Maybe the ineffectual business model is the break with five riders who won’t work together and then they’re caught and beaten by a less talented hack.
The analogy pops up when we read the news of the continual foundational instability of professionally cycling teams. The ultimate failure of the existing model was the demise last year of the most successful team in cycling, HTC-Highroad. Pick your sport — when one of the most successful, well managed team goes under because they can’t beg a sponsor to save them, then the issues are deep and systemic. When savvy billionaires like owner Bob Stapleton fail it’s no wonder that guys trying to re-fund Geox were unable to resuscitate.
So the fresh news that Saxo Bank and Liquigas-Cannondale are considering a possible merger — at least according to the rumor hungry Gazetta Dello Sport — is a troubling sign. Double that with the on-going difficulty of the iconic basque squad Euskatel-Euskadi to remain financially functional.
Step back a second and consider the implications. HTC had the best sprinter of his generation, Mark Cavendish and the World Champion in the time trial monster Tony Martin. The Brian Holm-Rolf Aldag squad was anti-doping and pro-win and still they went under, Bob Stapleton hustling sponsor dollars to the bitter end.
Now we have the top Italian squad with Ivan Basso, the phenomenal Peter Sagan and speedsters like Elia Viviani and a major US bike sponsor in Cannondale doing the pass the hat routine. This is beyond pathetic and catastrophic.
That’s the lime green debacle, not to be confused the the orange outrage. Euskatel Euskadi has been a unique and passionate fixture in the pro peloton for what feels like ages. On a string budget even smalller than Garmin’s, Samuel Sanchez still won the king of the mountains jersey and a top five finish at last years’ Tour de France. The global economy, the Spanish economy and the Basque economy have all cut into the squads chances of staying alive. A freakin’ damn shame. Without the crazy Basque fans throwing a three day party in the Pyrenees, you might as well skip those mountains and do six days in the Alps.
Which gets us back the the breakaway riders that won’t work together. The Pro teams, sponsors, UCI and riders have to find a better way to work together. The sport turns a pedal in apathy, without visionary leadership except for people like Jonathan Vaughers. We have amazing climbers and great sprinters but a shortage of thinkers.
The news that two major ProTour squads are fighting for their existence won’t bother UCI president Pat “Cocktail” McQuaid. You never read a thing, good, bad or indifferent from the clueless McQuaid about the demise of HTC-Highroad. When that disaster occurred he was too busy threatening teams with participation in his Tour of Beijing show.
Perhaps no other sport in the world has so much beauty and talent and drama and history and such an astonishingly short-sighted outlook.
HTC-Highroad is extinct. Liquigas-Cannondale and Saxo Bank hang in the balance. There is so little cooperation in this breakaway. Maybe that’s why we need a breakaway league.