Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) president David Lappartientt is on a quixotic quest against cycling betting, and he just may be, as the saying goes, tilting at windmills, or, in this case, at race earpieces, which, he says, could be like the box of Endora (tm Kramer), and unleash a host of evils unto the world of road cycling. “Betting on cycling is like the tip of [an] iceberg,” he said. “Most of it is out of sight.” He probably meant that it is like an iceberg, of which only the tip is visible. Linguistics aside, Lappartientt has no evidence that isn’t empirical that gambling has ever directly affected the outcome of a race.
On the other hand, he has dreamed up the unlike scenario that two-way radios could be hacked into by a third party to intercept the signal between riders and teams, and thus alter the development of a race. To which we say, National Football League players, most notably, quarterbacks, use helmet radios to communicate with their coaching staffs and make play-calling easier, and so far we have never heard about a third party hacking into said radios to intercept the signal between player and coach in order to alter the outcome of a game. so, you know, lighten up, will you? Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time, nor will it probably be the last, that Lappartientt kvetches about cycling betting. In fact, according to this, the alleged threat of gambling “and how it might corrupt the authenticity of racing,” was one of the cornerstones of the platform with which he defeated Brian Cookson for the UCI presidency. To which we ask, “the authenticity of racing”? Sadly, that ship sailed a long time ago – as a matter of fact, it was a paddle boat manned by Lance Armstrong.
As it turns out, there is a healthy gambling culture around road cycling, such as office pools, just to name one example. Moreover, the emergence of online sportsbooks has made it possible for many people to bet on races around the world all year long, whether there is cycling activity or not. For instance, Chris Froome is already a favorite to win the 2018 Tour de France. Lappartientt is worried however that sport directors, team managers, and riders could be persuaded to purposefully lose a race, or provide insider information that could affect the normal development of a given race. Furthermore, there is the possibility of altering second-line bets. Like in horse racing, wagers aren’t placed just on the winner, but there are also prop bets for placings, jerseys, and other categories, such as side bets on whether Rider A will beat Rider B in a particular stage or race – in other words, race matchups. Could Rider A sit up, and allow Rider B to finish ahead of them, simply in order to lose the position bet on purpose? Not impossible but highly improbable. And if it’s any consolation, cycling betting fans are probably a minority on most gambling establishments, vastly outnumbered by fans of real sports.