I can only imagine the other ProTour team managers’ reactions when photos, video clips and every other multimedia life form started beaming out of
“The revolution will not be televised”, rapped Gil Scott Heron in 1970.
Well, in the brave new world which as of Monday greeted professional cycling, not only was it televised – it was Twittered, Facebooked and video-blogged, too.
“Slick” a lot of people called it. That, plus “terrifying” and “sobering” are adjectives that probably figured heavily in the internal dialogue of Brailsford’s 17 ProTour counterparts.
The difference between him and them, of course, is that no-one else has the world’s second biggest media conglomerate performing domestique’s duties, even if they do have the dollars. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember Katusha, whose budget apparently exceeds Sky’s, ever registering more than a gentle ripple compared to splash, nay tsunami of excitement, caused by Sky on Monday.
For years followers of English football have talked about a “Big Four” of Premier League Clubs. The anointed quartet are
What I mean is that the cyclisme à deux vitesses that the French have been harping on about for years is now becoming a reality. But it has nothing to do with doping and everything to do with presentation, professionalism and, well, exactly what we saw on Monday.
I am talking, of course, primarily about what goes on off the road, but the divide in cultures, more than money, will also be evident when the wheels start turning in a couple of weeks time.
“None of this glitz matters when the racing starts,” one Italian industry bigwig told me today; David Millar said something similar to Cyclingnews a few weeks ago. The romantics will hope that they’re right. But for how long? Because while Brailsford maligns the lack of any formalised permit to pay for instant success, he can console himself with all of the coaches, knowledge and technology that aren’t under restriction or pre-existing contracts. And with all that, inevitably, will come commodities that his millions may not buy but will certainly facilitate: motivation, confidence, job-satisfaction and, ultimately – probably – success on the bike.
Meanwhile, the former strongholds of professional cycling continue to wither. Team bosses in
Four months on from his Under 23 World Championship win, Romain Sicard’s move to a Basque team is still a national embarrassment. But one, admittedly heinous, oversight can be excused. Ça arrive, as they say. What would be far more disturbing is if, in three or four years’ time, we’re wondering why La Française des Jeux have never teased the best out of Anthony Roux or the new enfant prodige, Thibault Pinot. Or if Pierre Rolland of BBox Bouygues Telecom has become the latest, faded Great White Hope.
The outlook in
Liquigas, for example, could do with looking closely at why, for years, the best Italian amateurs have routinely turned pro in their team, and for years, disappeared without trace within one or two seasons. This year, it’s Lampre who have gambled on four of
What I’m not suggesting for a second is that Sky’s arrival is bad for professional cycling. On the contrary. The response to Monday’s launch has, by all accounts, been phenomenal, highlighting the popular appetite that no doubt motivated the Murdoch empire to make road cycling their next conquest in the first place.
What I am saying is that, as was always likely to happen, Sky have already set in motion a chain reaction that will transform professional cycling as we know it. There will be victims along the way, as well as cynics and those who hark back to the sport’s more homespun former life – but there will also be no going back.
Because, to quote Scott Heron again, the revolution is here.