It was sad to learn this week that Canadian Cycling legend, Steve Bauer, the man who once finished fourth in the 1988 Tour de France, had failed in his bid to find new sponsorship for his cycling team to continue in the sport in 2014. After having taken a year out when sponsorship with SpiderTech fell through in 2013 it had been Bauer’s hopes to return with the kind of sponsorship that might see the team gain WorldTour status, but he has had to admit defeat citing a lack of sponsorship opportunities due in part to the current financial crisis as well as the fallout from the Lance Armstrong affair.
This is a real shame and it further highlights why it pisses me off that cycling is continually in the headlines for the wrong reasons when it really shouldn’t be these days. It’s always a drug story when there’s so many other stories that make the sport great and should see sponsors scrambling to get involved. The main stream media, onlooking fans of other sports sports, potential sponsors, and even some so-called cycling fans who push the doping agenda relentlessly, have this impression that cycling is a mess when in reality it fights the doping problem more than any other sport.
The sad thing is that if cycling turned a blind eye to doping like it did in the 90’s and like other sports — football (soccer), tennis, hockey, baseball, basketball, the NFL, rugby and so on and so on — do to this day, then maybe Bauer would have found a sponsor and the team would be thriving.
Of course there’s also the fact of where cycling stands in the conscience of Canadian sports fans in general and Bauer himself alluded to it as much himself saying, “I look at all this and I think it will be extremely difficult to attract Canadian sponsors to bring us in World Tour. We are in Canada, not in Belgium or France, countries that have deep cycling culture.” TV coverage of the big races is improving in Canada, but otherwise the sport gets little attention. Cycling in Canada reminds me of where it was in Britain in the 80s and 90’s. Still, with a top rate indoor Velodrome finally being built just outside Toronto ahead of the 2015 PanAm games, I really hope they can study and follow the British model that was put in place back when the Manchester Velodrome was built way back in 1994 because look where British cycling is now as a result. Back then it was a big deal to see a British cyclist take to the start in the Tour with the highest hopes being that Chris Boardman might win the prologue and pull on the Yellow jersey for a few days or Shaun Yates might win a stage. Now they’ve the best track team in the world, the best road sprinter in the world and could yet see back-to-back Tour de France winners if Chris Froome can follow up on what Bradley Wiggins did in 2012.
For the time being though Bauer will be taking a step back and has perhaps called time on running a professional team. “We’ve done great things over the years, but unfortunately, SpiderTech was not the partner that we needed to continue. I can still do a lot of things in the world of cycling, but not set up a professional team,” he said. Perhaps looking at the youth setup of the sport as Britain did in the 1990’s with an eye to a decade and a half down the road might be somewhere that Bauer could really help Canadian cycling excel.
Still, for the short time he was involved in the pro-management scene, Bauer certainly did plenty of good and he gave a lot of good young Canadian cyclists at shot at the big-time. “We gave a chance to many Canadian athletes and now they are in the frame to stand out in one of the toughest sports in the world,” he said. “Josée [My wife] and I are proud to have done what no one had succeeded before us. I still hope to see one day a Canadian team in the World Tour.”
Don’t we all.