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August 18, 2017
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  • velocite

    Great article, Shane, and what sounds like a good articulation of the problem for pro teams by Trek’s Simon Thompson. It does seem odd that more global brands don’t support cycling teams. I would have thought that followers of bike racing were at least half global, and relatively well-heeled to boot.

    But the Thompson comment that resonated with me was about the ‘confusing clutter of events’ throughout the year. I read all your race reports Shane, but most of them I know nothing about, have no idea of their importance, which teams are contesting them and I don’t really care about them. As Thompson said, crying out for a progressive narrative. Same with women’s cycling I think.

    • Shane Stokes

      Thanks for that, much appreciated. I have been following the sport (and writing about it) for a long time now so the races are okay to understand, but it must be bewildering for anyone who is relatively new to it…

  • brucegray

    Important topic, especially in light of the animosity mounting against moneybags Team Sky. Though I wonder if most people will ever be interested in watching a grand tour or even a 1 hour criterium of aggressive cyclists. My perception is the greater public :
    A: don’t want to get run down by aggressive riders on shared paths
    B: consider cycling to be a relaxing recreational or utilitarian thing. They don’t necessarily want to get up at sunrise, don lycra, and end up looking like caffeine addicted praying manti!

    • Jarre

      Sell cycling as car racing with more drama and you’ve got something that appeals to the public.

      • H20

        But car racing is a tiny sport, in terms of the number of participants compared to the number of people who drive and to the size of the vast parent industry that provides most of the sponsorship to keep the sport alive.

        If the aim is to get people out there and on bikes, following the elitist car racing model could be a complete disaster.

  • CC

    This discussion just keeps going around in circles… bad economic model, incentives to protect the status quo.. I’m not in a position to propose a solution, but I suspect if the tops teams looked at their budgets, and created a breakaway league… it would cause a faction (K.Packer comes to mind). Until something drastic like this (or other) occurs, I find myself becoming more disenchanted with the pro model & it’s adolescent attitude.

  • BBB

    Poor Trek…

    “The second element is marketing. “We are the number one individual brand in the world. We are a performance brand, we have always been a performance brand and racing is paramount to that,” he explained.”

    And how did they end up in that position? Surely the Trek marketing person remembers.

    If they find they can’t compete, get the owners of the company to put their hand in their pocket and put back into the sport they helped damage for so long.

    • Yes I had a thought that if they wanted to Trek could put more money in. And that the increase would still only be a tiny fraction of their profits.

      And so I’m left interpreting this piece as ultimately a sponsorship drive for Trek, despite all the legitimate context provided.

  • Ron

    Loved those Samsung videos. More PR people need to use the interesting personalities in the sport (Cancellara, Sagan, Gerrans, Hausler, Wiggans etc) to help promote their product. Gives us an glimpse at them behind the sunglasses and helmet.

  • Yancey

    What about a salary cap? Works well for the major American sports.

    • Jarre

      The problem isn’t that Sky is spending too much money – it’s a symptom. There aren’t enough sponsors and most teams don’t have access to bounties of cash.

      The teams need more stable and secure sources of revenue. A share of the TV rights bounty is the answer.

      • Superpilot

        If you look at the premier league, it kind of works in that the TV rights increase enables the promoted clubs to kind of compete when they move up to EPL level. However, the top teams are consistent year on year, and rely on the rich owner etc scenario to get to that point. So, more sustainable for the teams, but the competition disparities are about the same, and with grossly elevated salaries.

        The american and EPL models are often touted, but at the moment you more or less have the situation in cycling where the teams have no share, and the organisers of the events receive the TV right income. It is more like Formula 1, where the rights sit with the organiser, rather than the team owners like in American sports.

        ASO will (probably) never agree to share TV revenue with the teams, saying that the event doesn’t exist without ASO so therefore they deserve the income, and the teams are too chicken to withdraw as for their sponsors, the TDF is the biggest race for their possible sponsorship exposure during the year. Also if they withdraw from the tour, the team will likely be barred from every ASO event, which is no a very considerable list.

        Sure Tinkoff has said he would withdraw from the tour, but the fact he hasn’t yet means he needs to make sure all his major competitors do the same, otherwise they will provide better exposure to their sponsors and he will lose out.

  • Tour de force Todd

    How much money does Trek make from Bike sales? 2013 revenue puts it at 900 million and they are budgeting for the team 14 million for one , if not the biggest bike brand in the sport – Surely they can dip there hands in there pockets any time they want and sign GC contenders other than Cancellara.

    • Abdu


      Too many companies have been able to / happy to milk the sport with very low investment.

      In hindsight, Verbruggen and McQuaid will take 10 years to get over. It’s like Australia’s mining boom, governments have milked it without investing anywhere else, or delivering proper structural change. When that boom ends it, whuh?

  • Paolo

    Is that 45% of the budget for salaries or 45% of the total team budget? If it’s the second, than i have to congratulate Cancellara on the best contract ever. 6Mill. Euros for Cancellara? I can’t believe that.

    • Shane Stokes

      Hi Paolo, from the text in the article above: ‘Of the salary portion of that budget, 45 percent is spent covering the
      wages of Trek Factory Racing’s top rider Fabian Cancellara.’ So it’s not the whole 14 million euro budget.

      • 900Aero

        Even so, tying up 45% of rider salaries with one guy is risky – as 2015 has shown. 45% of their problem is of their own making. I realise that FC is a marqee name and helps to sell bikes but still, they’ve effectively had to run a whole season on Plan B. I wouldn’t do it if it was my money.

        • Shane Stokes

          I think that’s the problem; they need to try to win big races and, due to the cost of the big GC contenders plus all the strong support riders they would need to challenge for Grand Tours, it likely makes more economic sense to focus mainly on the Classics. The team needed to go with a guy who could win such races, but they do acknowledge above that budget constraints make a plan B very difficult. Having a plan B would require spending less on the big rider (Cancellara), but would they be able to get a proven Classics winner for less money?

          For me the big issue is that Sky, Tinkoff Saxo and other teams have a lot more to spend and without a salary cap currently being in place, it is very difficult to find other proven winners without spending a packet. The few rich teams are driving up the cost of the marquee riders and this really stretches the smaller teams who are trying to keep up.

  • Lulu

    So why don’t sky have a women’s team?

    • Michele

      Don’t get me started on that Lulu. I’ve been banging on about that for years ….

      Wiggins was even talking it up 18 months ago:


      40 million Euros is huge. In the link above I quoted [in the comments] Cycling Weekly which stated Sky’s budget in 2012 was 26.5 million euros.

      So in the space of 3 years [assuming these figures are right], SKY’s budget has increased by 13.5 million euros.

      And in this piece, the suggestion is made that a mid-tier women’s team could operate on a budget of approx. 1 million Euros.


      Makes you wonder why SKY hasn’t bothered.

      • Chris Garrison

        A well-run women’s team could operate on much less than 1 Million a year.

        The most insulting thing about Wiggins talking about a women’s team is that he abandoned the idea in favour of…a domestic UK men’s team that bears his name. The infrastructure they have is more than most top-flight women’s teams, and it’s very difficult to see them turn up at circuit series races here in the with multiple vehicles, of which the cost of one would go a long way to taking a women’s team to the next level.

        • Michele

          Yeah, very good point Chris.

          • Chris Garrison

            It’s not easy being at those races when that team pulls in. Meanwhile, other teams struggle to obtain enough funding to have a single DS. It’s incredibly frustrating.

  • Jack Douglas

    How the hell does Cancellara get paid that much? 45% of 14 million euros a season, thats 6.3 million euros a season! I’d rather buy Sagan and the Yates brothers for that much coin! Those numbers sound a little suspect though, I don’t think even Froome is on 4.5 million pounds a year…..

    • Rough Draft

      He is paid 45% of the salary portion of the budget. It’s not stated what the salary portion is.

      • Jack Douglas

        That definitely makes more sense now, I was thinking Spartacus is good but he aint 4.5 million pounds a year good :P

        • Dave

          He’s past it now anyway, very much yesterdays man, his shocker of a season is proof of that.

          • Michele

            He had a disappointing year, no question.

            But I would argue his ‘shocker’ came about more to do with injuries than age. We’ll never know how his spring classics would’ve ended up.

            He finished 6 seconds behind Dennis in the opening stage ITT at this year’s Tour; riding when the conditions were less favourable than when Dennis rolled down the start ramp. At the time I was pretty impressed with that result.

            And of course, he was only 1 of 4 people to wear Yellow at the TdF.

            I agree, his best days are behind him, and he’ll be 35 when the cobble classics roll around again. But I wouldn’t discount him putting in a very good result at P-R.

          • Shane Stokes

            Not sure how you can say that? He fractured his back on two occasions; once before the Classics, and once during the Tour while in the yellow jersey. Recovering from the first to take yellow in the Tour was already a big achievement, and who knows what he might have done later in the race, including on the cobblestone stage…

  • On the other hand…

    Outside the Tour and the Giro, plenty of races are struggling to survive – Vuelta a Murcia springs to mind, for one. Something that isn’t frequently mentioned is the number of smaller races that ASO run, effectively subsidised by the tour. A one-size-fits-all model for sharing TV revenue isn’t going to work, plain and simple.

    Also, JV’s idea of a franchise system frankly leaves me utterly cold. I loved watching Café de Columbia back in the day, I’ve loved watching MTN-Quebeka in the last couple of years – both teams that wrestled invites to the races on the strength of their performances. I don’t think much of the idea of certain teams riding around collecting TV money for doing squat (like more than a couple did in this year’s tour) while locking out teams and stories like those. Quite apart from anything else, sewing up the top tier of the sport for a privilege few from the same old countries kind of goes against the stated goal of globalising the sport, no?

  • Ralph

    ““First and foremost, you have to change the economic model where the
    teams are completely relying on sponsors. Every year you have got all of
    these teams battling to try to maintain the sponsors that they have got
    and trying to bring some value.” Same argument that’s been running in F1 for 20 years. No idea how professional cycling would solve this.. velon?

  • byustudent

    It seems like you could go both ways, but it’s important to pick at least one: either change the schedule or whatever needs to be done to introduce a consistent narrative and/or work out a bargaining agreement between races and tour teams, no matter what those teams are, so that teams get a share of the revenue. It’d probably be better to have both, that way you are increasing overall TV revenue by having a more comprehensible sport, increasing sponsorship money while also decreasing dependence on sponsors. I know American pro sports are free from branding on team uniforms, but I don’t see that being an issue with cycling – racing sports always proudly display sponsors.

    I don’t really understand cycling all that well and I follow it somewhat. I was at the last three stages of the Tour of Utah and trying to explain to friends why there are 4 world tour teams in the race, and that some of these riders were in the Tour de France, and what the Tour of Utah means in context, and so on and so on. Speaking of, Brent Bookwalter (BMC) had a gnarly ascent up the last climb on the last day and an even more balls-out descent to podium for the overall tour. It was thrilling.

    I don’t know how you’d structure it, but it seems like you could declare end-of-season champions like you could for races: overall, points, king of the mountains, sprint, classics, crits, etc. Imagine how badass you’d feel if you were declared the king of the mountains for the season. Right now I just assume that whoever wins the Tour de France is the best rider and that Peter Sagan will win the green jersey until 2050.


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