National Teams in the ProTour

Since any more detail on the Aussie team under Shane Bannan is vague for now, I wanted to review the broader concept behind the Aussie squad, namely that we are seeing the emergence of several national teams. In an age when the sport is supposed to be moving towards attracting global brands, we are seeing a growing proportion of teams defined by their nationality.

National pride

The Rise of Nationalism…
Of course each team is already linked to a country, for example Rabobank is quite Dutch, even sporting orange kit. But in recent years we’ve seen several teams not just linked to a country but labelled by the nation.

Astana is of course the unfortunate showcase for Kazakhstan. Katusha is the “Russian cycling project”. But we also have Team Sky which is British to the point that nobody can quite tell where publicly-funded governing body British Cycling ends and Newscorp’s Team Sky begins. So far Team Luxembourg is placing less emphasis on the country of origin despite the name. Plus there’s the New Zealand project, Pure Black Cycling.

…or the rise of commercialism?
But you can look at these teams as the opposite of a national squad. Bannan’s Aussie team perhaps has inspiration from Team Sky. Dave Brailsford has helped to turn a humble track team from rainy Manchester into a glamorous road team. A national squad is limited to a few track events oer year and the Worlds as well as the Olympics. Move into the pro scene you can soon enter the relative glamour of touring Flanders and France. And significantly be better paid. Any ambitious coach will jump at the chance.

Riding under the flag is a tricky concept. A national team will always want their best home rider but look around: Menchov rides with Geox-TMC and Cavendish is with HTC-Highroad. Plus imagine the bidding war for Richie Porte later this year. If it gets the go-ahead for 2011 it remains to be seen whether an Aussie team can sign the best Aussie riders, certainly Cadel Evans is closely linked to Team BMC and Michael Rogers has just signed up to two years with Sky. There are other Aussie riders capable of forming the backbone of a team and delivering results of course but it seems inevitable that riders of other nationalities will be recruited. Possibly Italians.

7 thoughts on “National Teams in the ProTour”

  1. I think the rise of national teams is not really an issue because so many of them are committed to signing the best riders regardless of their nationality.

    Rabobank – Menchov for years, Freire, Breschel, Lulu next year.
    Katusha – Rodriguez and Pippo
    Lux – Too many to name
    Sky – BoHagen
    Astana – Tried to keep Contador

    I think there's plenty of implications on a sponsorship level, but these teams seem to be smart enough to look international on a sporting level.

  2. Is there really a rise of national teams? As I see it, the teams have always been tied to different countries. We already talk about "the French teams", the Belgian teams, Telekom/T-Mobile was a German team, CSC/Saxo Bank is very much a Danish team, etc. Of course, as Nicholas indicates, the teams are only national teams up to a point.

    One exception, perhaps, is HTC. I view them as a only vaguely American team, and more of a international one.

  3. This appears to be a phenomenon in nations that lack any other internationally-competitive teams, and therefore that nation pools its energy into creating a single unified(?) "national" team. Your examples prove this point perfectly.

    The nations without a single unified "national" team are those that already have a stable of international teams: Spain, France, Belgium, Germany (until a few years ago), US, and the Netherlands (I argue Rabobank is a case of smart marketing rather than national unity).

  4. Team Sky – Brailsford/Sutton with indepth knowledge of most notable BC riders "numbers" – ensures they sign or tie up, the most emerging talent.

    Where they fell down, was simply by signing all to team Sky, they lost the ability to expose a large number of riders to top level competition, with various teams – e.g. worlds RR where GB only qualified 3 riders.

    Sometimes, when "having cake & eating it" you forget to stop biting…

    BC – are well known to have copied the AIS system within Australia, to create a template pogram, that eventuated into Team Sky/BC.

    Likewise, Shayne Bannan is not going to set out on the journey, and repeat the mistakes Brailsford caused himself.

  5. I think the media and the fans chatter convert some of these overtly International Teams into "National" Teams.

    Look at the nationalities of the riders on Team Sky from 2010. Less than 50% are from the UK.

    When I think of "National" Trade Teams, I refer back to the French and Italian Teams of the 70s & 80s, where almost all of the riders were domestic, except for a few foreigners.

    There is a lot of marketing potential for a homegrown team, but the rubber rarely meets the road. With the globalization of cycling, there are too many sporting interests that conflict with national interests.

    If there is one lesson to be learned from the Pegasus collapse, it is that star riders should be very wary of signing for a first year team, especially when a sponsor hasn't been announced, and a license has not been promised, even if it is registered in their homeland.

  6. As Touriste-Routier mentions the fan base plays a big part "adopting" foreign nationals into the teams base national identity, look no further than english soccer with truly fanatical support for city based teams full of foreign nationals where the team make-up is strongly influenced by the money available to "buy in" the best the world has to offer.

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