Blazing Saddles wrote:
Both valid points in this country, but Lefevre runs a Belgian team, not British, where winning in front of a tractor parade each Spring is looked upon as far more of a draw than a parade around the capital of France.
In terms of only the TDF, as Rich points out: HTC won 6 stages in their final year, then disappeared.
My tongue was firmly in cheek!
I wonder how much cycling still has to develop in terms of professionalism. If we accept that Sky shook things up a bit in terms of maximising performance on the road (I accept quite a bit of this is their own mythology) then it's also quite possible that the commercial side of the operation - identifying and buttering potential sponsors - might also be a fair bit slicker too. Brailsford appears to have a track record of finding the right people to flatter and I wonder how much he has people helping him find them - I don't know how professional cycling is when it comes to commercial sales and marketing, but if any team were going to take it seriously then I'd expect it to be Ineos.
Given that we know the cash doesn't automatically follow success (HTC/QS) it's interesting to consider what advantages Ineos have other than Brailsford and the record of GT success. I think the British angle - as grinding as it is to many people - is one of them. I suspect too that the proclaimed project of building a British team opened up new sponsorship opportunities. Sometimes it seems that sponsors of continental teams are less than glamorous, and I wonder if that's because in those markets sponsoring a team is seen as a slightly cheesy, low-budget thing to do and that puts off sponsors.
The Sky/Ineos model appears to be to find someone with loads of cash and an interest in cycling, then persuade them that getting their company name on the shirt makes some sort of commercial sense when really what they're buying is the chance to get involved in a pro team on a personal level - and why wouldn't you? If you can find the right people it's got to be an easier sell than trying to convince a marketing department that it'll help sell more caravan holidays in the continental equivalent of Weston-Super-Mare than spending it on billboards would. I doubt anyone at Ineos seriously believes the phones will start ringing with people suddenly realising they can order industrial quantities of chemicals from them, but the chairman is certainly happy to be able to sit in a team car. Thought of it this way Sky and (some) other teams aren't actually in the same business at all, despite the bike racing - they're selling the experience not the exposure.