Sunday Shorts

Zdeněk Štybar wins the World Cyclo-Cross Championships. He only decided to start last Thursday. I can’t help wonder if this was a bluff, a way to deflect pressure? Because the idea of showing up at a World Championships at the last minute is rare but to win it is quite something else. Probably not but remember this day in case he’s a late entrant for Paris-Roubaix next April.

La Course
Talking of surprise additions, ASO have announced they will hold a women’s race on the final day of the Tour de France using the famous Champs Elysées circuit. For years the only women allowed on the Champs Elysées when the Tour arrived were the podium girls so this is a welcome change. Three cheers although cynicism suggests with already with closed roads, an exhibition criterium is an easy gesture. But better an easy move than nothing and those behind the move are saying it’s just the start.

Why it’ll work: Many have used the “all the cameras are in place and the roads are closed” argument to say a women’s race can be added with ease. But others reply that competing for interest with the men’s race is a hard ask, for example the men’s Flèche Wallonne crowds out the women’s race which happens earlier. But in April the attendant media are too busy watching a race that’s often complicated, even if it comes down to one uphill sprint. By contrast all journalists in Paris will have finished their pieces on Sunday with only an image and two lines on the sprint finish so they can easily add some news. It’s not just the media, viewers will gain too. The final stage is often a siesta-fest until the last few laps of the Champs so the viewing public will gladly watch a prelude sprint by the women instead of the men riding through suburban Paris.

Alphabet soup time again as the UCI announced on Saturday that its Cycling Independent Reform Commission has got the go-ahead from the UCI’s Management Committee, it’s board. The UCI stated this includes “including the procedures in place to enable it to offer reduced sanctions to people admitting to past doping offences whilst assisting the CIRC in its investigation” …but this isn’t new. The WADA Code has long said anyone offering “substantial assistance” can get a reduced ban but crucially 10.5.3 of the Code states this only applies if someone else is convicted: it’s not enough to give up a ton of information and get a reduced ban, the individuals named then have to be prosecuted.

Kimmage Case Part I
The UCI has dropped its legal action against Paul Kimmage but the tandem of Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid has not. It’s easy to forget their propensity for jaw-dropping clumsiness but along comes a reminder as they reactive the lawsuit. But for a moment imagine a case continuing through the Swiss Courts. Maybe a Swiss lawyer needs to advise but thinking aloud McQuaid and Verbruggen could cite sub judice, the fact that there’s an ongoing court case as a reason not to attend the CIRC. Clumsy or crafty?

Kimmage Case Part II
Donors to the Paul Kimmage Fund should note the ongoing court case to discover what has happened to the funds and to wrest control of the remaining money. See for the latest.

Sanchez joins BMC
Perhaps we need to see it to believe it but Samuel Sanchez has signed for BMC Racing. A career spent in the orange of Euskaltel means it’s hard to imagine him in red and black. At first you wonder why they’ve signed him given he’s spent years as a leader so adopting a support role makes a change. But the team has a big block of riders for the classics and flatter days and if they have just enough riders to support Tejay van Garderen in the Tour and Cadel Evans in the Giro, by the time the Vuelta arrives they’ll be stretched. The team’s best rider in 2013 was Dominik Nerz, 14th overall and Sanchez should bring some more visibility on the mountain stages. Presumably he’s on a Horner-style one year deal stacked with bonuses.

Flag Ambush
Sanchez spent all his career until now riding for a Basque team. Returning to that photo at the top, it almost looks as if Štybar is winning the world separatist championships. In the image you can see the Basque flags with messages calling for independence, look and you can also see Catalan flags blowing, another struggle in Spain. But there were also Flemish lions complete with black claws, another separatist icon. I’ve nothing against national pride at the worlds but it does seem some are using the TV coverage to hoist their flags on a pole and ambush the sport.

39 thoughts on “Sunday Shorts”

    • The problem with Styby is he’s a bit high strung. When cross’ conditions are fast like today, he’s almost assured a podium. If he’s put off his game either with weather, mechanical, or race tactics, he doesn’t quite fall apart, but the legs just don’t seem to work as well after the issue.

      Also remember the Spring Classics are very, very long races compared to ‘cross which is his background. Many ‘crossers don’t do quite as well as their ‘cross results would suggest on the road, example: Lars Boom.

      That’s not to say he hasn’t earned every WC, but, just pointing out what IMHO, are his weakneses.

    • It was a great win by Stybar, but it feels to me more like a great loss by the belgians. It kinda surprises me as well that at the road worlds everybody was criticizing the spaniards because they finished 2nd and 3rd and nobody is even mentioning it here for the belgians. I mean, they had BY FAR the strongest team there. It baffles me a bit that they all seem to race alone, I know that cross is different than road racing but still, it seems to me that Nys should’ve been stuck to Stybar’s back wheel with such a strong team behind, instead of pushing on… and droping all his teammates in the process.

  1. Zdeněk was the crafty one, keeping everyone distracted in wait. He knew what he was doing all along.

    CIRCus Side Show…

    Wild conspiracy theory regarding Kimmage and CIRC. There have been Many rumors spread for years; if they Are guilty of anything, this will not save them, one should also consider that with all the allegations why nothing concrete has ever come to light (why are Verbruggen and McQuaid always lumped together like they were co-Presidents? Two very different eras, styles and legacies..) and, most importantly, CIRC is toothless, presented by a man who needs to keep people distracted from scrutinizing himself. CIRC is basically a “drop a dime” hotline for losers.

  2. I have been aware of a link between cycling and separatist aspiration for some time. Most obviously Euskaltel (RIP) but Flanders and Brittany are cycling hotbeds and both have notable separatist movements. I have no idea why

  3. Will be interesting to see what happens at Roubaix I suspect Stybar will have to support Boonen but who knows.

    Not surprised that Stybar won, in the last month or so of CX he has looked in excellent form.

  4. A couple of years in the pro peloton have grown Stybar’s condition to the point where he did not have to focus on Cross in order to make his attacks work today! And with all his previous Cross experience it’s not like he was in a strange world!

    I normally do not follow Cross…especially when surrounded by family members who are Die-hard Nys fans, jumping up and down, screaming “Nyyyyyys!” for an hour or so…but really enjoyed watching today!

    Look forward to seeing his Classics progression in 2014, which seems to have grown in leaps and bounds the past few years!

  5. I can only presume that you have an extremely steady hand and a lot of patience to actually get the letters to line up in your soup? Top marks for effort.

  6. A great race and Stybar demonstrates that a road racer can successfully participate in the cyclo-cross season with a limited but carefully planned winter. I am sure this is an omen for Stybar’s classics season, he means business in Paris-Roubaix this year.

    Hopefully this might persuade a few more of the cx’ers who have moved to an exclusive road career to consider mixing it up a bit in the winter. It would be good to see the likes of John Gadret, Sagan(!), etc joining in the off-road fun.

    • Um, Marianne Vos anyone? Both senior titles this year when with ‘small’ preparations for CX, but Vos has already demonstrated this point, many times, surely?

  7. This picture seems to suggest that Stybar came to Hoogerheide with the rainbow sign on his tubes, something only allowed to the current world champion (and I think no one is allowed to have them on their kit in the championship race itself). Apparently, they fixed the little problem with a black marker. Luckily for them, I guess black marker comes of rather easily!

    (P.s. I’m not the original photographer, so be sure to check his website)

  8. I’m less cynical than you (IR) about ASO running a women’s race on the last day of the TDF. At least they are doing it on arguably the biggest day of the year for cycling in terms of media and exposure. Not to mention the crowds in Paris.

    As a wider issue, running more than one race on a course makes sense. Plenty of other sports manage it (tennis, equestrian, triathlon, swimming, athletics…) I can’t see why cycling can’t. To me, this is the key to having a higher profile for womens cycling. Separate events cost 2 x to stage, the cost of including another race with the mens is just incremental.

    • I’m pleased to see the race, delighted. But it’s just an easy option rather an a revolution.

      On adding two races, it can be easier said than done. The hard part in cycling is closing the road. Take a stage of the Tour de France right now and say the men come through a spot at 3.00pm. They could be slow or fast on the day so the giant publicity caravan ahead of the race has to have come through by 2.00pm. Now to slot an extra race in and where do you put it? ASO won’t want the caravan moved back because it’s so valuable. So do the women roll through at midday? Not easy because you’d have to close the roads very early and stop the crowds getting into place and the TV cameras, apart from the finish line cams, would be in the wrong place. ASO also say the Tour is so big that they’re aren’t enough extra hotel rooms available to house another race. These might all sound like excuses but they’re valid ones to explore.

      • Yes there are lots of problems but I think they are all solvable. Of course, Emma Pooley last year demanding there be a women’s TdF in 2014 was always unlikely to be workable, but perhaps her pressure led to this one day race.

        For a full women’s tour, the stages would be shorter, so you’d have a separate start town (a money-spinner) and share the finish town with the men. The women’s race would have to finish a couple of hours before the men’s, so they’d have time afterwards to transfer to the next start town and stay there overnight rather than the same place as the men. More complicated on a summit finish but there is normally a transfer after those anyway. The stage being slightly different will make logistics with the caravan easier, time the caravan to act as the broom wagon for the women’s race. The fans would get more of a show, women’s race rolls through, then the caravan, then the men’s race.

        I’m just throwing ideas out here, perhaps it is actually impossible, but the options should be looked at rather than dismissed out of hand.

      • Hellishly difficult to get up a stage race for 2014 at such short notice.

        This is a start. And a race on the Champs is a fantastic platform for sponsor visibility. Bertine, Pooley etc are certainly not moaning about not getting a 3 week Tour equivalent from the get-go. They have the nous to recognise movement from the ASO and the support from the UCI, and to embrace that rather than moan that its not a 3 week Tour or that it’s just a sop from the ASO.

        Let’s see the reaction to the running of La Course, and how it takes off.

  9. As soon as there are corporate or state objections to these politically motivated flag stunts I can see the finish lines getting tighter controls and bans etc. A shame if it means the amusing and the innocent ones face exclusion too. It’ll end up like other sports with everyone getting a free ‘insert sponsor here’ flag to wave. The yellow and black lion of Flanders, whilst a statement by some / many (I don’t know) is an institution at races, wouldn’t like to be the guy taking them off people at the Ronde!

  10. Am also glad to see Sammy in a pro team. He adds a lot when he races and frankly, BMC need some people who are good in week 3 of a grand tour.

  11. FYI, the white flag inside the basque flag does not support independence, it claims for repatriation of basque political prisoners who are spread all over Spain and France (some more than 1000 km far away from their families).
    Euskal = basque, presoak = prisoners, etxera = home.

      • We can say that all separatists want the prisoners in the Basque Country. In the other way round, not all the people that think basque prisoners should be in prisons of Basque Country are separatists (it is a human rights issue).
        Nevertheless, you can assure that those who show “prisoner flags” are separatists or nationalists at least.

  12. I wouldn’t go as far as call it an ambush by seperatist movements to show their agenda.

    I’d rather approach it from the perspective of supporting your national team, but taken one step further: supporting your regional riders.

    In a sport where the support of a specific team is not as distinctive as in let’s say football, I find it makes sense that fans opt to support riders from their country or even their region.

    Countries like Spain, France, Belgium, the UK and even the Netherlands have very distinct regions and most, if not all have some sort of ‘regionalism’ movement. This doesn’t neccesarily lead to seperatism, although it certainly does in some obvious cases. On Saturday, the man awarding the CCX prizes, the ‘governor’ of the Brabant province, to the U18 and Women in CCX, was wearing a white-and-red checkered scarf, the same as the regional flag of Brabant.

    I must say, after visiting the CCX WC on Sunday, I quite liked the display of all the various flags, both national and regional. If every Belgian there would have only been waving their national flag, it would have been very very monotonous, as you may imagine the % of visitors from Belgium yesterday was quite huge 😉

    • Agreed. Almost every sporting event (and music festival) seems to have a Welsh flag waving somewhere in the background; whether the Welsh are involved or not. Be a shame if everybody tried to follow the approach of Beijing 2008 and ban flags whose politically motivations weren’t state approved.

      • If it’s all for fun, no problem. But what have political prisoners in Spain got to do with a CX race? Someone else by the finish was holding a Dirk Hofman style “no to the new tram line” board. And we often see the Lega Nord waving Padania flags. It’s good to support your region but people are picking spots to dangle their political flags in front of the cameras. It only takes 10 people compared to the hundreds and thousands waving flags in support of “their” riders.

  13. I agree with you there man, there will always be people trying to push their local agenda in front of the cameras, just as an attempt to draw attention.

    In that sense, we see the same things happening in Sochi’s Winter Olympics, uprisings already in Brazil leading up to their Olympics as well, and so on.

    On one hand, I like it because it just adds to the whole ‘circus’ vibe within cycling. On the other I completely agree, that if it starts to overshadow the sport itself it becomes a problem, because then once again sport has become a political tool. I’d like to think that those Basque people primarily came to the WC because they are cycling fans, not to get their message across, but I could definitely be wrong.

    It’s indeed a very tough dilemma. When does sportive support for your region turn into outright seperatist campaigning? Where do we draw the line?

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