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Tuesday Shorts

A look at a few stories in and around the sport…

Mario Cipollini has used his Instagram account to call on Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini to help launch an Italian World Tour team and the post got copy-pasted written up in La Gazzetta Dello Sport too. “Cipo” has a point because Italy has a grand tour, it has the most riders in the World Tour this year, it has plenty of tifosi… but it doesn’t have a team in the World Tour. He talks of a fuga di gambe, of the best “legs” fleeing abroad. But the solution may not be with strongman politicians with a predilections for police uniforms and national projects. Alone the economics are difficult if you’re forced to recruit domestic riders only, a team that needs a mountain lieutenant or a sprint lead out could pay well into six figures when shopping around the world for this, only buy Italian and the rider can name their price. Once upon a time teams were national matters, French teams hired French and so on but things have changed, typically a third of more of the roster of a World Tour team is foreign.

Italian cycling’s problems run deeper than the lack of a World Tour team. Their Pro Conti teams are not very strong either. Androni-Sidermec, Bardiani-CSF, Nippo-Vini Fantini and Neri-Selle Italia-KTM exist pretty much to get a wildcard in the Giro and can sometimes play the gadfly but they’re far from the likes of Cofidis, Direct Energie, Israel Academy, Vital Concept-B&B and Wanty-Groupe Gobert. The Italian teams do what they can and have supplied riders onto the World Tour but the 2020 UCI reforms will entrench this even further when the two top teams outside the World Tour will get an automatic invitation to the Giro. Cofidis have both the budget and the ambitions – they have business in Italy – to take up the invitation meaning just three places are left, effectively squeezing out the Italian Pro Conti teams. The problem for Cipollini and Italian pro cycling is deeper than a lack of World Tour representation.

Now to another home of cycling that’s got problems. The GP de Plouay-Bretagne Classic was off and now it’s on. The one day World Race in August was briefly going to be abandoned said after France Télévisions said they’d drop live coverage of the race, and race director ean-Yves Tranvaux said that without the live, national TV coverage the race would lose its World Tour status and event sponsors would flee. It didn’t look fatal – the race wasn’t deleted from the calendar here – and indeed things have been sorted, the TV coverage is now guaranteed – for now – so the race will happen. So back to where we started? Sadly no, because it shows a weak event dependent on decisions from a third party (this holds true for races around the world which rely on TV coverage, police approval or other guarantees). Sponsors may think twice and it doesn’t help the image of race.

Staying in France the race among three teams (Arkea-Samsic, Direct Energie, Vital Concept) for a Tour de France wildcard is becoming a thing in itself. L’Equipe devoted a large article with each of the teams saying they just want to race and that they won’t try to mark each other out of contention but the premise of the piece was the importance of an invitation. Like it or not every success or failure is being seen in the optics of an invite to the Tour de France and it’s bound to affect the outcome of a race or two. Paris-Nice is likely to be the decider with a decision taken in the weeks after says Tour de France directeur Christian Prudhomme in an interview with Eurosport France.

Prudhomme’s video interview is interesting, a 50 minutes session that covers plenty. It’s noticeable how often his childhood memories are cited and appear to shape his conception of the Tour and the sport as a whole. He does appear to state that there won’t be a women’s Tour de France on during the Tour, the logistics are too complicated he says, “we don’t know how to do it” (other media sources have him saying “it’s impossible” but this is in response to a question about whether a women’s race could open the road ahead of the men’s event, Prudomme says this would be impossible because the publicity caravan is there) and there’s no word on whether there could be an alternative in June or August.

There’s the Coupe de France as a season-long competition for the French one day races, there’s the Ciclismo Cup for Italian races – with a bonus wildcard for the Giro – and now Spain gets own version as a way of linking up all their races, both one day and stage races. It’s largely symbolic, there’s no wildcard prize but a means to add something extra to the races and also a good competition for Spain’s resurgent Pro Conti teams with Caja Rural, Burgos-BH and Euskadi Murias now on the scene.

As Rouleur editor Andy McGrath said on Twitter Deceunick-Quickstep managed to ecclipse the win of Alaphilippe, the promise of Remco Evenepoel and the feelgood return of Petr Vakoč with the negative coverage of Iljo Keisse’s dumb move. The Belgian rider apologised but team manager Patrick Lefevere powered down with an inflammatory interview. He’s done this before, often making outrageous interventions as a means to turn himself into the lightning conductor rather than leave his rider on the receiving end of the media. Amid all this what of Evenepoel? He’s only just turned 19 and you can’t help wonder if he’d not have been better off with a year or two in the U23 ranks, think of a development team that insists on parallel education at college or university. But of course who would turn down a giant contract at the age of 18?

Finally talking of age and contracts, following Richie Porte’s stage success in the Tour Down Under questions emerge about whether he can win a grand tour. Time will tell and at 34 years old there’s not much time left to tell. But here’s a thought: it’s the trying that counts, or rather pays. Announce yourself as a one week stage race specialist capable of picking off races like Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and the Tour of the Basque Country and you’re one of the very best riders in the peloton with a lot of respect from your peers and possibly a seven figure contract. But do all this and state you’ve got ambitions for a grand tour and you can parlay this into a much bigger salary. To be clear this isn’t to say Porte is bluffing, simply that the economics of the sport are skewed to the grand tours and riders, teams and sponsors revolve around them.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Larry T Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 2:05 pm

    “The Italian teams do what they can and have supplied riders onto the World Tour” The second half of this statement is quite an understatement IMHO, but why they don’t have WT teams with Italian sponsors is an interesting question, one unlikely to be solved by The Lion King and Italy’s current interior minister. I keep scratching my head at the latter’s constant demonizing of immigrants in a country where every day another mayor of another town or village on the verge of extinction offers free houses or apartments + stipends to anyone who will come and live there.
    I was thinking about the WT other day – if one discounts the autocrats/petrosheikhs, banks/insurance companies and rich guys who are in the WT for the fun of it that leaves just Bora, EF, Movistar, Dimension Data, Jumbo, Sky and Sunweb. Bora sells worldwide, so WT makes some sort of sense (and let’s not forget how much the Big-S puts in) and one could say the same about EF. Dimension Data can sell worldwide as can Sky and Sunweb. Jumbo’s investment is a bit of a stretch unless those supermarkets are more widespread than I know. Same with Movistar, do they do much outside of Spain?
    What company in Italy a) has this kind of budget b) would risk it in a sport with constant doping scandals c) has a product that sells in enough volume worldwide? If the Italian market is all they’re interested in they can bankroll teams at much lower levels from Androni or Bardiani to Zalf or Mastromarco. Those teams get plenty of exposure here in Italy via a pretty good sized calendar of racing.
    The blame for this IMHO should be laid upon “Heinie’s Folly” as the whole house of cards would collapse if the autocrats and rich guys decided to spend their monies elsewhere – and both categories include some rather mercurial characters who could come to the same conclusion Oleg Tinkov did awhile back. While some would say the answer is to make pro cycling’s WT more of a profitable business I’d say let’s just ditch the WT entirely and see what happens. It was a solution in search of a problem from the start.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 2:59 pm

      Segafredo are with Trek, there could be others interested too. Maybe what’s needed is a company boss who is a keen cyclist?

      • Larry T Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 3:51 pm

        Yes, I think that may be the only way. I left out Trek-Segafredo though Zanetti does seem interested in markets outside of Italy as they have espresso bars in plenty of airports outside of the country. But as a pure business promotion expense, unless you have a global outlook for your product or service, spending at the WT level is certainly little more than a vanity project. The reference to the daze when there were plenty of Italian sponsors at the top level simply illustrates the WT costs have grown way out of proportion to the promotional value for most Italian companies. Lower level teams deliver the exposure to the domestic market for far less.

        • YYCyclist Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 6:03 pm

          The obvious one is Luxotica. They are are already a big cycling sponsor through their various product lines and may have little interest brand recognition at the corporate level.

    • skiddley Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 6:04 pm

      Movistar is part of Telefonica o2 so quite a big multinational huge in S America too. I think Telefonica are now headquartered in UK.

      • Fred Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 7:01 pm

        Telefonica are headquartered in Madrid. The Movistar brand is used in Spain and LATAM, O2 in the UK and Germany. The jerseys also sport an “O2” logo.

        • skiddley Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 8:57 pm

          I stand corrected, its Telefonica uk ltd that headquarters in Slough. Its the O2 brands home

    • Anonymous Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 7:15 am

      Mapei, Fiat, Ray-Ban, Kinder, Nutella, Ferrero, De’Longhi, Lavazza, Benetton, Brembo plus numerous Italian global fashion brands. To name but a few.

      • Anonymous Saturday, 9 February 2019, 11:26 pm

        Kinder, Nutella, Ferrero are one company…and they don’t need advertising

        • Daniele Pedruzzi Sunday, 10 February 2019, 1:57 pm

          Ferrero is a Company, Nutella and Kinder are both brands belonging to Ferrero…

          • Anonymous Monday, 11 February 2019, 12:51 am

            …which is what I said, dude.

    • Richard S Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 11:11 am

      Do they need a worldwide market? The World Tour might be called the World Tour but it is primarily in Europe, with a couple of token gestures in the Arab states and Australia. I’m sure there are plenty of Italian companies who sell Europe wide. Even if they are primarily an Italian based affair. If they could get an Italian to win, or just contend for, the Giro then surely that would be worth its weight in gold. I cant be bothered doing any kind of research but Italy specialises in high end quality products of pretty much any description – clothes, cars, bikes, shoes, coffee, coffee machines etc etc – and must also have internal communications and energy providers that are creaming off a fair old wedge like everywhere else. Even if they just signed and Aru and Moscon and the domestiques were ‘foreign’.

    • Martijn Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 11:54 am

      “Jumbo’s investment is a bit of a stretch unless those supermarkets are more widespread than I know.”

      Cycling and skating (Jumbo-Visma is a combined cycling/skating team) are the some of the biggest sports in the Netherlands behind football in summer and winter, but much, much cheaper to sponsor. And they even get more hours on tv than football, since all important cycling and skating races are broadcast live on public television, whereas football is on channels one has to pay extra for.

      Add to that that sponsoring a football team from city A might lead to a boycott in cities B and C and cyclists and speed skaters in general have a much more positive public image than football players, who are often seen as arrogant (there is an element of racism to that, but that’s for another article) and sponsoring a cycling/speed skating team suddenly seems very logical, even for a supermarket chain that has only national interests.

      • BenW Friday, 8 February 2019, 11:58 am

        “Add to that that sponsoring a football team from city A might lead to a boycott in cities B and C ”

        Indeed, this was the case in Glasgow for many seasons since the 90s – Rangers and Celtic had the same sponsors because individual companies were so fearful of a boycott from fans of the other team that they were beginning to struggle to sign individual deals, so deceided it would be better to find someone to fund both. Things appear to have changed more recently, as both have Online Gambling firms on their chests now but I’m uncertain as to whether or not the two are linked.

  • Eros Polly Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 2:34 pm

    How things have changed in Italy over the years!
    In Cycling 4 December 1982 there was an article headlined “Italy will have 13 pro teams in 1983”
    In the article:
    “How is it that almost half of the professional cycling in the world depends on Italian firms?” then “… it is not difficult to put together £250,000 to build a team. With a little television exposure the sponsor is quite satisfied…”

    A different era altogether.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 3:01 pm

      It wasn’t that long ago that over half the teams in the Giro were Italian, take 2004 for example with long forgotten teams like Formaggi Pinzolo Fiavè.

      • Cd Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 10:57 pm

        Remember when teams had to register in San Marino because there were too many Italian teams.

    • Larry T Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 4:08 pm

      Plenty of those teams are still out there but now at the Continental level: Amore & Vita, Beltrami, Biesse, CT Friuli, D’Amico, Dimension Data, Giotti, Iseo, Meridiana, Sangemini and Colpack are there just below Bardiani, Androni, Nippo and Willier. Plenty of teams, races and riders but all at a much lower budget compared to WT.
      I say get rid of all the teams with no real interest in the Giro (or Tour, Paris-Roubaix, etc.) but have to show up according to WT rules and let the local organizers invite teams for whom a Giro appearance would be the highlight of their season! What was so wrong with the way it was in 1982?

  • Salsiccia Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 5:02 pm

    Larry T: “I say get rid of all the teams with no real interest in the Giro (or Tour, Paris-Roubaix, etc.) but have to show up according to WT rules and let the local organizers invite teams for whom a Giro appearance would be the highlight of their season!”

    Nice idea in principle, but of the World Tour teams, who would choose not to turn up at the Giro? Teams have had to tool up with someone for every race, so if they’re going there they’ll all have a goal (of sorts) in the Giro. And allowing World Tour teams to choose not to race the Giro would diminish it, as there’s not a cat in hell’s chance that teams would choose not to ride the Tour.

    • HMC Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 7:15 pm

      Surely fewer WT teams is the way forward. The cost is prohibitive, every year one or the other nearly goes bust, and there’s not enough sponsors to go round. Have – say – three less WT teams and 6 wildcards for each grand tour. If nothing else, the battle to get into the break each day would be spectacular!

    • Larry T Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 7:56 am

      I’m old enough to remember when La Corsa Rosa was far from popular with teams outside of Italy. I guess you are not? 🙂

  • R Löwenstein Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 5:47 pm

    Agree with Porte and his ambitions, he can win lots along the way and then aim for a result in the Tour, if he doesn’t work out he still collects. Look at others like Fuglsang, Bardet, Aru, Kruijswijk who are Giro-Tour candidates and will be salaried like this too but win little compared to Porte.

    • skiddley Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 6:12 pm

      Bardet and Kruijswijk and Aru have far superior GT records than Porte. Now that seems like a surprising thing to say but is pretty clear. Is Porte considered at GT candidate because he has won week long races or for some other reason. If I were looking at solely GT results he is not really a viable threat.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 6:13 pm

      Geraint Thomas is a good example, everyone said he should focus on classics like Paris-Roubaix but by doing the grand tours like the Giro and then in winning the Tour he’s become a millionaire many times over, not something many will replicate but illustrative because it shows how going for grand tours multiplies a salary compared to the spring classics. Riders know roughly what their peers are paid and agents know only too well. Only today Tiesj Benoot has stated his ambition one day is to make the podium in a grand tour.

      • Ecky Thump Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 10:30 pm

        Sagan must be the obvious exception to this rule?
        But surely other top Classics men like GVA, Boonen and Cancellara in the past?

        • Martijn Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 11:58 am

          Belgium is maybe a bit different, because the Tour is probably still the most important race, but after the spring classics are seen as much more important than even the Giro or Vuelta.

  • noel Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 6:14 pm

    I’d say Porte’s credentials are as good as Thomas’s… so you never know, one GT he may actually stay upright etc. Having said that his team isn’t as good so maybe it’s never quite going to happen… it just goes to show, you can look great leading Froome up Alpe d’Huez, but the pressure of actually having a team depend on you is a different kettle of fish entirely…

  • RQS Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 11:30 pm

    I feel I want to say “are we still talking about Ritchie Porte?” That’s probably a bit mean, and it is conceivable that in the next year or two he has the sort season where everything goes right for him, but it’ll eat my Inrng hat if he does.

    • Ecky Thump Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 7:31 am

      You can’t help but wonder if Geraint Thomas’ turnabout of fortune last year could have been Richie Porte, if he’d stayed at Team Sky?
      I’d always felt that there was a GT victory in Porte, and it just needed the stars to align and I think a (TdF) podium is still definitely attainable.

      • RQS Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 7:36 pm

        Yes. As I was writing my comment my mind couldn’t help but compare Porte to Thomas. It’s interesting as Thomas just bided his time. Gradually improved his one week racing and then got quite lucky (firstly Froome was exhausted after doing all three GTs, and then Froome crashed and got dropped early in the TdF). The same applies to Porte except the luck aspect (crashes and stupid decisions at critical moments) seem to be the difference.
        And I guess when a three week race is decided at sharp end by 2-3 mins (or 0.05% of total time) your luck needs to be in.
        Porte has consistently blown his chances both at Sky and BMC. His personal reputation in the peloton is that he’s a good guy and so you hope good things happen for him, but perhaps that’s the point, he needs to be ruthless to win, isn’t and doesn’t.

    • Larry T Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 8:00 am

      +1 No doubt it’s hard to turn down a fat paycheck as GC leader, but at some point (perhaps if Nibali goes to Trek next season?) Porte needs to return to his gregario lusso role and finish his career.

      • RQS Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 7:37 pm

        Agreed

      • MattF Thursday, 7 February 2019, 8:41 am

        I’m sure Ritchie, his manager and current team management are quite capable of working out when he ‘needs’ to return to his gregario lusso role. In the meantime he has earned his position within the sport, fully deserves whatever salary he is paid and is hopefully not too far away from proving his legion of doubters wrong.

    • Anonymous Saturday, 9 February 2019, 11:31 pm

      You can talk about Porte about if he will ever win a GT. My answer is a clear NO.
      But we can’t talk about Porte cause he won a stage in a race with not much international competition, the only ones on decent form mid January are NZ and Australians. Porte and other antipode guys shine there every January and it doesn’t mean anything.

  • Nick Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 1:03 am

    In terms of World Tour status, it does appear that the UCI is ignoring its own rules when calculating the ratings. For instance, Michael Valgren’s points seem to be allocated to Dimension Data, even though he gained them all while riding for Astana, and the rules indicate that they should count for Astana. And, for some reason, trade teams seem to be given the benefit of their riders’ performances for national teams, so Movistar get loads of points for Valverde’s WC win, etc.

    Anyway, in terms of promotion to the WT, the UCI seem to be doing their best to add an element of jeopardy by considering the new CCC WT team as a successor to the CCC pro-conti team, and not to BMC. That puts them in the same ball park as EF, Dimension Data, Katusha, Direct Energie and Cofidis in the current rankings.

    • DaveRides Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 4:27 am

      They aren’t ignoring their rules. A different calculation is used for team promotion/relegation which takes into account only the Full WorldTour races (i.e. not the second-tier optional WT races introduced a couple of years ago) and which allows each team to be considered on whichever is better of their former roster or their new roster.

      • Nick Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 9:57 am

        That’s not what rules 2.10.38 and 2.15.11a say. the 3 year ranking used for qualifying takes into account the individual World Rankings based on all UCI races, not just the World Tour rankings (otherwise a Pro Conti team couldn’t overtake a WT team), and is based on teams’ 10 best riders’ performances in the respective seasons. Where a rider transfers:

        “Points obtained until the date of the transfer, by a rider transferred during the season, are added to the points of the former team; points obtained from the date of the transfer, by a rider transferred during the season, are added to the points of the new team.”

        (Those rules were changed this year.)

        I suppose it could be different for riders who transfer *between* seasons, like Valgren, but that makes little sense, given that the rule also refers to resetting the points to zero at the start of each season.

        And I guess it’s entirely possible that the rankings they publish use a different basis from the ones that they will use to decide promotion/relegation.

  • Augie March Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 4:00 am

    I shouldn’t need to remind fellow readers here that Cadel Evans was 34 when he won the Tour de France, so Porte isn’t over the hill yet. Is he a favourite for this year? Probably not, but as we know cycling is about luck as well as the physical and psychological stuff – just look at all the great riders from Poulidor to Chiapucci to Purito who were always thereabouts but could never quite break through for a GT victory.

    • DaveRides Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 4:21 am

      The problem with Porte is what happens when he does get over the hill and the road points down.

      He has the worst bike handling skills seen at WT level for some time, and they are getting worse rather than improving. Don’t be surprised if you see domestiques trying to box him in to get him gapped off the back of the GC group when it comes to the top of the big passes in Europe this year.

      • J Evans Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 2:35 pm

        I expect there could be a scrum of riders jostling not to be the person directly behind Porte.
        If Porte hasn’t had lessons – like Pinot did – then he should: look at how much Froome’s descending improved (watch videos circa 2011/12 and wince).

  • DJW Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 8:04 am

    Iring describes the internationalising of what were previously national teams with a third or more of riders now being foreign. That is only partly true. For the two French WT teams strengthening is now international (Kung…), but it seems the principal role of the reinforcements is to address weakness and help national riders (Pinot and Bardet) win major races. A quick check also shows that they are recruiting largely experienced and proven foreign riders to support while the young recruits are French and to develop.

  • Ferdi Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 9:23 am

    One comment on Keisse’s macho gesture. Am I the only one to see an element of racial contempt in it (I know most Argentines are “caucasian”, but you see what I mean)? I don’t think the Flemish rider would have made the same gesture to a, say, Norwegian woman during the Tour of the Fjords.

    • Larry T Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 11:13 am

      Misogyny or racism – both symptoms of ignorance, so does it really matter?

    • J Evans Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 11:17 am

      Sagan did worse (if – a big ‘if’ – Keisse made no contact) – in Belgium – but apologised better. You might be right, but I’m not sure misogyny has much in the way of racial boundaries.
      Keisse and Lefevere come out of this looking like unapologetic misogynists – Keisse’s ‘apology’ was more denial than ‘sorry’ and Lefevere’s response was disgusting.
      The UCI should fine Keisse – the team already should have.

      • D Evans Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 1:28 pm

        Was Keisse’s apology so inadequate? The version I read (CyclingNews) seemed to be fairly thorough and sounded genuine; can’t say what he really thought, of course!

    • Richard S Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 11:23 am

      “Am I the only one to see an element of racial contempt in it”

      yes

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 11:29 am

      You may see things but this probably doesn’t tell us much about what Keisse thought he was doing. he’d have to answer that.

      • Barry Bazooka Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 2:36 pm

        1 He didn’t touch anybody
        2 There was a complaint with the police for sexual assault, they looked in to it, they didn’t charge him
        3 team gave him a fine, he apologised (imo sincere)
        4 a day later its a time trail
        5 after time trail organisation kicks him out

        Organisation needed to act at the same day, or before the next race day starts, not after
        They didn’t have the balls, they hoped police and team would punish him more, it didn’t happend and then they felt they needed to make a statement.

        It was stupid, not funny and he should have know beter, but he didn’t touch somebody.
        But if you google the name Keisse, al you see is sexual assault

        Just saying that if that is sexual assault…

        PC going mad

        • J Evans Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 2:45 pm

          ‘1 He didn’t touch anybody’ – none of us know that.
          Only Keisse and the woman know that.
          If he touched her it’s sexual assault – regardless of what your opinion is.
          (And there is no such thing as ‘PC’ – the term was invented by bigots looking to excuse their bigotry.)

          • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 2:51 pm

            I’d rather not have the trial of Keisse via blog comments please, it’s just leading to arguments that will get nowhere.

          • Ferdi Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 7:18 pm

            We know she says he did and that we have no reason not to believe it.

          • RQS Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 8:23 pm

            It’s stupid behaviour by a young man. I think we forget that sometimes. I don’t mean that as an exculpatory comment. What he did was wrong. But I was thinking of the Peter Sagan incident and you can sort of see why that’s happened.
            He a young man who has been put on a stage in an absurd ceremony where this woman wearing sexy clothing (it’s not modest, and it’s not formal wear) thrusts her bottom pretty much in his face. Bored, and under mild provocation (I’m not saying that the woman deserved it, but that if anyone sticks a bottom in your face it’s invasive) he chose to alleviate the situation by doing something which has been seen as funny.
            Sagan had a girlfriend at the time. He wasn’t looking to take advantage of the woman, and he wasn’t serious about his action for sure. Did it really harm the lady? No. Did it demean the lady? Yes, but the whole ceremony demeans both the her and the riders in a way.
            It was inadvisable to pinch her bottom, but I doubt he’s ever had etiquette lessons and minimal PR training, so it sort of feels inevitable that as a young man he would make that sort of mistake (or someone else) through boredom.
            If all of you can say that you didn’t do dumb things in your twenties I’m talking rubbish. But I bet most of you will have suffered the impetuosity of youth, made a decision which with hindsight lacked a wider perspective and didn’t make you look so good.
            The Keisse incident is a bad joke by him. The waitresses pose is a bit odd, maybe he didn’t want to do the photo, maybe he felt a bit odd doing a photo for someone who didn’t know what procycling was (she talks about disrespect and maybe he felt disrespected by posing for someone who knows nothing about his sacrifices for the sport). From the pose he pulls and from what she says I don’t think it really matters if there was contact, the gesture was the gesture – he certainly wasn’t trying to have sex with her, but he was having a laugh at her expense, and maybe did touch her bottom with his groin. It’d be pathetic if that warranted a criminal record though as it’s likely to have been fleeting. You and I have probably been the subject of worse on crammed public transport in an unwitting fashion by all concerned.
            Again, it lacks respect and good judgement, but there are worse things I have seen done on a bike which I think are more worthy of our outrage and morality.

  • J Evans Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 11:10 am

    A women’s grand tour would be better if it was completely separate from men’s racing – that way it’s less likely to be compared. (June and August are the obvious racing-light months.)
    I’d say that a completely different country from Fra/Ita/Esp would be ideal. Not only does this further separate women’s racing from men’s, but it would be THE big race in that country, rather than being thought of as ‘the women’s TdF/Giro/Vuelta’. Germany seems the obvious choice: plenty of support – which is also cynical about men’s racing – and mountains within easy reach. Britain’s another option – amongst many.

    • DaveRides Thursday, 7 February 2019, 3:58 am

      Germany has Thüringen Rundfahrt, which is a long established and very well respected women’s regional tour contested over seven stages. If the organisers found the appropriate partners, that could theoretically be expanded into a two week national tour (15 stages plus one rest/transfer day) with maybe 6 days in Thüringen each year and nine days in other areas of Germany/Austria/Switzerland.

      I don’t think the market is there to support a dramatic expansion of the Women’s Tour of Britain. The current race format is pretty good and fits well.

      If the women’s Tour of California could be extended to the same number of days as the men’s race and run successfully for a few years, a further expansion (potentially incorporating other Pacific Coast states) there could be possible. The big advantage there would be the timing – it could run on the same day as a major men’s race in Europe but would be on TV in the evening for European viewers so would not be a direct clash.

    • Ecky Thump Thursday, 7 February 2019, 5:01 am

      Never mind the lack of financial support, but is the level of the women’s teams strong enough to competitively sustain a three week grand tour?

      • J Evans Thursday, 7 February 2019, 9:47 am

        As DaveRides suggests, start with a two-week grand tour, see how it does, expand it if desirable.
        I’d watch a women’s GT in June and I’d choose that over Suisse and the Dauphine.
        Competition will only improve if you give it the races that allow it to do so. Without the races, one can always say ‘But there isn’t really the competition’.
        The US would be a better choice than Britain, which lacks mountains with roads going up them, but Germany is the obvious choice – that’s a large and largely untapped market.

  • Martijn Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 12:08 pm

    Patrick Lefevere is the Lance Armstrong of team managers: super successful, but we all know there was doping involved in a large percentage of the successes, and an extremely unlikable person who always goes for the jugular when anybody starts asking questions.

    • Larry T Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 3:24 pm

      I would nominate Dave Brailsford for that title rather than Lefevere.

      • RQS Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 9:42 pm

        +1 Larry. Lefevere is not the sociopath that Lance is, whereas I suspect Brailsford is….though it’s an unkind likeness whoever you apply it too.
        Lefevere probably garners “respect and affection” from his riders because he protects them, while appearing more odious to others because he’s willing to put himself out there to take the focus away from his riders.

        • DaveRides Thursday, 7 February 2019, 4:03 am

          Gianni Savio is comfortably the most sleazy manager of a current pro team, but he’s nowhere near those others in terms of success.

          Would that make him the Danilo DiLuca of team managers?

          • Larry T Thursday, 7 February 2019, 9:06 am

            Would you mind posting some evidence to back up your claim? I didn’t bother with Mr. Brailsford since most of his antics are pretty well known here. Mr. Savio is certainly one who likes to be in the spotlight, strutting around at the races and seemingly always in the photos when his team is involved in any photo-worthy and always willing to deliver a long-winded opinion on anything, but as to your charges I’d like to see some examples if you don’t mind.

          • RQS Thursday, 7 February 2019, 2:19 pm

            To be fair it’s easy to character assassinate these guys when they are responsible for trying to motivate their team, mollify sponsors, acting as advocate with officials, and generally stop things descending into chaos on small budgets and a wish. I don’t really envy them. From everything I’ve read about DS’s in cycling it’s a tough job and not one I’d like. The personalities try to juggle a lot. If you are one business merger away from having your budget removed and the team folding it can’t make you an easy person to live with.

  • Ronan Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 12:53 pm

    Is there really a case that going into U-23 would be good for Evenepoel’s development – contract or not? If you look at his results in the juniors and his initial results in the pro peloton, it’s hard to see what benefit he would derive from racing at U-23 level. In recent times both Mohoric and Sagan raced the WT as teenagers.

    Unless QS mismanage his workload and burn him out completely, surely he’ll develop best in an environment that challenges his limits rather than one where he wins 80% of the time (as he did at juniors last year).

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 1:05 pm

      I was more thinking of education and personal development rather than sporting objectives.

      • D Evans Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 1:23 pm

        A very important aspect – his career won’t last for ever, and he needs something to fall back on then; not everyone can move on to a DS rôle. If his career were to end early, for any reason, even more so.

      • MattF Thursday, 7 February 2019, 8:35 am

        But I’m not sure that the U23 ranks cater particularly well for education and personal development either. With some exceptions they’re just a means to an end.

        • not yoda Thursday, 7 February 2019, 3:22 pm

          In the context of education, local universities seem to be accomodating non full time students. The previous wonder child of belgium cycling, Tiesj Benoot, now 24, started with Lotto Soudal U23 then as stagiaire aged 19. The next year age 20 he was already in the senior/elite Lotto team. Just one year difference to Evenepoel who just turned 19. He has progressed in his university Applied Economic studies taking it slightly longer. http://www.sport.be/nl/xl/article.html?Article_ID=754141

  • Terence McMahon Thursday, 7 February 2019, 1:42 pm

    Cipo’s comments are interesting and he has a point, I doubt we’ll ever see an Italian Goverment or Rai backing such a project to get all the best pro cyclists Italy has to offer under one umbrella though. As the writer states, the riders could name their price simply because they are Italian. Forget patriotism when money is involved!

    I do think it would need to be a new venture, something like Mapei in the 90’s, I say “like Mapei” as Sassuolo clearly is the priority for them now (Interestingly though I remember reading Mapei fund the club with around 23 million euros per year, probably not too far off the cost of a top cycling team. But the team generate revenues of 90+million. Forget doing that in cycling).