27 May Rapha Roadmap: Right Direction, Missed Turn
By: David Chauner
The Rapha Roadmap is a newly published series of ten thoughtful, well-researched, in-depth essays developed over 18 months that, according to the innovative cyclewear manufacturer, “was commissioned to guide the company’s involvement in professional cycling and to spark broad, honest debate about the future of the sport”. Click here to view the full report.
The genesis of the project stems from the oft-discussed challenges faced by road cycling: a huge global sport, steeped in tradition, which has difficulty relating to modern audiences and has not developed a unified, sustainable business model.
Bottom Line and right up front: “There is one conclusion that echoes most loudly from our research, in interview after interview; professional cycling is broken”.
According to the authors, the solution to this universally agreed dilemma is to redefine road racing by following the “Rapha Roadmap”; its list of 12 “Central Findings” that are needed to create an environment for growth within the sport and its “Eight Lessons from Pro Sports” that mostly draw from Major League Sports that are conducted in controlled venues, aka, arenas and stadiums.
As the developer and producer of the USA’s biggest single day UCI road races for some 25 years in major markets including Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Houston, Minneapolis, New York and San Francisco, I speak from experience and applaud the Rapha report’s thorough analysis of the problems and suggested solutions that can redefine road cycling. But if we are to truly advance cycling, we have to look further.
Maybe road racing can change if all factions pull together, as the Rapha Roadmap suggests, for the common good: Race promoters, team owners, sanctioning bodies, sponsors, media partners, rights holders and cities and towns around the world.
But the one major reality that will forever limit cycling’s growth, particularly in the U.S., is the underlying fact that road cycling must continue to depend on municipal approval to close public roads in the face of growing traffic, increasing safety costs and a public that, in many cases, is less motivated about watching racers flash by than by the inconvenience it causes.
Call me a pessimist but I don’t see those changes happening anytime soon, if ever!
Insiders and enthusiasts, including me, love road racing and its epic nature. It’s the sport’s greatest asset as well as its Achilles heel. So I say that if Rapha wants broad, honest debate and practical solutions for the future of the sport; if it wants to see cycling become financially viable, fan friendly entertainment like other Major League Sports; it has to focus a lot more attention on that word that appeared only once in the Rapha Roadmap way back on page 107–velodrome.
One other key observation: Although filled with well-researched suggestions, the Rapha Roadmap does not adequately address the overall costs and inconvenience of implementing the sweeping changes it suggests for the sport. What are those costs? Can they even be calculated? Who wins and who loses under the New Order? Can there even be a New Order?
The 21st Century Solution
For many of the same reasons that Rapha commissioned its roadmap, I stopped producing road events and pulled together a team of sports, entertainment and media experts to create a solution to make cycling a popular 21st century sport. We created the World Cycling League around track cycling, the one cycling discipline that has the most potential to adopt a proven sports success model. We made significant financial and personal commitments to create and test TeamTrak®, the format that defines our mission: “Bringing the best elements of modern sports and business to cycling.”
Read the TeamTrak story here and check out our website www.worldcyclingleague.com. Then go back and read Rapha’s 12 Central Findings and its Eight Lessons from Pro Sports to see how our league structure is a solution for many of the sport’s shortcomings.
No, TeamTrak is not road racing and it is not an attempt to replace it. But it is adapting the most exciting elements of bicycle racing into a proven sports business model that will easily resonate with today’s audiences. It’s an arena sport, just like the successful sport examples used in the Rapha Roadmap: NASCAR, Tennis and most Major League Sports.
The World Cycling League and TeamTrak have a start-simple solution we borrow, in part, from Major League Soccer: One central league structure that creates six teams, contracts 24 exciting male and 24 exciting female athletes and harnesses a top group of sports business, entertainment and media marketers to roll it out.
Can we work with the UCI, existing governing bodies and other programs? Absolutely, as long as they recognize that some rules will be different and that change and innovation often comes more readily from entrepreneurs than through legislation. In fact, it’s quite likely that TeamTrak success will contribute to new talent and positive changes for road racing as well. Just look at the great British riders Cavendish, Thomas and Wiggins and many others who all developed from robust track programs.
Even if we start by creating just one headquarters indoor velodrome and livestream the first season, the upfront investment to pull it all together can be less than the cost of running two World Tour teams in a broken sport.
And then there is the expansion potential to make much, much more.