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Some Things Never Change

The Outer Line Review of “Le Fric – Family, Power, and Money: The Business of the Tour de France” by Alex Duff Every historical attempt or plan to expand, diversify or modernize pro cycling – and there have been many – inevitably bump into the same hurdle, some would say brick wall. The so-called breakaway league,  the efforts of Cycling 2020, Change Cycling Now and other initiatives a decade ago, through the Rapha Roadmap a few years ago, the on-going efforts of Velon and other more recent ideas, have proposed new ideas to grow the fan base and revenue potential of pro cycling. And all of them have two major things in common: none have really been successful, and they’ve all run headlong into stiff resistance from the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO). The ASO has, for almost three-quarters of a century, operated the Tour de France, and many of the other most valuable assets in pro...

Pro Cycling Is Hiding in Plain Sight: Better Ways to Tell the Story

The Giro d’Italia’s mostly boring stage 3 painfully reminded fans of pro cycling’s lackluster and unimaginative television format. Inspiring scenery of Budapest, the Danube, and medieval castles may generate new tourism, and some diehards may have tuned in for the intermediate sprints every hour or two. But by and large, until the last few minutes of the five-hour coverage, viewers were treated to three unknown Italians in a futile break – trying to snare marketing impressions for drone and hamburgers – interspersed with repetitive and monotonous shots of the peloton rolling along. Televised bike racing has been static for the last 50 years – cameras on motorcycles and helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft signal relays, all converging in a single transmission feed with different commentators narrating the same action in different languages. There is no reason why drones couldn’t be used...

Analysis: After Health Scare, Will Sonny Colbrelli Race Again?

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a rare but devastating event, often affecting apparently healthy athletes with no prior heart problems. In fact, the typical victim has no suspicion that they are at risk, and prior to the SCD event may have even felt that they were in peak form. Sonny Colbrelli, last year’s Paris-Roubaix winner and current European champion, can now be counted among the estimated 1 in 40,000 to 1 in 80,000 young athletes per year to experience SCD, after his dramatic resuscitation following Stage 1 of the Volta a Catalunya. He was quickly transported to the Hospital Universitari de Girona after being defibrillated on-site for treatment of a life-threatening arrhythmia. Initial tests were “inconclusive” in terms of a specific cause of the event, and fortunately showed “no sign of compromised heart function.” Following advanced evaluation at the University of Padua Medical...

The ‘Relegation Watch:’ Behind the Headlines

Since the end of last year and certainly during the early part of this year’s pro cycling season, there has been a flurry of interest and attention paid to the UCI’s upcoming system of “relegation/promotion,” named after the common European football league practice. At the end of this year, the top 18 teams – ranked in terms of the most cumulative UCI points over the previous three years (2020 through 2022) – will have the opportunity to apply for a selective three-year WorldTour (WT) license, thus ensuring themselves of participation in all the sport’s biggest races from 2023 through 2025. The UCI’s rationale behind this new process was to provide some measure of economic protection and help increase the value of the top-performing teams. In some ways, the process is a tentative and short-term experiment with the attributes of a franchise or league type of sport – each team that gets...

A 10-Year Look at UCI WorldTour Team Performance

Multiple performance, economic and organizational metrics can be dissected to evaluate the competitive performance of UCI WorldTour cycling teams. The Outer Line published a brief survey of historical team performance two years ago; and this more thorough analysis updates that evaluation with 10 years of men’s WorldTour data, revealing unanticipated insights into the sport and the key drivers of success in managing pro teams. For this new analysis, we primarily analyzed team wins, podiums, and top-10 race placings, as well as the ProCyclingStats annual point totals. (As previously discussed, the UCI has its own point system for ranking and selection processes, but the PCS system is more detailed and user-friendly and is generally considered to be a more precise estimate of performance; in addition, the UCI completely changed its points system a few years ago, making longer-term trend...