Contributor: James Raia
Like other sports that rely on sponsorships, pro cyclists ride for teams pedaling around the globe as billboards on wheels. It’s an accepted tradition of the sport, and most riders tout numerous companies during their careers.
Sometimes the company logos look cool on jerseys, other times they look pathetic. And sometimes I wonder if the cyclists even know what the company they’re advertising respresents.
One current prime example is Astana. With the exception of Alexander Vinokourov, the former team rider, how many guys on the squad had ever heard of Kazakhstan or the knew the conglomerate of businessmen from the capital of the country who are paying the bills?
Someone finally had the diplomatic and savvy idea to have the cycling team visit the place, which it recently did. Good idea, guys.
But Astana is far from the most unique, funny or wacky product made by a company sponsoring a cycling team. Among the ProTour squads in 2009, the Italian squad Liquigas is sponsored by the manufacturer of liquified gas products. The team is talented, for sure. But there must be a few fart jokes in the peloton, right?
And Quick Step, sponsor of the longstanding Belgian team, is a company that makes floor laminate. It conjures great possibilities for headline writers: “Quick-Step Cements Team Title” or "Tom Boonen Pastes The Peloton.”
The former squad led by Lance Armstrong was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service for many years. It didn’t take long for the headline: “Armstrong Delivers” or variations of the same theme to become cliché.
Many years ago, via the memory of my old friend and esteemed cycling journalist John Wilcockson, I was told of a former top amateur team in Holland known as Team Diana. Its sponsor was a Dutch brothel. One couldn’t help wonder: How were the riders compensated?
During the 2009 season, the former domestic squad Health-Net will be known as OUCH Presented by Maxxis. The OUCH acronym stands for Occupational Urgent Care and Health (OUCH) Medical Center. It’s the Temecula, Calif.-based facility where physicians resurfaced the hip of Floyd Landis.
The 2006 winner of the Amgen Tour of California and dethroned 2006 Tour de France titlist signed with the team last November and is scheduled make his return to cycling Feb. 14-22 with Team OUCH at the Amgen Tour of California.
And so, here’s my pitch: A team called OUCH is ripe for a lot of fun, whether it's via clever headlines or quips. Got something? Let me know.