GAP, France (AFP) — There’s nothing new in sport about modernizers and traditionalists locking horns, particularly when it comes to new technology.
In a sport like soccer it can relate to goal-line technology; in Formula One it might be about an aerodynamic innovation, and in Paralympic athletics it could concern the length of prosthetic limbs.
But rarely in any sport has such debate raged over accommodation.
Yet that is the case in cycling and it was all sparked by Australian Richie Porte turning up to May’s Giro d’Italia in his own personal motorhome.
Authorities quickly put a stop to that and Porte’s Sky team found itself in the eye of a storm.
Such was the passionate backlash against the use of motorhomes — where a rider sleeps in his own personal caravan rather than at a hotel like the rest of his team or rivals — that it’s become almost an inside joke in cycling circles.
But Sky manager Dave Brailsford says it’s about improving performance as he believes a rider can sleep better on his own, away from a hotel’s distractions.
“The heart of what I and, not only Team Sky but for the last 15 years the British Olympic program, have always put riders first and looked after their performance and seen what areas we can improve their performances,” said Brailsford.
“And you could argue that part of the Tour’s won in bed. We know from a sport science point of view that sleep’s very important, and I like to think about opportunities and ways of looking at the riders in a better way.”
However, French team FDJ’s manager Marc Madiot says motorhomes would give some teams an unfair advantage.
“It’s a question of equity. Not all the teams are rich enough to buy more and more vehicles,” said Madiot in his blog on Cyclingnews.com.
“Bretagne-Séché Environnement at the Tour de France, Bardiani-CSF at the Giro d’Italia, or Caja Rural at the Vuelta a España, their budget is about one-tenth of the biggest teams’.
“The charm of our sport is that they still have a chance to win a stage or something. Everyone has the right to dream.
“If we keep increasing the gap between the rich and the poor, we’ll lose one recipe for our success.”
Bad for the sport
So far the traditionalists are winning this battle and Brailsford is barking up the wrong tree. Even UCI president Brian Cookson is against the idea. He says it would discourage towns from applying to host a Tour stage and would be unpopular with fans.
“We have to look at the overall situation here; this would not be good for cycling, for the economy of the sport, and it’s not good for the image of the sport either, because suddenly you’ve got these temporary villages set somewhere where you don’t include the public,” he said.
“When they [Sky] first started the team that first year , when the riders were warming up outside the team bus, they would put big screens up so the public couldn’t see the riders warming up. That was a real disincentive to the fans. The fans hated it because they couldn’t see the riders. It gave a very bad image of the team to the public.”
So far, the traditionalists have got there own way on this subject, and motorhomes are not likely to make an appearance at the Tour any time soon.
But Brailsford is not giving up just yet. “The innovation I’m interested in is the innovation that will last,” he said.
“We all want them [riders] to race hard and be spectacular in the mountains; we want them to perform better and better, and if we want them to do that then we’ve got to keep pace with what we can do to make sure that they recover better to be in the best possible shape to perform to their optimal level — it’s as simple as that really.”