BMC begging. Thank-you Sky

Where’s the money?

BMC’s Tour de France captain Richie Porte was in the news today with his cap out begging for money. First, put that in perspective — does the NFL’s Tom Brady beg for money? Does the NBA’s LeBron James hustle for sponsorship funds just to keep his pro basketball team alive? Pro cycling is a financial clown show.

The teams’ rich and long-standing vanity sponsor Andy Rihs died not too long ago. Money is running out, sponsorship ending, no suiters with millions of euros on the horizon.

That sucks big time for a well-run and highly successful WorldTour team that features Porte and classics star Greg Van Avermaet along with a talented group of support riders. It brings to mind the sad spectacle of rich man Bob Stapleton’s HTC-Columbia squad that died in 2011 after a fabulous run of wins and podiums from riders like a young Mark Cavendish, George Hincapie, Tejay van Garderen and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Pro cycling is a sport where even seriously rich men quickly decide it is a money pit. Unless you have unlimited funds like the oil tycoons in Bahrain. Stapleton has never been back and Rhys is gone.

Porte, who is trying to get his form dialed in for a serious shot at the Tour de France, is obviously a bit unnerved by the prospect of his team folding in the near future. He has a fundamental understanding that a team is kind of cost of entry for winning a bike race.

“I don’t want to lie, it is a little bit stressful. We ride our bikes and it is the management’s job to find a sponsor for us next year. It would be sad to see BMC go. They’re a great team and I’ve had a great couple of years here. Now is crunch time,” he told Cyclingnews.

If Porte wants a good answer for why some deep-pocketed enterprise isn’t stepping up to rescue BMC, he can look to his former teammate and ex-buddy Chris Froome and Team Sky. Those are the people who have created the latest dark cloud over the sport of pro cycling, calling into question doping, ethics, a culture of cheating.

Those issues tend to throw a wet blanket on the idea of sponsoring a pro cycling team. Last year, Cannondale-Drapac was on life support, the team so desperate that they made the begging public. In this rare case, the death’s door appeal reeled in a sponsor willing to take over the team. It was rolling dice and hoping against the odds for a positive outcome. Team manager Vaughters pulled off a Vegas crap shoot that defied the odds.

Say you’re a potential sponsor. Your initial top-line of the sport is that it’s biggest star (other than Peter Sagan) is engaged in a highly visible battle with the UCI over a failed doping test for the asthma medication salbutamol. Should Froome lose his case — and almost every informed party thinks he will — why would you even remotely think about trusting your corporate reputation with a cycling team? Froome may very well be banned for 6 to 12 months. And he supposedly represents the cleanest of the clean. Why open your wallet and step into that ethical morass. Only a fool or a cycling addict does that.

Should BMC cease to exist, Porte can’t blame it on Lance Armstrong and the famous Reasoned Decision. He can blame it on Sky’s ethical lapses and institutionalized abuse of grey areas. From Wiggins’ manipulative TUE abuse to the allegations that cracked open with the Fancy Bears computer hack to Froome’s own twice-the-limit overdose of Salbutamol, Porte can thank his good ex-pal for making it difficult for BMC to find a new sponsor and survive.

What are former friends for if not to destroy your team? Froome is often described as ruthless and in this case his willingness to continue racing while his salbutamol case is unresolved has damaged BMC and his Tour rival Porte. Not a bad days work if your mind works that way.

 

 

 

 

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