For The Sport

The spring classics are a big part of the season, teams can hire specialists there and some riders live for this brief part of the season. It’s wonderful sport but it can lack commercial sense… which is why it’s wonderful.

Take your pick from the marketing data and reports commissioned by various people in and around the sport but whichever way you slice it, the Tour de France is the event around which the whole sport revolves. Even in Belgium, even in Flanders where the Ronde can get 1.2 million TV viewers which is roughly double the average daily audience for the Tour, but it’s still one day compared to le Tour’s 21 stages. Now imagine how this skews for big countries like France, Germany, let alone what that’s like in the UK, USA and Australia. Put like this even Lotto-Dstny has a commercial imperative to do well in July so imagine where the likes of Bahrain, UAE and Ineos get their eyeballs from.

Of course it’s not all about TV audiences, sacrosanct though they may be. Team sponsorship can offer VIP marketing reasons, inviting valuable contacts to attend races and so on. But here again the opportunities in the spring classics are limited. Yes there are many races right now but if we think of wining and dining VIPs (beering and dining?) at, say, Dwars Door Vlaanderen as well as the E3, Ronde, Gent-Wevelgem etc, the Tour de France offers 21 days of this via mobile VIP zones… and there’s the rest of the calendar for the whole year of course too.

A team can build a classics team but it’s going to be expensive and can it hope to get a return on this? It’s complicated further by the specialism required. There’s also a physiological gap here with riders who thrive this month finding opportunities can be limited in the rest of the year. Try to forget Tadej Pogačar for a moment because normally can have riders who thrive in stage races and who can also dabble in one day races like Liège and Lombardia, or even the likes of Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert because they of course can deliver throughout the year and have range. Instead there are plenty of 75kg plus classics contenders don’t have many races all year or they have to find other roles. It’s not quite now or never but a big part of their earnings profile is dependent on this short window while a sprinter, climber or stage racer has opportunities from January to October.

Plus a lot of these races are almost reserved for insiders. We value the Monuments but how many people who don’t read niche cycling blogs could name all five? How do the ordinary public rate the Ronde, Dwars or the E3? Insiders in cycling can weigh up the relative value of these races but what does a win or a podium mean to a sponsor?

Quick-Step in its various incarnations has seemed like the definitive spring classics team. But management has long known it needed to expand beyond this. You might see their current demise on the cobbles as resources go towards supporting Remco Evenepoel; but before that it was also for Julian Alaphilippe. In fact it’s been going on for decades as Quick-Step the company knew however much they valued March and April, other races counted. Marketing manager Frans De Cock told L’Equipe recently that even 20 years ago the team wanted to tap audiences in France and the US (translated):

We couldn’t be focussed on Johan Museeuw for a small part of the year in the spring, even if this was the most important part for us in Flanders

The team knew it couldn’t count on this small part of the season alone and has consistently done well in the Tour de France too. Arguably it’s doing better in the Tour these days than in Flanders.

Some teams have built up classics squad and dedicated resources here for different reasons. One alternative incentive is the availability of UCI points. It’s something few thought about, then last year many belatedly clocked that one day races offer points-a-plenty compared to stage races. While some team managers “discovered” this last year, others had spotted long ago. Take Ag2r where you might think they dream of little else but the Tour de France and a stage win or a spell en jaune. And yet they’ve also had to harvest ranking points in order to stay in the World Tour and one way they’ve done this is by racing hard in the classics. The team once recruited Iranians for points but once this avenue closed, they went for the likes of Johan Van Summeren, Oliver Naesen and lately Greg Van Avermaet. Maybe they haven’t had big headline results they hoped for but they’ve accumulated a decent points haul, the team finished 8th on the UCI rankings in 2021 helped by Greg Van Avermaet and this kept them away from relegation woes last year.

All this though is very dependent on a matrix of factors. Nationality of the team counts, obviously a team with Flemish roots will have a cultural attachment to the cobbled classics in a way that a Spanish or Bahrain team can’t. The sponsor has a say, the VIP tents right now are practically a convention for Belgian construction purchasing managers with Soudal (adhesives), Quick-Step (flooring), Deceuninck (windows), Renson (cladding) treating staff and clients. But the same goes for Jumbo supermarkets in Belgium who have a greater interest now than in, say, the Vuelta a España; while Movistar has the reverse priorities and so on. But bike companies also come into the mix here, they’re keen to be seen at the Tour de France but they know hardcore fans also watch the classics and machines that can withstand the cobbles make for good marketing. This aspect reaches its apotheosis in Paris-Roubaix which is practically a shop window for manufacturers who deploy special bikes which suit a “Sunday in Hell” but also make life comfortable for weekend warriors for the rest of the year and where “Roubaix” is even a marketing label for frames and fleece alike.

The Tour de France is such a large part of the season and teams all feel the pressure in July to deliver for their sponsors, even Quick-Step have to get it right. Right now we’re in a niche part of the year where there’s lots of sport and fun to be had but in cold, economical terms it might be harder to justify pouring so many resources into these kind of races which attract a smaller, niche audience. Some teams opt out but it’s surprising how many squads come with dedicated classics riders and devote a lot of resources to this part of the season. All the better for it.

89 thoughts on “For The Sport”

  1. ” Some teams opt out but it’s surprising how many squads come with dedicated classics riders and devote a lot of resources to this part of the season. All the better for it”
    Indeed! A good example (though perhaps dwindling?) of SPORT being more important than commerce IMHO. More please.
    I think of the old business saying that “50% of your advertising budget is a waste” which if true..why not “waste” it on a sport you like if you’re the boss of a company? Gerry Ryan comes to mind…though his team has recently caved-in, taking money from petro-sheik/sportwashers 🙁

    • I think the saying goes “50% of your advertisment budget is wasted, but nobody knows which 50%”, let’s hope it’s not the part us, cycling fans, actually benefit from.

      • When/if I have a choice, I’ll buy products connected with cycling teams. I’ll buy a Soudal can of spray lube over a competing brand, shop at Lidl over another supermarket, maybe even put Alpecin on my hair (if I had any!) so my guess is that all the cycling sponsorship money isn’t totally wasted?

          • I still have a very valued Saeco espresso machine. I bought it because of its connection to cycling, might think again knowing now what I do about their most famous rider. It does make good coffee though.

          • Maybe in buying something based on a direct connection with cycling sponsorship but the repeated sights of these brand-names certainly must affect more casual purchases via brand-awareness, no? My marketing classes were eons ago but I think that still works – I find myself looking at a brand of cubed pancetta on the supermarket shelf over the others because the Beretta brand advertising is so ubiquitous on the Italian football games my wife enjoys. I almost miss ’em the rare times their ads don’t appear at the sides of the playing field.
            Andrew – think of Ivan Gotti or Damiano Cunego in the SAECO red or that the brand-name was/is owned by Gaggia who sort of/kind of invented the espresso machine. It wasn’t ALL about SuperMario the wife-beater, though HE might not see it that way.

        • I think I’m probably more typical in that when I started looking for a coffee machine I deliberately included Faema and Saeco in my research, although I wouldn’t have even known about those brands without their sponsorship history. I bought from a different brand in the end, but the point is that I considered them where I wouldn’t have otherwise.
          The problem with this observation (from a team’s point of view) is that these sponsorships ended years ago but the companies still benefit from them, so after 2 – 4 years of funding a team, a company has to ask itself if it has achieved all it can and whether the money is now still being well spent.
          Finally, there is a flip side to all of this: I would find it hard to buy a Festina watch, and I still resent Trek’s support for LA in screwdriver Simeoni, LeMond et al…

        • I am one of those that switched shampoo brands to Alpecin due the team and MVDP. Didn’t add any watts, but it feels nice! I do think advertising works in this respect. Heck, I still fill up almost exclusively with Shell fuel due to the Ferrari F1 sponsorship of early 2000s.

          • Said I wouldn’t keep commenting. Totally going back on that.

            Enjoyed this conversation.
            Have regularly bought things solely because of cycling sponsorship.

            I think with a niche sport you can get fans feeling some sort of protectiveness to the brands that stick their neck out to support despite… I’d never do similar for other sports!!

            Also for UK fans some of the brands feels a little exotic!

  2. A fascinating look at the conflicting issues when recruiting a riders and balancing a team. Some squads might have the budget to target every race type but most need to make choices. The 2.Pro Boucles de la Mayenne probably means little to EF, Jumbo, Ineos, Jayco, UAE, Bahrein and their sponsors, but it surely means a lot for AG2R-Citroën, Groupama-FDJ, Arkéa-Samsic, Cofidis and Total with supporters by the roadside, coverage in the local press and potential customers for the sponsor’s product watching live on FR2.

  3. Jumbo doing the impossible and winning TdF and blitzkrieging the classics.

    Has any team achieved so much in 9 months? Makes Ineos look like my grandmothers cycling club.

    • Rather tangential to your point, but Ineos are in a curious position right now. On the one hand, they’ve performed well in some key races this year (Strade Bianche and MSR), but they’ve been almost anonymous in other races.

      More broadly, they simply lack the truly star riders of the other big teams – in some contexts, Ganna and Pidcock fit this remit, but they seem to have missed the boat with the likes of WVA, MVDP, Pog, Rog, Evenepoel, Vingegaard etc dominating classics and stage races, and don’t have a top sprinter to compete on other days (whereas Jumbo, UAE etc do). Their best GC rider has moved on, and there are 13 teams with at least one “better” rider, based on UCI/PCS points over the past year – appreciate points are not a perfect metric, but is a decent proxy for talent if you look at the top 10 of those rankings.

      • In Ganna they have a great shot at Paris-Roubaix but is this important for Ineos and/or Ratcliffe? I suspect he bought the team when it was the Tour de France franchise winning outfit and with the biggest budget in the World Tour, he’s arguably paying for this as well. You can see why the “is Evenepoel for sale” query came from.

        • Absolutely see the Tour as a focus, while I assume the Giro is a target for Pinarello (as well as being the best Grand Tour of them all!)? This would make sense and excuse so-so classics performances in previous years (even though the likes of Kwiatkowski, Thomas, Stannard, Poels and others had some very good results), as they were the Tour favourites. But they would then usually be major players in Paris-Nice, T-A, Catalunya on that Tour/Giro path.

          The Tour favourites are now winning one-day races and stage races while Ineos are scrapping for podium places and haven’t got an obvious option for winning the Tour or Giro, given the competition. Evenepoel would make great sense for them. Flipside is that they’ve got an interesting cohort of great young riders across specialities (Pidcock, Arensmen, Turner, Hayter, Sheffield, Plapp, Rodriguez, Tulett, and the return of Bernal).

          • As it stands I would be absolutely stunned if Bernal rejoined the top ranks.

            It’s a massive shame – but he’s crashed in his first two races of the season so it’s fair to say he’s looking a bit nervous even if they might be just bad luck – either way he also had to take time off the bike following both also so might be even fairer to say he’s looking fragile.

            With all that he’s not only got to get back to his best (which we’ve not seen), he’s got to be better than his best to compete with Pog and V – I just can’t see that happening?

            And once he’s at his Super Saiyan best he then can’t even have the jour sans he’s had a Grand Tours in the past and those two seem near bullet proof!!

            It’s a tall order and I’d put a large bet that he’ll never win the Tour De France again – even if I’d love to be wrong.

            There are only two or three riders I see as having a chance of competing over three weeks with P & V in the next few years – possibly Remco, possibly Ayuso, I had thought Rodriguez Cano last year but Jorgenson now looks a better bet and maybe Cian Uijtdebroeks once we see more but 9th at 20 in Catalunya is impressive.

            As yet I’ve not seen Pidcock perform over even a one week race to suggest he might compete with the best at a Grand Tour. I really like Almeida and Gaudu but it’s hard not to think along with Hindley and others they’re a level below. I’m interested to see what happens with Jay Vine and a few young french riders though, Kevin Vauquelin looks quite good.

      • Makes me wonder about Wiggo’s advice about not going to SKYNEOS as they’ll ruin you. Perhaps some are taking it? The marginal gains masterminds don’t seem so able to develop talent these days while their “Can’t beat ’em? Buy ’em!” strategy seems to be less effective as well. Will the fracking king double down with ever more money or decide trying to be the king of cycling is too hard? He’s not a guy I’d miss if he bailed out, but British cycling would certainly be saddened.

        • Sir Jim might well take his “Can’t beat ’em? Buy ’em!” strategy to the next level if Jumbo is looking for sponsors. Who needs Ineos anyway? Cycling in the UK is dying according to Tao Hart anyway so why not get a winning team?

          • That would raise “Can’t beat ’em? Buy ’em!” to whole new level! Could/would the guy just leave the team alone or insist on installing some Brits into the management?

  4. It’s a shame the classics and one day racing in general aren’t more appreciated by casual cycling fans, they’re really easy to understand and explain. ‘First across the line today wins’, rather than ‘well there’s a GC comp and individual stage wins and that’s a breakaway and the GC leader actually wants them to win the stage today, so that’s why they’re not going to try to catch up with them’.

    They’re also usually so much fun, with much more attacking than an average day in a stage race. I sometimes wonder if they have untapped potential

    • Absolutely agree. And even when there are team tactics in a tough one-day race, they’re relatively easy to understand with a limited number of riders left slugging it out (e.g. Benoot and Laporte today). Perhaps the natural beauty is lacking from many of the biggest one-day races for the casual viewer compared to France/Spain/Italy in the summertime? Possibly another reason that Strade Bianche has prospered, although I’m unsure whether it gets many viewers from the “put the TV on for a few hours to admire the scenery” crowd?

      • The problem with one day races is that when one or two riders ride away from the rest of the field (as seems to happen more often nowadays) the race is over. I can’t see how watching the inevitable for an hour is interesting for anyone. At least in a stage race there is a chance to make amends.

        • I confess I gave up watching Gent-Wevelgem once Van Aert & Laporte had a significant gap, as it was all too obvious they were going to easily get a 1-2.

  5. Couple of interesting points to tease out.

    Firstly there are 3 months of the season dominated by the grand tours and one for the northern (cobbled) classics. Moving either Flanders or roubaix and their attendant warm ups to the autumn would double that time with a lesser drop in prestige.

    Secondly the GT habit of adding classics style stages also increase the value and marketability of the specialists. If you see van Baarle smoking Bernal on some cobbles you appreciate the strength even if he ships 10 minutes on a medium mountain stage.

    A combination of both the above will likely raise the visibility of these riders and style of races and in doing so make them more valuable through the year and probably improve the product by encouraging variety in the races we watch

    • It’s happened before though, we’ve had Andrey Amador and Imanol Erviti go up the road and get a surprise result or two. Ivan Garcia Cortina remains a strong rider overdue a result and teenage neo-pro Ivan Romeo’s one to watch for the future.

      • Carlos Verona did pop up on the radar with his win last year in the Dauphine, but post-Valverde and now with the “Mas effect”, how well will Movistar balance the classics and GT’s riders?

        • Funnily enough was having this exact conversation with a mate this morning. I was wondering if the team had made a decision to not place all the eggs in the Mas basket, as, let’s face it, as good as his is he’s no Pog/Rog/Remco so can’t see him winning a big Tour anytime soon. Personally I welcome it, I’ve always been puzzled by Spain’s lack of interest in the classics.

    • What happened is that 3-4 years ago Movistar started with a plan to build a classics kernel in the team, both by hiring a some riders & staff with classics experience (e.g. Jürgen Roelandts, who became staff after a couple years as a rider) as well as making their scouts look for classics talent in Spain & elsewhere, and that is now starting to pay off.

  6. Dunno about Germany, whose relationship with cycling audience tends to be complicated, but in France the Ronde can go easily over the 1M mark on public tv, and in Italy it sits close, too. ES, with its usually low figures, still noticed a growing trend which brought Flandres to some extra 200K viewers in France despite the free France 3 broadcast. Not huge numbers, still quite far from TDF or even the Giro, yet not exactly an insignificant audience. At a way lower cost to produce the whole event.

    Now, the other, smaller, less significant races make sense precisely because they’re needed for the Monuments to exist. Cycling is a sport of layers. Gand may mean little to Van Aert but it means quantity to Laporte. Same for Waregem. Just as a GT stage win might mean little to a GC contender but it can be worth a whole career for somebody else. One more Itzulia for Contador’s (even if he really went hard for it!) can’t mean the same the Izagirre’s only.

    As a spectator, you don’t exactly need to watch Waregem or De Panne, you really don’t need to watch Omloop or Harelbeke, either. Just as you don’t need to watch more than… 45′? 1h? 3h? of Sanremo… or a whole sprint stage in a GT.

    Yet, if you’re a hardcore fan of sort, you might be happy to be able to watch all the same, first of all because maybe you can get treated to great racing anyway, especially at Harelbeke, but when the Three Days were Three Days it used to be great, too; secondly, because you might be interested in trying to guess the shape of riders and teams, tactics, dress-reharsal effect and the likes; thirdly, because perhaps you want to know about other riders, youngsters, support characters, those who normally won’t shine at the Monuments only, but whom you might be happy to know all the same just in case they have a great day on given Ronde, or grow into strong riders during the following seasons and so on.

    However, the real meaning of those races is… because you need smaller races. To train, to learn, to try and experiment, to polish and hone your racing before the really big day. That’s true for cyclists and teams but also for organisers, volunteers, TV producers, talent scouts, police forces, motomen etc.
    So, if it’s not about spectators, what is it about? Well, they’re very different races which should imply different costs and might work a different way from the POV of sheer money. They can associate or be bought into a “group” of races as it happened in Flanders, and “rich” races should partly pay for smaller ones, but we can also just expect that they work on different levels and in different ways. More local sponsors, more local money… less money to be spent, in general terms.

    Cycling isn’t a very “diverse” sport in terms of gender and nationalities, not much yet, but it still allows a lot of “inner” diversity when we’re speaking of type of athletes and their respective levels (within the very same pro peloton!) – and same when we speak of type of races and their respective levels. I think that the idea of trying and making all of them comparable – or samples of more or less the same – with same competitors, similar dynamics, similar “value”, well, it probably would harm than sport rather than benefitting it.

    In the last ten years or so the interest towards one-day racing has been growing quite much again, and most Monuments are into a growing trend from several POVs. Flanders Classics themselves, although I really don’t have much love to share for some of their decisions, can boast a decent number of successful initiatives, most recently the KPMG deal re: gender equality. Women Ronde (as Women Roubaix) were among the top-10 most watched events on Eurosport Spain in 2022. Most of their races, though not all of them, receive more coverage than ever and their relative importance has actually been on the up for a time now (it must be said that same is true for E3), who’d ever imagine 15 years ago that Waregem would trump De Panne? Or that the Gent-Wevelgem would be perceived as clearly more important than the Flèche and maybe even Amstel?
    When we speak of TDF audience vs. Classics we should also take into account their relative financial dimension. Flanders Classics has a reported revenue of… 4M? Probably two magnitudes below ASO. It makes no sense to compare their final audience results without considering the different economic effort or leverage they imply.

    PS In Italy, most people couldn’t perhaps name “which the 5 cycling Monuments are” (a relatively new label for an old concept) but feel assured that individually knowing as an important cycling race Sanremo, Fiandre, Roubaix, Liegi… and even Lombardia (much more loved abroad, actually), well, it goes well beyond the niche of hardcore cycling fans. Many might even know “Freccia Vallone” or “Gand Wevelgem”, albeit admittedly not Waregem, Harelbeke or Omloop. You even have commercial generalist books or songs hinting at those races.

    • “..and even Lombardia (much more loved abroad, actually)” is based on what data?
      Having seen it live a time or three live, in-person and countless times via RAI/Eurosport I wonder what criteria you used for that claim? Perhaps TV/streaming numbers ARE lower but people at the roadside seem to rival any other races I’ve seen either in-person or on a screen.

  7. I think it is not just a out the team sponsors but the country sponsors as well. France, Spain and Italy gain lots of tourism exposure from their tours.
    A country the size of Belgium would be hard pressed putting together a 21 stage race but they accomplish much the same with their handful of one day races.
    Variety is the spice of life … nest pas.
    (you very stubborn autocorrect would not allow the apostrophe)

    • Some of the images of the Flemish classics are a harder sell for tourism, sideways rain because of the season, dimly lit landscapes, concrete “betonweg” roads etc compared to the grand tours, Italy with that first flush of green, France in the height of summer etc.

      • To someone who has been to all five monuments in-person over the years – “Some of the images of the Flemish classics are a harder sell for tourism, sideways rain because of the season, dimly lit landscapes, concrete “betonweg” roads etc.” couldn’t be more true!
        I’m happy I went to see the Hell of the North, De Ronde and La Doyenne, but once was enough while the two in Italy have drawn me back plenty of times. The racing spectacle at those three was fantastic, but that was pretty much it. Scenery (other than the iconic parts of the courses) food and being welcome on the road on a bicycle left a lot to be desired, so someone REALLY has to want to see ’em (as I did) to go there. Italy OTOH….I’ll leave it there as nobody should be surprised by my unabashed love for La Bel Paese at this point 🙂

      • For me just about the worst image in cycling is a peleton crawling along a 6 lane highway … such as the run into Barcelona recently. Have always thought this has worked against road racing in the US.

        • Absolutely agree. The North American racing scene (I’m including Canada too) has never been able to generate the same images that Euro racing does… all except the Quebec races. They have some beautiful parts of their courses that really make great viewing or to visit.

          • It’s been a problem for many races in countries that are new to road cycling, but I’m sure you could find more “appropriate” roads for road cycling in the US too? Maybe the problem is also to find funding & government/locals support in those areas?

  8. Fantastic article.
    Thank you for taking the time to post.
    I obviously agree with every point as would probably be expected of regular readers!

    Cycling for various reasons isn’t set up to grow and feels like it will forever be in this interminable cycle of incremental growth and retraction as interest waxes and wanes from new nations finding heroes and old nations forgetting theirs. There’ll never be a solution until all parties come together with a unified vision or are forced to – neither of which will ever happen.

    The recipe for growth seems pretty obvious – the best riders racing against each other more often and each race having more value. Hopefully from there the sport as a whole could move forward and start to tackle bigger questions – how to break new markets, how to better support teams in long term, how to attract more diverse riders and how to have races with a clearly differentiation.

    I hope the clamour for these things increases so one day a change might be possible.
    It’s just a shame other sports saw these questions and solved many way back in the 70s/80s as cycling just continued on its merry way and then had to contend with the 30year mega scandal that was/is doping.

    So is life. I’ll always watch it because it’s my first love but knowing it could be so much better.

    • “It’s just a shame other sports saw these questions and solved many way back in the 70s/80s”
      Curious as to what these sports are? Perhaps I’m in the minority but I’m content with pro cycling’s position in the world of sport, especially here in Italy.

      • I think it’s fair to be content and probably sensible if I’m honest.

        Cycling is still great and I will watch and enjoy as much as everyone here aside from a few races I particularly dislike!

        I also especially like Italian races as I love the country.

        The reason I would like cycling to have the ability to grow and reach more people is for a lot of different reasons – above many is that I believe it should be a sport for all, as so many countries have a vibrant cycling cultures but nearly no representation in propeloton which leads to an incredible lack of diversity which is real shame. Cycling should not be a sport for the few in the way golf, tennis and formula one clearly are as historically it was very much a working class sport.

        I also think there are legitimate disagreements with my position and desire for the sport to modernise and grow – most obviously being bigger doesn’t always mean better and there’s a lot of problems with sport that have vast popularity, even if most of them are common to cycling also recently!

        But sports that created a clear structure, calendar and gave themselves a chance to widen their appeal and audience are most obviously football in the UK and Europe with the creation of the Premiership and Champions League, Formula One in particular during the 70s under Ecclestone *(despite him being a dislikable person) and Tennis with the Grand Slam era making the calendar comprehensible to new comers and specifically the women’s calendar mirroring the mens so lesser fans think nothing of watching a women’s match during a grand slam in a way they simply wouldn’t do for other sports.

        And Larry – I always enjoy your comments and it’s nice to have someone with a different point of view in the chats but you also regularly misread or skip other commenters actual points!! So to be clear, I’m not saying any of these sports are better or even that I like them – I’m simply saying the way the are organised allows new comers to quickly understand their calendars and become fans so they grow the sports more widely. This is all I want for cycling.

        As I’ve said above the first thing they should do/try to do is the most basic:
        Make the best riders race each other more and create a system where the races have more value.
        Then you move onto the other building blocks and one day hopefully you’d have a sport with a more diverse peloton, that raced across the world in races that actually mattered and more consistently great racing with both the womens and mens peloton equally respected and watchable. Pipe dreams.

        • Not much convinced by your examples!
          Football doesn’t look it ever was a niche sport in need of expansion within Europe. Actually, people in Italy or in Spain, while still hugely interested, look quite much less passionate about the sport than a couple of decades ago. It always failed to seriously break in into those big markets it still lacked, say USA, China or India. What was the starting point? What was actually gained, proportionally, and what’s being lost?
          F1 lived huge ups and downs which would kill most sport not directly founded by, well, oil & cars economy. Cycling’s been much more steady and sustainable at its own relatively honest and modest finantial level. By the way, do you really feel F1 has been adding value and clear differentiation to races, when compared to their starting situation say 4 decades ago? I doubt so. Would you define the overall teams’ situation in F1 as solid or steady when examined in a, say, 30 years time?
          Is there any tennis outside the Slams? Similar to cycling, true fans will have a look to less significant competitions, too, while generalist public might be interested, if anything, to a handful of big days a year. I’d agree they worked on gender issues way better than cycling did (not a hard task), but… what about gender issues in football and F1?
          However, no doubt about tennis being an interesting model, starting with who the “proprietary” subjects are, although it’s far from exent from smaller or bigger problems. I’d not be as sure about the other two. It’s also interesting that both football and F1 played an important role in generating cycling’s woes in Italy, the former mainly regarding doping, the latter impacting indirectly on RCS’s situation.

          • Football in the US seems to have succeeded somewhat as a girls sport. An american family near us, it’s the mother and the girls going off to to football training and games. Unlike the other families around here where it’s the boys. 😉

        • Let’s focus on one specific theme which, albeit apparently supported by common sense, and although I’d even agree about it, still lacks solid attention to, well, reality.

          The Djokovic-Nadal rivalry is, according to Wikipedia, the *most prolific* of the Open Era. They faced each other some total 60 times, summing up every single level of competition and every tournament stage, in the last 17 years. However, only 18 of those matches happened at a major, and “only” roughly half of the above 60 matches were finals (including the majors’).

          In just 3 seasons + 2 partial seasons (for different reasons, 2019 and 2023) MvdP and WVA faced each other in 9 *Monuments*, always hard contested (one of them always got at least top-5, the worst results among the two were a 13 th and a 14th place, the rest being *all* top-tens).
          Boonen and Cancellara clashed 32 times in *Monuments only*, again. Take away those 6-7 where neither got even a top-ten, you’re left with some 25 matches.

          And cycling challenges include multiple presence of rivals, as we hope to see on Sunday, but just think about Alaphilippe often clashing with MvdP, too, or Cancellara also facing Sagan and Flecha, the latter being a common rival to Boonen, too, etc.

          • …And in a single GT, the major characters, who might happen to be among the biggest figure of the sport, clash several times on the big mountain days (you could add ITTs too, if you feel so). Plus the surprise days, of course.

            It’s just a different narrative and a different structure. But assuming, as you seem to do, that it prevents frequent enough big duels among the big figures is, well, plain false. Just as it’s the craziest comment ever that races “need more value” or “matter” or “differentiate” because cycling is probably on the very top from this POV. Few competitions are as specific as a cycling race and, hey, did you ever just *notice* that in cycling most power is held by… race organisers?!? Did you ever notice that winning a single specific race may change your career, irrespective of your more general position as an athlete in the sport?!?

            However, back to the point. Despite its peloton format, cycling ends up so often being a sport of great duels, which wouldn’t obviously happen if the big names just didn’t cross swords so often.
            The fact that we’d always ask for more, or the fact that in some very specific periods we feel lacking for a variety of reasons (specialisation, training style, thanks Lance etc.) doesn’t mean that it’s on the sport’s structure, quite the contrary actually. The sport allows a broad range of slightly different competitions with lots of shades and middle grounds that favours duels, and – even better – not just one-way duels.
            Of course, it’s up to riders and teams to choose as they manage the challenge – institutions have been trying to force things, but it only works up to a certain point.

            Maybe it’s much more about media’s interest to build and light up a narrative regarding cycling, as they once did easily enough with pretty much the same sport structure, and let’s not forget simple lack of attention or access by the general public or more recent fans. Media don’t act depending on a sport’s “content”, the reasons are quite much different.
            Did every cycling fan here took the occasion to watch the great 2016 Vuelta when Froome and Quintana (and Contador) clashed again after that disappointing TDF? How many had watched the Vuelta in 2014, where just as in 2012, Contador, Valverde, Froome and Purito (plus Aru, Samuel Sanchez, Gesink, Caruso etc.) battled against each other all the time again and again?
            How many fans took the occasion, back then, to fully watch Itzulias where Contador battled, say, Quintana or Valverde or Kwiatkowski or Cadel Evans? Lots of people here don’t even *watch* Tirreno, then no wonder one ends up complaining champions don’t race enough one against each other… it’s just that maybe they do but races aren’t shown, or people consider that they aren’t worth their time (when they obviously are, you just don’t always know in advance) ^___^

            And, obviously again, if part of the fans start blaming Pogacar because “he tries to win different races and so he might end up struggling at the TDF”, which is true of course, well, maybe it’s not only about calendar or races or bla bla bla.

          • Hey Gabriele.
            It’s difficult to reply because I think you’re missing the point so drastically.
            I watched every race you mention including Tirreno and the Vuelta’s.

            You’re blaming the audience for not watching rather than the sport for not making them important enough for fans to tune in. I agree they were excellent races and the rematches at the Vuelta’s are a fantastic argument for exactly what I’m advocating for – as they were a the best GT riders facing off twice in a year with a different outcome and even more drama. As you say it’s a shame more people didn’t watch… my point entirely. On other sport comparisons I don’t really think you get what I’m saying as none were a blanket fix-alls, as I assumed would be obvious – it was more a case of pick and mix, as clearly certain things are not applicable to cycle and again none of those sports are perfect either – you’ve pointed out a series of details in the comparisons which are just missing overall of specifically how we might imagine or think about a revised structure that allows for growth and development in cycling which we currently do not have.

          • I may have missed our suggestions as to how the sport could make races like Tirreno-Adriatico and the Vuelta important enough for fans to tune in.
            The football or the F1 method would be to have a season that would give us a points table and finish with a champion. I do know that something a bit similar has been done before in modern history, but wasn’t that a series of one-day races – most of which were important enough already in their own right – to give us a “one-day race world champion”?
            How would one go about creating a similar kind of series that would make the stage races – or a certain number of them – important enough? GC riders who aim for success in a GT will choose races they prefer for their own reasons and I’m not so sure a championship title or a, for them, modest prie purse would be enough to make them change their plans.

          • I think there’s far too much in the Anglo-Saxon cycling world about “broken business models” and “lack of coherent schedules” that somehow prevent a fantasy where the top stars would face off every race as if every tennis match was Nadal vs Federer or football game was the Chiefs vs Eagles.
            A lot of it is the stuff the guys at the Outer Line claim will “fix” cycling, which to them seems to be making it more like North American franchise sports operations ala NFL or NASCAR. They never seem to write much about how much dough one of these franchises might cost, kind of acting like the existing teams would somehow be grandfathered-in so a bunch of new money would come in…from somewhere….while those already in would end up with a magically valuable franchise free-of-charge.
            They also never say much about whether they’d be OK with a salary/budget cap and a player draft system ala NFL.
            I used to argue with the Outer Line folks but I’ve given up – what they want is unlikely to happen so it can never be proven to be a bad idea while it’s easy to snipe about “broken business models” from the sidelines while holding up examples I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to see pro cycling emulate.

          • Hey Friday.

            I didn’t want to go into specifics as it will just get overly long and stupidly indepth for a comments section and I’m sure INRNG will justifiably shut down this conversation following this reply!!

            Especially as none of this will happen.

            I want to be clear though – I’m not talking about a like for like lifting and in no way saying a championship with points could or ever would work in cycling, as mentioned above it has been tried and failed. I’m simply saying cycling cherry picks things that might work from other sports to improve the overall structure of pro-cycling for new fans and old – and there’s a huge amount cycling could learn from other sports.

            About F1 specifically – I feel they’ve somehow made what is essentially quite a dull sport into something which has grown and grown over nearly forty years and now seems to have done the impossible and cracked America. They’ve also managed to almost fool their audience that each circuit is radically different, Monza being super fast, Monaco intricate etc. But the one thing I feel they’ve done above all is create a very clear calendar that makes each ‘race weekend’ an event where fans know what happens Fri, Sat, Sun… similar to a Grand Tour but on a larger year long scale. Football has managed to do something similar, even if a little more chaotic, with strong brands around each competition so new fans can easily differentiate between each leagues and cups. Cycling could never lift or copy either but a clearer structure of the season would/could make a two fold step for cycling to firstly improve the value of races so audiences and riders alike care more about each and we have less occasions where supposedly important races like GW are given away. Just as importantly, it smart approach could make the entire year more accessible to new fans. It takes a bit of an imaginative leap to know what I mean, but if I go further this will spin into an essay and it’s not worthwhile – but to be clear I’m not saying points, cups… although one thing I am likely saying is less races, or at least less overlapping races.

            Hey Larry T

            You’re very much an all or nothing person!
            I’m not surprised that talk of broken business models etc bores you.
            I think all I would say is there is a middle point between 0 and 100.

            It’s easy to jump to the extremes assuming everyone who wants change wants to emulate sports we all dislike but you have to appreciate there are different types of change – some of which you must also like.

            A good example would be last years city circuit stage of Naples which was a change to previous Giro’s avoiding city centres. It was the best stage of the race and really connected with fans like me watching. That’s a small change but has a lot of possibilities for the future. Going further back the change to the TDF ending on the ChampsE… it’s hard to imagine it ending anywhere else now and is an iconic moment in every season but required someone to make the change…

            Change can be big or small and even if I’m advocating bigger changes these can still be done with cycling’s best qualities at heart because I think it’s important to remember the status-quo is fantastic for you personally but less good for a Rwandan or Eritrean who is a potential cycling fan or even pro rider but has only in the very recent past been able to witness someone who looks like them competing either in Europe or their own country.

            It’s fine to lambast people for trying to change things in favour of superbowl/franchise approach but you need to remember there are other sides to the argument and from a certain perspective your position could also seem quite selfish.

            There are ways to make changes which are thoughtful and incremental that keep the heart of cycling while over time growing is audiences and taking it to new places – it just takes good intentions and a little imagination.

            It’s just to think a sport where most fans switch off for the third Grand Tour of the year, or skip warm up races because they’re of little value or lose track between all the overlapping races etc etc etc is perfect just the way it is.

          • oldDave wrote: “..last years city circuit stage of Naples which was a change to previous Giro’s avoiding city centres.” How long have you been watching La Corsa Rosa? When did they start avoiding city centres? Citing this as some sort of big change is lost on me. I’m not 100% against changing things around but I AM 100% against things I see as pandering to an audience with an attention-span measured in minutes. I’m not fan of MLB but understand and accept that it has a lot of fans. Should they mess around with it to try to get me to watch, possibly ruining the whole thing for the fans they have now? Or just keep on keeping-on with bats made from wood, mitts from leather and a ball that hasn’t been changed in almost 100 years when they switched from horse to cow hide? Too often change is confused with improvement.

    • Um, are you sure the solution is obvious? E3 and GW actually gave us pretty sterile races – WVA killing everyone else off on behalf of Laporte an hour from the end, and the big three leaving the mortals behind in E3 an hour from tge end with nothing but the brief excitement of a sprint to look forward to? Dwars was arguably a far better race for the absence of the megastars?
      In stage racing, an attempt to get all GT stars to race each other all the time would kill off at least one of the Giro or Vuelta as everyone focused on the Tour, and the lesser races will still be affected by riders preparing at different rates for the Tour – Paris-Nice told us nothing, really when you consider that Jonas lost roughly the same amount of time to Tadej at Tirreno last year.
      I don’t think I am alone in enjoying what we have. The riders cannot race every race on the current calendar, so must be selective. Making them race more would mean we end up losing races which in turn would make it near impossible for new races (eg Strade Bianchi) to appear and grow.
      What we have is clearly imperfect, but I am not sure we want much more than just some calendar adjustments?

      • It does seem clear if you’ve been watching cycling a while that having ‘all the best riders in all the same races’ wouldn’t make for better races, as you explain.
        Variety is preferable.
        Equally clear is that ‘growth’ is not always a positive thing, and is not the thing one should aim for above all else. But that is the dogma of our society.

        • I would just repeat what I say above.
          It is not one or the other – it is not growth vs no growth.

          There is a middle way – there is a way to fight to retain the heart and soul of cycling while also looking to take the brilliance of our sport to new places and people who will love it as much as we do (and deserve to have the chance to enjoy what we do) – as the recent Tour of Rwanda and Eritrea’s rise has shown.

          I think it’s important to note that yes it’s fair to be skeptical of people coming along wanting to rip up everything and start again – but doing nothing is also doing something and there is a level of selfishness in not wanting to support and include other cycling fanbases around the world in the sport we love.

          • Old Dave, again, I suspect you mix up external representation on the shared Western media scene with the base of a sport. Which in a way proves my point.
            People have been racing bicycles in Rwanda in their local tour for nearly four decades now, about double time than the existence of the now-called WT Benelux Tour or ENECO Tour in the heartland of cycling Europe.
            Cycling in Eritrea started before the IIWW and always maintained a solid local tradition which brought cyclists to the Olympics as early as in the 50s.
            So, apparently it’s not about really being involved or interested or even utterly passionate about cycling, it’s about media representation or visibility on the only recognised (by us) sell-able shared scene.

      • Yes. Calendar adjustments is the exact thing I’d be in favour of above everything else.

        I think all other points are fair but it isn’t one or the other is all I’d say – there are ways of reaching a consensus that can give us just a slightly better version of what we already love over a long period of incremental change.

        It would also throw up surprising successes and failures which would be interesting to see play out but more than anything would give you the impression that improvement was more possible than it feels now.

    • @oldDAVE: You say, ‘The recipe for growth seems pretty obvious – the best riders racing against each other more often and each race having more value.’
      Why would ‘growth’ be a good thing? Why would more money improve the sport? Why does it matter if more people are watching? Why does it matter if cycling is breaking into new markets? Cycling will almost certainly never be a very popular sport, but what would be better about it if it was? And why this wish to ‘attract more diverse riders’? People can do the sports that they want to do. If people in South-East Asia are more interested in football, snooker and badminton than cycling, that’s fine. It’s their choice.

      Aside from whether or not there is any need for ‘growth’, if you had, let’s say, WVA, MvdP and Pog racing against each other more often, wouldn’t that quickly become a stale formula? And if that was happening so often, would these races have ‘more value’?
      Would we enjoy seeing more races being dominated by the same riders?
      Was cyclo-cross more interesting when WVA and MvdP were winning so many races?
      And if you create this ‘champions league’ formula of races, wouldn’t the smaller races suffer all the more? That is the base of cycling – that is the thing cycling really needs.
      Looking at the champions league (with apologies for the soccerball reference), when that first started in the 90s (when I was a football fan), it was hugely exciting to have the big teams playing each other more often because previously that had rarely happened. Then, it became less and less of an event, and fairly quickly the European Cup (as was) became a very closed league – bad for every team outside the biggest – where you end up watching the same teams play each other year in, year out. Is that better than how it was in the 1980s? Is that something to aspire to?

    • My position on this is that in general cycling is fine. Its a popular sport with easy entry level participation, even if costs can get out of hand if you get too carried away. The professional level also is fine, in general. The major historical races are all still there and haven’t been butchered, and new races pop up in new places all the time. And as much as teams supposedly disappear all the time most of the big ones have been around a long time and can even be traced back to the 80s in some cases. A couple of things could be improved on though. Cycling is pretty popular in the US (it would appear by the number of professional riders they produce) and Colombia (and perhaps to a lesser extent Ecuador too) but both have no top level races. Whilst on the other hand there are world tour races in China and UAE , for obvious reasons perhaps, and Poland potentially less obviously. I’m not convinced you need both Romandie and Switzerland in there either. A Vuelta a Colombia and some sort of race in the US, perhaps at the expense of one of the Canadian ones, would redress things a bit. In terms of expansion to places that currently aren’t interested in cycling, I have no interest. If budgets are stretched thin why overstretch them with fly away races in pointless places. My second bugbear is the World Tour. There are so many races in it, of such varying types and at so many overlapping times that its a pointless label. I don’t think Grand Tours need to be in any kind of championship, or ‘tour’. They are tours in themselves, obviously, that produce a champion and work fine as standalone events. The smaller stage races are just warm up events, Dauphine/Paris-Nice/Tirreno/Catalunya included, and in my opinion aren’t top level. So that leaves one day races that are easy to fit into some sort of season long series, and that would actually benefit from them. You could say that the first 3 monuments of the year have nothing to gain from it, but Liege, Lombardia and every other one day race would benefit from having the big hitters (MvdP and WVA basically) as near certain starters and slightly improved street cred.
      (for what its worth my ‘World Cup’ would probably be Strade Bianche (too many big riders sit out Omloop), MSR, G-W, Flanders, Roubaix, Amstel, Liege, (potentially one of the German ones),San Sebastian, (a US race, a UK race?), Paris-Tours (sans gravel), Lombardia. They would all ideally not clash with a grand tour, which probably leaves no room for races in the US or UK).

      • Thanks Richard S.
        I think we essentially agree – I watch cycling and love it and will continue watching either way.

        I think it’s also fair to say every cycling fan can see a way in which it could be better and rather than this conversation starting from a place of disagreement (my fault) it’s likely best to go Northern Ireland peace process on it and look for where people agree and go from there.

        I think when words like growth and change are mentioned people quickly leap to this worst case scenario when in truth many races struggle, women’s team even go unpaid from time to time and there is clearly a severe lack of diversity in the peloton. All of these are things people should strive to improve as they can clearly be done better.

        A utopia for one is obviously not a utopia for another but that doesn’t mean a consensus can’t be reached for gentle improvements.

        I think my main overarching issue is there are very few mechanisms in cycling for even the most slight improvements and I find that sad.

        I enjoy Larry’s contributions but I think he struggles to see when someone is being reasonable and wanting a calm debate rather than a mudslinging contest. There’s no need to jump to an idea of seismic change when I just want more people to have access to our sport and inspire more people to ride – growth is clearly a part of that but I never came looking to argue, especially for things I’m not even advocating for.

        JEvans I’ve regularly agreed with and writes great comments. I think here it’s failure of mine to explain what I mean for fear of writing long essays. Obviously I’ve thought of and agree with the points above, I think given a chance to talk we’d likely agree on most things and be able to find a middle ground – as all cycling fans could if we started from a point of what could improve rather than telling each other how it should improve.

        That’s my fault as I started in that vein, but mainly because I like to imagine solutions rather than moan about problems. Either way I’ve done both.

        I’ll end there and if people want to think I’m in favour of the jumbo-SuperBowl-mega-sport that’s fine it’s just a misunderstanding that’s likely my fault.

        • Old Dave, again, not huge time now for me (going ridin’), but you made two basic points, more duels among top players and more value to races. You named three sports. Now, the latter is pretty much void because cycling’s got huge value attached to races as such, whereas the former point can be proven wrong or not decisive precisely comparing cycling with the other sports you name, where the direct top level duels ratio is comparable.
          So, it’s more about personal desires and expectations, which, IMHO, could be focussed in a different and more productive way if you really looked for solutions. Say, the top players are too specialised – for example. In F1 you have more duels each year, indeed, but you’ll soon discover that each season the actual number of very top contenders both in terms of drivers and teams isn’t that substantial, plus the races have lost a huge quantity of value, so that model would generate conflict among your proposals. Saying, “let’s have all the virtues while not picking also the flaws” is naif to say the least because that’s not how sport, ahem, reality… does work. So many things like it or not come in bundle because the light is the left hand of darkness.

          Besides, well I’ve got an orange tree, a walnut tree, an avocado tree, and a couple of pear trees and plum trees, each of them requires you to learn how and when you collect fruits (not even speaking of taking care of or growing ’em, just about “collecting the fruit”), they’re *all extremely different*. And I didn’t really know anything until I started to observe a lot and practice some trial and error. But it’s mainly about observing carefully. And we’re speaking of relatively simple beings, all of them belonging to the same field of reality, and, as I said, that’s concerning *one single* aspect of our mutual existence. I think that perhaps it’s not about watching more cycling, rather really observing it.

          Finally, I think we should compare a given process taking into account its starting point and conditions. Acceleration (variation of speed in time) very often is more important than simply current speed. Should we compare Cuba to the USA or to Haiti? Maybe both, of course.
          Presently, cycling looks on the move both in financial terms and as for diversity. I’m not happy with either achieved levels. Things were someway better in the 90s, or, in terms of “acceleration”, in the 80s, too. But it’s not like things are now going backwards or just as blocked as they were, or as they did, in a good part of the 2000s or 2010s.
          Plus, financial success and diversity are not necessarily paired. Are really tennis and F1 working with and in Africa more than cycling, for example? And I’d think for a while about football, too. And which are the countries they’re working with, when it happens? Is women basketball, football, baseball, rugby, motorsports in a better situation than cycling?

          Not a reason not to act of course, but the things you think will go hand in hand, well, just don’t so often do it. Athletics and swimming work well on parity, I wouldn’t say they necessarily work better than cycling in terms of exposure, calendar, impact etc.

          Finally, people don’t watch or not a sport because of its contents. Or not as much as you’d think. Yes, people watch more when they know there’s a mountain stage. People watch *marginally* more when you have great riders at the start. But what really changes if people watch cycling or not is where it’s broadcast. Free, national, possibly public broadcaster means big figures. Cultural promotion (having references or hints outside specialistic spaces) generates big figures. A national champion, of course, generates big figures, but more often than not mainly as it creates the two above named effects. People watched way more cycling in the 90s, and feel assured that the sport hadn’t a clear calendar of sort. You can have people watching boats sailing in the vast empty ocean, to the point you can’t tell if it’s a real time image or a virtual one, you can have people watching or *actually* sponsoring golf or tennis (in a previous period) because the people who took decision about policies, politics and sponsorships played golf or tennis. It’s really not about *the sport* as such.

      • Not much time to read now all that’s be written around here, just a small point. Whereas it’s pretty clear which the big 7 shorter stage races are, and up to a certain point their relative value, too (as I explained some time ago), I’d say it’s less clear and way more open to debate if they’re just prep races.
        To start with, have a look at how many times each of them has been won by an at least minimally legit GT contender, say a GT podiumer, for example in the last 15 years or so, or since 2009 when the transition to WT system started (I mean, to avoid people telling me “they were great once, now nobody cares”).
        You’ll soon discover that several of them are among the seasonal objectives of top GT athletes, for a reason or another, that is, Pogi is no exception (whereas he is in oter fields), so they’re a great way to grant more duels *and*, on top of that, also a terrain in which the big names can be more easily challenged by some other figures (because the latter *may* focus even harder on this, because they’re shorter etc.), which is even better in a sense.
        You’ll easily see that Ti-Ad is a true target, just as Itzulia, with only a couple of editions won by athletes who aren’t also top GT contenders of sort. Catalunya and Romandie come close (3-4 editions by “outsiders” or “different sort of riders”), then Dauphiné at 5, Pa-Ni and Suisse at 7.
        Romandie can be debated because it once was indeed a prep race for the Giro, but more recently and currently, too, some TDF contenders attend and win. Suisse has got tradition and courses on its side, and is clearly on the up after some dire years.

        However, if one really needed to make things clear, well, you can put ’em all a label… say “Grand Tours”, “Monuments”, “Big 7”, “Classics”, “semiclassics”… oh wait, it’s how it works today.

        The system is actually very clear once you’ve been following the sport for a little while, notwithstanding some specific events or periods which can mix up things.
        However, I’ll admit that politics makes it harder to understand it because, as we know, ASO and UCI try all the time to shift existing balance for their own interests and plans, hence you have WT races but really at very different technical levels and the likes. But that’s precisely the consequence of trying to force change on the sport. It obviously generates short term confusion, which won’t improve if you try forcing more change, especially if it’s arbitrary. I won’t criticise trying to force change, sometimes it’s hugely good and needed, and I’ve sometimes defended WT here against Larry’s opinions, imagine that, but we shouldn’t loose the perception of the current, actual value setting in the sport.

  9. “I’m simply saying the way the are organised allows new comers to quickly understand their calendars and become fans so they grow the sports more widely.”
    OK, fair enough though the level of greed/corruption in those sports is something I hoped cycling had gotten past from the daze of Verbruggen/McQuaid. I’m content with the size/growth of the sport, especially as most of the “globalization” (to grow the sport more widely, as you noted) by the Verbruggen/McQuaid sadly came with way too much greed/corruption… ala FIFA and F1. One of those “be careful what you wish for” things?

    • Hey Larry.
      On rereading the above I’ve been unfair and apologise.

      On the above point – we have teams from the UAE, Bahrain as well as Ineos, who it’s fair to be more than a little dubious of. I think it’s just ignoring the truth to imagine cycling has sidestepped any greed or corruption or ever will.

      And it’s nice you’re happy with the growth and improvement but we’ve talked many times on here where you have an issue with something or other! It’s hard to believe you’re fully content. Only yesterday you mentioned how a fan visit to the one day races in Northern Europe wasn’t as good as those in Italy? Even if weather and landscape are immovable there is still improvements that could be made to your fan experience and there is a space where we can talk about this without saying we’re about to throw the entire sport in the bin.

      • No apologies needed. I think Mr Inrng keeps the comments open so debates can be had. I don’t think I do any mudslinging but do ask questions when someone cites something without being very specific as to what it is: ie your comment about “other sports” without naming ’em…so I asked. You go on about it NOT being an either/or situation but the examples you cited came along with corruption/greed that is pretty terrible so it’s hard not to see the risk of the same results in cycling…especially after the Verbruggen/McQuaid years when their talk was all about “globalization” which as you wrote was to bring cycling to other markets. How’d that turn out?
        I agree with Richard S…who cares? While I got into the sport via Greg LeMond it WASN’T because he was racing around in the USA…he packed his bags and went to the heart of the sport, the same way a foreign American football hopeful would find his way to the USA.
        Our difference might be that you see yourself as a sort of cheerleader for the sport while I don’t care. I’m just fine with the level of popularity there is and think cleaning things up (as in PED’s) is more important in luring sponsors back than increased interest due to some sort of improved calendar or more races in places people don’t care about cycling. I moved to Italy in large part because there’s not much of a cycling scene in the USA but that doesn’t mean I want every guy in the bar here to be a huge cycling fan – they can have football!

      • “Even if weather and landscape are immovable there is still improvements that could be made to your fan experience and there is a space where we can talk about this without saying we’re about to throw the entire sport in the bin.”
        There’s nothing that could be done with those races outside Italy that would make want to go again and see ’em live. Same as Eroica CA vs the bici d’epoca events here in Italy. It’s the same thing, but then again it’s not. Perhaps you could consider it like wine grapes? Not much wine making in the regions the non-Italian monuments are held in vs Italy. Sure, bikes and beer are a thing but it’s not (and can’t be) the same thing, just as L-B-L can’t happen in China. They could have a race over some hills but nothing’s gonna change the fact it’s in China. Same with various bike races they’ve tried in the USA…they just can’t be like the ones in cycling’s heartland. I’m a purist in many ways, good or bad…but I’m never not gonna turn up my nose on pineapple on pizza!

  10. Talking of brand exposure, any thoughts on another run of INRNG kit? Not sure what the payoff is for this but I’m sure I’m not alone in looking for ways to lend support to the blog

    • This!
      My inrng jersey has been passed on to my oldest son, need another one for me in XL 🙂
      Bib shorts would also be on my shortlist to buy.

  11. I’ve clearly commented enough here and better leave it be.

    Thank you for a great article INRNG and opening an interesting debate.

    • “Because the cycle path on the road was not adapted for speeds of 40 to 45 km/h, we rode on the road. Suddenly I heard the horn of a concrete mixer, which drove past us. As befits a vehicle of that size, the driver of the concrete mixer closed the door while honking. Wout had no choice but to force Daan Soete off the road. Otherwise he would probably have ascended to heaven. Wout was almost dead. He was literally almost under the concrete mixer, it was really harrowing.
      Just one of the reasons I will never go back to see any of the non-Italian monuments of cycling. I was truly shocked with the attitude of motorists up there. I won’t say Italy is perfect but…

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