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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.

Pat McQuaid is Alive and Well

Once the most powerful man in cycling, Pat McQuaid is now living a quiet life in the countryside of southern France. After achieving success as a racer in the 1970s, he became involved with cycling’s governance starting in 1993, when he was elected President of the Irish Cycling Federation. As President of the UCI from 2005 to 2013, he oversaw a transitional period in the organization; the sport was growing rapidly in the wake of Lance Armstrong’s compelling story and seven successive Tour de France wins, and also due to globalization strategies set in motion by the UCI’s first President, the late Hein Verbruggen. McQuaid has maintained a low profile since his two-term tenure as UCI President ended in 2013, but he still has a finger on the pulse of global cycling. His successor, Brian Cookson, is wrapping up his four year term as President of the UCI, and is facing a strong challenge...

Tour de Pharmacy’s Tough Punchline

Fans of the TV show Portlandia are amused by the quirky portrayals of Portland’s residents, and the unique ways in which they interact with their insular world. But for actual residents of the city of Portland, the show can make for uncomfortable viewing because it highlights the all-too-real stereotypes of the people, places, and activities that make the socially-progressive city one of the centers of the of the tree-hugging, liberal world. Cycling’s die-hard fans and its stakeholders are in for the same rude awakening, when HBO Films’ “mockumentary” Tour de Pharmacy airs on July 8th. There is an old adage – that often things which are said in jest are said half in truth. Satire and comedy often reflect the uncomfortable aspects of real life, and in this light some cycling fans may enjoy the program, but there will probably be just as many fans turned off or offended by the portrayal...

Entering a New Dimension

When The Outer Line first talked with Team Dimension Data general manager Doug Ryder several years ago, he emphasized that he was building a different kind of team – one structured around a philanthropic cause, but ultimately focused on earning an African-based team the opportunity to participate in the Tour de France. He has made major strides since then, and today, the WorldTour’s sole African team is continuing to demonstrate – to the other teams and to the overall sport – an innovative model to improve the accessibility and sustainability of pro cycling. But along the way, Ryder has found that holding onto that spot in the WorldTour is just as hard as winning any of the sport’s Monuments. The controversial UCI points system, which ranks the athletic competitiveness of teams and individual athletes, also dictates the fortunes of teams aspiring to join or simply maintain their spot...

The Status of Women’s Pro Cycling – Part 3: Owning the Road Ahead

(Editors’ Note:  In our previous articles in this series, we featured a discussion with Iris Slappendel – an emerging leader of women’s cycling – as well as a detailed look at the issues of sexism and abuse in the sport.  We now turn towards the future, and propose some ideas for a future roadmap, by which professional women cyclists and other key stakeholders can work together to bring positive change to the sport’s competitive landscape and economic future.) When the 2017 Tour de France race route was recently presented to the public, its companion race for professional women – “La Course” – was shifted out of the global spotlight of finishing on the Champs Elysees on the iconic final day of the Tour, and moved to a one-day mountain challenge in an isolated part of the Alps.  This change is both a tangible and a symbolic step backwards; even the L’Etape du Tour (the annual one-day...

Revitalizing American Bike Racing – A Talk with Michael Aisner: Part 2

In the first part of this series, Michael Aisner shared many fond and exciting memories from the old Coors Classic days. He also alluded to a number of important business lessons that can be learned from the success of that event. In fact, many of the innovative marketing approaches, organization-building tactics and operating methods that the “Classic” pioneered may be increasingly relevant today – as more and more American racing events struggle to achieve stability and profitability. In this article, we talk in more detail with Aisner about some of these key recommendations for stabilizing and revitalizing American cycling today. Aisner firmly believes that cycling must be viewed as part of the broader entertainment business, and that sports are therefore in constant competition against all other forms of entertainment. There are now thousands of cable, satellite, and online...

The Status of Women’s Pro Cycling – Part 2: A Cultural Legacy of Sexism and Abuse

(Editors’ note: In our previous article, Iris Slappendel outlined some of the biggest challenges in the sport, and pointed out several different types of sexism and harassment that still occur within women’s cycling.  This second article shares the personal accounts of various women who have experienced these types of problems, their personal insights, and some of their recommendations about what needs to change inside the sport in order to break these cycles of abuse.) A legacy of abuse and sexism unfortunately continues to simmer just beneath the surface of women’s professional cycling – and particularly within the smaller and more thinly-supported teams. This negative culture puts many cyclists at risk, and severely undermines the sport’s reputation and potential for long-term economic growth. Governance protections and oversight in place today are woefully inadequate. Rather...

The High Priest of American Road Racing – A Talk with Michael Aisner: Part 1

The Coors Classic introduced pro cycling to a wide audience in the United States, and helped to create many of its early icons – including Greg LeMond, Connie Carpenter, Inga Thompson, and Andy Hampsten. While much of cycling’s fan base today is too young to have seen the race in person, it put the U.S. on the international cycling map in the 1980s, and eventually became one of the top four cycling events in the world.  The Coors Classic was, in many ways, the brainchild of the impresario and director Michael Aisner, and the influence of his race, and its innovative approaches to connect with fans and communities, is still being felt today. Aisner is something of a renaissance man and a seeming perpetual energy machine – and has been involved in a wide range of sporting and entertainment projects throughout his life. One website describes him as “a shotgun blast of worldwide wandering...

The Status of Women’s Cycling – Part 1: A Discussion with Iris Slappendel

(Editors’ note: this is the first article in a multi-part series delving into the current state of women’s pro cycling. Part 1 is a detailed discussion with recently retired racer Iris Slappendel, one of pro cycling’s emerging leaders, and a passionate voice for both articulating the challenges and improving the opportunities for women in the sport.) Iris Slappendel was one of the most consistent, strongest and smartest one-day riders of her generation, adept at timing a winning move, and at strategically setting up her teammates for victory. The former top professional had many great moments in her career – from her 20 personal victories, numerous high placings and teammates’ victories in top-tier races, to the joyous camaraderie that comes with riding alongside or against your friends in the peloton.  Her most notable career achievement was an unexpected and hard-fought National...