contrast with ASO’s impressive professional level, but the numbers can’t be moved around much more.

Give the Tour another streak of (relatively!) low-level participation and not-so-impressive winners, spice it up with disputed final victory awarding going on for months, and you’ll see some change… let alone running it with amateurs! This is pure boasting from ASO, if not, they wouldn’t doubt so much about implementing a female TdF, if the brand alone would suffice to make money spill from the ground.

In the last years (2006-2011) we have seen the Giro-Tour gap narrowing as ASO was fighting against the UCI, while RCS relationships with both ASO and UCI remained utterly ambiguous (the momentum was someway finally reduced by Giro’s decapitation when Zomegnan was cast out).
I’m not implying, not at all, that other races/organizers could grow up to ASO level, it’s not even remotely possible.
But if we consider once again that (as inrng explained in his “Problem with revenue sharing” article) ASO’s profit margins are not enormous, a minor shift in the balance between the main races may mean considerable hurting for ASO.
The fact that ASO previously prevailed in a similar conflict (against the such of McQuaid & friends…) doesn’t mean that it will work fine again.

Note that, personally, I totally share inrng’s view about organizers reinvesting revenues on less profitable races, so that I don’t see favourably more money going to the teams.
But the scenery is far more complex than “cycling is TdF, we own TdF, that’s it”: this is only partially true, whereas relentlessly enforcing that vision is just part of ASO’s strategy to maintain that, or even to make it “truer”.

Regards,
G.

gabriele February 11, 2014 at 2:55 pm

For example, I wonder if anyone remembers the proud defence from ASO of “classic” TdF courses, with plenty of flat stages with just individual/team time trials sprinkling here and there, along the first ten-eleven days of race or such… Well, they tried to insist on it but I didn’t last so long, and “silently” that changed pretty much: hence, it was the Tour that was forced to “chase” other races’ style.
At ASO, they know very well they have something to lose, and can’t just go their way however they want: but selling out that bold image helps a lot in convincing everyone about their unshakable status.

gabriele February 11, 2014 at 3:10 pm

“I” didn’t last so long = “it” didn’t last so long…
I didn’t last long watching those stages, either :-)

The Inner Ring February 11, 2014 at 3:15 pm

ASO are a pretty conservative business. Note the formulaic system of the Tour de France was a lot to do with race director J-M Leblanc, he seemed to like this set pattern. But in more recent years they’ve changed it a lot. But there’s some way to go.

Håvard February 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm

There’s seems to me that when talking about a reform of the sport, seems fixated on that bringing in more profit to the teams will be a solution. I find this hard to grasp.

As an example, is football more enjoyable than it was 30 years ago? Is Messi more enjoyable to watch than Maradona, just because he earns 20 times more? As in any business, the teams would use all extra revenue on the easiest way to improve their competitive edge, hence buy better riders. given that the participants of the world tour is a fixed number this will only result in better salaries, not better riders.

Like you mention above, the race makes the riders, and once again comparing cycling to football, it is the improved competition structure (Champions League) that can be easiest argued as the reason for the sport’s improved popularity. Thus the focus of any reform should be on saving and improving races, rather then the teams.

Anonymous February 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm

“…it is the improved competition structure (Champions League) that can be easiest argued as the reason for the sport’s improved popularity.”

The ‘Champions’ League is an awful bloated competition that has made the rich clubs richer (and/or to help service their debts) and increased the amount of dull boring forgone conclusions. Mebe rename it the Forgone Conclusion League?.

‘Who are G-14 and what do they want? More money, as if you didn’t know. John Sugden investigates the gathering threat to UEFA’s control of European club football’
‘G forces’, John Sudgen, When Saturday Comes, February 2001
http://www.wsc.co.uk/the-archive/105-Governing-bodies/3457-g-forces

Thomas Kurth and Jonathan Price were involved with G-14 by the way

gabriele February 11, 2014 at 5:44 pm

I totally agree about “saving races not teams”, but we shouldn’t forget that despite WT the vast majority of cyclists are not earning a salary proportioned to the sport’s global revenues.

Moreover, the effort required to emerge from the ranks of juvenile cycling to the top level doesn’t display a reasonable proportion between risks and benefits, either. Not to speak about sacrifice…

In Italian football, a fourth category player with a less-than-part-time working schedule can make a living out of the sport, while so many cyclists are on minimum wage.
In “middle categories”, even in ProConti teams (not to mention Continental), there are athletes who – directly or not – pay to ride! And we shouldn’t look down on those categories, the sport needs a multilayer structure to grant optimum selection.

Generally speaking, if cycling career becomes unaffordable or just “won’t pay off”, there will be a pre-selection of athletes based on external factors (family tradition, money, public funded programs…) rather than on sporting qualities, physical and technical.
That will reduce the average riders’ quality and thus the general level of the sport.

Håvard February 12, 2014 at 10:59 am

Good point about keeping the sport sustainable in the lower levels, I see that.

IDK, I guess I look at this from a fan’s view, a consumer of the sport you could say. As long as 200 riders are willing to race on the top level, I’m happy. And I think there always will be enough riders to fill up the startlists, regardless of the salary level.

Regarding the pre-selection of athletes based on external factors, one could argue that this is all ready a pretty middle class sport, or at least first world. There aren’t that many peletons racing around the Brazilian favelas, to put it that way.

And as for for the fear of reduction in the riders’ quality, does it really matter? Do anyone care if they finish a stage at a 40 or 30 kms average? One could argue that their “quality” have gone down post-naughties due to less doping, though the races are just as exiting, aren’t they?

Just some questions from a spectators point of view.

gabriele February 13, 2014 at 12:40 am

The problem of pre-selection based on non-sporting values is a continuum: there will always be some kind of it, but the less we have, the best for the sport (and the viewers). One of the few things the “old” UCI did well was starting to get Africa in the picture, in my opinion.

Quality is not average speed, but it’s playing the game at its top… which doesn’t necessarily means riding and climbing faster, even if that *may* be a part of it (not because you’re faster, but because that means deciding faster, under greater pressure, striving “on thinner ice”).
On the other hand, for example, climbing faster means sometimes that the game can’t be played “at its top” because it loses its typical perfect balance between the qualities required to prevail: when you ride a climb at 25km/h, the strong aerodinamic effect makes slipstream essential and – above all – plays in favour of pure power and against power/weigth ratio (thus reducing one of the greatest appeals of cycling and especially GT, that is allowing fair competition between very different physical types, in very different strategic conditions).
It’s just… not about the speed.

The majority of under 23 races are sort of fun, in a clumsy way, but personally I soon get bored by the frequency of “roulette” results. Italian television shows live the Maratona Dles Dolomites, so I could see some editions of this amateur race, and – well – it wasn’t so satisfactory, but for the landscapes.
All those athletes (maybe they would be the same people who would happily fill those “200 positions”) didn’t go “slow”, or that wasn’t the problem, anyway.

Cycling, to be “played” properly, needs a lot of different qualities, physical AND NOT (something that many people easily forget, therefore inflating the meaning of doping in cycling; that’s pretty incredible if you consider how significant the issue is per se, but, YES, some people are able to blow it up even more, and let cycling – cycling skills, cycling technique, cycling “class” – be totally outshined by the big black doping sun).

Typically, qualities are not distributed equally in a population, neither are they “fungible”. You must have born with some of them; you can acquire others only during a small window of time in your teen years or in your twenties; others are built with time but the learning curve may be too slow in the case of the majority of people, so that physical decline intervenes meanwhile.

If you want to have more top riders (something that dramatically increases “spectacle”), you must involve and motivate as many people as possible.
If not, you may easily find yourself with a 200 persons peloton with just 3-4 top riders (in different specialities, maybe?), those you’ve picked out thanks to nearly random selection. I’m sorry – and maybe wrong – saying this, but I think it was the situation we had in the female peloton for too many years, especially in the past (Vos is another chapter, one on her own).
That may grant some kind of show, but no real cycling exhibition. Unless you are thinking of excluding someway those 3-4 riders to assure some competition in a low-leveled field… but that’s another story.

I could go on a long time, even because I could recycle many issues from the problem of education and academic research in an era in which funding is being slashed (in Europe, at least). Everyone is going to regret it, when it will just be too late, since you don’t build a generation of (gifted and) dedicated people from scratch…
But, once again, who may say? The general public may end up so blinded that they’ll acquiesce in… whatever :-)

Håvard February 13, 2014 at 10:12 am

Yes I agree that speed doesn’t equal “quality”, though I struggle to grasp how higher salaries for professional cyclists will be a contributing factor in saving the educational problems of Italy.

It seems that our discussion have somewhat digressed?

My initial question was that I don’t understand why any structure that brings more money to the teams would make cycling better. These are all private companies all thinking pretty short term (3-5 years tops) and who will piss any extra revenue away in salaries. Don’t you agree?

gabriele February 13, 2014 at 11:50 am

I’ve digressed a lot, indeed :-)
I beg your pardon.
Anyway the following explication may be of some help.

Education = better AVERAGE “quality” of the citizens (so to say), hence better “gameplay”.
Many researchers = better opportunities to achieve better results in the HIGHEST segment, eventually with the “critical mass” necessary to create focused research GROUPS and NETWORKS, which is so much better compared with the casual springing of individual genius. Better “top players” in the knowledge circus.

I don’t think further developing of the equation to show the parallelism with cycling is needed, is it? ;-)

I totally agree with the fact that it does exist a “prune juice” risk (in perspective), but I would like to add that:
1) the salary situation in cycling is nowadays far different from Premiere League or football in general, in most European countries;
2) presently, there’s a problem of low salaries in most levels of professional cycling, which may affect the quality of the sport through stronger pre-selection out of non-sporting values.

I agree with the fact that for the sake of cycling, races first. The teams shouldn’t grow on devouring revenues from race organizations, because this would lead to the death of smaller races, that are required… to have the sport going on. Moreover, you don’t have any guarantee about how the extra money to the riders would be distributed, probably in the worst possible way.
That doesn’t mean that the salary problem doesn’t exist… maybe before thinking of giving out more money to the teams, we should think about external rules to provide better distribution to the riders, even in the lower ranks.

But, anyway, we should never forget that, presently, riders are one of the weak sides of the system, and whatismore we just observed a worrying lack of teams: a professional global sport struggling to fully hand out its top level licenses?!? :-O
No competition, no need to hire unemployed good riders?
I don’t know if the contrary will make the sport better, but going down this path is going to make it worse…

Hope I’ve made my thought a little clearer… Thanks for asking.

othersteve February 11, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Gabriele,
You are articulate, well versed and it is a pleasure too read your posts.

I for one dread the possibility of a “socialized peleton”.

gabriele February 13, 2014 at 12:44 am

Thanks. I’m sorry if some linguistic issues show up, at times. Trying to improve that ;-)

tourdeutah February 11, 2014 at 7:03 pm

I am not a fan of Project Avignon.

120 race days compared to 50. Really, there is no way for the 2nd level teams to compete for sponsorship, rider contracts, or race invites.

I feel there should be standard operating budgets for every WT and Conti teams. Currently there are wealthy WT teams and poor WT teams. Much like MLB all the power and on field success lies with the major market teams. There needs to be a salary cap. A minimum and a max cap. All teams need to be financially vetted one calendar year before they operate and a dedicated time frame for signing riders. You can resign your riders anytime prior to the conclusion of the race season. Riders not under contract can sign after the conclusion of the calendar season and prior to the new year. Not the mumbo jumbo of riders signing for other teams while still under contract, then helping their new teams. What kind of bs is that ?

The financial fiasco and chaos of the past season illustrates my point.

I want to see a system like soccer where teams move up and down between the ranks. The Conti teams would have budgets at 75% of WT budgets and if they move up, they have to come up with the difference in money and riders. Teams moving down have their budgets and riders slashed. I also feel there should be more race days for the Conti teams. How else do riders improve ? Sponsors have a desire to have more visibility and top riders will have more incentive to sign with Conti teams.

I due agree with Avignon that there need to be fewer races and less race overlap. Last Aug there were five UCI .1 or higher races at the same time. Utah, Portugal, Burgos, Norway and L’Ain. The Eneco started the day after they concluded. Hard for even a well financed WT team to make all these events.

UCI needs to be in the business of vetting the races, organizers and sponsors for financial viabilty as well as making the rules. Not trying to create their own race league.

The sport is badly broken. The problem is those with the most to lose are in control and are more interested in johnson measuring contests than making the sport more financially viable.

tourdeutah February 11, 2014 at 7:56 pm

My first sentence should read I partially disagree with Avignon.

I think races should be allowed to overlap. Only 9 of 27 riders can race at one time. Plus spring classics and stage races attract different style riders for a different style of racing.

WT teams should not be required to participate in every WT event. Why should AG2R be required to race in China or Poland ? WT teams should only ride at minimum 80 % of events with a minimum of 75% WT team participation at each event. All WT teams ride in GT’s and premier events such as PR, MSR, or Daffy. This will provide more openings for Conti teams at WT events. All event participation for WT events is decided prior to the start of the calendar year.

I would also like to see the calendar include the Tour Down Under and the three American races. Cali, Utah, and Colo. These are healthy, growing, well funded and well attended races.

This will help make pro cycling a financially healthier industry.

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