by Jack  

This past week, we learned that ASO bought into a significant stake of Unipublic (49% to be exact), the organization that controls the Vuelta. This continues the negative trend in pro cycling as we see ASO becoming a monopoly in the sport. With ASO controlling a large number of the major races, they have effectively become the Microsoft of cycling. I see many similarities between ASO vs UCI and Microsoft vs all other software companies. Microsoft uses bullying tactics to get their way; ASO uses bullying tactics to get their way. Microsoft buys their competitors; ASO buys their competitors. But before we totally blame ASO (or Microsoft) for all of this mess, we have to consider how they became the Goliaths of their industries.

Microsoft is a leader because they knew how to take an innovative idea from a garage play toy to a mass market commodity. They were able to do what Xerox and Apple couldn't do and because of it, they have grown to be a powerhouse. But, above all, they were able to achieve success because of us, the consumer.

ASO is the same way. We, the fans, and them, the riders, have made the Tour de France what it is today. The Tour grew from something that was more regional (Europe) and divergent to something that is global and mainstream. Yes, in America, we can thank Greg, Lance and even Floyd for that matter. But even in Europe, they can thank those same three Americans because without a successful American cyclist, the Tour cannot be global.

Now that ASO has effectively taken hostage the pro peloton by controlling the major races, it has moved onto instilling it's own selfish ideals and business practices to overthrow the governing body of cycling, the UCI. This has been a major topic in the blog world as evidenced by posts here and here. But unlike Microsoft and it's competitors, this situation has be solved by the parties involved. No other regulatory power can make a difference, it is up to the UCI, ASO and cyclists to conclude this ordeal.

The current situation has ASO in the driver's seat simply because of the power of the Tour. When you have riders dedicating their entire season to this one race, it becomes very obvious how they feel about it. It is the one race that can bring glory, fame and, above all, wealth. For the cyclists, it's a lot of reasons to ride whether or not you agree with the politics. But it is exactly this type of mentality that has to stop. The only way ASO will come down from it's high horse is when they know their races are being threatened both in terms of relevance and prestige. If the cyclists seriously threaten to not ride the Tour unless ASO gives in to the UCI, the Tour will effectively lose both of it's claims to power.

Public enemy #1.

So do the riders have the balls to do this? That is the million dollar (or euro) question. Eric Boyer, the AIGCP President, doesn't seem to have enough reasons to follow the UCI. First, he's French and second, he's French. The riders themselves can't seem to make up their minds. Most of the time, you can't get a good reading on how they really feel, preferring to defer to the commonly used phrase of "our sponsors want us to race". Sure, that's acceptable, but to a certain point. What will it take for them to see reality? Will they have to endure false doping allegations that are generated from ASO's "partner" LNDD and face persecution forever? Ok, sure that's my opinion but I believe there is enough corruption between ASO, LNDD and some other federations to warrant further speculation. Case in point, why ban Astana from this year's Tour? Why not Cofidis? Why not Rabobank? If you remember, the OLD Astana was certainly not the only ones involved in doping controversies during last year's Tour. But it was only Astana that completely revamped its program. Does it make sense? Probably only to ASO and their cronies.

I hate to say this, but I am willing to give up the Tour this year if the riders take a stand in exchange for order and legitimacy to this sport. But don't confuse this with not watching the Tour on Versus if the riders cave in (as suspected) and the Tour does go on. We don't want to jeopardize one of the best things that has come out of American cycling these past years, daily coverage of the Tour that is actually good! Yes, I'm talking down on the days when ABC and ESPN broadcasted the race and proceeded to make music videos out of the action. How poor!

So as long as the Tour is shown in America, I will watch it. The last thing we need is to have Versus drop coverage in favor of more bull riding. Now I've taken a stand. Let's see if the riders will do the right thing and stand up for their sport.

Oh, one more thing.
What's fair is clear! GO FLOYD!

Levi Leipheimer won today's prologue at the Dauphiné Libéré further emphasizing to ASO that the best teams and cyclists will not be represented at this year's Tour.

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Comment from: Brian [Visitor]
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Most of your analysis is way off. I personally wish that ASO had decided not to invest in the Vuelta, but they are not anything like Microsoft. The comparison doesn’t even make sense. ASO isn’t some sort of monopoly that tries to cram crap down our throats. In fact, they only offer up some of the best bike races in the bike racing world…i.e. Le Tour and Paris Roubaix. These races are always compelling and they are the best races on the calendar. The riders will not rise up and decide to boycott ASO races because they are the best races out there. Even faced with sanctions the riders still show up at the starting line. If Unipublic could actually put a race together without it being a horrible product, they would not have had to ask for outside investment. The real problem in cycling isn’t ASO, it is the fact that no other promotor can do a good enough job to stay around without help.

06/10/08 @ 18:22
Comment from: [Member]

Point taken. I agree w/ you that ASO’s races are one of the bests on the calendar and I do enjoy watching them. But do we know that is because of ASO? Don’t forget that a lot of their races are the monuments and already come w/ a sense of success purely from its history and prestige. It’s kind of like giving a banana to a monkey. The monkey would have a hard time not knowing what to do with it.

Now back to the monopoly issue. Does ASO really have to feud w/ the governing body, UCI? That is very Microsoft like.

06/10/08 @ 19:53

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