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Enjoy Milan-Sanremo? In France only 20,000 people watched the race according to audience measurement data, compared to over one million one year ago. This could be a problem for the sport as what happens in France today risks happening in other countries too.

To explain more, US company Discovery has bought the rights to RCS’s portfolio of races like Milan-Sanremo, the Giro and more for this year and beyond. It has Discovery+ which is an online streaming platform and plans to launch this in Europe soon, where it’ll be similar Eurosport Player and GCN, the two twin subscription services part of Discovery’s media empire only instead of general sport and cycling, it’ll offer a range of channels but Eurosport’s portfolio of sport, including cycling, will be an asset. So far so good only until now Eurosport in France, like many other countries, meant Eurosport 1, a channel often available via cable or satellite packages for which people subscribe; or free to air in Germany. But Milan-Sanremo wasn’t shown on this channel in France and many Giro stages won’t be either. Instead as part of the push for Discovery+, the plan is to get people to subscribe online for Eurosport Player or GCN, a subscription on top of Eurosport’s TV service that many pay for. Now you might be thinking “no problem, I’m a Player/GCN subscriber” but the problem is you’re a niche fan – it’s why you’re reading a cycling blog now – and means that just 20,000 subscribers watched Sanremo last Saturday when a million had watched it on free-to-air L’Equipe TV last year, it’s this mass audience at stake. RCS might be earning more in rights income, presumably, but at the risk of broadcasting to the already converted rather than the mass market which is what sponsors like, say, Jumbo, Segafredo or Hansgrohe want so there’s a change to the sport’s market equilibrium. It’s not an urgent story because frankly the French market is saturated by the Tour de France coverage but one to watch as if more races go this way – and Discovery has deep pockets – then a part of cycling’s calendar risks vanishing from the public consciousness in large, established markets. You’ll still be able to watch the races, but colleagues, friends, neighbours and the general mass market on which pro cycling’s model is based may not notice.

Embed from Getty Images

One thing the mass audience may wonder about is Chris Froome’s form as he’s been spotted sipping the dreaded Cola de Peloton at the Volta a Catalunya. Everyone can see things are hard right now and several pieces online are asking if he can recover some form of old. Only the Tour de France counts. Catalunya today, Romandie tomorrow or even the Dauphiné in June are still training and just returning to the Tour de France aiming for a stage and top-10 would be solid. But it’s difficult because if there’s little progress neither he nor the team will want to say it out loud for now. So all sides have to talk of patience and progress, while hoping for the best.

Another rider hoping for stage race success has been Bob Jungels who switched to Ag2r Citroën over the winter and talked about targetting stage races instead of the classics, only he finished 27th in Paris-Nice and is 107th in the Volta a Catalunya at the moment. Another “leaves Quickstep, struggles” story? Maybe but word from Luxembourg newspaper Wort says he’s suffering with back problems so a real injury rather than a dip.

It’s Liar’s Week. Surely there’s no more deceitful slot on the calendar of pro cycling than this week. In Italy there’s the Settimana Coppi e Bartali, literally the Coppi and Bartali Week only it’s not a week, just five days. On Friday we’ve got the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, named after the E3 express road which was renamed the E17 many years ago. On Sunday we’ve got Gent-Wevelgem which doesn’t start in Gent but Ieper (Ypres) instead. It’s more charming than outrageous and many races have quirks like this, this week seems to lump several together. At least the two “Three Days of De Panne” one day races have been rebranded.

Talking of a race that doesn’t start where it pretends to, the question for Paris-Roubaix is not where it starts but whether it starts.The normally well-connected Le Parisien newspaper says it’ll be postponed, the even better-connected L’Equipe says organisers ASO are still trying to explore ways to ensure the races happen, particularly to ban people from gathering by the road. It’s a complicated political and administrative matrix with the prefet, a civil servant appointed by central government to oversee the region, sounding like he wants to say non to the race but some local politicians are calling for the race to happen and there will be discussions between the health ministry, the sports ministry and so on. A postponement to October sounds possible but it’s just not the same. While racing happens just over the border in Belgium, this is only a handful of pro races – the amateur calendar is scrapped – and crucially in a country with different laws, different case counts, different hospital occupancy rates.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sam G Thursday, 25 March 2021, 2:16 pm

    I wonder if the same thing will happen with MSR and the Discovery+ story as happened with Cricket broadcast rights in the UK. Back in 2005 England won the Ashes and cricket was on a high, being shown free on Channel 4 to the whole public. That year Sky took over the rights and watching became a pay-per-view event from 2006 onwards. This significantly harmed English cricket participation levels as the public could no longer watch the high level sport on mass. 15 years later however cricket is back on Channel 4 for mas viewing.

    Possibly a niche paying audience is commercially attractive in the short term. But mass viewing is a batter long term option. Or it may a cyclical.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 25 March 2021, 3:16 pm

      It’s a common dilemma, go for the big sale to develop the race and bag profits for RCS shareholders or try to grow via a bigger audience, rugby in several countries has had the same thing. One difference here is that RCS could have sold the rights to Discovery/Eurosport without knowing the plans to limit viewing to a small % of the audience, to the premium subscribers so RCS may not have faced the dilemma directly either.

      • CA Thursday, 25 March 2021, 3:35 pm

        “Big Sale” at this point is 20,000 GCN subscribers at $40 per year, $800,000 annual income, versus a slice of the general ad revenue on Eurosport 1 for each of the races that are televised to the general public.

        Plus, the “Big Sale” route means your neighbour will never even accidentally hear about Milan San Remo unless you, the rabid cycling fan, talks their ear off about it!

        Imagine a major international sporting organisation letting this happen. The NFL allowing a private TV company to take full rights and put it 100% on a subscription service that only the biggest fans watch? NEVER. Sports coverage depends on a general individual turning it on, watching for 10 minutes and seeing an ad for Gilette, or Coca-Cola.

        It is a disaster, I think Inrng is playing this down, with respect Inrng.

        • The Inner Ring Thursday, 25 March 2021, 4:04 pm

          We don’t know the contract details so too soon to tell, plus GCN is half price this year and as well as subscriptions they get a lot of user data ahead of the launch of Discovery+

          • CA Thursday, 25 March 2021, 4:23 pm

            GCN is half price, but to my wife, it’s still a waste of money! She’d rather spend her money at Jumbo (if she knew it existed because she can’t see Jumbo riders on TV).

          • Equitable > Equal Friday, 26 March 2021, 3:04 pm

            It’s worth noting that this season, the same organisers are becoming a lot more progressive about licencing footage for highlights online. ASO at least, and probably RCS as well for the Giro, are supporting a geographically distributed set of content creators on youtube now by allowing use of official race footage.
            Taking a look at the revenue online advertisers like Google can pull in vs. traditional media, I think this is probably a central part of their business model in addition to the subscription race pass model. It’s just a shift away from print/tv advertising overall.

        • Sam G Thursday, 25 March 2021, 4:40 pm

          Possibly RCS are being smart and diversifying how they distribute the rights to their events. Italy is their number one region, so keep it on public TV. Other regions may be better monetized through subscription services. Creating this diversity may also promote a bidding match between different providers (public v private, or private v private), if the organisations know the rights wont automatically go to the local pubic broadcaster. Therefore pushing up the license fee as a result.

          • Anonymous Friday, 26 March 2021, 10:52 pm

            RCS being smart would be a first.

        • David Thursday, 25 March 2021, 8:05 pm

          Um (which is, I believe, the preferred Internet speak for you’re wrong) the nfl did exactly this several years ago. First with the nfl network, and now with Thursday night games on amazon prime

          So, y’know, there’s that. Maybe you don’t know as much as you think you do…

          • Scott Friday, 26 March 2021, 1:52 am

            Every week there are multiple NFL games broadcast on the basic networks, and following the league requires essentially no subscription model other than basic cable (which has near-universal penetration in the US). Further, the NFL itself owns the NFL Network, making it somewhat different than selling the rights to another company. I don’t think he’s as wrong as you’re implying, given that the overwhelming majority of people watching NFL games are watching on regular network television.

            Regardless of that discussion, I don’t know how many conclusions about television broadcast rights can be translated from the major team sports like European soccer and American football – it’s an entirely different business model as well as being an order of magnitude smaller in terms of the revenues involved (at least that’s my impression).

        • Anonymous Friday, 26 March 2021, 10:58 am

          I’ll happily pay £40 a year not to have adverts. I’m not too worried about how many other people will watch cycling. We perennially hear about how cycling has a money crisis, etc. Cycling will continue even if the money drops: there will still be teams and still be races. People forget that money is not the aim; sport is.

        • Ronan Friday, 26 March 2021, 1:39 pm

          Don’t forget that both Eurosport player and GCN+ are both ad free platforms, so they’re winning on subscriptions but losing out on advertising dollars. I would guess the question here is what were the viewing numbers for whatever else was aired on Eurosport in France in place of MSR?

        • webbovich Saturday, 27 March 2021, 6:31 am

          Australia is suffering from this process of moving our main sports to pay-per-view. Australian Rules Football and cricket are becoming rarer on free-to-air.
          Often the game you want to watch isn’t being shown, as Murphy would have it.
          A drop in public interest is the symptom of this process, so I hope cycling doesn’t go the same way. The publics goodwill (for allowing racing in their area) could erode quickly if they have no idea about the sport anymore.

  • Paul B Thursday, 25 March 2021, 2:37 pm

    That’s huge difference in number of viewers. I’ve no idea of the economics of 20,000 subscribers paying 20-40 euros each vs advertisement revenues for a million viewers for this, and presumably other events, but would have thought it was a fairly close run thing.

    From the enthusiast’s point of view the GCN/eurosport subscription is a dream – ad-free coverage of every race on demand for £20 is an absolute bargain compared to paying £10 to watch a single game of second tier football.

    • Larry T Friday, 26 March 2021, 11:41 am

      100% agree. I REALLY like not having the interruptions and being able to choose the language.
      I wonder how much of this is available outside of Europe without resorting to VPN’s and the like? When we lived in the USA it seemed each year brought a new and different challenge just to see the Giro. A few years we had a dish on the roof to get RAI International, then it was pirate-streams followed by various VPN’s…nobody not a hardcore Italo-phile would go through all this!

      • Ponebrewed Saturday, 27 March 2021, 8:26 pm

        It’s not too bad honestly. VPN + Eurosport player gets you a long way.

      • JOD Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 4:59 am

        In the US the viewing platform is sold as GCN+, I subscribed for 1 year @ $50 USD not knowing there had been a discount offering in February for $25 USD. The Eurosport feed is broadcast and commentary was in English, I’m unsure if there was an option to select other languages so maybe English is the default or only option for subscribers in the US.

        No VPN configuration was required . . . I guess if you know how to utilize VPN to get the Eurosport Player feed and view in the US you need not subscribe to GCN+.

        • Ponebrewed Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 1:35 am

          That’s what I’ve done for a few years. Of course I use Eurosport player for content beyond cycling so it makes sense compared to GCN+.

  • CA Thursday, 25 March 2021, 3:28 pm

    The bit about the TV rights is a huge issue – and once again it looks like Cycling’s shot itself in the foot.

    Instead of pushing for mainstream TV coverage, we’ve gone full privateers and put races on the most obscure medium possible. Assuming 50% of true “cyclists” subscribe to GCN (50% is already a huge stretch – the number is likely 10-20% at max), the available sponsorship exposure for Jumbo, Ineos, etc is tiny.

    Cycling needs to do everything it can to cater to the general public… or else it will keep losing market share to regular pro sports and then there’s zero chance to get sponsorship dollars in the future.

    • Cycling Nut Thursday, 25 March 2021, 6:18 pm

      Less eyeballs on sponsors names means less pay for riders. It’s that simple….Is this going to be the peak rider salary year for years to come?!

      • RQS Friday, 26 March 2021, 10:21 am

        That’s a very good point. I was focused on how the commercialism of a subscription would naturally dictate tend away from this as a medium.
        Focusing on a reduced and dedicated audience means that new viewing members are rationalised and this limits exposure, making sponsors less likely to put big money forward to keep the teams running. This is all very short sighted.
        Put another way, Kappadi grew a dedicated following when it was televised on Channel 4 in the early nineties. Most people don’t even know this sport exists now, but with dedicated marketing it could’ve gone international.
        Channel 4 did something similar with another sport – it broadcast the Tour de France on British TV for the first time. It’s part of the reason I’m reading this blog right now.
        What drives most sport is accessibility, and denying this will only harm cycling.
        Btw I’m not criticising GCN – their YouTube channel is accessible, the fact they are broadcasting events on a subscription basis is not a barrier to it being shown on TV because in most cases they do not have the exclusive rights, and are basically filling a hole in the market for niche fans that don’t want to pay for multiple subscriptions where Eurosport (or whatever) aren’t able to agree the broadcasting rights.

        • RQS Friday, 26 March 2021, 10:26 am

          I also think that the subscription fee element in the post-COVID-19 era will become far less attractive. People are going to have to tighten belts, and paying costs for random subscriptions is likely going to be something that falls by the wayside – I speak personally on this since my income has been hit by the current pandemic.
          A contraction in the market is very likely for advertising revenues too.

        • Mancuniancandid Sunday, 28 March 2021, 1:52 pm

          It was called kabbadi and yes it was great, I caught it on tv in the 80s/90s, not sure when, as I was 10 ish.

    • plurien Friday, 26 March 2021, 11:30 am

      In the UK we don’t have really any advertisers or sponsors from outside the bicycle business or their mates.
      Our best riders ply their trade abroad, riding mostly for teams with business and consumer brand sponsors in races that are (were) widely televised by state/national broadcasters with advertising breaks to recoup coverage costs.

      We watch our niche sport in whatever way we can. That’s how it’s always been when cycling failed to cut through in the 70s when sentiment and money was so in favour of the car. Even high profile Tour wins and the track programme have not budged it for the mainstream media.

      We don’t have any UCI races, major or minor.

      Go figure.

      • UHJ Friday, 26 March 2021, 2:56 pm

        “We don’t have any UCI races, major or minor.”
        Really? Do you mean this year or in general?
        The UCI calendar names 3. The 2 tours (men/women) may have been cancelled and/or postponed but remember that all UCI member nations run a national championship. It may be minor but this is per se a UCI event.

    • Frood Friday, 26 March 2021, 2:13 pm

      Wholeheartedly agree with CA. These plans are utterly short-termist and flawed. The long term health of the sport at all levels is at stake. As others have said, cycling ought to be learning the lessons of cricket and F1, but they seem to be going for the quick buck instead. Rugby seems determined to go the same way. It’s very sad.

      Free to air coverage is by far the best way to attract new fans and indeed new young riders (seeing a race live is good too but the potential reach is limited). Hiding pro cycling behind a paywall will be enormously limiting in the medium to long term.

    • The GCW / Strictly Amateur Sunday, 28 March 2021, 6:07 am

      That was My 1st obvious consideration: if there was 1 million viewer and now 20,000, -and that becomes a trend, then sponsors are going to become scarce.

  • Andrew C Thursday, 25 March 2021, 5:15 pm

    RCS might make money this way but it can’t be good for the teams. Going behind a paywall must hit the value the teams bring to sponsors.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 25 March 2021, 5:28 pm

      Yes, there’s a second order effect here, the big value for a lot of sponsors is reaching households. Now ride the Giro and many brands will in Italy and that’s valuable. But if the foreign/international audience starts to shrink that’ll be a concern. Put simply teams can’t say to sponsors “we reach X million eyeballs a year” as it’ll be less than X which is less valuable. But it’s more complicated than that, both on the audience, the metrics and the value.

      • Lukyluk Thursday, 25 March 2021, 11:59 pm

        I expect there might be an issue with building a decent race at all. No idea how easy it is for Vegni to find candidate cities for stage starts/finishes on the Giro, but it might be more complicated if the only people who get to watch the race are the hardcore cycling fans with subscription, most of whom don’t care about tourism at all.

  • CA Thursday, 25 March 2021, 5:21 pm

    Froome dropped from the peloton today? How’s that possible.

    • Gelato4bahamontes Thursday, 25 March 2021, 7:23 pm

      He’s been dropped every day so far and shipped time on the tt. Looks like a big ask to turn this round in 3 months.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 25 March 2021, 7:32 pm

      Similar to the Vuelta last year and the UAE Tour this year. There’s not much more to go on, how much difference is there between the left vs right leg, is there still pain riding etc, has he been trying at his max. Instead the comments from him and the team are vague so nobody else knows and we’ll see what happens this summer.

      • CA Thursday, 25 March 2021, 8:06 pm

        You feel bad for him, because obviously he is on the road to recovery, but “recovery” means different things to different people. Similar to Joseba Beloki, in your 30’s it is nearly impossible to return back to TdF winning/challenging form. Even if he is at 99% of his old form, that 1% is the difference to sitting in a group of favourites or being popped from the group on the second to last climb of the day.

        It’s a brutal sign that he fell off the peloton so far from the finish. If he was anywhere close to where he should be, sitting in the group should be the basic requirement. He should work for Michael Woods this summer, he isn’t winning the TdF in 2021. Hope he can keep building and maybe get to a chance in 2-3 years (note: he already is 35, so…).

        • drea Friday, 26 March 2021, 10:22 am

          Froome is missing 20% of performance in the terms of climbing power what we have seen in Volta a Catalunya so it’s very unlikely he will be anywhere near competitive anytime soon.

      • Matthew Thursday, 25 March 2021, 11:20 pm

        Froome didn’t look at all smooth on his recent youtube video ‘Training On Tenerife’. His pedalling looked laboured whilst climbing and although he may have never had an enviable ‘Souplesse’ pedalling style, to my untrained eye he looked a long way from being competitive. He actually admits he still has a lot of work to do

        • jc Thursday, 25 March 2021, 11:59 pm

          I thought he didnt look right on the bike today, he was in the front group at one point and seemed to be struggling to turn the pedals smoothly. I know he has always had a rather “unique” riding style but this looked wrong. Given the extent of his injuries (there were worries the injuries were so serious it could have been a fatal accident let alone any thought of riding a bike again) it has always seemed a bit of a stretch to imagine he could compete at the highest level again, which is a shame. The Giro winning ride was one of those sporting days that stick in the memory.

      • Richard S Friday, 26 March 2021, 9:23 am

        If there is pain when riding, beyond the pain we all experience when giving it the beans, then I’d suggest cycling is the wrong career choice right now.

    • Cycling Nut Thursday, 25 March 2021, 7:56 pm

      Froome has not improved in 6 months. He will not improve much more in 3 months. He is done. Not even another “legal” overdosing on salbutamol will help now.

      • Gelato4bahamontes Friday, 26 March 2021, 8:16 pm

        Lost another 11 minutes today Friday

    • Anonymous Thursday, 25 March 2021, 8:32 pm

      Valverde has outlived Froome, it would seem.

  • Anonymous Thursday, 25 March 2021, 9:02 pm

    Inrng’s New Years resolution was clearly ‘engage more with my readers’, fantastic to see the author of such a well renowned blog engage in conversation ‘below the line’ as it were, chapeau.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 25 March 2021, 9:48 pm

      Hmm, it’s not new for 2021 round here, always tried to be the case, time permitting.

      • webbovich Saturday, 27 March 2021, 6:39 am

        Tried and succeeded, for at least 10 years.
        Chapeau

  • J Evans Thursday, 25 March 2021, 10:27 pm

    ISN must have money to literally throw away. 5.5M Euros on a rider (however successful in the past) who was obviously very unlikely to recover from his injuries – if it hasn’t happened yet, is it really like to happen now?

    I’m happy for Paris-Roubaix to happen in October, as long as it happens. We might even have a better chance of rain (and there are plenty of cobbles in spring).

    • Eskerrik Asko Friday, 26 March 2021, 7:06 am

      Israel Start-Up Nation is – among other things – a kind of vanity project for its owners and there is nothing – apart from actually winning the Tour – that compares to having a multiple Tour winner in your team. That alone can be worth the price.
      I seriously don’t think the owners – whom I believe without a shred of evidence but also without an ounce of doubt to have made the decision without listening too closely to what the GM and the DSs would rather have done with 5.5 M€ – were betting on Froome coming back as a Grand Tour GC podium candidate. His value for the owners lies elsewhere, in the cachet Froome possesses regardless of the level of his performance this or the following season.
      ISN could have paid millions to someone – not that I can immediately think of anyone who would’ve been available and prepared to risk riding in a relatively weak team – who would have reasonably good chances of giving them race victories and in general the kind of performances that result in so and so many minutes TV time or inches and pages of newspaper and online visibility, but would that rider have given them the same publicity outside the hardcore cycling fans and dedicated spectators of the sport?
      And I don’t think we should forget that Froome is one of the few riders who wouldn’t elicit the question of “Who?!” from the bigwigs, captains of industry and politicians who don’t know much beyond the headlines they’ve seen in July and that even those with big egoes can be ever so lightly thrilled by an opportunity to hobnob with such a famous sportsman. The ability to provide such “moments money can’t buy” can easily be worth the 5.5 M€ (and to actually pay back in full, in one way or another).

      • The Inner Ring Friday, 26 March 2021, 9:17 am

        Good points and the last part is worth noting especially, salary isn’t just for winning today but Froome can be invited in front of other sponsors and people the team’s owners want to impress to give after dinner talks etc, meet staff and there’s a lucrative market for this. It won’t cover all the salary but part-explains why athletes of all kinds might see their performances start to wane but their earning power can remain persistently high.

      • J Evans Friday, 26 March 2021, 10:10 am

        I’ve no doubt you’re right – for now – but Froome has signed for many years (five?). How long will it be before everyone has lost interest in the will-he-won’t-he return to fitness story? This season, it might still fill column inches, but next? Once it’s certain that he’s no longer a contender, the story becomes ‘formerly great rider is mediocre now’. I’m not sure anyone’s going to be interested in that. Even if he manages to become a grand tour stage hunter, I can’t see the general public beyond cycling fans caring much about that.

        Also, the point of this team is presumably to promote Israel? I’d have thought most people’s views were unlikely to be changed by a cycling team.

        • Davesta Friday, 26 March 2021, 1:48 pm

          The ‘formerly great rider is mediocre now’ storyline seems to be persisting well for Mark Cavendish. It’s been 3 years since he won and he’s still making the headlines in the cycling press at least…ISN will get a good few years of Froome storylines, no doubt…

          • J Evans Friday, 26 March 2021, 2:14 pm

            True, but he must be costing a fraction of Froome’s 5.5M Euros.

        • KevinR Friday, 26 March 2021, 2:47 pm

          Hmm. You seem to have ignored all the well made and correct points above your comment. Current athletic performance is not a barrier to continuing to earn big bucks for a sportsman so well known worldwide).

    • DJW Friday, 26 March 2021, 11:57 am

      Do we know whether he’s really on €5,5M. Maybe he was at Sky/Ineos but surely there’s a basic and variable (performance) element. In a conventional salary pay for performance is limited to a certain % in many countries, but we must assume that Froome is a contractor and not an employee, and thus they could make the benefits as they wanted. Say €1M base and €4k per UIC point = €5M for 1000 UIC points. ISN and thier sponsor must have some protection against failure.

      • J Evans Friday, 26 March 2021, 12:56 pm

        Who knows? DSM are willing to pay Bardet 2M Euros a year, and what’s he going to win them – maybe the odd GT stage?

        • Anonymous Friday, 26 March 2021, 12:57 pm

          Also, ISN would have to pay Froome a lot just to get him to sign – and I doubt he’s daft enough to have made much of that performance-related.

          • Tim Higgins Saturday, 27 March 2021, 9:55 am

            Are DSM actually paying the bill for Bardet and are ISN actually paying for Chris Froome??
            Cav’s salary is apparently being paid for by Specialized so costing DQS nothing but they get all the hype of giving “Our Cav” a fairy tale final couple of years in the pro peloton. How many other riders are on a similar situation/deal?…….

          • DaveRides Sunday, 28 March 2021, 11:55 am

            ISN (i.e. Sylvan Adams) is definitely paying for Froome. The team doesn’t really have any other major sponsors who could be doing it instead.

            I wouldn’t be surprised if DQS were actually paying at least a fair chunk of Cav’s salary. He might not be in the winning game any more, but he’s the perfect sort of rider for a team like DQS which is sponsored mostly by mid-sized companies that rely on B2B sales.

  • Ecky Thump Thursday, 25 March 2021, 11:08 pm

    Perhaps the more pertinent question rather than can cycling survive subscription viewing would be can subscription viewing survive illegal / free streaming?

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 26 March 2021, 9:20 am

      That’s surely very niche? You have to really want to watch a race, to watch it online, then to find the right site, to risk the malware attempts and all for a 600 x 600 pixel box. Cycling’s different to things like boxing with pay-per-view, until now the model has been trying to make it open to all with race sponsors – think Saxo Bank today – and teams probably gaining marginally if more people watch online by any means.

    • d. nixon Friday, 26 March 2021, 10:12 am

      The ability to watch the races later that evening rather then just a live broadcast, freeing me up to do other things during the day, is worth the £20 subscription.

      It looks like plenty of people are prepared to pay for subscription services for Netflix, Disney+, Amazon etc. when I’m sure it’s possible to find all that content on the web for free.

      • Ecky Thump Friday, 26 March 2021, 1:13 pm

        I agree that cycling subscription is cheap to access online at present but do not under estimate the value lost to sports and sponsors through illegal streaming. A 2019 report stated the English Premier League clubs lost £1m of sponsorship value per game, whilst a US study in 2017 estimated that Netflix, Amazon etc would lose over $50 billion revenues between 2016 – 2022 from illegal streaming.
        Free sports streaming sites allow instant and easy access to multiple sports, including cycling.
        I’m of a mind that thinks, from a public health perspective, all sports should be free-to-air anyway.
        Subscription is denying those most needy the ability to watch sport and broaden their horizons.
        Watching will encourage doing, and the physical / mental health gains (and cost to society of poor health) would no doubt far outweigh the revenue gained by private companies.
        To me, sports subscription is just another example of the private sector profiting and passing a cost on to the public sector.

        • d. nixon Friday, 26 March 2021, 4:34 pm

          I agree completely, I would much rather the races were available to everyone for free (partly because I resent paying to listen to Carlton Kirby’s stream of ear piss) but I think that Discovery, Amazon and Netflix will continue to survive despite the loss in potential income from illegal streaming. Sufficient people will continue to pay for the services because it is convenient or they consider it immoral to use an illegal streaming service that they will make a profit despite the potential loss.

          I think cycling has a lot more to offer than just the sporting element. In the rare occasion that I watch any other sport I’m struck by how much the scenery and local interest that the deluxe-street-view that is cycling also adds to the enjoyment.

          • Ron Friday, 26 March 2021, 6:20 pm

            Phew, Carlton Kirby is something else. I *think* he means well, but yeah, I can’t listen to that guy at all. Guy needs to chill the heck out.

        • TimW Sunday, 28 March 2021, 1:35 pm

          The comparison with football doesn’t really wash because we’re talking a completely different order of cost magnitude to watch an equivalent amount of sport.

          As mentioned, with Eurosport player/gcn you can get ad free access live and on demand for the year for £20 – it wasn’t long ago that football was trying to charge £10 for a single match.

          If cycling was so expensive then sure, plenty would be pirating access.

          I can’t see it ever getting that way as very few cycling fans show anything like the devotion that seems the norm among football fans.

  • Othersteve Thursday, 25 March 2021, 11:54 pm

    I won’t speak for any country other than my own the US.
    I much appreciate the opportunity to purchase add free coverage of many of the best
    ASO or RCS races on HD streamed at my leisure. Not having to be at the mercy of NBC, CBS or ?
    Having to watch bad announcers and ads and during race programing that only detracts from the racing. Capitalism at work ?

  • jc Friday, 26 March 2021, 12:10 am

    I wonder if a bigger issue might be if the rights to races fragment over various platforms. In the recent past in Europe most (practically all) races have been on Eurosport. I would imagine it has been one of their biggest selling points, many of the sports there really only have niche interest (canoeing, squash or whatever). I know there has been arguments with Flanders Classics this year over coverage but that seems to be resolved. What would happen if say Sky looked at the rights for say RCS and proceed to show the races in places where they are strong such as Italy and Germany and as a result Eurosport where blocked in those countries, you might need two subscriptions to watch the Giro & the Tour?

    • Eskerrik Asko Friday, 26 March 2021, 7:37 am

      Eurosport can be different things in different European countries, the content and the channel it is shown isn’t the same everywhere. The sport that gives Eurosport the biggest perecentage of subscribers or the most signifiant share of viewers in different countries varies as well, but I don’t think it is cycling anywhere. (Snooker or tennis, probably – and quite possibly even winter sports come before cycling…)
      I am fortunate enough to have Eurosport 1 as a part of basic cable TV package. I get to see all three GTs and many of the smaller stage races and the classics – but far from all: many (and I’d say increasingly many) are shown on Eurosport 2. But although I am without doubt a cycling fan I can’t be bothered to subscribe Eurosport 2; there is only so much time to actually watch the races…
      It is my impression that those cycling fans who purchase Eurosport Player or Global Cycling Network in order to view the races are mainly those for whom the alternative would be to subscribe to Eurosport separately. It is not a growing segment – unless the situation changes drastically and the major races can no longer be seen on Eurosport. But even then, there’s an upper limit – and as pointed out, it can be shockingly low.
      Since it is Eurosport Nordic I watch I cannot comment on the advertising Eurosport attracts in other markets, but here it consists almost 100% of online casinos. I am of course just getting and I’m possibly too prejudiced, but I cannot imagine that the advertisers pay too much for their spots. I must confess I have wondered about the business model; it doesn’t make sense unless Eurosport pays next to nothing for the rights…

      • DaveRides Sunday, 28 March 2021, 12:35 am

        “I must confess I have wondered about the business model; it doesn’t make sense unless Eurosport pays next to nothing for the rights…”

        Apart from the occasional big ticket items* this is indeed how it works. They pick up unsold Subscription TV/Streaming (as opposed to Free To Air) rights for peanuts, and then spend minimal money on the production. Most races they just take the world feed and add commentators’ audio over the top from a sound booth in a nondescript office.

        * Eurosport was actually the promotor which ran the previous incarnation of the World Touring Car Championship!

        • JOD Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 5:15 am

          However both Eurosport and GCN are owned by Discovery. I’m guessing that since Eurosport has rights to show certain races across different countries in Europe, it was a no-brainer for Discovery to extend those rights to GCN+ which they’ve made available to subscribers outside of Europe. In the US, I was never able to watch Eurosport coverage before GCN+ made it available to subscribers outside Europe. Of course if you’re handy with VPN I realize other viewers have been successful watching Eurosport Player from the US.

  • DJW Friday, 26 March 2021, 7:15 am

    A sport builds it strength from participation and enthusiasm at the grassroots. As many here have said, taking cycling behind a paywall might provide short-term revenue but at the extent of long-term popularity. A good short-term decision for Discovery is not a good long-term solution for cycling – or the specific events. Already when I cycle here (Lorraine) most cyclists I see are my age, and many decades too old to be future Tour or classics challengers!

    For Froome, I would like to see progress and a brief return to – if not glory days – at least a semblence of competivity. I felt the same for Merckx at his C&A nadir. When it’s gone it’s gone.

    • oldDAVE Saturday, 27 March 2021, 8:35 am

      yeah, I’m the same.

      I like Froome and is such a shame to see it end like this but absolutely cannot see it being anything other than over.

      I think the one good this for him at least is he took the money at the exact right moment, so he ends up with a healthy recovery pay check, Israel get the media coverage bump, Ineos save themselves a load of cash – it’s a win win win for all three.

      But I’d have liked to see the end of his career properly, to see whether he really was on the wane toward the end and would have been beaten by Bernal/Pog or whether he would have confirmed his greatest and nabbed the fifth Tour?

      I personally feel like he is going to be largely forgotten amongst the grand names of the sport but deserves more praise for his talent, tenacity and achievements, as he gave the defining performance of the last GC racer generation during the Giro he won, plus was a part of multiple brilliant Vuelta editions aside from the 4xTDFS – and in all likelihood, he should/could have beaten Wiggins in 2012 so possibly might already have the fifth.

      But I understand the feeling he was surfing the Sky wave and the team was the overriding reason for his wins – even though I disagree for the most part – it would have been nice to either put that feeling to bed or for fans like me to realise there was some truth in it. Although I bet that would never have been the case anyway! Just a shame not to see him ride into the sunset as such a decorated Champion might have been able to if things were different.

      • hoh Sunday, 28 March 2021, 1:05 pm

        That’s a rather pessimistic view on Froome’s legacy. Have a feeling that he is rather more popular outside cycling & Britain. The suppose betrayal of Wiggins aside, the Brits have always had a thing about looking down on colonial sons trying to come home and take the glory from proper brits; on the cycling side, even Contador had a ton of haters before his ban. In a way, it was his struggle (ironically against Froome) post ban that defined him (so much so that the 2013 Tour was Contador against Froome even though Movistar fared better).

        If he can make any sort of return to competitiveness, even just nabbing a stage in a GT, that would be a great comeback story. If he can be top 10 in Tour or mix it up against weaker field in other GTs, even better.

        After all, his Palmarès is just behind the big four (at least as far as the Tour & GTs are concerned). He is the fifth person in cycling History. And as Mr Ring would probably would point out, the fact that he just missed the 5th Tour win and made it big Five may well endearing him more. I’d say let History be the judge.

        • oldDAVE Monday, 29 March 2021, 1:24 pm

          yeah – I hope you’re right hoh.

          I like the guy – I just think he should be getting name checks alongside Indurain, Lemond and others, if not Hinault, Merckx, Anquetil, and I just have a feeling he might fly under the radar of most peoples memories and he needed the fifth win to jog the history books.

          I agree an exciting Indian sunset to his career would change everything, but I have a feeling he’s struggling to be selected for the TDF let alone win a stage, and top10 is totally out for my money. So that end of career reappraisal possibly won’t happen making him more likely to be forgotten.

          I think the same about Cadel Evans – if Cadel definitely did not dope, then he is the stand out rider of the entire 00s but his constant 2/3rds and single tour means he’s likely only going to be remembered in Oz as their first winner when he possibly deserves more recognition – Jan Ulrich won the same number of Tours as Evans and I know who people remember more as a great rider.

        • gabriele Monday, 29 March 2021, 6:14 pm

          I suspect that Froome is nowhere near to being the 5th person in cycling history – nor is Contador. What goes within brackets above is of course correct, but it’s no secondary element when judging the place of rider in “cycling history”.

          They probably could be included among the greatest stage racers (at least if nothing more surfaces about them and the structures they were working in), although, for me, Froome’s career looks a bit lacking of memorable moments and way too much dependant on his main team more than anything else.
          However, their greater limitation – especially in Froome’s case – is their nearly absolute lack of capability when one-day racing is concerned, including races which are quite favourable to GT riders – despite having tried a decent number of times. Contador perhaps achieved a dozen of top-tens, but Froome always struggled to make the line with the first 40 riders or so, which always looked shoking to me, that is, your sheer “engine” should keep you well ahead in a hard race.
          This becomes even clearer if you check him (or them) against another very similar case, Indurain’s, of course, albeit Miguelón won a San Sebastián and, even more important, he can display a good set of excellent performances at the Worlds. Which, to me, isn’t still enough, and yet he’s above his couple of colleagues.

          What I mean is that most of the other top riders we can think about (Merckx, Anquetil, Hinault, Coppi – who won his 5 Giros when they were more valuable than the Tour) were also huge one-day racer, or at least notable, or at the very least “decent” ones (Anquetil wasn’t that brilliant, indeed, and I’d actually prefer Bartali over him, but he still won a Liège *and* a Gent-Wevelgem (!), besides coming close to the Worlds a handful of times).

          If you focus on GTs only, you’d face quite a strange and huge leap between the very top guys, who were at least as good as Froome in GTs but – by the way… – they were *also* great in the Classics and/or at the Worlds, and then suddenly this sort of rider which is absolutely useless in one-day racing.

          Frankly, although with less GTs, I’d take Louison Bobet over Froome, if we speak of cycling history *Only* three TdF, but he’s also got Sanremo, Flanders, Roubaix and Lombardia plus the Worlds. And Gimondi, too.
          If we look further back, before the IIWW, Binda would easily jump aound Froomey, too.

          Then, we’d have also other interesting questions: even admitting that GTs are “as such” more valuable than Classics (I’d dispute that, but whatever), what about those riders who were as excellent in Classics as Froome can be considered in GTs (probably they’d place even higher) *but* they’re *also* decent GT riders?
          To me, Sean Kelly is way more relevant in cycling history than Froome. And by far. More or less as good as Valverde in GTs, with a Vuelta win and podium, plus several top-tens, *but* he’s also one of the absolute best ever in his actual “specialty”, the Classics, probably best 3-4 ever or so (which Froomey surely isn’t in GTs). *And* he was also a *huge* short stage races collectionist (better than Froomey).

          All in all, I think that Froome would struggle hugely to be among the greatest *ten* ever in cycling history, even being quite generous towards him (for instance, I didn’t even name huge one-day racers which weren’t as good in GTs as Van Looy, De Vlaeminck or Van Steenbergen, all more significant than Froome, IMHO) – *and* focussing on palmarés only (which leaves aside an athlete way more relevant than Froomey as Freddy Maertens, for example).

          • gabriele Monday, 29 March 2021, 6:16 pm

            And, of course, if one should take into account all-around value as a proper plus, Lemond, Fignon, Moser, Nibali & many al. would also come into play.

          • hoh Monday, 29 March 2021, 6:42 pm

            I totally agree with you. That is why I added the qualifier in the brackets. It still makes me look like I have a bias against one day race. Though to be honest, re-finding my passion of cycling through a Belgium neighbour, I am a huge classics fan. It is really something when you watch PR with a Belgium family (especially it was the edition GVA won).

            That said, when people talked about the Great 4, it is in GT terms. Though you are quite right to say when holistic Cycling History is concerned, there are riders greater than Anquetil because they do better in classics.

          • Somers Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 9:50 am

            Nice analysis.

          • oldDAVE Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 2:45 pm

            Hey Gabriele –

            Sorry just to clarify – I absolutely do not think Froome is in the top5 cyclists of all time.

            I would only argue he’s higher up the GT list specifically and possibly overall list than I personally think many will end up remembering – but not top5 ever by any stretch.

            Obviously you and I will disagree and that’s the joy of cycling. I remember well you were always on the Quintana side of the debate between the two!

            I will only say in Froome’s defence that he gave me a lot of memorable moments (I loved even the early season battles with Contador on steep Spanish climbs!) but as a quiet rider who I (again just my opinion) think relied on his team less than is now commonly said amongst cycling fans – his 4TDFs and other palmares will not be enough to argue a case for him being worthy as one of the greats of the sport, possibly even one of the great GT riders – as you have outlined.

            I just think this is unfortunate, as he was likely not far off winning the coveted 5TDFs which he clearly needed to persuade many of his talent beyond his team. As a fan though, I felt I saw a rider who was genuinely special and the standout of a generation, with a never say die attitude that deserves more praise than I think he’ll be afforded when the history books are written. A long wind down to his career like Contadors with a few surprising victories might have made all the difference.

          • CA Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 7:15 pm

            Gabriele – couldn’t agree more. It is a shame Froome’s title chances seem to be over in this manner, but it is a little fitting considering how bad he is outside of a GT setting (poor bike handling, positioning, etc.).

            A riders’ ability to be top-5 overall in history requires way more than only winning GT’s when you clearly have the best team. Froome should have had the engine to at least stay with the winning group for a hilly classic, but clearly doesn’t, or could never position himself properly.

            His fight for overall place in history include Contador (won Milano-Torino, top-ten finishes at Liege and Lombardia), Lance (2nd at Amstel, rainbow bands), Geraint (really solid one-day finishes), Nibali (great one-day racer), etc. LeMond won multiple one-day races, etc.

            In reality, Froome is way down the list of Greatest ever, wouldn’t even be in my top-20.

          • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 9:50 pm

            To borrow from the supposed quote from Zhou Enlai on the French revolution almost 200 years ago at the time, “it’s too soon to tell”. I can see why some people like lists and precise hierarchies but where Froome settles requires a bit of time. Curiously he’s never won a single one day race as a pro, not one. Obviously many a one day race winner would trade a kidney for one of his stage races but it’s a quirk that he didn’t win one.

  • Richard S Friday, 26 March 2021, 9:02 am

    Is it just me or is ‘back problems’ becoming a similar weird cover all as ‘allergies’? Do professional cyclists spend the entire off season lugging furniture up flights of stairs?

    I’m still gutted about the 3 days of De Panne. It was one of my favourite races of the year. It was a nice novelty to see sprinters and classics riders contest a GC. Northern Belgium really didn’t need another one day race.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 26 March 2021, 9:09 am

      One pet theory is that if you look at old pictures riders had frames with big headtubes and the bars were not much lower than the saddle. Today it’s different and if this is more aerodynamic it means leaning over more and this brings in the back muscles and spine more. Some people can just do their back while washing something in the kitchen sink, the act of leaning awkwardly… so cyclists crashing etc.

      Also miss the 3 Days of De Panne, to win overall riders often had to force a breakaway clear – otherwise the TT specialists would win – so you got a big test mid-week. There’s been a lot of change to the Belgian calendar and it’s coherent in some ways but also feels like every race is becoming the same. Even next year’s Noekere Koerse is promising to have more climbs and cobbles.

      • plurien Saturday, 27 March 2021, 10:57 am

        Jalabert fell off a ladder and had to take some time to recover, just when his performances were getting a bit unbelievable…

      • Larry T Saturday, 27 March 2021, 3:48 pm

        Position on the bike is an interesting subject – I remember years ago an Italian magazine (Bicisport?) took photos of Coppi and Contador, sized them to be equal and put one on top of the other. The positions were surprisingly similar! Since Contador I don’t doubt “slam that stem!” has become more fashionable…but at the same time handlebars have gone from the reasonable drop of the old Cinelli 64 to IMHO almost a joke, let alone a 66 bend with some very deep drops. That’s pretty obvious from the photos and makes me wonder if the “slam the stem!” combined with the shallow drops of “compact” bars has been progress or just fashion?

    • Cascarinho Friday, 26 March 2021, 12:05 pm

      Still gutted too for the Driedaagse… Flanders Classics killed the only race which was a little bit different than the others. There was always a lot of suspense until the TT.

      • J Evans Friday, 26 March 2021, 12:58 pm

        Absolutely.
        You can have too much of a good thing.

        • Ecky Thump Saturday, 27 March 2021, 9:02 am

          Not if the cobbled races are all like the E3 yesterday, very good.
          Although another Quick Step lockdown prevailed.

    • RQS Friday, 26 March 2021, 3:04 pm

      Agree. ‘Back problem’ seems to be the cover all diagnosis for riders. It tells you nothing, there may be an element of truth (in bigger or smaller amounts), but over such a bland comment hangs the air of suspicion.
      Is it neuralgia stemming from a disc issue? Muscle spasms? Or, paralysis? Does it come from hip flexibility? Muscle imbalances? Or, what?
      I’m not saying we have to know, but there is the element of Lance Armstrong’s ‘saddle sore’, and like Richard, this was my first thought. But who knows. Back problems do occur. I have one. Though my bike rarely causes the issue.

  • Larry T Friday, 26 March 2021, 9:23 am

    Some of these TV fears may be overblown as I remember many years ago following La Corsa Rosa with a tour group as they raced to a finish in Briancon. Despite the Giro finishing IN France, there was no TV coverage available on French TV in the hotel or in bars, etc. Same s__t, different era?
    As to Il Frullatore as they like to call him on Italian TV, ya gotta admit the sponsor’s getting a lot of TV time as they keep a camera moto nearby to monitor his (backwards) progress as the race goes on. RAI’s Beppe Conte was talking last night about this team spending some big money to add a bunch of expensive riders to their squad next year – almost predicting a bidding war between them and UAE. A different kind of middle-east conflict!

  • weeclarky Friday, 26 March 2021, 1:07 pm

    In other news, Cav nearly won something again!

    • Anonymous Friday, 26 March 2021, 4:19 pm

      Never did understand why he had to leave the 2016 Tour early.
      [InsertBafflinglyLudicrousDecisionsEmoji]

  • CA Friday, 26 March 2021, 5:53 pm

    Inrng / anyone else – I have a question: Why is Skyineos telling the world their approach is different this year? Is that to take the pressure/heat off the riders, or to deflect similarities from issues in the past (eg. TUE/Freeman-related accusations)?

    From a practical standpoint, it looks like nothing has changed, but I’m just curious.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 26 March 2021, 6:12 pm

      The (promised) change in racing style predates the current Freeman/TUE mess, I think it’s more they looked around and saw with Carapaz, Bernal, Thomas and others that they have very good riders but not the match of Roglič and Pogačar who seem to be the best stage racers right now so if they want to win they have use their numbers instead and “do a Quickstep” in the stage races, instead of riding a train they have to take turns to attack and risk some riders’ chances. There are a few other changes, their communications feel a bit less robotic/corporate these days too.

      • CA Friday, 26 March 2021, 8:30 pm

        thanks, that makes sense. they should take back seat and let jumbo and uae do the work. Sky always did way too much work (in all 3 GT’s, even when not leading).

    • jc Saturday, 27 March 2021, 12:34 am

      Not sure anything much has changed. In Catalonia at the moment it really does look as if they have “put the band back together”. The Ineos mountain train is arguably as strong as any in the Sky TdF winning years. Whether the team is strong enough to take on Primoz Roglic / Tadej Pogacer is the question for July (at this moment I think they can beat PR but not sure about TP).

      The “attacking racing” thing was a comment from an over excited Dave Brailsford in the direct aftermath of Tao Geoghegan Hart’s unexpected Giro win. I wasnt convinced then and am still not now it means very much. The team will pursue whatever strategy seems likely to bring victory, if that means Richie Porte et al smothering the peloton on every mountain climb that’s what they will do. Equally they could play the DQS card of forcing JV / UAE to chase down various breaks, they have the potential to put a frighteningly strong team out in July, the main issue would be for the team to manage ambitions.

      • Larry T Saturday, 27 March 2021, 9:04 am

        Agreed. Watching the SKYNEOS “train” leading Yates up the climb seemed like they just swapped in a new guy to replace “Il Frullatore”.
        But I wasn’t surprised, as I think I can tell when Sir Dave is lying…pretty much anytime his mouth is moving. He’s fortunate that (so far at least) UKAD seems to be the April 1st version of USAD 🙁

        • Richard S Saturday, 27 March 2021, 10:43 am

          Adam Yates isn’t very good though. You can have the best train in the world but if your last carriage isn’t as good as the other trains last carriage you won’t win.

          • oldDAVE Saturday, 27 March 2021, 6:33 pm

            some mad comments here…
            I think give Dave B a break. Lot of assumptions need to be made to say he’s a bad guy and a full blown liar. Whatever it is, it’s just cycling, we’re all human – why be mean?
            Whether or not things involved doping he and lots of other people work hard to bring us the sport we love, so can’t we be a bit more respectful?
            I even listen to J.Bruyneel on his podcast and it’s clear the guy loves cycling no matter what he’s done, he’s like a kid going through results and up and coming riders, it’s nice to hear that enthusiasm.

            Also… Adam Yates not good? Okay, he might not be Froome, or Pogacar… but he’s a phenomenal rider he’s been near the upper reaches of the peloton since he was in his early twenties? He’s currently the only person climbing with Pogacar, and finally he’s only 28? I don’t understand how you can say he isn’t very good. Two TDF top10s, second at both Tirreno and Dauphine? I’d take those results!!

          • DaveRides Sunday, 28 March 2021, 12:37 am

            That’s why GreenEdge made the effort to sign Simon Yates again and offered Adam Yates less than €100k.

  • BC Saturday, 27 March 2021, 10:13 am

    Brailsford appears to be ‘the wicked witch’ to some, based it appears on supposed barrow loads of evidence? If you are leading/directing a WT pro cycling team these accusations go with the job. ALL those involved could come under the spotlight if exposed to similar and constant speculation.

    Racing model. Well I agree that the new younger generation have given us all some exciting, aggressive racing . BUT you simply can’t apply the one day model to every three week stage races. The last Giro did give INEOS the opportunity for some attacking racing – although they had little choice in the matter, Teams race to win and winning in the real world normally involves deploying race tactics. Tactics – the brain part of form.

    You may not like the tactics, but they are and have always been, an intrinsic part of bike racing.

    • Larry T Saturday, 27 March 2021, 11:05 am

      OK, but first Sir Dave and his team was purer than the driven snow with a zero-tolerance policy and a mission to prove that wins could be had without cheating. It seems now that was NEVER the case despite all the lofty pronouncements and you’re now using the old “everyone else did it too” trope in his defense.
      It took USAD far too long to catch up with BigTex but it’s looking like UKAD doesn’t even care to try.
      The Yankees and Brits used to say the cheats were just the Italians and Spaniards, then the Brits added the Yankees to the stereotype once Tex as outed, but UKAD so far seems to want to make sure its glass house is safe from rocks.

      • Richard S Saturday, 27 March 2021, 2:04 pm

        Maybe there is too much at stake for it to even to bare thinking about it. Wiggins/Froome/Thomas and the Tour de France wins are just the tip of the iceberg. What if all those publicly funded Olympic gold medals were reaped in a similar way? It never sat well with me that British cyclists could seemingly turn it on like a switch every 4 years. Periodised training, peaking at the right time, a bike designed in a wind tunnel and a shiny skinsuit didn’t seem an appropriate explanation.

        • Richard S Saturday, 27 March 2021, 2:11 pm

          If there is anything to be learned from past dopers it’s keep your head down and keep quiet. Don’t make grand pronouncements, don’t get too greedy and don’t piss everyone off. Indurain was likely doping but nobody cares because he was a big, nice, docile guy who didn’t get too greedy, didn’t hog the media and had the sense to not go past the 5 Tour high watermark. Armstrong didn’t know when to stop and if he could’ve taken something to halt the aging process and keep dominating he probably still would be now. Likewise if Sky had just won with Wiggins or Froome and hadn’t tried to sign all the best stage racers to blow everyone else out the water and win relentlessly (whilst making statements about how they were doing so on bread and water), they wouldn’t be getting the attention they are now.

      • DFT Sunday, 28 March 2021, 6:32 pm

        Brailsford never claimed moral purity, he’d have joined the MPCC and all that smug stuff if he wanted to be seen as a saint. To him it’s more like victory in business than victory in sport, and like all businesses he operated right up to the line all the time (he literally put that on his jerseys)… and like all businesses it appears he hasn’t been immune to ruthlessly exploiting loopholes or doing shady dealings either.

        • Larry T Monday, 29 March 2021, 3:33 pm

          That’s bad enough for me because this is SPORT rather than business. I always ask if TV viewers would tune in to watch hedge-fund managers at work? Further, the old “business ethics” comes up with discussions like these – as if it’s OK to screw over your competitors by whatever means needed? I once worked for a guy who made a half-assed apology with that logic for trying to screw me over when I called him out on it, saying “Well, it’s only business!” as if that somehow made it OK. Pro cycling needs a whole lot LESS of these Sir Dave types, not more.

        • Anonymous Thursday, 1 April 2021, 11:30 am

          ‘Brailsford never claimed moral purity’ – yes, he did. Endlessly. For years. When Sky started, they banged on about it incessantly.

        • Anonymous Thursday, 1 April 2021, 11:35 am

          To see just how much DB talked about being clean, you can start with Lionel Birnie’s ‘Eight years covering Team Sky, part one’.
          “He [DB] spoke of Team Sky having a zero tolerance policy on doping and that they would not hire anyone with ‘an association with doping’.”

  • plurien Saturday, 27 March 2021, 11:05 am

    Im not sure that taking industrial amounts of Tramadol up to the point it got banned is in anyone’s interest and we haven’t really heard too much about riders who found it hard to stop taking it after the ban.
    Marginal gains turns out to be code for doping without getting caught and yeah, you may have controlled every detail, painting the floor white and all that, but you couldnt produce any medical records when the authorities came to ask for them. Whatever it takes…

    • BC Saturday, 27 March 2021, 11:53 am

      Larry and Plurien. I am NOT defending anyone, nor using the ‘they all did it’ line of defence. See todays photos and announcement from the ToC and have a hunt for the individuals concerned there. No, thought not. Ask yourselves why you are so obsessed with one successful individual to the exclusion of all others?

      Medical records are the responsibility of the Doctor concerned. Brailsford would not have had sight of them. In the UK medical records are private and confidential, between the patient and the Doctor. A Doctor who has subsequently been struck of by the GMC for unprofessional conduct.

      I don’t need to defend Brailsford or by implication his teams. He is big enough to defend himself if he feels the need. As someone who has NEVER been convicted of either doping or facilitating doping maybe he feels it’s best to avoid keyboard based tittle tattle. BUT there is a real danger that these constant unfounded accusations could make any sane man wonder why he should continue in the sport. 2+2 = 5 for some. Be careful for what you wish.

      My personal view is that if Brailsford is guilty of anything, it was a level of naivety when he first entered the road side of the sport. He certainly employed some characters that in retrospect I suspect even he would accept as mistakes. Sometimes in life you have to take the word of people as true. Many of us questioned at the time some of these appointments. The learning process is tough and everybody can make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them and try not to repeat them.

      Last comment. Please don’t allow this blog to sink to the level of some other comment sections in the cycling press. I for one come here to enjoy balanced and informed discussion.

      • Larry T Saturday, 27 March 2021, 3:39 pm

        You are right, there’s nothing like doping to divide the thing into “You suck!” “No, YOU suck!” camps and ruin it all. So I’m happy to leave this subject with one final question – is Tom Simpson the British equivalent of Marco Pantani in the UK ? That seems to be the case IMHO 🙂

      • CA Monday, 29 March 2021, 8:30 pm

        BC – there is zero chance Brailsford was naive or ignorant to the assistance program his team was using. He ruthlessly controls every aspect of his teams.

      • 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 0 Thursday, 1 April 2021, 12:07 pm

        So, you believe that *ALL* of this was innocent?
        Taken altogether, it requires a gargantuan level of cognitive dissonance to conclude that.

        – – Sky’s doctor ordering over 50 doses of the dangerous, performance-enhancing drug, triamcinolone to treat ‘non-riding staff’. (Corticosteroid use outside of racing was not banned – it’s up to you if you think such use would be ‘clean’.)

        – Wiggins’ use of the performance-enhancing drug, triamcinolone before he won the TdF (signed off only by Mario Zorzoli – one can look up that name, plus Michael Rasmussen to see just how pure and innocent Zorzoli is). Weird how he never needed it before or since riding grand tours with Sky.

        – Wiggins won the Dauphine in 2012 – beating the world’s best cyclists, some of the fittest people in the world – and yet just days later he needed a drug that is only used to prevent allergies when they are severe, in the UK (which is where he was treated). And he did that in 2011 as well.

        – Also, why did he take it in early May – just before the Giro – when he was trying to win the Giro, in 2013? (In 2011 and 2012, he took it in late June, just before the TdF.)

        – And he didn’t take it at Garmin, and yet was unaffected enough to come 3rd in the 2010 TdF.

        – Froome’s very high levels of salbutamol. (We’ve never seen the supposed evidence of how this miraculous occurrence turned out to be not from taking too much of the drug.)

        – Sky’s doctor ‘accidentally’ ordering testosterone, which he never sent back.

        – Henao’s biological passport irregularities. (Again, we were promised evidence that it was fine – a scientific paper on it, even – but got nothing.)

        – Jiffy bags been transported all over Europe despite their supposed contents being available in any pharmacy. And the person who was carrying them across customs never asked anyone what was in the bag – because that is what you would do, obviously.

        – Froome as a young rider being hopeless (which he blames on a weird combination of all sorts of illnesses – bilharzia, typhoid, urticaria, blastocystosis, asthma) before very suddenly becoming the best GT rider for many years.

        – Reports of heavy tramadol use.

        – Various people associated with doping employed (despite claiming – for years – that they would never do this).

        – One laptop stolen (files not backed up); one laptop destroyed by Freeman (files not backed up).

        – Nobody on the team knew what Freeman was up to. And they never checked.

  • BC Saturday, 27 March 2021, 7:21 pm

    Tom Simpson is certainly looked upon by many people of a certain age in the UK as a hero. You only have to read comments on the ‘Tom Simpson Appreciation’ group on Facebook to confirm this. People simply don’t like to talk ill of the departed.

    To others, including myself, he was a charismatic and gifted individual who was known by his colleagues , managers and journalists to use amphetamines without thought. He bought his supply from Italy, and spent a normal working mans annual salary to feed his ‘assistance’. He rode for Peugeot don’t forget. Simpson and Pantani could be better used as examples of all that was/is dreadfully wrong with our sport and its governance. The above are just two of the better known riders who were guilty of substance abuse. Youngsters who were encouraged by their example also paid the ultimate price, in most instances conveniently forgotten. Unless you happen to have known some of them.
    I don’t condone or defend doping from wherever it comes. It knows no national boundaries and has been the sporting cancer of our sport for far too long. It has cheated too many riders of victories and winnings they richly deserved.

    I have answered your question Larry and I hope you now realize I am not a doping apologist.

    This really is my final comment on this subject.

    • Larry T Sunday, 28 March 2021, 8:40 am

      Thanks. Time to watch G-W!! As they say here- BUONA DOMENICA.

  • KevinK Sunday, 28 March 2021, 6:53 pm

    Not meaning to rekindle a debate, but this comment above caught my eye: “Medical records are the responsibility of the Doctor concerned. Brailsford would not have had sight of them. In the UK medical records are private and confidential, between the patient and the Doctor.”

    Speaking as a former physician, the laptop that went missing is by far the most damning part of this whole mess, and the silence from everyone else at Sky/Ineos about it is likewise telling. This is the most obvious, simpleminded coverup imaginable!

    As noted above, in most situations medical records are the responsibility of the doctor, though in institutional settings they’re often the shared responsibility of the institution (e.g., a hospital). In private practice, only the most irresponsible doctor would have a medical record system where nothing is written down, and everything was digitized and on a single laptop with no backups. In an institutional setting it’s inconceivable. This is just not the way medical (and performance) information is handled.

    Patient records are, at least in the US, technically the property of the patient. If a patient requests a copy of their records, you HAVE to give it to them. You do not have the privilege of “losing” your patient’s records, and heaven help you if your patient’s medical records are stolen. If there is a bad medical outcome and you lack records to document proper medical care, you’re screwed. Medical records are frequently crucial in legal situations in regular medicine, and given the history of this sport it’s only more so in professional cycling. Every doctor has had to present copies of medical records for legal proceedings. Saying that you conveniently lost those crucial records never exonerates, it’s further evidence of guilt, like the child who claims they did their homework but the dog ate it.

    I would love for Inrng to do an article on the duties and responsibilities of cycling team doctors, and especially how they balance their responsibilities to individuals and the team. I googled cycling team doctors and found this quote by Movistar’s team doctor Jesús Hoyos from 2012, regarding his duties:

    “I have many responsibilities as the team doctor: caring for the health of all team members, not only racers but staff as well; helping to plan out the race season with respect to specific races; supervising racers’ training plans; organizing periodic health examinations to insure racers’ maximum performance potential; and providing psychological support as necessary,” Hoyos said.

    The article goes on to say “Dr. Hoyos maintains a daily routine that starts with waking the racers and recording their heartbeat, blood pressure, weight, sleep quality etc. He then follows up with racers who have suffered wounds that require specific treatment and continues to work with racers on mentally preparing for the day’s stage. Following the stage, he records the same data as in the morning and notes each racer’s state of health. He also supervises the racers’ nutrition and monitors dietary supplements, such as vitamins, protein, and adequate hydration. Lastly, he administers treatments specific to incidents outside the norm (such as lesions, road rash etc.).”

    I don’t know if Dr. Freedman did these things, but I assume he did all that and, in the name of marginal gains, much more. Are we to believe that this information, which is obviously crucial to the success of individual riders and to the entire team, was only documented on his private laptop, and such information was unavailable to the coaches and sports directors and so on? That the team which was so public about being clean had no protocols for documenting when potentially problematic drugs and treatments were being ordered/stored/used, outside of the private judgment of the team doctor and independent of every other member of the staff, including other physicians? It doesn’t pass the smell test.

    This is all a long-winded way of saying (1) I’d love to learn more about how team doctors actually operate within teams, esp. with respect to their obligation to their employer, and (2) the idea that “Freeman lost the records, so let’s all move on, that let’s the team off the hook” is ridiculous.

    • KevinK Sunday, 28 March 2021, 6:58 pm

      After I wrote the above I googled Freeman and laptop, since I’d been writing from memory. It appears he claims one “Sky laptop” (i.e., not his personal property) was stolen, another team laptop he intentionally destroyed to prevent “hackers” from gaining access (!!!!!), and I believe there was a third couldn’t be accessed because he couldn’t remember the password. This doesn’t even deserve the word “coverup,” it’s so lame.

    • CA Monday, 29 March 2021, 2:34 am

      Exactly Kevin – the conclusions are obvious.

  • Ronin Monday, 29 March 2021, 3:04 am

    This is very alarming news. But it’s also the new future.
    The streaming services are looking for all content that can generate subscriptions.
    The problem is cycling will have dwindling “general public” viewership and that turns into cold hard sponsorship dollars. If a team is no longer on tv garnering “free” exposure than outside sponsors move on.
    Plus who is promoting the upcoming races if they’re on these niche channels? These streaming networks have no lead up outlets. Lost are major network air time promotions, pre race predictions and copromoting races across the lineups. So promoters lose out too.

    • Larry T Monday, 29 March 2021, 5:09 pm

      “If a team is no longer on tv garnering “free” exposure than outside sponsors move on.”
      Is that really true? I’m thinking of F1 and MOTOGP two sports I used to follow when they were on free-to-air broadcast TV. I pay little attention to F1 these days so have no idea who the “outside sponsors” (if any?) are while MOTOGP still seems to have at least some if you count the insanely over-priced “energy drink” industry and fossil-fuel biz. In principle your claim makes sense but I wonder a) is it really true and b) does the UCI, Velon, etc. care?

      • Nick Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 1:08 pm

        F1 still seems to have a reasonable number of outside sponsors if the cars are anything to go by. But F1 as an industry is an order of magnitude bigger than pro cycling.

  • gabriele Monday, 29 March 2021, 6:25 pm

    Couldn’t read thoroughly all the above, but when speaking about TV value more stress should be made on showing up territory, which as we all know is a huge added value to cycling races, and currently quite much monetised, too. But that works only with good viewing figures.

    Another relevant point: people (RCS included) tend to underrate the international potential of the Giro, but when it was on air for free on a national broadcaster in French and in Spain, those two markets alone *actually* summed up +/- as many viewers as Italy (not even starting to include other good or decent TV markets as Belgium, Scandinavian contries, South American markets, the Netherlands and so on). If cycling was properly broadcast (a minimum set of events on air for free on national TVs), it’d have an impressive potential in terms of viewing figures.

    And that’s another key point which was hinted at above: it’s a sport which can be promoted in terms of public interest, relating it to public health and sustainable transport issues, which might look a far cry, but it actually isn’t at all that crazy (see what Denmark made of Giro’s Grande Partenza, or UK cycling promotional strategies).

    • Larry T Monday, 29 March 2021, 8:15 pm

      Interesting points – I noticed ITALIA Agenzia Nazionale Turismo is listed as a sponsor on the Giro d’Italia RCS website. THOSE folks should certainly want La Corsa Rosa to be viewable on more than pay-per-view streaming schemes.

    • KevinK Monday, 29 March 2021, 9:01 pm

      “If cycling was properly broadcast (a minimum set of events on air for free on national TVs), it’d have an impressive potential in terms of viewing figures.”

      I agree with this, certainly for the countries you listed. When you described good TV markets, you didn’t mention the US, which is no doubt correct. But it has occurred to me that the non-racing stories, rivalries, and personalities in cycling are pretty much perfect for TV, and highlighting this to US viewers would be a much better way to build viewership for the races than just putting more races on TV.

      I’ve enjoyed watching TV series like HBO’s “Last Chance U,” for example, which made Juco football and community college basketball entertaining drama. I imagine a weekly series that followed key personalities on several cycling teams, basically a “Sunday in Hell” documentary/reality show spread over a season and following the likes of Sepp Kuss, Quinn Simmons, and Brandon McNulty, as well as female riders like Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Van Vleuten and Teniel Campbell (i.e., a bias towards up and coming US riders and interesting/super talented/TV friendly personalities). I think one that holds cycling back as a spectator sport (at least in the US) is that the races themselves aren’t very interesting if you don’t know the personalities and history, and from moment to moment the sight of people pedaling bicycles isn’t as watchable as someone making a spectacular play in almost any sport. A behind-the-scenes kind of show that connected viewers to the racers (and to other figures involved in cycling), and had the time to acquaint viewers with some of the nuances of bike racing, could be successful on their own, and build an audience where none now exists.

      • gabriele Monday, 29 March 2021, 10:54 pm

        Does anyone know if the short series about the Movistar male team during the 2019 season was ever made available in English? Very good watching, also thanks to a less than smooth management of their human resources…
        https://youtu.be/UzOSKRZQvH0
        https://youtu.be/WRP7AuFibg0
        Perhaps more interesting than other “inside a cycling team” products (which in themselves are just as good) thanks to a properly narrative focus and not restraining at all from publicly showing conflict within the team, mistakes and so on.
        Again, you probably need to know more about the characters.

        • Nick Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 1:13 pm

          I watched and liked it, but already knew a reasonable amount about the backstories.

          I’m not sure how well a new viewer would take it, though, as it chopped back and forth between different parts of the season, which was quite hard to follow. If it wasn’t for Movistar’s poor management, it might have been quite dull.

          Certainly, it wasn’t quite up there with the F1 behind the scenes show, “Drive to Survive”, which is impressively put together.

          • CA Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 3:44 pm

            Agreed – the Drive to Survive series is awesome! I have a handful of friends who love North American sports who are now getting into F1 because of this.

            Regarding cycling series’: I personally really liked the Movistar series, and some of the other cycling-focused docu-series’ (eg. Cycling Tips’ destination pieces, GCN’s epic adventures – the free to air ones on YouTube), but I can’t get my wife to like them and no one else I know likes them. Now, the one caveat, my 6 year-old daughter really likes Manon from GCN, and will actually watch it with me if Manon is on.

            Cycling is in the minor leagues when it comes to putting together interesting formats to show the world our sport. The Lance days are done, we have made sure he will never be popular again, and there isn’t a single cyclist on the planet with even close to the same pull he had. Some of the women are great, but cyclists are really boring, even though the scenery is amazing – maybe we target geographers?

        • hoh Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 1:00 pm

          It’s subbed into English on Netflix. I know subtitle and American don’t go together.

      • Larry T Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 3:02 pm

        I wonder about this. Think of trying to introduce MLB as a major sport to Europeans. Where do you start? The rules are as arcane as cycling and to be honest not a lot happens during a broadcast if you’re not a keen student of the sport.
        So far the only thing that’s done much for cycling as a spectator sport in the USA post Greg LeMond was the BigTex era, a jingoistic “Went there, kicked a__!” story combined with an amazing comeback from cancer (especially before all the cheating became obvious) saga.
        Post Tex, it’s back to “Outta my way lycra boy, I gotta get to the liquor store!” I think you could make a small fortune broadcasting or streaming pro cycling into US homes only if you started with a large one!

        • CA Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 3:51 pm

          LOL – “outa my way lycra boy”.

          Great comparison Larry – putting Cycling up against MLB is a perfect example of where cycling went wrong. MLB and Cycling both have arcane rules, take place in settings where the fans love the surroundings, and have long periods with very slow sections. But, baseball is extremely successful (granted 90% of the success is in ONE country), and cycling has some success, but at least financially speaking, the success is 1-3% of MLB. Plus, BOTH sports have gone through pretty public doping scandals – and both were handled much differently.

          I could go on for days about how both sports have played out and resulted in the current scenario, but I’ll just leave it at that.

          • gabriele Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 4:48 pm

            Yet, in terms of TV figures, cycling is not very different from MLB. In fact, all in all it’s probably better (in theory). Similar figures across a public with more spending capacity.

            Yet again, no doubt that in financial terms MLB is able to monetise and channel its relevance in a way that cycling isn’t at all. However, part of it (just a part) is probably a matter of distribution, someway there’s less concentration in cycling.

          • CA Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 5:05 pm

            Gabriele – the total viewership numbers might be comparable, but MLB’s TV deals are far more lucrative than cycling’s. MLB makes millions per team each year from TV deals. The number is extremely high – far far far higher than cycling’s TV total revenue.

            How much does the ASO make from its TV deal only for the TdF? I think Inrng mentioned it last year, but I think it is $1M or something. So, ASO makes $1M for 3-weeks of our sports’ most popular TV “product”, and the rest of our TV rights are pennies. MLB makes much much more than this.

          • gabriele Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 7:31 pm

            That’s what I just said above: “no doubt that in financial terms MLB is able to monetise and channel its relevance in a way that cycling isn’t at all”. They can leverage their TV audience in a way cycling isn’t able to. And it shouldn’t be forgotten, either, that MLB has got serious (albeit declining) paying attendance, plus all that goes along a stadium-based system.

            Now, that said.

            I can’t remember that quote from inrng, but I’d defend that it just doesn’t look probable that the TdF is selling its TV rights for 1M/year, given that the Giro has officially been selling its own *domestic only* TV rights for some 10M/year or more (up to 12,5 M for the 2018 rights, according to the april 2017 deal). RAI Italian deal alone. Then, there’s the “secret” Eurosport deal, which should be quite big, too, if they thought it was worth.

            More generally speaking, I’m not sure that sheer revenue is the one and only factor we should be interested in when considering how a sport is faring. Global impact, for instance, might be more interesting. As long as, of course, actual viewing figures. The NBA is surely more globally relevant than the MLB and I think that it’s also got better viewing figures, but it used to sit below MLB in terms of yearly revenues (at least, the last time I checked that, three or four years ago. MLB suffered a lot because of covid). And what about the Indian Cricket League? Huge figures, but *extremely* concentrated in a country whose GDP is about half of what you’d get summing up just the three main cycling countries (in terms of absolute viewing figures), i.e. France, Italy and Spain.

            All in all, a sport whose revenue are comparatively superior to what would correspond to its viewing figures, fanbase, global diffusion and so on *might* be less resilient, not more so.

            However, I agree with you that the total MLB revenue sits on a different order of magnitude when compared to cycling: thousand of M of $ (that is, billions) – although dropping from some 10 to some 4 billions $ last year – against several hundreds of M of €.
            That’s an impressive fact given there’s a 10x factor involved, although I’d say we’re still quite far from the 1-3% you report: even if we take the highest percentage you name (3%) – given that 1% makes simply no sense! – and apply it to the *historical record* MLB *total* revenues for 2019 (10.7 billion $), cycling total revenues should correspond for you to some 274 M of €, which is approximately the sum of ASO + INEOS cycling team *only*.
            Sure, the rest of teams and organisers are way smaller, but RCS Sport adds at least some other 50 M, and the remaining WT teams represent at least some other 340 M, which brings us to a *still partial* 664 M €. The UCI brings us exactly to 700 M €… and counting.
            If you now get what I mean when I point out that cycling’s got a more “fragmented” total revenue.
            My guess is that cycling revenues typically should sit somewhere between 8% and 14% of MLB’s.

            Then, you should perhaps take into account that the recent rocketing in MLB revenues looks a bit like a speculative bubble rather than a solid growth – the covid impact makes it quite clear. In that sense, you might also want to consider that MLB revenue had had impressing growing rates since 2015 (or 2014), averaging some 8.5 billion $ (7.2 B€) a year, but that the average of the previous decade had been of 6 billion $ (5.1 B€)/y. Covid hit hard, but maybe not all the value we were seeing was already as well established as we might have thought.

            Summing it up, MLB was reportedly the world’s second sport league (behind NFL) in terms of total revenue, which means they’re *extremely* good at monetising their thing. As I said above, I’m not sure if that’s actually good or bad, when it goes beyond a certain degree. We’ll see how they’ll survive this crisis. Anyway, in comparison cycling is surely underachieving when revenues are concerned, especially if we take into account its nice TV figures. Yet, its figures aren’t at all as bad as you proposed.

          • Larry T Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 11:17 am

            For sure MLB rakes in a lot of dough but who cares about it other than US, Japan(?) and places like the Dominican Republic or Cuba? When the subject is worldwide TV rights and revenue my guess is MLB is nothing much compared to FIFA or even NBA since that Yankee invention is played (so fans understand it) in far more places on earth than baseball. My point was that trying to educate USA fans about cycling in an effort to sell ’em viewing packages has about the same chance as MLB doing it for baseball in Europe. You’d make a small fortune from a large one IMHO.
            Meanwhile – who’s gonna win in Flanders today?

  • KevinK Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 10:06 am

    Yes, it was available on Netflix in subtitled form. That’s very similar to what I’m suggesting, though I thought it really wasn’t super interesting unless you already had a lot of background info. It needed more depth, more context, more time spent with personalities. I watched it with my wife and had to give her a lot of context that was left out of the doc. I know that many professional cyclists, and especially coaches/sports directors, would tend to be camera shy, but the successful versions of these shows follow a bunch of characters, and edit down many hundreds of hours of footage and dialogues into 10-15 hours of compelling storytelling. With that kind of in-depth exploration, the story of a marginal rider, fighting to keep their place on the team, becomes as interesting as the star who is making a comeback (or even more interesting, since the star will likely be more guarded). I realize many teams would not want such cameras within 100 km of their riders, but some would relish the publicity. Following development teams and feeder teams (e.g. Rally or Hagens Berman Axeon) would probably be the way to go. In such cases, a rider moving up to world tour, or spending the day in the break of a big race, would be something to celebrate.

    • CA Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 4:15 pm

      Good idea – have you ever thought about a second career as a producer? I think your suggestion is the way to go – help to generate some interest at the ground level.

      Now, I have one tweak – either focus on a female team, OR, focus on a team with all of men/women/development (both sexes) program. The majority of the men’s peloton is painfully boring and focusing on all three categories will bring in young people to follow the sport.

      • KevinK Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 11:15 am

        @ CA, I totally agree that the women (and I think up-and-coming men) are more open, more interesting, and more spontaneous. Definitely more compelling viewing outside of races. That was a major weakness of the Movistar Netflix series – everyone was so buttoned down and guarded, for obvious reasons, but it made that show dramatic mostly for people already in the know. I could see such a show going in-depth behind the scenes with female riders and young male riders, with riders like Roglic, WvA, Ala, etc. more in the background and featured more heavily during race montages.

  • gabriele Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 7:34 pm

    That’s what I just said above: “no doubt that in financial terms MLB is able to monetise and channel its relevance in a way that cycling isn’t at all”. They can leverage their TV audience in a way cycling isn’t able to. And it shouldn’t be forgotten, either, that MLB has got serious (albeit declining) paying attendance, plus all that goes along a stadium-based system.

    Now, that said.

    I can’t remember that quote from inrng, but I’d defend that it just doesn’t look probable that the TdF is selling its TV rights for 1M/year, given that the Giro has officially been selling its own *domestic only* TV rights for some 10M/year or more (up to 12,5 M for the 2018 rights, according to the april 2017 deal). RAI Italian deal alone. Then, there’s the “secret” Eurosport deal, which should be quite big, too, if they thought it was worth.

    More generally speaking, I’m not sure that sheer revenue is the one and only factor we should be interested in when considering how a sport is faring. Global impact, for instance, might be more interesting. As long as, of course, actual viewing figures. The NBA is surely more globally relevant than the MLB and I think that it’s also got better viewing figures, but it used to sit below MLB in terms of yearly revenues (at least, the last time I checked that, three or four years ago. MLB suffered a lot because of covid). And what about the Indian Cricket League? Huge figures, but *extremely* concentrated in a country whose GDP is about half of what you’d get summing up just the three main cycling countries (in terms of absolute viewing figures), i.e. France, Italy and Spain.

    All in all, a sport whose revenue are comparatively superior to what would correspond to its viewing figures, fanbase, global diffusion and so on *might* be less resilient, not more so.

    However, I agree with you that the total MLB revenue sits on a different order of magnitude when compared to cycling: thousand of M of $ (that is, billions) – although dropping from some 10 to some 4 billions $ last year – against several hundreds of M of €.
    That’s an impressive fact given there’s a 10x factor involved, although I’d say we’re still quite far from the 1-3% you report: even if we take the highest percentage you name (3%) – given that 1% makes simply no sense! – and apply it to the *historical record* MLB *total* revenues for 2019 (10.7 billion $), cycling total revenues should correspond for you to some 274 M of €, which is approximately the sum of ASO + INEOS cycling team *only*.
    Sure, the rest of teams and organisers are way smaller, but RCS Sport adds at least some other 50 M, and the remaining WT teams represent at least some other 340 M, which brings us to a *still partial* 664 M €. The UCI brings us exactly to 700 M €… and counting.
    If you now get what I mean when I point out that cycling’s got a more “fragmented” total revenue.
    My guess is that cycling revenues typically should sit somewhere between 8% and 14% of MLB’s.

    Then, you should perhaps take into account that the recent rocketing in MLB revenues looks a bit like a speculative bubble rather than a solid growth – the covid impact makes it quite clear. In that sense, you might also want to consider that MLB revenue had had impressing growing rates since 2015 (or 2014), averaging some 8.5 billion $ (7.2 B€) a year, but that the average of the previous decade had been of 6 billion $ (5.1 B€)/y. Covid hit hard, but maybe not all the value we were seeing was already as well established as we might have thought.

    Summing it up, MLB was reportedly the world’s second sport league (behind NFL) in terms of total revenue, which means they’re *extremely* good at monetising their thing. As I said above, I’m not sure if that’s actually good or bad, when it goes beyond a certain degree. We’ll see how they’ll survive this crisis. Anyway, in comparison cycling is surely underachieving when revenues are concerned, especially if we take into account its nice TV figures. Yet, its figures aren’t at all as bad as you proposed.

    • gabriele Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 7:36 pm

      Sorry, this was an answer to CA’s 5:05 message above but apparently I double-posted it. Please, inrng, feel free to zap redundancy if you feel so.

    • KevinK Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 11:41 am

      Gabriele, your encyclopedic and thorough knowledge is impressive. Here’s a quick story regarding MLB that I think buttresses your points. In 2004 Boston real estate developer Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers. It was one of those debt-financed purchases, and he came in with big plans to develop the property that were part of the deal. In fact he didn’t do any development, just raised the prices of tickets, concessions, and parking every year. He basically mismanaged the team, extracted as much money as he could, and after a bitter and costly divorce (the major contention was if the wife owned half the team), he was forced to sell the team. He sold it for about 5x what he paid, AND he retained major ownership of the parking lots and parking concession, which nets him tens of millions a year apparently forever.

      I suspect the money earned from the parking concession from this one MLB team exceeds the revenues of every single professional cycling race combined aside from the TdF. On a related note, I recently listened to a podcast about the value of the food/drink concessions at football and baseball stadiums. Again, we’re talking millions of dollars a year coming to the owners of the teams and stadiums, and the model is that the companies providing the concessions take all the financial risk. There’s a reason many of these teams are worth billions, and it goes well beyond TV viewership.

      • gabriele Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 10:37 pm

        Don’t let yourself get carried away, Kevin, the parking lot deal is *only* some 14 M $ a year worth according to Wikipedia 😉 which means that it’s worth way less than the Giro alone (yet, it’s as big as Giro’s Italian TV rights!). Things as they are, it sure isn’t worth as every cycling race barring the Tour *combined*, but it surely outweighs a vast number of single races. And it’s just a parking lot renting fee!

        I don’t know pretty much anything about MLB, but the real estate factor (which is in itself *just a part* of the story) is pretty similar to what happens with many football (soccer) team in Europe.
        And, in a sense, it happens to be more similar to so called mortmains and Church’s real estate in Europe rather than a sporting thing of sort. The mere fact of owning terrain which was kept “sacred”, untouched, in the very core of mature cities or metropolis – however improbable may it look that it actually gets available for conversion to a different use – creates as such *huge* speculative value and hence a notable potential to obtain debt from banks and so.
        And, at the end of the day, more often than not it’s not even *soooo* unlikely that political pressure and lobbying can finally manage the building of a new stadium in the outskirts and the *recycling* of the old one as a top-value space for residential development.
        Just saying, let’s have a look at the Dodgers Stadium on a map…
        (Not by pure chance, according to the Dodgers sale deal: “According to the Guggenheim Group, McCourt […] will [also] profit from potential future development of it”).
        All that partly explains why people were willing to pay 2 billions for a business which as such looked to be on the brink of bankruptcy.
        As a consequence, such a deal, albeit exceptional (the highest ever for a sports team), nearly automatically creates virtual value for the rest of teams in the league, setting the bar of “what a MLB team might be worth”.

        And then, of course, the rest of the business, physically attending a match as a recurring, traditional ritual, often a family one; the merchandising; the evolution of fans’ demographic and spending power – and so on and on.

        But let’s stick to cycling, that old nomadic sport…

        PS Most people I know across a handful of European countries would struggle to name *any* single baseball player, barring perhaps Joe DiMaggio, mainly thanks to Marilyn. The highly-learned might add Yogi Berra 😛

        • Nick Thursday, 1 April 2021, 12:02 pm

          Maybe Babe Ruth? Although, conversely, the Yankees have perhaps the most recognisable team identity in sport.

        • CA Thursday, 1 April 2021, 3:33 pm

          Gabriele – one more point – your post-script says no Europeans could name a baseball player….. I’d like to turn that point on its head. No Americans (or Canadians, for that matter), outside of the tiny niche group of cycling fans, could name any cyclist outside of Lance Armstrong!

          Baseball players are much more popular internationally (Latin America, South America, Japan, China, etc.) than ANY cyclist. It pains me to say this, but deals like RCS’ to privatise race rights behind GCN’s paywall will further entrench this. Even in Europe, outside of Flanders’ and parts of France, I’d strongly question how popular cycling is.

          • CA Thursday, 1 April 2021, 3:41 pm

            My last comment Inrng!

            With all that I’ve said this morning – I really really wish we could change the reality of this situation! Cycling is the best sport on the planet, I love it more than any other, and my only regret is I didn’t race as a kid – instead of going to gross hockey rinks all year-long.

          • gabriele Thursday, 1 April 2021, 11:57 pm

            Well, I know that personal experience proves little (it’s not like you offered anything like facts), but a decent number of my acquaintances through a dozen Latin American countries all tend to know and care more about cycling than about baseball (about which they very often don’t know anything at all). In a number of those countries, or part of them, cycling is actually rivalling with football. I’m not sure why you double up that with *South America*, by the way. There’s a difference, of course, but it’s not like it make much sense here.
            Hard to measure how “popular” a sport is, but TV figures are a decent element of it – and they don’t speak that much in favour of baseball.
            And, in that sense, besides football (which is of course the one and only dominant mass sport in Europe), very few sport could compete with cycling in Italy or in Spain, not just in France or in Belgium. In the Netherlands, too, cycling’s got notable results. Even in Germany, despite the crisis which followed the Ullrich years, an average of over a million person spends a couple of hours every day for three weeks to watch the Tour. That’s a tiny percentage of the total population… but enough to make a mass sport.

            However, please note that I totally agree with you about the RCS-Eurosport deal, and I’ve been writing on the subject here since long ago in the same terms you now suggest. I only disagree with what looks like to be your perception of the situation in a range of contexts.

          • CA Friday, 2 April 2021, 12:27 am

            Gabriele – sorry, I was being much too general with my statements. Your friends may be right, and your facts are indisputable. However, it is a clear fact that MLB is much more lucrative than cycling – that was my point. I could pull in the financial statements from any MLB team as an example.

            Anyways, let’s move on. Larry apologised for saying MLB, and I’m sorry to have taken this down a huge tangent.

            I can’t wait for inrng’s Flanders preview! Happy Easter everyone!

      • CA Thursday, 1 April 2021, 3:21 pm

        Gabriele – I think you missed the point – I have a strong finance background, and I’d absolutely argue that the Dodger Concession/Parking deal is much more valuable than the entire Giro.

        The Giro does not net anywhere close to $14M annually, yet this parking lot and concession deal nets that in free cash flow every year, and it will continue to grow in perpetuity. This is a tiny portion of the overall MLB wealth puzzle, yet it is way more lucrative than one of the top “assets” in our sport. I don’t want to repeat what Kevin said, and I don’t need to go into more detail, but I could easily prove that MLB’s net income each year easily exceeds 100 times what the entire Cycling “league” makes – and it isn’t even a close comparison (ie. 100 times might be understating things).

        • Larry T Thursday, 1 April 2021, 4:34 pm

          The point has been completely missed – I wish I’d never used MLB as an analogy to describe what pro cycling is like in the USA!
          MLB makes pretty much nothing in Europe while pro cycling makes pretty much nothing in the USA. Both are sports that have been around for more than 100 years and good luck to anyone trying to make money with baseball in Europe or cycling in the USA…unless maybe they’re willing to spend another 100 years working on it.

        • gabriele Friday, 2 April 2021, 1:12 am

          You can switch from revenue to net income as you please, but than you frankly couldn’t say that the Dodgers were being a good business, since they were actually losing money…
          (By the way, those 14 millions aren’t actually net income anyway, but that’s not the point, either).
          You know better than me that the most common way to weigh a business is revenue, and that’s what we were speaking about.
          Of course, if we decide to analyse in detail a business, a good cash flow (which won’t “grow” in perpetuity, but, again, whatever) is a positive point. Yet, if you go down to that level of detail, you’d need to split sport’s value and what’s being brought in by other uses and factors (concerts and much more).
          (No need to say, either, that selling value is again a different thing, influenced but not determined by all the above – just have a look at the recent Ironman deals).

          However – I must confess I had become curious to see if these Thursday short could overcome the Sky-doping debate in “comments flow”: heck, yes! And I’d agree we can stop here, too.

  • gabriele Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 12:05 am

    @ CA… again 😉
    About Lance’s *pull*.
    I’d agree that he had an *image* impact outside the cycling fans’ circuit, unlike many others. All the same, I would dispute that his influence was actually that relevant in terms of viewing figures terms, and probably even from a financial POV. And please note that I’m not speaking of the backfire of him being caught.
    His strongest influence on viewing figures was to be seen *only* in 2003-2005, when he pushed USA TdF audience up some +0.8/+1.3 M against a 300-400 K baseline, to which the data duly came back once Lance walked away in 2006. It disappeared from season to season – and when he was back, the growth in figures was barely 200K.
    That’s not impressive, frankly, if you compare it to the Jan Ullrich effect in Germany, which brought in +1.7M/+2.0M more spectators for the Tour.
    And, at the same time, Lance did *not* create any special positive effect for the Tour in the traditional core countries of cycling (nor pretty much anywhere else): France’s figures stayed the same, while in Italy and in Spain the TdF even suffered a certain loss of spectators during Lance’s years.
    But the worst effect was a different one: Lance didn’t actually *create* value, since his attitude was drawing it away from other races which fell at miserable levels during Lance’s era; especially the Giro, but also the Vuelta, became little more than local events, with a decline in spectators and sponsorships when compared to the 90s. That’s a loss for cycling as a whole, indeed, and it’s not a “natural” effect, as we can see in the last decade when you may observe a GT audience grow in a given country without harming the “rival” GTs (the TdF is growing in Italy while the Giro stays steady, the Vuelta is growing in Spain while the TdF stays steady etc.). In fact, this dangerous Giro pay-TV twist is due, in a sense, to its growing appeal as a seriously “sellable” value.

    Lance was a flash in the pan well before he burned his fingers trying to come back. The Coca Cola sponsorship was already there when he appeared on the scene and went away before him. And, unless you’re conspiranoic enough, even Nike started to sponsor the Tour’s jerseys before they knew the Texan boy could win one – in 1996. Then we had the backfire when they decided to quit reportedly because of the federal investigation which was starting to go public. But, as I said, I don’t mean to delve into that backfire effect. My point is that Lance Armstrong was much more sort of a consequence of the Hein Verbruggen years and attitude – cycling trying to jump to big markets and big corporations – rather than a personal factor himself. If we speak of economics, I mean. The narrative which went with him was obviously special, as his unsettling personality.
    At the same time, when he first walked away from the sport, the top-tier teams still included relatively small and poorly funded structures, and that was going to change only some years later, with the birth of the World Tour at the end of the UCI/organisers war which concluded the 10s. Come on, USPS themselves were selling second-hand team bikes on the internet.

    The guy made a lot of personal money, had a huge lot of personal power, but the sport was not becoming richer because of his presence, or at least there was no significant difference in speed or dimension within the course of events which had started at the end of the 80s. In fact, the short-lived success in the USA went along with a slightly complicated moment in Italy or in Spain, whose consequences were to be seen in the middle term, obviously enough, not straight away. At the end of the day, the man probably didn’t have a quantitative impact even close to Pantani’s or Indurain’s. And I’d even say that even this recent British cycling Renaissance looks deeper-rooted than the Armstrong effect: its longer duration through time means that it already brought more spectators to the sport, although little by little. The financial impact and change, for good or ill, is being way greater, even if it obviously doesn’t depend on that factor alone. The drop in viewers once the local champions don’t look that competitive anymore is visible but less shocking. Finally, we shall judge them by their fruit – and Armstrong didn’t leave behind a much healthier USA cycling, whereas it looks like that beyond the Channel cycling life may flourish well beyond Wiggo and Froomey.

  • Othersteve Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 2:36 am

    Unfortunately, Gabriel you are spot on. The US after Major Taylor has been a backwater of pro cycling.

    Although the US women pro’s have and do frequently step up and shine a bit.

    • Larry T Thursday, 1 April 2021, 11:40 am

      “The US after Major Taylor has been a backwater of pro cycling.
      Although the US women pro’s have and do frequently step up and shine a bit.”
      That’s quite a claim. I think even if you take out all the results of US men found to have been doped in the sport post-Major Taylor their results to date are far, far away above anything US women have done in comparison at the top of the sport. And let’s not forget there have been a few US women over the years found to be doped as well.

      • gabriele Friday, 2 April 2021, 12:45 am

        Well well, Larry, are you so sure?

        Hard to check all the stats, but at the Elite/Pro Worlds, RR and ITT, I’d say that globally US women fared better than men.

        And in the Classics? US women have won the Trofeo Binda (a Monument, so to say, in women cycling), the Durango Classic (fundamental one-day race with no male counterpart), Vargarda (idem), the Flèche, Flanders, Strade Bianche, Gent Wevelgem…

        Hard to make a comparison in GTs, since women cycling has only one (the Giro), but US women won that 3 times over some 30 editions and were other 6 times 2nd or 3rd. Other top historical stage races are the Tour del’Aude (actually, it was sort of the female TdF) which was won 5 times by US women while they also got some other 5 times on the podium, the Thuringen Tour (3 US women wins), the Emakumeem Bira (no wins but 3 podia), the Gracia-Orlova (2 wins + 3 other podium spots), the Tour of Ardeche (4 wins + 5 other podium spots)… top races which are way more valuable than the typical short stage race for men.

        • Othersteve Friday, 2 April 2021, 2:20 am

          Thanks Gabriele, Larry, gosh I just think Beth Heiden, Rebecca Twigg, Connie Carpenter, Katie Compton etc. Lots of US women cycling world champions, or olympic medals holders compared to US men.

          US women always will rise to the top compared with US men. They have fewer avenues to make $$ in US sports so the some of the best women athletes choose cycling or soccer. and we are the better for it.
          Don’t get me wrong I am the same age as Lemond he is great. The US needs more GLs in the pro ranks, and less MLB, NFL, or NBA players but we all know that it’s all about the $$$$

          In reality cycling in the US is just like the movie “Breaking Away”

      • gabriele Friday, 2 April 2021, 2:31 am

        Olympic road (i.e RR & ITT) results look better for US women, too.
        And I’m starting to see data I actually didn’t remember (obviously my fault) like US women ahletes winning other fundamental races like Ronde van Drenthe, Holland Tour, Krasna Lipa or Giro della Toscana! (and Tour de Suisse, Chrono des Nations etc.)
        Admittedly, both the women side of the sport and the US women movement are quite fragmented and subject to frequent changes, which doesn’t make it so easy to acknowledge the role the latter in fact had.
        Though, US cyclists as a “national whole” are and have been clearly a force to be reckoned with – in women cycling (occasionally going through hard times as any cycling movement happens to), whereas the post-war male field, once cleared of Lance’s presents, offers only one gigantic figure (LeMond) plus a handful of anecdotal, sparse, secundary characters.
        Just in the last couple of decades Kristin Armstrong, Amber Neben, Mara Abbott, Evelyn Stevens easily set above any male US pro cyclist *in post-war history*, barring LeMond – not that they’re that far off, he wasn’t such a prolific winner, either. Then you’ve got Megan Guarnier and Coryn Rivera nearly as impressive, although a step behind. Plus a huge lot of serious & serial winners, albeit perhaps not absolute historical level, Olds, Winder, Wiles… And Dygert’s already here.

        • Larry T Friday, 2 April 2021, 11:16 am

          Hold on! I NEVER claimed US women have done nothing in cycling. While there are plenty of US women’s names in the ranks of the stars on the women’s side of cycling I think the victories of Greg LeMond and various US men on 7-Eleven/Motorola teams pre-Big-Tex easily disprove the “The US after Major Taylor has been a backwater of pro cycling.” claim.

          • KevinK Friday, 2 April 2021, 12:32 pm

            You didn’t claim US women have done nothing, but you did claim that the non-doping US men have done “far, far away above” what the US women accomplished. That’s just wrong, both in absolute terms (as Gabriele pointed out, many major victories among the women compared to the men) and in relative terms. Female cyclists have had far fewer races to shine in, and in the races that have been available the US women have done rather well. In men’s cycling, the US has consistently been an also ran as a nation, but that’s not the case at all for the women.

            In the years I’ve been following cycling more closely, it’s rare when I sit down to watch a men’s race that I think there’s any US male who has a snow ball’s chance in hell of contesting for the win. That nationalist itch (which I try to suppress, frankly, and just enjoy the racing) has to be scratched by “impressive performances” rather than wins. When I watch a women’s race, there are usually a few US women who have a history of significant victories and a legitimate shot at winning.

          • Larry T Friday, 2 April 2021, 1:13 pm

            I thing Gabriele’s phrase: “…albeit perhaps not absolute historical level” is key here in describing the victories. I was arguing that “The US after Major Taylor has been a backwater of pro cycling. Although the US women pro’s have and do frequently step up and shine a bit.” ignores the careers of men like LeMond, Hampsten and Phinney while acting like only the US women have done anything.
            Don’t misunderstand my respect for women’s cycling, I’m married to a racer who once stood atop a pretty big race podium – one step below Rebecca Twigg and one step above Connie Paraskevin/Young…one who can still kick my a__ in a sprint 🙂

  • Othersteve Friday, 2 April 2021, 4:01 am

    Thanks Gabriele Wow, I had no idea about Rebecca recent situation.
    I suppose it shows achieving high world athletic success is fleeting at best.