Saturday Shorts

April and May were cloudy and wet across much of France and one consequence is that a lot of crops are slow to grow. A big problem for farmers and the nation’s giant agribusiness… but also minor headache for photographers in the Tour de France.

On day when nothing much happens in the race if the sun is shining a photographer is sure to sell a photo of the bunch rolling past a field of sunflowers. It’s the sort of image that will make the front page of a newspaper even if most of the readership aren’t following the race. Only the crop in many parts of France is still some way from flowering.

Swiss Timing
Talking of late bloomers, it was a surprise to see the Astana’s Frederik Kessiakoff beat Fabian Cancellara in the time trial stage of the Tour of Switzerland. But all the results were a mix, you look down the list and see Maxime Montfort in third place, Jérémy Roy in fourth and Robert Gesink in fifth. Gesink lost contact on the climb to Verbier so it’ll be interesting to see how he climbs in today’s stage with the finish in Arosa.

I was pleased to see Roy take fourth place. An interesting rider on and off the bike, he hasn’t been sure about selection for the Tour de France with FDJ-BigMat. You might remember him from last July getting in many breakaways including the stage in the Pyrenees won by Thor Hushovd. He won the most aggressive rider award for the race. But he also appeared to be one of the most thoughtful. He’s got an engineering degree and also wrote a daily diary for L’Equipe last summer which was informative and very well written. Selfishly I hope he rides the Tour just so I can read the diary.

Reports have said the Basque cycling team Euskadi-Euskaltel is going to be saved thanks to telecoms sponsor Euskaltel taking over the sponsorship of the team. But this morning L’Equipe reports that Festina could be making a return to the sport. The watch brand left the sport in disgrace after its team was exposed as running a vast organised doping programme for almost every rider on the squad but now it might return. We’ll see.

Euskaltel logo

Festina is Latin for hurry and the team could need the money fast than some thing. To cut a long story short Euskaltel did a deal with France’s main telecoms company, France Télécom but things went sour. France Télécom sued Euskaltel and won damages and a Basque court has ordered Euskaltel to pay €222 million in compensation to the French firm. This is a vast sum for the Basque telecoms company and if I can’t find the company’s balance sheet online it seems so big that you wonder if the firm can survive or at the least fund a cycling team Either way it is the subject of legal wrangling and Euskaltel is appealing the court’s decision.

Nike Dimples
US wheel manufacturer Zipp started using dimples on its rims. The small dimples are like a golf ball and the simplified theory is that it stops the air “sticking” to the object. Now Nike has come up with dimpled clothing for athletes in the Olympic games. If nothing this is great PR because many are publicising how Nike innovates and more. The Science of Sport blog has a good take on this and other clothing improvements like swimsuits (scroll down after the Armstrong bit).

UCI clothing regulations

But this isn’t legal in cycling. New moves by the UCI to regulate clothing forbids clothing like this. The slide above makes it clear. The full presentation was covered before on here.

Olympic Selections
Various nations are announcing their selections for the Olympic road race and time trial events. It’s an odd event. Not because it happens every four years and not even because it sees national teams in action. Instead it’s the squad size is so small and the rule that says anyone riding the time trial must also do the road race. A good TT rider will be invaluable for the road race because they can work as a team mate for the sprinter. But it means selectors are having to pick riders now with their eyes on the TT and the road race too. Plus there’s still a long time to go before the race.

Vélo Art
A quick mention of an art project which can be seen for real in Britain but also online. Andrew Conroy has photographed TV coverage of the Tour de France to recreate images from the race.

I’m always interested to see how artists view the Tour de France, from photographers standing in a field of sunflowers to Kraftwerk turning the sounds and rhythms of a race into music. There’s not much literature on cycling, we have plenty of sports books but few writers have written about cycling for fiction.

21 thoughts on “Saturday Shorts”

  1. The dimpled Nike TT speedsuit was one of the myths for him being so dominate in TTs over other GT contenders. Heavily pushed in the Science of Armstrong documentary that the Discovery Channel made.

  2. Impressive confidence to advertise an exhibition with out a single reference to or glimpse of the work in that video. I swerve between embracing the myths and metaphors of cycling to finding it a very pretentious take at times on what is essentially a bike ride.

  3. We always talk about how Festina “left the sport,” but is that a half-truth? It seems many race vehicles are festooned with a Festina plaque on the front, and Festina banners near finish lines seem to show they are still a sponsor. Is that right?

      • Festina are the official time keeper for the Tour de France, TD Suisse, Giro & Vuelta (and others) which means they pay big bucks to keep the time and to have their plaques on race vehicles banners etc. so they get lots of advertising.

  4. Well, those sunflowers became so prevalent throughout much of France and Europe about 15 years ago (I guess due to EU agricultural policies), and it keeps increasing, for biofuel production.
    In the old Merckx & Hinault days you’d see more vineyards.

  5. Ryder wore a skinsuit that clearly had a dimpled surface on the leading edge of his arms during the Giro TT:

    It’s clear the material, with its dimpled texture, was specifically chosen to “influence the performances of a rider such as reducing air resistance…” Why isn’t this skinsuit illegal under the “clothing material” rules above?

    Regarding the sunflowers, it reminds me of one of my favorite liggetisms – during Tour coverage (I think the ’85 Tour on CBS) there was a shot of riders relieving themselves during a stage, and Phil commented “Sunflowers? They grow well around here and now we know why”

      • Right, which is why the rule is absurd. If the fabric improved aerodynamics, then it’s illegal. If the manufacturer *said* it improved ventilation or comfort or odor-resistance, then is it legal? What about a “race-fit” jersey – is it ‘compression’ clothing or just a ‘snug fit’? This is all way too vague and wishy-washy. It just sounds like a power trip by the UCI to be able to dictate to the teams. Same thing with the stupid “saddles must be perfectly level” or “time trial handlebars must be perfectly horizontal.” There’s no valid reason other than the UCI wants to give themselves more power to tell others what they can and cannot do.

        • I can see where UCI may be trying to set “level playing field” if that is ever possible. I’m not a fan of idea of “perfectly level saddles”, personally I use 5 degree nose down, because I can and because it is more comfortable for me than the other angles I’ve tried 🙂 Interestingly I’ve read on Roman’s Kreuziger blog that during recent Tour of Switzerland longer time trial officials were taking of some “non-slip sticker surface” from the saddles – obviously some riders used to their advantage or to combat perfectly level saddle? Possibly there is limit of 3 degrees of nose down to be UCI legal??

      • To me, Cav always comes across as very “un-clever” in every interview I’ve read or heard where he attempts to articulate what is on his mind. My personal bias is toward a rapid man that has class and refinement in the delivery, say like a Marcel Wüst. Also, a young turk like Taylor Phinney has demonstrated impressive maturity at a young age when discussing his experiences with the media, public, etc. I nice model for many star gazed super performers in my view. Cheers.

    • He’s not had a long education but he’s a clever and aware rider.

      Maybe Heiden isn’t a great intellect, he just grew up in a household of medics and worked hard to get his qualifications? Anyone with the dedication to train in the rain and reach as far as Olympic level in two sports can probably find reading medical texts (relatively) easy.

      Many riders are placed onto a conveyor belt in their mid-teens with early wins leading to junior squad, national teams, U-23 team and the pro ranks. As you can imagine school isn’t a priority.

  6. Wow that ruling on clothing is just rediculous. Our sport should be embracing innovation (within set boundaries) not trying to destroy it.

  7. Re dimpled clothing, if you had yourself cooled down before a ride and produced goose bumps on the skin would this improve airflow ? As an aside what are goose bumps known as in other languages?

    • “Chicken skin” in French.

      I don’t think getting cold would work… but as an aside some are experimenting with various liquids and gels that are frozen and then smeared on the kit on a hot day, which then evaporates to cool the rider. Track riders used fast-drying substances for their short effort but you can use a less volatile compound for a long TT effort.

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