A portion of my real life career has taken me to Fortune 500 board rooms and the halls of higher levels of government to assist in the determination of why private enterprises aren’t successful, or why, despite a massive influx of cash, government programmes end up in the rubbish bin.
I’ve always told these people that success means having the right people doing the right things at the right time for the right reasons.
Inevitably, the root of the problem is having the wrong people in the wrong positions, and then having those people compound the problem by doing the wrong thing. It’s not unusual to discover a CFO who would rather be a CIO, or a sales manager who is better suited to an operations position, or finding an accountant as a marketing manager who wants to break everything into a numbers equation.
However, the biggest failing is that most refuse to deal with the “right reasons” part of the equation.
You see, the “right reason” for achieving a goal can make having the wrong people at the wrong time doing the wrong things almost forgivable. If the reason is valid, the public will forgive the other parts. We see this in cycling with the Lance effect. His cancer-awareness campaign has given his fans a reason to forgive his other transgressions.
This brings me to Team Sky.
It’s great that there is going to be a (knock on MyKnoaky) British Tour de France champion. Sure it’s great for England, and yes people in England should be proud that one of their own has won the most talked-about cycling event on the calendar. Should it be the overarching mission statement for a supposedly for-profit professional cycling venture?
If the Tour de France were being contested by trade teams run by every other national federation, with sponsor dollars brought in to offset the cost of operation, then sure, there would be zero issue with how Team Sky has run their PR campaign. But that’s not the case, is it? Furthermore, isn’t that what Olympic cycling is for, and what the World Championships are for? But it shouldn’t be what the rest of the cycling calendar is about.
One of the uglier side effects of this rampant nationalism was the Twitter backlash today against anyone in the United Kingdom who questioned the logic and validity of Team Sky’s tactics following Valverde’s victory on the Peyrousorde. Both @sofaboy and @velocast were on the receiving end of some particularly venomous “you can’t question this, and if you do you’re anti-British” messages from folks they normally have pleasant exchanges with.
Other flag-waving types say that a Brad Wiggins/British victory is vital for providing a boost to cycling in the United Kingdom, that a Tour de France victory means that there will be more SkyRides, which are important and necessary for achieving a victory for the British cycling grassroots movement, and then the United Kingdom will be the greatest cycling nation on the planet and now we’ll feel better about ourselves and about our sport and about our national identity.
If there was ever a “wrong reason” for a Tour de France victory, this is it. And the worst part is that this behaviour is being perpetuated by the pro “Believe in Britain” journalists, along with David Brailsford, Brad Wiggins, and the Team Sky marketing brain-trust. Why should the fact that this team is British be front and centre as the end-all be-all?
It shouldn’t be.
As a prime example, take Canadian Ryder Hesjedal. Hesjedal was the first Canadian winner of a Grand Tour. He is a proud Canadian who displayed a hockey stick with a Canadian flag on the podium in Milan. And then, that was it. Was there a giant marketing campaign of “Believe in Canada?” No. In fact, Hesjedal didn’t even go home to Canada, because he had a job to do, because he rides for a trade team based in the U.S. with a roster comprised of a multitude of nationalities attempting to achieve a variety of goals in cycling. Winning Grand Tours. Winning Classics. Placing team members in strategic locations in order to draw attention to sponsors who have chosen to believe in a particular venture.
That’s the point of professional cycling. Nationality isn’t the “right reason” for a Tour de France victory, it is merely a small component of a greater mission, a mission of nine gentlemen from a variety of experiences and locations overcoming their own personal feelings and agendas to achieve their own “right reason” at the Tour, whatever that “right reason” might be for a commercial venture that is supposed to generate a profit.
How do you think Edvald Boassen-Hagen feels about a “British” Tour de France victory? How about Richie Porte? Or Mick Rogers? Do you think they care about a British victory? No. But they do care about the fact their teammate, a guy they supported for over 3,496.9 km, achieved the team’s goal of winning the Tour. To say this is a victory for “British” cycling is to diminish their contributions.
But the worst part of the equation is the downside of having the “wrong reason.” GB Cycling and BSkyB have wrapped themselves in the Union Jack for financial gain and greater dominance in the UK Cycling market, and to leverage that success for greater worldwide gain. What happens if – heaven forbid – Brad Wiggins tests positive down the road for PEDs? What happens if members of the Team Sky braintrust are popped for corruption, or collusion, or illegal banking? What happens to the nationalistic cycling disciples then? What happens to their feelings? Would they feel betrayed?
Sometimes it’s better to keep your reasons for victory more reasonable and less lofty. It allows room for the grassroots to believe in cycling for cycling’s sake. Not because you happen to hold a British passport.
After all, Bradley Wiggins grew up idolizing a Spaniard.
An, apparently, considered and researched piece designed to support a pet theory which is wholly unfounded. In my time following the tour (nearly fifty years), there have always been teams which worked for a victory for a rider of specific nationality. This is because they are promoting broadly indigenous products to their home population. From Sky and Astana, back to Ford France and Mercier, by way of US Postal, Banesto, Renault, Salvarani et al. Sadly, UCI Overlord has ignored the evidence where it conflicts with his theory, is he a Sun journalist?
@unoghoulie Don’t forget Katousha, last year they flew the Russian flag with pride and for a wholly Russian purpose! Having failed at that they are now importing their cyclists with a view to Russian victory in the next 3 years!
@LiverScouse Exactly. It was ever thus, but ‘yer man’ is ignoring this, because it doesn’t fit with his theory. If he actually regarded the facts, he would have no basis for his ‘Sky bashing’. As i said, it reads like the Sun.
@unoghoulie Not a pet theory at all. Sky is the first team in trade team history to be the “pet project” of a national cycling federation, whose entire aim was to crown the first ever British Tour de France champion. Unprecedented. It is a step beyond the above situations you described. And in fact, you’ve found yourself guilty of the same “bias” that you’ve accused me of.
Katusha has never stated “A Russian Tour de France champion” as their only mission, nor did any of the other teams you mentioned above. Nor am I “sky bashing,” but you seem to fit the bill described by George Orwell in his essay a few decades ago. I’m sure you’ll be able to pick out which one, unoghoulie.
@UCI_Overlord @unoghoulie Sorry, having lived in Russia I can reliably inform you that their goal after seeing the British performance in 2008 Olympics was to out-do GB in track cycling by 2016 whilst at the same time securing a Russian grand tour winner. Considering this is a government venture (RGCP) backed by two of the worlds biggest gas producers (both government owned) and with a huge budget each year I would say that Katousha are exactly like sky
@LiverScouse @unoghoulie I disagree. Here is the stated philosophy of Team Katusha http://www.katushateam.com/philosophy/ which is very different from Team Sky. It has a close resemblance to Euskaltel. Team Sky sole purpose was to have a Tour de France winner within five years. Stated goal. Team Katusha has a far broader program, and now has a pro-continental team to develop cycling the way it should be developed as a wide ranging program to benefit many in the sport. Team Sky? Pro-Conti team? No. Women’s team? No.
@UCI_Overlord @LiverScouse Sky is most certainly NOT nationally funded. The sponsor is a satellite television company, who also sponsor the national track team. There is no public funding for cycling in the UK, or for any other sport for that matter. As I say, selecting the evidence to support a dodgy theory is the mark of the unscrupulous tabloid journalist.
@unoghoulie @LiverScouse there is a difference between who “owns” the team and who “sponsors” the team. GB cycling are the fully acknowledged licence holder for Team Sky as per the UCI paperwork. And your “attacks” are the mark of tabloid journalism, not my “theories.”
@UCI_Overlord @LiverScouse He who pays the piper calls the tune.
Oh dear, hit a nerve have we?
*chuckle* ah yes, the devolution to emotions and feelings when you have no real response. Next you’ll be resorting to rubber and glue quotations. Game, set, match. Next.
@UCI_Overlord Perhaps you have missed the point of professional cycling. The expression ‘He who pays the piper , calls the tune’. Simply means that the sponsors pay for the team to do the sponsor wants in the sponsors interest.
Might I suggest that your opinions might be received with more respect if you put your real name on your writing and your twitter account.
However, I accept your ‘Game, set, match.’ admission of defeat, Possibly with better grace than you make it.
Your mix of business led agendas/motives then counter overt nationalism is preaching to the converted.
Your synopsis of Sky is hardly revealing, its a hugely funded arm of a global enterprise, as to how riders et al feel you confuse two very different stances, inisde a close knit team and the public perception of sport and its national sucesses.
Those of us who do occupy the real world are actually aware we inhabit a ruthless capitalist society, the rest either don’t care or are too naive to understand.
It may surprise you that some of us who are still allowed to be proud to be ‘English’ were actually very pleased that during our lifetime an English guy finished 1st in the Tour- simple pleasures I believe are still permitted these days!
while i understand your frustration, doesn’t writing articles like this just fan the flames of nationalism? this is exactly the kind of stuff that will cause people to get really defensive and nasty.
@Anna D which further solidifies my point.
Nationalism exists in cycling outwith Team Sky and the British contingent, though. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t see national flags by the side of the roads on every stage. And not a Bastille Day goes by without a handful of French riders throwing themselves into a breakaway, to show their Countrymen how determined they are to win.
I would tend to agree with the notion that it’s not ideal that Team Sky are nationally funded, but nationalism itself isn’t always a bad thing.
The “Believe in Britain” slogan is a bit odd when you don’t have a fully british team. I thought that those promos were for the Olympics, but they are on the team sky website. If I’m reading the 2012 tour roster for team Sky correctly, there were actually more non-Brits on the team than Brits, although I suppose you could count the two Aussie’s as Her Majesties’ subjects, albeit nominally.
Edvald Boasson Hagen, Norway
Mark Cavendish, UK
Bernhard Eisel, Austria
Chris Froome, UK
Christian Knees, Germany
Richie Porte, Australia
Michael Rogers, Australia
Kanstantsin Siutsou, Belarussia
Bradley Wiggins, UK
Personally, I think the “Believe in Britain” thing is fair play, BSkyB over the years have become a British institution. Should we not be looking at this as a PR coup for the Murdoch empire? Here in the UK they’ve taken a lot of flak recently so I think quite rightly they are trying to take our minds off it by giving us a good news story.
There are subtleties of course, I’m enjoying the irony of a Murdoch funded enterprise delivering the feel good sporting success the “Establishment” can’t. It’s a story of an old man with an old feud against an old club that wouldn’t let him be a member once again raising the hearts of a fickle public.
I think the question to ask is why did Sky choose cycling? I’m sure once you get to the bottom of that the rest will make sense.