Now a reader named Kevin O’Toole writes in with an interesting Olympics scenario, which I’ll post here in the form of a bleg. The primary question to answer is whether cycling may be the sole Olympic sport in which an athlete may have incentive to compete against his own teammates:
An interesting question is being raised on the cycling forums on the internet: What is the incentive for a mediocre cyclist, who probably won’t win the race, to “work” for his national teammate instead of his trade/ professional cycling teammate.
The national teams in the race can have 5 members per country. However, CSC — the trade team that won the yellow jersey and the team competition at the Tour de France this year — will have 14 riders in the race (representing about 7 different countries).
Teamwork is critical in the cycling road race.
Because cycling is an event where all the teams compete at once rather than one team versus another, there is some incentive to work for your trade/ professional team rather than your country. Why? If you’re from Denmark and on the CSC team, but Denmark doesn’t have any real contenders for Gold, then you’re better off helping your CSC teammate. If your CSC teammate wins, then the sponsors of your trade/ pro team are going to be happier; thus you benefit.
I think it would be at least an interesting question to ask your blog readers. I can think of no other event at the Olympics where an individual has a disincentive to work for the country he is representing.