Thursday Shorts

Where’s Wiggo? A year ago Bradley Wiggins was all over the media. But now he’s almost vanished from sight, understandable if he wants a  quiet family life away from being doorstepped by the paparazzi. But he’s dropped off the radar too in the quieter and normally more reasonable world of cycling world. We know Chris Froome’s aiming to repeat his Tour success and Richie Porte wants the Giro. But the best journalists don’t know what Wiggins has planned. Some talk of Paris-Roubaix, the Tour de France, maybe a return to track cycling and maybe a look at the Hour Record?

Moves like Jagger?

By contrast here’s someone trying to stay in the public eye. It’s easy to say Richard Virenque’s made a career out of skating on thin ice but now it’s official as he stars in “Ice Show”, a celebrity ice dancing competition on French TV. You know the format, a collection of B-listers take part in an elimination contest. Virenque survived last night but a glance on Twitter seemed to suggest a lot of people thought he should have been dropped.

However it’s the first time he’s been skating so he could improve as the show goes on. It’s not his first celebrity-reality TV appearance, in fact he won “Je suis une célébrité, sortez-moi de là”, a desert-island celebrity version of Survivor and we should note Mario Cipollini and Michael Rasmussen have done celebrity dance shows too. Virenque’s got several business interests these days but keen to stay in the limelight but struggles to escape his past and remains an incarnation of Pinocchio for some.

More Muur
Talking of slippery surfaces, the 2014 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will tackle the Muur van Geraardsbergen in 2014 says… Het Nieuwsblad. The legendary climb’s been dropped from the Tour of Flanders but has also been off the route of other races because of roadworks. Now the Kapelmuur will be back for the start of the Belgian classics season. 93 days to go.

2015 Tour de France
No climbs in Utrecht beyond the canal bridges. The 2015 Tour will start in Utrecht with a 13.7km time trial enough to put big time gaps into the field right from the start. Such a long distance isn’t unique, think 2000 (16.5km), 2005 (19km) and 2009 (15.5km). The course is flat and with several corners along the way it will suit riders able to handle the accelerate-brake-corner-accelerate routine.

The Dutch media are reporting a big hotel booking in Zeeland, the coastal region. After a prologue we could have a stage exposed to the wind as the race crosses the network of flood defences. You can see the Oosterscheldekering tidal wall behind in the image from the Ster “Zeeuwsche Eilanden” race.

Giro Wildcards

Three teams will get an invitation as the fourth spot is reserved for Androni after they won the team prize in the season-long Coppa Italia series. No Fluo Yellow, after the team embarrassed the race with Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio although note their cases have yet to be resolved. Sometimes wildcards are not too wild, a team sponsor can buy advertising or even pay its way in. But this time there’s a sporting logic. I think it’ll be Colombia and MTN-Qhubeka. Expect to see Bardiani-CSF because they’re Italian but remember they won a stage in 2013.

Tour Wildcards
We can’t view the Giro invites without thinking about the Tour. Both IAM Cycling and NetApp-Endura might want to ride the Giro but they’ve also got a big chance doing the Tour de France. Assuming Europcar takes a World Tour licence and qualifies automatically, we can expect Cofidis to take the third place because its French… although the team’s successes are becoming rarer.

The fourth pick looks harder. For several years ASO have opened the door for Bretagne-Séché with invites to early season races like Paris-Nice only for the team to look out of its depth so going to the Tour would be an even bigger step up. But look at the list of Pro Conti teams for 2014 and who else can be invited? These teams can’t handle two grand tours too easily, the squad size can be small and only has a few leaders.

FDJ to 2016
FDJ announced a sponsorship renewal through to 2016. The French state lottery has backed the team continuously since 1997, a longevity award that’s shared by Cofidis. But I think Belgium’s Lotto is the longest running sponsor in the sport as it’s been involved since 1984 as Tönissteiner-Lotto-Mavic-Pecotex. However it’s been a co-sponsor at times, for example Davitamon-Lotto.

Kenny Elissonde

Elissonde the Artist
Finally you can see why FDJ are keen to continue given the talented roster. Virenque might have been on TV last night but the more interesting appearance was a brief feature with FDJ’s Kenny Elissonde on another channel. He talked about his appreciation of modern art with scenes filmed in Paris’s Centre Pompidou as well as showing his training routes to the west of the capital. Labels are always reductive, for example Marco Pinotti isn’t just “the cycling professor” and Wiggins is more than a mod. But if you know Elisonnde for his Angliru win it’s always good to see a variety of interests in the peloton.

33 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

  1. I would suggest Mr Wiggins is trying to work out how he can continue to justify his Grand Tour winner salary when he wants to play on the track.

    Would love to see him have a go at Roubaix

    • Sky’s return on investment over the period of his contract is far, far greater than his salary. The significance of his achievements should not be underestimated.

      As for next season – he’s in a difficult position. He can’t now position himself as a GT leader (even if he wanted to) without causing significant friction in the team.

      Would love to see him do Roubaix too and some of the other classics before he heads off to the velodrome. I suspect that, as with all things Wiggins, it won’t be that simple…

      • “As for next season – he’s in a difficult position. He can’t now position himself as a GT leader (even if he wanted to) without causing significant friction in the team.”

        There seems to be little doubt that there’s already significant friction in the team. He could probably be a GT leader as long as there’s no other rider in a better position. Froome and Porte are clearly ahead of him at the moment.

    • The Roubaix call is always an interesting one to me. Even with the track weight added I don’t see Wiggins as a man for the cobble prize. Stannard on the other hand I would wager on. Would like to see him get a free hand.
      As some others have mentioned I think EBH would be better served elsewhere.

      • You also need a bit of luck too. It’s great if Wiggins (or another big name) wants to target this race but you almost need to target it for three years because to turn up for one year and win it is far from certain given all the random events plus the value of experience gained from riding over the years.

      • Well he fnished 25th in Roubaix in 2009 which, being the year he finished third in the Tour, was presumably at well below his track weight. OK, not exactly winning form but proof he can handle the rigours of the race. There seems to be a misconception that judging a descent and keeping upright on pave require the same skills but that’s a oversimplification.

        I would like to see Brad give the Northern Classics a crack and I think he could get a top ten finish in Roubaix if he committed fully. I can’t see how Sky would justify making him leader in such races ahead of riders with much better pedigrees in those races (EBH, Thomas, Stannard and Eisel to name but four)

  2. Presumably IAM are a dead cert for the Tour, with Chava in their ranks.

    For the fourth tour team, assuming your other predictions are correct, it looks like Wanty Groupe has several riders in 2014 that were WT in 2013, mainly from Vaconsoleil.

    Has it ever been the case that a PC team was so desired by ASO to receive a Tour wildcard that they paid off RCS to *not* pick them? Not a problem for ASO now I suppose…

    • I think so for IAM.

      Not sure about the ASO vs RCS payoff scenario. It seems we’re now at a point where there a few domestic teams for a wildcard in the Giro and Tour and several international teams capable of earning a place. There’s also a split in Pro Conti ranks are between these grand tour-ready squads and several others who are not there yet.

      • Presumably IAM are strong enough to ride two Grand Tours, if not three, so they could easily accept a wildcard to each. I am not sure how RCS would feel about IAM accepting a wildcard and then leaving their biggest names (Chava, Lovkvist etc) out to rest them for the Tour.

        • I do not expect any Pro Conti team to get two wild cards, with only one possible exception – Colombia could get a ride both at Giro and Vuelta. Just to make the mountain stages more funny. Concerning United H., they would have good chances at Vuelta, if and only if they hired Horner, S. Sanchez or Anton. Explicitely: the last winner or spanish stars without contract.

          Wiggo could appear at Grand Depart, but beware the weather forecast. Sorry to have to say it, but the first rainy descent may become his last. Thus he should not become a long term obstacle for Froome, merely a reduction of the domestics’ number in the second and third week. The TT seems to come too late.

  3. I seem to be alone in this opinion, but how long can a team with Team Sky’s ambition continue to back EBH for the classics? I like the guy, he comes across as a genuinely nice chap and he’s often in the mix coming in to the last 5km, but it seems he just doesn’t have the beans to win races like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if they give Wiggo his pick of the races in the Spring.

      • Surely its clear that he’s both PLUS their sprinter on occasion. He’s always been one of their supported riders in the classics, always. Then at the stage races leading up to and including the TdF he’s a super-domestique with the nod to go for sprint stages that might suit (and he wins a stage at the Dauphine with impressing regularity). He gets support for GC at his home race, Tour of Norway, and then after the TdF he’s often leader in certain stage races and one-dayers eg Plouay.

        People seem to struggle with his career and conclude that Sky are holding him back. The fact is that EBH loves the classics, they’re his first love. I know from interviews he’s given that he doesnt want to transform himself into a GT contender (at least, not at this point). He can climb well in the medium mountains with his current weight – but its EBH who doesnt want to close the door on his chances in the classics by dropping the kgs. He still has the ultimate dream of winning P-R.

        And as for the oft-repeated ”but he was going to be the new Merckx, waht’s happened to him??’ No, he was never going to be the new Merckx – and just how many people has that been said about! And the only one who’s ever looked likely to fulfill that label is….Sagan.

        • That’s a good take on the EBH question. I think the “new Merckx” thing is precisely the problem. When Merckx raced everyone raced in all the major races so there weren’t really any specialists. As a result when a rider was good at everything he could win everything. Cycle racing isn’t like that now, though, and riders like EBH who are good at everything are usually not the best at anything and struggle to turn their undoubtedly huge talent into a huge number of wins.

          I certainly don’t buy the theory that Sky are holding him back. That is based on the assumption about what he was destined to achieve that was almost certainly unrealistic. I see no compelling case that he would have done better somewhere else.

  4. UK & Ireland audiences would probably recognise that French reality show title more quickly as “I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of here!” – the ITV programme which presumably is what the French one is a licensed version of. 😉

  5. Wiggins is in a difficult position granted.

    I think EBH is a fantastic rider and is being wasted at Sky. The question raised by Kimmage also lingers in my mind along with Kennaugh’s response on Twitter which was very much in keeping with omerta. It doesn’t inspire confidence for me.

    I couldn’t agreed more with Simon Yates’ reason for not wanting to go to Team Sky to be honest

    • How was Kennaugh taking umbrage at Kimmage embarassing EBH during that pre-TdF press conference, ‘omerta’ or suspicious? Various journos writing up the account of the exchange describe EBH’s team mates at the table as looking ‘affronted’ by their team mate – of whom Sky as a squad are hugely fond – being embarrased in that way? Kennaugh’s always been vocal on his twitter feed (as you’d know if you looked at his Twitter feed) about all sorts of things that offend him – including dopers.

      If you want to see how this supposed ‘omerta’ was continued, suggest looking up the Norwegian interview with EBH’s coach at Sky, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, a couple of days after the press conference, where Arvesen willingly answers questions about EBH’s progress.

      I’m also glad that Simon Yates has gone to another team, because at least it will mean that there’s no banging on all season that its totally Sky’s fault that he’s not at the front in the last 30k of L-B-L or such. Because that was hugely tedious when applied to Tiernan-Locke

    • In what way are Sky wasting EBH? What do you suppose they should have done differently with him?

      It seems to me that because he was so hyped as a very young rider there is a presumption that he was predestined to dominate races. The reality is that he is a very good all-rounder who just is not quite good enough to beat the best specialists in any of his fields. I can’t really see why that is Sky’s fault.

  6. Christ that Virenque clip is depressing! Reminds me of the plot from Ricky Gervais’ “Extras” minus the happy ending. Though come to think of it, I would be positively delighted if things worked out so that Armstrong had to show up on these demeaning shows to support himself. I wouldn’t miss a single one! I know it is unlikely, but hope spring eternal and after all he did go on Oprah…

  7. Sure, Wiggo can race on the track. He just has to do a 260km warm-up through the north of France and a couple of fast laps on the Roubaix velodrom and he might be able to say he won P-R and returned to the track all in one day. Then he can retire.

  8. My guess is that Wiggins will commit to the tour so that he can race in his home country – massive media attention which will be required for the next book, and he won’t want Froome getting all that attention. Then a few days into France he’ll pull out injured.

    • tbh I think there’s going to be enormous pressure on him from the sponsor to line up on the start line at Leeds. I mean HUGE pressure. The two British Tour winners – massive. And fact is that Froome might be impeccably behaved, but Wiggins is the biggest draw in the UK by a country mile.

      As for attention-seeking, I think we can rely on Mrs Froome to cover that angle more than adequately

  9. Maybe I missed something, but all this talk of Wiggins winning Paris Roubaix…[brain does not compute]
    If you said that to folk here in Belgium they would look like at you like you just walked out of the asylum!
    Is it not typical that a Classics rider/Paris Roubaix winner/podium place has a bigger build, i.e.
    more muscle, especially around the thigh region, plus an almost single-minded dedication to those
    races?! I’m sure that after a rider like Cancellara, Hushovd, Tafi or Musseuw passes away the autopsy
    will confirm that instead of having internal organs they actually had organ-shaped cobbles inside them!
    As for Wiggo…zot, mannekes!!!

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