Earlier this year, the ProTeam Rally Cycling issued a statement on its website announcing the launch of its own cryptocurrency, WattCoin. The idea was that fans could apparently earn WattCoin by riding on their online training platforms and spend them on items on the Rally Cycling website.
“For too long cycling has been dependent on flawed revenue models, and while we are fortunate to have an incredible family of sponsors behind the team, some other organisations are not so lucky. Now, through WattCoin, we can start building a sustainable economic ecosystem,” read the statement, quoting Rally founder Aaron Charles.
The story started to unravel when Charles was asked, by a ‘reporter’, whether he fully understood the crypto-economy.
“Well, no. No, I don’t [understand],” he said. “But I don’t have to. Crypto is the future. It sounds to me like you don’t understand crypto, pal. WATTCOIN IS GOING TO THE FREAKIN’ MOON!” (Emphasis in original).
Of course, it’s about here for the reader that the penny drops and a closer inspection reveals the story to be an April Fool. But it certainly had some people fooled.
But why not? Why not launch a cryptocurrency? This ‘launch’ was typical of the sort of ventures found in the blockchain economy: bold, brash and full of promise. In creating a witty April Fool, Rally unwittingly provided a neat summary of the state of play.
Cryptocurrency is a dark art that many people don’t fully understand, but currencies like Bitcoin are now lunging into the mainstream (see box). The blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies is likely to play a part in the future of banking, supply chains, online security and aspects of your digital life, which these days means just about everything. Meanwhile non-fungible tokens (better known as NFTs, see box) experienced a boom in 2021; sales exceeded $2billion in the first quarter of the year alone.
This is all starting to have a big impact on pro sport. Cycling is no exception. The past 12 months saw the first cryptocurrency sponsorship agreement in the WorldTour and the first NFTs in both the sport and the wider bike industry. Supporters believe they are the future of the Internet; critics believe they are an unregulated class of assets that amount to little more than gambling. So, what on earth is going on? And are they going to take the sport to the moon?
To read the full feature and makes sense of this seemingly baffling subject, get the January 6 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine. You can find CW in the shops or buy online. Or, better still, subscribe, save on the cover price and get it delivered every Thursday.
Richard Abraham is an award-winning writer, based in New Zealand. He has reported from major sporting events including the Tour de France and Olympic Games, and is also a part-time travel guide who has delivered luxury cycle tours and events across Europe. In 2019 he was awarded Writer of the Year at the PPA Awards.
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