It’s been a tough off season for many in pro cycling. Teams seem to be folding from all directions. Every year, there are fewer and fewer marquee events. Do I think road racing is dead? Nope. Restructuring? Without a doubt.
We are now seeing the effects of a gradual snowballing- the most successful teams roll over and pick up the funding, and maybe a few riders, from smaller programs. I’ve been affected by this personally- in 2015 I enjoyed probably my best season to date on the Hagens-Berman u23 team, but then the sponsor decided they would be better served merging with Axeon, the world’s best development team. Hagens-Berman also ceased their sponsorship of their Continental team. Down the road, this ultimately led to the cessation of the Jamis-Sutter Home team (where I rode in 2016). Likewise, the long-running California Giant development team also folded in 2015 in order to sponsor Axeon, leaving a hole where there had been roughly 20 development spots. This year, UHC pro cycling ceased, as sponsorship dollars went to affiliate team Rally (Rally is a subdivision of the UHC insurance company). Jelly Belly also ended its support of cycling after nearly 20 years in the American peloton. One accelerant in these changes has been Tour of California’s upgrade to Worldtour status- many teams based their entire season around the national exposure that came with this event, and without it, sponsors couldn’t justify their investments in the sport.
I think it’s important to note- I’m not trying to express bitterness at these decisions. Cycling is a tough proposition for any sponsor, and it’s only natural they try to maximize their investment by sponsoring the best possible team. It has created a challenging situation, however, for riders like myself, who find ourselves at the edges of professionalism.
Some have taken to mixing gravel and road events, such as Michael Sheehan with Meteor-Giordana, and seem to be enjoying this combination. Many others have incorporated the sponsorship-rich Red Hook fixed gear criteriums into their schedule. More than ever, there’s responsibility on each rider to earn his or her keep with social media engagement. It’s hard to overstate the value of having 10k+ Instagram followers. Essentially, the burden continues to shift onto the individual to provide utility to his/her supporters.
This season, my team Silber Pro Cycling, was acquired by Floyd’s of Leadville, a THC and CBD dispensary in Colorado. There’s clearly a lot of buzz around this move, with owner Floyd Landis’s complicated relationship with the sport. To me, putting sponsorship into the sport is the best thing he can do with his position and capital. If you support Hincapie’s team, then you should support Landis’s.
Ultimately, I wasn’t offered a position on the new squad. However, after a tough year of injury and limited racing, I’m as motivated as ever, and confident in finding a way to the races in 2019. I’ve had good results in the past, and while those don’t mean cycling owes me anything, I do know the level I’m capable of. One look at my Strava will show the hard yards I’ve been putting in to prepare for next season.
I’ve also made the decision to stay enrolled at UT full-time in the spring, for the first time since my freshman year. I only have two semesters left to graduate, so it’s time for me to buckle down and finish up that degree.
I want to thank Silber for their support through an injury plagued tenure in their program. I also want to express a huge gratitude to Jamis Bicycles, the company who has supported me since my first year racing in the seniors. Across three teams, Jamis has made it possible for me and many others to chase our dreams in cycling. They are a reliable, diligent partner that has offered unwavering support to our sport for years.
In summary, I’m not a pro anymore. What am I? Someone who still has passion for a hectic sport, travel, and training. I’m excited to attempt a clean run at 2019, in the classroom and on two wheels.