The State of Professional Cycling

There is plenty of commentary at the moment on the “state” of professional cycling. Folks don’t usually seem to refer to the current affairs as a “state” when it’s in a good way, so I guess it’s simple enough to say it’s in a bad way.

Just in the US teams have been folding, some of our best riders are struggling to find jobs, it takes a bit of the fun out of it. People are frustrated, angry, confused. I don’t know if it is necessarily confusing - I am not sure that sponsors of domestic cycling teams get much in terms of any return on investment. Sponsorship at least on the domestic level probably does not really make sense regarding return on investment, it comes down to enthusiasm and philanthropy. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but a thing that in my opinion needs to be realized and embraced. I don’t want to get too far down that road though as there is plenty of opinion and commentary out there, and in no way do I feel I’m an authority to speak on it.

More to me, the message is - do people want to be involved in professional cycling, despite the “state”. Yesterday I was catching up with an athlete over coffee, reviewing this past season and getting ready to set off in pursuit of the 2019 season. This athlete is right in the eye of the storm, riding for a UCI continental team registered in the US. In many ways he is one of the lucky ones, to have a spot with a professional team in a year when a lot of guys with gorgeous resumes are struggling to find jobs. He is lucky in one sense, but he is also seeing his friends, his peers, folks that he respects and have invested massively in cycling - he’s seeing those folks get totally forced out of cycling. A lot of guys are not racing in 2019, and it’s not for lack of want, or desire - it’s for lack of opportunity. I suppose this is the “state” of professional cycling in the US, it is lacking opportunity. Now, perhaps that is a greedy perspective to have - to say that it is lacking opportunity when we have a U23 team that is taking U23 riders and giving the opportunity to do a World Tour race, and we have two “domestic” races where continental teams can go up against World Tour teams (UT and CO), well that does not really sound like lacking opportunity. So perhaps it is greedy (trying to avoid a “greed is good” reference here). Back to the point though - despite being one of the “lucky ones”, how does one get motivated to put so much time and energy into a sport, that he sees essentially “abandoning” his peers who he feels have invested as much or more. It feels unjust, and one does not necessarily want to feed that machine. It was interesting, and refreshing to hear this perspective - this perspective that people are not just blood hungry and out to push their peers down to grab the spots available, but they want to see all succeed. Unfortunately, the sentiment of “there’s plenty to go around” does not really exist at the moment.

We need more teams, we need more races. Maybe we need more races first, for more teams to happen. I certainly do not have an answer, and if I did have an answer I don’t have the power to put it into play. However, it is interesting (and certainly an easy conversation to find at the moment) to speculate on it. The point I’d bring up on the contrary is - we still do have some of the highest performing teams we have ever had. We have teams that are growing, and competing on higher platforms than they ever have before. We are seeing US riders that have been grinding away for 10 years starting to break out into huge results and in Europe. There are more US riders in the World Tour in the past few years than there have ever been. It may not always look shiny from the outside - but my cliche’d “call to arms” would be that if folks enjoy cycling, stay with it. Don’t get bitter, don’t get cynical - stay with the sport - find a way you can make it better. What cycling may need now more than anything, is simply people, engagement - if folks care about cycling, don’t walk away now!

Thanks for reading the rantings and ravings.