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The Outer Line

…. is the path often taken by cyclists who are unable to break into the lead-out train, but whose strength, resolve and tactical cunning can lead them to victory.

 

We provide an independent perspective on the challenges facing pro cycling – and offer an objective forum for analyzing the key structural, economic, governance and ethical aspects of the sport. Through informed and constructive discussion, we hope to improve the underlying characteristics, reform the historical models, and help pro cycling to truly grow and thrive.

 

 Cycling has relied on legacy and tradition for too long – locking us to an inner line that has clearly failed, and which risks the future of the sport.  It’s time to listen to new ideas and change direction.  It’s time to take The Outer Line…

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Click here for a Summary of A Roadmap to Repair Pro Cycling


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Scroll down to read our most recent articles on the issues facing pro cycling and the perspectives of various leaders in the sport. Print out copies of any of our past articles from the Downloads page, and check back frequently for on-going commentary, innovative ideas and new directions in pro cycling.

The Path to Parity

A major priority of the UCI under President Brian Cookson has been to raise the profile of women’s cycling.  This may have helped spur the return of a women’s event to coincide with the Tour de France for the first time in over a decade, and is just one of several positive changes in the sport since September 2013.  The recent Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) report suggested several additional changes, but – like so many of the UCI’s new broad and sweeping proposals – they lack the actionable details needed to truly advance the sport in a coherent or timely fashion. Nowhere is the desire and need for positive reform more immediate than in women’s professional cycling.  A meaningful long-term strategy which will improve the opportunities and treatment of women has yet to materialize, and this is especially distressing for the current athletes who are attempting to make a...

The CIRC Report: A Missed Opportunity

There has already been considerable comment and reflection on the much anticipated CIRC report – and reactions have predictably varied across the spectrum.  But there seems to be general agreement that the published report has finally validated a relevant and cohesive historical narrative about doping and the role of the UCI – even if many of the facts and figures were already fairly well known around the cycling community.  Unfortunately, the formal recommendations offered by the report, which were intended to be the main focus of the overall project, fall far short of expectations. It is important first to look back at what the CIRC was originally chartered to do, and how the final report addresses those specific tasks and objectives. In terms of the first of its three major objectives – which were discussed on page 16 of the report, and as generally laid out in the original “Terms...

Out of Africa: How MTN-Qhubeka’s Model May Change Pro Cycling

The South African-based MTN-Qhubeka team has received a good deal of press attention this year, with its off-season signings of Tyler Farrar, Edvald Boassen Hagen, and Matt Goss among others, and particularly with its ground-breaking invitation to participate in this year’s Tour de France.  But apart from being the first African-registered team to earn a spot for the Tour’s starting line, and its notable racing successes over the last few years, the team is also driven by a different and unique philosophy – one which may eventually impact pro cycling at the highest level, and help to evolve the sport towards a more sustainable model. Team founder and owner Douglas Ryder sees his team as pioneering the future of African cycling in a way that will lead to more UCI events on the continent, and eventually to more African riders having the opportunity to race on top global teams. “If our...

Team Optum: A Model for the Future?

Several pro cycling teams have generated considerable buzz over the past few years by cracking down on doping, boasting new internal testing requirements and protocols, and promoting themselves as “the clean team” to potential sponsors.  But few if any other teams in the U.S. or in the WorldTour have developed the stellar and consistent record of Team Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies and its predecessor teams – going on almost twenty years now without a single positive test.  While many teams over the years have boasted to be clean, “we actually are the clean team,” says team owner and managing director Charles Aaron. In American cycling, Aaron may be one of the most influential people that you’ve never heard of.  However, as head of Circuit Sport (www.circuitsport.com) he has actually been active in professional bike racing for more than two decades.  His teams employ more...

Changing the Business Model: (6) Rethinking the Governance of Pro Cycling

Professional road cycling has evolved slowly over the past hundred years.  The current structure of major racing events and top team competition fell into place rather haphazardly over many decades, and as a result of changing economic and nationalistic factors in Western Europe.   Accordingly, evolution of the sport’s governance has also been somewhat bumpy and arbitrary.  Historically, the sport was essentially a loose affiliation of race events, and it was governed largely through the interests of the organizers of those races.  Over time, the rules and policies of emerging national cycling federations began to have a greater impact on the sport as well.  But during the last 40 years, changes in how advertisers derive money from sports sponsorships, the boom in broadcast technologies to bring bicycle races to televisions across the planet, and the role of the modern Olympics to...

Changing the Business Model: (5) Setting a New Ethical Standard in Pro Cycling

(Editors’ Note:  In light of the controversial decision to grant a 2015 UCI WorldTour license to the Astana pro cycling team, The Outer Line is revisiting the role of ethics – as a core business practice, and how it might best be applied to pro cycling.   While many reasons have been cited for why the UCI decided to issue a license to scandal-ridden Astana team, a more critical issue for the UCI might be to determine how it can create, communicate and enforce a formal ethics program for the sport going forward.)   Professional cycling has never adopted a formal set of ethical standards for its riders, teams or governing officials.  There has been no clear standard for responsible and ethical behavior – no training or guidelines, no expectation that people should do the right thing, even when “no one is looking.”  Cycling has instead always relied on the strength of its rules and...

Changing the Business Model: (4) A New Approach to Anti-Doping

There is no greater threat to the future of pro cycling than the continued lack of a consistent and defensible anti-doping system.  Athlete testing and punishment is often inequitable or inconsistently applied, the testing methods themselves are sometimes analytically inconclusive, and the responsibility and coordination between different governing agencies is often absent or unclear.  The shortcomings of this system have been felt across the entire sport – from its shaky financial situation to the growing demand for fundamental structural and governance reform.  Real progress and a more effective solution to the doping dilemma would allow the sport to attract more sponsors, generate more revenue and flourish in the future. Over the past several years, there have been hundreds of articles and editorial pieces criticizing the current anti-doping procedures in pro cycling, and decrying...

Changing the Business Model: (3) Modernizing the Calendar and Competitive Structure

Many of the financial and sponsorship challenges we explored in the first two segments of this series are partially driven by – and closely interwoven with – pro cycling’s competitive and organizational structure.  The way the sport is managed and played out on the road is closely linked to many of these broader economic and structural issues, although the cause and effect is not always obvious. These effects and impacts must be clearly understood to continue reforming the sport. For example, many have suggested that if the sport could somehow shift the focus to teams, rather than individuals, fan attention and loyalty might increase. Others have pointed out that the creation of a more cohesive, coordinated race calendar could help to create a single “league” feel to the sport, which might increase viewership, facilitate more efficient marketing and television packaging, and drive...