Tuesday Shorts

The Vuelta is French now, at least in the sense that the race is now 100% owned by ASO, the owners of the Tour de France and other races. ASO bought 49% of Unipublic, the company that runs the Vuelta back in 2008 and now bought the remaining 51% from Atresmedia Televisión.

Now there’s talk of a two week race. Loyal readers will have seen this back in August but for now it seems an exploratory idea. If anything the race could explore a four week format just to get one over the Tour de France and Giro…

..of course that’s impossible. A three week race is already excessive although in a wonderful way. It was a wild idea in 1903 and remains so today.

One thing to note is that the talk of calendar reform just strengthens the Tour de France. If the number of races and race days is cut and the Tour de France remains three weeks long then as a percentage it represents even more of the calendar. As well as taking over the Vuelta, ASO is strengthening its grip on the entire sport.

Tour of Rwanda

Tour of Rwanda
Now to a more modest level and the Tour of Rwanda starts in four days and features such a hilly route that they don’t bother with a points jersey. It’s worth watching out for this race because it gives us a glimpse into earlier forms of cycling – for starters it’s not on TV. Like the Eroica in Italy the race sometimes uses dirt roads are one thing. But it’s full of riders who are literally hungry for the win. I’m currently reading Tim Lewis’s book “The Land of Second Chances” about Team Rwanda and will write a review shortly.

Tour Down Under
Talking of upcoming races, the Tour Down Under is 70 days away. It’s not long for those looking to start the season in good shape. Riders wanting points in the sprints or on Willunga Hill and the GC are on training plans already. In fact you can tell the riders going to Australia by their tweets, those posting images of SRM units or travelling to sunnier climes for better training are already back in business for 2014.

Where is Langkawi?
The Tour de Langkawi route was announced today. Langkawi is a small island off the coast of the Malaysian peninsula and the race visits once but the rest of the race is on the mainland. It’s like having a Tour of Corsica which spends most of its time lapping France. The race exists to promote the island and Malaysian tourism in general but it seems an odd choice of name.

WADA Conference
Talking of locations, WADA today announced a new app for athletes with Android and Apple phones to update their Whereabouts, the daily one hour slot where they can be reached for testing. Note it’s not going to have any geo-location, testing agents cannot be expected to track athletes during a training ride or a shopping trip.

But that’s a small detail from WADA’s conference in Johannesburg. The agency is expected to approve a new version of its Code which will include four year bans, a doubling of the standard two year ban. Like the current two year ban it will normally apply to the heavier substances, the kind you won’t find in a cold remedy or could legitimately consume by accident or stupidity and which are listed as “specified substances”. In short people being busted for EPO will get four year bans soon.

Free Smartphones and the Hidden Economy
Finally on the topic of smartphones, I was offered one to review the other day by a PR company. Kit reviews are rare on here and a phone review might look out of place but it was free to keep and billed as waterproof so the chance to see how it coped sitting in a back pocket on long wintry rides and then allow me to update the blog was one angle for the review. And there are possible benefits for me and readers alike; for example I could corract typos during a café stop. Only I couldn’t promise the agency glowing praise, if salt spray killed it I’d tell you. The trail went cold.

The blog has grown and so has the email inbox. Everyone gets a reply – if you’ve been in touch and didn’t hear back it’s normally the spam filter. But amongst the messages is an increasing volume of emails from PR people wanting product reviews or “paid content” where companies pay bloggers to write things, a typed version of product placement. Rest assured there’s none of that here, only openly appreciative thanks to the sponsors who rent the ad space here. Still, it’s like glimpsing a hidden economy, a black market where things are not what they seem.

34 thoughts on “Tuesday Shorts”

  1. “I could CORRECT typo’s during a café stop”. Sorry, not sure if its deliberate.

    I do appreciate that your blog is not covered in the mess of adverts that are the lot of other websites – I do get fed up with that bloody tyre !

  2. Thanks INRNG.

    Maybe worth mentioning that the new version of the WADA Code with its increased sanctions will take effect Jan 2015. Also it provides (for the first time) sanctions for the athletes entourage – coaches etc.

    • There are many requests, from phones to several large bike shops but also beer and clothing brands. It’s the scale of it that’s impressive, there are large agencies emailing out requests every day. Some are upfront and want a blog post in exchange for cash, that’s transparent at least. But others give free products accompanied with “suggestions” for text in the reviews and most sneaky, others want you to use certain buzzwords and their brand name in a piece in exchange for cash, it’s verbal product placement.

      • Given that you’ve rejected these approaches, could you give any approximate indication as to the amounts offered?

        Would be interested to know whether it’s a few pounds here and there, or enough for a less scrupulous blogger to make a good living.

        • It varies but $/€/£ 50-100 seems a common offer. I’ve no interest but if I did start dropping [insert beer brand / bike shop name etc] references into posts it would just look odd to the reader, people would spot the BS.

          As for making a living, perhaps if you did bike tech or something more mass market like consumer electronics as the audience would be big and the brands behind it might pay more. But again if you start a blog and end up copy-pasting corporate messages then who would read it and above all you’d be bored too.

          • It’s a great blog always worth reading and the responses your blogs are also informative, entertaining and constructive. As for spotting the BS if you went down the selling the soul route it would become clear, very quickly!

  3. ASO’s full acquisition of the Vuelta indicates just how bad the state of the Spanish economy is right now. With unemployment for young adults at ~57%, things won’t be getting better anytime soon. Looks like we’ll be seeing more French sponsors such as Carrefour over the next few years at the Spanish tour. A shame really with the vast talent pool of Spanish riders.

    • So Norway, Katar, Oman China also have an economy in a bad state or is this only in Spain the reason that their tour an ASO race, following your made up theory?
      Glad that the french economy is in such good shape. Not.

      • I’ve covered the French takeover of the Vuelta by sponsors like Carrefour already http://inrng.com/2013/09/vuelta-espana-french-takeover/. But note Italy has problems too, many more pro riders but only one Italian pro team in 2014 with Lampre (although both Astana and Cannondale have some Italian DNA).

        The French economy is not so good but this has long been the way for French business, many large companies make big sales abroad (think Michelin, Danone etc) and ASO is going this way too with grand départs abroad and new events around the world.

  4. +1 for the email reply. I don’t know how you do it inrng but it is impressive what you pack into a day to the benefit of all of us (outside your full time job as you have previously stated).

    I am one of those vultures whose job it is to handle in the illicit goods of paid ‘editorial’ content. From the inside looking out: it is complete garbage and a corrupting force in the fair and honest dissemination and broadcast of facts and ideas. Thanks for your disclosure and attention to integrity…. ok, I’m gushing… done.

  5. Hired an old school steel road bike while backpacking in Langkawi in 2011 to do a lap of the island. It’s a beautiful place with great food, wild monkeys on the side of the road and as a bonus there’s no tax on the beer.

  6. The Spanish economy amongst others in Europe has not been helped by the dictatorship in Brussels. I have said enough already now I must go and dust my Euro flag.

  7. “I could CORRECT typo’s during a café stop”. Sorry, not sure if its deliberate.

    I’m sure that it’s deliberate.
    … just correcting the corrections.

  8. Keep up the good work, and great that you respond to people that email you, I’m sure it’s getting harder and harder, but while I’ve never done it myself, we appreciate all the work you put in! I’ve been reading for a couple of years now and it’s the best cycling blog around.

    • It depends who you ask or read. Some say it was too early and cold, some say it was to get a better field, others to extend the season (just the world championships which were held in August but got moved to Octover, an early example of moving the calendar).

  9. I don’t so much mind product-placement or even paid endorsements AS LONG AS THEY’RE CLEARLY IDENTIFIED AS SUCH. While our blog (and website) exists solely to promote our cycling vacations, we like to help those with worthwhile products and services as well, but we’re careful to include disclaimers so there’s no confusion. Sadly, it seems CONFUSION is exactly what so many bloggers and those who pay for their “content” to be included are trying to create. BRAVO to you for making things crystal clear!

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