Cycling in Australia
A couple of weeks ago Cycling Australia announced that they are more or less cutting everything and throwing every egg into the track basket.
Since the big board restructure, Cycling Australia has been struggling to unify road, track, MTB and BMX. This track heavy focus is a sure way to continue to get most of the cycling community off side.
It's like they have sold the struggling family farm, in a short-term solution to fix some monetary problems and keep their mother in law happy (The Winning Edge).
Yes, this will keep the Winning Edge/Australian Sports Commission on their side and they are the major backer (important). But is this the best way to actually ensure sustainability into the future?
And more importantly is this a decision in the best interest of the athletes and the sport in general?
Track cycling is great. It is a fantastic way for juniors to develop skills and is the primary opportunity for cyclists to pursue the Olympic dream. But it's not where the sport is heading. It doesn't have a massive following, participation levels are low, limited opportunities for riders to generate an income from it and there are no signs of it delivering an independent revenue stream for the national body.
For a cyclist to make a "life" out of the sport you need to pursue the road. There are some examples where people have made a living out of other segments of the sport but they are far and few between. In terms of supporting athlete sustainability, road development is key and it's the way that the governing body can assist younger athletes to create a lasting career.
The new model I believe will enhance the cycling medal tally at Tokyo but then what?
If you are selected in the high performance unit and you make it to Tokyo what's a likely outcome? You go to the Olympics in 2020 and 2024, get paid a reasonable amount to be a cyclist and then get spat out when you are 30 with limited tangible skills and not a massive savings account, then what?
I'd be interested to know how much money is set aside for career development.
Where will Cycling Australia be in 2021?
Road participation will be down, MTB participation will be down, track participation might be up a little but overall the talent pool will have dwindled and infrastructure within the other programs will be gone.
It's key that high performance track athletes are supported but if you don't have riders to pick from, the support doesn't really help and limiting the exposure of the sport to the Olympics is a risky way to increase participation.
Lets not pretend Olympic cycling is the biggest influence on participation, it only happens every four years.
Cadel Evans is, Richie Porte is, a schools program is, encouraging juniors to race in any aspect of the sport is, and encouraging any type of riding in general is. And the best part - the more people that ride bikes, the more people that might take up racing and who knows, that young boy or girl that was able to ride to school might turn into an Olympian.
I’d argue that the five track gold medals at the 2004 Olympics didn’t do anywhere near as much for cycling participation as Cadel’s search for success at the Tour de France. A mountain biker turned road rider who, if he was a 19 year old today, wouldn’t be part of the Cycling Australia high performance program.
Looking at it from track endurance perspective, a rider should also pursue the road - no brainer. If they are talented enough it's not going to be difficult for a World Tour team to double their salary, give them the opportunity to race consistently throughout the season, provide them with a prosperous future and the opportunity to make a life out of the sport.
The point being, there are many parts to cycling and it's a waste to focus solely on one. Build the biggest talent pool possible and see what Olympians pop out and if none do, there will be more people riding bike in Australia - a win.
See you back at the social club,