Thursday Shorts

If you’re not yet excited about the Tour of Flanders this Sunday, perhaps the video above will do the trick. It’s not new but it’s still worth watching once a year. If you need a prompt to remind you that De Ronde coming up soon, note the first campervans have been spotted parked on the course.

France and Italy both venerate their national tours but often as a social and cultural event, people cheer for the yellow jersey without knowing who is wearing it. No country in the world does cycling like Belgium and the Tour of Flanders is the Flemish equivalent of the Tour de France compressed into one day, even a few hours and all the more potent for it.

Sunday Forecast
The forecast for Sunday’s Ronde finish in Oudenaarde says it will be cold with a breeze coming from the north-east or in cycling terms, legwarmer weather. It’s funny but I’ve never seen a cycling season where so many race photos show the riders dressed in winter gear with leg warmers and more.

Belgian Kneewarmers
It’s said that instead of wearing three-quarter length kneewarmers a coating of embrocation is a “Belgian kneewarmer” but actually the useful garment to keep the knees warm is probably Belgian in origin. We go back to 1991 when Belgian rider Edwig Van Hooydonck won the race for a second time and started a fashion.

With kneewarmers

Before it was either shorts or legwarmers with nothing in between but van Hooydonck set a trend with his new three-quarter length leggings… something that possibly went way beyond cycling.

2r Magazine

If you have an iPad then note the Issu2 2 of 2r magazine is available to download so you can read, watch and swipe. I’ve got an article there that uses the F-word. No, not that word but Franchising and the second part look at how the UCI could improve the team licencing process to make it less risky for risk-averse corporate sponsors.

Yes it’s iPad-only for now… meaning I’ve had to borrow one to read it too. But it’s a good read and Issue 2 has plenty, including the weird and unique circus bike that Garmin-Sharp’s classics captain Andreas Klier learned to ride on… if he’s still got the skills from his youth then he could probably teach Peter Sagan a trick or too. You can get see some of the content from Issue 1 on Facebook.

French Statistiques
News today that le rugby rhymes with dopage in France as the sport generates a higher proportion of positive tests than cycling. Only you can doctor numbers just like you can an athlete. Let’s tackle the numbers…

  • In fact the number relates just to the tests done by the French agency the AFLD. This body doesn’t have the right to test cycling’s big races as these tests are run by the UCI so already the numbers are not covering the big races. For example the Tour de France, Paris-Nice, Dauphiné and Paris-Roubaix aren’t included
  • Still that leaves plenty of tests in other races from pro to amateur. There were 1812 tests in cycling and 588 in rugby so cycling is tested more… but only in absolute terms, there’s nothing about the percentage of athletes or competitions tested
  • Nor do we know what was tested for because cycling often sees blood tests when other sports do not. The rugby positives would be even higher if they ran more blood tests
  • Finally as we all know tests often don’t catch the big cheats. These controls get likened to an IQ test or a roadside speed camera in that they tend to catch the ignorant. So the number of positive tests isn’t the most meaningful stat

So the takeaway is that these headline numbers are just that, suitable for a headline but we don’t get the full context.

Gilbert’s Choice
Finally since this section is about shorts, note that world champion Philippe Gilbert is riding around in Assos shorts rather than team-issue Pearl Izumi kit. I’m fine with this, maybe his team gear was in the wash or they’ve had to change a logo. Who knows? Who cares?

Actually there seems to be an insatiable appetite for “pros using non-team issue kit” stories, the item on here after Milan-Sanremo about riders using Castelli’s Gabba jacket when they have different sponsors was a popular read and I get emails from fans asking “is Rider X using non-standard kit”. I admit at first the interest from fans sounds obsessive, after all does the choice of shoes worn by Chris Horner or Bradley Wiggins matter? But actually it’s fundamental to the economics of the sport for ever since the invention of cycle racing, the sport has been underpinned by the concept of manufacturers hiring riders to promote their goods. First to demonstrate the reliability but over time, perhaps first with the pneumatic tire, performance advantages and now today we have fashion too as riders pose in plastic sunglasses if the price is right. So when riders do wear non-standard kit it’s significant, not for their choice, No, rather they’re breaking the system.

47 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

  1. With Gilbert and the shorts nevermind the system, I want to know what he thinks of his team clothing sponsor. Seeing him in Assos makes me think he likes their shorts more. When I open my wallet I want to make my decision on real choices. If he’s breaking sponsor contracts because Assos are so good then I’m going to look at Assos. Not saying I’m buying but I’m interested.

    • Fair point… but we don’t even know what Gilbert thinks. Like I say, maybe his team kit was in the wash? Maybe he was trying it in a test for the team as they consider new sponsors for 2014?

      Or maybe the only certainty is that he could be more discreet about beaming pictures of himself wearing different clothes? 😉

          • Pearl Izumi is owned by Shimano America, Inc. It seems that Shimano has upgraded their sponsorship involvement with the BMC team. The switch from Hincapie to Pearl Izumi is appearantly a part of this step up.
            (wonder if Big George’s involvement in the Armstrong case has anything to say as well …)

          • Hincapie is not a good link with cycling anymore. Armstrong shadowed all others but nevertheless George was a part of plot.
            Not to mention that possibly it was rather gentlemen agreement to wear Hincapie when he was still active and riding for the team

      • The real issue is that Gilbert is paid by Pearl Izumi to wear their clothing. When he doesn’t do that, it demonstrates the World Champion does not like their kit and prefers something different. Kinda the opposite of the advertising Pearl Izumi intended.

        I personally don’t care what he wears, but it’s sponsorship 101: always use sponsored equipment.

  2. I’m more interested in why oh why did Philippe think it was a good idea to wear an almost all white kit with what looked like a black bikini bottom over it. Horrible horrible choice of kit. He should stick to black shorts.

  3. As far as riders on non-standard kit: isn’t this almost as old as commercial sponsorship in cycling? Lance can’t have been the first to ride on re-badged non-standard kit.

    • It happens all of the time, in all sports. I have seen in hockey, motorcycle racing, etc.. there are “non” sponsored items re-badged as the sponsored item, until you look at some of the details you may never notice. As a novice athlete I can say that it’s hard to swap a piece of gear once you have adjusted to it; I can imagine for these guys who spend hrs upon hrs on their saddle it must be that much harder.

  4. Totally agree with @RJN.
    PRO’s using non-standard kit are a big clue about quality and real preferences. In a sport dominated by merchandising sometimes it’s hard to know what is a good product/real innovation or just pure marketing.
    The Gabba Jersey situation was a good indicative of a product with a real improvement, and not just plain marketing. Maybe Gilbert prefers Assos, and for a guy who rides god-knows-how many hours a week, that’s a good info for when you open your wallet.

  5. “It’s funny but I’ve never seen a cycling season where so many race photos show the riders dressed in winter gear with leg warmers and more.”
    True! Imagine that even in south Europe we have only a few rides without knee/arm warmers and March is out. Last year I begun riding w/out arm/leg warmers in late February!

  6. re the Belgian knee warmers, current fashion (in Belgium) is to cut off a pair of tights just above the knee (just look at most of the Landbouwkredit guys). These look a lot like a specially made pair of ‘winter shorts’ however they aren’t!

  7. Re: Gilberts Assos shorts – doesn’t Rihs own Assos as well as BMC? Could this be behind it?

    Re: fleecy shorts – lots of companies make shorts in a ‘roubaix’ style material, thicker fleece lined lycra. I bought a set of DHB ones from Wiggle and have been very pleased with them.

    I don’t see why pros would have to cut down a pair of tights to make the same thing…

  8. If pros use kit despite being paid to use something else that probably says something about their preferences. But for shorts, shoes or saddles I don’t really care as these are more about personal fit than build quality.

  9. Interesting video, not seen that one before. I thought it was going to turn into a Stella Artois advert at one point, but they pulled it back together!

    • No, spring is late this year and they’ve yet to start growing on the trees 😉

      Seriously I borrow one from time to time so I’ve been able to swipe my way through 2r as well as see how this site looks on one for testing etc.

  10. I loved Van Hooydonck as an American teen in New Jersey. Not sure why but the name was great. Was also a bif fan of the Superconfex kit (I wish I never had got rid of mine) Thanks for that bit about him.

  11. The IRB lists approx 110,000 senior male rugby union players in France (assuming the figures are based on these, and they haven’t bundled both versions of rugby, or both genders, together as other studies have done). Don’t know how that compares with the number of registered cyclists.

    Not a huge surprise to see drugs there, though, given the obvious advantages of increased bulk in a game where you need to run through/over people. Similar to the NFL players association trying to prevent the adoption of HGH-testing in that sport.

    • It’s about the same for registered cyclists with the FFC although there are some more with other, smaller cycling federations, for example the touring federation FSGT runs races. Anyway, call it 110,000 too.

      But it’s only a start. The biggest source of positive tests is… cannabis. Are people doping or just having a night out before competition? Again we don’t know the context.

  12. I leave in Rotterdam, not too far from Flanders and the weather we have had for the last week is unbelievable. If you’re luck enough to be inside it might look like perfectly ordinary spring weather, but once you go outside this wind straight from the north pole tries to cut you into pieces. It’s like the Jacques Brel lyrics from ‘Le Plat Pays’: “avec le vent du Nord qui vient s’écarteler”.

    Are ‘waaiers’ (what’s the English word?) expected?

  13. I believe I have read that van Hooydonck’s was an invention by chance. No tights were long enough for his legs, and thus they became knickers.

  14. It would be interesting to hear someone write about the effect that the ridiculously cold weather has had on the start of the season in Europe. Seems like it’s been epically cold all over – how has it affected pro and amateur cycling in the last month? How will it affect the next 2 week’s big Classics races – reports in the UK say it’s going to stay cold for a while yet…..

  15. Sponsorship and promotional deals are worth a lot of money to sponsors and riders. I don’t think Pearl Izumi will be impressed with Gilbert pictured in Assos gear. He might even be in breach of contract and it could cost him or his team some money.

    Usually non-sponsor equipment (e,g. lightweight wheels and frames) are either unbranded or get an official sponsors sticker applied.

    Look out for Geraint Thomas blowing the Tour of Flanders apart, obviously due to his use of the BioFlow wristband.

  16. Great advertising video for the De Ronde – had never seen it, so thanks for sharing it. And, using the occasion, kudos for the entire blog!

Comments are closed.