Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fat Rich Guys: The New Face Of Pro Cycling?

 In case you haven't noticed, the world of professional cycling is pretty fucked up right now. The economics of the sport have drastically changed, thanks in no small part to years of doping scandals, tainted champions, fan disillusionment, and most importantly, the mass exodus of sponsorship dollars by legitimate companies afraid to attach their names to a potential time-bomb.

What we are left with is a culling of the Pro Tour peloton "herd"...and I'm not sure that's such a bad thing for a viable economic model moving forward. But...right now we are at a crossroads of failing teams, mergers of two existing teams, and deep-pocket ownership by "sportsman" billionaires with shady backgrounds.

Bob Stapleton of the now defunct, HTC-Highroad, is a personally rich man. His net worth is approximately $80 million. His job as leader of the team was to secure sponsorship money and then manage and delegate team operations...not sink his own personal money into the team. When the T-Mobil buyout money dried up and the sponsorship dollars couldn't cover operating expenses, Stapleton did what any smart businessman would do...shut it down.

Andy Rihs, owner of BMC Bicycles and the BMC Racing Team, is a multi-billionaire. Gerry Ryan, primary benefactor of the new Australian team, GreenEdge, is also a billionaire. These guys have the willingness to use personal money to sign the big names and do whatever it takes to dominate the peloton. Other established, corporately financed teams will have to fight harder and harder for the shrinking piece of the pie or be forced to merge, streamline, or even go away like HTC-Highroad...who were the #1 ranked team in the world at the time of their demise.

Garmin with Cervelo...Omega Pharma with Quickstep...Lampre with ISD...RadioShack with Leopard-Trek...all within the last few years. Mongo is all for a smaller, yet stronger, group of teams making up the UCI Pro Tour...but the legitimacy that the sport has been striving for recently can't be undermined by the selfish interests of the bloated, monied, "Wheel Barons".

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