Hopefully you’ve seen the on-bike footage above from the Tour de Suisse. You might note each time we seem to see footage it’s from Giant-Shimano. Some teams are supportive of the use but others are outside the loop. A reminder that the IMG inCycle videos are there to showcase the member teams of “Project Avignon” meaning Astana, Ag2r, Katusha, FDJ and Europcar are not part of this. So while we might want more footage and for it to be on TV, we don’t have a unified front. So while the footage is progress it also speaks to the dysfunctions and divisions in the sport.
What dysfunctions? Well the Belkin team are losing their sponsor after just 18 months. For a global sponsor the sport is still massively Euro-centric, for example TV audience figures for the Tour of California are modest and tend to reach niche cycling fans rather than a broader public, a subject to return to in more detail one day.
The team might be losing their main sponsor but they haven’t lost any time. Management have started a crowdfunding initiative and are soliciting donations. I’m uneasy about this as it seems like a grab for money without much in return. Is your €10 needed to keep the team on the road this year or next? What is the fundraising target?
Few teams have worked by subscription in the past. Euskaltel-Euskadi tried the model with different tiers of funding from local fans. Europcar are trying it now with a much clearer model. They want to raise €80,000 and at pixel time have collected just over €30,000. You can chip in €10 and get your name on the side of the team car during the Tour de France. Slip them €10,000 and they’ll give your name on the team car, a team-issue bike and a day with the squad. There other intermediate options and the video above explains what the money is for. This is the model for Belkin and other teams to copy.
The Route du Sud starts today and is run in conjunction with La Dépêche du Midi, a regional newspaper, making it one of the few races to retain a connection to printed newspaper. The race is cherished by Christian Prudhomme, the Tour de France director. ASO are unlikely to buy the race but they do like the way the event finds new roads in the Pyrenees which they can then borrow.
Alejandro Valverde is the main attraction. He had a storming spring followed by a long break. Now he’s back in action. This might seem unusual but remember Nairo Quintana didn’t ride a single race between Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the Tour de France. Another rider in the Route du Sud is Nacer Bouhanni. There’s only one sprint stage on Sunday and it’s on Sunday evening that FDJ announce their nine riders for the Tour de France. This is a week earlier than usual for Marc Madiot who has tended to wait for the eve of the French national championships. But it’s still late with the Bouhanni-Démare saga dragging on. Bouhanni has been training hard in the Vosges mountains and according to FDJ team trainer Jacques Décrion “pedalling on air”.
— Tinkoff Saxo (@tinkoff_saxo) June 19, 2014
Thin air now with Alberto Contador and Tinkoff-Saxo’s Tour team training in Italy with a base on the Passo Pordoi in the Dolomites. Italy too for Vincenzo Nibali and his Astana colleagues are over at the Passo San Pellegrino. Team Sky are repeating their formula of a pre-Tour camp in the Châtel, France at the northern end of the Alps. If you want to know Team Sky’s nine for the Tour see who goes there after the Tour de Suisse.
Finally amid the fuss over Chris Froome’s Therapeutic Use Exemption story there have been various explanations and accounts. But where did the information come from? Only a few people in Team Sky, the UCI and WADA and the Tour de Romandie race doctor had access to the information. The leak was detailed with information on the substance, the dosage and delivery method suggesting the info was passed on first hand rather than gossiped.