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Brailsford: ‘Cycling needs a better business model’

Team Ineos boss Sir David Brailsford suggests that cycling calendar needs less reliance on Tour, speaks of perils of cycling's dependence on sponsorship revenues.

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Team Ineos boss David Brailsford has called for an improved model for the pro cycling industry that is less heavily reliant on the Tour de France.

Brailsford has masterminded seven Tour de France wins in the past eight cycling seasons with his team, which is estimated to draw a budget of £40 million per year — a figure far exceeding that of the majority of its rivals. Brailsford has made no secret of Team Sky/Ineos’ utter focus on the Tour de France through the past years, but has raised alarm bells over the huge economic emphasis placed on the one race.

“If one event should happen this year, we would all choose for it to be the Tour,” Brailsford told BBC Radio, Tuesday.

The sport needs a “better model, which is a bit more diversified and has the bigger races spread among the calendar so we don’t rely so much on one race,” Brailsford said. “Modernizing the business model going forward would be wise for everybody.”

The Tour de France is the economic powerhouse of the sport, and since the coronavirus pandemic put the race under threat, a crowd of voices have warned of the dire consequences if the race were to cancel. Earlier this week, EF Pro Cycling’s Rigoberto Uran stated that few teams would survive if the Tour was not raced in 2020.

Last week, the UCI confirmed revised dates for the Tour, giving a glimmer of hope to teams that have had to cut rider pay and suspend activity to manage budgets through the racing stop. Brailsford told the BBC that lessons need to be learned from how the racing stop has revealed the sport’s utter reliance on just one race.

“Everyone would see the benefits of having a more robust structure,” he said, adding that it would “allow people to plan for the medium-to-long term, rather than planning short-term and, just for some, survival on a short-term basis — that would be a very big game-changer.”

Despite heading up the most dominant squad in the sport, Brailsford called for unity between teams to ensure economic survival, and that no one is safe in a funding model totally reliant on sponsorship.

“Although we often fight on the cutting edge, we also need each other,” Brailsford told Sporza. “You only have a healthy sport if you also have healthy teams with a healthy structure. It is in everyone’s interest that we support each other as well as possible.”

“If we can only race again next year, everyone will be under pressure,” Brailsford said. “This is the case for every sports team that depends 100 percent on sponsor money.” He also spoke to the BBC of the instability resulting from how “different sponsors are in different businesses, and some are more effective than others in the current climate.”

If the Tour does go ahead this year, Brailsford confirmed that his originally-planned leadership strategy remains in place, with past champions Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas heading the team, likely joined by Chris Froome, but dependent on the progress of his recovery from injuries sustained in June 2019. However, he is still working on piecing together the supporting cast for his captains as he eyes a season that may place the year’s three grand tours in back-to-back months.

“There are now more riders eligible for the Tour team than before,” Brailsford said. “W

e will have to make difficult decisions. But the hierarchy will remain. Spreading your toppers too much will dilute your chances.”