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David L. Stanley

The Future of Pro Cycling:
It’s Economics, Stupid, Part 2

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David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). He blogs regularly for Dads Roundtable. Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories and Cycling Heroes.

His latest book is Melanoma: It Started With a Freckle. If you have spent time outdoors, you should read it. Really!

We know that cyclists are paid like Nike’s Chinese factory workers. In 2013, according to a BBC study, the winner of the men’s world road cycling championship, Rui Alberto Faria da Costa pocketed around EU$6,000. Don’t forget that he shared that with teammates. Da Costa, one of the sport’s top performers, has an estimated annual salary for 2016, near EU$1.2 million. The average salary, THE AVERAGE SALARY, in Major League Baseball this season is US$4.25 million.

Rui Alberto Faria da Costa

Rui Alberto Faria da Costa won the rainbow jersey in 2013

Show me the money, indeed.

At the snooker worlds, the winner walked off with EU$330,000. In the Pro Darts championships, the winner walked away with a cool EU$250,000. Where’d the money come from? Sponsors, and fans who buy the sponsors’ stuff. When it comes to the maximization of team ancillary income, i.e. selling the crap out of stuff to make money, isn’t it pathetic that cycling is squeezed down below snooker and darts? No knock against pub games at all. Kudos to the folks who understand their market and how to maximize the dollars and euros at hand.

We know that market interest drives salaries. We also know that when events and activities are marketed properly, good marketing can drive fan interest. You and I and anyone who has ever seen a bottle of STP in the auto parts store knows that. The people who run the business side of cycling do not.

This is a giant razzberry, a Bronx cheer, a loud hiss and boo to the numbers people in cycling. Let’s move cycling into the 20th century. Yes, the 20th century.

Can we please put permanent numbers and rider names on team kit, and sell the bejesus out of them?

Basketball has always had numbers. The sports’ most iconic number belongs to Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan. He wore ’23.’ Sales of that jersey have generated several billion dollars for Nike, Jordan, the Bulls, and the NBA. The jersey he wore the night of his last game? It sold at auction for $175,000.

Major League baseball began to number their uniforms in the mid-1920s. Should you want to support the sport’s favorite young pitcher, the SF Giants’ Madison Bumgarner with an official MLB #40 jersey, that privilege will cost you $120. Want an autographed jersey from the last World Series? Be prepared to pony up a cool 10 grand. That #40 with his name on the back also happens to be the most popular jersey in the game. They’ve sold hundreds of thousands of them. Do the math. Where does the cash go? The team, MLB, and the player.

English League soccer teams started wearing numbers in the mid-1920s. You want an official Wayne Rooney #10 Man U jersey? $160 a pop. Two years ago, MUFC signed a deal with Adidas for team kit. The cost to Adidas? $100 million dollars. Over two million official Man UTD jerseys were sold last year.

Derek Jeter was one of baseball’s most popular players. Quick, team and number? Yankees #2, baby! The late Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey? Even a casual hockey fan knows Number Nine.

Alberto Contador is one of the most popular riders of the last fifteen years. Quick, who’s he ride for? Who knows? Who cares?  Maybe you can name one or two teams. No one cares about cycling teams. We care about the man inside the jersey. Every kid should be standing at the roadside wearing a team jersey with the name and number of his favorite. Every paunchy Belgian club supporter, juggling a Jupiler, his cigarette, and his frites, should have the privilege of stretching the seams of a BMC number 13 Greg van Avermaet jersey.

Alberto Contador

Contador in 2012. Different sponsor, does it matter..?

This is easy. Shoulder and rear pocket numbers plus a name panel across the upper back. Get rid of those cheesy amateurish stick-on numbers. Every race, you want to find Dan Martin? Look for #7 in the Etixx jersey - just like fans do in every other professional sport. The idea that the peloton of cyclists needs to be numbered from 0 to 210 is left over from an age before finish line photography when someone like Felix Levitan needed help to pick out the winner. The instant you personalize the man-team-jersey number equation, the dollars and Euros will pour in. I’ve never been so sure of anything in my 40 years around the sport of bicycle racing.

Now riding as Team GC leader for Team Tinkoff, Number 11, ALBEEEERRTOOOO COOOONTAAADOOOOR!!! I can hear Daniel Mangeas already.

I’m available for free-lance writing, folks. I’ll ask for the money. Contact me through Bill McGann here at Bikeraceinfo.com to reach me.

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