MAT­TEO TOSATTO

T INK OFF

Procycling - - Prologue - Tosatto has started 33 Grand Tours and !in­ished 28, both are records

A lot’s been said about the so-called 'Pay to Ride' scan­dal, and an aw­ful lot of con­clu­sions jumped to. It’s not a black and white is­sue and so, for what it’s worth, I’ll let you have my thoughts.

Ob­vi­ously it’s come out in Italy, specif­i­cally with three ProCon­ti­nen­tal teams. That sug­gests that it’s a lo­cal prob­lem, and it may well be. It may also be that it’s come to light only now be­cause a rider has fi­nally had the courage to come out and say it but we shouldn’t make as­sump­tions. Ev­ery­one knows that Ital­ian cy­cling has eco­nomic and sys­temic prob­lems but it would be naïve to think it ex­ists in a vac­uum. It’s not cut and dried, and the is­sue of riders de­liv­er­ing spon­sor­ship is as old as cy­cling. I don’t know the specifics of the cases but I sus­pect that it’s more tex­tured than some would have us be­lieve.

Teams of­fer young riders the chance to de­velop but ob­vi­ously some will fare bet­ter than oth­ers. A rider who is not at the front is a pure cost, be­cause he can’t de­liver pub­lic­ity. That, in a busi­ness model which is ap­par­ently fail­ing, is a real prob­lem. Let’s say you’re a team man­ager and your staff and the rest of your riders risk los­ing their jobs. You need 100,000, races are go­ing bust all over the place, and you can’t make up the short­fall with your ex­ist­ing spon­sor­ship deals. What are you go­ing to do? Go un­der and lose ev­ery­thing, or ac­cept a rider who brings in a spon­sor and en­sures you sur­vive an­other year?

So we should be care­ful about mak­ing sim­plis­tic judge­ments about a com­plex is­sue. Riders de­liver spon­sor­ship in many dif­fer­ent ways and the com­po­si­tion of teams is in­formed by com­mer­cial and strate­gic fac­tors. Team Sky, for ex­am­ple, has a nu­cleus of riders from the mar­kets they op­er­ate in. They are there be­cause their pres­ence de­liv­ers or main­tains a spon­sor. Sky is ex­tremely rich but cy­cling has al­ways been like that. Why is FDJ 90 per cent French? Why so many Aus­tralians at Orica? Be­cause the re­al­ity is that the Brits, the French­men and the Aus­tralians are a pre­req­ui­site for the spon­sors. The num­bers may be big­ger but the prin­ci­ple is no dif­fer­ent. What I’m say­ing is that if there’s wrong­do­ing it should ab­so­lutely be pun­ished but the struc­tural prob­lems which cause it also need to be ad­dressed.

Ev­ery­one knows Ital­ian cy­cling has eco­nomic and sys­temic prob­lems but it would be naïve to think it ex­ists in a vac­uum

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