I’m completely against the much discussed motorhome that Team Sky used at the Giro d’Italia for Richie Porte to live in. Firstly, it was already not in compliance with the rules of our sport. When the CCP (Professional Cycling Council) met after the Giro, they just opened the rule book and agreed that the rules had to be respected: the race organizer has to host the teams from the day before the race until the last day of the race and the teams have to use the accommodation and transport provided by the race organizer.
It’s a question of equity. Not all the teams are rich enough to buy more and more vehicles. 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. I don’t see any new sponsor coming in cycling and putting millions to create a new team. Some of the existing teams are economically in danger. Five years ago, we were twenty-five teams competing for a World Tour license, this year the eighteen spots aren’t filled. By raising the bar too high, cycling might struggle to attract sponsors even more than now.
The audience of our sport is historically – and still is now – made of the working class people. The beauty of cycling is that anyone can approach the champions, on the road or in a hotel lobby. Since the inception of FDJ in 1997, we have had a fan club. Once a year, any of the members has a chance to shake the hand of his idol and have a drink with him. I had goosebumps during the team time trial in Brittany because the harmony between the crowd and the athletes was so fantastic. We don’t want bunkers in which the cyclists would be pulled apart. We must remain close to the fans. Motorsport isn’t a good model for us to follow.
The economy of cycling is fragile, everyone knows that. Races are partly and greatly financed by provinces, town councils, tourism offices. If we tell these people that their hospitality is not good enough and we don’t want to stay in their hotels, will they continue to use cycling to promote tourism? I don’t think so. In July, hotels in France can be fully booked but cycling isn’t only about the Tour de France. For the rest of the year we can’t expect territories to pay for us to come and race if we don’t contribute to their local economy.
Cycling is great also because of the camaraderie. The traditional way cyclists live together – two per room – creates stories, on and off the road. It’s about ‘mateship’. Where were Porte’s team-mates when he had mechanical problems at the Giro? Apparently they weren’t next to him, like at night…
ASO has significantly improved the quality of the accommodation at the Tour de France compared to the past. If one day in three weeks the air conditioning isn’t working very well or the food isn’t the best, it doesn’t change the face of the world. We’re travelers. We must be prepared for an occasional disruption. We also don’t want to face any more troubles.
Hypobaric chambers are forbidden in Italy. A motorhome could be used for that. After controlling the cyclists and their bikes, will the UCI have to control the motorhomes too? And what after the motorhomes? Helicopters to go to starts and finishes? Private jets? Maybe Team Sky is rich enough for all that but the cycling community isn’t.