It seems like the American public have been "Lancified" into thinking cycling is a "team" sport.
Well, Ill do my best to try to explain why it is not a team sport, but would admit, APPEARS to be a team sport.
Teams exist in cycling because of the way they organized races back in the day. They did it by country. In those cases, the true sense of the word was squad.
These days teams exist because as someone mentioned, its easier for sponsors and managers to have an organized, interchangeable roster of riders so as to allow for different terrain, injuries and race types. Further more, the dynamics of sponsorship makes it so that the whole "team" thing plays up in the tactics of races, not because cycling is a team sport. Dont confuse the necessities of sponsorship maintenance to mean that cycling is a team sport.
I think the biggest problem with people who havent raced think that teams "working" for somebody means something, or rather, immediately makes it a team sport. The fact of the matter is that the peleton will chase a breakaway, regardless of teams or no teams, believe me. Every single person in the peleton is trying to win. Just because there are no teams, does not mean that the peleton will automatically just stop at the side of the road and let a break away go. I am really confused as to where people got that notion from. If cycling did not have squads (and squads are really the correct definition), trust me, absolutely nothing about cycling would change. You would still have break aways, you would still have a peleton, and you would still have "lead-out trains." Teams make no difference in the matter, other than that they are the same color. Sprinters will always sprint from the last 500m. They will always jostle around in the bunch in the final meters regardless of teams or not.
People also look at the Tour once a year and listen to the commentary and form a picture of pro cycling. There is nothing about the Tour de France that's normal, other than that it's hard like other races. The Tour works in a VERY different way than regular day-to-day races.
In pro cycling, every race is EACH man's game. EVERY man is trying to win. And when I say that, I mean that there is actually a podium position that has a 1st, a 2nd, and a 3rd place, again, Im not sure how people fail to see this. Its like saying that the 1500m run at the olympic games is a team sport. Do they have pacemakers, sure, are they in a "team" of course they are, is it a team sport, of course not. Just because they have team tactics, does qualify it as a team sport. Basketball is a team sport. Soccer is a team sport, and so on. In the latter sport, its a team that wins a world cup, not an individual, and my golly, guess what, an individual wins a world cup in cycling. Actually takes a rocket scientist these days to recognize that apparently.
You dont see "lead-out-trains" in Milan-San Remo, or any classics race, and mind you, there are lots of them, and Ill remind you that they are very big, and very important.
World championship races have no teams "working." Thats doesnt exist. Its just whoever has the power to come to the front.
Most pro races are about surviving, or winning. Neo-pro races are even more so.
We always had a chit-chat in the team bus before the race about all the wonderful "team plans" we had, but guess what, when the race begins, its a matter of kill or be killed. Dont confuse for a second a grand Tour and a representation of pro-cycling.
Lance Armstrong is a drug-cheating pickle that sang the "i wouldnt have done it without my team" song, which Cav admits taught him to say that for the pretty TV cameras. People who watch the Tour start to think that its the day-to-day way of pro cycling, its not.