Well done to the Louisville race crew who put on a great event. Cyclocross is booming in the US as a participatory sport and the crowds partied like Belgians on the day only, as the photo by cyclocosm shows, with added fancy dress. There was even a copycat Dirk Hofman sign spotted.
With all the talk of pro cycling going global cyclo-cross remains a specialist affair within Europe alone but you’d struggle to get the Louisville atmosphere if the worlds were awarded to France, Germany or even the brewery-rich Czech republic. It was made even better thanks to the UCI’s video stream on Youtube meaning it was available around the world for free without resorting to pirate feeds of dubious quality.
Just as Americans have plenty to be proud of this weekend, the French can cheer too. FDJ, Sojasun, Europcar, Cofidis, Ag2r La Mondiale have all won races so far this year. Last year Ag2r had to wait until late May until they won their first race but the brown short brigade won this morning’s stage of the Etoile de Bessèges with Samuel Dumoulin cleverly negotiating a tricky finish to come in well ahead of the others. Sometimes a team can feel like a family but it’s literally the case with Ag2r because Dumoulin is the son-in-law of team boss Vincent Lavenu.
Qatar had a Swiss feel today. A breakaway of three riders surprisingly held off the bunch with Swiss duo Gregory Rast (Radioshack) and Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling) alongside Brent Bookwalter who is American of course… but BMC are a team funded by Swiss francs of course. It was the first sighting of the new IAM team and – taste is personal – the kit looks good with a more modern design.
Fork in Rule Change
Not sure what I think to the UCI enforcing the safety lugs on our forks, but it’s a right pain in the arse when you have to change fast.
— Matt Brammeier (@Mattbrammeier85) February 3, 2013
The lead trio weren’t the only Swiss influence today. UCI officials were checking the bikes in Qatar for the safety tabs on the forks as a new rule for 2013 requires all teams not to modify the forks. As covered on here before French teams could not file down these tabs but everyone else did only now all teams are formally forbidden from doing this. It is slowing wheel changes. But as one team insider put it to me how the UCI can determine if the tabs have been modified or whether it’s just lots of wheel changes that have worn down the lawyer tabs at some point a few months into the season. Wheel changes will be faster by July.
Wiggins’ Strange Podium
No stranger to July Bradley Wiggins had his first trip to the podium today after he won the most aggressive rider in the Trofeo Palma race in Majorca. Did he go on a long break? Did he attack a lot? Actually neither, he was present and won an intermediate sprint. Others in the race were probably more deserving but – whisper it – he probably got the prize as he’s more of a draw to the crowds than Europcar’s Perrig Quéméneur who spent a good while in the lead. Kenny De Haes (Lotto-Belisol) won the race.
Ronde d’Aix criterium
— Julieи (@Ju_Dessaud) February 3, 2013
Qatar wasn’t the only win for BMC today. Today saw a criterium in Aix-en-Provence “won” by BMC Racing’s world champion Philippe Gilbert ahead of Arnaud Démare (FDJ) and Geoffroy Lequatre (Bretagne-Séché). Only the Ronde d’Aix it was an exhibition race, not a proper contest and many participants went for a training ride in the morning before racing around the scenic town. But it’s all fun and the public get to talk to the riders before the start, pose for photos with the stars and keep the sport close to the public. Some teams – let’s not name them – are trying to control access to the riders but I can’t help feel they’re surrendering one of the things that makes cycling so good.
Finally here’s a taste of this proximity from the Etoile de Bessèges. It might not have the fancy dress of Louisville but it does have the same proximity and authenticity. As the sport spreads around the world I can see the obvious need to improve the TV package and encourage global brands but racing like this that is real and accessible. Long live Louisville and Bessèges.