Beyond The Peloton Gets Pez’d!

My recent interview with Beyond The Peloton Cycling Newsletter author Spencer Martin – where we’ve got a few things to say about being publishers in the road cycling media world, how he got started and how he cranks out some of the most in depth and insightful pro road cycling race coverage and analysis anywhere.

I started reading the Beyond the Peloton newsletters a few months ago, and was immediately drawn into the in depth and insightful analysis of pro cycling’s biggest races.

Then I had the big idea to ask Spencer Martin if he’d be interested in sharing some of his content with PEZ-Fans, and here we are – with our recently added  “Breakdown” feature on Monday’s, where Spencer digs into what he thinks actually happened on the road.  I liked that Spencer offered a different and fresh feeling take on the racing we’ve been covering for almost 20 years, and I’ll admit that after presenting our coverage of a full  of racing x 20 years… I sometimes wondered if there was a more entertaining way to reveal the real stuff that happened out there on the roads.

I’d say Spencer has found a way to do it, so I thought a chat about how he got started, where he gets his ideas from, and what it takes to be an independent publisher in today’s cycling media landscape would be in order.

• Find the PYTP Newsletter here: https://beyondthepelotonblog.com/

• Find the BYTP Podcast – https://btppodcast.podbean.com/

 

Here’s the transcript of the first 12 minutes of our 25 minute chat…

Richard:
Welcome PEZ fans to what may become the first of many, the inaugural PEZ… Show, for lack of a better name, but joining me today in studio via Zoom live from Denver, Colorado,…

Spencer:
Boulder, Colorado.

Richard:
Boulder, Colorado… is Spencer Martin, the author and owner of Beyond The Peloton, which is a fantastic newsletter that takes you way deeper inside the strategy and potential outcomes of what happened on the road of professional road racing and road cycling. Spencer thanks for joining us. I’ve been reading your newsletter for a while. I was so happy when you agreed to let us use some of your content and share it with our PEZ readers. Welcome to the broadcast. Thanks for coming in for chit chat.

Spencer:
Well, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me Richard. I’ve been a big fan of PEZ for a while and I’m flattered that you wanted me to be part of the show.

Richard:
All right. Well like I always say us, the little guys, we got to stick together, right?

So it’s not like we’re just here to yip yap about nothing, even though essentially that’s what we were just joking about a couple minutes ago. Something about both of us have some similar stories in that we are relatively small players in the vast landscape of road cycling. We both got here somehow and I think I’ve had this question posed to me many times over the last almost 20 years of publishing PEZ news. And that was, “how did you get started?” And so when I talked to people who are making a dent in the media landscape, I’m always really interested in that backstory and that background. So Spencer, can you tell us a little bit about Beyond The Peloton, your philosophy, your reason for being, how you got here and how you got started?

Spencer:
Yeah, I would love to talk about that. I’ll keep it brief, because I could go on for hours about this, but long story short, I moved to Maui to try to become a professional cyclist, had mixed success, rose to a national elite level, had a few bad crashes. Washed out of that, was working a regular desk job at pretty boring company. If I tried to sort of explain it, you’d probably fall asleep, but while I was doing that, I would get up early every morning and watch cycling races, the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia. And then I would spend all day just kind of like secretly reading about what happened in the race and listening to every podcast I could listen to at my desk just made it look like I was on phone calls. And even I would email VeloNews articles to myself so I could read and it looked like I was reading an email, but I was really just reading about the races from the day. And I-

Richard:

It’s a good thing that you were reading cycling material.

Spencer:

Yeah. Yes (laughs) and after a while of watching the races I would think, man I would love to just be talking about this all the time, as opposed to going into meetings. And if I had to miss the end of a stage because of a meeting, I would just be like, “what am I doing, this is the worst.” And I started a site called beyondthepelotonblog.com. And I would just kind of try to treat the sport with the same analytical mind and strategy that maybe a Zach Lowe or a Nate Duncan does with basketball. And I really enjoyed it and I knew I wanted to do it full time. So eventually I left that job and started the newsletter beyondthepeloton.substack.com. And now I do daily coverage for pretty much every major race.

Richard:
So how did you get this idea to be the guy doing a newsletter, you’re not working for one of the cycling sites or a magazine. You’re just a guy who’s now got access to everything on the internet. And it takes a certain amount of bravery, stupidity, direction and some lack in direction. Because I’ve done this myself, to go to the edge of the cliff and jump off the cliff and not only do you hope the parachute may or may not open, sometimes you don’t even know if you’re wearing a parachute. So how did you come up with this idea? “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to be the guy doing a newsletter.”

Spencer:
That’s a good question. It’s an insane thing to do. I mean, even the thought of why would anyone need to hear my thoughts on a race? I guess it is somewhat narcissistic and insane, but it really was bred out of just from… I used to want be like a writer at VeloNews. That was my goal, just send to the tour and I’ll write pieces about it, but over time I realized as a consumer, I’m not really getting the content I want. It’s not digging deep enough for me. So-

Richard:
I feel that brother, I feel that.

Spencer:
It was almost over time just frustration of just, I’m not quite seeing what I’m seeing from really astute analysts in other sports and I’m going to do it because I’m driving my wife crazy ranting and raving around the house after the races. So she was a big part of it. You got to get these thoughts out there because you’re driving everyone insane at home. So I didn’t set out to do this, but to me the least path, the least resistance was just take the emails I’d collected on the website and start a newsletter.

Richard:
Yeah. You know what, listen, if people aren’t listening to you at home, you have to find a new audience. I learned that a long time ago, but I love what you said, your comment about not being satisfied with the coverage that was there. You weren’t seeing the stuff that you wanted to watch because that is exactly what I went through. And that’s what I thought when I started PEZ in 2002 and similar to you, I had been reading the sites of the time, VeloNews, Cycling News. There was a couple others out there and there was lots of race focus, a bit of technical stuff. The magazines were covering a bit of gear and stuff, but there I’d been to the tour. I’d been to the Giro and I knew how much fun it was to be at those races.

But when I came back here, I could not read or see any coverage that felt like I was at the race. And so my kind of reason was the coverage I want to see is what’s it like to be there just hanging around in the start village or riding your bike on the course, doing one of the climbs, hanging out with the fans, having lunch in a village. All that stuff that makes up a day in the life of a fan, nobody was covering that at all. And so I was like, you know what? That’s the stuff I would like to be doing. And just going over there and start writing stories about what we saw and that’s exactly what we did. And we launched “roadside reporting” as we called it. And of course now with Facebook and social media and stuff, every kid with an iPhone and a wifi connection is also doing some version of the same thing. But I contend, we were the first guys to bring it to a large scale.

Spencer:
Yeah. It was groundbreaking stuff. And I remember those interviews, those like, so and so gets Pez’d and it would be these super personal interviews that people wouldn’t get other places.

Richard:
Exactly. Don’t look now, but Spencer Martin, you are getting Pez’d.  This is a PEZ-clusive interview right here right now. I love it. So yeah, I mean for our thing was I came up with this little idea, our tagline to be what’s cool in road cycling. It used to be what’s cool in pro cycling, but then as pro cycling kind of became less popular. I decided to just expand, pivot a little bit and part of the mentality was, we’re just going to tell readers that, “if you are looking for something cool in road cycling, this is the place you’re going to find it. And also, if we’re talking about it, then we have deemed it to be cool enough for you as a discerning reader to check out.” So it was a bit of this marketing BS, I suppose, but nevertheless, you got to put your stake in the sand somewhere.

Richard:
What do you stand for? What does Beyond The Peloton stand for? I don’t know if we were going to come up with your slogan.

Spencer:
I’d say it would be, I got to find a slogan, maybe “treating pro cycling with the respect it deserves”, where I felt like a lot of the analysis was very biased. You read like, especially English language coverage and I felt like the story they were telling and the facts on the road were not aligning. And I don’t know if I just noticed that more over time or it actually got worse over time, but specifically 2020 when it was a lot of talk of like, Chris Froome’s going to win the tour de France. And it’s like, he’s not, he’s not going to win. If you’re pay attention to the facts, you would see that this is not a possibility. And that’s kind of what pushed me over the edge and got me to do the newsletter.

Richard:
Do you think that that bias was a lack of effort on the part of the reporters and the media covering it? What do you think would cause that sort of just, oh, go with the flow there. Everybody’s talking about Chris Froome. Just say that.

Spencer:
I think it’s two main things. I think, first of all, the scope of responsibilities that a lot of these websites is so big. You just don’t have time. A lot of these major sites probably aren’t even watching the races, let alone, even watching them closely and then Monday rolls around and they have to say something. And a lot of these people live normal lives. They’re not dedicating their weekend to watching cycling. Yeah. So you just get misinformed stuff and it’s not all their fault. I mean, a lot of these major companies drifted a lot from just the original mission statement of pro cycling. It was more of like a lifestyle or tech coverage.

Spencer:
And then also I know this, I know this was pushed when I worked at a bigger site that they just wanted to shape the storyline to drive traffic. So if Chris Froome’s going to win the tour, more people are going to read that story, which isn’t their fault. If you’re an ad driven site, you can make more money doing something like that versus more boring, factual, statistical based analysis. And that’s why I went with the subscription model where you can kind of pay for something that might not be as sexy that could drive clicks.

Richard:
Tell us about how’s the structure, how many times a week do you do the newsletter and what does it cost to subscribe?

Spencer:
So there’s a free edition, it comes out once a week. So if you don’t want to pay anything, you can sign up and you get one free one at minimum per week, paying subscribers get daily newsletters during grand tours and during non grand tours weeks, it’s three times for a week. So, and I’ll always cover a major race like a monument, any type of significant one day race, small week, long races, and it’s $7 a month or $70 a year. I like that I kind of have the dual model. And I think it works really well.

 

• See the rest of our interview in the video here on the PEZ Youtube Channel.

• Find the PYTP Newsletter here: https://beyondthepelotonblog.com/

• Find the BYTP Podcast – https://btppodcast.podbean.com/

•  Listen to the Podcast version of our interview here:
  – Apple:  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/wout-van-aert-s-potential-suspension-padun-to-ef-pez/id1524689002?i=1000542393142
  – Spotify:  https://open.spotify.com/episode/5CMft7hyX8bNeQ66QK00BT?si=Gk44iLjjQ0CXJfQhoUf2Yw

 

beyond the pelotonInterviewslatest newsNow on pezRace Breakdown