Thursday Shorts

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Tom Boonen’s in the Belgian press today with his new Ferrari but Thibaut Pinot will be driving one of these soon. It’s an Exagon race car that’s unusual because it’s got an electric engine powered by a lithium ion battery. A change of career for the climber?

No, instead it’s one solution to help him become more at ease with speed. Much has been made of his discomfort going downhill but the problem is not cornering ability but the pure fear of speed, something he experiences when a passenger in a car too.

So in October he’ll be lapping the Magny Cours race track as part of plans to make him more at ease with speed. L’Equipe reported yesterday that it’s the idea of Max Mamers, a former racing driver in France who is a sports promoter and has worked in cycling, notably with Laurent Fignon. Mamers organises a series of races on ice during the winter featuring celebrity drivers that tours the ski resorts of France with these electric cars.

More practically FDJ have also got Julien Pinot as a DS during the Vuelta. Thibaut’s elder brother was knocking on the door of the pros but a heart condition stopped him and he’s a coach and sports scientist who has been working for FDJ and now he’s on the race to help the team and lend moral support to his brother. For all of this of fear, it’s relative and Pinot is sitting 29th overall in the Vuelta after some tricky racing so far and would be higher were it not for the team time trial and FDJ finishing 16th.

Let’s hope the race track works and that that Pinot doesn’t mimic Boonen’s Lamborghini and Audi adventures.

OPQS rememdy for “heavy legs”
Omega Pharma boss Marc Couke is in Bordeaux for a sales conference with his French staff. Despite the name, Omega Pharma doesn’t really sell pharmaceuticals but instead has a range of para-pharmaceutical products like vitamins, antiseptic creams and other over-the-counter products. France is Europe’s largest pharmaceutical market with larger sales than Germany despite having a population of 65 million versus 82 million and being slightly less wealthy so it’s a vital market for Coucke and one big reason for him to invest in pro cycling, aside from being a big fan of the sport of course.

One reason for the sizeable French market is over-prescription, almost a borderline national hypochondria but also a tendency to pathologize everyday things. For example “heavy legs” has long been a common condition, visit a pharmacy and a range of products are on offer with creams, oils and ointments available. One of the biggest products on the market is Jouvence de L’Abbé Soury, a gel with some herbal ingredients to be rubbed into the legs. It’s a brand owned by Omega Pharma. Here’s their ad campaign and not a cyclist in site as a know-it-all mother lectures her daughter with constant “I told you so” advice.

Basque Climbers
OPQS has been known for heavy legs of another kind with the tree-trunk limbs of Tom Boonen and Tony Martin. But they’re out to hire some stick-thin Spaniards to ride in support of Rigoberto Uran. This seems to be the plan with the likes of Mikel Nieve, Igor Anton and Mikel Landa all being linked with a move to the Belgian squad. It’s either that or Astana it seems. But there’s no word on Samuel Sanchez, the 34 year old is still winning races like a stage in the Dauphiné this year but retirement could beckon.

Ag2r La Mondiale
The French team is quietly improving and has hired classics specialists Sébastien Turgot and Damien Gaudin, both visible in Paris-Roubaix in recent years. The pair come from Europcar who have had to find the money to retain Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler and offer sprint sensation Bryan Coquard a new contract. Gaudin had been linked to Saxo-Tinkoff but the vanishing roubles of Oleg Tinkov put an end to that.

As explained on here the other day, for every new signing there are riders leading and there’s also a clear out with several being given notice their contracts won’t be renewed. John Gadret, Manuel Belletti and Anthony Ravard are amongst those being told they only way they’ll wear brown shorts in 2014 is to get a job as a courier with parcel company UPS.

Going Global
Unlike UPS, the UCI’s venture into race promotion has yet to deliver the goods. Cyclingnews.com has an interview with Alain Rumpf, the boss of Global Cycling Promotions, the UCI’s business sideline. Rumpf seems a good guy tasked with a hard task and certainly the UCI’s venture into event promotion has yet to pay off. Collapsed races, funding shortfalls and more mean the business has had to siphon cash from the UCI’s “Pro Tour reserve fund” although this is based on the approved accounts of 2011 which were published in September 2012. Now we’ll get the figures for 2012 but obviously we’re well into 2013 so all this retrospection means it’s hard to know what’s happening and the interview doesn’t explain much with this important activity in the UCI.

Why is the UCI going into the business of race promotion. Well here’s UCI President Pat McQuaid in an interview on the website of the Association of Summer Olympic Federations:

“we’re always in need of more money. It’s why we set up Global Cycling Promotions. The first event is the Tour of Beijing, which will bring in funds to the UCI.”

Worlds Course
Firenze time trial course worlds
The UCI is on safer financial grounds with the world championships. The worlds are the single largest source of income for the UCI and the men’s road race accounts for most of this. This year’s course in Tuscany for the time trial is flat as you can see above. But the road race is hilly with the repeated combo of the long climb to Fiesole and the steep wall on the Via Salviati.

You can see a video of the course courtesy of worldscourse.com where the website lists extra info from maps to Strava links and more.

Bill Ward August 29, 2013 at 4:11 pm

that http://www.worldscourse.com video is great. I’m ooking forward to the World Championships a lot.. Enjoyable festival of cycling.

Was not aware that the TT is such a flat drag. With Der Panzerwagen’s performance today (ongoing) he must be in favour for the title.. He looks bulkier than last year too which corresponds with press statements from Wiggins’ eating plans for the coming weeks. One for the beasts.

Stephen_M August 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm

The 2012 Olympic time trial course was pan flat as well, yet I seem to recall 2 of team SKY stick-thin riders being in the medals? Strange that in 2013 you seem to need bulk to produce power, but in 2012 you didn’t?

Jeez, these marginal gains are hard to keep up with – maybe it’s something that’s not in the pineapple juice….

Matt August 30, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Wiggins putting on upper body bulk in order to be able to sustain a position on the drops for the hour record?

Stephen_M September 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Very true – his sub-51 minute in the Olympic time trial is sooo far away from 60 minutes of effort?

I could see he might want to strengthen his upper body for the track, but not the WC TT course….

This all smells of SKY and their pseudo-science to me.

LM August 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Not the biggest fan of Brailsford and Sky, but good for them for letting Uran compete despite the fact that he’s taking those points elsewhere.

AK August 29, 2013 at 5:51 pm

With 17 WT teams competing for 18 spots, a huge cluster of points at OPQS and SKY even without Uran, the 20% rule, and sponsor exposure, what does Sky have to gain by not letting him compete?

Anonymous August 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm

noted; thanks, both

Anonymous August 29, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Under new rules Sky will get to keep 20% of Uran’s point haul after he leaves anyway – so still an incentive to let him ride.

Peter August 29, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I think Italian road builders made the Via Salviati with Peter Sagan in mind.

Martijn August 29, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I understood Tinkov is in talks to take over Euskaltel. Wouldn’t he want to keep the star riders like Nieve and Anton?

I am also a bit surprised Ag2R want let Gadret go. He’s consistently been of their better riders the last years.

The Inner Ring August 30, 2013 at 12:31 am

There have been some headlines here but not much else. All the riders are making plans to go it seems.

RooBay August 30, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Where is “here”?

imakecircles August 29, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Pinot should get a motorcycle and ride some winding roads on that. The sensations of leaning into the apexes are much more similar to cycling than driving a car.

Greg August 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Fear of speed could also be a feeling of loss of control. Feeling fear while being a passenger in a car is not unusual, even for race drivers. I raced cars & motorcycles for 20 years and feel far more comfortable at higher speeds when I am driving; half the speed with someone else at the wheel is scary… with any luck they can help him understand and cope with this fear.

Motorcycling, and effectively cornering a motorcycle, require a lot of technical skill to do it correctly. While the concepts are similar to a bicycle, there are vast differences in the dynamics. For one thing the throttle is a key ingredient when cornering. Having said that, working with a WSBK or MotoGP rider could be highly effective.

The Inner Ring August 30, 2013 at 12:30 am

From what I’ve read, it’s pure speed that causes the fear and less the fear of losing it on a hairpin bend.

Goonie August 30, 2013 at 2:04 am

If that’s his issue, he should try go-karting. 100+ km/h feels like 300 when you’re only a few centimetres off the ground.

Tovarishch August 30, 2013 at 10:43 am

I am sure his fellow Frenchman, Sébastien Loeb could either kill it or cure it. riding 80 kph into wet, leaf covered, downhill hairpins will seem like child’s play in comaprison

Evan August 30, 2013 at 12:25 am

is Xanax on the banned substances list?

Adam August 30, 2013 at 1:58 am

what happened to Gadret? A stage and podium in the Giro and the teams best Tour result and then fallen off the radar.
Does he have a WT spot next year, or will wee see him in Agritubul kit?

Larry T. August 30, 2013 at 3:23 am

As an ex moto roadracing pro (AMA Superbike in the USA back in the early ’80’s) I find the low speeds of cycling to be pretty tame compared to sliding a 750cc Superbike around at 100+ mph back-in-the-day. I suspect this race car thing can’t hurt and there’s far less risk than putting a novice on a moto where he can easily get hurt. I wonder about OPQS’s strategy in these hires….wasn’t the issue causing the Manx Missile to leave SKY this same thing? For every rider devoted to GC duties, that’s one less for Cavendish’ sprint train. Do they think old Ale-Jet can do it all? Nice car Tommeke, but it would be far nicer in RED I think.

Matt August 30, 2013 at 11:50 pm

75mph may be slower than a moto, but you’re quite a lot more exposed hurtling down an alpine hillside wearing kit that makes a string vest look substantial.

Larry T. August 31, 2013 at 1:17 am

True, but back-in-the-day when I raced motorcycles there were no such things as air-fences, huge run-off areas with gravel/sand traps or inflatable air-bag leather suits. If I thought about the consequences of crashing back then, I would never have made it into the pro ranks. There’s little doubt moto racing is a LOT safer than it was back then…unless the electronic trickery fails and the thing spits you over the highside…but deaths are pretty rare these days in both sports…and always have been in cycling, while the same can’t be said for motos.

CS August 30, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Will Gadret return to his cycle cross roots?

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