5 years ago by Tom Soladay

Rally Cycling: The business and sport of professional bike racing

Forbes feature by Rob Reed
Huffman dropped out of the breakaway on stage six of the Tour of Utah to pace teammate Kyle Murphy to the front.

Evan Huffman is killing himself. The pro cyclist is putting 500 watts of sustained power into his pedals. It’s a gargantuan effort to bridge the gap and get his teammate, Kyle Murphy, across to the break. This is the final stage of the 2018 Tour of Utah, billed as America’s toughest stage race, and Rally Cycling’s final chance to grab a stage win.

The main peloton with race leader Sepp Kuss of team LottoNL-Jumbo is about three minutes behind them. The breakaway of about a dozen riders is fifteen seconds ahead, which can be an eternity if the group is pushing at full gas. And they are. I’m riding along in the Rally Cycling team car with team director Pat McCarty. He’s doing what team directors do when supporting riders in a breakaway: processing information from race radio, giving direction to riders over the team radio, driving the car and, in this case, negotiating his way out of a barrage.

Rally Cycling: A New Model

Managing director Charles Aaron.

Charles Aaron is the owner of Rally Cycling. Indeed, he’s the owner of a professional sports team. But this is not the Jerry Jones of cycling. I’m not sure there is a Jerry Jones of cycling. Either way, he is most certainly the Charles Aaron of US cycling. Which is to say he’s making his mark on the sport through a unique approach to the pro-cycling-team model, namely that it’s clean; it provides quantifiable ROI to its sponsors, and it’s the very rare team that turns a profit.

Rally Cycling is a UCI Professional Continental team based in the US. This is the tier just below the WorldTour with the likes of Team Sky and LottoNL-Jumbo, which compete in the Tour de France and other big European races. Unlike other professional sports, cycling team names often change with new sponsors, while the core of the organization remains intact. Rally Cycling has been Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast, KBS-Optum and Optum-KBS throughout its 11-year history. Starting in 2016, Aaron partnered with Rally Health as title sponsor and simultaneously took the team to another level, both literally and figuratively.

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