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Evolving Strategies for Cyclists on Mitigating and Recovering From COVID-19

Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria became the first professional cyclist to contract coronavirus in March 2020. Despite some claims at the time, one year later we now know that COVID-19 turned out to be much worse than the flu. Professional bicycle racing was disrupted on a scale unseen since World War II as the pandemic swept unchecked across the globe. Domestic mass participation events were eliminated, and even casual group rides were considered potential health risks. Despite initial pessimism, professional cycling managed to salvage an abbreviated European racing season which included all three grand tours, thanks to effective risk mitigation strategies: regular PCR tests, mask-wearing, and physical distancing. COVID-19 presented an ever-shifting landscape with many hurdles along the way. The riders in Tour de France and the Vuelta a España were mostly unaffected by COVID-19, but...

Rethinking the Polka Dot Jersey

Cycling fans are used to seeing spectacular performances in the high mountains – by both overall race contenders and breakaway privateer climbers. Whenever the road tilts upwards, the climbing specialists – the “mountain goats” – move to the front, hunting for valuable points that could lead to the prestigious “King of the Mountains” title (KOM, or QOM in women’s racing) – that comes with personal accolades and valuable sponsor publicity. The red polka dot jersey that signifies the King of the Mountains in the Tour de France has often been a pivotal subtext to the overall race, especially when talented climbers who are also legitimate overall contenders fight for the jersey in the high mountains. Prior to the mid-1990s, the mountain points competition was generally won or contested by the top overall contenders – who picked up points by scalping peaks while hunting for the yellow...

‘Retrospectives’ Podcast Episode 6 — Catching Up With Tom Danielson

In 2015, elite American climber and one-time Tour de France top 10 finisher Tom Danielson exited the professional peloton unceremoniously, after a positive drug test he claims came from a tainted supplement that affected testosterone levels. At age 38, instead of taking a suspension from USADA, he decided to retire. “It was a big move for me, but I had to just move forward.” In his first extended interview since his retirement, Danielson addresses the difficulties and disappointment of his hasty retirement and directly confronts the controversy which followed. He talks about the cycling media community, which he believes never really gave him a fair hearing, and discloses that he dealt with anxiety issues throughout his cycling career. Danielson was once one of the most animated American cyclists and a fan favorite at the prominent American races like the Amgen Tour of California, USA...

Danish Cycling’s Ethical Dilemma

Jörg Krieger has been researching and analyzing an ongoing drama within the Danish Cycling Union and in this guest feature, he examines how a national cycling federation can undermine its integrity through politics and poorly executed controls. According to Krieger, the situation in Denmark is perhaps a symptom of the larger issue of embedding good governance practices and institutional ethics in global sport. The following feature represents the professional observations and opinions of the writer and not The Outer Line. Good governance has become a constantly trending term in the highest echelons of sport organizations over the past two decades. Major corruption and mismanagement scandals within prominent sporting bodies such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), and World Athletics have caused significant public...

How to Prevent Athlete Abuse in Cycling

The recent UCI Ethics Committee decision concerning former Health Mate team manager Patrick Van Gansen has brought renewed scrutiny on the ability of sports governing bodies to prevent and remedy cases of athlete abuse. No one should be surprised that Van Gansen came away with a token sanction for what appeared to be serious abuse charges, because fundamental athlete rights are not built into the Olympic sports model. Likewise, no one should be surprised when this happens again – unless the UCI seizes the opportunity to adopt a ground-breaking stance among Olympic-chartered sports. Unfortunately, the legal paradox of lenient punishment is not unique to cycling. It is instructive to understand how Olympic sport in general has historically walled itself off from objective and external legal scrutiny, and examine how this has exacerbated the conditions which can lead to abuse. Background...

Race Economics — What COVID-19 Has Revealed

During the pandemic of the last year, most major league sports – largely supported by ticket revenues – have predictably suffered major economic losses. In some cases, individual teams have had to take on massive debt to survive. Back when the full effects of the pandemic first began to be felt, we surmised that WorldTour sponsorships could be in jeopardy, but we assumed that major cycling events like the Tour de France would be at least partially insulated from major economic consequences – simply due to the fact that they never had significant ticket revenues, to begin with. In other words, due to its constrained business model, which does not include significant gate or TV revenues, pro cycling would not have as far to fall. However, recent reports have suggested that major cycling events and promoters have in fact struggled economically during COVID, with several key events failing...