The Amgen Tour of California went belly-up nine days ago, and like Jesus, it’s not coming back.
The Occam’s Razor answer is “money.” ATOC cost a lot more to put on than it ever brought in … for fourteen years … with nothing but spiraling costs in sight. Sometimes called “bad business model,” sometimes called “changing financial landscape,” sometimes called “bankruptcy,” it all amounts to the same fuggin’ thing.
There is a good article in Bicycling Magazine that talks about what those cost dynamics were; here’s the link. Not discussed much, but key to the whole discussion, is TV revenue. Like excitement in bike racing these days, there was none. And sporting events without TV revenue are like swimming races in an empty pool. You hit the bottom quick.
Which leads to the obvious question that no one wants to confront, “Why is there no TV revenue?” Answer: Because no one wants to watch bike racing except for (a very few) cyclists.
Compare that to NASCAR, whose fans don’t race cars, or the NBA, whose fans are too obese to walk up the stairs, much less dunk, or the NFL. Successful TV sports all have something in common, and it is known as a “fan.”
Why cycling has no fans
Roger Worthington used to place the phrase “Stoopid Sport” on his jerseys, and that’s an obvious reason why people don’t like cycling. But all sports are stupid, and the idea of watching corporate America pitch bad beer to lazy people watching TV is the stupidest idea of all.
Is cycling even more stupid than the NBA? And if it is, is it that much more stupid?
Not really. Cycling doesn’t have fans because it is boring, and although that can be ameliorated, it can’t ever be fixed.
“But but but! There were millions of people on the road over the last fourteen editions of ATOC! Downtown Sacramento was always packed! Sagan!!!”
To which I say, “That’s nice, but those aren’t fans. Fans are people who sit on the couch and watch the event on TV. The NFL isn’t funded by people in stadiums or by kids who played Pop Warner. It’s funded by TV viewers. For example, last year the average NFL game had over 15 million idiots slobbering at a their TV while anonymous men in their underpants beat the living shit out of everyone except the quarterback.
The people who went to watch stages of the ATOC weren’t fans, they were cyclists. And cyclists, for the most part, aren’t about to watch cycling on TV, at least not for more than a few minutes.
Cycling doesn’t have fans in the U.S.A., never has, and never will. Here’s why:
- Cycling is boring. One of the sport’s longest traditions is its boring-ness. “Hey, Pascale, let’s race around France for a month.” This is the most exciting thing that cycling has ever had to offer. Riding your bike around France. For a month.
- Cycling is more boring than it used to be. Race radios, computers, and power data tell you the ending before the beginning. Fans don’t like to know the ending until that point in the event known as the “end.”
- Kids don’t ride bikes. Fans aren’t created by MAMILs. Fans are evolved from little kids who used to play baseball and are now fat and lazy and watch it on the TV.
- Wives don’t ride bikes. Fans are created by wives who, resignedly at first and later with great enthusiasm, wear giant, stupid football jerseys and get slushy drunk with hubby because it’s better than being alone.
- Hubbies don’t ride bikes. Fans are created by boneheads in pickups “rolling coal” who think they can race performance cars around a track even though they never have and never will.
- Universities don’t ride bikes. Fans are created by drunken youngsters screaming at the TV for one group of people on academic probation to beat up another group of people on academic probation for the glory of their university, a place of higher learning.
- High schools don’t ride bikes. Fans are created by boys charged with testosterone willing to do anything to get laid, including baseball.
- Parents don’t ride bikes. Fans are created by parents who are in ill health, out of shape, delusional, and so greedy for the unicorn pro contract/college scholarship that they will spend tens of thousands of dollars and hours schlepping/browbeating their kid to games across the state.
- Cycling is too complicated. How many “disciplines” are there in cycling? Stage racing, time trials, crits, kermesses, hill climbs, Madison, scratch, pursuit, omnium, ‘cross, BMX, single track, downhill, AND MORE. How many disciplines in football? One.
- Nothing happens in cycling. Racer pedals. Racer sprints. Racer gets dropped. Racer has bicycle falling off incident. Who fucking cares?
- Pro cyclists are ugly. Pro road racers are badly undernourished and they look it.
- Cycling’s heroes aren’t heroes. I was talking to a guy who just did the Japan Cup and I told him about the time I saw the world championships on that course, in 1990, when Miguel Indurain was there. “Who’s that?” he asked.
Wise elder statesmen of the sport, people like Jonathan Vaughters who have played a leading role in sucking the corpse dry, talk about the future of “gravel racing” and “fondos,” as if these incredibly boring events will somehow create fans because, hey, the cyclists who do them pay “huge” entry fees of $180 … and more!!!!!!!!!!! Has JV ever priced a Nascar fan outfit?
Talk to Phil Gaimon about all the money he makes off of his grand fondue, or talk to the owners of Dirty Kanzaa, who have become billionaires off of those entry fees. Haven’t they?
No, they haven’t. Grand fondues and gravel racing simply eliminate the single biggest overhead of road racing, which are road closures and the costs associated with shutting down roadways. The idea that filthy bicyclists on a dirt road in Kansas will attract or create fans is hocus-pocus and snake oil, which is about what you’d expect from ex-doper-turned-pro-tour-team boss Vaughters.
The problem with cycling has always been that it’s fun to do and ugly to watch, kind of like sex.
Could be worse.
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