The Tokyo Olympics courses are out and if it’s for 2020 it’s hardly 50/50 with the men’s course taking in more climbs, including skirting around Mount Fuji which could provide the image of the games… if the weather is clear. But for now the look isn’t good with the women’s course skipping these climbs and the peloton will be half the size of the men’s race too.
Why not start the women’s race further outside Tokyo? This would allow the race to include the climbs and skip the flat procession out of the city. Here’s the UCI’s own press release:
For the first 80km, both male and female riders will ride through the mostly flat outskirts of Tokyo’s metropolitan area until reaching Doushi [sic] Road,which marks the start of a long, steady climb with an elevation gain of more than 1000m. This section features an array of windy roads that snake their way alongside picturesque streams and pass through several small Japanese villages and dense forests
- Update Friday PM: why are the courses different? Because the start had to be in Tokyo at the insistence of the local committee as guessed above; and with the finish fixed in the Fuji speedway there were few alternatives. Apparently the 2020 women’s course still has more climbing metres than Rio 2016 (and the Innsbruck worlds this year) and the course can’t be longer because the UCI rules cap the limit and the men’s race is shorter than the prescribed distance because of the likely heat and humidity.
André Greipel won’t be in contention for Tokyo but he’ll still be in the peloton come 2020. The surprise transfer news so far, he’s signed with Fortuneo-Samsic. He’s not taking any of his sprint train with him, apparently just his preferred soigneur comes with him. It’s an unusual move but he gets a two year deal when others were proposing one year. It’s a coup for the French team and they need a sprinter so much because the team has only just one victory this year.
Greipel may not be the only big signing for the Pro Conti teams. As ever there are four wildcard invitations for the Tour de France and double that number of teams vying for an invitation. Hiring a star rider is a good way to get on the start line, indeed while the big teams may bring in a leader or a lieutenant, for these smaller teams one hire can change their entire season and situation although it can also consume a quarter or even a third of their budget too. Wanty-Groupe Gobert have renewed the contract of Guillaume Martin which they hope will help, also citing that they’re a Belgian team and the race starts in Brussels next year but the phrase about “patriotism being the last refuge” comes to mind: they need another rider rather than a flag. Vital Concept are supposed to be getting a co-sponsor which will be unveiled soon and this will allow the new French squad to recruit some bigger names, they need to given their lack of results. They’ve signed Pierre Rolland but he’s hardly stardust these days.
One thing to watch is the BMC team, to become CCC next year. It’s not a merger between the BMC team and the CCC team. It almost needs to be because there’s a stampede to exit. So far Rohan Dennis, Damiano Caruso, Dylan Teuns, Tejay van Garderen, Alberto Bettiol, Danilo Wyss, Stefan Küng and Loic Vliegen are moving to other teams and Simon Gerrans is retiring and more exits are rumoured, eg Richie Porte, all presumably signing elsewhere while the team’s future was uncertain. It’s quite an exodus – half the riders in the picture above are going – but the team will hold a valid World Tour licence for next year… as long as they recruit enough riders to meet the admin criteria, including the minimum of 23 riders. For all the gossip about making an offer for Geraint Thomas they just need some plain riders to make up the numbers first.
Talking of looking lightweight, the UCI’s minimum weight rule is set to change soon with debate on just where the level will be set. It’s currently 6.8kg and sees many bikes “weighed down” by power meters, deeper section wheels and even bike computers and on-board cameras screwed into their brackets to add weight to meet the limit and still many mechanics drop old chains down the seat tube to add more weight. The problem is where to draw the new line, as French bike tech website Matosvélo reports if the level is set low then many current disc-brake equipped bikes would suddenly relatively heavy compared the light bikes that could be used on a mountain stage and the industry is lobbying to avoid this gap.
Staying with the UCI, David Lappartient’s comments about rejigging the sport seem to have been extrapolated beyond reason by some sections of the media, as if his thinking aloud was going to become policy. He does need to be more measured in his interviews but remember he stood on a manifesto with six topics (PDF), one of which was improving professional cycling and this section included a pledge, screengrabbed above, to launch a task force to review the sport’s attractiveness.
For all the talk about trying to counter the dominance of Team Sky, what if Wall Street rather than Aigle does this? The team’s principal sponsor, Sky, is the subject of takeovers in London and New York. US telecoms and media company Comcast is battling 21st Century Fox to takeover Sky on the London Stock Exchange. Meanwhile Disney is trying to acquire 21st Century Fox too. So we have two ultimate scenarios: Comcast owns Sky or Disney owns Sky. In both cases a slew of media reports say James Murdoch, the biggest backer of the pro team, is leaving. It’s not curtains for the team’s sponsorship, it’s possible the new corporate owners commit to the team and the team is bound to have other blue chip sponsors interested but a story to watch.
Sky may have Egan Bernal but according to cyclingnews.com Ivan Sosa – pictured, via the Bottechia bikes website – is going to Trek-Segafredo. 10 months younger than Bernal, he almost pipped Miguel Angel Lopez on the Picon Blanco summit finish of the Vuelta a Burgos yesterday but got muscled out on the final corner. The similarities are striking given the age, the nationality, the prodigious results, the contract with Androni and the move up to the World Tour… but Sosa is more of a pure climber according to Androni chief Gianni Savio. One more difference is Bernal has already won the Tour de l’Avenir while Sosa hasn’t but this could be a matter of time as the U23 stage race starts in a week’s time and Sosa is due to start. Given Astana and Sky struggled to contain him, good luck to the assembled U23 squads when the race reaches the Alps.