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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.

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...

The Dog Ate My Homework

(Editors’ Note: Positive doping tests or “adverse analytical findings” in professional cycling can be highly uncertain and controversial, and can lead to months or years of costly wrangling and disputes, both in the legal system and in the court of public opinion – often without any satisfactory or consensus outcome.  While the sport has upped its effort to discover and expose drug cheats, many observers believe that some racers are still getting away with the use of various undetected performance enhancing drugs.  What often attracts less attention is the case where it appears that clean riders are being unfairly accused.  It is important to realize that while rapidly advancing analytical technology has unquestionably improved the precision and accuracy of drug testing, it’s not perfect; there will always be some inherent error in the process.  And this means that we may occasionally...

Changing the Business Model: (2) Building the Sponsorship Base

One of cycling’s greatest attraction for fans is that it’s basically free to watch. The flip side is that, relative to other sports, there is much greater pressure on event organizers and teams to find external commercial sponsors to provide the financial foundation for the sport.  And although there is an urgent need to diversify the sources of revenue in the sport, the fact is that pro cycling – by its very nature – will always be heavily dependent upon commercial sponsorship. Viewed from this perspective, one of the most pressing issues faced by the sport is the need to attract and retain more committed and global long-term sponsors. The real problem (as pointed out in the first article in this series) is an underlying atmosphere of instability that affects everything and everyone in the sport, because the requisite sponsorship and financial backing are always in flux. Team managers...

Changing the Business Model: (1) Strengthening the Financial Foundation

Cycling is a unique sport, freely accessible to tens of millions of fans every year.   Whether it is the estimated 15 million people who watch the Tour de France in person each year, or the countless spectators of the Classics, regional pro races, and downtown criteriums, almost no one has to walk through a turnstile or pay admission for the privilege.   This is one of the great allures of the sport – the ability to get up close and personal with the riders, and truly experience the race first-hand. Other sports which are played in large stadiums can collect tickets and charge admission. But because cycling lacks this fundamental source of revenue, it has always wrestled with financial challenges – and has historically been almost totally dependent upon commercial sponsorship for its financial viability.  Unfortunately, to make the situation worse, the sport’s image has been stained...

Changing the Business Model of Pro Cycling – Introduction

Despite its legacy of scandal and its many challenges, professional cycling is a beautiful and compelling sport to watch, and it remains one of the most under-valued potential investments in the global sporting market. Few sports put the fans so close to the action as it happens, and few sports offer as much potential return on investment to sponsors and investors.  But even as pro cycling seems poised to finally climb out of the dark and pervasive doping era of the last thirty years, the sport still suffers from numerous challenges and potentially threatening problems: a financial model which is almost entirely dependent upon unpredictable commercial sponsorship – leading to an undercurrent of “paycheck insecurity,” a lack of long-term team sponsor and race organization stability, and general uncertainty about the future of the sport a confusing governance structure which is riddled...