Thursday Shorts

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The story of Fatima Yvelain has gone viral. She’s a French athlete who tested positive for EPO but came up with a great excuse. As it was athletics I didn’t put the story on here but thought it was still worth sharing via tumblr.

When asked to explain the positive test, she claimed heavy rainfall on the day of race had caused water to stream over hidden medical waste somewhere near the course. As she ran, the EPO-laced rainwater splashed onto her shorts, thus contaminating her urine when she later provided a sample at the doping control.

It’s no joke. The Fédération Française d’Athletisme didn’t see the funny side when it handed her a two year ban.

Fuglsang Joins Astana, Vanmarcke Leaving Garmin
Jakob Fuglsang has had a nightmare season and largely because of extra-sporting problems caused by his team. With his contract up he started shopping around for a new team and found himself blocked from racing. He was in talks with Omega Pharma – Quickstep but perhaps the Belgian squad is trying to round up every Euro possible to get Mark Cavendish? That we don’t know but it’s now known that Fuglsang has signed with Astana.

Meanwhile Sep Vanmarcke is dropped from Garmin-Sharp’s team for the Vuelta largely because he’s leaving the team at the end of the year. Once again his current team don’t want to give him the experience, performance, investment and possibly UCI points if he is going. Indeed Bjarne Riis is trying not to announce his signings in case they get dropped by their current team. We can all see the incentives at work that create these decisions but it still seems undesirable.

Michael Matthews to Orica-Greenedge
I won’t be listing every transfer but the signing of Michael Matthews by Australian team Orica-Greenedge looks like a good one as he’s a talented rider. But we can also ask how many sprinters and fast finishers the team needs? The answer is as many as possible because if the team have had a decent start, when I read Orica-Greenedge, I sometimes think “Orica-Your Name Here” as the team still wants a co-sponsor. Having more wins should attract more sponsors. Matthews is a real prospect for the classics and uphill finishes.

New Swiss Team
Sponsors seem rare these days though but there’s a new Swiss team being formed for 2013. Called IAM (short for Independent Asset Management) it is quietly signing Swiss and French riders and aims to ride at the Pro Continental level, namely the second tier of teams. They look to be taking several Swiss riders from BMC Racing, a team which is less and less Swiss these days.

AA stops
AA Drink
Bad news as women’s team AA is stopping at the end of the year according to Some good results and even an Olympic silver medallist in Lizzie Armitstead don’t seem to have helped, the sponsor AA Drink won’t renew and the management have decided they can’t find a replacement. It many ways it was part of the demise of the Cervélo women’s team, once this stopped with Garmin several riders carried on with AA but now this finally comes to an end. Say it ain’t so.

Adam Hansen Goes On
One thing that can’t be stopped is Lotto-Belisol’s Adam Hansen. The Australian finished the Giro and Tour and now starts the Vuelta on Saturday. It’s impressive as few riders do all three grand tours in one year. He’s already done 11,861km of racing this year as the table below shows:

1 MINARD Sébastien ALM 13,472km
2 PINEAU Cédric FDJ 12,532km
3 MAES Nikolas OPQ 12,365km
4 PARDILLA BELLON Sergio MOV 12,198km
5 FEDRIGO Pierrick FDJ 12,195km
6 IGNATIEV Mikhail KAT 12,146km
7 BOUET Maxime ALM 12,082km
8 EISEL Bernhard SKY 12,081km
9 GREIPEL Andre LTB 12,039km
10 VOECKLER Thomas EUC 11,962km
13 HANSEN Adam LTB 11,861km

Source: Cycling Quotient

Wiggins Out of Denmark
One rider who is taking a well-deserved rest after recent highs is Bradley Wiggins. He was down to ride the Tour of Denmark but won’t go now says the BBC. After winning the Tour it was announced he’d go on to the Olympics… and then Denmark but it was always hard to imagine him continuing to race for so long. Yes Chris Froome is doing the Vuelta but he has a point to prove whilst Wiggins has been winning races since March.

Owen August 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm

The UCI seems to either a) not have a clue, or b) they have a clue and are willfully ignoring the deficiencies of a lot of their policies. In particular this points ranking system. Team managers speaking out of it, but more importantly some big names of the sport (Fuglsang/Vanmarcke) are being left home from World Tour races.

Surely this high profile blackballing of riders has to make an impression on the UCI, but I guess only in situation (a). If it’s situation (b) you’ve got to wonder what the driving force behind maintaining a policy that only causes negative publicity for the sport is.

InTheGC August 16, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Wiggins to busy getting smashed and smoking himself into a cancer oblivion to ride his bike. Well, if the Sun and Daily Mail have it their way at least…(insert ‘rolling eyes’ emoticon here)

Owen Rogers August 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Regarding the demise of the AA Drink women’s team, I think it’s time for Sky to step up to the plate and form a women’s team. There are plenty of good British women to ride for them.

The Inner Ring August 16, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Many are saying this.

But Sky seem a hard-nosed company and I’m not they’d want to do this.

Tricky Dicky August 17, 2012 at 3:37 am

Taking two themes from your stories above, why not allow points gained by women in certain ranking events to count towards a team’s overall points status at the end of the year? It doesn’t force mens’ pro teams to have a complimentary women’s squad but incentivises them in some way. This rewards the likes of Greenedge and Rabobank for doing the right thing. (On top of that, of course, points earned should be shared or shadowed to count towards both a team’s and an individual’s ranking for the following year).

I also think points should be able to be earned (by all levels of team) in non-WorldTour events – it should encourage a team to take on or retain a rider who has performed well at a lower level and it would encourage some of the bigger names to really race some of the “lesser” events.

The Inner Ring August 17, 2012 at 8:38 am

That was a suggestion I made last year and yes, I think it makes sense.

Anonymous August 17, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Flattered that we think along the same lines but no surprise that you thought of it nearly a year ahead of me! Ah well…

A question: how much do you think it would cost a sponsor to come in instead of AA Drink (assuming one would also have to pick up the salaries that I understand Garmin may have been paying too)? With (I’m guessing) much smaller budgets, the number of potential sponsors should arguably be larger than for men’s teams. Armitstead, Pooley etc should be attractive to an Anglo sponsor, particularly if they have European distribution channels.

Tricky Dicky August 17, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Sorry, that is “me” below by the way….

toestrap August 16, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Hadn’t heard the Yvelain excuse before – one to cut out and keep!
She’s the latest in a line of French (or Algerian/Marrocain who train in France) middle distance runners to fail tests for EPO in the past 4-5 years.

toestrap August 16, 2012 at 11:27 pm

Are there really 22 riders on the AA drinks roster. Seems somewhat over (wo)manned to me, given most women’s races are only 4-5 per team.
That said – big shame if the team’s not replaced.

Wal August 17, 2012 at 1:48 am

A lot of women’s teams do this – Lotto is another example.

The team has some top riders for the UCI races and then a bunch of developing riders from their ‘home’ country. Often some of these developing riders aren’t actually registered with the UCI as being on the team but receive equipment and support at local races. A large portion of the riders are not paid (no minimum wage is imposed for women’s teams) so the numbers don’t cause any budget issues.

Larry T. August 17, 2012 at 12:02 am

If a new pro cycling governing body is created, they should have just a dozen (well funded) teams at the top tier, each of whom MUST run a woman’s team as well. For SKY this would cost, what .000001% of their total turnover? This way a) women’s racing gets funded and races should be filled with competitors b) race promoters have plenty of places for lesser teams of national interest to take part.
While they’re at it they should do some other radical things – ditch the team cars! No DS’ careening around in the peloton. No radios either. Bring back the “road captain” on each team to call the shots and let the team feeding and bike replacements be done ONLY at designated zones while neutral support covers in-between (both mechanical and feeding) with their vehicles. The only vehicles in the race caravan would be neutral support and the organizer/jury plus the TV crews and photographers. Team cars would take alternate routes to the feed zones with their food/drinks and bikes/wheels. Let the DS’ watch on TV at the hotel and dole out the strategy for the next day in-person. The DS’ talk a lot about safety, how much safer ( and less toxic for the athletes) would the races be without all those clowns in the cars barreling around?

JimW August 17, 2012 at 3:12 am

I’m with you on paragraph one. Not so much on number two. Mechanicals would become a huge deal moreso than now. We would start seeing lots of nice 28c tubs and frames with some more room to ride a wobbly wheel 40k to the neutral zone though. Wait, this might be a good thing for everybody! 😉

Andy G August 17, 2012 at 6:47 am

I’ve been thinking the same thing re neutralizing all support … starting with water / food as a few motorcycles riding up to the back of the bunch with riders ‘picking’ bidons or bars/gels from racks/boxes, even in circumstances riding alongside the bunch when it lines out … gotta be easier and safer than ‘going back to the car’ and carrying 12 bottles back up to and thru the bunch to distribute – and even having the alimenter-mobil with a large mouthed pannier bin for discard bidons … a few refill / empty out points along the route and voila !!

Barry S August 17, 2012 at 7:29 am

Possibly even electric motorbike? Not sure if the range would be an issues but they are viable. They have had an electric motorbike race at IOM for the last two years.

Zosim August 17, 2012 at 12:59 pm

They’d need to carry something like 3000 bottles a day during the TdF on those “few motorcycles” plus all the food. You’d need a fairly huge fleet of them plus supporting vehicles to get water/food to reloading points.

Larry T. August 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Good point, but having all the team cars is certainly NOT an efficient way to do it. The teams could have their own “team” stuff at the feed zones along with spares bikes and wheels, the in-between times could be filled by neutral motos with bottles, etc. (or even “neutral” feed zones) while neutral tech support has bikes and wheels. There would certainly need to be more of them than there are currently, but I still think it would be an improvement. As Jim W. points out the teams might be a bit more cautious with flimsy equipment if failures meant using neutral support…a good thing in my opinion! I’m not advocating a return to tubulars over the shoulders and raiding local bars and grocery stores, but would like to see some reduction in the CARS in the caravan while reducing the effects of the DS’ inside them. Improved safety and less pollution in the peloton may be a benefit as well.

haitch August 17, 2012 at 2:34 am

Someone must have put a hex on the Cervelo Test Team and those involved with it. At least they looked cool. (And won a couple of world championships, of course.)

James Drake August 17, 2012 at 9:09 am

For me the sadest moment in cycling was when Cervelo said they’d had enough and “sold” their riders to Garmin.. I still watch the Test Team videos and relive an impossible utopia, where Team managers, sponsors and riders were happy. All the boys have had uncertain histories after they left, and that seems to be the case for the girls as well. Sadly missed, and it doesn’t look like they will be replicated. Then again Highroad also had a women’s team and they also imploded. So it might be that running a men’s and women’s team at world-class level is simply too expensive and draining. A real pity. What to do? Pressure the UCI? Well women, if you want your racing, speak to half the world’s population about it.

Avec pas de casque August 17, 2012 at 3:02 am

Now, please excuse again my cluelessness but can someone explain to me the logic behind Jakob Fuglsang’s move to Astana (other than the money money): Nibali is moving there so Jakob Fuglsang will again play second fiddle… What’s his reasoning??
Wasn’t he looking for a team where he could be leader??

Help please.

JimW August 17, 2012 at 3:31 am

Reply below.

JimW August 17, 2012 at 3:31 am

Ekstrabladet reported that the team “so to speak will be divided into two, so that Nibali and Fuglsang will each have their own team of riders to work with.”

They both get to bring some friends too. Astana wants to win next year it looks like to me. Two stars is smart if you can afford them. One gets injured you have a backup possibly or redemption in Spain.

I’m getting excited about next season. There is some interesting distribution of talent going on between teams and internally due to departures.

Avec pas de casque August 17, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Thanks for the answer!

regsf August 17, 2012 at 5:57 am

The Wiggo smoking brouhaha has me chuckling. Spanish super climber José Manuel Fuente used to smoke one cigarette a day to aid digestion while he was racing and giving even Merckx a run on the Grand Tour climbs. If anyone here thinks grand tour racing is a healthy occupation they’re mistaken.

Barry S August 17, 2012 at 7:23 am

When Cavendish was with HTC Specialized made the Verge for him. When he moved to Sky, he tried to take Specialized with him but Sky already had Pinarello. S0 now the rumours are that he and Omega are talking – who ride Specialized bikes. It must be a bloody good bike!

Josh August 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Or a bloody good contract.

Sidamo August 21, 2012 at 2:39 am

Specialized made the Venge because they didn’t have an aero bike on the market. They didn’t make it FOR Cavendish. Cavendish’s job was to market the bike, the bike was not there to market Cavendish.

James Drake August 17, 2012 at 9:03 am

Part of the rationale behind the UCI point system was actually to create an advantage for the riders, giving them the “power” to determine which teams have enough points to get next year’s licence. But there’s the rub.. Next year you might not have a contract with the rider.. So do teams offer multi-year contracts, when their own sponsorship deals are generally renewed on a year-by-year basis!?
Perhaps a better more balanced option would recognise the TEAM in the licence application, and understand that the Team has a right to be part of the pro-tour if it’s won races in the past. There should be some sort of Team points + rider points scenario, which puts less pressure on teams, allows them to sign new riders with no points more easily, and doesn’t affect riders changing teams as much. A 50-50 split in points allocations could be organised.. i.e. double the required points for Pro-tour licences and award points to rider AND team for races won.. A very elegant and easy system to implement. Advantages and disadvantages?! Well, I’m sure a few will crop up, just as the current system is showing it’s dark side with good riders denied rides because the team will lose those points.. I’m sure this combined system though will be inherently fairer to Teams and allow them a bit more longevity. Think of other sports.. like soccer and teams like Mancester and Barcellona. The sponsors buy the space on the team jersey, but the team stays the same.

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