Evans counts points – Mourey counts to eight – Vuelta counts the decimal places – NetApp count on the Tour – Sanchez sans job – Chris Horner’s Dutch auction – Team Sky change powermeters?
It’s already Monday in Australia and Simon Gerrans is the new Australian road race champion. Rider nicknames are uncommon these days but if he did have a moniker then “The Sniper” seems appropriate for the way he’s able to target a race. Gerrans is a clever rider who doesn’t have the physiological firepower of Cadel Evans or Richie Porte but his “one shot” is making him a good trophy hunter, think yellow in the Tour or Milan-Sanremo. You can read his account of how he won at SimonGerrans.com. He’s now an obvious contender for the Tour Down Under.
Cadel Evans over waarom hij dit weekend geen Australisch kampioenschap rijdt: WT-punten voor BMC verdienen. pic.twitter.com/GXM8ffTixU
— Martijn Hendriks (@hendriksmj) January 11, 2014
When asked whether he wanted to win the green and gold jersey Cadel Evans replied “My objective as a professional is to get World Tour points other than the jersey, it doesn’t count for that much” which went down badly with many Aussies for obvious reasons. It wasn’t the right thing to say and he got flamed for it on Twitter. But it was probably a deflection exercise to ease pressure and expectations. After all Evans might be retiring at the end of the year, if so his points won’t count for much anyway.
Mourey makes history
Whilst the Australians and New Zealanders have enjoyed their road race championships, several northern hemisphere nations held their cyclo-cross championships. Francis Mourey (FDJ.fr) won the French title after riding away on the first lap. It’s his eighth senior men’s title, overtaking Eugène Christophe, André Dufraisse and Roger Rondeaux who each won the French title seven times. Mourey is a candidate for a medal in the worlds in two weeks’ time but it shows you can dominate at home but you might finish off the podium if you raced in Belgium or the Netherlands, a lesson that applies to most countries.
The 2014 Vuelta route was unveiled without much fanfare but the route looks promising. There are eight summit finishes and just 44.5km of solo time trialling – so little they mention the number to the right of the decimal place and the main 34.5km includes a climb and then a long drag downhill. August and September are too far away to look forward to because there’s so much to come before. But this should be a good race.
“Team NetApp – Endura aims for the Tour de France in 2014″
NetApp had a great Vuelta last year, more than earning their wildcard invite. The quote above is the headline from the team press release earlier this week. It’s an obvious and laudable goal but it shows how simply starting this race is important. Of course they want to win along the way, indeed strong early season performances are needed to impress ASO before it allocates wildcard invitations.
Sanchez sans job
The Vuelta presentation saw Samuel Sanchez on stage with Alejandro Valverde. Sanchez is still without a team for this year and seems to be wearing shoes designed to attract attention. He’s been linked in reports to the Tinkoff-Saxo team. But he’ll turn 36 soon.
Horner’s Dutch auction
No mention of ageing riders seems to be complete without a Chris Horner reference. Unlike Sanchez he wasn’t at the Vuelta presentation but he’s also out of work too. Horner’s lack of a team for 2014 is remarkable in some aspects but predictable at the same time. Whilst some cite doping but put that aside because we can speculate more safely on Horner’s employability:
- In wanting a reported two-year contract for one million Euros per year, Horner wanted to be paid the going rate for a grand tour contender, a podium probable
- But he only acquired this status following his Vuelta win, a time in the season when most teams have already determined their budgets and settled their roster for 2014.
- However this status is far from assured, it is said a factor behind his Vuelta win was an injury that left him sitting out plenty of races so he was fresh for the Vuelta. But this implies if he’d had a normal season with mucho racing he’d have been stale by September, a player but perhaps not the winner
- Age is also a factor, it simply makes him an unusual hire and creates uncertainty. When we’re talking about €1m a year – say 10% of a typical World Tour team budget – then the risks are considerable.
Horner’s situation quickly turned into a Dutch auction with team after team rejecting the high wage so he’s lowered his price but this has just seen more teams stand back. We’re now into January and he’s changed agents to appoint the recently retired but never retiring Baden Cooke. Some squads just don’t have the spare cash sitting around but you can imagine a team with a sugardaddy sponsor might. If Horner finds a team it’ll be far from the million Euro deal he wanted but he can surely do better than modest Danish team Christina Watches. Horner is valuable for his UCI points alone, a rider holds them for two seasons so his Vuelta haul could help any team worried about relegation from the World Tour.
Team Sky Racing Stages?
There’s not much new in the pro peloton for 2014 with most team bikes looking almost identical to last year’s models. One small change looks to be with Team Sky. SRM are no longer listed as a sponsor on the team website and instead someone has spotted the team using Stages powermeters. It could be a test, who knows.
More interestingly Stages is a relatively new company that could shake up the market. It has had some teething problems which seem to have been addressed. For a long time cycle power meters have been expensive and if the Stages device is not cheap, it still comes in at a price point lower than the alternatives.