The peloton

This season’s jerseys

A little bit about the thinking behind today’s cartoon.

I love bicycle racing. The spectacle, the tactics, the personalities, encouraging people to get outside and be active. There’s a considerable amount to like.

But there’s a lot that’s not so great. Bike racing isn’t a particularly green activity to say the least, with many more vehicles than riders, all travelling over long distances. Not to mention large quantities of disposable promotional plastic tat being given out, and much more besides.

Then there’s the sponsors, as per this drawing. I’m not going to spell out exactly which sponsor I’m referring to in each caption, but it shouldn’t be too hard to work out. Take a look at some of the country pages on the Amnesty site, this FT article, or this page on ClientEarth if you want to know more.

However, there’s something that I should point out. It doesn’t really cost me much, as someone outside of the world of professional cycling, to make these observations. Which is why I wouldn’t point the finger at the riders themselves, who have only a relatively short time as a rider to make a living and save for their futures. Do riders ever not take up a contract for ethical reasons? I’ve no idea. But at the level of governing bodies surely it’s possible to do better. There should be limits on who is allowed to sponsor a team. Perhaps there are already, but if so it’s fairly clear that money trumps ethics.

Should we boycott professional cycling? Well, much of the season isn’t watchable in the UK anyway owing to Eurosport’s technology not functioning… But beyond that: I’ll be honest, I will still continue to watch the Tour de France, as to my mind boycotting it would be so non-targeted an action as to be fairly meaningless. You may think differently. But my enthusiasm for the sport is certainly dampened.

I suppose the main thing is that we’re all aware of the greenwashing. I’m a lot less inclined to spend my money with brands who are perfectly happy to be associated with the dubious (to say the least) sponsors.

What do you think? Does it matter? Is there anything that can be done? Do you have observations as someone more closely involved in the sport? Feel free to let me know in the comments or on social media.

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