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Response to VeloNews Armstrong Exclusive: “This is going to kill cycling”

Dear Mr. Armstrong:

I have to take issue with your quote“…but this [controversy], at a time when the sport has made significant changes, is going to kill it.” (VeloNews, July 2011)

Sorry, but, no don’t think so!

The sport of cycling is bigger than any individual champion and the myriad of accusers and alleged swirling accusations. As long as cyclists continue to race, fans continue to attend races (or watch broadcasts), purchase bikes and accessories, companies will continue to invest in the sport as a marketing, advertising and PR vehicle. Companies sponsoring cycling get it! They recognize their investment in sponsoring professional, amateur, recreational cyclists, races, events, etc. gives them unprecedented visibility and reach. That’s right; companies will continue to leverage this beautiful sport to drive value and create visibility for their brand, products and services, and to reach their target market and consumer.

So, as long as people are attending European classics, the Giro, Tour of California and Philadelphia Championships, and the impending Tour de France, our sport will be just fine. As far as American racing is concerned, there are tons of races that have endured (and prospered) for several decades: Nevada City Classic, Cascade Cycling Classic, Athens Twilight, Tour of the Gila, Redlands Classic. (See Neal Rogers article “The Key to Longevity – Community”, VeloNews, November 2010).

People are not going to stop riding their bikes, nor will people stop buying bikes (even that particular brand you ride made in Waterloo, Wisconsin). Professionals are going to continue to race, and new riders and racers will enter our sport. All of this will facilitate companies continuing to sponsor cycling in some form or fashion!

What kills a sport is when events are canceled like the 1994 MLB World Series, or entire seasons are canceled like the 2004 – 2005 NHL season (and, potentially the upcoming 2011 – 2012 NFL season). Doping and Performance Enhancing Drugs and associated controversy don’t kill sports alone! Fans losing interest kills sports which subsequently drives away sponsors, ultimately resulting in the sport flat-lining!

Although this might be a painful process for you Mr. Armstrong cycling is going to continue to grow and prosper. New sponsors are entering the sport every year. Sure, some leave, but in the long run, this is nothing more than a back story! Kind of like a good piece of fiction:  interesting plot, protagonists and antagonists, people will take sides, debate and become overly emotional. The sport of cycling has survived decades of controversy, (2) World Wars, recessions and depressions, natural and human inflicted disasters. Our sport has shown it is quite resilient and at the moment is experiencing a renaissance with an emphasis on clean racing. As you mentioned to John Wilcockson, the current controversy might impede sponsorship negotiations with HTC, Team RadioShack, Garmin and Amgen. However, there are multiple, recent examples of global and American corporations stepping up each year to sponsor our wonderful sport.

So, just as the peloton so deftly maneuvers around a crash and continues down the road, so too will the sport of cycling! In other words, the reports of cycling’s death are greatly exaggerated. (Sorry Mark Twain I stole shamelessly!)

I wish you the best of luck in this latest controversy and with your incredible foundation. But, the sport will be just fine.

Thanks again for visiting. Remember, until next time, to “Keep the rubber side down!”

12 Responses to “Report of cycling’s death greatly exaggerated!”

  1. Mark Ritz says:

    Thank you for a well-written rebuttal to the article appearing in the latest VeloNews. I also believe that the sport is bigger and stronger than Mr. Armstrong thinks it is. The sport of cycling is far bigger than any one person – even Lance. I’ve been involved in the sport since 1970 as a racer, a team coach and currently as a sponsor for five teams around the country. Mr. Armstrong’s doping scandal (whether true or not) does not drive my decision to put my limited advertising budget into the sport I love or into some other sport. And I am sure there are many others who feel the same.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for your response Mark. The entire point is that the sport of cycling, and in the U.S., is not going to die because of this ongoing controversy. As long as people are talking, fans are watching, cyclists are racing at all levels, manufacturers are making bikes and equipment, race organizers like Anthem sports are coming up with new race series, and sponsors are investing,,,the sport lives. That was the entire point and you got it! Thank you.

  2. Tom says:

    It’s been interesting to see wthat is happening with Armstrong recently. He seems to have stopped twittering about anything cycling related in recent weeks. Sent birthday wishes to Kloden but no congrats on his performance on the Tour of Switzerland and no twitter congrats to Levi on the win either. Bill Strickland recently wrote an article in Bicycling magazine where he essentially said after years of refusing to believe Armstrong doped he now believes he did. Bicycling’s editor in his comments says the same thing. Interestingly they had both met with Lance to for a tour of the Livestrong headquarters just before the article came out. Strickland has been as close to Armstrong as anyone in the media. My take, I think the writing is on the wall. I think Armstrong knows it and this is a way of gently introducing the public to the idea. By the time any verdicts are in from the investigation by Novitsky and co. the groundwork will be laid to soften the blow.

    • admin says:

      That’s for your comment and observations. I am not sure what’s going to happen. But, I will say it again —- the sport is going to survive. Look at the attendance at the Tour of Cali. Tour de France is forecasting 11M fans will be watching in person. Races like Tour of Flanders had 600K – 800K fans watching the race at the side of the road. These are astounding numbers. More people are watching our sport in person than major American sporting events combined. And, again, here is the thing — corporations will continue to invest in sponsorship of the sport (which is what this blog is about). If we lose all of our major sponsors, which we won’t, then we have something to worry about. I know everyone is shaking in their boots about HTC’s potential exit, but that is one company, one sponsor, one team. Look at how many companies are re-upping their contracts. Look at how many new sponsors have gotten into the sport, at various levels, over the last year. I can’t say whether Lance is guilty or not because that is not my place. But, I will say, professional cycling is not going away anytime soon.

  3. John says:

    I think that blind contempt for Lance is blurring your judgement of what he meant by “this.” I didn’t interpret his comment as being arrogant or self-centered. I understood “this” to mean the broader issue of doping, controversy, and the media circus that follows. And again, I want to be clear, I’m not talking about Lance or any other specific pro cyclist. I’m talking about the damage being done to the sport by the constant focus on the negative press and attention on these issues. Eventually, fans and sponsors will tire of it. And although I agree the sport will survive, what is the long term cost? How many MORE fans or MORE sponsors would participate if there were a thoughful, measured, and balanced approach to these issues? That’s the real damage. The fans and sponsors and potential athletes we are losing because they lose faith in the sport altogether.

    • admin says:

      Blind contempt for Lance? I have none whatsoever. I am a huge Armstrong fan; have followed his career since he was a teenage triathlete. I simply disagree with the inflammatory comment that appeared on cover of the July issue of VeloNews. Furthermore, I don’t believe it is true. The sport survived the dark days with the Festina scandal. PDM sudden exit from the tour, etc. Here’s the point, the “controversy” is not going to kill the sport or the industry. Yes, HTC may very well decide not to sponsor, but teams like Quick Step and others are re-upping their contracts. Cycling sponsorship drives dollars for its sponsors with unmatched visibility, exposure and awareness for their brands. New cyclists, both recreational and racing, are entering the sport. 11M fans are forecasted to line the roads of this years tour. The sport has gone through worst times than it has now.

  4. Well played, and nicely observed.

    But I would add one other thought: the astonishing arrogance of a man who believes that his personal crisis is sufficiently relevant to kill a sport which, as you pointed out, has survived world wars, depressions and a myriad of doping scandals.

    If the list of allegations proves to be true, what will be killed will be Mr. Armstrong’s reputation. Cycling will, eventually, be better off in the full light of the truth.

  5. We’re linking to this from VeloNews.com. I hope you don’t mind.
    Charles

    • Troy says:

      Wow.. I actually think less of Velonews for linking to this biased piece of garbage… funny how VN proclaims a PROVEN cheater like Contador “unbeatable” on the cover of your magazine yet you take the time to fish out trash like this to support your attitude against Lance…. and declare it a “must read”, that’s laughable. If you can’t report on two dirty champions fairly and equally maybe you ought to just stick to bike reviews.

      So much for fair and unbiased journalism…

      • admin says:

        In what way is it biased? Because I don’t agree that “this is going to kill the sport?” Can you rewind to the Festina scandal, PDM suddently exiting the Tour because their entire team was “sick”, Basso and Ullrich being held out of the Tour…..did those and countless other events kill the sport? No!

        I simply don’t agree with Lance’s statement because the sport is bigger than that. It has survived worst times and it will continue. Now, since you didn’t bring it up I will. HTC leaving the sport is one team vs. many who are intending to continue to sponsor the sport. Look at the rest of the Tour teams (22); how many are exiting sponsorship? Now, look at the rest of the UCI teams. How many are canceling sponsorship? Then look at continental teams? How many are exiting sponsorship. Then look at all the local teams being supported by companies? The balance is in favor of companies that are still continuing to sponsor the sport. Sponsorship is HUGE business. Companies recognize the unmatched visibility and exposure they can get through cycling sponsorship. It costs less than traditional advertising and marketing, and it costs less than traditional sports.

        Lastly, read the article closely! I did not take a stance on whether Lance cheated or not, whether he is guilty or not, or whether he has received preferential treatment. Not what my blog is about. I stated my response to his statement of “it will kill the sport.” It won’t!

        As far as your personal opinion about garbage, maybe you should keep that to yourself.

  6. A brilliant and timely message. Thank you for creating this post for your audience. Indeed, the sport of cycling will go on.

    –JDH

    • admin says:

      Thanks Jason. Glad you liked the post. Really important for cycling clubs and teams to understand there are a lot of companies willing to invest in cycling sponsorship to drive added value for their brand, products and services. There are too many cyclists and cycling fans for the segment to be ignored by controversy over past results. Very important to get these issues put to bed, but the sport is vibrant, growing and presents great opportunity for companies to raise visibility, awareness, traffic and sales by aligning with the sport.

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