FanPost

Cycling teams through the ages

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cycling teams (via qjnmh)

ProTour teams. Looking at the peloton as it rolls through, one can only think "My God, there are a lot of you." From the superteams of Sky and BMC, rolling along in their iBuses and scientifically designing their riders to a 6 sigma tolerance, through groups of plucky French youngsters surviving on hope, courage and brioche, to collections of hard as nails Belgians whose idea of motivation is a swift kick up the arse followed by a dissing in the press, the range is enormous. And it begs a very simple question - where the hell do you all come from? So I thought I would have a look. The chart / picture / random scrawl above is the result. What I have tried to do is list out all the teams who have ever taken part in the World Tour or its ProTour predecessor (apparently it isn't PRO to be global), and see what I can see. Now, since my source for all this is the interwebs (and particularly that fount of all knowledge Wikipedia) I am likely to have got some of this wrong, so feel free to comment and correct. But I found the exercise interesting, and you know what, I came out of the exercise feeling vaguely positive. At the very least, it is fun for me to be able to look at older cycling pictures and think -ah yes, Banesto = Movistar, Z = Credit Agricole, Saeco = Lampre, and Rabo = oh, Rabo.

For the first thing, in a sport where we think of teams as gossamer Mayflies, bursting to fruition and then collapsing in a welter of penury, many of these teams have long and distinguished lineages. Movistar, the oldest, is over 30years old. For the younger viewer, that makes them contemporaries of Abba. The first riders on this team would have trained by humming "Super Trouper" and thought themselves cool. And Movistar aren't the only old team. Rabo goes back 29 years (and as Rabobank itself, it goes back to 1996), Omega Pharma Quickstep Lotto Belisol goes back over 20 years (though I may have got lost in the Belgian politics at some stage), Euskie has been flying the orange flag and annoying the French for nearly two decades and even AGR2 has been advertising insurance for 18 years. Go back a similar time in the oligopoly that is the UK premier league for comparison and you find clubs such as Sheffield Wednesday, Derby Country, Leeds United, Southampton and Nottingham Forest (it pains me to say it) all of which have long since deflated. The average age (and indeed the median age, for the stats nerds amongst us) of a team is around 14 years. So in some ways, Pro Cycling is remarkably stable.

Secondly, it isn't all about the sugar daddies. Of the 18 World Tour teams, only 6 or so are funded from non-commercial sources (coloured pink in the chart), and some of those are only partly so. Most of the peloton derives its income for guys who think they can make it pay. Which is cheering. Yes, some company owners do sort of treat it like a hobby, and OK, BMC (and before them Leopard) looked like they were moving to a new model of prune economics, but they certainly don't dominate the peloton, and BMC have spent the year proving that money not only cannot buy you love, it is also fairly ineffective at winning spring classics as well. So yes, most teams live slightly hand to mouth, but the commercial case is still believable for many companies to invest.

And finally, it is fun to see that although we have a nakedly commercial sport, it doesn't stop the teams having national flavours. Even in the World Tour, you have the plucky French (AG2R and FDJ, with Europcar batting above their level), the dayglo Italians in Leaky and Lampre (seriously, for the world's most stylish nation they have a stinking taste in cycling colours), the mud splattered Belgians - with assistant from the loony Dutch - in OPQS, LB, and Vaconsoleil. And that is before you include the teams with a nakedly nationalistic colour - Euskie, Rabo, Sky, OricaGreenedge. It brings colour and it brings rivalry and it brings polemica, and it is great.

It is also worth noting that some teams are clearly well organised and some just cannot catch a break. The "Olympic class" prize for most disasters surely has to go to Saunier Duval, which manages to encompass in its brief 8 year history some of the least financially stable, worst dressed doping scandals in history. Chapeau.

So, with a roll of drums (and possibly of eyeballs) I present the above for your interest.

PS... this is the first time I have tried to use "media" in PdC, so it is possible that the picture is unreadable and therefore the above is meaningless drivel (not to say it isnt meaningful drivel if you can read the picture, but at least it will be well illustrated meaningless drivel). If so, feel free to hurl abuse, though if you could spice the abuse with a few helpful tips that would be welcome. Fallback linky is here (if this works)

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