Friday Shorts

Friday, 10 August 2018

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
Put another way the first 60km sound processional, even the proudest Tokyo denizen will admit that the race will look better on the flanks of Fuji-san than riding out through the suburbs so it’d be a double-win to skip the boring part of the course and, say, start in Doshi bringing some better terrain and scenery instead? Perhaps the Tokyo municipality insists on hosting the start?
Even so cycling seems to be one the last Olympic events with big differences by gender, the UCI’s qualification notes for road cycling (PDF) says the men’s field for the road race will have 130 riders… the women get 67 and that’s going to be very visible when the race reaches the finish on the wide track of the Fuji speedway.
  • 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.

Sam G August 10, 2018 at 12:14 pm

The UCI/IOC is a joke. All men’s and women’s races that at the Olympics or any other co-ran even should be equivalent in route and number of participants. Absoluteness no excuse not to do so.

Any person with an opinion that thinks women cant ride the same course as the man due to its difficulty should be hounded out of the sport.

Marsman August 10, 2018 at 1:57 pm

Why would you like Women’s bike racing to be exactly like the Men’s? Women’s bike racing is applauded for it’s attacking style. Embrace the difference, i would suggest.

CA August 10, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Marsman – EXACTLY! The current women’s peloton and races are exciting and have a lot of attacking. If you instantly change the women’s World’s Road Race race from 137km to 234km it will take 8 hours and have 5 finishers and will be boring as everyone will be saving themselves to survive until the finish.

I agree with equality, but there has to be steps taken to do it properly. Besides, why does equality mean they both do a longer race? I think equality is in opportunity and the UCI has mandated that the prize money be equal. The next step is to continue what Cookson was trying to do and develop women’s cycling FOR WHAT IT CURRENTLY IS – ie. attacking and exciting racing (moreso than some men’s races) and get it to a point where half the peloton doesn’t need a second job just to live. If they don’t have second jobs they’ll be able to train much more and therefore handle longer distances.

Currently half the women’s “pro” peloton barely qualifies as professional which is the real shame. Therefore, Cookson was right and steps by people in the women’s side of the sport need to promote their racing for being more exciting than the men’s and get real TV time and sponsorships so these athletes can ALL afford to train full-time. Then and ONLY then can you increase the race distances.

But, then again, why do you want the women racing 234km? As it stands, they have some great races and we all know that in an era when athletes are not fully on EPO, longer distance races produce some pretty pedestrian results. In contrast, the women’s Rio Olympics road race was so good, and I’ve loved reading about a bunch of Coryn Rivera’s wins over the last couple years. But you wouldn’t have these results and excitement if they were racing 200+ km.

Sam G August 10, 2018 at 4:31 pm

I agree that woman’s cycling is very attacking. However on a psychological level how can the viewing public, women competing or aspiring young female riders/athletes consider men and women equal until that have been given the opportunity to compete on an equivalent course.

Equality should come before exciting racing and viewing figures. It should be a basic right.

Watts August 10, 2018 at 7:10 pm

Do you mean equality in distance or equality in duration?

The 2016 Olympic road race was 241,5km with 3900m in elevation gain and it took the men 6h 10min to complete.
The race for the women was 141km long with 1600m in elevation gain and it took 3h 51min to complete.

The men raced at 39 km/h, the women raced at 36,5 km/h which would be slower if they raced 2 hours more and with more climbing relative to their distance.

So let’s say the women would take 7 hours to complete their road race. Is that what you mean by equality?

CA August 10, 2018 at 7:31 pm

Sam G – On a psychological level we are all responsible for how we interpret situations. For appearances’ sake is no reason to make women race 100k EXTRA!

As I said, making the women race longer doesn’t make it equal. Equality isn’t defined by a race distance. Decisions for the women’s side of the sport need to be made by those in power over women’s cycling. If they think it’ll produce a better or more interesting race then keep the distance at 135km.

But, isn’t it the opposite of equality if we force women to race the same distance as men just because the men do it?!? Women’s cycling needs to make it’s own decisions about what is the best race distance for them.

Shadow Yoshi August 10, 2018 at 8:18 pm

I think there are some valid points on both sides here. Why can’t the women have an entirely different course? Do they need to be racing the same course as the men? Probably not though some extra length would be nice (something in the 160-175 km range). I would think racing a unique course that doesn’t crib any elements from the men’s race would be better than taking the lesser features of the men’s course and putting them far from the finish.

Marsman August 10, 2018 at 9:43 pm

@Sam G: if you are so firm on the principle of equality, then you should also get rid of separate events for woman and man and let them race against each other. Which would mean the end of Women’s sport. Is that’s what you want?

Cthulhu August 11, 2018 at 10:36 am

If you haven’t noticed women/girls are Smart. They know they are physically different from Men. They will get it when they are or when they are not treated with the same respect.
For all this talk about equality most often equity is meant. And that means exact the opposite of making everything the same. I still think this picture is a fantastique example:
https://goo.gl/images/nqVbna

kim jong vaughters August 11, 2018 at 12:46 pm

@sam g

The equality women ask for is equality of perception. The problem with flatter, shorter courses for women is that people come along who say they aren’t doing the same as the men and so are worth less. Compare tennis with its 3 sets for women and 5 for men.

I see no reason here why both men and women couldn’t do the 137kms course. Riders still make their own race but they’ve both done the same course.

Igam Ogam August 11, 2018 at 8:37 am

Almost anyone who can ride a bike would get around this course.

I agree, the disparity between men and women’s racing is disappointing but making distances equal virtually guarantees tactically processional events that take more than half an hour longer than the men’s competition – already the longest event in the whole games.

Such a race is unlikely to be enthralling and not a great advertisement for women’s racing. It would also probably take time for the female peloton to adapt to theses longer distances and at the Olympics in particular it would further highlight the disparity between established countries riders and others who don’t compete at the highest levels.

A bigger field is needed but where will they come from and once more, how do you stop the race being a rout for mainly non-European riders.

Great if the Women’s race was 85-90% of the men’s distance with the same finalé but the rules mandating these standards have to be in place years beforehand and women’s racing has to be better developed too.

I hope it happens but am not holding my breath.

CA August 14, 2018 at 6:54 pm

Igam – HA! Not going to lie, the women’s course with 1000m of vertical and 137km still looks incredibly hard.

Please qualify the statement “almost anyone”. I think you’re way off base.

One of the most popular group rides in my city (Toronto) is roughly 90k with a couple hundred vertical metres of rolling hills. Then you hear from many people that doing the standard charity courses are really hard, even if you’re an active adult who was very athletic when younger.

Then my own example, an ex-racer who is doing my best to stay in some kind of shape although I have young kids at home. 2 months ago I did my old favourite nice and easy 2-hour pancake flat ride… well, I definitely would have struggled mightily with 137km and 1,000m vertical gain.

Even though the 1,000m is spread out, it is still vertical riding for 40km which is really hard. And then you add race pace to it, this course sounds very exciting. People need to take a step back and cool their jets, the women’s 2020 race looks very exciting to me. I’m glad they are “only” racing for 3/4 hours, it’ll make it more exciting than a 7/8 hour steady grind.

TourdeUtah August 14, 2018 at 6:12 pm

Do you have data to back this up ?

While I to feel the women’s course could be longer and a little climber, women’s courses in bike races ,golf, and even the number of sets in tennis is less

Gelato4bahamontes August 10, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Isn’t the sky issue more than sponsorship though? My understanding is that the team are owned by tour racing Ltd in which sky, the company, have an 85% stake. If sky, the company change hands this may have implications for tour racing and hence the team.

The Inner Ring August 10, 2018 at 12:47 pm

If it’s 85% Comcast or Disney they’ll sort this out pretty quickly because the new owners would have all the control. Previous copies of Sky’s accounts have shown a funding agreement in place for years ahead. This might exist to guarantee the team’s future for several years but the last set of accounts didn’t show this.

Gelato4bahamontes August 10, 2018 at 12:52 pm

Would a media company want to own 85% of a bike team and if not who would they sell it to?

The Inner Ring August 10, 2018 at 1:28 pm

There’s not much to own or sell, there are few assets: some old buses and vehicles, rider contracts that expire soon and a World Tour licence that isn’t worth much. It’s more for the current management, eg Brailsford, to find a new sponsor and keep the team on the road, it’s much more a collection of intangible things like networks, collective knowledge than anything that gets bought/sold.

weeclarky August 10, 2018 at 12:44 pm

The chicken and egg scenario for womens cycling continues — no-one puts up the money and the races because no-one will watch [apparently], and so on the few occasions people will watch there’s no proper race. It’s really frustrating — must be a nightmare for the people involved. It reminds me of squash players who scrabble around for money to fly to competitions, but if they played tennis they would have been millionaires.

For the weight rule, along with all the bike rules, it’s a shame they stifle innovation this way. It’s clear that bikes are now pretty optimised given the rules, but what would a bike look like now if we had the anything goes attitude of the 90s? It’s hard to imagine. Of course, more money would win more races without strict rules, but maybe they should gradually change the rules in a predictable way year on year so the gaps wouldn’t be so big between teams. For example, the weight rule could be reduced by, say, 500g per year and the rules about frame tube ratios etc gradually relaxed etc.

Lanterne_Verte August 10, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Personally I can’t see any good reason for making women’s races shorter and easier than men’s other than plain sexism. Worst case scenario the women might take an hour longer at elite level on a long ~250km course, if that’s a problem for limited tv coverage resources then time the races so that at least the final two hours of each race can be covered. If the consensus among the women’s peloton is for longer, harder races then they should be the ones to decide that, not have it imposed from above. Otherwise perhaps a UCI rule is needed that courses for elite men and women must be identical for a minimum of the final 100km of races. That would at least improve the situation. Start host grievances could be dealt with by creative course design, loops etc.

Chuffy August 10, 2018 at 1:51 pm

Just thinking out loud – if the Olympic women’s RR was the same length, is there the possibility that much of the field would be shelled out very early, given that it’s national teams and (I’m assuming) a greater disparity between the top riders and the rest of the field than there is in the men’s peloton? It could look a bit thin by the time you get to the latter part of the race.

Again – I’m not trying to argue a case, just wondering if there is more underlying this than ‘give ’em half’ sexism.

The Inner Ring August 10, 2018 at 1:58 pm

It’d be a big change to have the women doing 240km, the rest of their calendar is much shorter and it can make for livelier racing. Skipping the processional ride out of Tokyo seems a better fix, municipal pride is at stake but not much more.

Chuffy August 10, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Absolutely. I think course length is a bit of a red herring, it’s quality that matters more (along with equal prize money, tv coverage, proper stage races etc).

CA August 10, 2018 at 7:34 pm

I totally agree, as I said in a couple very long posts above, equality doesn’t mean women race the exact same distance as the men do, just because the men do it.

Equality is letting that side of the sport make it’s own decisions about what is best for the riders/race/viewership/etc. Let’s let women’s racing officials decide what is best.

Bird August 10, 2018 at 1:25 pm

That route looks made for Alaphillipe. Might have an early flutter

Gareth August 10, 2018 at 1:43 pm

I think the difference in the peloton size is more scandalous in the women’s event than the legnth of the race.

I find women’s racing often more interesting than the men’s. I dont know why it is, but I have a suspicion that some of it is to do with it watching the ride as a group for 4 hours with nothing happening.

Having said that they do seem to have gone today with the difference between the courses at this Olympics. Thy shouldw able to race is Fuji.

Andrew August 10, 2018 at 2:01 pm

Does the difference in field size and length of the Olympic races simply reflect the lack of strength in depth in women’s racing at the moment?

I know the Olympics is partly about giving people a chance to appear on a global stage, but it wouldn’t improve the race to invite 50 extra women who simply aren’t at the same level, or extend the route by another 100km and have a whole load more DNFs.

This is a difficult one to address until women’s racing attracts more sponsorship and can sustain a larger number of full-time athletes with the right support to compete against the best. Let’s hope the Olympic race, however small or short, is a good showcase and helps in that regard.

Chuffy August 10, 2018 at 2:18 pm

That’s pretty much what I was wondering – in particular noting the difference between an Olympic RR peloton and a professional race. If this was a trade team event it would be less of a potential issue. Putting the women’s RR race on a relatively boring/flat course is the real problem here.

Andy W August 12, 2018 at 1:27 am

I don’t agree at all with the strength in depth/quality reasoning. There are plenty of examples of endurance events where there’s a level of parity in terms of field sizes, distances and courses – most notably the marathon and triathlon (particularly iron-distance). Barely anyone will care or notice about riders getting shelled too early (when has this ever been an issue for the events above and who would notice anyway?) and, for a tough endurance event, there are plenty of countries where getting a rider to the start would create positive media coverage.

There’s an awful lot of oddly conservative comments: “it’ll be slower, longer, the depth isn’t there, the quality isn’t there, the quota system does the sport a disservice”. Guess we should just invite Jamaican/American sprinters, African distance runners, Australian/American swimmers etc to the Olympics? Why not just provide parity with the numbers in the men’s field, a route that takes in Mt. Fuji, let them race and see what happens?

z unblocked August 10, 2018 at 2:04 pm

(I’m going to assume that Ivan Sosa isn’t the guy on the right.)

There doesn’t seem to be the intense drive to progress the gender issue in cycling as much as in other sports. Cycling is crying out for its own Williams sisters I think. Additionally, I don’t think a handful of high-profile Colombian cyclists is enough for the sport to be able to call itself truly global. I don’t know if these are issues that Lappartient can influence, but maybe he could spend less time worrying about e.g. power meters and more time bringing the sport to a less narrow audience?

The more I read of Lappartient’s quotes, the more I think he would be more suited to working in the administration of amateur cycling and special wacky events. Yes Sky particularly have a too big budget, but crucially they also turn up with the strongest and best prepared GC rider to the TdF every year, and the UCI president would do well to acknowledge that occasionally.

Road racing is already the most unpredictable sport there is… a crash or a puncture can ruin months of preparation. Adding even more unpredictability will weaken the incentive for the best riders to train properly. I mean, why bother busting your guts in training when everything’s a lottery?

Anonymous August 10, 2018 at 3:07 pm

The Williams sisters! what a PIA they were, baseline weightlifters.

Pilgrim August 13, 2018 at 10:37 am

I can’t decide if this is racist, misogynistic, basic douchebaggery or a combination of the three.

Alastair S August 10, 2018 at 2:37 pm

Sorry for being off-topic but I recently learned (via The Cycling Podcast) that in that now notorious Lappartient interview Lappartient informed ASO/Tour head honcho Christian Prudhomme of the UCI’s decision on Froome’s salbutamol case before Prudhomme then applied to a French court to prevent Froome starting the Tour. If that is the case I find it both astonishing in its self and astonishing that more has’t be made of this information.

Can anyone confirm if this is the case? And if so then why is everyone ignoring it?

The Inner Ring August 10, 2018 at 2:40 pm

This was a misquote (like most of the English write-ups of his interview), instead he says he told ASO a verdict was imminent, but not the outcome. At this moment we know ASO had been in communication with Sky for weeks already about trying to stop Froome.

Alastair S August 10, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Thanks – that makes more sense now.

Anonymous August 11, 2018 at 2:08 pm

When the man’s own manifesto is full of tendentious nonsense about misuse of new technologies and fewer television viewers there is no need to whinge constantly about English misquotation of him.

The recent quotes and media reception finally have his measure. He is an opportunistic, over-confident little blowhard on the make.

SLO_cyclist August 10, 2018 at 3:05 pm

TT course…Tony Martin will again have something to complain about. Love it!:D

SLO_cyclist August 10, 2018 at 3:08 pm

On minimum weight rule…if it’s really for purposes of safety, let them decide on minimum weight of separate components of a bike. Frame separately, handlebar separately, rims separaely, etc. Let then the teams control for these rules on their own and have less checks and increase the penalties (for instance a time-based ban).

cd August 10, 2018 at 4:46 pm

This makes too much sense

The Inner Ring August 10, 2018 at 6:42 pm

It’s a good idea in that a small frame with a short seatpost, stem etc is going to be lighter and stronger than, everything else being equal, a big frame of the same weight. And smaller frames are weighed down even more by old chains. But it’s just easier for the UCI commissaire to weigh the bike as a whole rather than check every approved part.

The GCW / Strictly Amateur August 10, 2018 at 5:17 pm

Opinions for what people believe the new minimum weight limit should be & will be? 2 different ?’s.

5.8kg = 12.78lbs. seems unlikely, might be the lowest weight considered for changed rule. A bike which weighs 14 lbs or a little less should be acceptable.

6.3 kg / 13.9 lbs is about right on for the maximum minimum, I believe. That drops a little over 1 pound.

Feel like it must go down to at least 6.3 kg.

David August 10, 2018 at 5:40 pm

Is no-one else going to ask… What’s the deal with the chickens??

Foley August 10, 2018 at 6:35 pm

from @VitalConcept_CC on twitter

“Bryan Coquard visiting the HeadQuarter of @vital_agri, our main sponsor”

Maybe be a visual pun about a Coq in the henhouse?

The Inner Ring August 10, 2018 at 6:39 pm

Yes, Vital Concept sell farm equipment, feed supplies etc. Coquard’s nickname is Le Coq

Wayne August 10, 2018 at 5:49 pm

Do we know where any of the BMC exodus are going??

The Inner Ring August 10, 2018 at 6:40 pm

Sure, Rohan Dennis, Damiano Caruso, Dylan Teuns all to Bahrain-Meriday, Tejay van Garderen and Alberto Bettiol to EF Education First-Drapac, Danilo Wyss to Dimension Data, Stefan Küng to Groupama-FDJ and Loic Vliegen to Wanty-Groupe Gobert.

kim jong vaughters August 11, 2018 at 12:52 pm

No more BMC time trial dominance, it seems, now that their squad is going to the four winds.

Wayne August 10, 2018 at 5:53 pm

Also off-topic from the post but does anyone know what the hell is wrong with Urilch?! Why has he suddenly gone off the rails??

Bilmo August 10, 2018 at 6:04 pm

I dont think its that sudden, there was a good discussion on it in the cycling podcast this week.

Wayne August 10, 2018 at 6:14 pm

Not tuned in this week yet, but he’s just been arrested again for strangling a prostitute!

The Inner Ring August 10, 2018 at 6:41 pm

I left this out as this seems something about his personal life and not sport, I’m sure the tabloids will feast on this but hope he get helps.

Wayne August 10, 2018 at 6:50 pm

Good idea, just found it quite shocking and wondered what was behind it. Like u say hopefully he’ll get the help he needs

Anonymous August 10, 2018 at 6:53 pm

Thanks for this.

Thought it was confirmed that Porte is going to Trek?

And that Ford are likely to pick up sky if Disney aren’t interested?

I echo your sentiments hoping that Ullrich is helped. It’s sad to see.

Devastated to read about Adrien Costa.

RQS August 10, 2018 at 8:46 pm

The problem for me with the women’s pro-peloton is the disparity between top and bottom. There’s also very much a Dutch predominance in those that win. Statistically speaking that seems unlikely. It’s either training or ‘preparation’, and some of those girls have quite a timber to their voice. I’ll go one step further and say, for the record, that we know all about training the human body, techniques have not changed because we know all that we can.

I know some don’t like to hear these suspicions. It craps on their narrative, but if there is one thing that excels in women’s sport its testosterone. Making women more like men is the name of the game.

I wonder if those that are keen to promote women’s sport would be happy to do so if it means them dosing to be like men?

Given that WADA are not able to fully fund an anti-doping program for a single male professional sport, what hope is there for ensuring the same in women’s sport?

Barbarossa August 10, 2018 at 9:59 pm

Are there actual suspicions, or are you just blowing smoke based on “quite a timber” and a long stretch of dominance? Not a rhetorical question. I follow women’s cycling enough to know all the big names but not enough to keep up with polemica, so it could have passed me by.

Just seems like leaping to a conclusion. Not saying they’re all clean (I’d never make that assumption about any group of athletes, let alone cyclists), but it doesn’t seem unreasonable that a country with an incredibly strong cycling culture and infrastructure could have a cluster of talent that dominates road racing for a stretch, especially in a sport like women’s cycling where the professional infrastructure is so underdeveloped. I know Vos has the loftiest possible pedigree stretching back into childhood, let alone Juniors, U23, etc. Not as sure about the backgrounds of van der Breggen, van Vleuten, etc tho they seem to have long, sustained histories of winning with various trade teams aside from national team success.

Also if you’re gonna toss around allegations at least have the conviction to name names.

Anonymous August 10, 2018 at 10:12 pm

Wait till they do a full TDF, then you’ll witness some “timber”. Never mind though, at least the equality experts will be happy.

Anonymous August 11, 2018 at 3:53 pm

There is a long, long, decades long history of dutch cycling and doping, including some, who lost their life in this. It were the deaths of dutch and belgian young cyclists, dying in their sleep, that sadly helped a good bit to start antidoping in cycling. And the dutch cycling federation has a huge problem, like the british and polish one with governance, especially with bullying, harrassing, threatening, mobbing – and as we know and was often shown, bad governance, which is generally one, which is only interested in results and where money is solely linked to results are circumstances where doping, cheating and a lot of bad, sinister things flourishes. At least the dutch federation seems willing to do something against it and doesn‘t try too much to hide it away.

Women‘s cycling simply is more attacking and interactive, because it is less professional, which leaves more room for error and differences between the riders. And error opens room for racing instead of just riding to the finish. Their natural (or unnatural) ability plays a much bigger role than in men’s cycling, which has become, with a few exceptions of riders like Bardet, Nibali, Latour, who seem really to race to be happy and relatively unwilling to play „the game“ (may they be blessed) a peloton of men going to work, pedal relatively motionless until shortly before the finish, then produce the „race“ to the finish line so that pictures can be taken and then they clock out to go home. And the next day/week the same happens again with the same people just on a different road. It has become often meaningless, automatic and senseless. Heartless. It only comes alive a few times during the year on important occasions and occasions, where people think something can happen like Paris-Roubaix, de Ronde, the Tour.

The moment women‘s cycling gets as „professional“ as men‘s cycling it will stop being so interesting (professional is shorthand for „functioning in a way that is best for capitalism, not necessarily for human beings).

Barbarossa August 11, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Yeah I’m well aware of the doping history in Dutch men’s cycling, Dekkers etc. Was specifically asking about the women’s side – Jeannie Longo comes to mind, but I’ve never heard anything doping-related about this current group of Dutch women.

I’m not unsympathetic to arguments in general about what you refer to as “professional”, the current (albeit with long historical roots, always makes me think of Weber quoting Benjamin Franklin) obsession/focus on efficiency often at the cost of happiness, but in sport I don’t think it’s the worst thing. It’s also inevitable in sports, especially at the highest level where any advantage is sought out ruthlessly. If you think Coppi or Merckx or whoever would have foregone marginal gains or mountain trains were they available, in favor of more aesthetically pleasing panache or whatever, you’re wrong, They wanted to win, were obsessed with winning.

Either way, I agree the lack of professionalism in women’s cycling is a large factor, possibly the largest, in its attacking nature, but unfortunately it also means female cyclists struggle mightily to get reasonably paid, teams and races are in a constant state of flux of far more even than the men. You kind of can’t have stability without greater professionalism.

Anonymous August 12, 2018 at 7:54 pm

I do think you can have stability without „professionalism“. You can have it the very moment we finally come to our senses and let money not control us any longer (to put it in a shorthand, simple term, I don‘t mean this in an ideological, but in a very real way). Right now we never say no to money. We live in fear of money. But when we would grow/wake up and begin to define the rules and would rate ourselves higher than money, money/profit would have no choice than to work within these rules.

To me money has to work for us, has to work to make us more human and our humanity a better thing. But right now it is the other way around. We work for money (indeed, we are back to feudalism, we all work for a class of superrich people/companies, that in the end define our politics and way of life through the media they control and the money they use in lobbying) and in the course of that we lose ever more of our humanity. It is no coincidence, that in the time where capitalism is the only financial structure left on this earth we seem to be as close to a desaster like never before.

To show how artificial the way we appoint value to things is, I often like to say the following: People say smiling costs nothing and that you get no money for being nice. And they think this is a truth, a never changing reality. But it is not. It is simply a choice. Based on the way we do business. If I now say, that everybody smiling at me will get money from me, suddenly a smile is worth money. And if people earn money by smiling at me, before you can count to ten there will be other companies, that try to make money with being nice to others, too. And before you can count to 20 people will pay for that and will say „It is so great to get that boost every morning of someone smiling at me and telling me how nice I look! I don‘t know how I ever could live without it!“

The way we live now is also nothing more than a choice. Not one thing of that is an unchangeable truth or reality. The only unchangeable truth is, that if you don‘t regulate and shape profitmaking, it will destroy whatever there is. Because that is in it‘s nature. Because it is not interested in nurturing, survival or balance. It‘s only need is to get what it needs and if it can‘t get anything out of it any longer, it just moves on. It has the nature of a fire.

Davo August 10, 2018 at 11:10 pm

Are you confusing timbre and timber?

Steppings August 10, 2018 at 10:10 pm

Sad the loss of Armand de Las Cuevas. I thought this may have been mentioned sooner than now. Only 50 years of age. RIP Armand.

The Inner Ring August 10, 2018 at 11:15 pm

I’d recommend this for people wanting more on him http://sudgironde-cyclisme.e-monsite.com/pages/portraits/armand-de-las-cuevas-l-incompris.html

It’s a good interview even if the website is very vintage, bordering on impossible to read with dark grey ink on a black background. Even if the French language isn’t for everyone the pictures seem to say plenty, he looks troubled even when holding the winner’s bouquet or posing as the French junior champion.

Davo August 10, 2018 at 11:08 pm

Whilst it’s worth getting bent out of shape about the parcours for the women’s RR in Tokyo, surely the difference in qualification places is more pertinent. 65 places up for qualification (for heaven’s sake). The Netherlands alone could probably fill 50 of those.
INRNG, do you know who gets to decide these numbers, IOC, home nation, UCI, or a combination of all of them?
I can’t imagine there are too many women cyclists clamouring for same distance/elevation races but can we at least have a decent field of riders.

The Inner Ring August 10, 2018 at 11:12 pm

Click on the link and you can see the numbers per nation, it’s based on national rankings. I remember the last games and discussing this with one of the riders taking part about how it was great to see so many nations taking part and she was quick – a fraction of a second – to reply that it wasn’t great at all because it meant a lot of the field was made up of riders from around the world who had no chance while riders from strong nations were sitting at home because of the quota system and they happened to come from a country with several other picks. I can see what she meant even if the Olympics does have a feel of a global gathering.

Ecky Thump August 10, 2018 at 11:34 pm

That’s very much the M.O. of the Olympics though isn’t it?
It’s not a situation confined to the Women’s RR; take pretty much any of the American track sprint athletes. Whilst in recent years there has been more Caribbean and African direct competition, the strength of US sprinting is such that they could easily treble their quotas.

Ben August 11, 2018 at 1:05 am

In the 80s it used to be much easier at the Olympics than the worlds. The track sprint at the worlds would have 4 East Germans left by the semis. Come the olympics it was only 1rider per nation.

Men’s road cycling has evolved from over 400km and even 1200km races (Paris, Brest, Paris anyone) down to its current form, yet people still complain about the racing being stale. The Tdf just trialled a short stage in the hope of making the racing more watchable start to finish. Ladies racing is not constrained by this history and has taken the opportunity to keep the races shorter, and far more agressive and watchable from start to finish.

Equality does not require mindless identicality. It is disappointing that they cannot keep the iconic, photogenic route and selective climbs in the Olympic rr for the ladies. I’d vote for Inrng’s ladies’ rr option given the choice. Crowd location hardly disqualified the 2016 desert worlds from holding the road races miles from the nearest spectator.

Ecky Thump August 11, 2018 at 11:36 am

But this inequality argument in numbers / quality can be repeated across many sports at the Olympics. Perhaps not to the same obvious degree as the Women’s RR but the inclusion of ‘also-rans’ for a better term is very much a part of the games.
Eric the Eel, Eddie the Eagle etc etc. Every sport has / had them, to varying degrees, at some point.
It is part of the Olympic spirit.
Perhaps it’s more incumbent on women’s cycling to branch out and be more internationally-inclusive?

RonDe August 11, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Numerous Olympic sports have a “qualifying standard”. I don’t know if road cycling is also one but surely it wouldn’t be hard to say that the Olympic RR for men and women would be contested by, say, the best 130 in the world based in some recent ranking criteria REGARDLESS of where they come from. The Olympics should be about elite sport not some global jamboree and thanks for coming.

Ecky Thump August 11, 2018 at 6:04 pm

RonDe, you couldn’t have a Women’s RR with circa 50 Dutch riders in it though, could you?
That would be ridiculous.
If there’s not the international spread of quality athletes, then a much reduced quota of competitors is in keeping with the Games as a whole.

Anonymous August 12, 2018 at 1:25 am

Congratulations, Ronny got the point about what Olympics always were and always will be so completely wrong, so I’m sure now he’s just a 15 year old clueless basement living kid, who just likes to troll around the internet, for lack of a real life, and girls.

Anonymous August 12, 2018 at 10:51 am

Do you know at all what the olympic games are? Do you not know what is written in the olympic charta? Your complete disregard of things like knowledge, reason, respect and reality never ceases to amaze me – and that is not a good thing. I always think: „This must be the worst thing he ever wrote“-and then you go and top it!

RonDe August 13, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Don’t the proles get feisty when you run the flag of elite competition up the flagpole?!

I heartily apologise. Let’s all patronisingly clap Eric the Eel who can barely swim instead.

RonDe August 11, 2018 at 1:01 pm

As someone else has already mentioned, there was talk that Ford might be interested in Team Sky should the eventual buyers of Murdoch’s empire turn out to be uninterested in a cycling team. Sky already have a relationship with Ford, of course, as they supply their team vehicles and they’ve had two years in a row to roll out their Ford GT in Paris.

PS having been away I missed the “Tour-Giro double” post and comments are now closed there but on the subject of gaining multiple grand tour achievements in the same year it should be noted that Froome has got double podiums at grand tours for the last three years in a row now, including a double win last year. Not Giro-Tour, its true, be consecutive podiums are not beyond the very best.

j evans August 11, 2018 at 10:02 pm

Like most above, I’m repeatedly stunned by cycling’s 1930s attitudes. There is no reason, other than sexism, for the women’s races to be half the men’s. If men do 250km, women can do 200km, no problem.

PaulG August 11, 2018 at 11:22 pm

“I’m repeatedly stunned by cycling’s 1930s attitudes.”

I find this throughout Cycling….right down to Grass root level.

There are exceptions, of course. But Cycling seems to be run by 70+ year old men who have a very, traditional, I would say outdated, view on how clubs, regions, national and international should be run….and it does not fit in with how the World has evolved over the last 50/70 years.

I do love to ride my bike though….

George Vest August 11, 2018 at 11:43 pm

If the men can do 250km, so can the women. Athletics has proved that there’s no reason for men and women not to do the same endurance events.

StephenW August 13, 2018 at 12:38 am

Hi,
As usual, good article and comments. One note: You put a (sic) on the word Doushi in the quote from the UCI, but actually Doushi is the correct Romanization of the Japanese characters 道志.
Thanks,

The Inner Ring August 13, 2018 at 3:49 pm

Wouldn’t it be Dōshi in Rōmaji?

Stephen W August 14, 2018 at 1:01 am

Hi, It could be either, depending on the style of Romanization. Hepburn style would write it doushi (which is what the UCI used), but the revised Hepburn would use the macron. Most English writers would probably not know how to write vowels with macrons (including the UCI?), so I was taking the easy way out. Frankly, I prefer the use of macrons, like you. Anyway, enough of the joys of Japanese. I live in Yokohama and hope to test-ride the course this fall, once the nasty summer temperatures have died down. Not sure I can ride the whole route in one shot, however.

UHJ August 13, 2018 at 2:27 pm

On the Men/Women distance/race discussion, this is an interesting study. Would like to read the original but I don’t have access.
Alex H’s take on the paper: https://www.outsideonline.com/2333826/pro-cycling-men-race-longer-women-race-harder
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30080422

cthulhu August 13, 2018 at 9:57 pm

A few thoughts on the Olympics road races.

1. My first idea, too, was why not let the women ride the same finale, just start somewhere outskirts. Same imaginative answer, starting rights. As nicely as inrng put it, municipal pride. But I believe inrng was there before and might know, municipal pride is no small matter in Japan.

2. Does the womens’ race has to be for the same type of rider as the mens’? I mean if one course is for pure climbers, can’t the other be for say a classics rider or a sprinter type?

3. The length is set by the UCI, and the IOC/organisors have to comply with that. Surely it is debatable if womens’ races can’t be a bit longer, but they surely don’t need to be as long as the mens’. But that is something not the Olympic committee has to debate, but the UCI with riders, team owners and sponsors. Also increasing the length of the races significantly could open up the already big gaps in competitiveness in womens’ cycling a lot more.

4. I think the Olympic race is one of the few races where the women are treated most equally to the men. The glory achieved by winning this race is well respected by the general public and no lesser than winning the mens’. There is no difference in price money (if I’m informed correctly there is none, not counting the prices from the national federations). And all being on the biggest sporting stage there is. Ask a random person, can that person name you the winner of the Giro d’Italia Femminile? Probably not, but more likely that person would know who won the Tour de France. And just not talk about the price money.

5. Peloton size. I surely can understand the riders that are left at home because their competition is so though are unhappy when less skilled and/or talented riders can go to the biggest sporting stage and present themselves favourably and they cannot. But the Olympics are thought as an event for athletes from all nations. But allowing even more riders from the dominating nations would make, imo, the races even more predictable. It’s a bit like the race radio ban and powermeter ban. Sure it could it improve a bit but also backfire a lot…I think a bigger peloton size would be nice, but one has to be careful how to accomplish that, especially when the differences in strength as as big as the are in womens’ cycling at the moment.

6. Difficulty of the course. It has more climbing meters than the race in Rio and nobody complained about that one being to easy…i think that says more than those deceiving profiles. Especially if the nearly the half of the race is a “parade”. And yes the last “real” climb is miles away from the finish unlike the mens’ race, but refer to though #1.

7. On a second notion, the Olympics are not only for the athletes to present themselves to the world, but also for the sports. Especially in the host nation. And to develop/make (road) cycling more popular in Japan (which’s popularity has grown in recent years), I think these 60 odd km through suburban areas where probably many spectators with children will gather will do more for the popularity in Japan than giving the (hardcore) fans in Europe and the Anglo-Saxonian world an even harder race.

8. Also personally, I think it is quite cheap by some riders who saw there chances to drop a bit, because they think(?) the course is not as demanding as they hoped for, to call sexism. There are problems with gender equality in professional cycling, but these courses are not one of them.

Steven Choi August 14, 2018 at 12:01 pm

reading… it’s almost as if who (cyclists), when (1-2 yr contract under talks), where (teams disappearing, changing sponsors, rumors) are just as good as his performances in a year. In football probably different story.

TakeJackets August 14, 2018 at 12:35 pm

Re: Olympic RR Tokyo – the mens race doesn’t need to be so long and asking the women to ride 280km is setting them up for a slug fest, it will be bad enough with the mens race. Watching Olympic paint drying may be more exciting.

Martin D August 11, 2018 at 9:41 pm

@Cthulhu yes. Thank you.

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