Cycling is at a crossroads

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12/31/2012| 2 comments
by Neil Browne

Cycling is at a crossroads

In these tough times, tough decisions need to be made.

I met the general manager of Wonderful Pistachios, Josh Horowitz, at his booth during this year’s Interbike. Not really a booth – more of a location inside the convention center. It was a good location – just across from the SRAM area which was teeming with people checking out the new components or a pro’s SRAM equipped rig.

But parked a mere 20 feet away from the bustling SRAM area was the Wonderful Pistachios team van. Racked on the roof of the vehicle were the team’s bikes – “Broken Bones.” They were brightly colored with an “in your face” vibe not typically seen in the bike industry. I spoke to Josh and he was hoping that the Broken Bones bike line would take off. I knew it was going to be a challenge for a small company like his to battle against the Big Three of Trek, Specialized, and Giant.

I asked him what he would do if Broken Bikes tanked. He replied he’d get a job and spend more time with his family – not a bad option – but one he was trying to avoid. Not because he enjoyed weeks away from his family, but because he was a fan of the sport of cycling and like a lot of us who make a living in it, was trying to stay in it. I wished him well and walked the 20 feet to the SRAM area to take my next meeting.

Along with several other domestic cycling teams, Wonderful Pistachios is not returning for the 2013 season. And it wasn’t with any surprise that I read the interview with Josh on Cyclingnews that he was frustrated with the UCI (International Cycling Union).

“I’ve decided that pro cycling in the US is not a viable way to make a living. With everything that’s been going on with Lance (Armstrong) and all the other turmoil in the sport, there was just no way I was going to waste my time and try to find new corporate sponsorship in this environment.”

He’s not the only one. Rabobank, the Dutch bank with several locations in the States has pulled the plug on title sponsoring their WorldTour road cycling team. They didn’t want their image associated with a sport they considered severely damaged.

“We are no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport. We are not confident that this will change for the better in the foreseeable future,” said Bert Bruggink - a Rabobank board member.

At a televised news conference Bruggink said that the USADA report that outlined all the charges of doping and intimidation by Armstrong, “was the final straw.”

Another co-sponsor of a WorldTour team also jumped ship. The Japanese car company Nissan was, effective immediately, no longer on the RadioShack-Nissan jersey. Like Rabobank, they had a financial commitment with their respective teams for 2013 and would honor them, but didn’t want their names associated with the squads they had only a few months ago sponsored.

And who could blame either of

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hughest|

I see our sport from the point of view of a life long fan of the sport. I had a few heroes over the years, I got to see the Coors Classic a few times as well as the S.F. Gran Prix and now I get to share this wonderful sport with my son's 12,9 and 5 are my boys ages and they know more about cycling than 80% of America. I have never been accused of being a fan of LA but I will always respect the Livestrong movement. Me and the boys have gotten to meet a ton of huge name guys and MOST of the time (like 99.9% kind of most of the time) they were super nice and would always focus on the kids. Big George and DZ were excellent, every single time. DZ sitting in dope tent cracking jokes with my 12 y/o about some doofy old dude trying to touch DZ. After a extremely cold and wet stage that finished in Modesto, Big George came rolling into the bus parking and ride directly to my kids, said hello and offered them his bottles off his bike. It was freezing and he is still that kind of cool.... Thanks again for that by the way George.
You cant get an American athlete to act like that on their best day let alone "one of the worst days ever on a bike"-Levi.
so as I see it, cycling should survive just fine. The riders treat the fans like they matter and the fans will continue to follow. If UCI or the teams change the way they interact with the public and cycling will suffer. Look back at NASCAR when the drivers were asses and had very little contact if any with the fans. They made a small change in access to the drivers and the fans came flying out of the sheds and outhouses to get a pituer with Dale or JR.
Now should be the time when a company considering sponsoring a team should strike. Getting in when cycling is turning and claiming a spot in the clean up is priceless free advertising.
JV is no idiot, Garmin is as respected and feared for a reason.
I would kill to get to work in professional cycling. All you people that are ruining our sport should step aside and let those of us who love the sport take over and let it be the epic adventure that cycling is.

XpertNtraining|

Cycling's comeback can be a long way down the road or it could be back in a year, it all depends on how "the powers that be" handle it. If its handled like the Nuremberg Trials were handled, it will take years and wear heavily on the whole industry. However if those powers determine that they only need to remove or discipline the select top few, and then eliminate the doping loop holes, this can be over quickly and back to the positive parts of cycling.

Like in a down housing market, that's when it is time to buy, I see it that way for cycling now. It is time for companies to get in low and grow with the comeback, these companies can help provide incentive to move forward.

We will see where the leaders in Cycling and the Governing bodies take us, will they make quick work of the clean up or will their egos get in the way.