I got an email from Profile Design this morning with the subject line:
Profile Design wheels take 1st place at Ironman 70.3
Aw, hell, here's the full email so you can see what I mean:
Poor Frederick Van Lierede, Belgian triathlete. The guy puts in 20-30 hours of hard training every week for years, pays meticulous attention to every gram of protein, carb and fat that goes into his body, remains even more vigilant to ensure that nothing on the banned substances list accidentally makes it in, makes a lifetime of sacrifices every single season to pursue a sport that is his passion, then goes out and puts himself through 4 hours, 6 minutes and 30 seconds of pure unadulterated suffering. Then his wheel sponsor swoops in and takes all the credit. That kind of marginalization is a pretty high price to pay for a free set of wheels, particularly for a guy who has done quite well for himself before 2011 on other companies' wheels.
It's a pretty common scenario in pro athlete sponsorship. The model is normally a little more subtle - Alberto, er, Andy wins the TdF on this bike or those wheels, and the sponsor earns the right to imply, "See what our stuff can do for you?" (Though in the case above, the execution is a little less subtle than "imply".)
I understand the model, and appreciate it as a proof-of-concept. I agree that if equipment can allow someone to win at an elite level, it should be perfectly adequate for amateurs. But too often sponsors take an extra step, and suggest that the equipment does not allow the athlete to win, but is actually responsible for it.
(Conversely, I don't believe that elite athletes need to win on certain equipment in order to prove that the same products are suitable for amateur racing. Pro usage of equipment can show that the stuff is raceworthy, but being under a pro rider is not a pre-requisite to offering excellent wheels and bikes.)
Let me be very clear on this point: our equipment is not going to make you win races. The best we can hope to achieve is that our stuff puts nothing in between you and the podium, or a top 10, or not getting dropped, or whatever is your personal objective du jour. We hope you use our bikes and wheels and you do win, of course. And when you do, we'll be tooting your horn, not our own.