Monday Musette – Money, Assault (Aesthetic and Physical), and Craftmanship

1. By now you’ve heard the news of Milram and Saxo Bank’s withdrawals from title sponsorship following the 2010 season. (If not, The Boulder Report has a nice summary of all you need to know.) Here’s my question: at what point will the bubble burst? Some might be inclined to say no, as this season sees several new sponsors joining the ranks—including big investments by both Radio Shack and Sky. But to me, these deal seem more a result of companies hoping to cash-in on the sport’s biggest stars at the height of their popularity (such as Armstrong and Wiggins) and less an indicator of the sport’s fiscal health.
Losing sponsors such as Saxo Bank and Milram could be very, very bad for the sport should replacements not be found. Hopefully it’s not the tip of the iceberg. Luckily, Bjarne Riis has proven himself adept to find last-minute funds when he needs to. Look for him to have someone new on-board by the Tour, most likely a co-sponsor that will magically become the title sponsor in 2011. However, Milram’s Gerry Van Gerwen faces a tough proposition; his task is made more difficult given the fact that Milram’s not quite a team known for winning races.
2. And while we’re on the subject of teams and sponsors: is it me, or is this the ugliest jersey you’ve EVER seen? As their tans deepen by mid-summer, some of these riders will look downright naked! A better choice would have been something similar to the design used for the team’s two Austrian Champions, Markus Eibegger and Matthias Brändle, a tasteful red and white color scheme. Ugh.
3. Tough luck for Niels Albert in this weekend’s Belgian National Cyclocross Championship as a collision with a drunken fan broke one of his ribs. Don’t forget, this isn’t the first time there’s been a scuffle between a rider and a fan at a Belgian cyclocross event, right Bart Wellens? This time, the unprovoked actions of one inebriated spectator threaten to ruin one of the purest fan-to-racer experiences the sport still has to offer.
One of the best things about cyclocross is the close proximity we as fans can get to the action. We don’t need a car to ride from vantage point to vantage point, and lap times aren’t so high that we lose interest before the next go-around. We can stand in one place for an hour, drink, frites, or cowbell in hand, and watch the events unfold right before our very eyes. It’s a front row seat to the action.
But like so much in life, it’s all fun and games until someone breaks a rib. And it must be noted: Belgium’s quickly developing a reputation for producing hooligans dressed as fans. Remember the encouragement Filippo Pozzato received while chasing Tom Boonen in last year’s Paris-Roubaix? Passion is passion, and hometown favoritism is hometown favoritism; but assault’s something else.
Before moving-on, I think it’s important to include one of the more entertaining bits from Cyclingnews’ report on the incident:
“Roodhooft [Albert’s manager] went on to say that the spectator claimed to be a supporter of Albert, although he was standing with fans of Nys.”
I find this comical only because I’m certain there’s an investigation underway in Belgium to find the true allegiance of the perpetrator—it will be a topic of conversation for weeks.
And for the record, Albert said he wasn’t going to win anyway, so enjoy your 7th title, Meneer Nijs.
4. On a related note, Lars Boom won the Dutch National Championship in his first season as a “retired” cross racer. I can’t wait to see what he’ll do in this year’s Classics.
5. And finally, take a look at the beautiful bike Justin Spinelli assembled for one of his customers at Svelte Cycles. It’s especially interesting when juxtaposed with Competitive Cyclist’s explanation of its decision to stop selling Pegoretti framesets. Personally, I’m on the fence. I agree with Competitive Cyclist: when you pay for a bike from the master, you’re paying for the master’s expertise as well—no questions asked. But at the same time, there’s something to be said for a builder able to take a customer’s idea and craft it with skill. Svelte’s Mondrian IF is a fine example of what can happen when a customer, a shop, and a master frame builder are all on the same page.
That’s it for today. What are your thoughts on the fiscal state of the sport? How about your picks for Ugliest Jersey? And what can be done about spectator-racer “interaction” at cyclocross races?
Share your thoughts on these and all others topics below—and have a great week!
P.S. A little self-promotion: tomorrow’s the deadline for the nominating your favorite blogs for the 2010 Bloggie Awards. If you have the time, cruise over and nominate your favorites (there are several categories from which to choose). I’m not saying you should vote for Pavé, but I’m sure you can think of someone out there who deserves some recognition—it might make his/her day.

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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