Classic coke? Or new coke? You decide.

Weekend of contrasts for 'old school' cycling.

On the positive end we get the Strade Bianche, and a killer performance by Moreno Moser, a kid I'm fast becoming a fan of.    It was a great race to watch.  If you didn't catch it, you missed a real classic.  Old school.

First Juan Antonio Flecha heroically goes after a four man break that looked it might possibily stay away and steal the show.  Eats into the lead, but starts to run out of juice when he gets 45 sec. or so away.  No man's land.  4 against 1.   (No worries hombres, Flecha will be ready for Flanders and Roubaix)

Apples don't fall far
from the tree..
Then Moser motors off alone, catches and drops the Spaniard, and after a long pursuit links up to the leaders in the final few miles.   Behind a sporadically-raging-Spartacus is frustratingly marked out by Moser's brother-in-arms, Peter Sagan.   Incessant flyers by Nocentini, Cancellara and others bring the leaders just an ever so tantalizing 'one-more-jump' away on the climb to Siena, just as Moser dumps the others and digs-in for the long power surge to the line.

Diego and Uncle Francesco
get some new labels printed...
It was shades of uncle Checco.  No stopping the Trento kid.   Everyone from Eddy Merckx to Franco Cribiori are clamoring for him to do Roubaix, but he and his green machine handlers are more focused on priming him to make a mark in the Ardennes in April.   Father Diego and Uncle Francesco better get the labels ready for a special 2013 vintage at the winery.

Still, I'm sure that seeing that familiar Moser snarl raging in the finale Saturday did a lot of hearts weighted down by a long winter of endless media and courtroom doping drama some good.    Having an 'eroic' backdrop in the heartland of cycling didn't hurt either.   Old time cycling, the kind 'we pesants' love.  Live for.  

In contrast, on the negative end of the old school respect spectrum, let's go to the UK.  Where it seems that the BBC, in it's infinite wisdom decided to 'retire' Hugh Porter from the commentary box before the Track Worlds last month.   It's come out today in the Telegraph that the ex- 4 time world pursuit champion and British Cycling legend- a guy who's forgotten more about track cycling than the media-twits that employ him will ever learn - decided to not so subtly inform him that he was from now on, 'surplus to requirements' when it came to BBC televised cycling.   Not speedskating mind you, where they're happy to have him keep on working, but cycling.

An uncouth Irish guy like myself would have told them where they could put those speedskates.  But I'm sure Hugh Porter is too much of a true gentleman to do that.

Old school gets no respect.

1968 World Champion Hugh Porter
(photo from
Can't you just hear all the artificial image makers salivating - those empty suits set on turning the suddenly red hot UK cycling enthusiasm into a F1-style commercial bonanza, selling all kinds o' shite out the wazoo to all and sundry.

No, the BBC, and their sponsors likely argued/lobbied, this style of distinguished, informed elder statesman is not the front-man we need to represent our... ahem... 'product'.

It's an outrage, and it's got me fired up.    Cause the one thing that pro cycling needs, now more than ever, is tradition.   And you just showed tradition the door BBC.   You should be ashamed of yourselves.  Go have a cup of tea, and reflect.  

It's an interesting contrast 'innit?   Tifosi in Italy (and beyond) go crazy when the latest prodigy from a cycling dynasty confirms himself on a classic stage.   While over in the UK, a similar thread to the past glory is cut in a rushed pursuit (pardon the pun) toward an ill-conceived mirage of a future.

I'm afraid it's a portent of more to come.  Yer man of the moment Sir Brailsford himself spoke a few days ago on, lobbying that cycling the business it supports needs to soon change radically, with a new structure, calendar and business model:

"In most industries there comes a tipping point where it changes its structure. When you look at all the elements in the sport of cycling at the moment, they're all there. It's getting very close and I can’t see how it can't happen if the sport wants to survive, so it will happen,"

"I think what the sport needs is a genuine and proper long term strategy. What will the sport look like in ten years' time? What will it look like in five years' time? And how do we go from where we are now to get there?"

"There's a whole host of different factors. But as with any strategic plan, you've got marry up the key factors into a single plan," Brailsford said.

"TV rights and revenue to teams is only one small part. At the moment sponsors come and go so quickly, that it's an unreliable financial model: that's the problem. Whether it's TV rights or greater commercialization of the sport, it's about giving the teams and sport more stability. That's the question we have to answer."

Blah blah flippin-corporate-speak blah.  BLAAAHHH!   Take it from an MBA marketing stiff:   The growth limiter here isn't the packaging, or the promotion.  The problem is the product quality.   Not the product format or structure, but the product's quality control.    

New Coke wielersupporters?  Anyone??
It's a logic flaw.  This group of self-interested geniuses keep trying to turn cycling into the 'New Coke', when what the customers really want to keep drinking... is 'Classic Coke.'  

The juice in the Coca-Cola can doesn't taste right to it's longtime customers, so what do these 'product managers' do?   Mess with distribution policy - the squabbling over the 'profit split' between the brand holder and the bottlers (e.g. fights over TV rights)  And lobby to change the basic product formulation (e.g. race calendar and team structure) when the original was doing just fine, thank you very much.

All this misplaced strategy, when all they really need to do is to fix the poisonous taste of the juice in the can (it's doping, you dopes).    

For this oligopoly of self-interested power players to continually argue that the solution to the sport's ills is radical restructuring, a closed club of teams, and slicker marketing to thrive is disingenuous.  So full of self-interest it'd be laughable if it wasn't so sad.  

Cycle sport doesn't need 're-packaging'.   It simply needs cleaner riders, going toe-to-toe over heroic, challenging courses.   I'd even argue it absolutely doesn't need the kind of big budget mega-teams that SKY and the Gifted Group seem to want us to believe hold the only keys to sustainable success.   Isn't it amazing how the underfunded outsider teams (Colombia Coldeportes, Gianni Savio's squads, Vacansoleil) continually provide the big surprises, the big exploits?   The kind of thing you never see in F1, the Premiership or the Champions League anymore.  That jongens, is what a closed shop will get you.

No the problem is with cycling's product quality, good sirs, not with the product's structure.  Nor is there any real issue with it's presentation.  Any 10-year-old with eyes and ears can read the news and tell you that really the only thing holding back cycling's growth is systematic institutional doping, enabled by mafia-style corruption.

And every relevant, historical sporting precedent one can name suggests that this proposed 'closed shop' the geniuses advocate is unlikely to clean it up.  Show me some evidence Gifted Group.   I point to the state of the NFL, MLB and MBA as my evidence.   (And oh, by the way while I'm on a good rant...who are the names of those others sportsmen whose blood bags were found in the Operation Puerto case again?   We're still waiting...)

"Believe them? Trust 'em?   Take the poll

You trust ANY of these guys wielersupporters?  Me neither.

In fact, let's quantify it, and prove it to the 'Gifted Group' with the gift of a cold shower of data:   Take this survey, and tell us just how much you fans TRUST some of the leaders who are lobbying to 'restructure and improve' the sport.    Great products, great brands are built on trust.   For laughs, let's see how much there is out there right now with the customer base.   Send it to your riding buddies.

As for me, give me a good old thrown down battle on some strada bianche, fueled by a bidon of Coke.  

Classic Coke.  


  1. Unfortunately no-one this side of the pond will share your nostalgia; he's called so many situations wrong, mis-identified too many riders and should have walked before he was pushed.

    BBC is obsessed with getting ex-stars in front of the camera and all our sports coverage suffers for it.

  2. Larry asks - why does anyone care about BRITISH cycling? Rewind back to how it all unfolded in the USA with LeMond and BigTex and you'll see what is likely to happen in the UK - all kinds of folks think now is the time to make a profit from the interest in cycling. But just like in the USA, once the LeMond and BigTex era is over, it all dies down, just as it will in the UK when Wiggo fades away. These are just spikes in the interest from casual fans and profiteers, unsustainable in the long-term. I'd just as soon go back to the days when the official water of LeTour was Perrier and the cars were Peugeots, for the Giro it was FIAT with Campagnolo providing the neutral service. The bikes were hardened steel and so were the men who raced them. As they say in Italy, come una volta (as it once was) when it seemed that passion mattered as much as fame or wealth.
    Meanwhile, on that passion subject, we had a great time this past weekend in Italy. Rather than bore anyone with that, you can go here if you're interested

  3. Wow L&H - that looked like a great weekend! All of us here are envious that you both get to live and ride in Italia while we dodge pickup trucks! And Larry history and a lot of smart money says you might be right about the UK bubble, time will tell. Passione per sempre, come una volta! Best, E.

    1. We're truly living the dream. I'll post a story about Roma Maxima soon. I dodged a few pickup trucks back in the days I worked in a car garage/gas station in Sunderland, MA while putting the wife through I know what you're talking about!!

  4. I think it's time for Liggett to hang his mike too. He also makes schoolboy errors in commentating and is rescued by Sherwen time and time again. His head in the sand attitude to doping is also evidence that it's time to say goodbye.

  5. I would suggest that Porter has seen his best days. That the public funded BBC should treat him in such a shoddy way comes as no surprise. Agree that Ligget should also be eased into retirement - he has never been any good.

    Don't dismiss the Uk cycling scene lifespan too quickly. The roads are alive with 'new' cyclists of both genders and all ages. There is also a supply line of potentially excellent riders coming through the system.

    1. I'll take a poke at the UK cycling scene right now - very soon after LeMond and BigTex' success, Americsn businesses jumped into pro cycling with both feet. Remember NIKE, Coke, Oakley, etc? WHERE are the UK businesses that should be jumping in to market their products with LeTour post-Wiggo? Rapha has picked up the clothing for SKY., but they're a gnat on NIKE's huge ass. I predict the UK scene will die sooner than the American scene has... "been there, done that" as they say.
      I'll agree with comments about TV's Heckel and Jeckel - their boring commentary causes me to mute the sound on any broadcast they are part of...their mindless chatter is so formulaic it probably could be digitized, computerized and served up long after both are dead!

  6. Well, you don't need a string of international companies to get people interested in bike riding - see present UK scene. Remember the huge crowds that supported cycling at the Olympics, road and track. Having lived and ridden in several countries I see the present bike scene in the UK healthier than many other European countries, with no end in sight. I have also 'enjoyed' riding in the good old USA for several years recently. I must say that the difference in bike riding numbers is stark and consideration to bike riders even starker. Time will tell, but I think the UK will continue to see growth for many years to come.

    1. Sorry, I thought the discussion was about SPONSORS and PRO RACING rather than how many folks take up two wheels and pedals. That's a different subject entirely and one I don't know much about. Cheers! But I will say the same things you note about general cycling participation were also said in the US...and over time, nothing much really changed. Larry's been in the US bike biz since before Greg LeMond had much success and has seen things go up and down since, depending on the level of hype associated with Greg or BigTex..but it always blows over and it's hard not to think the UK situation will be much different once Wiggo is done.


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