Slow Change

Thursday, 28 January 2016

André Greipel

It’s all new. It’s all the same. The 2016 season is underway and everything looks so familiar. Nobody’s using disc brakes nor geolocation and instead it’s back to races in out of season tourist resorts, the ritual pinning of numbers and a peloton packed with calliper brakes.

The European season started today with the Trofeo Felanitx-Ses Salines-Campos-Porreres race in Mallorca, an event whose long-winded name must have been conceived in a pre-Twitter era. It marks the start of several races around Mediterranean locations whether in Mallorca, the South of Spain, Italy or the bike-theft hotspots of France.

Once upon a time these races sold sunshine to northern Europeans but the advent of low cost aviation means many fly over Majorca or Marseille on their way to destinations like Turkey or Morocco. If some of the surviving races feel old fashioned at least they’re alive, gone are races like Nice-Alassio or the more recent extinction of the Tour Méditerranéen. Majorca isn’t a big draw for mass tourism, instead every village and town echoes with the click-clack of cleated feet as thousands of cyclists from all over Europe converge for training camps. That’s something the Spanish will celebrate because if the Gulf destinations attract the peloton they’ve yet to entice the masses as spectators or training.

Even the newer races can feel old. Take the Tour of Qatar which is about to hold its 15th edition yet still fends off annual questions about its place in the sport. Australia’s Tour Down Under is older, dating from 1999, but also has this status anxiety too. It brings familiarity, this time for the way it visits the same places every year with names like Stirling, Victor Harbour, Willunga cropping up. Do some European and American cycling fans think they’re the only habitations in South Australia outside of Adelaide? Simon Gerrans’s fourth win just added to the déjà vu. The TV coverage was familiar too. When someone was travelling fast we got the obligatory camera shot of the motorcycle speedometer rather than an on-screen graphic to signal the speed.

Michael Woods

Similarly the promised geo-location technology remains a distant prospect. When a lime green jersey was duelling with Sergio Henao and Richie Porte on the Corkscrew Climb nobody knew who it was. TV commentator Phil Liggett thought it was Alberto Bettiol although his voice conveyed hesitancy. Realtime geo-location can be done but it’s an experimental and novel technology yet we’re still without the basics like a timing mat at the top of a climb to capture the riders going past, both to flash up their names and to measure the time gaps despite all this being rather old fashioned technology by now. This isn’t specific to Australia, it’s going to happen again and again this year as riders cross the Poggio, Giau or Ventoux. It’s hard to know another sport that stages major events yet struggles to name the participants right at the crucial moment when the competition is being decided.

First race has arrived! #emozioni

A photo posted by Gianni Moscon (@giannimoscon) on

Perhaps Liggett and Co. finally identified the Corkscrew fugitive as Michael Woods thanks to the number pinned on his back? These days most, if not all, races use timing chips fixed to the bikes to count riders across the line but the practice of pinning a paper number to a jersey remains. It can be helpful when technology breaks down but it’s arcane and if BMX can have “career numbers”, a permanent way of awarding numbers to participants, surely the pro peloton could too? You might say there’s not enough numbers to go around but there are letters too. In an era when teams want to get sponsors it occupies valuable real estate on a jersey.

Talking of tech, 2016 was supposed to be the year of disc brakes but ironically their introduction has been halted. Awkward wheel changes; frame flex and rotor rub added to cycling’s innate conservatism means these new brakes and the accompanying frames aren’t going to be a common sight in 2016 whether in the pro peloton or your local bike shop. This is no bad thing for everyone: if you don’t like these brakes then they’re out for now; if you do then all the more reason to have bikes correctly engineered to suit.

Meanwhile in Italy the Giro unveiled its jerseys for 2016 and it wasn’t so much 2015 all over again as nineteen hundred-and-something as deployed a madrina to tell us the race leader would wear a pink jersey once again. The madrina, or godmother, is usually a former Miss World candidate or some other TV personality and this looks retro to put it politely. Note craft exhibitions and film festivals alike hire a madrina too making it as Italian as driving too close to the car in front; you might not like it but it still goes on a lot.

Finally there’s administrative and political continuity too as the UCI and ASO continue their spats, an ongoing theme for over a decade that blows hot and cold (this page on illustrates just how long the saga can go on). There was talk of a conciliatory meeting between Christian Prudhomme and Brian Cookson during the Tour Down Under but this was cancelled. It wasn’t going to achieve much given Prudhomme is ASO’s jovial face rather than its powerbroker and while some see Brian Cookson as the UCI’s monarch he’s really a figurehead and can’t make up UCI policy by himself given he’s mandated by its committee and congress.

As we hurtle into the future 2016 looks a lot like last year with the same old races in the same old places. Change, from TV telemetry to disc brakes or even safety pins, isn’t coming fast. Still if 2016 ends up like 2015 we’re in for a fine season of racing.

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Joel January 28, 2016 at 7:58 pm

I suspect some American fans don’t know where Australia is.

Love the idea of permanent numbers though, it’s pretty tricky sometimes to tell who is who. Apart from Nairo who’s instantly recognisable, the next Movistar rider could be Rojas, Valverde, Dick Dastardly…

*joking 😉

NickV January 28, 2016 at 11:16 pm

Totally agree Joel, why can’t teams set the riders permanent numbers at the start of the season and sublimate them onto their jerseys (almost every other professional sport has permanent squad numbers these days). We all know that each rider has their kit personally tailored to them anyway so it’s not like they’re sharing items of kit. Teams like Sky and Etixx already have names/Twitter handles personalizing jerseys.
The only possible downside is loss of sponsorship dollars at the larger races where they sell advertising on the dossard.

Perhaps no longer would we have to see riders in TTs riding the most aero bikes with skin suits, shoe covers and aero helmets but a flapping paper number right at the perfect location to create air turbulence!

Joel January 28, 2016 at 11:25 pm

It may not work with the Schlecks!

Chris January 29, 2016 at 2:08 am

Luckily the Shlecks themselves didn’t work out.

The NHL has had plenty of brothers play and are easily distinguishable by using an initial.


Joel January 29, 2016 at 1:38 pm

It was more Schleck wearing one of someone else’s jerseys.

Peter January 29, 2016 at 2:35 am

Heck, I’m from Australia and I don’t really know where Mallorca is. Somewhere in southern Europe right?

It’s easy to make fun of the mythical (perhaps somewhat accurate) lack of geographical awareness of some Americans, but survey a group of Aussies and most won’t have an accurate idea of where Mallorca is.

Othersteve January 29, 2016 at 7:08 pm

Thats the place the English dropped off a bunch of criminals!
And the English never let the Aussies forget it !

KGB January 30, 2016 at 7:57 am

I also like the idea of career or annual rider numbers. It might make it easier for people to follow particular riders. An annual rider number could be based on a rider’s rank at the end of the previous season.

Alex 2 January 28, 2016 at 8:00 pm

One thing is different this year. The Olympics. A lot of riders dream about.
How many Triple’s can you make this year ? 3 Grand Tours, Olympic TT & Road and the World Champion racess ??

Which Big Riders will end their career ? Cancellara Boonen, Contador, Valverde ? The peloton will be different next year.

BC January 28, 2016 at 8:00 pm

You are correct in your assertion that not a lot changes. In reality everything changes, but the pace of change is extremely slow. If you take the Pro race calendar of say forty years ago, the season opening events would be mainly based in the south of France. Almost all these events have now disappeared from the present day calendar, as riders financial situation has improved, small local sponsors become increasingly difficult to find and new races appear outside of Europe.

I welcome the reluctance of teams to introduce the industry preferred disc brakes with all the problems posters have mentioned for the last six months. Locking up the wheels with caliper brakes is already easy enough. Change with little purpose other than making the bike industry a little wealthier does not appear to be progress or change for the good.

The question of improved visuals on TV is something that would be very much appreciated, and would certainly be a long needed change for the better, as would a season long rider numbering system. Probably best not to make a judgement based on Ligget or some other commentators inability to recognize riders !

Good stuff INRNG. I look forward to your posts this season.

Joel January 28, 2016 at 8:23 pm

The issue with discs isn’t whether they are better, they clearly are. But on a long descent are they going to get too hot and do they provide a bigger injury risk in a crash?

The Inner Ring January 28, 2016 at 8:33 pm

One problem seems to be the rubbing, the flex put out by a powerful rider causes the pad to hit the rotor if the effect isn’t huge, it’s unwanted, especially during a sprint or an attack. The good news is this can all be solved with a redesigned frame and forks with mountings and probably different hubs. Indeed since fast wheel changes could be a thing of the past anyway why not scrap the Q/R cantilever for a bolt to make things more solid?

Anonymous January 28, 2016 at 8:52 pm

Why is the fast wheel change a thing of the past?

Owen January 28, 2016 at 9:34 pm

That is the operating theory behind the thru axles common on mountain bikes and newer disc cyclocross bikes.

Anonymous January 28, 2016 at 9:48 pm

hmmm… that doesn’t work in road cycling. They always need a quick wheel change. You can’t change your bike in P-R late in the race, you take a teammate’s wheel or one from a soigneur at the roadside. Flats happen all the time at that race.

Haha, will they scrap Paris-Roubaix in favour of disc brakes??

Paul January 29, 2016 at 5:26 pm

I have the same problem with power … not;-)

RonDe January 28, 2016 at 9:31 pm

I’ve seen a number of riders tweeting about the dangers of disc brakes, for example, in a pile up there’s a greater likelihood of slicing injuries. I certainly wouldn’t like to fall onto one with an exposed knee at 60kph.

Anonymous January 28, 2016 at 10:23 pm

or ankle..

Nick January 28, 2016 at 11:08 pm

Notably, though, it’s riders who by definition don’t use disc brakes tweeting about their dangers. I’d rather fall onto a disc than a chain-ring, for instance, and if we’re going at 60kph, we probably haven’t warmed up the brakes much!

betabug January 29, 2016 at 8:33 am

Obviously you don’t have to use disk brakes to be subject to the dangers of falling into them. Also using disk brakes won’t reduce the risk of falling into a chain-ring, it just adds another risk spot.

Nick January 29, 2016 at 11:07 am

Both, frankly, pale in comparison with the likelihood of hitting the tarmac. Which at 60kph will do just as much damage.

Ryan January 28, 2016 at 11:55 pm

Is the danger really any greater than getting caught in spokes? Seems far more likely than a brake disc as well.

bacon January 29, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Yeah, seriously. I cannot for the life of me understand this extreme fear of rotors slicing body parts off. Have these people ever looked at a bike? No one is terrified of chain rings ripping peoples’ heads off or slicing and dicing limbs at 60 kph. This has always seemed like an absolutely ridiculous objection to me…

Shawn January 29, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Though not WT, Roompot is all in for using discs this year. I wonder how much of this decision is due to financial incentives from SRAM vs. performance improvements.

DMC January 29, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Should be interesting to see if this decision ever harms them in a race. Which WT races will Roompot be at?

Anton January 28, 2016 at 8:52 pm

There’s deja vu with the talk of Bjarne Riis making a new team too.

Joel January 28, 2016 at 9:51 pm

He’s got 60% of his riders sorted already 🙂

Sam January 28, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Very good!

DMC January 28, 2016 at 10:17 pm

Awesome! Can’t wait for Riis to be back. Would be retribution if he returns and Tinkelloff takes off.

noel January 29, 2016 at 1:31 pm

can’t wait for Riis to come back DMC? I thought we wanted this sport to try and move on…

DMC January 29, 2016 at 3:10 pm

It’s not possible to get rid of all the ex-dopers… even Team Sky has them (Servais Knaven). Moving on completely from ex-dopers will take time, I’d rather have a repentant ex-doper than Tinkov anyday.

Tim January 28, 2016 at 9:25 pm

Career numbers or maybe career helmet colour scheme a’la F1? Let them choose when they are in their first season and from then they always have a helmet that is painted in a similar way.

J Evans January 28, 2016 at 9:33 pm

Some sort of technology to tell us who riders are really is overdue (as is the use of timing mats). I’m not exactly a techno-freak, but jeez this is backwards. (This is the difference between tech that improves racing and tech that doesn’t – disc brakes.)
The permanent – or season-long (then you don’t have to have such big numbers) – number is a simple, infallible and free solution (and can be used as well as the tech). That way you can print it on the front of their jersey, on the arms, on the helmet – it’s so obvious it’s amazing it wasn’t done decades ago. The numbers wouldn’t have to be that big to be easily seen and the sponsors would just have to lump it – those who sponsor other sports cope.
The Giro proving that not all traditions are good (much like the tradition of bad ideas emanating from the UCI).

Joel January 28, 2016 at 9:55 pm

I dunno why you are so anti-UCI.

Under Cookson they are the governing body who have acknowledged problems and are doing their (limited) best to try to make things better.

Furthermore they are trying to do the best for the income of the teams in cycling, which is absolutely necessary, but dealing with the power of ASO clearly isn’t going to be easy when they also are looking out for their own ‘monopoly’ interests.

I suggest you have a rethink about the current UCI, they are trying their best to do the right thing.

J Evans January 28, 2016 at 10:02 pm

Because if your aim is to make money that’s what you will achieve (if all goes well).
The UCI’s aim should be to improve cycling.
In my view, the two are not the same.
Also, under Cookson we’ve had the CIRC, Astana and Kreuziger fiascos.
I’ll leave it at that.

Joel January 28, 2016 at 10:12 pm

Clearly you are confusing ideal world with real world. But you seem ignorant to the actual rules/legal requirements and the battle/war scenario to appreciate that the UCI are now doing their utmost to do things correctly. Cookson was very clear on his thoughts about Astana/Kreuziger and set up the CIRC himself as a means to quote when necessary about reforms he wanted to bring in. If you can’t see that there is far more to it than the UCI dictating rules then so be it, but in that case don’t criticise.

Anonymous January 28, 2016 at 10:26 pm

the CIRCus was a joke bigger than the Mitchell report of baseball.

Joel January 28, 2016 at 10:29 pm

It wasn’t particularly well put-together, you’re right, but it got things officially out in the open as opposed to just being available by hearsay or a Google search.

J Evans January 28, 2016 at 11:02 pm

Cookson was very clear on his thoughts about Astana/Kreuziger, damning both publicly in the media. Then the rulings went against what he’d said.
From the archives –
Inner Ring has covered CIRC – lots of comments too:
The CIRC Report, Monday, 9 March 2015
Inner Ring has covered this – lots of comments here too that aren’t merely parroting UCI propaganda:
ASO vs UCI: The War Resumes, Friday, 18 December 2015

Joel January 28, 2016 at 11:09 pm

I’m very aware of the Astana/Kreuziger situations, and am happy that the head of the UCI feels very strongly about them as opposed to an IAAF/Pat/Hein/Baseball/Football et al scenario. As I mentioned, they are somewhat limited with the passport and because the independent commission had ultimate say on Astana. If you choose not to actually understand those things and the importance they have within this situation then fair enough, but you are in no position to make ridiculous claims. It is all there on Google if you want to look at the facts.

J Evans January 28, 2016 at 11:40 pm

You’re clearly highly knowledgeable on all this, so no further discussion required.

Joel January 29, 2016 at 12:45 pm

You could be too if you looked at the facts of the Kreuziger and Astana cases.

J Evans January 29, 2016 at 8:42 pm

It was patently apparent from your first comment that you do not have the first clue what you’re talking about. That was why I never bothered to discuss this properly with you: I’ve nothing to gain from that. Every comment you’ve made since then has reinforced this.

J Evans January 28, 2016 at 9:36 pm

What does this refer to – ‘the bike-theft hotspots of France’?

Betto January 29, 2016 at 12:44 am

I might be way off the mark here, but I think what INRNG means is locations in France where bicycles are most likely to be stolen.

Happy to be corrected on that.

J Evans January 29, 2016 at 8:59 am

I’m surprised that there are known areas that are particularly bad

The Inner Ring January 29, 2016 at 9:13 am

Exactly, in recent years bikes galore have been boosted in the wider area around Marseille. Sky, Garmin, Cult Energy and others have had their trucks raided on the eve of races in the last few years.

Andy January 28, 2016 at 9:37 pm

Slow changes? Looked like some big changes on the UCI facebook feed today 🙂

Ecky Thump January 28, 2016 at 10:21 pm

To be fair Inner Ring, there was some inclusion of data in to the live production at the TDU – heart rate per min, watts, speed etc.
But the highlights shows after each stage (I viewed mine from Cycling Weekly) were more accomplished, as you would expect.
Canned racing, as you said.
After several months of no road cycling though, it was OK by me.

Bilmo January 28, 2016 at 11:23 pm

Timing mats at the top of climbs etc is such a simple win. When I can track a friend in the London marathon among 20000 people easier than a pro bike race of 190 you know it is missing a trick.
As has been discussed on previous post change in the sport can be a good and bad thing but simple wins to improve coverage should be a no brainier.

RayG January 29, 2016 at 12:11 am

Never mind the TDU, that damn Paris-Roubaix has been finishing in the same place forever. Change is long over-due.


Chris January 29, 2016 at 8:54 am

Liege Bastogne Liege… Just a repetitive nightmare.

Bill Hostile January 29, 2016 at 6:28 pm
AshburnMike January 29, 2016 at 12:32 am

If the goal is to facilitate rider identification, why not just print the riders’ names on the back of the jersey? Would be a simpler step than permanent numbers (as you wouldn’t have to then cross-reference a roster linking names and numbers). CONTADOR printed at the top, and probably also at the bottom, of the jersey would remove all doubt about who it is that’s breaking Aru’s heart on the Mortirolo right now. Just about every other sport in the world does this very thing.

The Inner Ring January 29, 2016 at 9:20 am

Some teams do this but ID can be hard, it seems easier to spot a black number on a white background because the font is clearer and in more contrast.

Ideally tech means none of this will be necessary, soon we can glance down at our tablets on the Tour app while watching a race on TV and see where every rider is in real time. But until this happens it’s back to working out riders from clues like their sunglasses, shoes etc.

AJW January 31, 2016 at 11:31 am

Real time apps are no good for those of us in parts of the world where we have to record races and watch them later (while desperately trying to avoid hearing results). Getting up at 2am to watch live just isn’t feasible for a stage race when you have to function at work in the morning!

Bilmo January 29, 2016 at 9:25 am

Didn’t IAM try to have names last year and the UCI said no!
I wouldn’t want to jump on the easy target of criticising the UCI but that was just a stupid decision.

The Inner Ring January 29, 2016 at 9:55 am

IAM had them but in the wrong place, there are rules about having a clear “box” on the jersey for sponsors and IAM’s names crept into this. Team Stölting is one example having the names on the jerseys this year.

Cam January 29, 2016 at 1:10 am

“Australia’s Tour Down Under is older, dating from 1999, but also has this status anxiety too.”

This status anxiety sentiment seems somewhat dated; covering Qatar and TDU with the same brushstroke is also a leap, and I’d like to know what current information would support this statement.

Chris January 29, 2016 at 8:58 am

Current information: Adelaide is still not in Europe. Cycling is for and by Europeans. Road racing is in the European spring and summer (if your season was poor, race until autumn). The World Tour is for Europeans only.
Argument over.

The Inner Ring January 29, 2016 at 9:17 am

The TDU has come a long way, it’s only in the last few years that every one agrees it’s become a big race as early editions allowed a lot of the peloton to work on their tans during the day and a bottle of shiraz in the evening. If I write a preview or post-race wrap of this event people come along and question its place; I think that’s wrong but shows how it’s yet to convince people. Worth noting the Amstel Gold Race is still considered a spring classics upstart by some sniffy fans: the first edition was run in 1966.

RooBay January 29, 2016 at 1:26 am

Re timing mats at the top of climbs, they used this technology at the Florence road world championships a few years ago and it was great. Where did it go???

The Inner Ring January 29, 2016 at 9:27 am

It happens in other races, it’s used in the Worlds regularly.

AK January 29, 2016 at 1:47 am

Well if the manufacturers are finally increasing disc brake piston travel at the cost of some max power to reduce rub, that would be a welcome response to input from the pro communtity. Years of complaining by normal people on mountainbike forums and to shop mechanics has not helped much though. Shimano is already pretty good in this respect but some others like Avid/SRAM or Formula are a nightmare.
Re flex and wheel changes: were they not already using through axles? If not the fix is obvious.

Joe K. January 29, 2016 at 5:09 am

All the tech talk makes sense, both for and against, but seriously, what’s with the safety pins? Even if riders don’t get assigned a permanent number, surely a better solution can be found than pins and paper. Apparel makers should give it some thought…, zippers or those plastic fasteners found on cycling shoes perhaps.

DaveS January 29, 2016 at 6:46 am

Know what I would like to see gone? Podium girls. In 2016, isn’t this the biggest anachronism of all? The symbolism of the winning gladiator taking the spoils, including the beautiful women is just a bit silly now. Can’t we have something more fun like the motogp or F1 pantomime?

J Evans January 29, 2016 at 9:01 am

Please, yes. It’s embarrassing for all concerned.

Tommy B January 29, 2016 at 11:48 am

Spot on, Dave. The sooner, the better.

noel January 29, 2016 at 12:54 pm


Gold Leader January 29, 2016 at 1:46 pm


Alan T February 1, 2016 at 8:11 pm

Agreed but who wastes their time watching them in the first place!!

Idar January 29, 2016 at 8:47 am

As for the stuff mentioned that really should be elementary changes to TV production – particularly timing matts on strategic places – what continues to surprise me is the lack of innovation not only from the tour, giro or monuments, but from new, supposedly innovative races.

Take the three Norwegian races rising through the UCI-ranks, taking place in a country which really have one reference point and one reference point only when it comes to TV production: cross country skiing. In that sport, you’ve had timing on different places on the course since – I don’t know – the 80s? In fact, those timing points are the core of any cx skiing TV production, that’s were you have the cameras and that’s what the commentators are talking about.

Cycling has a lot more to offer in terms of ever-present (possibility of) action, but my point is that this technology is such a basic part of what’s considered a decent TV sport experience, that I really fail to understand how organizers have missed it. Instead my impression is that one looks to the tour de france and copies the minimum of distance to go/time gaps in the upper-left corner and a top 10 list some minutes after the finish.

Cilmeri January 29, 2016 at 9:49 am

As for timing chips / mats – I take the point made previously that this has been used in the worlds and other races, however have we got an issue as to where the chips go on the rider? Clearly they can change bikes often, so I’m not sold on the box that was trialled underneath the seat, so a tag on a helmet may be an option, or on the shoes, but again these can be changed following an accident / feeling uncomfortable.

Are these the considerations as to why they haven’t progressed with this, or is it more down to the conservatism etc.?

Larry T. January 29, 2016 at 10:14 am

All the claptrap about TECH. Lots of whining about how “other sports have X and Y” One of the great things about cycling to me is the fact that it’s so low-tech you actually have to pedal the thing with your own legs. Otherwise it just sits there. Two-wheeled sport has a lot of tech, it’s called MOTOGP and ask the guys racing those things how much they’d like most of the tech eliminated (electronic rider aids, etc.) or watch the best tech on four-wheels….F1, where the drivers would prefer to have a lot of tech done away with as well. There’s too much “tech” out there already, must cycling become a victim of it as well? In too many ways I think it already has – disky brakes, battery-operated shifting, power meters, etc. while the growing interest in EROICA-type events proves that not everyone is enthralled with the idea.

J Evans January 29, 2016 at 10:31 am

But why have a number on the front of each rider’s helmet and jersey when you can spend oodles of cash developing something much more flashy (which might occasionally not work)?

J Evans January 29, 2016 at 11:27 am

For ‘number’, read letter – as inrng suggests – a three-letter code gives over 18,000 options. A bit more unwieldy than the tech solution of the names automatically coming up, but in the absence of that, a major and very simple improvement on the current situation.

gabriele January 29, 2016 at 11:44 am

As always, great piece, but a couple of details should be made straight… all in the third paragraph 😉

I don’t know about Marseille, but Spain is enjoying in the last two or three years a neverending series of record-breaking numbers in terms of international tourism. Baleares sits regularly on the podium of the top regions, switching 2nd or 3rd spot with Canary Islands, depending on the months considered, and Mallorca is the main destination within the archipelago (about 70%). About 10 millions international tourists for an area of less than 5,000 square kms with about 1m inhabitants is what I’d indeed call “a big draw” but perhaps I didn’t get the idiom right.
However – whether you consider that big or not – what’s maybe even more important is that the mass tourism is in fact growing, as the breaking of some historical records shows.
What’s curious is that probably this is happening *precisely because* Middle-East and the North of Africa aren’t in their best moment ever when tourism is concerned, not thanks to any particular effort by the Spanish government or economic system.
That said, it’s true that cycling was great for Mallorca, but it’s not that much about the numbers of visitors (which were raised by the cycling boom but not that significantly, when compared to the general numbers the island attracts): it’s more about the time of the season… most hotels and restaurants simply decided to stay closed until April – even if some tourists were around! – whereas now, even if the numbers produced by cycling aren’t huge in absolute terms, they’re more than enough to grant some profit. If they stay open, they need to have workers there… and since the workers are hired on a monthly basis, this means an impressive shift for many people there.

Another detail, but in this case you probably know better: the Tour Meditérranéen is back, even if it will be called “La Méditerranéenne” this year (if they succed in racing it as they’re planning), and the interesting thing is that it’s going to be a border-crossing race (a bit like Nice-Alassio), from Spain to Italy… it should be four stages long, on Feb 11-14. Hoping that Schengen resists until then! Jokes apart, that was the last I heard, I don’t know if it was cancelled or something in the while, you might be more informed than I am, since France is “your territory”.

Nick January 29, 2016 at 2:01 pm

I think perhaps M/Mme/Mlle Ring’s point was that the bike races don’t have much of an impact on tourism in Mallorca, compared with people going there anyway/because it’s a nice place to ride?

gabriele January 29, 2016 at 2:44 pm

Dunno, perhaps I didn’t get it, but reading it again I think it’s about Mediterranean tourism…
“Once upon a time these races sold sunshine to northern Europeans but the advent of low cost aviation means many fly over Majorca or Marseille on their way to destinations like Turkey or Morocco”. I think that we’re speaking of the promotional value of the races for general tourism, because Turkey or Morocco, especially in this time of the year, means we’re speaking of conventional tourism, thus I put the following “Majorca isn’t a big draw for mass tourism, INSTEAD every village and town echoes with the click-clack of cleated feet as thousands of cyclists etc.” in the same context.
I kind of interpreted the paragraph like: “these were typical touristic venues, hence the races lived on as a way to promote touristic places, but now people go elsewhere… still, luckily for Mallorca, there’s training tourism (and a little race along that); at the end of the day, people for now wouldn’t go training in the Gulf. Besides, big money brought the pros there, but the spectators are missing”.
I think that maybe inrng was thinking about past periods when Majorca, or Marseille, could also be a winter destination for a different kind of “playa tourism”… but it’s really another epoch and the numbers, at least in Spain, never were about “masses”. And a lot of social change is involved (different kind of people making tourism, different concept of tourism more akin to “travel” or “seasonal stay”, different distribution of “vacations” or whatever they were).

BC January 29, 2016 at 1:08 pm

Gabriele. The Tour Mediterraneen in its final years of endless wandering along the coast also tried the ‘across border’ junket by venturing into Italy for a stage in search of additional sponsorship. The effort met with little success. Lets hope the race in its new incarnation is more successful in crossing the Spanish border.

gabriele January 29, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Nice info, I didn’t notice. It’s a race which is going to die or struggle anyway, no doubt, unless they find a whole different formula. As inrng points out, it kind of lost its original function and, therefore, economic sense, no matter how much we might regret it. My point was just that it looks like it’s currently “exstinguishing”… not yet “extinct” 🙂

It find it quite interesting to see what sort of new possibilities these struggling races go exploring because, attempt after attempt, some of them might also find the right combination of factors to live on, and other minor races could copy them and exploit “the trick”, to say so. For example, in Italy it looks like that concentrating groups of nearby races in a spot of the calendar to create sort of a “block” (à la Spring classics) has helped a lot of them. Before being forced to do so, everyone was just fighting to keep its original date, whatever the price in terms of quality participation. (Just to make an example).
Despite your interesting observation and the occasional visit of a stage race to another country, te international aspect hasn’t been really explored, either, but in present Europe – if Europe itself is living on as such – it could be an interesting idea, perhaps with a stronger connection to amateur cycling and tourism. Thematic routes and the likes.

The Inner Ring January 29, 2016 at 2:32 pm

The new Tour Med is a different race, or at least it promises to be. I think everyone is watching to see if it can be run properly and then if they pay the prize money out on time. If not then people will not go back.

BC January 29, 2016 at 3:28 pm

An interesting comparison with the Tour Mediterraneen is the long running Tour de Haut Var, organized in a similar area. It lost its way ten or so years ago and was reduced to a one day race. New organizers have rejuvenated the event and bought in several new long term sponsors. The race has proved both popular and demanding. It can be done. A lot is down to the organizational ability and commitment of the those involved. As a side issue. The previous well known ex professional organizer of the Mediterraneen, also had a sportive in his name. The French police eventually stopped the running of this event because of its poor organization !

gabriele January 29, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Thanks a lot, it’s always interesting to receive more specific info on a subject. It’s true that they identify themselves as a brand new race, but the name and the calendar position suggest some sort of ideal continuity – not in malpractice, hopefully!

The race’s website is still rather poor, less than two weeks away from the race. This is a typical weak point for Italian organisers, too, and an aspect about which people really need to step up. I know it can be expensive, but nowadays you’ve also got a lot of freeware new tools to draw a decent sketch of the course, to start with…

gus c January 29, 2016 at 2:30 pm

you mentioned technology and included disc brakes, but no mention of wireless shifting? that’ll make more of a positive contribution to frame making and design that disc brakes will. Drool-worthy looks and flawless performance that far supersede the extra work and ok-performance of disc brakes. For drool worthy, pls check this out.

Tim January 29, 2016 at 6:42 pm

I get why the sport hasn’t yet moved to season long numbers, even if it’s a better idea, but why does the paper number persist? Yes, there’s a sponsor’s name at the bottom, etc.

But given advances in printing tech and custom jerseys for certain riders, you’d think that one of the teams would just print the jersey with the number on it (with whatever sponsor happens to be on the paper #). Movistar took this idea halfway, but putting in a blank space on the jersey where the # goes; but is there anything stopping a team from printing the # on the jersey?

With the search for marginal gains, you’d think a team like Sky would have thought this up already, especially when they already know that Froome will sport #1 on his back.

Tim January 29, 2016 at 6:44 pm

What I mean is take whatever graphics, etc that show up on the paper, and transfer those graphics, exactly as shown, directly onto the jersey itself. That way you don’t have any un-aero papers flapping around, or you can save a few grams, etc.

rbnyc January 29, 2016 at 7:27 pm

I never understood why the pro racers do not have numbers printed on their jerseys. In most every other sport, the player has a jersey with a number and typically their name printed. It would be simple enough to have numbers for each racer assigned, either annually based on where the team ranked in the prior year’s standings, or simply on a life-time basis. Fans of NBA basketball want to wear a LeBron 23 jersey. Why wouldn’t fans of Chris Froome want to wear a replica Froome SKY1 kit? It would certainly make it easier to identify racers in the field both for spectators at events and on TV.

Alan T February 1, 2016 at 9:07 pm

I think the real problem, but it’s not really a problem of course, is that in most sports you have 2 teams, in cycling you can have up to 22. Plus the final roster of all teams at all levels, and remember they can all race against some of the rest at some point in the season, isn’t made until quite late so that would give the manufacturers a short window in which to produce everything. So maybe it’s more of a logistics problem than a tech one.

Plus personally I think it’s quite fun to guess who it is. Use their size or style or tactics to work it out and nearly always do better than the commentators, who are usually pretty sh*t after all. What we really need are better commentators!!

Hayden January 30, 2016 at 2:49 am

‘Cycling is for and by Europeans’ Chris? That’s like saying that Aviation is for and by Americans… We live in a global world where no one culture owns a sport…

John Cowley January 30, 2016 at 9:51 am

Just a quickie – am I the only one who thinks that another overdue change would be stopping the use of podium girls. Watching women’s racing got me wondering about their equivalent and feeling uncomfortable about all the option I came up with. Naturally, this now leaves me unhappy about this casual sexism in mens’ racing. An outright ban is proably a heavy-handed and counterproductive tactic, but is there a way to lean on race organiser and point out how daft it makes them look?

Hayden January 30, 2016 at 10:14 am

I can’t really see the point in permanent rider numbers, they are nearly illegible on TV anyway. I actually prefer the team and rider numbers to change with every race as (correct me if I’m wrong) the numbering does follow a ‘seeding’ practice. Rider number 1 is the team leader/favourite in the strongest team. Rider number 11 is the leader of the second strongest team and so on… Makes for a quick explanation to those not fully familiar with the sport.

On the subject of radio tagging or gps positioning, this is way overdue. I can watch the Melbourne Cup horse race and see floating bubbles over each horse with the horse’s name while the race is in motion. Should be easily doable in a bike race and would allow for great viewing in a bunch sprint or on a wide angle ascent up a mountain pass…

Richard S January 30, 2016 at 10:32 am

The amount of times I watch a bike race and either I or the commentators can’t recognise a rider happens about never. You seem to spend a lot of time worrying about piffling things instead of enjoying the racing. Whether riders fasten their numbers on with string or have them lazered on I couldn’t care less. I also don’t see how the type of brakes the riders use effects on your enjoyment?

J Evans January 30, 2016 at 10:43 am

For me, it happens most frequently when watching a race from near the beginning: riders are pinging off the front in groups and no-one knows who they are. It would make it more interesting for me if I knew who they were and thus how much of a threat they are, etc.

Larry T. January 30, 2016 at 1:13 pm

+1 Perhaps I should appoint you as my official spokesperson? Then I can just +1 whatever you post. I pay little attention to other sports, but can I assume there’s plenty of “let’s fix this thing that’s not really broken” mentality on those forums as well? I keep thinking of the old saying “reinventing the wheel” which is all-too-true it seems.

Idar January 30, 2016 at 1:52 pm

Considering small changes to TV production – such as a list of riders’ position over the top of a climb rolling across the bottom of the screen, or permanent numbers/letter combinations/names. It’s such a minor feature, that would make the TV experience a little bit better for many people and not significantly worse in any imaginable way for others.

I can see why you would wan’t to resist bigger changes though. Anyway, at least on the channels I watch the worst imaginable feature has allready arrived: 1/3 of the screen occupyed by Twitter messages.

J Evans January 30, 2016 at 6:52 pm

Idar, your last sentence is why I’m generally resistant to change in televised cycling – I just want to see the race and you don’t know where they’ll stop (the Tour of California was already pretty bad).
Have you tried illegal internet feeds? – steephill, procyclinglive, etc.

Vince January 31, 2016 at 12:37 am

My bet is that pin on numbers will still be in use long after football refs stop timing matches with thier wrist watches.

Alan T February 1, 2016 at 9:34 pm

A basketball style countdown in the Premiership would be odd to say the least although it wouldn’t be difficult to implement at that level. The problem is it has to be applicable to every level and that is also the problem in cycling with teams of different levels competing against each other at different times of the season. Sometimes the simplest solution is really the best and so I expect both solutions to continue for some time to come.

Vince February 2, 2016 at 7:13 am

I was joking when I wrote that, but thinking about it a bit more, I realized that all of the soccer matches I played in during my school years were timed from the sidelines. And I spent a lot of my bike racing time in regions where riders were issued a number at the start of the season and used in in all events. Not only did the season numbers save a lot of time in the registation process, they were handy if categories got mixed. You knew right away who was skilled and who to avoid as the numbers were color coded or in category sequence.

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