Cycling for $$$, Not for Fun

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I watched a video of Sean Yates, DS of Sky a few days ago and he was describing the tactic of Sky and said something like, “It’s not the swashbuckling days of the ’80s when Hinault was attacking left, right and centre.” Then he goes on to explain how the commercialism, media coverage and sponsorship dictates the races. The statement that really bugged me was, “They’re not in it for fun.” I don’t know whether he means the sponsors or the riders. The video is here at

I never felt anywhere near this way. Don’t get me wrong, the money in the sport is great. But, 99% of the time, I’d do it for free. The 1% of the time it completely sucked, it was nice being able to fall back on the, “I’m doing it for the money”, card. And most the sponsors that I’ve ever had have been into the sport too. Not only for the exposure, but also because they supported cycling in general. I guess maybe it would be better riding for Andy Rihs, huge cycling fan and benevolent sponsor of BMC, than for Sky.

Anyway, I know racing bikes becomes a job eventually to some people. If that is the case, I suggest they go and find another job, because making money racing bikes is a very hard way to make money. There are tons of other things to do in this world where you can make more money with much less dedication and effort.

I hear so many people comparing the drugs in cycling to the “American Sports”, mainly baseball and football. When the mentality in the sport of cycling concerning drugs mirrors the mentality of American Sports, then I quit. But, when the money becomes astronomical, at least astronomical compared to a daily working wage, then the rewards for cheating through using drugs becomes more and more tempting.

I’m sorry to say and happy to say that cycling has gotten to that point. Actually, it kind of sad to think that a guy making 50,000 euros a year would take drugs, compared to a baseball player making 25 million per year. I think I heard that there are ten baseball players making more than 20 million per season.

So far only 2 riders have been kicked out of the Tour this year for drugs. Frank Schleck happens to be one of them. It’s a shame because I was just starting to like Frank. I’ve historically not liked either of the Schlecks because of their unprofessional way they approach the sport. What they did in the final time trial in the Tour last year was an embarrassment. Forget how fast they were riding, the way they handled their bikes was pitiful. I thought at least one of them was going to get off their bike for the speed bumps on the course. If you’re to the level that they are in the sport, you have to be able to ride a bike much better than either of them do. Up and down hills, not just up. And turning too. They don’t do that very well.

But, I watched a video of Frank after one of the stages and he was refreshingly candid. Then he gets “poisoned” during the race and probably is going to have to sit out for 2 years now. I bet a lot of folks are going to believe that answer. Sounds plausible. He must have a lot of enemies out there. At least one for sure. But, Frank didn’t sound like he was having so much fun this season during the video, describing how many race days he’s done so far this season, 74, so maybe he does need to sit out for a bit and gather some excitement for the sport again.

Anyway, when the team directors start acting like the sport is a business, then the riders are going to act accordingly and then it is going to get more convoluted than it already is. The sport is just sport. The money is a fringe benefit. That’s the way I look at it.

Even Jonathan Vaughters blames the money, for whatever that is worth – From a article today concerning doping and Schleck –

Garmin-Sharp team boss and anti-doping advocate Jonathan Vaughters extended his reaction on what he thought was part of the “root of the issues” in cycling. The American pointed at the current management system of pro cycling as it has been conceived by the International Cycling Union (UCI), saying that the unstable conditions it created could be one of reasons why riders resort to doping;

“Cycling, from a fundamental standpoint, needs to be built on a more secure foundation,” the American stated. “It cannot be a year-to-year lisensing process where the teams licenses depend on points. It has to be an environment where riders have longer term contracts, where teams have longer term contracts with top events, which would reduce a lot of the issues. You should make it a league and with that concept you would get a fundamental foundation for consistent employment and you would eliminate a lot of those risks.”

He says he loves it, but I’m not so sure.

11 thoughts on “Cycling for $$$, Not for Fun

  1. Jason

    I feel the same about those Schleck boys. At first, very likeable chaps. Upon the increased coverage from being on an American sponsored team I found them to be Country Club kids that really don’t like to “race” bikes anywhere but up. The comments Frank makes in a NBC video about the dangers of downhills in a race is ridiculous. If he could only race uphill to the moon he would be satisified, I guess. I also thought about the possibility of him being set-up to break up the RadioShack team….Bruyhnel and Armstrong make it all the more interesting when it comes to conspiracy theories, because I would not put anything past them.

  2. Sean YD

    Don’t confuse the spelling of Andy “Rihs” with that former Tour de France winner and self-proclaimed cycling cheat, Bjarne “Riis.”

  3. peter

    I raced for years thru the 60’s, 70’s80’s and 90’s and one day woke up to discover I was a better bike mechanic than a racer. Thats where I am today still enjoying my sport.

  4. Bernd Faust

    Money or $$$ is an issue; according to Paul Sherman : in his days a Tour de France stage win meant $25000.00 salary increase for the rider, today it means $500000.00….thats good money. In procyling like in other prosports the $$$ gaps between certain riders is huge…some make a few million per year others 10 times less
    Cyclists are not as lucky as baseballers, f.e. Pujols who is past his prime, injured easily, and he has to ride only uphill=only has to hit balls, still makes more $$$ than ever..”dirty sport” or money has no value period or some have it in abundance to spend it….long ago cycling lost it’s fun part when the leader was not necessarily the fastest….Greg was faster than Hinault at one point, still was not allowed to win….Ullrich was faster then Riis, Riis was even druged up to win, that was young Ullrichs year…., now Fromme can’t ride away from Wiggie, TJ can’t ride away from Foster’s Beerboy Cadel…what nonsense is that….now does Yohan Blake have to run the 100 and 200 slower than Usain Bolt so Bolt can win Gold, or does Lochte has to swim slower than Phelps so Michael can become the $$$ olympic boy again….”Drugs and money” oh , oh, zu Schade, der wahre Sinn des Sports geht oder ist verloren…The USA is afraid to let top collegeboys play BB at the olympics, because they may loose, therefore Koby and Lebron have to guarantee Gold, while all other teams play with only uphillriders…Money, bring home the Gold, win, win, win..sadly that’s all what particiular in the USA, 2nd finisher =1st looser

  5. BRUCE

    I remember over hearing a rider mocking about racing “Farm Boys” in Wisconsin during Super Week. I think bike racing would be better if if were the blue collar “Farm Boys” racing.

  6. DavidA

    @BRUCE, the “FarmBoys” were what once made up most of the Beloften and PRO peleton in Belgium Kermis races. Farm kids who fought to make money racing instead of working in a sugarbeet or plastic factory and did what ever it took, ie. in bed at 8pm, training 5hrs every other day, racing for 3 and 5 dollar primes etc. etc. That rider who was mocking would have been left in the gutter on a 1km cobblestone stretch by “Farm Boys” doing 28mph on crappy bikes in Belgium.

  7. Formerly Jim

    Sky wrote huge checks to establish the team so it absolutely has to win for any payback at all to happen. Even then it’d be hard to quantify exactly how much revenue winning the Tour would bring it.
    I’d have to think that Rihs would have a hard time making it into the black, even knowing the team is a sales tool for BMC bikes.
    Aside from the French exploits, this years edition certainly feels like a corporate win. Very far from why we all ride bikes.

  8. bob mionske

    @Bruce, I’d be willing to bet that some of those wisco ‘farm boys’ kicked his ass!

  9. Paul

    The irony of the situation is that Greg Lemond was the last *clean Tour winner while also being the person who opened the door for big money in cycling (at least for the riders.) As one of cycling’s more outspoken critics of doping these days, Lemond to a degree unwittingly contributed to its proliferation by setting the precident that ‘star’ riders could command huge salaries.

  10. Hiero

    I agree that Lemond helped to change the athlete’s pay formula – but not that, doing so, he contributed to the proliferation of money in the sport. That came from more fans, more broadcast time, and more adverstising dollars. Lemond probably helped the sport more by popularizing it with the American public than changing the pay formula for the athletes. Having said that – it certainly follows economic prinicples that more money in the sport means more cheats.


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