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The hardest task

How badly is financial gulf affecting less well-off teams?

Richard Moore Posted 27th October 2011 view comments

There seems to be a deepening divide in cycling between the 'haves' and 'have-nots'.

Jonathan Vaughters, who runs the Garmin-Cervélo team, has been alluding to it on Twitter this week, lamenting the apparent unevenness of the playing field.

"Seriously, it is a bit frustrating to operate on about half of Sky or BMC, but yet be competitive," he wrote. "If someone would step into the co-title..."

Vaughters (centre) celebrates Garmin-Cervelo's victory in the team time trial

Vaughters (centre) celebrates Garmin-Cervelo's victory in the team time trial

Vaughters is looking for $3.5-5m for a new co-sponsor, and has even taken the highly unusual step of soliciting Alan Sugar, again via Twitter. "Dear Lord Sugar... While we have fielded one of the best teams on 50% the budget of the biggest teams, with some help, we could be #1."

Disturbing

Lord Sugar - who is a keen cyclist, and, promisingly for Vaughters, likes to be seen in the full Garmin kit - has yet to respond.

Vaughters' team has consistently punched above its weight: it wouldn't be an enormous surprise to see his lesser-budgeted squad of over-achievers do to BMC and Sky what Barcelona did to Real Madrid in the mid-2000s.

Richard Moore
Quotes of the week

I'm really not sure about this. If Vaughters needs the co-sponsor to keep the team going, that's a different matter, and it's deeply disturbing that this is proving such a hard sell. But if he believes more money is the only way he can compete with those bigger-budget teams then I'm not convinced.

After all, a squad that enjoys the success Garmin-Cervelo has had this season - and, equally importantly as far as many are concerned, the unblemished ethical reputation - doesn't seem to be doing too badly.

It is certainly dangerous to equate a bigger budget with guaranteed success. It will be interesting to see how BMC get on next year, but it is impossible to look at their line-up - including Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd, Cadel Evans - and not be reminded of Real Madrid's famous (or infamous) 'Galacticos.'

This refers to a period in the early 2000s when it was club policy to buy the world's best players. The policy peaked with the signing of David Beckham in 2003, following which, for three long years, Real Madrid won not a single trophy. Like I say, it will be interesting to see how the BMC Galacticos get on.

Support

As for Team Sky, the problem - or challenge - might be less one of too many chiefs, and more one of focus. I think teams and athletes perform at their best when they have a single focus. Cavendish has benefited from being in a team whose sole focus was to support him. And by his actions he has fully justified the support not only of his professional team, but also the British team at the recent world championships.

But it has been unwavering, undiluted support. In Copenhagen it saw strong riders such as Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins bury themselves for the Cavendish cause, which neither will do at next year's Tour de France, Thomas because he is opting out of the Tour, Wiggins because he is likely to be targetting general classification. Like Cavendish, Wiggins will need support, but there is a real danger that the aspirations of one rider will dilute those of the other.

Their deep pockets have allowed BMC to assemble their Galacticos, and Team Sky to acquire the most prolific winner in the world, but both teams face significant challenges next season.

And okay, these are perhaps 'problems' that Vaughters would dearly love to have - and could still have, if Lord Sugar gets his chequebook out. But Vaughters' team has consistently punched above its weight: it wouldn't be an enormous surprise to see his lesser-budgeted squad of over-achievers do to BMC and Sky what Barcelona did to Real Madrid in the mid-2000s.

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