Some days being the dark lord of cycling is a difficult proposition due to the fact that many whom I look after have the demeanor of a 12 year old child in a candy store. Sure I lifted that line from this week’s Mailbag, but it is most appropriate under the circumstances.
The efforts that I have personally made in order to give the fans of the sport the illusion that the peloton is clean came to a beautiful climax on Thursday, where the ingredients to our recipe coagulated on the highest conclusion of any Tour stage on the legendary slopes of Galibier.
Voeckler, the reluctant champion, choice of housewives all over France, gasping for air at the finish, channeling the spirit of Jean Francois Bernard on Ventoux, or Stephen Roche at the conclusion of any stage was the image of the day. The sight of Cadel Evans at the base of the climb throwing down the gauntlet to the pretenders to the Tour throne only needed a Pantani bandana to be tossed off his melon as he accelerated out of the saddle. There was Andy, who silently prayed for the finish line with 200 metres to go, while Frank took advantage of a tired Evans, and showed a clever hand by SmartOPard™ (thank you @Vaughters).
Yes, we saw glimmers of these performances in the last two editions of the Giro, but none featured the face of Contador saying “No mas.”
We in Aigle are in our glory. The scourge of the cheats has given way to glorious pain and suffering. Finally. Our plans, in conjunction with the ASO, have given us the sporting spectacle we have wished for since Verbruggen and Armstrong went out to pasture, thank Jaysus Christ.
This has been all due to the fact that the ASO does an amazing job of administering terristrial video rights for the Tour. They manage them better than most entities on the planet, hence the sporting event is viewed by more people around the world than any other. Yes, we tried to get our hand in that cookie jar a couple of years back, which almost precipitated a cycling civil war of decimating proportions. Alright, alright, I went about empire building the wrong way.
Rule #1 about dealing with the ASO –DON’T TRY TO FOOK WITH THEIR TV EMPIRE. They will bitch slap any takers harder than China has spanked Obama economically.
It took me relocating Verbruggen from the management committee to his SportAccord ivory tower to atone for that rookie blunder of mine. Thankfully, after I truly realized how much reach these Frenchy Frenchies have in the world of cycling, I thought it best to make the peace and build events for them to run. Worked like clockwork so far.
However, while on this subject, lo and behold, what do I read Tuesday via our friends at www.cyclingnews.com? Vaughters on Revenue Sharing. And to quote our illustrious and well-read friend, who spoke with Cyclingnews.com:
Cycling is one of a few professional sports where the athletes aren’t part of the revenue sharing of television rights. The business model for teams has got to change in order for the sport to change and become successful in the long term and that means the teams becoming partners with the race organiser and not necessarily just their minions.
There is a certain responsibility required when you are in a position of authority that states unless you are drunk on Guinness or Whiskey, throwing around glib socialistic-style quotes (even though you are in France and really feeling that Voltairian leftist influence) isn’t necessarily the best career choice by a team owner.
Does that article make the sponsors backing the WorldTour Teams warm and fuzzy? No! It says to me as a big shot, “Hey thanks for giving me millions of euros and believing my pitch on the long-term viability of my venture to bring a public relations windfall to your firm, but hey, unless I get a 10 million euro cash ejection Hail Mary from the Lords of the Tour, you just wasted your fooking money.”
You see, while you would THINK that those quotes would be soothing to your sponsors, it’s not. It just makes them think that you’re a crack whore with a methadone addiction who’s looking for another hit, and blames the system for the addiction while failing to take responsibility for the fact that you caused yourself to be a crack whore.
Still not seeing it? Pretend that you go to the bank saying that you need a loan to buy a house. In the process of acquiring that loan, the bank asks your income, and then asks you to estimate the utilities for the home. In an effort to confirm your loan, you fudge a little on the income part, and you outright lowball the utilities. Then once you’re in the home, your salary goes down and the utilities go up. So you go to the bank looking for help to pay the utilities, and they (the bank) look at you like your a fooking two-headed alien love child, and you can’t understand why.
Everyone has tried to compare models in the sporting world to cycling, but my beloved sport defies that comparison, as major team sports and their models have evolved in a very different manner from professional cycling. What everyone forgets is that the nature of the sport is very nomadic and unstable. It has been this way since the beginning of time in cycling.
In fact, riders ARE the minions of the ASO, and have been since 1905. They are interchangeable, the are replaceable. The beauty of cycling is no one really cares how fast these blokes finish the stage, they are more interested in the battles and the spectacles that occur between the stage start and finish. Anyone actually care how fast it takes them to a finish a stage? I certainly don’t give two shites. Or three. So, we could throw some amateur French lads in there to duke it out, and many will just not give a flying crap that Contador isn’t there (well they’d probably be pretty fooking happy at this point).
The prime example of this is the French housewife hysteria around Thomas Voeckler. Best. Thing. For. The. Tour. In. A. Very. Long. Time. You see, the Professional Cycling business probably most closely models that of the entertainment industry. Think of the professional cyclists as the ensemble cast of a television program. Think of the producer of the show as the equivalent of a team owner, and the network purchasing the show as the ASO. Producers can browbeat the talent to conform to the wishes of the network, the network can offer up concessions or pay raises to those working in the cast, but unless the talent collectively rises up to say “fook off” to the network, it ain’t happening, no matter how hard the producer may try.
I like to use US television programmes as this benchmark, because they’re all fooking crazy. Like Charlie Sheen. Good Example of a “talent” failing to understand the reality of his situation, and finding himself outside the “team” and also outside the “network.”
Or an example of a positive effort to force revenue sharing upon a network was the collective work of the ensemble cast of Friends. They determined their entire careers, agreeing to be paid the same throughout the years, standing by Matthew Perry and his drug issues, and ultimately deciding when they were done, in spite of the network’s pleas for one more year. This means that I’m coming back to the same conclusion I always do: the “producer” (i.e., Vaughters) can whinge as much as he likes about what the “network” (ASO) is doing, but until the “talent” (pro peloton) gets off their arses and collectively barks, we will have the status quo.
So what am I trying to say? The ASO taint going to fooking share their money unless they are given a very fooking good reason to do so. Don’t look at me to fight that battle, because it got me absolutely nowhere.
Speaking of the ASO and the UCI, did you like how we outmaneuvered the AIGCP on the race radio walk-out/protest/pout for the Tour of Beijing? Do you like how I brought in Verbruggen to stall off Vaughters long enough so I could finish my negotiations with the ASO and hand them the Tour of Beijing on a silver platter? Sorry JV, best of luck trying to line up the ASO on anything, and you should always know that I have an endgame and a long-game that is being played, and our two organizations are pretty much thick as thieves now.
Speaking of thick as thieves, anyone cast any money on a Basso/Evans alliance for Alpe d’Huez? Anyone? Evans still has several cards to play, so be careful jumping on that Schleck bandwagon, lest you forget what happened to Laurent Fignon in Paris back in ’89. Vive Le Tour.