Friday Shorts

Bjarne Riis is going to court to reduce a doping punishment. But it’s to do with the UCI’s rule that a returning rider from a significant doping ban cannot earn “sporting value” points for his team. These points are used to rank a team for its licence status and in the case of Saxo-Tinkoff, it means Alberto Contador’s points from the Tour de France, Vuelta and more don’t count. The team’s not got many points because it’s not won much but Roman Kreuziger and Rafał Majka have collected some.

But it’s not about Saxo-Tinkoff or Riis. The point with this punishment is that it’s a sanction above and beyond the WADA Code.

a proposal aiming to prevent any rider returning to competition after a suspension of at least two years for violation of the Anti-Doping Regulation to contribute to the establishment of his team’s sporting value during the registration procedure. If the UCI Management Committee approves, this measure, which means that during a period of two years these riders’ points would not be taken into account, will take effect from this year

On the topical theme of forecasts, I predicted 18 months ago that this was going to the CAS. This UCI rule is noble in the way it seeks to make a clean (or not caught) rider preferable to a doper on the comeback trail but this is contrary to the WADA Code which doesn’t allow for anything more than a two year ban. The hearing takes place on 19 August.

4 Year Bans Coming
The WADA Code is being revised with a modified version planned for 2015. This will likely include four year bans for those caught with “heavy” doping for example blood doping. More at Athletics Weekly.

Summer Trainees
The future comes in other forms too. Stagiaire is French for intern and one of many French words that are carried across into English in pro cycling. In most cases it applies to riders who join a pro team from 1 August onwards on trial.

Like any internship in an office or factory this is the chance to evaluate a prospective employee at work. They might have a good CV packed with results as well as other attributes like good lab data or these days power numbers but what are they like? Often the question of personality is already known to some extent because many riders come from development squads linked to pro teams. But it’s one thing being a big fish in the pond another being small fry on a pro team. Not all internships work out but the lack of a pro contract isn’t failure. Some teams will take on three riders knowing only one or two will turn pro. A rider returns to the amateur ranks with valuable experience.

New Bike Equipment Rules

The UCI has new rules on equipment for 2014, notably for position in the time trials. Two TT bike rule changes stand out:

  • the requirement to have level forearms is dropped, now the bars can have a maximum height difference of 10cm which will allow for some slope in the arms although the 10cm distance means the slope is minimal and not the “praying mantis” position used by the likes of Levi Leipheimer in the past
  • gear levers will now form part of the 75cm rule where any extensions cannot reach more than 75cm beyond a vertical plane from the bottom bracket. This means riders like Bradley Wiggins who use long bars plus manual gear levers for even more reach on the end – rather than electronic shifting with short buttons or levers – will have to revise their position
No longer can riders use gear levers for extra reach to the extensions

There’s some adjustment in the rules for taller riders but not much, you can ask for an extra 5cm in reach but this is small, meaning there’s a lot more room to find a position for shorter riders whilst taller riders have to fit into the specifications given. Making adjustments to suit everyone is always going to be hard but it still feels like taller riders suffer disproportionately to fit the UCI rules.

Swiss Cycling Short of Money
Switzerland is a wealthy country but its cycling federation is short of money. The legal challenge to the 11th hour nomination of Pat McQuaid is being challenged and this is placing a strain on the Swiss federation’s budget. It’s not the first time they’ve been short of cash, in the past they’ve struggled to fund full-size teams for the World Championships. Let’s hope McQuaid paid for his membership.

McQuaid vs Cookson
Talking of Pat McQuaid there’s a blog to support him. It’s said it’s being run by the PR agency helping his campaign but the writer emails to assure me it’s independent. Regardless of the source it’s all part of the debate and worth a read from time to time. Even if you’re an ardent Cooksonista it’s worth hearing an alternative voice.

43 thoughts on “Friday Shorts”

  1. Off-topic question: Is it bad form to correct a typographical or grammatical error on this blog? I know English is not your first language (or the primary language of most who read this blog). Generally, the corrections are minute, so I don’t feel compelled to comment in regards to it. For example, while it does prey on its mate, the insect you’re referring to is the praying mantis.

      • I guess I never realized that English wasn’t your first language. I guess I see the large amount of typos on Velonews and cyclingnews and just assume it comes with the territory. Keep up the great work!!!

      • I wasn’t aware that English isn’t your first language either. Your writing is much better than the blogs I read from many native English speakers.

        • Everybody knows that God’s first language is not English. This is the best blog ever. All around. I’ve always wondered who you are…

  2. UCI rule changes! Too many pwople with too much time on their hands and then they screw it up; what about the tall people. “oh yeah didn’t think of that”.

    Concentrate on the important topics like defending our sport.

    • As for the tall riders, I’d have thought the bike length rule could have been defined as a proportion of seat to BB height. Sure, some have longer legs and shorter arms/torso, but generally tall guys have high saddles and short guys have low saddles. No rider is going to ride a massively high saddle, compromising power delivery, just to get a longer reach. It would ensure that the short and tall riders are restricted (approximately) equally.

  3. WOW ! phat the rat can change regs in respect of Presidential Candidates , mid Election , BUT , racers have to change their CAREER Position , OVERNIGHT ?

    Those working at Aigle must be looking forward to the 23rd September , when they can decide if the next 4 years are worth living ? Could you imagine living with the idea of working with such pettiness , wasn’t it bad enough that the ITT saddle had to be LEVEL ? Bad enough to have to ride in the same race as Ricco , if you were as tall as Taylor Phinney or Cipo , let alone contort yourself to fit on the bike ?

  4. They could simplify the TT rules a whole lot by simply doing away with these contraptions. Think about how much extra expense these things add to the team’s budget. Not only do they have to source them, build them up (and make sure they conform to these complicated rules) and work on them, then they have to haul them around for use in just a fraction of the kilometers in most events. Get rid of ’em! The early-season races in the Middle-East don’t allow them as a cost-control measure, why not just ditch them entirely?
    I predict Mr. 60% will prevail at CAS, though I’m sure his team is a member of the farcical MPCC?
    Perhaps the UCI’s Mad Hatter can share some of the loot BigTex gave them awhile back with his new federation in Switzerland – a win-win!!!

    • How about that! I agree with Larry for the first time. Patience leads to common ground. Get ride of TT bikes. I’ll add as well that TT bikes hamper amateur stage and omnium racing.

      • I would go even further and say that only one bike is allowed per event, grand tours included. If it is damaged and unrideable you are out of the race, unless you are a priviliged rider who can take a domestique’s bike (and thereby put the domestique out of the race). Riders would take a lot more care to avoid crashes then and manufacturers would pay a little more attention to real world durability. I fear I may be a lone voice in the wilderness on that one though….

        • Like the idea of focussing on real world durability, but I’d be wary of the consequences of the one-bike rule. Could see Bouhanni and Ferrari getting some contract offers to help whittle down the Sky train. Might spice up some of the sprints too.

        • “Riders would take a lot more care to avoid crashes…”

          I like the idea of banning TT bikes but I doubt riders would be more likely to avoid crashes for fear of damaging the bike. I suspect self-preservation and avoiding injury is the motivation there really.

          My main reason for wanting rid of the TT gear is the image it creates. The bikes are all ugly, the helmets look ridiculous and give the wider public the idea that the sport has nothing to do with what they do on a Sunday afternoon.

          • it wasn’t fear of damaging the bike I was driving at, it was fear of being disqualified due to having an unrideable bike. I suppose there might be a danger that riders would try to continue on a dangerously damaged bike. probably an unworkable idea, the status quo is more or less the best way of doing things. I agree with the idea of having same type of bike for all types of race though, but where should the line be drawn? what about different wheels, gear ratios, tyres etc?
            If it was up to me road bike design would be sent back to 1984, bikes were at the apex of beauty then.

    • I like the simplification but the sport has always been run with the support of bike manufacturers. From the earliest day teams were sponsored by manufacturers and we see the likes of Cervélo, Cannondale and Trek with teams taking their name. Close down the opportunities to market their wares and they’ll fund triathlon or gran fondo teams.

      • And there’s pretty much always been a conflict between sporting interests and what the bike makers want. Letting the “industry” control too much is always dangerous – take a hard look at MOTOGP for an example of what happens when the bike makers run the show. I’m not advocating a return to the despotic rule of Desgrange, but don’t see the development of specialty chrono machines as adding much to the sport vs what they cost. If nobody can use one, the riders are equal, as on the desert races in the early season.
        I’d like to see them get rid of the aero handlebars too…but that’s probably too radical a change? I still believe they’ve allowed the big guys with huge motors (like BigMig) to adopt a position that removes any aero advantage a small guy might have, turning the chrono stages into too much a question of pure power and little else.

        • Notwithstanding Inrng’s comment above about the marketing drive behind the sport, I think the real performance differences between rival TT bikes are highly overstated anyway, and should be considered marketing-speak rather than science (or, the real pseudo-science of the sport). Similar to the differences between road bike designs, many of the supposed performance advantages are really there to differentiate from a marketing perspective.

          The proof of this is Wiggin’s 2012 season: he won every TT he entered, riding the Pinarello Graal (definitely not a “leading” TT design), and then won the Olympic TT on the Team GB custom rig (which looked like it was designed in 2003). Clearly it’s not about the bike.

          In fact, given their reputation and resources, the frames Team GB use for both road and track show up the commercial manufacturer’s claims. National team track frames are an interesting counterpoint to commercial TT frames: many are not really commercially available, and are therefore freed from the necessity of marketing and are much simpler designs – such as the Team GB frames, BT, FES, Look L96, etc. None of these have the weird shapes and fairings so common on TT frames these days.

      • I think that’s pretty unlikely. I wonder how many road bikes they sell versus TT bikes. I suspect the road market is vastly larger. I doubt having to market the TT bikes elsewhere would drive away their road bike marketing money.

    • Time trialing for the masses, better known as triathlon, has been one of the fastest growing markets in the states, I think. And, all of the manufacturers would rather sell Fred two bikes instead of just one. Plus, it is a better tool for the job and the TTs are important to the overall results in GT.

      • …and bolting tribars on your road bike is a pretty good halfway house while you decide if you really want to commit the hard-earned for a new machine.
        Half the reason cycling has taken off in the uk recently is middle-aged blokes discovering a sport that they can do without injuring themselves , and with the added bonus of lots of shiny kit to spend their money on…

    • Plus, they’re damn ugly looking machines. I agree. Get rid of them as it gives the elite wealthy teams another advantage, in that they can spend endless amounts of money on fine-tuning their TT bikes, while the less cashed-up teams can anly afford the off-the-shelf models.

      • With the equipment that’s available to all teams, there’s not really an excuse for not optimizing the tt bikes of their riders. All teams have power meters, and renting time on a velodrome is far from expensive in the terms of elite sports budgets ( around a few hundred pounds per hour). Hell theres even free, open source software to help out.

    • TT is just as big a part of the GC skill set as climbing, and the ability of the rider to find a good, efficient position is part of tt’ing.

      You might as well ban mountain top finishes by this logic.

      • +1. It may not be Eddy Merckx traditional, but it is something very special to see just how fast a man can go on a human powered machine. An important, and exciting discipline in a multifaceted sport.

  5. I actually feel that the ban for ‘serious’ doping violations should be lifetime for first offense, don’t think that even 4yrs sends a strong enough message… but, if the ban is two yrs, it should be two yrs… if you want 4yr bans set four yr bans… I’m for strong anti-doping, but also for fairness and strong adherence to the rules.. not these adhock provisions outside of the official rules… if you feel a guy should be out of the peleton for four years then damn well keep him out for 4 yrs.. not his half out of peleton nonsense… if a guy served his 2yrs then that’s it he’s done… I actually think it’s not fair..

  6. It’s not just tall riders who have problems with the equipment rules. The 5cm saddle set back rule means that shorter riders have to ride a shallower effective seat angle than a taller rider. I guess you just have to be in the middle of the bell curve.

    They have approval stickers for frams and soon wheels – so when is the UCI starting to issue the approval stickers for riders?

  7. Cycling must be the only sport where the pros can’t use equipment available to ordinary people. Other than for safety, why are there any real restrictions on bikes? Let them innovate, so the good stuff trickles down to us ordinary riders.

  8. When you take the most most notable examples affacted by the UCI “no sporting points” rule – Valverde and Contador – it is difficult to see where in practical terms this rule has operated as a “sanction” on them. They are both still well renumerated for their efforts, they both assume a leadership role in major races and have a team dedicated to helping them win and so on.

    (Whether that still applies to riders lower down the food chain is a lot more debateable, but then how far down the food chain the rider is/type of rider they are determines whether that rider would be earning enough points for it to be worth talking about it being a “sanction” if deprived of them anyway. Seems the current rule works most puntively against a rider that makes one WT podium a year (this year such as Geraint Thomas/Tom Jelte Slagter) and pick up minimal points elsewhere – they would lose the most “status”)

    But as the rule doesnt, in itself, stop a rider getting a contract, prevent them from entering races, receive a wage, etc can be looked at as a much wider construct than a “sanction” as per WADCode – or indeed less as a penalty against the returning rider and more a penalty on the new employer.

    (Adding currently in practical terms all the MPCC teams and Sky are unaffected as they have voluntary policies preventing this rule affecting them anyway. Fair enough as not signatories to the Code, but they are licenced by a signatory. If view the rule as unfair or too extreme, how far down the line does this rule stop being unfair and a sanction?)

    • The question is not really if it’s fair or not. The question is if you can make a rule and the let the sanctions be retroactive.

      Contadors doping offence was in 2010 and the rule wasn’t proposed until september 2011. The the UCI adopted the position that it was implied that it was retroactive.

      If you team i based on the point of you only leader ( Contador ) and you are hit by a rule that his points doesn’t count, then you are in trouble as Riis was last year.

      This year there should be no problems, but I guess that CAS doesn’t rule the same day a case is filed. If they work as fast as the courts in Denmark they would hear this case in around 2017.

  9. Funny how you think you know a word, and then realise how wrong you are. I always thought stagiaire was an italian word, and pronounced it as such. Now you point out that it’s french, so I suppose it’s pronounced stah-jhee-ehr?
    Just looked it up on Forvo, they say: [staʒjɛːʁ].

  10. Wait…..the Pat M website is being run by his PR firm, but it is independent???

    I thought I’d heard everything……the arrogance knows no limits.

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