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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 the sport – and offer an objective forum for analyzing its key structural, economic, governance and ethical aspects.  It’s time to listen to new ideas and change direction.  It’s time to take The Outer Line

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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 dozens of past articles from the Article Library page, and check back frequently for on-going commentary, innovative ideas and new directions in pro cycling.

The USA – MIA at the Tour?

Editors’ Note: Daniel de Visé is an independent author and former reporter for the Washington Post and Miami Herald.  He is a member of The Outer Line’s informal board of contributors and an occasional commentator on professional cycling. He lives in Washington, D.C., and recently published a new book about Greg LeMond and the 1989 Tour de France. Four of the brightest stars of American men’s cycling in the last decade, Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer and Tyler Hamilton, all eventually admitted to doping, wreaking irreparable harm on their sport and tarnishing the credibility of its signature event. But they also raised the visibility of modern cycling in America to a level it had not known before – and may not know again. And now it appears there is no one to replace them. As many as five American cyclists are expected compete in the 2018 Tour de France, which begins on...

BMC in Crisis: The Same Old Problem

Cycling’s long-standing investment and sponsorship challenges are once again taking center stage. Just a few weeks ago, Deloitte Consulting was rumored to be the lifeline that would allow the soon-to-be-former Team BMC to continue as one of the WorldTour’s “super-teams.” The main surprise concerning Deloitte’s potential commitment as a new sponsor for BMC was that the brand might leave its partnership with the Dimension Data for Qhubeka program. However, it now appears that Deloitte’s appetite for investment is below what is needed to support BMC’s current reported $30 million annual budget, and without additional backing the team may now be headed for life support. Pro cycling sponsorship presents a fickle and constantly changing business proposition. It had been generally understood, with Andy Rihs’ health declining in recent years, that the team’s run might eventually come to...

Armstrong’s Lawsuit Settlement as Pascal’s Wager

“Pascal’s Wager” is an elegant and simple philosophical principle that has stood the test of time. The 17th Century mathematician and Catholic theologian Blaise Pascal proposed that if we live a pious life and forego some of our earthly pleasures for the promise of entry into heaven, we have a chance for a happy and eternal afterlife. If we wager nothing and live a life of excess, we may be damned to hell for all eternity. Since we can’t prove or disprove the existence of God, Pascal argued it is safer to bet on the pious approach, giving up a little bit now just in case God does exist. Pascal’s Wager is considered to be the first formal application of decision theory, and his formula (ignoring the religious context) endures as a kind of complex coin flip. Distilled to its essence, Pascal says that if you wager something small at the opportunity for a possibly greater reward...

“Beer Money” or “Nest Egg?” – Revamping Cycling’s Prize System

Prize money has long been a significant driver of competitive choices and strategic behavior in pro cycling. Event organizers have traditionally set aside significant dollars to award the top performers and teams in their events – both to attract stronger fields to the events, as well as to make the racing more competitive. Prize money has also been a powerful motivator for individual racers – in some events amounting to a major payoff for a few top finishers. But the prize money system is also a highly bureaucratic and inequitable process, and above all, it doesn’t work to incentivize aggressive racing.  Instead, this money needs to be redirected in a way that will benefit riders long-term, to shore up an underfunded pension system that has yet to meet the needs of retiring riders. How It Works Today:  In 2015, prize monies amounting to about $15 million were paid out across the world...

Lance Armstrong Interview – Part 2 Drilling Down on Some Practical Ideas for Pro Cycling’s Future

(Editors’ Note: In Part 1 of our extensive and broad-ranging interview with Lance Armstrong, we talked about his life today, his cycling-related activities, and his current business initiatives. In this second installment, we asked more substantive questions to gather Armstrong’s perspectives on how the sport of pro cycling could be strengthened going forward. As we said in the foreword to our first article, we are fully aware that Armstrong’s public statements and opinions generate widespread controversy, and we recognize that we will be accused by many of providing a platform for someone who should no longer have a voice in the sport. However, as independent observers of the sport, we believe that despite his controversial history in cycling his ideas and suggestions should be debated on the merits of their content, not rejected solely because of the history that precedes them. Note:...

SCAPEGOAT: The Travails of Michele Acquarone

Just five years ago, Italian Michele Acquarone was heralded as one of the true innovators and future leaders of professional cycling. He had assumed oversight of the Giro d’Italia – by any measure the world’s second most important race and for many, the world’s most exciting race – at age 36. He introduced new and modernized techniques for producing and marketing bike races, including the novel idea of sharing TV revenues with the teams in 2012. In many respects, he was exactly what pro cycling needed – a young, innovative and creative business leader; not a former cyclist wedded to the hidebound traditions and legacies of European cycling; willing to learn the intricacies of the sport, but not constrained by them. He brought creative thinking and progressive leadership that cycling desperately needed – and still cries out for today. Yet one day in October 2013 – after almost fifteen...

Sudden Cardiac Death in Pro Cycling

In the wake of 23-In the wake of 23-year-old Michael Goolaerts’ tragic death during the recent edition of Paris-Roubaix, the general topic of sudden cardiac death is suddenly on the minds of a lot of cycling fans – and probably more than a few professional riders as well. Although extremely rare, when an event like this does happen, it generates intense media attention and coverage – and can lead to anxiety, worries and misinformation. Below, we try to put this issue into clearer scientific context. Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is extremely uncommon in young people, and is estimated to occur in only between 1 in 40,000 to 1 in 80,000 young athletes. Unfortunately, Goolaerts’ death illustrates how misconceptions can develop when the popular media tries to cover complex medical issues with incomplete data. Video footage of Goolaert’s crash is limited, but individual fan smartphone videos...

Tapping Cycling’s Hidden Goldmine – Part 2

As outlined in part 1 of this series, professional cycling has a broadcast problem. Cycling is currently broadcast on free-to-air TV in the European heartland, while pay options are either expensive and/or not available in a unified viewing package at many other places around the globe. The fractured nature of race ownership and extreme splitting of TV rights across markets makes it difficult for a single entity to bundle together digital broadcast rights in a direct-delivery model. In this article, we examine how a global content delivery model could be built using the now ubiquitous over-the-top (OTT) web model, globally connecting the sport to its fans, attracting new fans, and opening new revenue opportunities. The Tour of Flanders is a beautiful event and consistently provides thrilling racing, but U.S.-based cycling fans were disappointed to find that one of the biggest and best...