UCI President, Pat McQuaid said yesterday that he doesn't think the world wide credit crunch will have much of an effect on cycling. Whether this is whistling in the dark to keep his spirits up or a perceptive analysis of the attractiveness of cycling to sponsors and spectators across the globe, remains to be seen.
"Sport itself will survive the crisis, cycling likewise will survive this crisis, it's too good value for money ... Cycling is one of the best sports for sponsors," he told the Reuters News Agency.
Ironically McQuaid's comments came on the day that Formula 1 bosses announced they would be implementing emergency cost-cutting measures for their sport in 2009 as a direct result of the credit crunch. On the one hand that could be seen as evidence that no sport is immune from the meltdown in the world's capital markets, on the other it could be viewed as an opportunity for cycling – which is nowhere near as capital intensive as F1. Whatever super high-tech treat Trek come up with for Lance to ride next summer from drawing board to production line won't cost as much the wing mirror on an F1 car.
Compared to Formula One cycling sponsorship must look good value and the sport has a global reach that is growing all the time. Next year's Tour of Russia will go ahead, despite the economic difficulties in that country, although the Tour of China will now happen in 2010 rather than 2009. McQuaid blamed bureaucracy for the delay on the Chinese race rather than the economy, but then…
Cycling bosses surely know that they can't afford to be too smug about their ability to attract sponsors in these tough times, one of the reasons that cycling looks such a good deal financially is that it has it's own well publicised problems with doping make it, rightly or wrongly, a harder sell as a clean-living wholesome sport. A fact underlined by recent events in Germany which has seen sponsorship for teams and events dry up, the announcement that Milram was going to continue sponsoring a team for 2009 was greeted with massive relief all round – and they are only committed to another year.
Shopping at the value end of the market for sponsors also leaves cycling teams vulnerable to dodgy deals as Team Saxo Bank found out last month when new 2009 co-sponsor IT Factory suddenly went pop with a 500 million Crown hole in its balance sheet and a suddenly vanished chief executive.
Speaking to Reuters McQuaid also welcomed the return of Lance Armstrong to the sport pointing out the Armstrong's ability to raise cycling's profile.
"He brings a lot of media behind him, that's for sure," he said, talking about the fact that there were more than 120 reporters at the American's official media conference at his Astana team's training camp in Tenerife last week.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.