Bad News for Cycling
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By jank - Last updated: Wednesday, August 6, 2003 - Save & Share - 3 Comments

“ONCE”:http://www.onceeroski.com/ is “ending”:http://sports.yahoo.com/sc/news?slug=ap-oncesponsorship&prov=ap&type=lgns its sponsorship of the team it co-sponsors with Spanish supermarket chain Eroski.


Professional cycling is a pretty funny arrangement, as far as I understand it. Unlike US sports leagues which grant franchises to teams, and the teams can hire whoever the heck they want, cycling licenses its riders. Any “idiot”:http://espn.go.com/page2/s/questions/cuban/010510.html with a couple million doll.. eh, Euros burning a hole in a pocket can hire a dozen or so riders for the season, slap their name on some skintight polyester, and have a cycling team. Entry into some of the big events is going to be limited to only the clubs with riders with lots of points, but there’s plenty of talent and races to go around.

The sponsors are just that. Sponsors. Imagine the ‘El Paso Oil Production Houston Texans’ or the ‘Hormel Green Bay Packers’. The turn out for bike races in Europe is not so much for the 20 seconds you get to see the riders fly by, but for the publicity caravans that precede and follow the peleton (curiously not in spellcheck).

Anyways, ONCE’s been sponsoring cycling for about 15 years, and has used its influence to be kind of a Spanish National team. Great opportunities for young Spanish riders. It’s investment is starting to pay off with Spaniards being probably the best represented Europeans in the cycling world today (Italians and folks from the Low Countries are holding their own, and with the exception of Ullrich (IMO), the French and Germans are fading fast). “US Postal”:http://www.usps.com/ (and 7-11 and Motorola before them) has played a similar role giving some great American riders preference on a somewhat national team. Armstrong’s had great sway in the last couple of years, which explains the Columbians and Spaniards who shuttled him up the mountains this and last year. But my guess is that when Armstrong hangs up his shorts, if Postal stays as a cycling sponsor, they’ll be back to finding young US talent to develop.

But it’s sad to see ONCE go. “Mapei”:http://www.mapei.com/ , an Italian grout and tile company (We got Mapei grout via “Lowes'”:http://www.lowes.com/lkn?action=home for our bathroom when we tiled) dropped their sponsorship last year due to lingering problems with doping in cycling, so losing another sponsor is rough.

Ultimately, I don’t think it’ll have much of an effect. Salaries may go down, but the races will continue.

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3 Responses to “Bad News for Cycling”

Comment from Doc
Time August 10, 2003 at 8:40 pm

How much of an effect do you think the loss of Beloki had on this? I’m guessing that and the rise of Euskatel taking the Basque riders may have something to do with it also.

Comment from etrigan
Time August 10, 2003 at 10:16 pm

wait…is Doc speaking English?

Comment from jank
Time August 11, 2003 at 9:12 am

Eh, Doc’s practicing to be a lawyer. I don’t expect to understand a darn thing he says after this May, and he’s still going to have two years to go…

Euskatel may be a factor, but judging by the prevelance of Spanish and Basque (mmm, bisque) riders on about every team out there, I don’t think that it’s a case of not enough Spaniards to go around.

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