What hope did I have of winning enough prize money to live the winters in the Tropics, let alone have working capital for a post-cycling career? But that didn't matter then, because I rode for the love of the sport and the amazing experiences it made possible. [I'll revisit this at a later date and endeavor to identify the most memorable and enjoyable of said experiences, if you like.]
Surely though, one of the most obvious yet critical experiences I looked forward to was that of not having to pay for the privilege of racing my bike?
I think most would agree that a core component of the criteria that defines a professional cyclist is that he (or she, of course!) doesn't have to risk taking a net loss at the year's end because the traditional expenses incurred by amateurs like travel and entry fees won't be deducted from salary, race winnings, bonuses, and bake sale money - because the professional rider's team bears the burden of those costs.
On nights when I find sleep difficult to come-by, I like to engage in fantasy and I imagine what it would be like to have one-hundred-million-dollars in laundered cash at my disposal. Or alternatively, I'll dream about owning or managing a PT team, or at least a good domestic professional squad, like say - Team Type 1?! After all, those guys are Pro Continental, so they must be getting paaaaaid!
Oh. They're not?
“Thanks to our great sponsors and partners, we now have a clearer picture of our long-term program,” [Phil] Southerland said. “We head into next season with the intention of going after Pro Continental status in 2011.”
My dream/fantasy becomes a nightmare, as I imagine how horrible it would be to be a - quote/unquote - professional athlete faced with the choice of drawing your salary but not racing, or drawing your salary, paying your expenses out-of-pocket and racing, but doing so only at great cost to your probably (already) anemic financial health.
So is something wrong on Team Type 1? The following tweets came to my attention recently. Does the speaker refer to the men's team? The women's team? The development squad? Are they serious that Team Type 1 is paying its riders their salaries, but that the supposed professional riders have to pay out-of-pocket in order to race - while their "CEO" flies business class to and from Paris? There's no news here yet, as it's simply one person expressing their feelings about TT1, but because of the alarming frequency that low-level pro teams do actually fail after exhausting their budgets, I'm writing about it. Immediately the story of Marty Jemison comes to mind, and how the former USPro Champion, Tour de France racer, USPS team member and world-class rider saw his career simply vanish along with the non-existent budget of the fictional Noble House team. If you're not familiar with the story, look it up, but suffice to say it's terribly serious to play around with the lives of athletes trying to make a living at sport.
"# CEO PS of TT1 visits L'Oreal in Paris for makeup tips ! Sponsorship options seem to be getting thin these days.
# CEO of TT1 interviewed in Paris for "Building of a Brand" WTF happened to: instill hope for people around the world affected by diabetes ?
# $$ for 1 RT to Paris plus hotels and hookers would pay for Cascade entries and professional support that a "Pro" team requires. WTF Phil
# TT1 bled to death of money, but CEO Phil off to Paris to enjoy Tour. Going ask for an invite for 2011 ? Fucking douchebag Assclown.
# Hey TT1: Add an * on your race calendar to show races that riders are paying their own way. False promotion will bite you in the ass.
# He wants to go to the Giro 2011, yet can't afford to send a team to NRC Races. Good Luck Ass Clown.
# Trivia Question: What U.S. based Team @ Cascade Classic has 4 riders that are paying their own way ? Nice fucking budgeting Phil."
UPDATED: If the situation is a dire as these tweets would seem to indicate, then the demise of Team Type 1 would represent just the latest in an amaranthine, endless, seemingly-eternal, everlasting, never-ending, perpetual and unending series of US professional cycling team management debacles.When I was a Freshman in high school, I was madly in love with the bike - this sport was all that checked my grief and kept it at bay after my died dad and Mom checked-out emotionally. For all you youngsters out there, I'm talking about a period in American History when there was no such thing as a commercialized Internet, and we didn't have mobile phones with beautiful 4.3-inch glass screens and more computer power than the desktop machines of less than a decade prior.
The sum total of our access to timely race coverage, besides whatever snippet of pre-VS phony Tour coverage we could catch on network TV, was the recent copy of VeloNews, a monthly issue of Winning, the newsletter from USCF, and 'zines like Dirt Rag. This instant access to information, which I still think is amazing, wasn't something I even could imagine in the 1990's. So in blissful ignorance, I knew nothing about how poorly paid bike racers were, even in Europe, and I certainly didn't think that the men aboard bikes that I could only dream of owning were earning the equivalent of a subsistence wage. A fantastic dream, enveloped in hope and carried along on the winds of blissful ignorance allowed me to push forward when the opportunity cost of doing so should have been considered too much.
But, here we are. An over-abundance of information. It's funny though - even with unfathomable amounts of information available at lightening speed via high-speed internet, most cycling fans and amateur racers have no idea how little the majority of "pros" in this country are paid. And though it's admittedly a stretch, you have to wonder when you hear scuttlebutt like this about Team Type 1 if that's not by design. Even after Lance Armstrong completed the journey from 19 year-old neophyte road racer to - incredibly - 7-time winner of the Tour de France, how is it that cycling in the US is so poorly managed and lacking in resources, and worse still, could it again be coming true that a program that purports to have a big budget and big ambitions like Team Type 1 (Giro 2011, baby!) might run out of operating money before August?
UPDATED v2: Maybe TT1 isn't running out of money at all. Perhaps the team is alive and well with its budget secure, and even allocated a portion of this year's financial resources to the development of potential future sponsorships - and these tweets are just the grousing of someone with an agenda?
Regardless, it makes for interesting reading. It's rare to see someone ostensibly connected to a pro cycling team take such a hostile public position towards what may have been (or could still be) their employer or a colleague. But now, twice in two weeks we've seen just that! First with Nicolas Roche admitting a desire to kill his treasonous and treacherous French teammate John Gadret, and now the Twitter'er whose disillusionment with Team Type 1 CEO Phil Southerland and his management practices is significant, to say the least:
"# He wants to go to the Giro 2011, yet can't afford to send a team to NRC Races. Good Luck Ass Clown. Wednesday, July 21, 2010 9:26:31 AM via web
#Trivia Question: What U.S. based Team @ Cascade Classic has 4 riders that are paying their own way ? Nice Fucking budgeting Phil.
# Phil, notice the smell in the air ? That's TT1 burning down faster than Atlanta. Had the chance to put the fire out, you let it burn down ! 5:22 PM Jul 18th via web
#Hey Mr. CEO of TT1, no Team at Cascade or Boise+no money for racing, but enough to rack up FF miles for ya ! Way to go AssClown 5:15 PM Jul 18th via web
# Poor, poor PS of Team Type 1 left Kendal on Plane now has to buy new one. Ass Clown just burn more cash you globe trotting SOB 6:21 PM Jul 10th via web
# Definition of a bitch: http://www.teamtype1.org/teams/leadership/janna_davidenko/ Saturday, July 10, 2010 6:25:31 PM via web
# Poor, poor PS of Team Type 1 left Kendal on Plane now has to buy new one. Ass Clown just burn more cash you globe trotting SOB Saturday, July 10, 2010 6:21:15 PM via web
# From PS@TT1 I'm spending every fucking dime left in the TT1 bank globe trotting around the world. Sorry guys, please race on your own now. Friday, July 09, 2010 10:11:27 AM via web
# WTF, TT1 spent all the money on a globe trotting CEO and over paid DS & now riders are racing on their own dime. Shades of RR & MB #cycling 8:05 PM Jul 5th via web
# Not Rock Racing ! Guess Again #cycling 7:58 PM Jul 4th via web
# What Pro Domestic team has run out of money and cut their schedule thanks to piss poor management ? #cycling Sunday, July 04, 2010 7:57:26 PM via web
# What kind of Team takes credit for results that riders paid their own way ? #cycling Somebody is paying the CEO and DS guys way too much ! 7:52 PM Jul 4th via web"
Finally, I invited Team Type 1 to respond to these allegations, but not surprisingly, they declined - much like they refused to comment in any meaningful way after their disastrous recruitment of Belgian rider Willem Van den Eynde.