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Blockbuster Velon deal could change cycling

Velon, a commercial venture that includes 11 WorldTour teams, and the Tour de Suisse sign a deal to share revenue and more.

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Cycling’s powerbrokers are making dramatic moves that are changing the way the cycling business is run.

On Tuesday, Velon and Tour de Suisse organizers announced a blockbuster deal that includes revenue-sharing, among other key points, in a groundbreaking development that will give teams financial stability and could permanently alter the economic landscape of professional cycling.

For many who’ve been pushing to change cycling’s traditional business model — when race promoters keep all revenue from race sponsors, hosting fees, TV rights, VIP seating and bike tours — this deal is huge.

The partnership involves 11 WorldTour teams, working together under the Velon umbrella, and InfrontRingier, part of the growing web of companies owned or managed by Chinese billionaire Wang Jialin.

The agreement comes just as powerful race organizer ASO is threatening to pull its quiver of high-profile races out of the UCI’s WorldTour, and operate such events as the Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and Paris-Roubaix under the European calendar in 2017. ASO’s departure last fall not only gives the French media company more control over which teams race its events, but it is also a rejection of the WorldTour concept.

Velon-associated teams and organizers said Tuesday they’re not going to wait on the sidelines for the long-running dispute between ASO and the UCI to be resolved before moving forward.

“We strongly believe that a bright future for professional cycling can only come from working together with all the parties involved,” Tour de Suisse director Olivier Senn said in a press release. “That is why we don’t want to wait for others to decide on our future, but to move forward with the trustworthy partners such as Velon.”

This new partnership comes a month after Velon announced a 10-year agreement with Infront Sports & Media that will deliver live data streaming for key events, the press release stated.

Highlights of the five-year deal include:

— Commitments from Velon teams to bring “some of their top riders” to the Swiss race that overlaps with ASO-run Critérium du Dauphiné each June.

— Elevate the Tour de Suisse to a “truly international sporting event,” and deliver a “more compelling story … with the best riders and teams competing.”

— Streamline social media communication among 11 Velon teams, and “attract new technology and international sponsors through a greater, international broadcast.”

Financial details were not revealed, but the deal includes a revenue sharing platform among Velon teams and the organizer, a coup for forces promoting the notion of growing cycling’s economic pie and sharing it equitably among all the partners.

The money involved in the Tour de Suisse probably wouldn’t be very much, especially when divided among 11 teams and the organizer, but it builds the platform and a new business model for future expansion and growth.

Velon includes: BMC Racing, Etixx – Quick-Step, Lampre – Merida, Lotto – Soudal, Orica – GreenEdge, Cannondale, Giant – Alpecin, LottoNL – Jumbo, Team Sky, Tinkoff, and Trek – Segafredo.

InfrontRingier took over the marketing and organization rights of the Tour de Suisse in 2014, and is a 50-50 joint venture between Ringier, Switzerland’s largest media group, and Infront Sports & Media. Infront was created in 2002 to handle TV broadcasts for alpine skiing’s FIS World Cup events, and has since expanded to include other winter and summer sports. Jialin bought it in February of 2015 for $1 billion.

Jialin is making big moves into endurance sports, and late last year, the Chinese magnate also bought Ironman Triathlon for an estimated $650 million.

There was no immediate response from the UCI or ASO, but the move marks a clear departure for 11 teams that have been working together under the Velon umbrella, a joint commercial venture that was created in late 2014.

“It’s fantastic to be in partnership with such a historic race in a heartland for cycling,” said Velon CEO Graham Bartlett in the release. “Working with Infront Ringier, we hope we can excite the fans more than ever over the next five years.”

It sounds like things will be exciting both on and off the bike.