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What Would Desgrange Do?

Cycling has to change. Too many races resemble each other and don’t attract the audiences they did 20 years ago. The economic model isn’t strong enough. Teams and races are struggling. We need change.

This could be a synthesis of Oleg Tinkov’s pinot noir induced Twitter rants but it could also sum up the state of cycling over a century ago. The Tour de France was born out of desperation, the mother of all newspaper promotion stunts and the event launched by Henri Desgrange in 1903 has become the greatest asset in pro cycling. Why? Because it makes people dream.

If you’ve got the post-Tour blues, it’s normal. July is what we want cycling to be, a summer party with the best riders and saturation coverage. August reminds us what pro cycling really is, with small races, patchy coverage and the white noise of scandal and bickering over money.

Desgrange and his colleagues created something that wowed people. Today we add the World Ports Classic or the Dubai Tour to the calendar, at best they’re fun for locals who get a race in their town but for everyone else there’s little to spark our interest.

What’s the most successful new race in recent times? You might say the Strade Bianche. It’s hard to know about the financials of this race but it’s made an impact. Racers want to ride and fans around the world delight in the sporti and the scenery. When Oleg Tinkov bemoans that “everything hinges on the idiotic ‘ciclismo storico’” here’s an example of old-fashioned cycling put in a modern setting that’s thriving and popular. But what if the Dubai Tour was the real success? Buried in the accounts of RCS is a line showing €4.5 million of revenue for this four day race. In comparative terms it sits second only to a Tour de France grand départ for revenue, the going rate for the Giro’s own grande partenza is about €3 million. It’s here that you can see the difference, what you thought was an inconsequential pre-season training race in the sunshine is making many team managers get dollar signs in their eyes. But it doesn’t make the public dream.

There other ways to excite. Returning to Tinkov again, cycling’s version of a court jester, his Million Euro grand tour indecent proposal got people talking. We listened, it happens when a billionaire speaks. If Ag2r’s Vincent Lavenu or Giant-Alpecin’s Iwan Spekenbrink had made the same proposal it would have got a fraction of the attention. But money talks so let’s run with this logic: imagine a race with a one million Euro prize for first place. This big fat round number could attract wider attention. Of course it’s an expensive stunt but it’s one way to make riders and fans pay attention. Whether it would draw in the wider public remains to be seen, a million for a win is no big deal for many sporting events. Of course winning the Tour de France will earn a rider a million or more, it’s just the ensuing employment contract and endorsement deals are not as sizzlingly obvious as the image of a rider being presented with a billboard size bank draft in a podium ceremony. It’s as if the public have to see a large piece of cardboard being handed to the rider to believe a race is worth millions. The stunt has to be visible.

Desgrange’s formula was for a race so wild it captured the imagination. Before the Tour de France cycling could pack out velodromes but the idea of riding from city to city was audacious as a test of stamina. Underneath this it was clever too, it took the racing to the people and, in lapping France, was an expression of nationalism which mattered at the time. Today a four week grand tour can’t happen and taking the sport to the people means television. It’s hard to see what more can be done to wow people. Refined production techniques, geolocation and on-screen watts are evolution and will enhance the experience of those who watch already rather than excite, say, Brasilians, Indians and Chinese audiences into discovering the sport.

If Desgrange created something to dream about, if anything the problem today is that dreams have become impossible, a rider only has to win a race to invite suspicion. Right or wrong for now it’s a fact, a legacy of the last 25 years. One big reason blue chip sponsors like Nestlé, McCain, Douwe Egberts and Škoda sponsor the Tour de France and other events but won’t go near a team is because of the scandal: naming rights are a two way street, you can have people painting your brand name on the road but you can also have a scandal named after you. Team finances will look a lot better when squads prove in the long term they can run a clean ship.

Conclusion
You wonder what Desgrange would make of the sport today, amusing “his” race makes money while L’Equipe, the descendant of the Auto newspaper, loses it, the publicity stunt has become bigger than the product behind it. Desgrange was an austere figure, would he think the sport had become too big? Or would he want it to get bigger, to look around the world for new sources of money, perhaps trying to grow his franchise and to put RCS Sport out of business with the same malice he applied to taking out rival newspaper Le Vélo? He was a nationalist, maybe he’d want to replace money-grabbing trade teams with national teams; actually he did this in the 1930s.

Henri Desgrange thought about aborting the race in its early years as it was beset it problems but it contained the spark of genius that allowed it to become wildly popular. Today it seems hard to wow people with a bike race, rather than going for unthinkable distances the winning formula today is shrinking distances, see the 110km stage to Alpe d’Huez in the Tour de France, a spectacle that’s made for TV but a means to allow cycling to compete for market share alongside other offerings. For all the talk of calendar reform, race boycotts, revenue streams and other plans for the future there doesn’t seem to much to dream about.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • sheldon-san Friday, 7 August 2015, 11:55 am

    I do think Tinkov has a point – bring back the Super Prestige Pernod (ok maybe not). If the World Tour is a franchise, maybe riders should be mandated to appear in a minimum set number of races. So we have GT riders participating and competing in one day races. We might be able to see more battle royales over the season instead of waiting for the Tour. It might also create a level playing field with similar levels of fatigue. Would Contador have been so far it the other tour contenders had to first compete in the Giro. That might provide a better season long narrative as suggested by the Velon’s PR

    I appreciate this is easier said than done pipe-dream, as many riders may turn up and drop out mid race, or just cruise round the back of the peloton. But it would be nice to find some incentive for them

    • JEB Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:03 pm

      It’s a nice idea but I am not sure it would be workable. There would have to be exceptions for injury and this would be abused. Some GC riders would get signed off for ‘stress’ or fatigue allowing them to skip the same races they always skip and focus on the tour.

    • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:36 pm

      GT riders aren’t going to compete in one day races. Even if you force them to turn up, you can’t decide how they ride it. And they wouldn’t improve the races: what would be achieved by forcing Froome to compete with Boonen at Paris-Roubaix? (Other than mirth.)
      There are many, many great races, of a variety of lengths, throughout the season. You might be waiting for the Tour; I’m not.

      • RonDe Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:10 pm

        But then, to be fair, cycling does not depend on how good a fan of the whole season J Evans is now does it? In fact, as Inrng points out, cycling doesn’t depend on the cycling fans at all. It depends on a wider audience, the people for whom the Tour and maybe one or two other famous races are all that exists. You may come here and preen about your cycling credentials but it doesn’t matter. Its mass market companies that would have the money cycling needs not niche market players who appeal only to those who cycle and watch cycling season long. Big sponsors want to know who their audience is. A few cycling fans is just a bit meh.

        What people like you never appreciate is that its growing the audience that is key. And they won’t be people who watch the Omloop or the Eneco Tour. Not yet anyway.

        • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:30 pm

          RonDe:
          My points were that forcing riders to ride all races won’t work and that these races don’t need the ‘big’ riders to improve them.
          Also, growing the audience really isn’t key and is never going to happen anyway – I’ve given my reasons below.
          Your personal criticisms have nothing to do with me or what I said – they do say something about you, though. Glad you got it out of your system, but try writing something relevant.

        • Heitor Friday, 7 August 2015, 10:17 pm

          I wouldn’t say the Paris Roubaix is watched only by a few cycling fans. The spring classics and other races have a big following, more than enough to finance teams and riders. Could it improve? Of course. There is a bigger market that it is not attacting, but I have no idea how making it a circus, including riders that do not desire to be there, are not focused enough on the specific race to have a meaningful competition and are there just to please some people who are not even fans of the race in the first place would help make it anything other than a disgrace to the history of those races.

      • cilmeri Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:20 pm

        No, but Froome being “forced” to race Liege Bastogne Liege, or the race of the falling leaves would be good. However I agree that cycling is more complex than that, and it would confuse casual fans even more to see the big names appearing in these races, then using them as training, or recon even (eg Quintana in one of the cobbles earlier this year).

    • Fletch Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:28 pm

      While the tour is the only prize that matters riders will put it before all else, even skipping the second biggest race in the calendar to be at their best for the tour.

      An F1 type season is often muted but this won’t work while winning a single event is more important than the overall and all of the other events put together and you can’t change the history that makes this true. All the “world tour” branding in the world isn’t going to make it more important than the TDF as that is where the money is.

      Maybe inrng is right and the answer is prize money. But I fear it would need to be more than £1,000,000 to lure people away from focusing on the tour.

    • hoh Saturday, 8 August 2015, 5:15 am

      There can be solutions to counter the “GC star riding other races for recon or hanging at the back of the pack” problem.

      Simply making early season races qualifier rounds. Only riders with enough wins in the early season can compete for GC at the Tour. That would certainly make the “Big Four” coming out more in early season.

      Not saying this could work, just a very wild idea.

      • melbin rider Sunday, 9 August 2015, 12:04 pm

        @hoh

        I really like this idea. Was thinking about what other sports do (potentially not the best starting point if we want something truly revolutionary) and F1 has qualifying to secure better grid spots, tennis has seeding based on ranking meaning early rounds are comparatively easier, and home and away competitions reward higher placing with home finals and weeks off to recover.

        At the moment, all we have in cycling that I’m aware of is the ordering of the cars. Are there other things which could be offered, how about an extra rider (with other teams at 8 riders) for teams. Just an idea …

        Also, does anyone know how athletics went with their million dollar prize events. Think it was called the Golden League or something (please correct if wrong). From memory it was pretty good at getting athletes to attend a number of events and perform, like not just show and go. So a big cheque can work, provided it accounts for all the potential gaming riders and team managers will attempt! But that’s the same with any piece of regulation or new law, just human nature. ; )

        • melbin rider Sunday, 9 August 2015, 11:19 pm

          Wait , just remembered the worlds do this exactly!! Turns out it’s not just my riding that’s gone downhill since having two kids.

  • Kevin Friday, 7 August 2015, 11:55 am

    I don’t think ASO should ever work with Velon and share revenue with the teams. Every change that has been made in cycling for the past 25 years has pretty much been an awful one. August wouldn’t be so bad if we still had the Worlds in August!

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:45 pm

      There’s not much money to share anyway. ASO makes €36 million a year in profit from all its events (Tour, Dakkar rally, Paris Marathon etc) and if for some wild reason it was all given to the World Tour teams this means €2 million per year, nice but not enough to make much difference. With more realistic assumptions about the amount money to go around and asking RCS and others to pay their part too it’s hard to get to a million a team.

      • Larry T. Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:11 pm

        Excellent point! These Velon MBA’s see a big pot of money at ASO and get worked up about getting their hands on a piece of it. Pro cycling’s facing two huge problems in the continuing doping scandals that they have NOBODY to blame but themselves for and a worldwide economic crisis keeping everyone but rich chamois-sniffers, corrupt governments, gambling interests and the bike industry out of team sponsorship. Velon makes a lot of noise about “growing the pie” as it were, but so far seems like just another group wanting a bigger slice of the existing one for themselves. I’m halfway rooting for ASO to go full-Desgrange on ’em and go back to national teams with standard-issue bicycles. I REALLY do not want to see the sport become yet another North American franchise model – that’s just trading one set of problems for another in my opinion.

        • Rod Friday, 7 August 2015, 4:17 pm

          There should be alternatives to “either/or”, no?

          I can totally see how a mid-to-large sponsor would balk at the structure where they can’t be guaranteed exposure to the biggest races for say 5 years. That’s where the idea of a franchise is handy. Not to mention there’s already a de facto structure like this. Tailwind sports was many teams. Slipstream is in its nth denomination. And so on.

          I understand it seems attractive to have cycling be run by guys like Makarov and Tinkoff, but I hardly think that’s the best or only alternative. As for the US Franchise model – how about a Premier League model where teams go up and down divisions based on results? Heck, make it exciting – the top 3 pro-conti teams get a wildcard entry to the grand tours. Sure, ASO/RCS wouldn’t like relinquishing control, but that’s not the point – just a discussion on what model works best.

          • Larry T. Friday, 7 August 2015, 5:55 pm

            I think you missed my point. I DON’T think a sport where only those I listed are interested in sponsoring teams is good. But if you were selling something and you thought the demographics of pro cycling might work for you, would YOU gamble that another dope scandal might make your investment worthless? And with the financial crisis, who has the money to buy your products anyway? This assumes you have the money to spend on sponsorship, which could be hard to come by since few have the income to purchase your products at present.
            Velon, ASO and the rest can’t do much about the worldwide financial situation while the doping issue is simply the result of far too many years of short-sighted thinking from the likes of Verbruggen and McQuaid. Meanwhile the culture of pro cycling doesn’t seem to be doing much to discourage riders from trying the latest dope…even stuff that’s in clinical trial stage. The sport will muddle through as it has since it began – the mistake I think is looking at the big years when BigTex brought all the multinationals and their huge advertising budgets in as something sustainable and desirable. Too few remember when the Tour’s official drink was Perrier and Peugeot supplied the cars…and teams had to pay $30K to enter. Many look at those days as the golden era in the sport. I have no desire to see pro cycling end up like any of these huge money sports like NFL, MLB, Premier League, etc.

          • Sidamo Friday, 7 August 2015, 11:53 pm

            The Premier League model where, even though it’s awash with money, team’s still need a billionaire benefactor to win and most of the teams are up to their eyeballs in debt?? No thanks.

          • Paul Jakma Thursday, 13 August 2015, 11:35 pm

            Well, a series of apparently different teams having the same organisation and/or people behind them goes back a *long* way. Just off the top of my head, Geminiani and Anquitil with St-Raphaël and Ford in the 50s and 60s; Peter Post in the 70s with Ti-Raleigh and then Panasonic; Cyrile Guimard was DS and ran a team that had a series of famous names from the 70s through to the 90s; etc. I’m not going to do an exhaustive investigation (but @dimspace on twitter has some nice charts) but I’m pretty sure it’s not an uncommon model.

            As for rich business-man cycling fans forming their own teams, that too has history. See, e.g., Bernard Tapie and the La Vie Claire team (which itself is another example of a team having different names over the years). No doubt there are other historical examples.

        • TheDude Saturday, 8 August 2015, 4:28 pm

          Nice +1. Call out the derailleur-bags as they are.
          When Vaughters finishes his MBA, I will give him a shot as a junior credit analyst if he tires of window dressing his clean team. 🙂

  • BC Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:10 pm

    Everything changes but nothing changes. The old idea of a heroic sporting contest, full of drama and suspense still remains, and are what made/makes the sport attractive. Some of the newer innovations like Dubai or the World Ports Classic offer absolutely nothing in this respect, although the investment is useful to the promoters.

    The problem of doping still hangs over the sport, and until such time as officials and some riders acknowledge the reality, there will be little progress with team sponsorship. It is fine for people like Tinkov to advocate a ‘new model’, but as yet I see little evidence that such a model exists, or that if it does, it will make the sweeping changes required.

    The fundamental requirement is for any new events added to the calendar to provide an exciting sporting challenge. A challenge that is understood by a wider audience than at present. TV has to be the obvious solution, but only if audiences can be significantly increased. A sporting spectacle full of drama might just help, rather than some of the newer sterilized options being currently offered.

  • Special Eyes Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:16 pm

    This article sums up exactly my mood post-Tour.

    Cycling, I feel, lacks an ‘identity’ that its fans can relate to.
    Sure, there are teams, but these change constantly.
    From sponsor name changes to completely new teams.
    Fans / Supporters need something to support.

    The most obvious, and successful, identities are built around geography.
    Be it towns / cities, or nationalities.
    It really is as simple as that for me.
    A re-modelling and re-naming of the teams so that fans can properly identify.

    I mean, supporters do anyway to an extent.
    Be it Sagan’s Slovakian Army, the new British fan that follows Sky, Spaniards that follow Contador etc etc.
    But the potential strength of this following is dissipated by the lack of overall team identity.
    We only have to look at how successful the Olympics have become – people take on a national pride.
    But a commercial sponsor name to follow is just…frankly ridiculous.

    Cycling is a team sport, but the teams do not inspire enough fan loyalty or interest.

    • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:40 pm

      So, Sagan would be forced to be in a weak team, just because he happened to have been born in Slovakia.
      Also, cycling is better without the jingoism that comes with national teams.
      It’s also better for not having teams to ‘support’, with all the negative aspects that this brings to other sports.
      The riders and the races are the focus – enjoy them, instead of being a fan of ‘your team’.

      • Special Eyes Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:55 pm

        A geographically-named team could have a quota system to have an agreed number of non-nationals in it. This is a tried and tested model.
        It is not jingoism JE, it’s identity.
        I really can’ t think of another team sport that has such a flimsy team identity as cycling.
        Everyone belongs to somewhere.
        How can you be a fan of Belkin, buy your kids the gear when the following year they don’t exist ??
        It’s truly laughable.

        A team sport without teams.

        • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:08 pm

          I’d say it’s a fake identity that you’ve been duped into identifying with (by people who use it for their own aims) – the borders are arbitrary.
          I’d also say it’s unnecessary and adds nothing to the sport.
          (Also, in your idea, you wouldn’t even have national teams – they’d just be called ‘Slovakia’, but they’d have a load of Italians riding for them, with some token Slovakians and Sagan.)
          Maybe you want something to identify with or somewhere you believe you ‘belong’; others don’t.
          I have no need to support any particular team (or country).
          There are no positives to nationalism and it so often leads to xenophobia (go to any international football match or, indeed, read a history book).

        • Sam Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:07 pm

          You’re not wrong about identity, Special Eyes.

          The facile accusation of jingoism, again.

          Some people need to go and watch some bike races in NL and Belgium, and see for themselves how Belkin, Quickstep and Lotto-Soudal are cheered on (just to cite two countries and 3 teams). Team jerseys are sported by fans, banners are waved, team buses are swamped. This doesnt preclude those fans cheering for riders from other teams – far from – but there is and has always been a strong national identity and pull as far as many are concerned. And it will be ever thus.

          And there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. And to try to claim otherwise is working from a platform of little understanding.

          • GJok Friday, 7 August 2015, 8:02 pm

            Sam, your absolutism on this subject and your total conviction that any other opinion is wrong, beyond argument, could be indicative of a lack of an open, enquiring mind, rather than the veracity of your beliefs.
            Or are we to presume that from your platform of higher understanding you can see that history has shown that patriotism has only ever led to good things?
            Even in cycling, we’ve seen problems caused by patriotic fervour – the Merckx punch, the dousing of riders in a variety of effluents…

        • James J Friday, 7 August 2015, 3:18 pm

          Wouldn’t a quota system to limit the number of foreign-nationals be illegal in the European Union for EU citizens?

      • RonDe Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:15 pm

        J Evans, you seem very bitter. I know lots of fans who support teams in cycling and I see banners at every race for varying teams. Stop acting as if your version of support is the only one, true valid one. If all fans were like you I wouldn’t be surprised the sport wasn’t widely popular. But then I guess you’d happy.

        • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:34 pm

          Yet more personal criticism, RonDe, and – yet again – based only on your own imaginings.
          I’m not bitter, I just have my own opinions (and they are just that).
          You seem to have very little to say, other than personal insults; which stay with you.

      • ronytominger Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:31 pm

        i guess special eyes didnt mean national teams, but geographcally located teams, like the fc barcelona for example. they dont just have catalans (or spaniards) playing for them but kind of a world selection. but decades of continuity allowed them to build a very strong idendity as it happens with many football clubs.

    • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:49 pm

      The Olympics is the perfect example of most of what is negative in sport.
      Absurdly expensive, with an authority entirely focused on money and massively corrupt.
      The public becoming consumed by nationalism (these are arbitrary borders, set up centuries ago based on who was best at killing others – why would you care?) and suddenly thrilled to see someone who happens to have been born quite near them doing well in a sport that they have no interest in and will then ignore for the next four years.

      • Tovarishch Friday, 7 August 2015, 7:05 pm

        I don’t think the borders surrounding Great Britain are particularly arbitrary. It is much easier and fairly fundamental to human nature to support a team based in your own country due to shared language, culture and belief systems. You are trying to swim against a current driven by, probably, 90% percent of world population and trying to hold it up a something special whereas you have, it seems to me, picked it as a flag of convenience. Just explain what is so wrong about supporting a team or riders from your own country.

        • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 7:24 pm

          Britain being an island makes it something of an unusual case (look at mainland Europe, for an example of arbitrary borders – or any other continent).
          Sticking with Britain, though, there are many – almost 50% in Scotland – who would argue the case for an arbitrary border running 2/3 the way up the country.
          I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with it – I just think it’s baseless and pointless. at best.
          However, at worst, it does lead to unpleasantness, at the very least. A minor example was seen in the Tour de France: it is very hard to believe that nationalistic bias played no part in many in France’s opinion on Chris Froome. Similarly, there were an awful lot of ‘cowardly’, ‘frogs’ comments on English speaking websites (and possibly the same kind of thing on French ones).
          Hence, jingoism.

    • Lanterne Verte Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:50 pm

      And yet fans all over the planet who have never even been to Europe are passionate followers of european football teams whose identity is based around a single city that they know nothing of. I don’t think it is the commercial sponsor identity of teams that is the problem per se, it is more that the sponsors concerned are obscure and uninteresting and do not have a strong brand identity that is capable of inspiring global loyalty. Also sponsors change every season or even within a season. Imagine a scenario where for example Apple, Ferrari, Coca-cola and Disney all sponsored teams for ten or twenty years, wouldn’t that inspire true sporting passion? This could happen but only if the risk of scandal is reduced to near zero, by hook or by crook.

      As far as grand tour length goes, it is impossible to compete for the top 10 never mind the win in all three in their current form. Anyone who does more than one is immediately at a massive disadvantage in the second and will be nowhere in the third. Unless they are made compulsory (impractical) or shorter (contraversial) they will never be a grand slam series like in other sports. Personally I expect that the Giro and perhaps Vuelta too will inevitably be shortened at some point in order to survive commercially. The Tour is the Tour, like it or not it is overwhelmingly more popular than all other races put together. The only other alternatives that I can see are either maintain the status quo or overhaul the rules of road-racing so that the team competition is the main event not the individual general classification.

      • george Friday, 7 August 2015, 6:01 pm

        Maintaining the status quo sounds pretty good. For all the talk of wanting a “season-long narrative”, I think its actually a terrible idea. Who wants to see the same guy winning all year long? That’s the beauty of the sport, with three grand tours you usually get two or three grand tour winners per year, and it makes winning the Giro-Tour double more of an accomplishment than winning a shortened giro and then the Tour.

        • Souln Monday, 10 August 2015, 1:22 pm

          +1
          imho if somewhat slow evolution of the sport is preferable to revolution lead by the likes of Tinkov..

  • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:32 pm

    The most important thing is that cycling is run for cycling’s sake, not for profit’s sake.
    The likes of Velon, Tinkov, etc. only have their own interests (pockets) at heart. (Tinkov incessantly says that he has no interest in making money from cycling, whilst also incessantly complaining that he makes no money.)
    Tinkov’s grand tour idea is a terrible idea. (And why would anyone want the focus of our sport to be a money-making stunt?) Having the ‘best riders’ in every race will not necessarily lead to more exciting racing – see the last few Tours de France.
    It’s certainly not worth watering down the grand tours in order to do this. I can’t see how a true cycling fan would want to see VN/AC/CF/NQ go head-to-head in three two-week non-grand tours, rather than watch three proper grand tours through the season. Also, throughout cycling history, there has often been one dominant rider (the current situation of having a few top riders is fairly uncommon). Watching this one rider win all three grand tours would hardly be thrilling.
    The money-obsessives want a ‘Champions league’ type of thing: this homogenisation and simplification will lead to all the races being the same and all lumped together into the league. Thus, the uniqueness of the races will be lost.
    Only good leadership of the UCI will stop the profiteers. We do not have that. Tinkov should be ignored – as it is, he seems to be being promoted as spokesperson.
    Focus on improving the races we have and creating new, exciting races, rather than the current focus on having new races in countries that will supposedly spark new interest and (and, of course, this is the real reason) make new cash (Dubai Tour). If we do have new races, ensure they have interesting parcours (like Strade Bianche; unlike the World Ports Classic or the Dubai Tour). I don’t care where they are.
    Flatter finish to Liege-B-L – to make it more interesting, by encouraging earlier attacks, and to differentiate it from the other Ardennes classics.
    A hilly finish to one of the cobbled races – to differentiate it from the others. I’d suggest Dwars door Vlaanderen – it doesn’t really have a ‘personality’ of its own; whereas Scheldeprijs is for the sprinters, G-W for the ‘almost-sprinters’, E3 is a mini-Ronde, etc.
    Leave the grand tours alone.
    And have a variety of stages in them. Sometimes 110km mountain stages are exciting; sometimes 220km mountain stages are exciting. You never know which one it will be and you need both to make it the ultimate test it should be.
    Have more interesting races in August and September (this period, other than the Vuelta and the World Championships, is the problem area). Make the Eneco stages longer – turn it into a proper ‘Classics stage race’: use the Amstel, LBL and Ronde courses (i.e. like they do now, but full length). This would be something different from the normal stage races and would give the classics riders something later in the season. And wouldn’t you be interested to see who would win these races if they have to do all three and on consecutive days? (Finally, we’d get riders doing all of these.)
    If they can’t make Poland interesting, take it off the World Tour. Montreal and Quebec are dull because they’re circuit races: improve them and maybe add some US races. Paris-Tours should be a World Tour race, as it is one of the ten true classics.
    As for how cycling makes money, I’ve no idea. Nor do I particularly care – as long as it’s getting by (which it has for over a century). What the money-men seem to be unaware of is that cycling simply isn’t popular enough to make loads of cash: never has been; never will be. (And all manner of gimmickry is not going to change that.)
    People just aren’t that interested in cycling – most people. That’s fine.
    Stop obsessing about money; start obsessing about improving the actual sport.
    A bigger problem, money-wise, is the disparity between the rich and poor teams – sort that out. (Again, I don’t claim to know how – but some sort of budget cap is surely possible.)

    • Special Eyes Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:47 pm

      JE,
      What you’re basically suggesting is “leave us alone” and “do as little as possible”.
      You’re happy that cycling remains a niche sport, that only comes out from the woodwork once per year.
      That is how it is perceived, even if cycling fans know differently.

      But, in the longer-term, this thinking is completely unsustainable.
      How can you disregard money ?
      Cycling has to make the most of its vast appeal and make money in the process.
      Then it can be re-invested back in to the sport, to fund and improve the drug testing regime, make it clean and be seen to be clean.
      That was the whole point of the article.

      • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:54 pm

        Yes, I’m fine.
        I have no desire to make others watch cycling – they’re not interested. If they want to watch football, fine by me.
        Why would you care how many people are watching a race? Why do you want this popularity – what is to be gained by it (other than money)?
        Cycling has been going for over a century: why do you believe people, such as Velon, when they say it’s suddenly going to disappear?
        A lack of money is not what is hindering the drug-testing.
        Cycling does not exist to make money.
        If money is the focus, you might end up with a wealthy sport, but you won’t necessarily end up with a better sport.
        Our society teaches us that in all things making money is the primary goal.
        For me, that’s wrong (in all walks of life).

      • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:55 pm

        Actually, above, I make a number of suggestions to improve races – that should be the focus.

        • Special Eyes Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:03 pm

          JE,
          If you have a sport that sponsors are afraid – I’ll say this again slowly, afraid – to sponsor, there is clearly a major problem.
          The current model is not sustainable.
          The sport is drug-addled, or perceived as such. And vastly under-funded.
          How can it be that a sport that can bring millions out on to the streets is so financially confined, that can only be found on bit-part satellite television coverage for 95% of its season ?

          • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:14 pm

            The drug problem – and the lack of sponsorship this causes – is separate from the other issues you are mentioning.
            Making more money is not going to get rid of the drugs problem – even if you made 10 times as much money.
            No matter how slowly you say this, the link between drug use and a lack of money exists only in your head.

            You say ‘The current model is not sustainable.’ Where do you get this information from? The people whose focus is to make more money. And you’ve swallowed their propaganda hook, line and sinker. And their lies that this causes the drug use.

      • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:57 pm

        No matter how much money you spend, you can’t ‘make it clean’.
        You have this idea that money is needed to improve the drug testing regime: is there much more that can be done against drugs? And how is a lack of money stopping this?

        • Special Eyes Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:15 pm

          JE,
          Pro-cycling exists to make money. How do you suppose it does not ???
          It’s just that most of the money is going to the private owners of the larger prestige races, or goes indirectly to the cycling industry on new bikes, gear etc.
          Relatively little of it goes to the people that do the riding and take the drugs !
          I think a figure I read was £6400 for a stage win or £300 in a women’s stage race.
          Laughable if it wasn’t absurd.

          • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:17 pm

            Well, I’m going to focus on the cycling and leave you to worry about money.

          • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:28 pm

            You don’t answer my questions as to where you get this idea that drug testing is being hindered by a lack of money.
            There’s actually only so much they can do – both in terms of the science and riders being allowed a certain amount of freedom.
            The drug problem causes the lack of sponsorship – the reverse of this is not true.

            Also, for you ‘Pro-cycling exists to make money.’ For me, it exists for the enjoyment of the sport.
            Presumably, you watch Milan-San Remo, all the while thinking ‘How much profit is this race making?’, missing the end because you’ve got your calculator out.

          • Special Eyes Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:33 pm

            The cycling is the money JE.
            From the bikes they ride, the tech that helps them, the gear they wear, the logos they display, the food and drink they consume, the subscriptions you pay to watch them…
            It’s just that cycling doesn’t do the job anywhere near as well as it could.

          • Special Eyes Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:37 pm

            I don’t watch a race thinking about profit, no.
            But certain people will.

            As for drug testing, we’ve already talked about installing a permanent testing presence on each team and being able to carry out night-time testing.
            This costs money, money which the sport cannot provide at present. Hence being stuck in this rut of suspicion and poor reputation.

          • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:40 pm

            Only for you.
            For you, money is the aim. But you only speak for yourself.
            Me, for example, all that stuff (bike, tech, gear, logos, food, drink) you mention has zero impact in my life. Some people buy garbage because they’re told they want it; some don’t.

            So obsessed by money are you that you even think money would solve the drugs problem.

          • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:46 pm

            It’s very unlikely that riders are doping within their teams – they’ve been doing it individually pretty much since Festina.
            The riders are free to go wherever they like – so, they could go away from the team. This would make ‘a permanent testing presence on each team’ worthless – ergo, you’d need a permanent chaperone with every rider.
            Not only is that unfeasible, but there are questions of personal freedom involved here. And that includes night testing.

          • Sam Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:15 pm

            Special Eyes, dont you know it’s terribly vulgar to think about money

            🙂

          • Noel Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:26 pm

            Well I have to say I agree with pretty much everything JE has said in this thread so far…

          • gabriele Friday, 7 August 2015, 4:05 pm

            J Evans, I agree with a good percentage of what you say about the money thing (most of the *economists* look like they haven’t been around Economy since the top-hats era; that said, economic processes shouldn’t be underestimated, either)… however, I’m here to reply to one specific sentence:
            “They’ve been doing it individually pretty much since Festina”. I guess I didn’t get something right due to the linguistic divide, but… Kelme? USP? Telekom? Cofidis? Gerolsteiner? ONCE? Rabobank? Etc. Proven *team* doping during the 2000s. Plus, pretty probable team doping (supposition based on proven facts) for CSC, Phonak, Fassa Bortolo, Quickstep, Footon…

          • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 4:09 pm

            Gabriele, yup, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong. I was talking a load of **** there – no idea what I was on about.
            I think they are doing it individually, rather than in teams, these days – mostly. But ‘since Festina’ was just garbage.

      • george Friday, 7 August 2015, 6:04 pm

        Unsustainable? I’d say working for 100+ years is pretty sustainable.

    • Whippet Friday, 7 August 2015, 5:36 pm

      The problem with the status quo in cycling is that the organisers who have control are only interested in profit. I’m not supporting any of the current calls for reform, but cycling as a whole needs to take a step back from the ‘profit is the only good’ model. I would gladly see the Tour de France go away if we could keep the classics and the other two grand tours going with lower budget teams.

    • Chris J Saturday, 8 August 2015, 6:09 pm

      “Make the Eneco stages longer – turn it into a proper ‘Classics stage race’: use the Amstel, LBL and Ronde courses (i.e. like they do now, but full length).”

      I really like that idea.

      • Tricky Dicky Sunday, 9 August 2015, 9:07 am

        It seems nice in theory but if you see the state of riders after just one of these classics, let alone back-to-back, then I think it could be a recipe for disaster. The racing itself could get quite neutered as riders know what they have to contend with the next day and the one after that …. and, of course, if they do go “all in” day after day then we might start drawing adverse conclusions about how they manage to do so.

        It’s a bit like some of the “epic” GT stages that the Giro promoted a few years ago. They were often quite negative affairs because the riders knew instinctively they were too hard to race “full on”.

        Anyway, that’s enough from me on the J Evans’ thread….?

  • Tovarishch Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:33 pm

    I don’t know if it is just me but the Tour this year seemed to have an even greater proportion of scenery shots than in previous years. The camera would show the front of the peloton for insufficient time to identify more than who was making the pace before the helicopter focussed, once again on a nearby lake or mountain top. Is this indicative that the vast majority of viewers are more interested in a travelogue than in the racing?

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:46 pm

      They’re actually planning to cut back on this and the introduction of geolocation will be part of a push for a younger audience as well, one that watches TV with a tablet or smartphone in their hand.

      • Tovarishch Friday, 7 August 2015, 7:09 pm

        That’s me buggered then.

    • Alex Saturday, 8 August 2015, 3:51 am

      In my family, I’m the only one actually watching the race with interest. The rest watch the tour coverage primarily for the scenery and theatre, the cycling is of secondary interest. For my elderly mum, it’s her one “overseas” trip each year. Such people don’t watch more hard core race coverage (or other sports like football). The TdF is more than a bike race. It’s a 21-day fully sponsored video postcard and I’m not sure it should bend to the rest of the calendar. It serves a different audience but I’m not sure there will be a lot of cross over to more “hard core” coverage of other events.

      Cycle racing will only ever reach wealthy status if it can generate large TV rights revenue. It’s spectacularly failed to do this. And the media scape is changing such that TV rights deal are being eroded by new media (i.e. internet).

      Coming up with ideas that spark the imagination of the sport watching public across the globe that can also be packaged for TV, well that’s quite a challenge. It’s one that’s well beyond the sport’s current administration.

      • Anonymous Saturday, 8 August 2015, 11:45 am

        +1 take away the scenery shots and my family wouldn’t bother watching. Great British bake Off anyone?

      • Anonymous Saturday, 8 August 2015, 5:58 pm

        That is a very good point. We tend to think what we like, everybody else likes too. Most of the times this isn’t the case. I like the Tour as a bike race, a sporting contest, but I don’t think it is primarly that for the vast majority of the viewers. I know people who watch the Tour every year, for many hours every day, but would never, have never, will never watch any other bike races despite riding their own bikes in holidays or on weekendtrips. With the Tour they don’t feel they are watching cycling-they are watching the Tour. Once the commentator brought them up to date to the story arc (who is the good guy, who is the bad guy, who is the underdog, who failed and lost all hope, who is the slimy rich guy nobody wants to see win etc), they enjoy their three week soap opera, the daily drama and news, they enjoy the stunning views of blue mountain lakes, they admire the chateaus and the lovely flowerfields. I honestly think it never occurs to them, that they actually are watching a bike race!

  • Will Friday, 7 August 2015, 12:35 pm

    Big prize money is not what gets the general public involved or interested, a couple beers and betting a little of their own money gets them really involved. I bet those Kierin races in Japan are a proper night out. Same with Belgium : put a little money on your pick for the race, drink some quality beer with your mates and walk outside every time the riders pass the pub. For sure you’ll take an interest and be very knowledgeable!

  • Paul Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:03 pm

    When i see the Festina Adverts I often wonder where the hell they are coming from in this repect very adaucious using RV?

  • A different J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 1:19 pm

    Maybe the “dream” is that we, the season-long fans and the July specialists, will all one day believe that the winner of the Tour is truly clean.*

    Perhaps we can work backwards from that… how is difficult (I’m tempted to suggest 24-hr monitoring of any GC contender for the lead-up and duration of the Tour!)

    * This is not to start a debate about Froome or anyone else, just acknowledging that there are many doubters of any winner.

    • GB Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:36 pm

      Holy moley, if it seriously gets to the point where riders are monitored 24 hours, I’m calling it quits and going back to video games, where being a control freak is far less ethically dubious.

      • Sam Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:37 pm

        Agreed

        I don’t want to be any part of a sport that even contemplates that kind of nonsense.

      • gabriele Friday, 7 August 2015, 3:28 pm

        +1!

        I think we’ve already got a bit too far, on specific points, let alone spiralling further down. Riders are people, human beings. We should stop right now saying “they got a lot of money for it, don’t they? They need to be subjected to whatever they’re said”. Money you possibly get doesn’t justify you undegoing any kind of treatment, be it doping or antidoping.
        (Besides, a good deal of pro cyclists don’t earn that much, either ^__^)

        • A different J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 7:44 pm

          All fair enough… it was semi tongue in cheek, but the point that the sport would benefit hugely from being able to give people more faith that they were watching a true sporting contest stands…

          • GB Saturday, 8 August 2015, 8:05 am

            You know what I really think?
            I think people could stand to be less insecure about potentially accidentally supporting a doper.

            Doping is a problem that’s extremely difficult to solve, not the Original Sin that’s a metaphysical stain upon the soul and the sole cause of every single problem in cycling.

            If someone I followed turned out to be cheating, I’d feel like crap for a few days, then I’d get over it (hopefully). If it turns out it’s all rotten, I’ll shrug and find something else to do. I don’t see why I should exist in a cloud of cynical suspicion in the meantime Just In Case.

            Yet, many fans range from combative to self-flagellating over it, potential sponsors are too risk-averse*, the media have gotten too used to milking every banal statement convicted dopers make for pageviews, and every time another (often serious!) problem turns up it gets drowned out by the doping polemic, the problem gets attributed to doping, or people excuse it by saying absurd junk like ‘well at least the sport isn’t on front pages for doping this time! hurf hurf!’

            Also, let me tell you as a very new fan of cycling who intentionally read up on Armstrong, Festina etc to know what she was getting into, most of the doping-related discussion is… not conductive to an environment welcoming to people outside current audience, to put it politely. (To put it succinctly: it’s excruciatingly boring)

            And what’s the point of all the fans who often lament how it’s probably all dirty and want to tell everyone this at every opportunity instead of, I dunno, taking up another hobby? Considering the past and the present to be utterly flawed, but telling yourself at least You are doing it right because you know the truth?
            That’s a recipe for making unhealthy fad diets and cults sustainable, not sports!

            So, I was aware you (other J Evans) were probably not serious with your suggestion but I don’t think it’s that far off what some people are considering, hence my knee-jerk.

            (* An aside: I’m always slightly amused by Nestle often being cited as an example of a sponsor who doesn’t want to risk sponsoring a dirty team. Considering they’re on record on saying they think water is a commodity and not a basic human right, they could probably deal with other PR fallout, that’s all I’m saying)

          • GB Saturday, 8 August 2015, 12:06 pm

            I know my comment above comes across as taking the opportunity to rant (because I did, hah!) but it’s also my response to this post.

            Making the distrust caused by doping scandals the one and major problem that is holding back cycling is a bad idea IMO, as I can’t see doping being halted to the extent that everyone will be absolutely sure the sport is clean now quickly enough to bring in enough money to save teams, or to prevent a messy altercation between stakeholders.

            Any action that could be taken would require ASO and Velon to have a civil discussion and for Oleg to be quiet for a few hours, so yeah, it’s a tricky one!

            Of course, the anonymous commenter who pointed out what Desgrange would do is something ‘crazy (and mean)’ probably gave the most accurate answer here. XD

            If I were (modern-day and alive and still rich) Desgrange, I’d let ASO and Velon have their fun and take my money to women’s cycling. Help it build the infrastructure required to have better coverage and race conditions, give it some time and work, and it’d be kicking butt in a few years.

  • EricS Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:00 pm

    The Dubai Tour is a perfect example. As an avid fan how do I see this and other races without hopping across pirate streams. It’s ludicrous. Someone needs to show a full proper calander of races, in a professional manner, and monetise it. If it’s professionally broadcast I’m sure fans will watch, and this will drive advertising in to the sport. No other mainstream sport suffers this rediculous situation.

    Whilst we are talking about advertising. The publicity caravans. Seriously! They may be a bit of useful distraction for fans on the ground but what a waste of roadtime and the environment (trinkets flung away). If companies want to be associated with the Tour (etc) pay a license cost and stop the trinkets. Then we can free up time in advance of the mens race, to have a womens race. The roads are closed, TV cameras are there. And maybe someone may even show it on the ‘TV’ bringing more women in to the sport and more advertising, etc.

    Conceptually it’s not rocket science. But the problems all stem from a lack of TV coverage and rights.

    • Will Friday, 7 August 2015, 4:44 pm

      “The publicity caravans. Seriously! They may be a bit of useful distraction for fans on the ground but what a waste of roadtime and the environment ”

      Yes it is a bit tatty but have you seen how much the kids enjoy it? It is more than a useful distraction it is like the egg hunt at Easter time – for kids it is the main event. Without the caravan you would lose a lot of the families and certainly wouldn’t have 10million+ total roadside spectators. Which would certainly make it less of a spectacle for TV viewers.

    • Tobias Friday, 7 August 2015, 5:01 pm

      EricS,

      I think you make good points.

      In order for sports to be successful in today’s environment – TV is a critical component – it generates revenue and brings in eyeballs. The Events need to be combined together and sold as one TV package. The numbers are staggering,… in part because the eyeballs, have been built in to an awarding/addictive viewing experience.

      There are successful examples showing that sharing the revenue with the teams (and thus athletes) work.

      I don’t want to suggest that I have the only good answer on this – but cycling will not be successful if ASO captures all the spoils. Right now the Tour de France is the big Kahuna, the world cup finals, the superbowl. The other events build up to the value that it creates.

      Cycling is at real impasse right now – financially it just doesn’t work – what is good for the ASO is essentially bad for the athletes. It is not possible for billionaires to continue to fund the teams at a cost of $10-$20m negative a year… I also believe that team salaries caps in other leagues (US based) have largely been successful. The team owners should be able build longer term equity… if they go negative… instead of helping ASO.

      If you look at Tennis, it is a big money sport, yet one could argue that cycling has now eclipsed tennis players in many countries. There are numerous articles making the point that cycling is the new golf.

      I believe we need Velon, the RSO and other non-ASO groups to band together to create a professional mens and women’s cycling model that works. I think it has become clear that the UCI is not bold enough to make the right moves.

      Is a team point system the way to make team aspect more interesting ? How do you create an award that is relevant to viewing – Chelsea, Bayern Muenchen, Golden State Warriors? To fan support ?

      Let’s be clear there could be a solution to the problem …. The 2014 TDF stages in UK had exceptional turnout…. This could be recreated in different ways!

      • GB Saturday, 8 August 2015, 12:34 pm

        Media is being consumed in different ways these days (Netflix et al), I think this also extends to people following sports for other reasons besides team loyalty or nationality.

        If this hypothetical body could explore ways of offering high-quality coverage via live/delayed internet streams and highlight videos, as well as TV, this could be a disruptive (in the good sense) way of finding new audiences, dislodging the current focus on the TdF, and encouraging the ASO to join in and/or catch up.
        Especially if combined with tracking and motorbike commentary as mentioned elsewhere.

        This could even be incorporated on a race-organisation level. Plenty of people with the skills are out there and I am (reasonably) sure the technology is not prohibitively expensive.

        • gabriele Saturday, 8 August 2015, 3:33 pm

          +1
          RCS Sport broadcast the Giro for free with their own commentary on internet, some years ago. Available for free wherever no TV had bought the rights. It was a big success, audience-wise. They had to cut it because of the financial woes in the mother company (bandwith cost, and the model hadn’t become sustainable, yet). The problem is sometimes things need time to start working and producing profit, that should be *true capitalism* after all! Yet, nowadays most of the times you don’t have time to let money grow, you just want to clone it outright, money in, double of the money out faster than now.

          • Nick Monday, 10 August 2015, 11:43 am

            I managed to get the Giro on RAI’s website this year, complete with all the different cameras from the various motos, via my UK internet connection (without having to pretend to be in Italy). I had to watch the various adverts for Italian products I couldn’t buy, but that was no more irritating than Eurosport’s commercials. So the broadcasters do seem willing to put the “product” out there. Perhaps the question is how they can be encouraged to work together with the teams and races to do so consistently?

  • RonDe Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:17 pm

    Is there any chance we could have an article here in which 50% of the comments aren’t from J Evans? Its not as if we don’t know what he thinks on everything by now.

    • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:38 pm

      RonDe: My comments are about cycling.
      You’ve made three comments – three personal criticisms of me and nothing else to say.
      (And have I made many more comments than Special Eyes or is it just that you prefer what SE says?)

      • RonDe Friday, 7 August 2015, 3:11 pm

        Its just that you say a lot but add nothing. I doubt I’m the only one who thinks that. And you seem blind to the fact that NONE of the teams currently in cycling, NOT A SINGLE ONE, is here to do anything other than profit from it – be that the teams themselves or the sponsors who make those teams possible. Your amateur version of cycling that you want to see is a figment of your own fevered imagination. I’d love to be able to ignore as irrelevant to the discussion to be honest but you plaster the comments with your views which, to be honest, just spoils it.

        Maybe you need the history lesson Inrng gives in the article. Cycling has ALWAYS been about making money.

        • gabriele Friday, 7 August 2015, 3:48 pm

          “NONE of the teams currently in cycling, NOT A SINGLE ONE, is here to do anything other than profit from it”.
          o__O
          Plain false.
          Lots of teams have got huge interests besides making profit.
          Inrng loves to remind the readers the marketing side, and rightly so, because of lot of people tend to forget that, when they end up believing the self-image most sports try to sell out (De Coubertin and so). Though, if you read his articles thoroughly, and this specific post, too, you may notice that there’s plenty of “anything other than profit”. Nationalism, to start with, social phenomena etc.
          Tinkov is in only for profit or is he having fun, too? The involvement of public institutions which is deep rooted in Team Sky’s history was about profit? What about Katusha? And Astana? Yes, they’re broadly promoting Kazakhstan’s economy, but it’s much more about legitimation on multiple levels. Orica’s main task is making profit? How much that moves in the yearly cashflow of its owner? And so on.
          We should also differentiate between team and sponsor. Yeah, it’s not easy when they’ve got the same name. Cycling fans became accustomed to recognise what a “team structure” is and what the sponsor is. Movistar’s team isn’t in cycling to make profit. Movistar, the corporation, uses cycling to strengthen its markets – mainly through nationalism.
          Most team would absolutely work as (well, a good deal of them really *are*) sort of no-profit organisations, that is, paying bills, paying wages, no *profit* at all to be seen, at least not *as such* (you know, some people around tend to mix up the existence and use of money with “profit” and the likes – and maybe they feel they’ve got a good grasp on reality because they presume that their cynical, supposedly economical, POV is *very sharp* – whereas it often is just “very supposed”).

        • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 3:53 pm

          I’ve suggested quite a few changes to racing above, so not focused on the one subject. Most of my other comments were responses in a discussion with Special Eyes.
          You’ve yet to make a salient point.
          This – ‘And you seem blind to the fact that NONE of the teams currently in cycling, NOT A SINGLE ONE, is here to do anything other than profit from it’ is clearly not correct.
          Do you think Dave Brailsford or Eusebio Unzué have no interest in cycling, other than money?
          Do you believe that Marc Madiot’s interest in cycling is 100% about money?
          Even Tinkov isn’t just in it for cash.
          Also, it’s not my amateur version of cycling: it’s how cycling has worked for decades (there’s that history lesson for you).
          But don’t worry – capitals make you correct.
          As for your personal comments (of which this is the 4th), some people will agree with you; some will disagree (e.g. Noel, above). But your personal comments really do add nothing.

          • HSWB Friday, 7 August 2015, 4:59 pm

            J Evans. Take it easy. You’re right to debate the cycling stuff, and write a lot of sense, but you’re often making your own comments personal and then crying foul when others make it personal back. It’s hard to establish the intelligent debate above the loud argument. Thanks.

          • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 5:02 pm

            Where are my personal comments?
            Where are my loud arguments – in capitals?
            In what comment am I acting in a manner that would require me to ‘take it easy’?

          • The Inner Ring Friday, 7 August 2015, 6:23 pm

            J Evans, you might not see it but others take it that way. It’s a bit loud at times. If it helps try to limit yourself to a comment or two per piece, you don’t have to respond to everything and everyone.

          • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 6:31 pm

            Well, as RonDe puts it, I am ‘very bitter’. So, maybe I’ll leave you with people making personal comments about each other.

          • THWND Friday, 7 August 2015, 9:10 pm

            J Evans to Inner Ring’s point, there are currently 98 comments on this thread and 21 were written by you. You have clearly expressed your point.

          • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 9:25 pm

            Perhaps you’d like to add up how many of those were a) in a discussion with Special Eyes and b) responding to people making personal criticisms (like yours).
            The answer would be all bar one of them, I think.

          • THWND Friday, 7 August 2015, 9:51 pm

            My post is a statement of fact, not a criticism. It noted, with supporting numbers, how many times you have posted in relation to the thread as a whole. Do you not agree that you have expressed your point? If not then that would change my post to an opinion rather than fact, but I am going on the assumption that you have expressed yourself.

          • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 10:02 pm

            Do you agree that your point had already been expressed by Inner Ring?
            And my points still stand: I’m not making personal (if you prefer) comments, I’m not insulting people (RonDe), I made my original point – which was about how to improve races – and almost every other comment was in a discussion with Special Eyes, or responding to people making personal comments.
            Happy counting!

          • THWND Friday, 7 August 2015, 10:20 pm

            Not going to waste my time talking any further. Sadly you don’t seem to be taking Inner Ring’s advice to heart. J Evans, you are a perfect little snowflake and we are all lucky to be able to read your opinions. I will not be posting on this site going forward.

          • J Evans Friday, 7 August 2015, 10:30 pm

            ‘Not going to waste my time talking any further’ – yes, you are. There’s this attempt at saying ‘It’s not fair – he’s making me not post’.
            Much better advice would be ‘Only post about cycling’ – not pointless, personal comments.
            The only comment on here that I really care about – of mine, that is – is the first one I made; about what could be done to improve racing.
            Most other comments on here – the ones that actually are about cycling – seem to be about money, which – as Richard S says – is all too common on this site.

  • kona kula Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:21 pm

    I used to be a junior UCSC racer in the post-LeMond/pre-Armstrong era in California, and have come back to the sport as a fan for the past 10 years. I also follow Major League baseball and some other sports. As a participant, but my main sport is hiking and backcountry skiing.

    On an emotional level, I believe pro cycling as it exists now is lacking in two area: Continuity and Spontaneity. The long history of baseball teams, their unique identities, is a very enjoyable aspect of being a baseball fan. Unfortunately the sponsor-driven business model of pro cycling is inherently short-term oriented. There is no guarantee your favorite team will be around next year. Perhaps some form of revenue-sharing platform would enable far-reaching changes and more stability. The idea of a “draft” with the lowest ranking team being able to pick the best young talent would also make things interesting.

    Regarding spontaneity… as a spectator, it is the fluidity, freedom and stylishness possible in cycling that is energizing and appealing. How can you not marvel at Jacky Durand’s 1992 Tour of Flanders win? That was sheer genius. However, as cycling becomes more “rationalized”, controlled and defensive, it loses those “romantic” elements and fan appeal. Thank god for Sagan this past Tour; without him, I would have simply tuned out. Ban race radios, create more parity among teams via revenue sharing and a draft, and maybe we will see more energizing and entertaining events.

    • channel_zero Monday, 10 August 2015, 6:47 pm

      On an emotional level, I believe pro cycling as it exists now is lacking in two area: Continuity and Spontaneity.

      Agree. Just my opinion, but this is what has made the Giro and Strade Bianchi successful in 2015.

      Also, I believe the reason RCS makes money in Dubai is Dubai royalty pays them in a bid to become a “world sport center.” Few in the world outside of despots and other less Democratic nations have this kind of money.

  • MickR Friday, 7 August 2015, 2:45 pm

    For me, getting more interested in watching pro racing (or football; any sport or activity really) comes down to whether or not there is any social bonding to be had. Am I making friends at the pub watching this sport? Did my mates introduce me to this new thing I didn’t know about but wow, it is really awesome! I got into all kinds of things in the past 20 years because friends “turned me on”; autocross, motorcycle trips, pick-up footy, cyclocross and, road racing. After a season or two, interest fades because the social scene goes stale. So, what am I on about? Pro racing; an anecdote:

    Every week at the group rides I attend in my major US city, I ask the guys and girls next to me if they have been watching the stage the day before (Giro and Tour). And you know what? Nobody is watching it. It has no interest to them. 50 year old wealthy MAMILs, 30 y.o. + serious women riders, younger racer types too – I ask around just trying to make chit chat but even to life-long cyclists there are just no talking points. I’m not sure what is broken, or what is missing here but I know very few people who care to talk pro cycling.

    How or why these massively-dedicated adults got into the sport as participants is probably the pursuit of well-paid marketing gurus. And race promoters might want to get their hands on some of that info to find out more about this potentially huge market of otherwise disinterested cyclists.

    • tj Friday, 7 August 2015, 4:48 pm

      Mick R, re the group ride chat. That is my experience too. Not much interest in the pro sport from even serious participants. Even the mamils in replica team kit don’t seem to have much, if any, idea of the riders or fortunes of the team whose kit they are wearing. I guess people just like riding bikes way more than they like watching people riding bikes. Lets face it, most bike races are boring, most of the time. You have to have a far deeper knowledge of the sport to appreciate the nuances of team work and tactics than say, to enjoy a soccer game.

    • THWND Friday, 7 August 2015, 5:01 pm

      The social bonding aspect is a great point.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 8 August 2015, 12:32 pm

      I think this is perfectly normal. Why should riding your bike mean you have also interest in professional cycling? There is no immediate connection. Look at swimming-millions of people swim, but many will never watch a swimming champioship. Millions of people run, but many of those will never watch a race, many people ride motorcycle, but will never watch Moto GP and so on.

  • Oliver Friday, 7 August 2015, 3:13 pm

    I really don’t see much future for clean cycling at this stage. The real tension generated by watching the season resides not in “who is going to win?”, rather the question — though often unspoken — is: “who is going to get busted?”. Busted. Busted during the race. Right after. A few weeks after. Or a few years later. (Getting busted negates a victory, so it is the ultimate arbiter of the sport).
    Anyway you look at it there is a perpetual cloud hanging over the sport, there’s no use denying it, for some it is even part of the excitement! (See e.g., twitter).
    And for those who still think the sport is “cleaner than it used to be”, I really don’t know what to say… Perhaps look at the ADA and WADA budgets, and see how small they are. Look at the fact that the very same talking points you believe in today (“it is not as bad as the Armstrong years”) where being said during the Armstrong years (“It is not as bad as the Festina years). Plus ca change….

  • GF Friday, 7 August 2015, 3:24 pm

    Are Velon actually trying to get ASO to share their existing pot of money or are they simply trying to engage ASO in the belief that working collaboratively they can grow the pot of money and share the benefits?
    I can’t believe that something with the collective clout of Velon are after 2m euros each, when, as Inrng says, this wouldn’t make much difference to a team. Surely their vision must be about growing, rather than sharing, existing revenues.
    Velon can’t presumably put those proposals explicitly on the table as all ASO need to do is say “no thanks” and then steal all their ideas, hence the current impasse (unless I have missed something?!?)

    • dave Friday, 7 August 2015, 3:42 pm

      +1

      it’s not about sharing existing money – rather about creating a product that has the ability to grow and market itself coherently in the long term – ASO, RSC, UCI, Velon need to work together asap.

      Obvious and extremely necessary improvements are;

      1) A smaller, more comprehensible calendar that works it’s way to a finale rather than the post tour slump and gives opportunity for cycling to break new markets.

      2) Smaller teams, to reduce budgets & give more riders a protected status opportunity for more exciting racing and to help create a regular roster of teams for supporters to get behind.

      3) Improved TV output – very noticeable that BBC were able to transmit live on bike camera footage & head of the race commentary (via David Miller) during cycling coverage last weekend. This should be standard, as should race radio, as should power outputs > cycling is 20 years behind every other sport. People on this forum have said all of this is impossible, but seems like BBC have proved otherwise on programming that isn’t close to what they might consider their flagship sport, so I doubt really required that much effort.

      It’s such a shame that even here everyone’s arguing and disagreeing, a mini version of debate those with actual power are having!

      None of the above will ever happen because cycling’s unfortunately ended up in a place with so many disparate bodies with vested interests who will never agree. Nothing will change which is incredibly disheartening.

      D

  • ATWJ Friday, 7 August 2015, 3:35 pm

    Although a newbie to commenting here, I’m generally with JEvans on this. Better to focus on quality than hype; then hype the quality. And of course keep a strong anti-dopoing vigilance, which means keep continually strengthening it (unfortunately — but cycling may look increasingly clean, relatively, as other sports get looked at more). I like following riders and, as I watch more cycling, not just the few biggest GC names.

    I would, however, like to see somewhat more permanence in teams: not as national teams, but more like F1 racing — teams change, but there is more durability, although drivers change teams too, and sometimes welcome returns (e.g Mercedes). As others have said, durable sponsorship may require time for sponsors to become more confident that doping scandals will not mar their names. But perhaps F1 suggests that committed personal sponsorship may play a big part in establishing “name” teams with some permanence, even after the original names die off (e.g. Ferrari above all, but also Maclaren, etc) — and this dates back to well before F1 was a money-spinner. Not sure where that might come from in cycling (Tinkoff !!??). Analogously, another possibility might be bike manufacturers, but I don’t know how significant pro cycling could be as a promotion linked to their core business (relative to cars where just about everyone drives one, owns one, and there is enough of a high-end prestige market for niche producers such as Ferrari, Maclaren).

    Perhaps there is another, better analogy than F1 (not, to my mind, world or American football or similar sports) — or perhaps no analogy is needed for cycling! Other followers of this site know cycling better than I!

  • gabriele Friday, 7 August 2015, 4:37 pm

    The team brand thing is an old riddle within cycling. Surely it mostly depends on cycling being such an hybrid between individual sport and team sport. Teams matter, but the stats we look at, the historical depth (which is one of the main aspects in cycling), is related to riders and races. No less than Barthes wrote a nice piece on the epic of cycling heroes – branding related, too, even if he maybe didn’t know.
    A good even if not impressive number of present WT teams have been around for decades, most of them with the same “brand” (sponsor name): Quickstep, Française de Jeux, Ag2R, Lampre, Lotto, but we should include Movistar, too. And outside WT we have Androni, CSF, Cofidis, Caja Rural…
    What I see here is that, apparently, the relative stability doesn’t make a huge difference in terms of fan base, nor of economical success.
    Nationality tends to matter the most, for cycling fans. In Italy it plays a huge role for motorsports, too (but you can be satisfied either by supporting a *compatriot* driver or team).
    Football is complicated and interesting, it’s going towards a global model where *clubs* are sort of a *void identity* you can therefore choose in a more and more arbitrary way, allowing international supporters to pick “whatever” in a system of oppositions which is mainly “intra-defined”. Relevant traits are more and more vague…

  • Justin Friday, 7 August 2015, 4:46 pm

    Cycling has tried the million dollar prize money and the billboard sized check. http://www.cyclingrevealed.com/special_features/Philly_History/Philly1993.html

  • Shawn Friday, 7 August 2015, 4:48 pm

    I agree with many here that stronger team identity & stability would help to promote the sport. This doesn’t have to come from geography but from the team actually having their own narrative. Teams like Sky, Slipstream, and MTN-Qhubeka have strong identities because of the stories they tell of themselves (whether you believe those stories or not). MTN is stopping sponsorship but I doubt the team will lose identity or followers as a result. Similarly, Slipstream has had multiple sponsor changes but have had a stable identity that you root for, or against. Sky is more complicated as their identity has both a nationalist component and their story of marginal gains, etc. In contrast, Movistar has been around for a long time (going back to Banesto?) but they lack, to my knowledge, a cohesive narrative and identity. Fans often love and hate teams for what they take them to stand for or symbolize. If the goal is a more fervent and dedicated following that could be cashed out in sponsorship, then teams could be doing more to create their own stable identities.

    • Special Eyes Friday, 7 August 2015, 5:16 pm

      Shawn,
      The point that I was trying to make was that the sponsors should be a means to an end (ie a more attractive sport) and not the end product themselves, which they are at present.
      Fans will follow the team, not the sponsor.
      I have absolutely zero loyalty to Sky the product, yet I want their riders (Sky the team) to do well.
      Why, because they are largely British.
      I suppose a Dutchman will feel the same of Lotto Jumbo, Belgians of Etixx or Soudal. And so on.

      Cycling does not exist in some non-geographical vacuum.
      Of course I admire other riders, but intrinsically I want to see a Brit win.
      The thought of say the Yates’, Cummings, GT, Froome, Stannard et al on one / several British teams is fantastic.

      And it would open up all manner of potential radical changes to the sport (cycling equivalents of The Ashes, Ryder Cup, Champions League etc ?).
      That would create passion and interest, then the sponsors will follow.
      All the most successful team sports have a geographical brand.

      • Shawn Friday, 7 August 2015, 7:35 pm

        I didn’t suggest that geographical identity is a non-factor but that it isn’t the only way to establish identity–especially given the international line-ups of most teams. My point is that most teams do little within the current context to establish an identity within the global market. Teams can get more sponsorship worldwide, if they attract fans globally and this can be tied to the team having a narrative that is appealing to people no matter what their nationality or geography. I gave positive examples before but to contrast take two teams from Belgium: Lotto & Etixx. Each has its own fan base within Belgium and I don’t believe it breaks down geographically or ethnically. Each team represent something different to the Belgian public. Now, these teams do little to make themselves (or these differences) ‘known’ globally and, thus, don’t have what it takes to attract global sponsors (as opposed to local ones). Growing the sport can happen in all sorts of ways but the teams have some work to do.

      • gabriele Friday, 7 August 2015, 8:34 pm

        I’m fond of sports, I practice some of them, I’ve got a certain technical knowledge of a number of them – still I had to look for The Ashes and Ryder Cup on Google.
        I don’t know how that goes in a broader sample of the population, but I’m quite sure that in Italy, Spain and France you can’t find any reference to The Ashes on a newspaper, nor on TV, nor in friendly conversations. I’d say nobody would know what you’re speaking about. Ryder Cup would perform slightly better thanks to some sort of European pride it raised some time ago, I think. Some Italian guy did ok and he got press for it. No idea of exactly when that happened, and I’m afraid I’m in good company.
        European viewing figures and media coverage for The Ashes are absolutely laughable when compared to cycling. I must imagine they’re doing fine in good ol’ Austrasia? The Ryder has slightly better numbers but, including both Europa *and* the USA it struggles to get near to a single Giro stage in Italy only.
        Which I’m saying not to criticise what you’re commenting above, but to underline a couple of points I was making below: first, many of us (including me) are probably influenced in their perspective by the situation of the sport in our own country; second, cycling is very good spectators-wise, hence we should maybe start to be less worried by “how can we make this more palatable for the general public” and more insightful when the question is “why aren’t TVs paying as much as they do for sports with a lesser impact?”. And, no, “cyclists doping” isn’t a good answer – that really doesn’t differentiate them from other sports.

        • Special Eyes Friday, 7 August 2015, 9:20 pm

          Good answer Gabriele 🙂
          Both events do draw very high sponsorship however.
          I think that is part of the debate ; that, for it’s undoubted popularity across a Continent, cycling does not draw in the sponsorship that it should.

          • gabriele Saturday, 8 August 2015, 3:01 pm

            Agree on that, which was what I was trying to point out with my latter question.

            I think that Inrng nailed it when he wrote about demographics. Those interested in cricket and golf are supposedly “great spenders”, whereas over 60 grannies and woman in their 40s and 50s don’t look like they’re making the money flow. And, with golf, even when your viewers aren’t great spenders, they’re buying that image and you hope you’ll sell them, along with the sport, the desire to purchase goods which are above their socio-economic profile. While cycling is about hard-work, sweating a lot, that kind of things, which isn’t classy enough.

            Though, is that true? Or is that *that* true? I’m having a good look to demographics and income in Europe and, well, maybe the marketing men (and women, but maybe I’d stress*men*, here) are doing the same mistake lots of us would do, that is, thinking that society is *your* social environment, and/or the imagination of society that stems from your social environment; plus, a snapshot of society freezed somewhere in the more or less recent past. What you studied in your MBA on books written some years ago by people who were successful ten or twenty years ago (before they had time to write books, obviously enough), what your boss taught you, that is, what he or she learned from *previous* positive experience, and that sort of knowledge building/trasmission mechanisms.

            Yet, cycling is quite clearly a changing environment, not to speak of present society. Or the relation between both. Are we sure that the decision-makers are up-to-day on that? Maybe they’ll need just a little time to get there – or they’re simply taking advantage of cycling’s relative weak position inherited from the recent past to negotiate better fees.
            I suspect that working women in their prime-age and retirees are going to be *where the money is* in a very near future. The latters already are.

            The top 1% has got much more than 1% of the money (8% in Italy, 13% in the UK, 17% in the USA), which is why companies are interested to spend a lot to enter that niche. One single client may be worth ten middle-class buyers! What they maybe don’t get (Chigago boys’ fault) is that: 1) purchase isn’t necessary linearly linked with rent; 2) like it or not, 80% of the cake lies outside that 1%.

            [source of economics about inequality and raise of prime-age working women is the 2015 annual economic report of the USA President to the Congress, some pages are about Europe]

  • Fred B Friday, 7 August 2015, 4:54 pm

    I went to see the Ride London race whizz by the end of the road on Sunday. It is of course the briefest of spectacles and immediately obvious that if the spectators on the ground are important then you are much better off with circuits. In this instance seeing them race by is then a justification to watch the rest on TV. Being in the UK was the only reason it was on UK terrestrial TV, people want to see an event they feel part of and passing through familiar locations with of course some household name cyclists taking part (OK two to many viewers, Wiggins and Cavendish) and race sponsors want a domestic television audience. Certainly they also stepped up with the commentary.

    TV coverage of the TdF brought me to cycling as a spectator sport many years ago (my bike just gets me to and from work, nothing remotely sporting) and with its rolling backdrop and three week theatre it is quite different from any other sport I follow. However mainstream media coverage of races most of the year is insignificant and even during the TdF this year much was about doping and insinuation thereof. More rehabilitation is required.

    It is no good saying other sports also have problems because the bigger sports have the following and some positive coverage regardless. FIFA’s governance and individual footballers (Suarez biting for example) may attract adverse comment but plenty of other coverage rolls on regardless because of the size of the sport.

    Races are a series of local events of importance locally and may never be an international whole but that does not mean that more people will not take to their bikes, a UCI objective I believe…

    • Bilmo Friday, 7 August 2015, 7:08 pm

      Off topic but talking of stepping up the commentary, it was great to see David Millar on the motor bike following the race for the BBC coverage.

      I know this has happened in other countries for ages but to a british audience it seemed innovative. Even my wife who is not a fan of cycling to say the least thought it was interesting.

      More on topic, that is possible to key to getting a wider audience for cycling – the coverage needs to be innovative, interesting and help convey stories to the viewer.

      One thing perhaps lost in all the money today of the Premier league and the Sky coverage is that when it started in the 1990’s was different – Andy Gray analysis, on screen graphics etc. The revolutionised the coverage which brought new viewers and it is the viewer numbers that lead to increased advertising etc and the upwards spiral of money in the game.

  • Cilmeri Friday, 7 August 2015, 5:13 pm

    Constantly I hear criticism of cycling because it’s not like F1 or Football. There’s no parochialism, or a single event outshines the whole season as opposed to F1 where the title is more important. But there are other sports like cycling, eg horse racing in the uk, where the winner of the grand national is revered above the champion jockey. For example AP McCoy was champion jockey for about 20 years running, but is also known as having not won a grand national.

    So what’s my point? Cycling has it’s challenges but the way to solve it is not to say it should be more like football or F1. The way we involve ourselves in those sports re different. New technology is the answer, because by tracking riders via an app etc in real time you can immerse yourself in the race in the way listening to Carlton and Phil trying to work out which rider is where cannot.

    • dave Friday, 7 August 2015, 5:55 pm

      *(I think refs to F1 were quite specifically directed to their use of technology of which cycling should follow suit)

      *(good points of cycling never being able to following championship format, but that’s not to say the season shouldn’t attempt to come to some sort of zenith, rather than going off the boil post the Tour.

      > my personal opinion is ending the season after the tour with the world championship and starting again late November or earlier with meaningful races being schedule in new territories south of the equator before working round to Europe for Spring. With Vuelta maybe being two weeks earlier in the season and many races being scrapped so none collide and those that survive become more meaningful)

  • Richard S Friday, 7 August 2015, 5:36 pm

    As long as there are bikes people will ride them, and as long as there are roads people will race on them. You can take this further and say as long as Europeans exist someone will always watch! So why, as a fan, do you care if any of this is profitable? If Tinkov makes money? If sponsors want to get involved? The day cycling starts pandering to money obsessed lunatics like Tinkov is the day it does. You have an unhealthy obsession with the money side of the sport I would say inrng, and I’ve only been reading this blog 6 months.

    I’m only properly consumed by the big races – the grand tours, the monuments, the world championships, the other big classics (Gent-Wevelgem, Amstel Gold etc) and to a lesser extent Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Dauphine. Races made up on the hoof to try and legitimise oil rich despots don’t interest me, no matter how much they pay to make it look like a good idea. if that’s the way cycling goes then ill no longer have an interest in the professional scene.

    As a way to improve cycling a championship would be a good idea (better and less complicated than the world tour). A World Cup of the big one day races would be a good start and has been a success before. Is easy enough to get the big one day racers and sprinters to turn out together and the big races. A stage race championship would be much more complicated – especially with the current mania for training rather than racing. Hence why it’s never happened.

  • SeeingElvis Friday, 7 August 2015, 5:40 pm

    I have been enjoying this site (and commenting) for several years, much less so recently because I have noticed a marked decline in comment board civility- and diversity. Tone can be very hard to convey and discern using the written word and within the internet in particular; what starts as spirited and lofty debate can descend into ill will faster than The Falcon used to sweep downhill. I respectfully think we owe it to ourselves, to each other, and no less to Inrng, to exercise our best discipline in this regard.
    Thank you for your time and welcome back Fabian and Tony.

    • Special Eyes Friday, 7 August 2015, 5:45 pm

      Heartily agreed.
      Although I haven’t taken offence at anything written or debated, nor have I intended any.
      Very interesting reading on the whole, and I enjoy everyones comments.

      • Othersteve Friday, 7 August 2015, 8:32 pm

        SE x 2, I agree

        As I pointed out previously a few years ago, in the department store of life cycling is and always will be in the metaphorical toy section.

        I would not miss the rancor or incivility of recent debates.

        Thanks Inrng, as always

        • Bag pus Friday, 7 August 2015, 11:13 pm

          Seeing Elvis, very true indeed.

  • Stu Ray Friday, 7 August 2015, 6:49 pm

    Nailed it as always dude

  • Anonymous Friday, 7 August 2015, 7:49 pm

    I think Desgrange would do something so crazy (and mean), that next year ten times as much people would watch, just to see if the crazy bastard can pull it off again- like making the Tour a race for amateurs or making each stage 400kms long. Rest assured-the Tour de France needs not one of the professional cycling teams. That is why VELON till now has no program, other than” we want more money from ASO”. Their only goal is to build strentgh in numbers. If the Tour would be raced by amateur teams, it would not matter at all, as long as the riders have the same niveau. The fight between two riders that can both produce y watts is just as fascinating as the fight between two riders both producing x watts. Personally I hope ASO (or any other race organiser) never gives in to VELON or similar ideas.

  • gabriele Friday, 7 August 2015, 8:04 pm

    We shouldn’t forget another aspect: cycling *is* hugely popular and has got a growing “generalist” fanbase in a good number of European countries.
    Cycling’s TV figures not only for the Tour but also for the Giro (and some one-day races) are impressively high in Italy, in Belgium and in France, as they are, in terms of share (if not absolute viewers), in Netherlands, Denmark, Norway. In Spain the audience is excellent and rapidly growing. In the UK I think the viewers aren’t that many, but there’s a general growth. Don’t know much about Germany (which is paramount, obviously).

    They say USA sports have got crazy numbers – mainly on specific events (90% of the time people are thinking of the nonsense unique Superbowl example; nonsense since it’s a one-in-his-kind case) – but those same sports are nearly insignificant in Europe.
    NBA, which I think is the second most relevant sport audience-wise in the USA, gets some 15-18M in the States for its *finals*.
    Well, I couldn’t find credible figures for cycling in Europe (I’ve read some 50M for the Tour, 40M for the Giro… I don’t think so: maybe one-minute viewers?), but I’d suppose the Tour to be around those same numbers – just in Europe. The Giro wouldn’t be that far behind, around 10-12M maybe (up to 3.5-4M only in Italy)?

    So… what are we asking to cycling in terms of viewing figures? Aren’t maybe some readers being confused by what cycling is in *their* countries? If cycling is a “minority” sport, well, in Europe nearly all of them would fit the definition, football aside. Even motorsports aren’t in a different league at all.

    Cycling is not (and won’t ever be) like football, but in Italy it has been coming closer and closer to F1. This year they often got comparable audiences, with higher peaks for F1 (mainly thanks to the broadcasting channel choice), more constant numbers for cycling.

    Speaking about F1: I don’t know how that was in other countries, but in Italy it was inflated, totally, by politics. Important national industries and banks putting pressure on the media to hype the show even before – in a couple of years – victories started to came here.
    The main national (public) channel dedicated itself to F1 broadcasting when the TV ratings were relatively low and didn’t really justify a choice like that, also considering that it is a sport with no grassroots and no positive feedback on public health (while at the same time they were renouncing to the Giro…).
    Obviously enough, with a proper dose of self-promoting ads on the three national channels, constant presence in the daily news, total saturation on the press (it was always presented as the second sport, just after football, even before the audience numbers said so)… well, the prophecy self-fulfilled itself and it grew huge.

    Yet, if you look at medium-long term dynamics, in less than 20 years time the model shows its limits.
    Specialised press is titling: “Audience hemorrhage, crazy costs. What if the TVs decide to abandon us?”.
    The Malaysia GP got an audience of 12M… whole Europe included. 14M for the Spain GP. 11,8M for Bahrain… They’re getting some impressive peak from time to time (Shangai), but they’re averaging 15M, mainly thanks to Italy and Germany as for average audience, to Italy and UK when peaks are concerned. Still, as I said, Italy is a peculiar market, where the sport receive public-funded media attention. When RAI slightly reduced its efforts, half of the spectators went lost, albeit the broadcasting was still on the main channel and the press didn’t shift its focus (Gazzetta and Corriere are strongly Fiat/Ferrari linked).
    Spain, France, and, more generally speaking, the rest of Europe, saw an impressive downfall.
    And, as I said, among the three countries where numbers are more or less fine absolutely speaking (not really when costs are considered, but that’s another story), in Germany there’s no growth, Italy is descending steadily, only UK presents a, more or less irregular, profile of growth.

    According to what I read, the audience isn’t really on the rise in China nor in India. It’s apparently working a little better – they say – in South America, Australia and USA (can other readers from those countries confirm that?).

    I’m not very sure Ecclestone’s model will be a good bet in the long run.
    On the contrary, I’m more and more convinced that cycling’s woes aren’t at all on the spectators’ side, at least quantity-wise. There is a good bunch of them.
    Maybe it’s more about managing that capital, extracting value from it, being more conscious of what cycling *is*, not being obsessed by what it *isn’t*.

    • Larry T. Friday, 7 August 2015, 11:09 pm

      +1 As they say, “be careful what you wish for”. I don’t think pro cycling needs more greedy capitalism. Instead it needs fewer cheats and an organization fully dedicated to finding them and removing them from the peloton.

      • J Evans Saturday, 8 August 2015, 3:19 pm

        +1
        And a lot of the economic ‘experts’ here could do with reading Gabriele’s posts.

        • Special Eyes Saturday, 8 August 2015, 5:06 pm

          G,
          Great feedback as ever. As you point out, the GT’s (and particularly TdF) are extremely popular in Europe. No doubts about that. But the major commercial sponsors are still afraid to commit.

          This leads to uncertainty in teams’ futures and an inability to plan forward in any meaningful way, apart from perhaps only Sky. Teams come and go, names change etc. That was my initial point, this makes for a weak team identity when, essentially, the entire sport is team based.

          In turn, the lack of finance is reflected in overall relatively poor prize money and salaries for most of the peleton. Of course it is the riders’ choice to live the lifestyle but their lack of reward, and having to put up with 3rd rate hotels and support facilities, is a shameful indictment on the sport. I sort of get the impression from JE’s comments that he finds this aspect acceptable and indeed something to protect ? (forgive me if I am incorrect JE).
          I am perfectly happy that the sport remains on a non-profit basis, but that is not to say that there could not be much more money to properly invest back into the sport, its riders and the drug-testing regime. If the sponsors and tv deals could be improved.

          Which brings me to the final point ; the structure-less arrangement of the season. Events come and go, new ones added, but to what effect ?
          What is there to play for at the end of it all, what does it mean ?
          It doesn’t seem to mean anything at present.
          Why not have team leagues, relegation, and much greater team recognition ?
          I am rather horrified that I have come to agree with many of the proposed changes, a stream-lined and structured season (not 2 weeks GT’s though).
          Perhaps this, together with the technological improvements in the pipeline, would bring in a new (younger) audience ?

          • J Evans Saturday, 8 August 2015, 5:39 pm

            ‘acceptable’, yes. ‘protect’, no. Essentially, I don’t think their hotels are that bad and it’s not a big deal for me.
            And I like the races being individual and there not being a league system – see my original post.
            And I don’t think money, or lack thereof, is much involved in the drug issue.
            And I’m generally against ‘technological improvements’ – I’d have them all on the same bike.
            So, yes, largely, leave it alone and sort out the drugs problem: focus on that one thing above everything else. (And that should bring in more sponsorship.)
            There probably can be a bit more money made from TV deals, but it’s just not an issue that concerns me – cycling’s been going for decades upon decades; why trust what Velon et al say?
            Overall, my big concern is that most of those pushing for change are focusing on making more money; not improving the sport.

      • Anonymous Sunday, 9 August 2015, 4:12 pm

        cycling was founded upon greedy capitalism… all the races we love so much today were started because of a desire to make money…

        i don’t think anyone disagrees with your second sentence… however, if you want an organization that is fully dedicated to removing all cheats, it will take…

        a) taking away the testing, etc. from individual countries/races, and have a worldwide testing organization that handles everything from soup to nuts, keeping individual countries out of the process…

        to do a, you need:

        b) money, and lots of it…

        you can’t have it both ways… you can’t say “cycling doesn’t need more money” and then turn around and ask for something that will cost more money…

        • ccotenj Sunday, 9 August 2015, 4:12 pm

          darnit, that was me above…

  • Steppings Friday, 7 August 2015, 11:44 pm

    If these spivs like Tinkoff want to turn Pro cycling into some kind of Razzmatazz money infested circus then go ahead, just don’t assume on my interest/support. There are but many many other aspects of my two wheeled obsession that I can fill my time with. I have been a fan for some 25 years and reckon a few more to come. I like the niche aspect of cycling and Pro Cycle racing. I don’t want all and sundry discussing the weekend racing around the water dispenser come Monday morning. hell, that’s for footy fans isn’t it. However I recognise that the sport doesn’t exist in fairy land and needs money, needs interest and a future. Don’t expect an answer from me, I need time to think.

  • RonDe Saturday, 8 August 2015, 12:53 am

    Cyclists need money to live. Teams need money to provide a healthy and beneficial environment for their riders’ training and race preparation. Races need money to be able to put on the race.

    Money. Without it there would be no cycling.

    Well, there would be J Evans and his mates racing around the block. But who would watch that?

    So when someone turns up and says cycling is nothing to do with money laugh at them for the fools they clearly are. Its the one thing that everyone involved with pro-cycling actually needs.

    • GJok Saturday, 8 August 2015, 10:18 am

      No-one here said nothing – just that you said everything.
      See Gabriele’s and J Evans’s replies to your comment above.

    • Larry T. Saturday, 8 August 2015, 3:16 pm

      There’s a difference between sport and business. Velon and their ilk seem to want more of the latter. Reducing pro cycling to a purely business venture (which reminds me of SKY for some reason) takes the interest out of it for me. I can tune in any of the various MSNBC, Bloomberg, etc. TV channels and watch business any time I want. I doubt watching hedge fund managers at work would yield very high TV ratings.

  • Sam Saturday, 8 August 2015, 8:44 am

    Last night I dreamt of an off-road velodrome – a banked 250m track with dirt and rocks and roots. That is the future of cycling, you heard it here first.

    To be more serious though, I see a lot of scope for track racing to re-gain popularity though. It’s in your face and entertaining and doesn’t have the stigma of doping hanging over it. There are more an more indoor 250 tracks being built world wide – and the success of multi stop events like Revolution in the UK I can see being replicated on a broader scale.

  • Anonymous Saturday, 8 August 2015, 9:58 am

    I’ve personally really enjoyed watching the Transcontinental Race with the live web tracking. Only an amateur race but more in the spirit of the first TdF. A world tour version of something like that would be amazing.

  • CHRW Saturday, 8 August 2015, 12:04 pm

    Was excited to see read the 100+ comments on another cracking inrng article – the comments section has always been one of the best things about the community here.

    Then realised over 30% seem to be very ‘cyclingnews’… If different posters have beef over a subject, can there be a point where moderators encourage them to take it off-site?

    There’s nothing more off-putting to new members of the community who want to ask questions / make comments than personality based flaming. Ocer the last four years I’ve asked a fair few dumb questions on here and always received polite, patient and interesting responses. Please can we keep it that way.

  • 118-118 Saturday, 8 August 2015, 12:24 pm

    Was it Mother Teresa who said “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.”?

    • TheDude Saturday, 8 August 2015, 4:32 pm

      I’ve got a nose. Is that unique. ;-0

  • J Evans Saturday, 8 August 2015, 12:53 pm

    It’s a question of keeping your comments to being ‘about cycling’.
    I’ll freely admit that I have posted too many comments above, but – as I’ve pointed out – they are all about cycling, except the ones responding to personal comments about me (with RonDe making comments almost exclusively about me, I fear he may be starting his own cult). And just how many of those personal comments are there? And what is the point of these?
    Take away my responses to these – which I probably shouldn’t have bothered making – and the discussion with Special Eyes (which I think is a fair enough thing to do – and we managed to disagree entirely, without resorting to insults) and I’ve made a handful of comments.
    Personally, I can disagree with someone, without taking umbrage. There seem to be many on here who are offended by the expression of an opinion. This might be done stridently – and that might be too stridently in the opinion of some, but I just don’t buy it when people are complaining about someone’s ‘tone’. These people seem to be a lot more upset by the actual opinion stated – because it goes against their world view.
    Some people are so convinced by their own ideals – or those that society has fed to them – that they are ‘offended’ when these are challenged. But if you’re offended; that’s your fault – it’s your reaction.
    I think the reason some have been so enraged here by what I’ve said is because the idea that money is not the most important thing in the world is something that massively clashes with what society has told us is absolute fact. (Same goes for my opinions on ‘patriotism’.)
    The idea that our society perhaps shouldn’t revolve around money is highly unpalatable to some, because then they would have to accept the idea that we might be living our lives based on all the wrong ideals.
    It’s notable that my original comment mostly talked about what could be done to change races – not one single response to that part of it. (An awful lot about money, as ever.)
    An intelligent debate is one where people can state their opinions and others can disagree without flouncing off, making personal comments or despairingly making a leap for what they suppose is the moral high ground.
    There are many on here who manage that, but many who don’t. From now on, I’ll be trying to only discuss things with the former. The latter can add their critiques below; I won’t be reading.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 8 August 2015, 1:37 pm

      Maybe it helps, if I tell you how I experience your comments: I never really answer to your comments and that although I agree with some of your thoughts. The reason I don’t get into any discussion is the tone of your comments. I understand what you mean: You add “In my opinion… ” to your comment and then feel you don’t have to be anymore considerate of other people feelings or opinions, because you already implicated that you know others may think differently. But it isn’t working this way. A few days ago I was reading a comment you made and it made me stop reading any more comments on that day. I remember thinking “this is so depressing”. You were stating your opinion with such crushing certainty, with a sense of being alone on the right path and everybody else is just too stupid to see this, that all joy of taking part in the discussion was dying in me immediately. And this happened, although I was totally agreeing with what you said! So the tone is important. With it we show others we appreciate their contributions, that we are willing to look at it from their point of view, we invite others to say their piece and we show them respect (unless of course someone in truth doesn’t want any contributions and just wants to state the own opinion, because this is the only right one anway). I think you often have very good points and views, but I also often wish, you could say them instead of shouting them.

      • J Evans Saturday, 8 August 2015, 2:07 pm

        Fair points, I’ll take them on board (darn it, I broke my own rule about not reading – although not really, as your comment doesn’t count as one of the ‘latter’).

    • Anonymouse Saturday, 8 August 2015, 2:00 pm

      Seems to me that more than a few people find your tone off-putting. Of course, whether this bothers you or not is up to you.

  • Tovarishch Saturday, 8 August 2015, 1:20 pm

    I like the idea of a World Champioship of one day races but make it even more interesting by limiting teams to 4 riders and allowing up to 2 to be substituted during the race. On the race of it crazy but it would really challenge the DS’s and possibly make the race more interesting from the start.

  • Anonymous Saturday, 8 August 2015, 1:38 pm

    Isn’t it funny how for some it’s all about money, money, money but I would bet every pro rider today began at grass roots where organising a race costs chicken feed in reality, more so than the pre Elf n safety days I grant you but there is zero money in the grass roots of road racing and yet it is the main feed of future careers. Funny how this exists and not only in cycling.

    • Anonymouse Saturday, 8 August 2015, 2:03 pm

      Those same people who start off riding for fun and no money do it dreaming of glory and big cheques. Tell the pro peloton they have to ride for free and see how many take the start line.

      • gabriele Saturday, 8 August 2015, 2:28 pm

        Ride pro for free? Various actually do.
        Not in WT, since rules have been set – precisely – to avoid that going on. And it happened in relatively recent times, imagine that. But in “pro” ranks, generally speaking (Pro Conti)? Quite a significant number. Not to speak of women cycling.
        “Big cheques”? Most of pros, and I’m including WT now, receive a wage which is frankly low, especially if you consider that the perspective is one of a 12-years or so highly insecure career – when you’re lucky.
        Feel assured, most pro riders perfectly know they won’t ever gain big cheques pedalling, and you often get undoubtedly aware of that around your twenties (or before).
        Most riders coming from a cycling-permeated context (and, for example, in Italy it has become the most common thing: cyclists are sons of former cyclists, or DSs, or relatives, or their family is crazy about cycling… not much recruiting from the “general population”), well, they know from scratch that they won’t ever earn big money. That’s why more and more of them are taking their degree, keeping up a parallel job and the likes.
        It’s incredibly funny how people putting the focus on money believe they’re more *realistic* than those who acknowledge the existence of other factors, but at the end of the day those *pragmatic* guys look like they don’t really know how the sport actually works on a daily base.

      • Anonymous Sunday, 9 August 2015, 12:01 am

        Re Anonymouse above, that’s not what I was saying!

  • Ride On Saturday, 8 August 2015, 2:08 pm

    An interesting comparison might be to two other highly participated in but lowly watched sports would be golf and tennis. They have ‘majors’ events that the top players show up to and smaller events as well.

    I think the reason the players show up to the smaller events in those sports is , one they need them to earn a pay check but two because it is the best way to make you better.

    Cycling is one of a few sports where you don’t really need to practice against your competition to get better. You can show up for the one ‘grand’ event and be good. Most other sports you can not do that. Running is probably the only other one I can think of.

    The sponsorship model and event owner model lends itself to this as well. Riders do not make a living from competing in and doing well in an event like in tennis and golf . They have a contract from a sponsor who typically only also only cares about the tour.

    Riders do not need to participate to get better. Riders do not need to participate to get paid. The incentives are set up to do just what they are doing.

    • gabriele Saturday, 8 August 2015, 3:22 pm

      Most cyclists *do* need to participate to get better.
      You won’t always be there to win or at your 100%, that’s true, but many times same goes for tennis. Clearly, you can win anyway without being in your best shape.

      Besides, we shouldn’t be that GT-focused. When one-day races are concerned, previous racing is a “must”. And without holding yourself back.

      GT-wise, well, Armstrong was sort of the big exception – for specific reasons, too – but, yeah, he had a huge influence on training beliefs in the sport; and what we saw from Nibali in the last two years may strengthen these ideas. Still, the training strategy that looked so good in 2014 hasn’t maybe proven itself that appropriate this year.
      The best GT rider of the last decade, after all, used to race, and try to win, a good deal of “lesser” races. Maybe Quintana and Froome don’t race that much, in sheer terms of days, but they show themselves on the road to win in other occasions, too (note that Nibali raced as much as Quintana and more than Froome, but I don’t consider him because he went to the races just to train – exclusively).
      And what about Valverde, just to stick to this year’s TdF top five?
      Speaking of him, if you give a look to the Classics, we’ll see that a good number of winning riders from the TdF were in the top ten there, too, Purito, Van Avermaet, Gallopin, Vuillermoz, Bardet…

      On the other hand, we can see that when a rider can’t race, he suffers some sort of setback, be it the long periods without racing after you’ve been sanctioned, or losing a minor race you had scheduled in your programme becaue of health issues.

  • paddydunne Saturday, 8 August 2015, 10:38 pm

    I’m not sure what Desgranges would do, but i do know what LaPize would do at a time like this!……

  • ODB Saturday, 8 August 2015, 10:45 pm

    As no one else has said it someone may as well say it – the problem isn’t too much doping, it’s not enough doping.

    The dirty little secret of modern cycling is that cleaner racing is duller racing – no long range attacks, no miracle recoveries to boost tv audiences, no heroes racing all year, just riders skipping half the season and grand tours reduced to slow motion death grinds with riders waiting for the last 700 meters to attack because that’s all they can manage.

    If the sport was run like other sport businesses then it would have followed the model of tennis and made very certain it didn’t ever catch anyone to make sure that there was no bad news to scare off the sponsors and to make sure that the top stars could prepare how they needed to in order to put on a great show for the public every time they stepped on court. Then we would have a all guns blazing season, top riders racing more and all out attacks every day on the grand tour stages.

    Sure, it would annoy the in depth fans who know what’s going on but really, that’s not what makes the money in sport – just go on youtube and watch a few Pantani videos then watch Froome and ask yourself which would get more casual tv watchers hooked on cycling…

    If there had been an Ecclestone in charge of cycling in the 80s it’s easy to see this route being taken, instead of keeping a few L’Equipe hacks happy with endless droning on and on and on about the fight for clean cycling. One big, strong, boss, putting pressure on teams to not go to far, keeping everything in the unwritten boundaries. No messing about with independent experts, just a quiet word around the back of a team bus making it very clear that it’s time a team manager ‘left’ the sport and a star rider’s ‘knee injury’ required him to retire. And of course the occasional sacrifice to ensure that the sport looks clean and the sponsors can pat themselves on the back for being part of a sport which does bust people sometimes.

    I’m, of course, not entirely serious, but it is unarguable that cycling would be financially much stronger if it didn’t spend its whole time talking about doping – but it’s far too late to do anything about that now.

    • gabriele Saturday, 8 August 2015, 11:47 pm

      I don’t know if this was one of the tongue-in-cheek parts, but I can’t agree at all with what follows:

      “The dirty little secret of modern cycling is that cleaner racing is duller racing – no long range attacks, no miracle recoveries to boost tv audiences, no heroes racing all year, just riders skipping half the season and grand tours reduced to slow motion death grinds with riders waiting for the last 700 meters to attack because that’s all they can manage”.

      High level doping wasn’t just available during many eras of cycling where you had a lot of long-range attacks and miracle recoveries after a bad stage.
      Same goes for heroes racing all year.

      Quite on the contrary, the Armstrong era, which we can undoubtedly place among the worst in terms of doping, was horribly dull. It’s when we’ve started to consider “a long-range attack” some sort of acceleration 5-6 kms from the finish line after a good uphill sprint train had done its work. And… well, top riders didn’t exactly shine for their all-year-long competitiveness.

      Doping went on rampant, but maybe it wasn’t anymore the Land Of Do As You Please for some specific big names. We had some Tour with spectacular long-range attacks and miracle recoveries, indeed, like 2006 or 2011, but we also had extremely dull Tours like 2008 or 2010. Same goes for the Giro, even if the Italian race generally tends to be much fun.

      I could go on with lots of example, but truth is simply that doping is not very relevant in determining the aspects you name (there are also technical and physiological reasons for that, but they would be quite boring to explain in details, and the examples are clear enough, I think).
      It can change something in that sense, but the *natural* characteristics of those who happen to be the top riders in a given moment, and their personal attitude, are way more decisive. DSs “culture” has a big importance, too, and courses play a not-so-secundary part.

      • Larry T. Sunday, 9 August 2015, 2:36 am

        +1 Holding F1 up as an example to be followed would lend one to think you’re not paying attention to the current woes there. Ecclestone’s got more money than gawd, but when teams can’t complete a season due to financial concerns, that’s not an example to emulate. Not to mention it’s dull, dull, dull.

  • IanPa Sunday, 9 August 2015, 8:49 am

    Many issues, many comments, many thoughts – pretty much like every other sporting discussion, Is there a single answer – no, we know the sport needs more exposure just for sustainability, and we know that teams need more assistance to again be more sustainable. The ‘new’, ‘boring’ races do bring elements to the sport that we don’t normally see – come and try riding the crosswinds in Dubai and Qatar – the riders know how hard these races are – boring to fans, anything but to the riders. Strade Bianchi – something that was screaming as missing from the calendar. I think race organisers want to bring new elements to the sport, but the UCI doesn’t help by granting a low ranking and therefore not obliging the major teams to compete.

    On the team and identity and supporting of teams, here it gets clouded.. I’m from the UK, bought up in Birmingham, I support Birmingham City (easy on the comments!), they play in Blue and White and I don’t care who the sponsor is, I support Leicester Rugby, they play in Green and again I don’t care who the sponsor is, I watch F1 and look for Mclaren, again I dont care who the sponsor is. My point being, I’m identifying with a team and colours, not the sponsor or the players. You can take my logic to pretty much every sport – bar cycling. Off course if you have a favorite player you will look for their results – but you would not support their team.

    The sponsors of these teams want, local, national, international press coverage (depends on their priorities), they want people to buy replica kits, so their name is out in the world, they want to show internally some commitment to sport, community etc.

    To bring it all together – you need races that are guaranteed the same level of exposure across the season, regardless of length or duration (this years Clasica San Sebastian coverage, should not be allowed to happen). You need the same protagonists across the season too, whether they are on form or not.

    Criticize the other sports at your peril – Bernie runs a tight ship at F1 – but you do get consistent product across the year, you do get team identity. Premier League soccer – the same, you know what your getting when you turn on the TV. NFL in the States – any of the soccer leagues around the world.

    So the UCI, Velon whoever for me, its simple…. choose your calendar – buy all the race rights, supply the TV, technology etc – and promote one single product, ignore ASO and RCS, after all they are only promoters and are not interested in the sport.

  • BC Sunday, 9 August 2015, 8:52 am

    Anybody who seriously proposes that doped athletes produce a more exciting spectacle than clean athletes needs to observe the evident changes. Riding up mountains in the big ring all day whilst appearing emotionless is not exciting and never has nor will be.

    From the many proposals it seems clear that the only possible way to increase the size of the present cake, if that is possible, is via media rights. How that can be attempted with a dysfunctional race programme and various interests being protected by groups, not just ASO, is the question. Everyone, understandably, has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo for their individual interests, and there is no obvious sign that this will change anytime soon. The governing body has shown itself to be inept and clueless in this respect as witnessed by its recent money losing escapades outside Europe.

    Finally I would like add too the requests made by several posters that posts attacking the views of others, are not in keeping with the generally well informed debate which is to be found on our hosts site. Disagree, of course, but remember that civility always improves the quality and depth of discussion.

    • Motes and Beams Sunday, 9 August 2015, 11:05 pm

      “Disagree, of course, but remember that civility always improves the quality and depth of discussion.”

      “The governing body has shown itself to be inept and clueless in this respect as witnessed by its recent money losing escapades outside Europe.”

      I adore the way so many keyboard warriors always want peace, love, respect and harmony on-site but are happy to dump shitloads of bricks on those they presume to be happily and safely off-site.
      Brave keyboard warriors!

      • BC Monday, 10 August 2015, 10:13 am

        M&B. Your completely off topic contribution illustrates the point I was making extremely well. I have read the sentiments of your final paragraph too many times before in other places to be impressed.

        • Anonymous Monday, 10 August 2015, 12:25 pm

          +1 a pointless contribution from m and b.

  • Blake Monday, 10 August 2015, 5:25 am

    Personally, what makes a race exciting for me, is how badly the top riders want to win it. The Monuments, TDF, and World Championships are the top races in this regard. With their history, it’s difficult for me to imagine how they could be superseded. There are only so many top racers for each type of terrain, and only so many days a year they can be in top form. I think, for the sport to grow, fans in countries that are not traditionally followers of cycling will have to be engaged. The best way to do that is not to have races in their countries, but to develop racers in their countries. Nothing garners the interest of a nation like seeing a countryman succeed at the highest level.