Friday Shorts

The Tour of Poland starts tomorrow. It starts in Italy for two mountain stages before flying to Poland. But if that’s new for 2013, there are changes to the rules and format which are being used as an experiment and could be applied to other races.

To pre-empt those “what is the Tour of Poland doing in Italy” calls, I agree… but note it’s always been a race in the south of Poland. It doesn’t go near the capital Warsaw or the other big cities in the north, so it’s never really a been a Tour of Poland, just as the Tour Down Under is not a Tour of Australia. It’s all good for the viewer because much of the country is flat, the race sticks to the best parts.

Now in new plans to make the race more interesting. For starters teams are limited to six riders only in a bid to make it harder to control the race. In addition there are special time bonuses available. As well as standard bonuses at the finish (10-6-4 seconds) and the intermediate sprints (3-2-1 seconds) there are 30-20-10 seconds available each day for the awkwardly named “attractivity contest” where points from the intermediate sprints and mountains classifications are added up each day and the rider with the most points on each day gets 30 seconds, the second rider 20 seconds and the third rider gets 10 points. But riders are on equal points each get time bonuses, meaning if three riders lead the day’s score then they each get 30 seconds. Or imagine if a rider wins three points in an intermediate sprint and seven on a hill they have ten points and if another rider has five points from one hill and five from another hill both are tied on points but they’ll each receive the time bonus. Here it is in a table grabbed from the race manual:

The idea is to incentive attacks and create excitement during the race. But are you scratching your head? If so then imagine what the public will make of it, a rider could complete the course faster than everyone else but still lose the race because they didn’t get placed in an intermediate sprint or hill points. It’s hard for riders to compute during a race too and good luck to TV commentators trying to explain it.

This engineered overall classification will be interesting to monitor and note it should be copied in the Eneco Tour later this month. The experiment is a taste of what’s to come as the UCI looks for ways to make the racing more attractive to TV audiences.

BMC – Big Management Changes
BMC had a stinker of a Tour de France. The twin pronged attack of Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen ended up twin-wronged. During the race L’Equipe reported “a clash, quite violent” between managers John Lelangue and Yvon Ledanois and internal frustrations with Philippe Gilbert frustrated that he couldn’t go on breakaways because he had to back his leaders. Evans is meeting management to see if they’ll back him. A consistent theme with Evans is knowing and feeling that he’s got the whole team behind him, he’s not one who thrives when his back’s against the wall.

Lelangue has now gone but his departure “for personal reasons” is wooden corporate-speak, as if the squad can’t bring itself to admit he’s been ejected after internal feuding and poor results. Management are holding a meeting with Andy Rihs determined to improve the results, he’s spending close to €25 million a year on his team but not getting commensurate results although Greg Van Avermaet’s just delivered the modest Tour de Wallonie.

The News Cycle
Doping stories these days seem so familiar. Take Stuart O’Grady’s confession. A rider only confesses when caught and then we get the minimum admission possible, along with the “I acted alone” story. One of O’Grady’s team mates was Frédéric Moncassin who was also on the suspicious list from the French senate, presumably acting alone too? Once the story comes out the UCI issues a self-congratulatory press release saying it is leading the way with testing. It’s all so familiar. To complete the cycle O’Grady’s got a book coming out at the end of the year.

Women’s Tour de France
One a more cheerful note, have you signed the petition for a women’s Tour de France? The more racing the better and the idea of lobbying Tour boss Christian Prudhomme. Getting the likes of ASO on board could really make a difference, the company brings a heavyweight organisational presence and has access to corporate sponsors, a far cry from the modest attempts of the Tour de Languedoc-Rousillon or the upcoming Route de France.

But it’s still not as easy as some suggest for ASO. Some say putting on a women’s race ahead of the men is fine because the roads are closed already but they’re closed for the publicity caravan and closing them for even longer poses traffic and access problems. The same with “just” filming the women’s race because if the finish line cams are in place, if we add at least two motorbikes two film the action then we need a helicopter too and an aeroplane circling above for the transmission link. But these are merely issues to work out.

I note senior British politicians are lobbying for ASO to launch a women’s race in time for the Tour de France but would they not do better to look at home? Whilst the UCI women’s calendar has many events in France, not to mention Indonesia, Mexico and Thailand there is not one in the United Kingdom.

Oleg Tinkov’s new team?
One person less supportive of women’s sport is Russian businessman Oleg Tinkov. He’s been backing the Saxo team for a year with his Tinkoff brand. Now he wants to launch a new team after disagreement with Bjarne Riis. It’s a big ask because suddenly creating a structure and signing new riders in time for 2014 means he’s got to rush. He’s made a career out of publicity stunts and self-promotion but seems to have gone into Twitter meltdown in the last month.

Di Luca Count
The Giro feels like a long time ago. All that cold weather and those fluo jerseys of Vini Fantini. It’s 63 days and counting since Danilo Di Luca’s A-sample announcement from the Giro. What’s up with the B-sample?

Tour de France Fines
On the subject of counting, here’s the total of fines levied during the Tour de France ranked by team. I’ve added up the amounts from the daily bulletin plus added the 1000 Swiss Franc fine for Tony Martin’s use of rainbow stripes on his bike which does not appear on the daily notes but was reported. Make of it what you will, note Sky’s one Alpe d’Huez incident was their only incident compared to some regular mistakes by Movistar who, in skipping the morning award of the team prize one day, saw each of their eight riders slapped with a 200 franc fine meaning 1600 for this moment alone.

“attractivity contest

71 thoughts on “Friday Shorts”

  1. Interesting stuff here! With respect to Tinkov’s Twitter, I had assumed it was a parody account because of some of the things he has on there… If it isn’t a parody, he seems to be quite an unpleasant person.

      • It’s real. I’d been following for some time and the content was normal, at least for a Russian millionaire with pics of him riding, at book launches and other things. He just went crazy during July.

        It’s a case study in corporate communications. Tinkoff Bank isn’t actually a bank, it’s a credit card company. But if it was a bank, would you trust it with your savings?

        • It was astonishing and quite offensive to some of the female followers. As they say, and I don’t mean it in a snobby way, but money can’t buy you class. A truly offensive man.

        • Tyler Hamilton did warn Riis about Tinkoff. Not a savoury character.

          As for di Luca, perhaps he’s changed his mind about the B sample and quietly slinked off into retirement? As I understand it, the athlete has to request the B Sample or accept the sanction.

          Methinks this an embarrassment that all concerned just want to close as quickly as possible, although I’m sure the tales of di Luca and Santambrogio will rear their ugly head again.

  2. Didn’t Veelers of ARGOS get fined 500 Francs for bumping into Cav? I thought the jury decided they were both at fault? Can’t seem to find any links to it anymore…

      • Speaking of bumping into people, did Pierre Rolland ever get fined/penalized for boxing out Igor Anton during the sprint for some KOM points? The incident occurred in the Alps (stages 18-20) and Anton very calmly chastised Rolland afterwards.

        • He got stripped of the points on the Col de Près but I can’t see reference to a fine; but the news came out during the final stage and not with the usual post-stage bulletin in the evening.

  3. Thanks for all the ongoing effort INRNG, (I’ve been enjoying you for some time but first comment)

    I think yours would be one brand jersey I would be happy to ride in…….could help with your funding too.

    On the fines point, could you comment on the number of incidents for each team? It would seem to me that doing one incident with a heavier fine is maybe not as bad as being consistently pulled up for many things though they may have smaller fines. All the fuss with Sky was clearly out of proportion.

    • I’ve looked at jerseys and t-shirts as people have been asking. But I probably can’t handle the logistics, the time needed to order and store the stuff and then post it out etc. A few people have offered to help with t-shirt supplies but it’s hard with a readership spread around the world.

      With the fines, Sky has one incident and Movistar’s 8 x 200 francs is eight fines but for the same incident. For most other times it’s 50 francs for a rider incident and sometimes 100 per rider and 200 for a team manager, so a “sticky bottle” moment can cost 300 francs.

      • Consider a third party scheme where you get a portion of the proceeds while someone else does the production, inventory control, payment collection and order fulfillment. I think there are plenty of operations who’ll do all that for you.

        • Any idea how many jerseys we’d be talking about? I’m happy to help if I can. Maybe get volunteers / Hellers in each country? Or do a limited edition run of say 100 to make it simpler? I want an INRNG jersey!!

  4. With regard to events for women in the UK, Sweetspot (the current Tour of Britain promoters) have plans for a womens tour early next year.

    They are also organising an international crit for Women in Central London next Saturday evening as part of a larger weekend event that includes a 220km 1.1 event for men.

    The domestic calendar for women in the UK is very strong with large fields for the national series events.

  5. “but note it’s always been a race in the south of Poland”

    That’s only true for last year’s race. The years before that they had a stage finish in Warsaw, and not that long ago they had stages in northern Poland as well.

  6. I think Orica-GreenEDGE got a 2000 Swiss Franc fine for their stage 1 bus incident alone, yet they are ranked at only 250 Swiss Franc in the chart. Add this incident and they climb right into 2nd place in the ranking.

  7. I have signed the petition.

    The Tour of Britain organisers SweetSpot did propose a potential Women’s Stage Race in Britain, maybe as early as 2014. I am not sure of the progress on this, particularly as the Tour of Britain is currently out for tender.

    Yes Britain needs to do better. No womens SKY team, so Lucy Garner rides for Argos-Shimano, Lizzie Armistead for Boels Dolmans, etc. A missed opportunity.

  8. O’Grady’s admission was so pathetic it was infuriating.
    Good to see the Australian Olympic Committee saying that “He will not be remembered as a fantastic competitor but as an athlete who succumbed to the temptation of drugs in sport just to get an edge on some of his fellow riders” then.

  9. Sad commentary on the state of pro cycling when it seems the only people with sponsorship money to spend are nutjobs like Tinkov. BMC should make some changes, all that money spent for what? So far their season’s been pretty much a joke. With all the loot ASO takes in from LeTour, they should be ashamed to not be doing something for women’s cycling – I signed the petition as soon as I learned about it. We saw the Astana boyz checking out some of the Italian climbs for the upcoming Tour of Poland during our Legendary Climbs tour…but the GC/time bonus/etc. format seems to be a recipe for needless confusion. If they want to make the racing more interesting they need to ban the DS radio communications to the riders (aka robots) for ALL the events. Try that for a year and see what happens.

      • It’s not so much whether they do as they’re told, but more of the “fog of war” element is missing when the DS, watching on the car’s TV screen (those should be banned as well) can bark out orders to the team the second a threatening breakaway goes off. Back-in-the-day, getting the word that your rivals were attacking, plus the response time needed to get organized, often meant interesting breaks would get away, unlike the formulaic ones allowed to go clear these days. Too rarely do these contain any real GC threats, making for the usual boring slogs with guys 10+ minutes off the front, only to be reeled in (probably 99% of the time) with just a few kms to go. Ditch the radios entirely for a season or two and then see if the racing’s become more or less interesting to the fans.

    • I’ll second that Larry, it pained me to see Froome chatting into that mike every time there was a decision to be made. Really, really irked me to see that kind of thing going on.

  10. I have not been able to find a final prize money list for the Tour and I don’t know if this would any more reliable than looking at the WorldTour points gathered by the different teams to indicate a successful Tour or otherwise. I rather suppose the prize money doesn’t mean a great deal as such but is perhaps a crude exposure measure. In terms of WorldTour points SaxoTinkoff came third amongst teams, a fair way behind Movistar and Sky but well clear of Katusha And OPQ but that was mainly from placings and no real glory. Also the Tour points represent nearly 40% of their total for the year compared to about 20% of the YTD awarded so there can be an argument that they have not performed that well so Mr Tinkov has a point of sorts.

    More interesting for how the ProTour moves forward is parhaps the case of Argos-Shimano who courtesy of their stage wins came seventh in the points gathered standings. Their 96 points is a massive 62.7% of their total YTD. A one race wonder (and with no leading name in the Vuelta long-list) who may fail to keep their ProTour status on merit but surely have very happy sponsors at the moment. Is there the depth of talent to sustain such a large number of ProTour teams? Do a lot of the teams care much for many of the ProTour races compared to the massive exposure of the Tour , making it more suitable to increase the number of local teams in a race? Reducing the size of teams as in Poland may alter the racing (the bonus seconds just seems bizarre, I would struggle with a points race on the track without a scorebaord to update totals) but I’m not convinced it will spread the talent further, more likely deprive younger untested riders a first start in bigger races. (I did enjoy the unresolved 3 or 4 sprint trains into a Tour finishing straight equation which I’m sure needs the rider numbers).

    • The prize money list is a talking point and puts a price on a team’s success or otherwise but there are different factors. For example send a man up the road every day and you’ll get cash for the mountains competition and intermediate sprints even if it’s a fruitless effort because the teams will reel in the move. It’s why, for example, BMC scored so low because all riders were told to stay with Evans and TvG until it was more than obvious the leaders were not able to challenge.

      The full prize list is here:

      As you say Argos-Shimano have a problem because winning points in sprints is all good but one stage win in the Tour is equivalent to finishing 14th overall in terms of ranking points, Kittel’s four stages equal 7th overall in the race. A good haul but more is needed for the team.

      • Interesting, some clear differences:
        Clearly Flecha was not wasting his time in the earning stakes!

        By team Tour pts Winnings €/pt
        MOV 316 344980 1092
        SKY 312 525690 1685
        TST 244 205780 843
        KAT 172 134900 784
        OPQ 172 121260 705
        BEL 126 52260 415
        ARG 96 52910 551
        AST 94 26540 282
        CAN 86 79110 920
        GRS 80 45930 574
        RLT 70 63210 903
        ALM 46 102910 2237
        LTB 44 42950 976
        EUS 38 23980 631
        OGE 30 44670 1489
        BMC 12 17710 1476
        FDJ 12 12890 1074
        VCD 12 48030 4003
        LAM 10 11180 1118

  11. Smaller numbered teams is interesting, the numbers game likely to cause Sean Kelly to be in heaven as finally he will have cause to use his time honoured “…calculation…” in comments. Tour of Poland in cahoots with Sean?

    How about, old chestnut, ditching radios except for safety. The amount of times Chris Froome was talking into his radio – or blowing his nose on the yellow jersey – was worthy of a spreadsheet in itself. How would he have faired without the radio when he bonked and when Porte was putting the hammer down and Froome was in trouble.

    The tour was full of attacking playfulness, but was still peloton controlled, the majority of the time away from GC attacks. Radio controlled surely…

    Sorry, I have dragged the discussion – though probably to a discussion with just myself, ho hum – back to something that has been done and done. Apologies.

    I blame the heat.

    • Someone on another forum was suggesting that Froome was on the radio so much because his contract with Sky had him helping-out with their call centre – apparently he sold 7 subscription packages on the way up the Alpe alone !

  12. Tour de Pologne looks exciting this year. Madonna di Campiglio, Pampeago, Pordoi, some nice hilly stages and a great startlist – Basso, Nibali, Scarponi, Henao, Uran, Niemec, Duarte, Pozzovivo, Majka, Cancellara, Phinney, Luisle, Visconti…

    San Sebastian should be good too, maybe 10-15 guys who could win that.

  13. I’ve been wondering what’s up with BMC for a while. It’s one thing for one rider to have a bad season due to injury or illness, but it seems like something’s hit the whole team. There was speculation when they went on that expensive hiring spree 2 years ago that they might have too many riders fighting for leadership. On the other hand, Sky doesn’t seem to be suffering too much from their cast of big budget riders, although if Wiggins had been in shape to ride the Tour this year, things might have got interesting. The comparison between the two teams seems to suggest that having the right management and creating the right expectations among the riders really can make a big difference.

  14. How on earth are RadioShack not on the fines table; Jensie must have had a raging thirst on his attack with the number of bottles he was taking (it looked like he almost spent more time taking bottles than not) or do the comms ignore it because its Jens?

    • That seems to be a Radio Shack specialty. Note races such as E3 when the team car spent long periods next to Cancellara while he was out front alone at the end of the race, coincidentally at times when otherwise he would be exposed to the winds. Not sure what they were chatting about, but maybe a detailed analysis of War and Peace by the looks of things.

  15. Surely 60+ days it’s a lot of time to test the B samples. Note though, that we learned just 10 days ago about Sayar’s positive from Tour of Algeria, that is a race 4 months ago!!! Or, in athletics, Gay was announced positive in mid-July for a sample taken in mid-May. A lot of lag in the lab.

    • Tyson Gay’s B sample just announced as positive. Test done in the middle of May so I guess 60-70 days is ‘best practice’. He also failed another test!

  16. Thanks INRNG for yet another interesting Friday round up.

    There is one glaring problem with cycling at this point in time. The leaderless governance once again being displayed by the UCI. When will they ACT in the face of the endless revelations about past doping instead of pretending we can be assured that the present and future will be different – we have heard it all before. I am sure most of us are utterly fed up with the circle of comments from those caught – ‘only doped once’, ‘did not know what medical back up was being provided’ plus the ‘defence’ being offered by others exposed. Until such time as the UCI takes on this major and continuing problem, there is little hope of moving forward with confidence. I would be interested to hear you view on the subject.

    Race radios – I agree with those who feel that they play a negative part in racing. The excuse of being useful for safety is just another red herring, which in many instances has resulted in massive chutes. Once again the UCI are exposed for what they are – weak.

  17. I’m from Poland and can tell you why Tour de Pologne is starting from Italy. First of all, cycling is still not super popular in Poland, so corporations paying for advertisement in cycling are less popular. So when they’re paying they want to be PRESENT, that’s why there is a sea of balloons and banners during Tour de Pologne. The same reason drives TdP to Italy. Region of Trentino is getting more popular within polish turist and they’re promoting it not only by cycling. Their banners where present during TdP last year. Trip to Italy is, at the moment, only an experiment and one-time event. Reaction of real polish cycling fans are mixed. Some understand financial reasons, others are waiting for battle in real mountains, onthers are moaning etc. Remember that moaning is polish national trait 😉 This strong urge to be present in media made Lang to cooperate with polish national TV – TVP, which has other priorities so relations from TdP must fit into their schedule. That’s the reason of strange start and finish times… Lang cannot agree to lose TVP, because TdP would lose its sponsors… 🙁

    In my opinion it might be interesting experiment. I don’t mind if they start in Italy only this year. It might result in interesting battle of good climbers and the race will be less controlled. Czesław Lang, former polish professional cyclist and olympic medalist, who is running TdP makes this race better and better. During ’90s only few pro teams come here, and after 20 years of hard work he makes this race really good. Of course, there are many drawbacks, but it’s getting better. And one more thing, few years ago the route was almost the same every year with finish at Orlinek in Karpacz. With group of enthusiast we run a petition to diversify the rout. And they do it! 🙂

      • Yes, we’ve got Italian Queen: Bona Sforza . What is more, in Polish National Anthem there is line: “From the Italian land to Poland”. Anthem was written in Italy after Third Partition of Poland in XVIII century by polish general Jozef Wybicki, who was serving with Polish Legion in Napoleon’s Army – .

        If you are interested I may help you with obtaining historical and current information about the race. I am moderating the oldest and biggest polish road cycling forum, so with help of my colleagues I can obtain almost whatever you want 😉

        For the end, did you know that Marcel Kittel’s father also rode in Tour de Pologne and grab some stages? For many of you it might be surprise, but Alberto Contador won his first professional stage in Tour de Pologne. It was mountain time trial at Orlinek. Apart from TdP, Mark Cavendish scores one of his very frist victories in Poland too. In 2006 he won 3rd stage of Course de la Solidarité Olympique 🙂

  18. Liking the team size limit of six for the Tour of P., but not sure the new points arrangement will necessarily encourage more breakaways—in fact, it could do the opposite: teams will keep the group together to lead out their sprinters / climbers at the intermediate points, esp. if, as you point out, the ‘fastest’ rider with the lowest overall time may in fact lose to someone slower but got a few sprints.

  19. Interesting, crazy first stage in the Tour of Poland yesterday, Nibali and Wiggins losing nearly 10 minutes on the very first stage, Phinney and many others losing over 35 minutes! A real gaggle of lesser known riders battling up front, but Henao and Majka look to be in the best position now to capitalise on that first day chaos.. Some pre-race favourites are already out of the running (if they were ever really interested in it in the first place is the question….), not even a storming time trial later in the week will help them!

    Today’s another tough stage with those last two climbs sure to blow things apart again – the Costalunga averages over 7% and has parts as steep as 21%.. could be a day for the likes of Pozzovivo (6th on 1st stage) and Henao to kick on at the finish.

    • Boom… That’s another huge priced winner for me today, Christophe Riblon selected to win at 66/1 to carry on the fantastic end to the Tour. Now to try to find the winner of Stage 3!

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