Jayco-AlUla director Matt White wants to see budget cap for cycling teams | Bobby and Jens

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Matt White spent over a decade as a professional cyclist before moving into cycling management at a relatively young age. He still does this today and currently works for Jayco-AlUla.

Outgoing and funny, now that he has been teammates with Jens Voigt, White joins the Bobby & Jens podcast to share stories from the trenches as well as call for reforms in the sport.

Read also: Steven de Jongh loves the challenge of leading a top WorldTour | team Bobby and Jens

After so many years on the road, White has more than a few good stories to tell.

There was a time when the hail was so bad that riders dived for shelter wherever they could. Out of nowhere, White appears with a hard-sided kiddie pool turned over his head as a shield to keep the riders safe.

“They were hailstones the size of golf balls,” he recalls. As the severity of the storm became clear, the riders stopped mid-race and took cover.

“I just remember the noise at the flap (children’s pool).”

The riders had turnbuckles. The front windows are cracked. Carbon frames broke. It was an intense storm that only lasted about five minutes. Then the race resumed.

“The show must go on,” he says.

White had to climb to the highest level of cycling and finally got an invitation to the Tour de France in 2004. Unfortunately, it was an unfortunate route.

As he was warming up for the prologue, he crashed into a television cable. And that’s all he remembers. He woke up in a hospital in Liège with a concussion and a broken collarbone.

He still had time to make it to the start – this was before the concussion protocol – but had to make the difficult decision to risk his place on the Australian Olympic team for the Athens Games with just six weeks left.

It was just the latest in a series of disappointments on the Tour de France, which has seen him selected for teams twice before, only to miss out at the last minute for a number of reasons.

After all this, he retired at the age of 32 and immediately went into management at Garmin-Chipotle, which was basically a new team with Jonathan Vaughters. This was an unusual move at the time, as most directors didn’t get involved in this world until later in life. He tells us why he decided to take this leap.

“I didn’t have a crystal ball about what international cycling would look like in the next five or six years, but I thought it was a great opportunity to get involved,” he says. “And if I don’t take it, someone else will.”

He tells us about the challenges of the first years with a team that was very new, down to staff that had little experience of European racing. “All startup teams are clusters,” he says.

White has a tough job that requires a lot of time and 150 days in a team car. She describes how she de-stresses from this demanding schedule and how she adapts it to make it last a lifetime as she approaches age 50.

Executives have evolved in their approach to the sport, going from low-intensity training when White was racing to now staying active to help both mental and physical health.

Cycling has changed enormously over the last few decades, from both a manager’s and rider’s point of view, says Matt White. (Photo: KT/Tim De Waele/Getty Images)

While directors have evolved, so has racing.

“Watching it from the team car is amazing,” White says of modern racing. “It’s so aggressive. It’s a completely different style of racing.”

He also talks about team budgets in modern cycling and how he can compete with teams that have much more money to throw at talent.

The answer is multi-faceted and has to do with the ever-evolving arms race for talent. Creating a pathway for young people from the junior ranks to join his Jayco-Alula team is now essential.

“You’re using the money ball scenario,” he says about finding untapped potential in players on larger teams that have yet to excel. There are many reasons why a rider may develop late, but he always keeps an eye on it. “It’s tough, but there are some diamonds in the rough.”

The conversation then turns to the legendary story of his team’s bus getting stuck under the Tour de France finish banner. He gives us the inside story of what happened that day and why the 48 hours surrounding that moment were so tense.

Finally, White discusses the WorldTour team relegation system and its flaws. “It really encourages teams with huge budgets to enter every race,” he says, pointing out that the problem is when Jumbo-Visma can win all three grand tours and still not finish at the top. How are points allocated?

“I think it encourages mediocrity,” he says of a points structure in which points run 20 spots deep. What White knows for sure is that he’s changing the team’s tactics to prioritize top-10 finishers in the race, rather than one who will go for the win.

He also explains how the system is tailored to newer teams like Uno-X, and why cycling may need to keep its budget down.

“I just don’t think it’s going to be sustainable to continue expanding,” he says. “The gap between the haves and the have-nots is the widest in the history of professional cycling.”

Read also: Quick-Step riders and Soudal workers lament possible closure of the Wolfpack

Bobby and Jens is a Shocked Giraffe production for Velo. This episode was produced and edited by Mark Payne.

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