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The Dynamics of Cycling - The Evolution of Cyclesport
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 1/1/2008
The Dynamics of Cycling - The Evolution of Cyclesport
 

The Dynamics of Cycling
The evolution and organization of cycling... Who are the stake holders or interested parties of cycling? How does it effect the current status of cycling?

This isn't a history of cycling, it is an editorial based on observations and opinions of mine of how the sport evolved and the groups who have influenced its structure in the past and today. However, history plays a role in how cycling evolved to its current state of organization. We often hear the word "stakeholders" used by the UCI and other organizations in cycling. Who are the stake holders or interested parties of cycling?

What are the common interests that built, influenced and sustained the sport  for the last 148 years? Do they exist each separate of each other, or as a part of a larger whole? Why the word dynamics?

Dynamic: 1. relating to energy or physical force in motion; opposed to static 2. relating to dynamics.
Dynamics: 2a) the various forces, physical, moral, economic, etc. operating in any field b) the way such forces shift or change in relation to one another, c) the study of such forces.  {From the Greek dynamikos

A dynamic is a group of individuals who have a common interest and work to support the vested interest of its members. They can be an organized unit in an association or not operating in association; for example the The National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) in the USA works to support bicycle shops to be successful.

Fans listed as a dynamic below has no official organization (that I know of), though fans are an essential part of the sport. Each country has their own racing associations which promote racing; providing rules and guidelines to races and riders. Theoretically, each of these groups ideally works to support the objectives of the individuals and goals of its members. These and other groups actions are "dynamic" in the sense the interaction of these dynamics effect how the sport is organized and is run.

Looking at the history of cycling and the groups that evolved might give us a better understanding of the sport and each of the groups and the forces at work. Like any dynamic organism, cycling prospers to the degree that all the groups within it function as a group towards the same goal. Like the body, each part working well together insures the health of the whole organism. This applies to any organization, in that it is as successful or affluent to the degree that all the groups within it work to achieve a common goal. A team of stars who fail to work together are weaker in the long run than one with lesser talent that will work toward victory.

Each of the following groups or interests are part of the dynamics that have shaped the path of cycling's growth, economics and organization per the definition above. However when we speak of Pro Cycling we have several major organizations that make up Pro Cycling and effect it's future: Riders, Teams, Race Organizers, Official Organizations (UCI, etc.), Bike Industry & Manufacturers, Sponsors and last but not least the Fans. In part one we look at how the dynamics or forces evolved that brought about the evolution of cycle sport.

Part 1- Historical Evolution of the Dynamics of Cycling
The Bike

In 1817 Karl von Drais of Karlsruhe, Germany invented the first human powered two wheeled vehicles that was the original ancestor of what we today call the bicycle or velocipede. By the 1840's pedals were added on prototypes that made it more than just a "running machine" that supported a rider, by the 1860's these "boneshakers" and later the "High Wheelers", "Ordinaries" or "Penny Farthing" as they were called led to the formation of the first cycling clubs and races. A humorous account of learning to ride an Ordinary:  Taming the Bicycle by Mark Twain

Improvements in spoke wheels and the addition of a chain and gear driven rear wheel followed by the 1880's. With the invention of ball bearings and the introduction of Dupont's pneumatic tires the "Safety bicycle" was in mass production by 1890. In 1946 Tullio Campagnolo marketed the dual-rod "Cambio Corsa" gear shifter, five years later in 1951 he produced the modern Gran Sport derailleur and the bike entered its modern era. More Bike history info: History, timeline & Foundation of racing.

The Bike Industry
Without the efforts of inventors and manufacturers around the world there would be no bike; to this day bike companies and inventors drive the sport by improving our trusted steeds. Inventors and manufacturing is one dynamic force in the sport sponsoring clubs, teams and races. Likewise, without riders buying bikes manufacturing would have ceased to exist long ago.

Riders & Clubs
The bike came at a perfect meeting of historical cross roads of the Industrial Revolution which provided the technology and more leisure time to the common man. At first the bike was a novelty, but with the advent of the safety bicycle and mass production it became a new, cheap and popular form of transportation.

Men from the beginning being social creatures formed clubs to ride together; being competitive by nature the clubs soon organized races amongst themselves. Had the automobile been invented and affordable before the bike, racing and touring might not have been popular at all. Luckily for us the bike was first.

Races & Clubs
Le Velo-Club Bordelais (Bordeaux bicycle club) organized the first Bordeaux-Paris in 1891 and was heavily promoted by the newspaper Le Velo. The first recorded race in the USA was on May 24, 1878 during the "High Wheeler" era (all the racers were amateurs.) Bicycle racing became a professional sport in 1894. At first track cycling took center stage as one could charge admission.

The evolution: the bike, riders, clubs (touring and racing) and race promoters. To this day the bike club is commonly the first entry point for most riders into riding, training, club races, then racing at the grassroots level. Clubs are also a dynamic force in the organizing local races, and the popularity and growth of the sport. When I say riders and cycling I am including all who ride and compete: all disciplines of the sport from road, mountain bike, track, ultra, cyclocross, BMX, including cycle touring. Each might be looked at as separate dynamics; but all fall under the general category of cycling. Likewise, other sports fall under the general heading of a Sports dynamic. Our common interest is cycling tend to be different compared to other sports like tennis or football that are played in stadiums.

Local Angels
Often clubs were sponsored by bike shop owners which helped to build their market. It should go without saying that often these "angels" are bike and racing enthusiasts themselves. Many of these men and women started the foundation for cycling in their areas offering training and guidance for new members to the cycling fraternity. Often they are retired pro riders who wanted to share their experience and passion for the sport.

Advocacy and Official Organizations
During the decade of 1880 - 1890 clubs around the world joined in associations. British cyclists began to organize themselves nationally in 1878. "The organizations of touring cyclists and racing cyclists were in Britain, from the outset, separate. Touring cyclists founded the Bicycle Touring Club (soon to be the more encompassing Cyclists' Touring Club), drawing subscriptions from individual members.

In 1878 as well, the Bicycle Union, an umbrella grouping of local clubs devoted to social activities and to club racing, was created. The Tricycle Association, grouping clubs of tricyclists, came into being a short time later, merging with the Bicycle Union to form the National Cyclists' Union in 1882. The N.C.U. remained the predominant organization of sport cycling in Great Britain until the late 1950's." Tom James of Cycling Palmares

In 1880 the League of American Wheelman was formed (now called the League of American Bicyclists), at first to lobby the government for road construction. The International Cycling Union (UCI) was founded on 14 April 1900, and is the association of the National Cycling Federations. Its headquarters are in Aigle, Switzerland with its first purpose (Pdf) of "regulating cycling at an international level."

Pro Cycling - Sponsors/Organizers/Clubs/The Press
By the time the turn of the century professional cycling was in full bloom. 1891 both Bordeaux-Paris organized by Le Velo-Club Bordelais and Paris-Brest-Paris organized and sponsored by Le Petit Journal had their inaugural races. Liege-Bastogne-Liege followed a year later organized by Le Pesant Club Liegois/Union des Cyclistes Liegois.

The alliance of clubs and newspapers followed with the press soon sponsoring cycling spectacles of their own to promote their newspapers; most notably: L'Auto organized the Tour de France in 1903 and la Gazetta dello Sport followed sponsoring the Giro d'Italia in 1909. To this day, in the USA and around the world many of the national calendar pro and amateur races are organized by local clubs or cycling federations.

As time went on businesses from every sector sponsored teams and races to reach the fans of cycling. At first it would be the accounts and photos in the newspapers of their riders. Today a sponsors exposure can be measured by multi-media coverage of their riders on the internet, magazines, newspapers and of course television air time. I shouldn't miss mentioning here that the Daily Peloton is supported by our sponsors.

The professional peloton does not lack a connection to the clubs or amateur races, A rider proves himself by succeeding in running the gauntlet of first club races, local races, national races and eventually if he distinguishes himself... the opportunity of signing a professional contract. The clubs and amateur racing feeds the top of the sport with young talent it has supported and developed.

A Life Time of Cycling - Fans
One of the unique things about cycling is that it is a participatory sport often lasting a life time unlike many sports that one plays during his school days and rarely participates in later life. Whether participation is riding for the joy of it, one's health, commuting, comradeship of a club, coaching, racing or as a fan following the races and riders makes no difference all are part of the demographics of Cycling.

The fan may be one of the dynamics overlooked most when we talk about professional cycling. Without the interest of  fans, there would be little money available for sponsorship of teams and races. The spectators are the eventual target of the sponsors at every level. The more fans the greater the audience, the greater exposure and value to the sponsors. More fans alone would draw more sponsors for races on TV in the USA as is the case in Europe.

Advocacy and Good Works
Part of these dynamics are advocacy groups that lobby governments for improved safety, bike paths, keeping Mountain Bike trails open, and promoting bike use to conserve energy and the environment. Cyclists are a generous lot, and foundations and charitable groups supported by teams and cyclists: like the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Saunier Duval's Million Trees project to just name two. These activities not only support charities but demonstrate the good will and character of cycling and cyclists.

Summary on the Historic Evolution of the sport:
The forces active or dynamics in creating the sport were: the bike, riders, clubs, coaches, the bike industry, teams (amateur to pro), race organizers, official organizations, cycling advocacy, sponsors, media and Fans. Each was an influence in the evolution of the sport to this day.

Part 2
Professional Cycling
If one were to think of any race and simply list the parties involved in making it happen he could see how each dynamic plays a part in a successful race. One might also ponder how many races would happen if one or more of these groups were absent.

For example without pro cycling fans who follow the sport in the media why would a sponsor support a team or race? The fans are the consumers of the Sport, without consumers no business even cycling could sustain itself. Can you have any race professional or amateur without out competitors; or official organizations without riders joining and paying dues to support them? A loss of one or another would lessen the whole and it's survival, success, finances and future. Each is not independent of the other, each is related and dependent on the other for even the simplest race at any level.

The Dynamics of Professional Cycling
1. Riders
2. Teams
3. Race Organizers
4. Official Organizations (UCI and National)
5. Sponsors
6. Fans
7. Media

Professional cycling evolved in a fractured manner and has never been organized to include all of those who have a stake or interest in its growth and success. To this day the professional side of the sport suffers from a lack of organization and unity of the dynamics. I'm convinced this is the critical cause for the division among the powers in cycling and its success in the future.

Cycling Wars - A Lack of Organization and Leadership
This manifested in the last few years as the Grand Tours organizers and the UCI battled over ProTour inclusion, and later when race organizers chose to exclude riders and teams based on their own criteria or inclusion on a list of suspects in the Operation Puerto investigation.
Cycling Wars Heat Up 13 February 2008

It seems that each of the major organizations/dynamics of pro cycling are so filled with its own vested interest and protecting it's profit and power that they have lost any sense of what is good for cycling, the established rules or hierarchy and the other dynamics effected. This disorganization, in the long run does more damage than doping in the sport and probably why a doping culture was able to continue in the peloton so long.

Time I think, will prove that a solution can be found by organizing the sport based on the greater good for the sport of cycling in which most of the groups/dynamics can prosper. But it is clear to me, ignore one group and your own prosperity and future will be at risk. I will discuss my opinions on this and propose a plan in for the reorganization of the sport in second editorial  - The Dynamics of Professional Cycling.

There was a time after the turn of the century that cycling was one of the major sports in the USA with track racing attracting higher attendance than other professional sports like Baseball and Football. Cycling stars were paid far in excess of their professional counterparts. Today, internationally the sport is a pauper in comparison to sponsorship, Television coverage, and rewards for the athletes of Football, Baseball, Tennis, and even that action packed sport Golf.

Edited and updated 2/13/2008

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Historical Notes:
Race Organizing:

Launched in 1896 by two Roubaix textile manufacturers, Theo Vienne and Maurice Perez, Paris-Roubaix stands out as one of cycling's premiere events, a race both unique and unflinching in its philosophy. Riders and bikes find their resilience tested to the extreme, on roads where feats of legend are bound to crop up. The famed cobblestones of the hellish north are challenging in their own right, much as the towering mountain passes of the Tour de France. This test of resilience in no way rules out raw velocity - Dutchman Peter Post's record 45,129 km/h has stood since 1964.

As for races started by clubs: I can't think of any obvious examples - races started by newspapers is more common (for example, the Tour de France was started by L'Auto is an obvious example, started to publicise their paper as a stunt and to try to compete with their great rival Le Velo).

One example of a race not started by a paper was Paris-Roubaix: it was started by the promoters of the new (in 1896) velodrome in Roubaix. In those days, there was more money in track than road racing, since spectators could be charged to watch a track race but not a road race. So Paris-Roubaix started to publicize the existence of the track in Roubaix. For similar reasons, many of the early classics finished on velodromes, since their the spectators could be charged to see the end of the race (and probably a supporting a programme of track events in the run-up to the finish).

However, some events were organized initially by clubs:
Race  - First held - Promoter
Bordeaux-Paris 1891 Le Velo-Club Bordelais (Bordeaux bicycle club) - heavily promoted by the newspaper Le Velo
Paris-Brest-Paris 1891 Le Petit Journal (a newspaper)
Liege-Bastogne-Liege 1892 Le Pesant Club Liegois/Union des Cyclistes Liegois
Paris-Brussels 1893 La Bicylette (a newspaper)/La Ligue Velocipedique Belge
Paris-Tours 1896 Paris-Velo (a newspaper; the first event was organised to promote the new track in Tours)
Paris-Roubaix 1896 Le Velo / Theo Vienne & Maurice Perez (the promoters of the Roubaix Velodrome)
Tour of Lombardy 1905 La Gazetta della Sport (yet another newspaper ...)
Milan-San Remo 1907 La Gazetta della Sport
Tour of Flanders 1913 Sportwereld (a Belgian newspaper)
Fleche-Wallone 1936 Les Sports (a Belgian paper)
Het Volk 1945 Het Volk (another paper...)
GP Frankfurt 1962 Henninger Beer (hence the alternate name, the Rund um den Henninger Turm - the Circuit of the Henninger Tower - which is a major landmark of the brewery.
Amstel Gold Race 1966 InterSport (a sports promotion agency)/Amstel Beer
Clasica San Sebastian 1981 El Diario Vasco (a newspaper)
Thanks to Tom James.

Louise Armaindo
Louise Armaindo was the world-champion female cyclist of her time.
(printed on page 12 of the July 29, 1882 issue of "The National Police Gazette:New York)"The Lady whose portrait we give in this issue, Mlle. Armaindo, claims and maintains the distinction of being the champion female bicycle rider of the world. She has already gained great fame by her wonderful feats on the wheels throughout the country. Mlle. Armaindo was born near Montreal, Canada, is 5 feet 2 1/2 inches in height and weighs about 135 pounds. She has defeated Prof. Fred Rollinson, the American champion, in three 20-mile races, Rollinson allowing her a 2 miles start. At St. Louis, she rode 617 1/2 miles in 72 hours, 12 hours per day for six days. She won a race for the championship, and she is willing to ride angainst any lady in America, or will take fives miles start in a fifty mile race from any man in America. Mlle. Armaindo elevates an 80 lb. dumb bell, lifts 700 lbs. dead weight, and is a natural athlete."And what would Mlle. Armaindo think and do today? Would she still request or accept a different starting line when racing men? In the world of elite sports, men often have a bit of a biological advantage. But on the streets of our city? NAH.
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