Jonathan Vaughters on Netflix, the Tour de France, and staying humble
“I don't want cycling to forever be a niche sport. I want it to grow and become a sport that is more popular amongst a broader group”
When EF Education-EasyPost CEO Jonathan Vaughters founded our team, he didn’t just want to win races; he wanted to make cycling a better sport for all.
JV started our team two decades ago to make sure that juniors from Colorado would never have to make the compromises he had made when he was a young American racer, pursuing his own professional cycling dream abroad. From day one, JV’s core anti-doping mission has been our driving force. We’re proud of the contributions we have made to professional cycling’s progess on our way to becoming one of the best teams in the modern sport.
JV is not one to sit on his laurels however. He wants to make sure that cycling continues to appeal to a broad crowd.
We sat down with him on the eve of the release of Tour de France: Unchained, the new Netflix show from the producers of F1: Drive to Survive, which promises to bring cycling to a whole new audience.
JV is very excited about its potential.
You’ve already seen some of the new Netflix series, the Tour de France: Unchained. Do you think it gives a good, honest look at our sport?
Jonathan Vaughters: Yes, it does. I think it's directed at an audience that may not understand the fundamentals of cycling. This isn't a series that will be anything surprising to hardcore fans. Hardcore fans already know a lot of what's going on. But for people who casually watch the sport, I think this actually provides the true feel of how incredibly difficult this sport is and how truly incredible these athletes are. Just a quick note on the experience of the show — I highly suggest watching it with subtitles and not dubbed, because if you want to really feel what it's like to be in the race, some of the French voices are actually the voices that we hear on race radio during the race. So they give you some sort of insight based on what we're hearing as directors in the race.
What do we hope it does for cycling? And as a person who runs a team, what's your hope for the series?
There will be viewers who have either never watched the sport or maybe categorically called themselves non-sport fans, who might learn something new about the sport. Or, you know, it might pull in a few new fans who otherwise wouldn't have been attracted to cycling. I think the series has more to do with engaging new fans and educating them, rather than just throwing something out there that's extra interesting to the hardcore fans who have been following for 20 years. So my hope for the series is that it reaches a broader base of people, and makes cycling a little bit more open and inclusive to a broader group. That's what we need as a sport, you know? I don't want cycling to forever be a niche sport. I want it to grow and become a sport that is more popular amongst a broader group. This series is something that will help us get there, for sure.
You're watching the team from last year, but this year, and we have a much different team, we're in a much different situation now. What's it like as the manager to see the team through that window a year later?
To me, it's shocking how much things can change. This year we're one of the best teams in the world. And so to watch how hard it was for us to get here, it just reminds me that you can never be too humble, even when you are winning races, because your character is not defined by what you are winning, your character is defined by what you are when you’re losing. In a lot of ways, I look at it with a sense of gratitude. I'm also pretty happy we’re not in that position anymore, that’s for sure.
Last year saw a great Tour for the team. Can we expect to see a similar sort of aggressive tactics and approach this year's Tour?
We're always going to be a team that does things in a different way. That's not going to change. But I don't know specifically how that's going to be this year. I mean, obviously our tactics will be considerably different than they were last year because it's a different team. But how are we going to achieve our objectives? Well, first, we need to define those objectives, which are yet to be done because we're waiting for more complete information before we decide on the plan.