Friday Shorts

Friday, 13 September 2013

Bryan Coquard

Ahead of the long weekend of the GP Cycliste de Québec and the GP Cycliste de Montréal the event has held a sprint challenge where three riders are set off at a time and do a road version of a track sprint. It’s a novel format and a way to extend interest in the race given the riders are already on site in Québec. It is a stunt and only a step away from those cyclist vs horse shows we see.

But I keep writing Vuelta previews saying “tune in for the sprint finish” which sadly implies we should ignore the previous four hours of racing, I don’t mean to say this but know that viewers don’t have infinite time to watch the race cross landscapes. These sprints do focus the action and create a show.

New Generation
Bryan Coquard’s a neo-pro and born in 1992. He’s a fast sprinter but a flyweight at 1.69m and 58 kilos (5″6 and 130lbs for imperialists). He beat two other promising sprinters, Giacomo Nizzolo and Moreno Hofland. You might know Nizzolo who has popped up in the results from time to time but he’s 24 whilst Hofland is 22 and won a stage of the Tour de l’Avenir last year. Despite his young age Hofland has the blood piped legs of a veteran.

Missing In Astana
Andrea GuardiniTalking of the future of sprinting, has anyone seen Andrea Guardini? The 24 year-old Italian beat Mark Cavendish in the Giro last year, his acceleration proving too much for the Briton and arguably this cost Cav the points jersey in the 2012 race. He signed for Astana but has vanished this year, a stage win in the Tour de Langkawi but that’s it so far. He’s got time to develop but being on a team with heavy GC ambitions means his presence in grand tours is at best a compromise, at worst impossible.

Milan-Sanremo Changes
Maybe none of these new sprinters can win Milan-Sanremo. The race is ditching the climb of Le Manie with its arched gateway but adds the climb to Pompeiana before the Poggio. It’s now much harder for the sprinters. Here’s why: the sprinters could just about cope with the Cipressa because there was time to get paced back by team mates as the race sped along the Via Aurelia coastal road on the way to the Poggio, a flat section of 9km. Now the race will barrel down the Cipressa and after just 3km it starts the climb to Pompeiana.

At 5km at 5% it’s no wall but it’s as hard as the Cipressa and crucially includes a series of hairpin bends just where it is at its steepest. The descent is regular and races down to almost the foot of the Poggio.

Many will lament these changes, after all why change one of the best races of the year, one of the few moments where grand tour contenders challenge sprinters for the win? The tension has made it one of the most intense moments of the year. Two things to consider:

  • first the race is Italian and they want a home winner and not just for sentimental reasons but for commercial logic. Now things suit Vincenzo Nibali although the odds are tilted of course they now suit Philippe Gilbert and many other foreign riders
  • second the route has changed over the years. The Poggio was added to split up the field and prevent yet another sprint finish and in time so was the Cipressa and Le Manie. Viewed in this light RCS are continuing the trend and trying to make the race about more than the last five minutes

Qatari Heat
There’s talk of the 2022 Qatar football world cup being moved because of the heat, either on the calendar or even to a new location. It’s just talk but like all soccer news, it takes up a lot of copy in the sports pages. But remember cycling is going there before with 2016 world championships and the heat will be an issue too as a cool day in late September still sees the thermometer sit at 30°C but a warm day sees this rise to 40°C or more and this is simply too hot for a 250km race.

Tour de France for Sale?
The worlds is a testimony to Qatar’s wealth as a small state on top of a large gas field. The Qataris have been spending big in sports and own the Paris St German football club in France. But could they buy the Tour de France? A tweet from Daniel Baal suggests the Tour de France could be for sale as the Amaury family might be selling its business empire which ranges from sports events like the Tour but publishing and newsprint too with L’Equipe and Le Parisien.

Only I can’t find anything to back up Baal’s tweet. He’s no joker being a senior banker who has run the French cycling federation and recently sat on the UCI’s Management Committee. But I’ve checked La Tribune and scoured the web and can’t see another source to back up the claim that the Amaury family has appointed the Lazard bank to handle a possible sale.

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{ 16 comments }

DNF September 13, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Hey Inrng,
A little mistake: “it’s a novel format and a way to extend interest in the race given the riders are already on site in Montreal.”

They are in Québec right now. The sprint event is held in Québec. They will be racing in Montréal on Sunday.

The Inner Ring September 13, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Québec City, thanks.

DNF September 13, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Yes, Québec City in English.
In French we just say Québec.
So there’s two Québec: Québec, the city which is in the province of Québec (which is in the country of Canada, if you are a federalist, but let’s not get into that!)

One Man Grupetto September 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm

“Has anyone seen Andrea Guardini?”

Yep, he’s the lone cyclist way back behind grupetto and in amongst the cars hanging on for grim life. At least that was where I saw him in the Tour of Austria on Stage 2. He DNF’ed the next day.

He seriously needs to be able to climb better, even when he gets over the lumps, he’s not in position or shape to use his speed.

Sam September 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Cant argue with you – he got through the climbs to the penultimate stage of last year’s Giro by hanging onto cars until the officials had enough and kicked him off

BC September 13, 2013 at 2:58 pm

As the late Laurent Fignon argued. With vastly improved equipment, training regimes and roads the organizers in general have failed to respond. They have insisted in general, few tweaks accepted, to run similar events on similar historical courses. If I recall correctly, the instances he used were the Ardennes classics, where once lone winners or small breaks were the norm, and where now we see large groups or even a fairly substantial bunch finish.

Viewing for the sprint finish. One of the more exciting things about watching a race should be how it develops and unfolds and predicting how it might finish. Race Radios have succeeded in removing this crucial aspect, so the last half hour is now recommended. Not the way to move the sport forward in my view.

channel_zero September 13, 2013 at 4:42 pm

If you are the UCI, boiling the race down to 30-40 minutes IS THE PLAN and it’s a great one. Why? It’s the perfect package for broadcast. This and shipping the riders off to governments willing to pay for having a race in-country is what Pat and Hein’s vision of “globalizing cycling” actually is.

In the case of Milan-San Remo, I doubt the UCI owns the broadcast rights as it is a very old event. But, I suspect the newer events on the World Tour calendar have the UCI as one entity that is getting paid something for broadcast rights.

Oman, Qatar, Khazakstan are the places the UCI is selling cycling and all of them are authoritarian states. Again, Pat and Hein’s version of “globalizing cycling.”

How much did Qatar’s ruler pay various UCI officials under the table for the privilege of hosting the World Championships?

bmj September 13, 2013 at 5:11 pm

If you are the UCI, boiling the race down to 30-40 minutes IS THE PLAN and it’s a great one.

So why force organizers to coordinate 200-300kms of racing for the last 50km and the sprint to the line? Why not just hold a crit/kermesse and make it easier on everyone?

Leopejo September 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I don’t think the change of the Sanremo profile has anything to do with wanting an Italian winner, especially someone like Nibali who might not even take part next year, given his probable focus on Giro and Tour.
It’s certainly not only Italians who have (literally) always asked for a harder Sanremo. Le Manie was an experiment in this direction, but it had its problems, for example the tricky and dangerous descent.
Up to the Nineties Cipressa could play a role and the race was open to all kind of results. In the last few years it has only been a place for desperate breakaways with no winning chances, though some of them quite spectacular, like the Pantani-Bartoli battle in 1999.
The new climb will not change the race into a Liège or Lombardia. I think it will be very open till the finish line, even “pure” sprinters” might have their say.

jkeltgv September 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm

“…trying to make the race about more than the last five minutes”

Here’s the problem with the new MSR – it will be about the last 40 mins now whereas until now it’s been a race where to absorb it you need to watch the last 2 hours at least. From Milan until San Lorenzo it’s just going to be a big bunch with a breakaway of no-hopers. Previously with the descent of the Torchino leading into Le Manie you had big splits and thus a kind of team time trial over the coast from Finale all the way to the start of the Cipressa. The suspense and tension that created was far better than the over hyped Forest of Arenburg in Paris Roubaix. For me the balance was perfect because even when you got a “boring bunch sprint” it was only boring retrospectively. You weren’t sure it was going to be so.

As for Guardini, the photo you posted and the post of One Man Grupetto it brought to mind indeed holding on on the climbs. I’ve been going on about this to anyone who’ll listen but the day before he won, on the stage to Cortina on Passo Giau he was about a minute behind the grupetto holding onto a police motorbike. It cost Cavendish the red jersey that he didn’t win that stage the next day…and to clutch this straw a little while longer it also meant he returned this year to finish the giro and win the red (completing the career trifecta of points jerseys) meaning he only won two tour stages having gone so deep in May (for the second year running). Indeed if I remember well a couple of days later he was chucked off for holding on on the Stelvio. And yet it’s always Cavendish with the cameras around him who gets accused of holding on on the climbs.

So Guardini has no sympathy from this Italophile for his poor showing in the last year.

Ronan September 13, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Surely the reworked San Remo route has Sagan written all over it? It will eject almost all the other sprinters (like Ciolek, for example) and nobody left can match him in a sprint.

Anonymous September 13, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I agree. They may have wanted a local race for local people, but this route looks like it’ll be few KMs where randoms try to mug Sagan, and if they fail, a smaller sprint with one real sprinter.

Q September 13, 2013 at 7:49 pm

That’s exactly what I was thinking. Maybe after Sagan wins 3-4 of these in a row they’ll modify it again.

Skippy September 13, 2013 at 8:43 pm

How long is this change going to be included in the event ?

I doubt the organisers put it there for the benefit of ANY individual racer , since none of US are guaranteed the prospect of Sagan or Gilbert , even being on the start line !

Changing the race parcours , is disappointing if only because people will no longer be able top compare individual performance statistics ?

Just watching andy schleck tailgating the team car after a wheel change 57km from the finish in Quebec ( not been there since this time in 1969 , looks almost the same ) Event .

Goonie September 13, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Looking at the lists of past winners, it’s notable that in the 1980s and 1990s the race was won by classics hardmen or GC riders; while the majority of wins since Zabel in 1997 have gone to sprinters. Since 1997, the non-sprinter winners are Bettini, Cancellara, Pozzato and Gerrans.

I agree that the current parcours does make for an intriguing race, but tilting the balance back slightly towards people who can climb wouldn’t be a fundamental betrayal of the race’s history.

Larry T. September 14, 2013 at 3:10 am

Far too many of the MSR arguments lack perspective. Until 1960 the principal difficulty was the Passo Turchino, a tough climb on an often muddy, unpaved surface and the place Fausto Coppi began his era as the Campionissimo. When that climb no longer provided enough challenge the Poggio was added, followed by the Cipressa in 1982 and Le Manie in 2008. Who knows what this new climb will do – that’s WHY they have the races – so we can find out!

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