Dan Jones, the man behind the ‘Backstage Pass’ series by GreenEdge is now back in the cycling game with a new YouTube channel: ‘Backstage with Dan Jones’.
With the pro cycling season about to begin again in the coming days, there’s plenty of speculation about how different it might be after an unprecedented hiatus. The time off, however, is a small concern to riders compared with the threat of possible COVID-19 infections.
In the latest episode of ‘Backstage with Dan Jones’, an 85-minute discussion with the charismatic, articulate David Millar, many topics are covered. Early in the interview, they speak about the obvious themes of 2020: lockdown, the pandemic, and they even get around to considering what the future of pro cycling may look like.
“My gut feeling would say 75 percent of the teams are going to be in deep trouble,” says Millar in response to a query from Jones relating to team survival in the COVID-19 era.
Below is only a small portion of what is a particularly interesting cycling interview. Jones has a unique style; he’s authentic, knowledgeable and certainly fun to watch. Together with Millar some interesting concepts are considered and dissected. It’s good content, and it’s worth taking some time to listen to what they have to say.
– Watch the Millar interview on Backstage with Dan Jones (click link below) –
The early discussion covers the good, the bad, and the unexpected that has come from the global lockdown measures of 2020. Millar notes that it is the longest period of time he’s not travelled since he was 13 years old. He is now 43. He also recognises that although it has been a difficult time, there are other benefits – like the regularity of morning walks with his three kids…
There are, the pair agree, little aspects of life that have improved because of the absurdity of the year.
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To give you a taste of the candid nature of Jones’ interviews, here’s a few questions and answers about Millar’s life during the pandemic, and what he believes some of the longer term impacts on pro cycling will be.
David Millar: “I’m sure she won’t mind me saying… my wife, she’s really struggled with coming out of lockdown.
“You’re doing stuff that you realise, during lockdown, that actually you can strip life down to bare basics and be very content.
“Then, all of a sudden, you find yourself forced back into the proverbial rat-race, and you do question why? ‘Why do we live like this?’
“The repercussions could be negative, they could be positive. They’re going to be both…
“It’s a mixture. You have moments between being super-shithouse, and other moments that are just absolutely blissful.”
Dan Jones: “It’s actually a bit worrying now that they’re about to start the cycling season again. And we still don’t know enough about this virus and how infectious it is… you literally just get one droplet in that peloton and ka-boom! What are your thoughts on the revamped cycling calendar? How do you think it’s going to pan out?”
David Millar: “It’s going to be interesting. There’s a part of me that thinks it’s a fabulous case study for what the season could be… condensing it down. And it could be a proof-of-concept.
“Let’s be honest, the only reason it’s happening is for economic reasons – the way that things do get reopened early – because a lot of these race organisers, they will lose their sponsorship if it doesn’t happen.
“Also, let’s not forget the actual complexity of closing down roads and the ministerial requirements from local council and county requirements. If they go one year without it, they might not authorise [the road closures] again the next year. So, they have to get the races going this year whatever happens, for many reasons, and one of them is the chance that one year without means the next year they won’t get the authorisation because now it’s been done. They’ve done it a year without it. So, there will be that fear.
“I’ve seen that Milan-Sanremo is already taking a beating from all the local towns that it’s going to pass through on the Riviera because it’s going to be height of summer. They haven’t had tourism for six months and then, on 8 August – on a weekend – they want to shut down all the roads. There’s a bit of an uproar.
“So, you can see how these things happen.
“But I’m fascinated to see [racing return]. I think it’s going to be great, but at the same time it’s going to be weird: watching the Classics in the height of summer… and it’s going to be super-weird watching Grand Tours where there’s no form guide. They’re just going into it ‘Freddy Freshlegs’. It’s going to be good racing.”
Dan Jones: “Obviously, the cycling model… you bang your head against the wall for years thinking, ‘How is this financially sustainable for a lot of these teams?’ Given that there’s no revenue streams for these guys other than sponsors. They don’t get a slice of the TV stuff and it’s really old-school compared to other mainstream sports…
“How many teams do you think – even if they race the rest of the year – are really going to struggle to remain viable moving into next year if it all goes to plan?”
David Millar: “I haven’t really thought about the actual statistics of it. My gut feeling would say 75 percent of the teams are going to be in deep trouble.
“As you said, the revenue model simply is anomalist to what professional sport should be, in that there is no sharing of TV rights. That’s just simply because of the whole – how would I put it…? It’s just all over the place, isn’t it?
“There are so many organisations. There’s no unified force.
“The UCI is supposed to be the unifier, which is what you have with most professional sports. They will either be nationally based, and have a national league.
“[Cycling doesn’t] have a national league; the closest you get to a ‘national league’ is ASO and their France but they do own some races in Belgium and, now, in Spain as well – the Tour of Spain. And they are the cash cow. And they need to share it because they own the rights to the sport in many ways, the UCI similarly.
“But I think, with the teams, often it’s borderline philanthropy; it’s a passion project by an individual rather than a board of directors who have made a calculated, rational decision – which does happen very occasionally. But often, and you look through every single big team in cycling, there’s one person behind it who is essentially the money and they’re doing it out of love for the sport. They’re not doing it for any calculated return…
“There’s no ROI in a professional cycling team.”
– For more cycling interviews, see RIDE Media’s #TalkingCycling series –