Say what you will about pro cycling: Like the simple bicycle wheel, the same story comes round again and again and again.
Just this week, we’ve had a triple shot of deja-vu. First, an announcement from Astana’s team boss Alexander Vinokourov that the team was running out of funds fast and would soon be dead in the water. For reasons unspecified, team sponsor Samruk Kazyna hasn’t written any paychecks for 2018.
Given that Samruk Kazyna is a state sovereign wealth fund that owns Kazakstan’s oil and gas firms and has significant holdings in banking and telecoms, you can’t say there’s no money for the poor peloton. Still, Vino has yet to get his hands on it and his athletes are riding on financial fumes.
Meanwhile over at BMC, team manager Jim Ochowicz was insisting to journalists that the squad was in no danger of failing to secure new sponsorship for 2019. Multi-millionaire owner Andy Rihs has yet to make any guarantee he’ll continue his expensive hobby funding a WorldTour playtoy.
Superstar Richie Porte has given the team until May — just two months away — to lock down the financial backing to give the squad stability. Who knows what will really happen and perhaps BMC will be the second high-profile squad to try crowding funding as a rescue plan — a scenario Cannondale-Drapac used last season to pull in a new title sponsor in EF Education First.
Nobody in pro cycling has money except Team Sky. No, wait, that might no longer true, either. Comcast CEO Brain Roberts just announced a $31 billion bid for the British broadcaster Sky. Who knows what will happen to the team of four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome with Rupert Murdoch’s Sky empire going through several monetary upheavals.
Froome himself may be wondering where his next paycheck will come from if he loses his appeal (and his place at Sky?) over an adverse analytical finding for the asthma drug salbutamol at last year’s Vuelta a Espana. Puff Daddy is watching it all potentially disappear in the mist of an inhaler.
The financial drumbeat continues. The recently cancelled Tour of Alberta owes creditors — read teams and riders — more than $1.6 million (Canadian), according to bankruptcy documents obtained by cyclingnews.
The list of teams that got stiffed: Rally Cycling ($19,620), Cannondale-Drapac ($16,697), UnitedHealthcare ($2,795), Amore & Vita ($3,608), Axeon ($17,052), Elevate-KHS ($1,153), Holowesko-Citadel ($4,580), Medellin-Inder ($751), SkyDive Dubai ($3,951), Team Canada ($3,855) and Jelly Belly-Maxxis ($1,398).
Hagens Berman Axeon manager Axel Merckx was quoted saying “I’m not surprised, to be honest with you.” He was talking about the Tour of Alberta but really, he could have been talking about the financial failures of pro cycling in general.