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David L. Stanley
2018 Bicycle Racing Season Preview

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Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle

David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo,, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). 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.

And there is his masterful telling of his bout with skin cancer, "Melanoma: It Started With a Freckle". It's available as an audiobook narrated by the author here. For the print and Kindle eBook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

David L Stanley

David L. Stanley

What is on tap for 2018? As the cycling season starts up, the Hot Stove League, as baseball fans call it, comes to a boil. We argue about personnel moves, we tout our favorites, we vote thumbs up or down on new team kit, we’ll do anything to keep our spirits up through the winter until the January races start in Australia and New Zealand.

I belong to a group of august fans, the LUGNUTs, named after Charles Pelkey, the Grand Tour Live Update Guy from a few years back. I threw the question out to them: What do you see happening for 2018?

Team intrigue is always in play. You don’t get to be the best in the world without a goodly sized ego, and when two massive egos and talents are in the same team, well, we all remember the 1985 daytime drama, As the Greg and Bernie Turn.

Charles sees it going down like this. “Landa will be involved in controversy. It’ll either be because he beats Quintana, or he rides away from him and then gets pulled back by the team.” Can’t disagree. Landa is a huge talent. Not yuge. Huge.

Mikel Landa

Mikel Landa having a good day at the 2017 Vuelta a Burgos

Your team pays your salary. Your ability, your need to dominate in races is what got you that salary. Your window to win major races is very small. Let me ask you: you are second in command on your team. Your captain is on a bad day, through no fault of yours, and he gets dropped from the elite group on a climb.

Do you wait? Nope.

Do you attack? If the opportunity presents itself.

Are you sad for your captain? Well, honestly, are you?

Economics are on everyone’s mind. I’ve written about it before. Every cycling fan is aware of it. Pro cycling’s business and administrative model is untenable.

Said John, “I think we’ll see at least one major team go bust.”

I agree. But it doesn’t make me sad. I see a team failure as perhaps the only thing that could light a fire under the collective behinds of the men in blazers who run our sport. Any model that depends on the whims of a corporate angel, an angel whose business hangs on the buying whims of the public, is a model that teeters like a drunken slackline walker.

Who will it be? No clue. Yet every year, August sees several firms announcing that they will not sponsor their team in the next year. As every cycle: news, business, social, has shortened dramatically, 2018 might be the year when a team says after a poor Tour de France, “Sorry, mate. We’re out. When? Tonight, at midnight. Oh, and can you peel all the stickers off the cars? Thanks.”

Ty raises a great point. “I think we’ll see two more teams crowdfunding a la Argyle.” I suspect Ty is correct. If he isn’t correct, teams are missing the boat. The idea of local ownership is powerful.

Look at the NFL. The Green Bay Packers are one of the most successful teams in the history of pro football. Who owns team? The fans. The Packers are a not-for-profit publicly held stock company. They’ve been in Green Bay since 1919. They are the winningest team in NFL history. They are valued at $2.5 billion. They’re not going anywhere. Perhaps it is time for a small town in Belgium (are you listening Mol?) to take ownership of a pro team, and show the world how it is done.

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Doping. (sigh) As always with cycling (and Nordic skiing, and weightlifting, and baseball, and track and field, ad nauseum), we must mention doping. This month, that means Froome. Is he guilty? I don’t know. He uses Ventolin. I used Ventolin. Did I use a double dose once or twice; four puffs instead of two? Probably. But I didn’t ride for SKY, a sketchy and secretive organization of cycling illuminati.

“Froome rewrites the history books with 3 straight Grand Tour wins. What’s next? The history books get re-written when he’s given a retroactive two year ban.” That’s Scott’s take. Given the recent history of the sport, you’d be foolish to be shocked at that outcome. Whether Froome gained a competitive advantage or not, and a pulmonologist I spoke with said ‘not’ is the correct answer, Froome and his team are responsible. They know the rules. The big question, does the UCI have the cojones to strike at the richest team in the sport?

Michael raises a bigger issue: “SKY and Froome will do what SKY does best, and push every limit they can. Since WADA didn’t bother defining a time limit to prove innocence, they’ll drag it out and hope it goes away. The UCI will react in its typically impotent and incompetent manner – that will cause ASO to exclude SKY from its races. CAS will quickly rule that unacceptable so instead they’ll ban just Froome. Given recent EU developments regarding sports federations, ASO will decide they don’t need no stinking UCI, set up their own eligibility rules, and down the house will fall.”

Team Sky

No matter what, things will continue to be interesting at Team Sky.

I love this idea. The UCI, as was true of most sports federations, was set up to govern amateur sport. But within the major leagues of cycling are hidden the big bucks and all the power. They won’t cede that power willingly. But it is long overdue, fifty years overdue, that a pro cycling league sets out on its own.

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The NBA runs its own league. It hires the best sports professionals - they handle marketing, and legal issues, and personnel. On average, an NBA team is worth about $1.6 billion. The league did about $6 billion in revenue. Tellingly, only about 22% of that came from ticket revenues.

Correct, just 22%. Properly marketed, a sport could thrive without ticket sales and thus preserve the most precious aspect of pro cycling, the table with food and wine by the side of the route in La France Profonde as the Tour thunders by.

Ditto for the NHL, the English Premier League, the NFL, and Major League Baseball. Ditto for Aussie Rules and the PGA. Let professionals run professional sport. Perhaps a total collapse is what it will take to move cycling from the 1950s into the 2020s.

Lastly, let us not forget that this season will focus on personal hygiene.

Michael says, “Tom Dumoulin will not defecate in public this season. At least, not during a race.”

I make that a very safe bet. I hope.

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