Sunday Shorts

Talk about a long weekend, i’s been an instructive and busy two days of racing. Chris Froome and Alberto Contador both won, the same for André Greipel and Mark Cavendish along with Carlos Betancur and Michał Kwiatkowski, Alejandro Valverde, Amaël Moinard and Moreno Hofland. Almost all big names, Moinard is a big helper and Hofland a future sprinting prospect.

Froome’s result was expected but it marked Contador’s first win in over a year and a chance to revive the El Pistolero victory salute. Is he back to being a forced to be reckoned with? It’s too soon to tell but it’s a start. Unlike poor Andy Schleck who was invisible in the Tour of Oman, he might yet come good but you feel for his supporters who must wait.

Calendar clash: if anything the weekend was too crowded. We had the Volta ao Algarve and the Ruta Del Sol at the same time and both just a bike ride away from each other. I know they’re in separate countries but it shows the calendar’s incoherence at times, two clashing races that are very similar and now there’s not a single race in Europe all week until Saturday.

2008 Junior Worlds: Jakob Steigmiller – Michał Kwiatkowski – Taylor Phinney

If Contador won a stage, Michał Kwiatkowski won the Volta ao Algarve outright. He wore the White Jersey in the Tour last summer and there seems to be no limit to his talent, he can climb, time trial and has a fast finish too. He’s long been a name to watch – that’s him as junior world time trial champion. He turned pro with the modest Caja Rural team but moved to Radioshack after a year and then prompted Pat Lefevere to break an unwritten pact between his OPQS team and Johan Bruyneel and Dirk Demol of Radioshack where they would not try and recruit, ie poach, each other’s riders. But Lefevere thought the Pole was too good and broke the deal.

Talking of young prospects, Romain Bardet won the best young rider jersey in Oman and FDJ’s Emilien Viennet won the same prize in the Tour du Haut Var. Viennet’s a second year pro but spent much of last year away from the bunch after coming down with depression but things are on the up.

Out of shape but in form: the surprise result of the weekend was Carlos Betancur of Ag2r La Mondiale outsprinting John Degenkolb for Saturday’s stage of the Tour du Haut Var. The Colombian was leading out Samuel Dumoulin… but just kept going. Betancur started the season substantially overweight and Operación Bikini is still active but if he’s not in shape, he’s coming into form.

Bicycle thieves: If Degenkolb felt robbed he should speak to Team Sky. Thieves struck on the eve of the Tour du Haut Var. Bike thefts are a recurring feature. Last year at the Tour Med Garmin-Sharp got raided and there were more thefts too, think at the Worlds in Florence where the Russians and Danes were hit. These aren’t opportunist hits from some joker having a go on a Saturday night, they’re done by gangs who raid and then speed the bikes away to another country. I gather Lampre’s bikes ended up in Ukraine and Garmin-Sharp’s machines might have gone to Serbia.

What to do? With talk of security guards or even a team dog I can’t think a powerful alarm system is the answer. With a separate system rigged inside the truck that goes off within seconds of entry, it would be enough to wake team staff within seconds of a break in, probably enough to panic the thieves into fleeing.

L’Equipe fined: more negative news, L’Equipe newspaper got hit with a €3.5m fine this week. It was on anti-competition grounds, a rival newspaper started and L’Equipe took aggressive measures against the start-up to ensure its near-monopoly on print sports reporting in French wasn’t in danger. What does this mean? L’Equipe is losing money, circulation numbers are falling and this is record-breaking fine for a newspaper: the Amaury family who own the paper have had a bad week.

Fignon Film: there’s a film in production about Laurent Fignon, the double Tour winner. Don’t get your hopes up, it’s what the French call a téléfilm, the Gallic equivalent of straight-to-DVD. Made to satisfy a quota of French films for TV and cinema these are often terrible. The film brief seems to have changed, it had involved actor Laszlo Matekovics and told the story of Fignon and his oncologist and their relationship, a reflection on mortality presumably set in relief by Fignon’s triumphs and strengths. But that’s been canned and now we’re promised a comédie sociale that will play on themes from the 70s and 80s and include race footage.

2015 World Tour: from nostalgia to the future as the UCI is still reviewing the team selection criteria for the 2015 World Tour. This means the relegation and promotion system with points and the other aspects being reviewed. Only we’re well into the 2014 season now and riders and teams don’t know what’s ahead. There are plans under discussion but nothing is agreed. It’s astonishing that we have a sport where the rules on who joins, stays or leaves the top division are not known even while the season is under way.

Here come the cobbles: 2015 might be uncertain but next week means Belgium with the opening weekend of the classics season with Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Words like cobbles, omloop and deelnemers are appearing more and more. A full preview of next weekend’s racing will appear on here soon.

44 thoughts on “Sunday Shorts”

  1. Would the thieves be able to get much money for the stolen bikes in Ukraine and Serbia? Wouldn’t have thought there’s much of a market for top end bikes.

    • Better to get a little money than try to sell them in France and have the police arresting you. But team issue bikes sell for a decent price around the world and paying back 3-4 men plus van rental and fuel should turn a substantial profit.

      Note it’s always the premium bikes that get boosted: Pinarello, Cervelo, Cannondale. Nobody is boosting the Lapierres or Ridleys.

      • I would have thought that, even in Ukraine and Serbia, a collection of second-hand-but-latest-model team-issue Pinarellos for sale, all set up with slammed stems for pros, might raise eyebrows, given that such bikes are going to be sold to enthusiasts. How big is the road cycling community in those places?

        I know Ukrainians probably have bigger things on their mind right this instant, of course…

        • Speculation, yes I’ve seen it about one before, a claim that it was done for insurance. But I stress that could just be nonsense too. It’s hard to see why someone on the team would want to get involved with this; it’s presumably a high risk crime.

    • It would suprise you, but mint team issue bike is easily sold overnight for 2000-3000 euros in eastern countries. Thousands of buyers for stuff like this in each country.
      It is not unusal that bikes are “sold” before actual theft happen. Not only road bikes but also DH bikes from WC are in demand.

  2. Thank you for an interesting ‘shorts’.
    Observations: Cavendish sprint win and Contador’s climb victories both by narrow margins – not at all in the style of their past performance. Haut Var always produces an interesting winner, shame it was not televised as it presents a more interesting parcours than anything else on offer over the weekend. How long before teams start protecting their assets in a meaningful way, there is nothing new about the SKY thefts. Kwiatkowski is certainly a rider for the future, no wonder Lefevere reverted to type. Good European weekends sport, look forward to the cobbles.

  3. I love the top photo. At first you see Cav celebrating like normal but then you see Demare and Modolo both gesticulating. Maybe they feel it could have been their day?

      • We have a big problem with stolen bikes in Brazil. It so tough to ride around, imagining you could have a gun pointed to your head and loose your “precious ride”. Problem is, the a$$h@les who buy these stolen bikes. They know what they are buying, because Dogmas 65.1 are not ridden by people who dont know what they are riding and these people are riding Dogmas 65.1 that they paid 1/4 of the market price. In my opinion, the consumer of stolen goods are as deserved of jail as are the thieves!

        • +1 Back-in-the-day (yes, here he goes again) at least where I grew up, pro-quality bikes were rarely stolen because there was a bit of honor involved. Nobody would buy a bike obviously stolen from a friend or competitor. The world of cycling was much smaller, while of course there was no internet to fence stolen bikes in places far away from their owners. Anyone out there know if this was a problem in the distant past, say in the Merckx era? I still believe the best solution is to set up these team trucks with a small sleeping quarters, just like the long-haul truckers have. Staff members take turns sleeping out in the truck and are instantly awakened when the thieves strike. Once this happens a few times, the theft rings will look elsewhere for easy pickings.

          • Everything must have been simpler when the world was smaller. It seems that the further we get from the legends of honor, the less honor there is. But, there is an equal chance that there was the same percentage of bad guys and it’s just that their stories didn’t survive.

            I used to support the sleeping quarters idea, but this is much too dangerous. The cost of alarms and infrared security cameras on the outside and inside of the service vehicles would probably pay for themselves in insurance premium discounts. Security footage could be stored on board as well as sent to remote storage via an internet and/or mobile connection.

            I think there is a possibility that the thefts are an easy answer to the time consuming headache of getting rid of last years models cost effectively, regardless of whether it’s organized or a blind eye. The insurance pay out is likely more money than could be collected by parting out the bikes themselves. The insurance company is still making money regardless.

          • I think bikes have become a lot more expensive too. You could buy a team issue bike for much less than the price of today’s models, even accounting for inflation. Since Team Sky are mentioned their Pinarello frames sell for €3,500 and go back 10 years and you could buy an entire team issue bike for this, inflation adjusted. Of course you would not get the same, no electronic shifting, profiled carbon rims, power meter etc. But perhaps the rising value is a draw to the thieves too, it becomes more profitable.

        • +1 Marcelo. I’m from Rio and can attest to that. I’ve heard reports of bunches being stopped by thiefs in the roads near São Paulo, and the thieves saying “we want the Dogma, the Team Machine, the S5, the Venge” – so they know what they’re doing.
          Here in Rio we had a bit of a surge in the last few months. It’s still fairly safe if you ride in the right places and hours, but we still have to be careful.
          Bike insurance + little prayer, only way to go.

          • I spend a lot of time in Brazil too and cyclists get jacked at gun point all the time, even if your bike is only half decent and even away from city centers…If you add the crappy tarmac and wild local driving habits (to put it mildly) you are better off on trails and dirt roads on a MB, waaay safer.

  4. Cotton from the handlebar to a mechanic’s toe? I bet the A-Team have better security.. Wouldn’t want to be the guy telling Froome or Wiggins that they’ve managed to borrow a Hybrid from the hotel. Cav looks a little trimmer since his last outing, I wonder if he struggles to keep off the weight or just relaxes and relies on early hot tours to get in shape?

    • Until insurance companies change their terms, pro-team won’t change their practices.

      I wonder if pro-teams get a fee rise too should they lose a truck load of bikes.

    • Cav struggles with his weight in the off season much more than his rivals, always has, and I dont think its that he goes wild. In the words of his ex-coach, Rod Ellingworth, ‘Cav only has to look at a cake and he puts on weight’

  5. Andy Schleck apparently has had a better winter training period than last year and, despite not showing good form right now, is targeting Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Then we’ll see…

  6. Everytime there’s a bike theft, it’s followed by reports of teams now backing up their lorries against the wall, or backing cars up against van doors so nothing can be taken…then followed by reports of more thefts. All pretty bizarre, given clearly all the teams are aware of it all by now.

  7. While it would be a royal pain (loading in and loading out), it fascinates me that the teams don’t rent hotel conference or meeting rooms to store the equipment, at least when they are in larger hotels. The rooms can be locked, there is often in house security, as well as accountability. While there is always risk, thieves would have a harder time moving through hotel hallways and lobbies.

    • This could happen sometimes when teams are based in a place for a while; they will do it for a training camp. But teams are often moving from hotel to hotel for races and besides, the kind of place they stay for many races is a 2-3* motel where “conference facilities” mean a phone booth 😉

  8. There must be a way that they can attached some sort of GPS type thing to some of these bikes.
    Tucked away somewhere, or even embedded in the frame, at least.

    Its not going to stop anything, but may make tracking or getting the bloody things back easy.

    • That’s exactly what I was thinking – tracking device, especially seeing as many of those bikes cost as much as a small car! And if a whole load of bikes and wheels are being stolen you are looking at close to €100,000 of material! Maybe JTL is selling them!
      Hell, maybe these bikes are being bought by police chiefs, lawyers, etc!

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