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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.

Pro Riders Race Gravel at Dirty Kanza 200

Last fall the cycling company Rapha initiated an innovative and forward-thinking sponsorship model with the EF Education First team for the 2019 racing season. One of the team’s first announcements was that they would add a few non-traditional, non-UCI sanctioned grassroots events such as the Dirty Kanza 200, Leadville Trail 100 and Three Peaks Cyclocross race to diversify their traditional racing calendar. This declaration shook up the traditional model of WorldTour racing, which rarely sees top-tier teams deviating from the standard UCI WorldTour calendar. And ever since, there has been an intensifying debate around what’s right and what’s potentially wrong about this new direction for pro cycling teams. Alex Howes, Taylor Phinney, and Lachlan Morton lined up this past weekend to race the Dirty Kanza 200. This brutal 200-mile gravel event running through the flint hills of central...

The Future of Cycling is Female

The continuing churn over Amaury Sports’s (ASO) decision to potentially pull its flagship women’s events, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and la Flèche Wallonne Féminine, from the UCI Women’s WorldTour (WWT) should have surprised no one – but perhaps not for the reasons that most competitors and observers might think. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we believe that ASO’s move should be viewed as an ill-timed but clear-cut power-play in its ongoing struggle with the UCI for control over the direction of the sport. Unfortunately, this battle benefits no one – and least of all the women racing today. Over the past few weeks, fans and female competitors alike have blasted ASO for this decision. The timing of ASO’s decision was particularly suspect, given recent global trends towards gender equality in many other sports. Hence, many have attempted to brand the company as anti-equality...

How Cycling Can Avoid Sports-washing

Recently, The Outer Line examined the complex moral dilemmas cycling often faces in its sporting and business decisions, and waded into the difficult question of who should decide when something is right or wrong for the larger objectives of the sport. We specifically called out the investment and influence leveraged by several major corporations as well as certain Middle Eastern countries. The growing efforts of entities like these, utilizing cycling events or teams in one way or another to “whitewash,” or recast poor economic, environmental or human rights records in a more favorable light represents a universal concern for all sports. Human rights and sports have been deeply intertwined for decades. As we discussed in our earlier piece, sports were used by Nazi Germany to legitimize its emergence as a world power as early as 1936, and later by both Eastern Bloc and western countries...

Fact or Fiction in Cycling Media?

Sometimes it’s a little hard to discern fact from fiction in professional cycling.  According to recent reports, Oliver Naesen caught severe bronchitis after Gent-Wevelgem as a result of being sprayed with champagne on the podium by winner Alexander Kristoff. Naesen and his team later said  that he was on a course of antibiotics, but that he would probably be ready for the Tour of Flanders a week later.  Apparently, he was then able to overcome what is considered to be a very contagious illness with the help of antibiotics and went on to net his best-ever result at Flanders and later a career second-best 13th place at Paris-Roubaix. There are several obvious things to unpack about this event – both in terms of the story itself, and the way it was shared by the sport’s media outlets.  First, bronchitis is typically caused by a virus. As seems fairly obvious, and as UAE Team Emirates...

Emergence of a New American Cycling Destination

Northwest Arkansas sits in a section of the Ozarks known as the Boston Mountains. These mountains are most dramatic at the southern end of the region, around Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas and one of the longest-running stage races in the U.S., the Joe Martin Stage Race. This stage race celebrated its 40th running last year and has grown to become an integral part of the USA Cycling pro tour and longest continuously accredited UCI pro race on U.S. soil. Head north through Springdale and Rogers towards the other major communities in the region and the landscape levels into an unexpectedly flat plateau. On the northern end of this plateau is Bentonville, and heading further north into Bella Vista is a range of rolling hills similar to the Ardennes in southern Belgium. The area offers a little bit of everything in terms of cycling conditions and challenges, and so it is...

Zwift’s eSports Play Could Win Big

The 2019 professional road racing season is well underway around the world, from the elite women’s and men’s UCI WorldTours, to national calendar pro racing, right down to local events. Races seem to start earlier and earlier each calendar year, especially with many events taking place in the southern hemisphere and Middle East – and the pace is as fast as ever. One reason for the fast start is the growing number of riders who live and train in warm weather climes during the off-season. But another facilitator could be the explosive growth of indoor stationary training platforms. Most time-stressed or weather-shuttered riders dread riding indoors, but a rapid evolution in technology and new products has transformed the indoor training landscape in just a few years. Zwift, in particular, has made a big push to expand the popularity of its platform and online racing products, and this...

Your Pre-season Heart Check-up List

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) in athletes is a rare but devastating event, often affecting apparently healthy competitors with previously undiagnosed cardiovascular disease. The typical victim has no suspicion that they are at risk, and prior to the event may have even felt that they were in peak form. Sports medical screening programs are designed to attempt to identify potential cardiac risks in individuals who exhibit no outward symptoms of heart problems. The goal of such screening is to encourage participation in sports but to do it with a reasonable level of caution so as to ensure the safety of the participant. Certain individuals, who may be at higher risk, can be identified, and specific treatment plans can usually be recommended to allow their safe participation in athletics. But unfortunately, the screening will also identify a small number of cases where competitive activity...

The All-Time Greatest Female Cyclists

Naming the greatest women in the history of competitive cycling seems like a tall order, because women’s cycling appears, at first glance, not to have much history. But in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Women have raced on bicycles since the 1800s, just like men, and each new generation has produced a fresh crop of legends. Unfortunately, and in contrast to men’s racing, the history of women’s cycling has a scattershot narrative, populated with important races that arrived, flourished for a few years and then vanished into the mists. (Remember the Ore-Ida Women’s Challenge? Le Tour de la Drôme?) Women’s cycling lacks the comforting continuity of men’s cycling, whose signature events — the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, the world championship and Olympic road races — seem to have endured since the beginning of time. The women’s Tour de France debuted in 1984, the year of...