I recently wrote about the split between the UCI and the grand tour organizers
enabling the bosses of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana
free to invite any team they wanted to their races. Well, the Giro d'Italia
announced its invited teams and judging by the prominent names left off the
list, the free market in cycling has arrived.
To be sure, before the inception of the UCI's Pro Tour, there was a free market
in professional cycling, but things were so bad during the Pro Tour, it seems
like a re-birth of the free market. By free market, I mean the ability of the
individual races to determine which teams get to ride their events. If the Tour
de France want to invite only amateur teams from the state of Rhode Island it is
now their choice to do so. However, if the perceived quality of the race
suffers and fans go elsewhere then the Tour bosses only have themselves to
That may not seem so far-fetched. Back in the early 80's, in some people's eyes
the Tour de France was getting boring. So, in an attempt to add some excitement
to the race, the organizers extended invitations to several amateur teams
including those from the US, Russia and Colombia. Only the Colombians came, but
it ushered in the era of the Colombian climber and the likes of Lucho Herrera
and Fabio Parra won stages and stood on the podium at the Tour.
That's how a free market works. You develop a product. You market it. If people
like it. They buy it. That may seem to be a pretty simple formula, but it
isn't. Yes, the race organizers can be totally arbitrary in which teams they
include, but for credibility sake, they need to be objective with the criteria
they will use for determining who will ride. In this year's Giro, the
organizers excluded several teams including Astana and the former T-Mobile
Team, now called Team High Road Sports, because of concerns over doping.
Hey, that is their prerogative, but what about Michael Rasmussen's Rabobank
team and Team LPR which included Danillo DiLuca who is serving a three-month
suspension for a non-analytical doping offense? That just doesn't make sense
to me. Oh well, hopefully, saner heads will prevail at the organization
which runs the Tour de France and there will be no seemingly arbitrary decisions
about who will toe the starting line in July.