Thursday Shorts

Stick to the road – New UCI TV show – Coaches – No Bruyneel verdict – Classics Countdown
The UCI’s quietly issued an update to its “stick to the road rule” but the new wording is even more confusing than the original.

Here’s the new wording with the additions in bold:

“It is strictly prohibited to use sidewalks/pavements, paths or cycle paths that do not form part of the course (i.e. those separated by kerbs, verges, level changes or other physical features) if a dangerous situation is created inter alia for other riders, spectators or race personnel by such action or if such action procures a significant advantage over other riders.”

It’s an attempt to clear things up but the wording seems ambiguous. Rather than tidying up a rule we seem to have more questions and uncertainty. What is a “dangerous situation”? For example is hopping over a kerb dangerous given a rider could mess it up and crash or is it only dangerous if an accident happens? Note the “significant advantage”, what does it mean, how do we weigh up a smoother dirt path versus pavé, it’s not clear in black and white text yet alone for riders who must decide these things mid-race with the fatigue of five hours and a coating of mud or dust etc.

Rules should be black and white, crystal clear leave no doubt. By contrast the revised wording takes a confusing rule and manages to make it more ambiguous. Chapeau!

One way to check whether riders obey the rules is to watch inCycle. This is a new TV show being produced by sports management company IMG for the UCI for the Project Avignon teams. The aim is to showcase pro cycling and create a regular magazine format that can be sold to TV channels around the world. You can see the intro above. I’ve seen the full show and it’s slick. Here’s the brief from IMG:

  • The best racing action from the UCI World Tour and UCI Continental Tours;
  • Provide historical insight and tactical analysis for each event;
  • Spend time getting to know our favorite riders;
  • Reveal the inner workings and unsung heroes of each team on the various Classics and Tours;
  • Unpick the headlines of cycling science;
  • Wrap all this in an accessible and fast-moving 26 minute magazine format that is bursting with energy.

Notice anything? It’s men-only. In fact if inCycle is slick it’s almost too good when you compare it to the Women’s World Cup and the UCI’s new venture in reporting women’s races. Hear for yourself with the Skype-quality audio:

Is something better than nothing? Well we do get some online coverage which is great. But I tend to agree with the Velocast podcast which asked the same and said “no it is not” because the quality isn’t captivating and if “the product” isn’t sold well then it risks looking like a second-tier sport compared to the men.

The good news is that production qualities can be improved – buy a microphone and record the audio at a higher bit rate – although it begs the question of why inCycle is men-only and the UCI looks on as IMG produces a slick package for the men but not the women.

Contador’s new coach
It was “revealed” earlier this week by De Telegraaf’s Raymond Kerchoff that Alberto Contador is being coached by Tinkoff-Saxo DS Steven de Jongh. It seems an odd scoop, a coach should be obvious. But it seems the sport is such that we know more about the team coach of the vehicular kind rather than the staff variety. More odd was Contador telling the mediaI’m not interested in knowing anything [about Team Sky]” when asked if he was now using techniques from Team Sky imported by de Jongh. Surely everyone in cycling is interested… and none more so than a rider whose biggest rival is on Team Sky? Then again some athletes deliberately ignore their rivals because its out of their control; but all the same here’s a chance to get some intel. Or Perhaps he was just cagey and wanted to end the conversation in case anyone asked him about his former coach Jose “Pepe” Martí at Discovery and Astana.

Marti’s stopwatch is still running

Justice delayed
If Martí sounds familiar it’s because he was given a lifetime ban by USADA along with Johan Bruyneel but this went to arbitration over the winter. The verdict has yet to be delivered although it could well appear soon. But the delay doesn’t look good for anyone. Justice is very slow whether to clear people or prosecute them and it makes the whole system look opaque and private when it needs to be presented as something much more transparent.

Colombian Coach
If Martí’s not a coach you want to associate with in public, how about Doctor Daniele Tarsi? A long career with his last pro team stint at Vini Fantini (“all the values were normal” he said about Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Satambrogio) he is now the coach of the Colombian national team. Is this the best choice going?

50 Days to the Giro, 5 to Catalonia
There are better things to look forward to than a Colombian time bomb. There are 50 days to the Giro but hopefully nobody is doing a big countdown as before the Giro there’s so much to look forward to with the classics with Milan-Sanremo on Sunday (no snow this time but rain). Even if you’re sadly allergic to one day races or pavé there’s the Volta a Catalunya next Monday with a galaxy of stars including Chris Froome vs. Alberto Contador alongside Joaquin Rodriguez, Nairo Quintana, Tejay van Garderen, Carlos Betancur and more.

40 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

  1. Update: I wrote above that inCycle was being produced “for” the UCI but that’s not the case, it’s a package by IMG to sell on rather than the property of the UCI. It’s being done in conjunction with the Project Avignon breakaway teams so don’t expect to see FDJ, Astana, Ag2r, Europcar and Katusha and other non-Avignon teams.

    • This is ridiculous. Hope it fails. Who the hell are Demare, Nibali, Betancur, Voeckler, Rodriguez anyway?

      insolentCycle seems more apt.

  2. As someone who works for a major public land management agency, I’m familiar with rules like this. I think the UCI are just, to use the legal term, ‘covering their arse’. If there’s an accident and someone from the general public wants to sue, the UCI will now be able to say it wasn’t their fault as they’d outlawed the practice. Might not be perfect, but it could discourage all but the most lawyered-up plaintiffs.

    • I hadn’t thought of it like that, the wording allows cover rather than prevention. The risk is that it’s not applied equally by officials and some star name is busted in a big race for something that was tolerated on another occasion.

      • What about the “if such action procures a significant advantage over other riders.” bit?

        It sounds like the rule’s not only about “safety”, but “fairness” as well.

        • Wouldn’t this rule be best served by looking at it from another angle?

          “No rider should leave the course, to be defined as those separated by kerbs, verges, level changes or other physical features, unless to prevent an accident or to avoid one”

          You may have some ambiguity around whether an accident was prevented, but that should be fairly clear of the intention from replays. Sanctions for the rider (5 sec penalty?) applied at the time if it was seen as a cynical attempt to gain time. A more wreckless act, that endangered other riders or spectators could attract more severe penalties.

          In this way you are only asking a rider to do what is natural and that is avoid going down in the dirt and taking other riders with you (if there is a patch outside of the course you can safely divert to)

      • Sounds like this change makes it easier for the officials to turn a blind eye. If most of the peloton is on the cycle path the Commissaires can simply ignore the fools that didn’t manage to get there. Similarly if one rider gets a big advantage and no one else risks it he’ll be fined/DQd.

        Perhaps this is a regulation that is just waiting for a commissaire brave enough to use it and set the precedent. If enforced a couple of times and the news filters through it will encourage new behaviour in the bunch. I expect the UCI will be having a chat with their top tier Commissaires to encourage them to take some action in the upcoming classics and laying out exactly what they expect from this rule.

  3. I have a question about whether in professional sport women should get special treatment (ie their own races) and not equal treatment (ie race with men)?

    If a woman is good enough, what is to stop her riding in the World Tour?

    At amateur and club levels sure, there are all sorts of categories, elite men, elite women, under 23s under 19s, masters, etc, although even in club racing men and women can and do compete in the same grades, ie A grade, B grade, etc.

    But at professional level, teams and events exist to supply a market demand. And if there is insufficient demand to sustain much in the way of women’s cycling, why should extra resources be forced by governing bodies into something that (relatively) few people want to watch?

    If Danica Patrick can line up in the pole position in Nascar, why can’t Mariana Vos (at least try to) line up at the Tour de France?

    • A governing body has a duty to promote the sport but crucially on an equal basis rather than a pure commercial one. The UCI is trying to catch up, eg equal medals at the Olympics. As for women and men, most athletic competitions divide the competitions because of inherently different abilities; less the case in the more skill-based motor racing. There has been talk of Vos racing with the men but it would only be a show and wouldn’t prove anything.

      • If the rationale is to encourage more female participation in cycling, and subsidising professional womens teams is the best way to do this (which is an open question) then fair enough. That could potentially be justified.

        But I don’t think the argument about different abilities necessarily holds water, at least from an equal treatment perspective. Everyone has different abilities.

        Using race, gender or genetic characteristics to differentiate is discrimination no? It’s the same as saying there be a special 100m sprint for white people at the olympics because they can’t run as fast as people of west african descent. The only difference being this segmentation is based on skin colour instead of reproductive organs.

        • There are clear athletic differences between men and women. But skin, not really – see Christophe Lemaitre and it’s not having more melatonin pigment that makes for a faster runner etc, cause and effect and all that.

          But sport is always an arbitrary contest and in many ways the opposite of equality, it’s the search and selection of a winner.

          And right now we have men’s cycling and women’s cycling. I gather the women’s coverage is going to improve and some temporary issues were behind the sound quality and editing for the first report of the season.

        • The UCI has a mission to promote the sport of cycling. This means that, regardless of current market demand, they have an interest in promoting the expectation that people can strive to compete and succeed in cycling, regardless of gender. By presenting women’s cycling as a 2nd class sport (e.g. low wages (is there a minimum even?), small prize money, little media coverage, etc.), the UCI perpetuates a social expectation that this not where serious female athletes or even female fitness enthusiasts should channel there talents, energy, and money. We have age divisions in the amateur ranks because this helps to grow the sport (and its market value) and, similarly, separating male and female athletes in cycling races could–if done properly–do the same.

      • Vos has already raced against men on the road in some capacity. I read an interview with her in either Procycling or Cyclesport a while ago, and she mentioned this – and to give her full credit she said make no mistake, there is a gap between men and womens abilities, speed etc.

    • If women were to ride world tour races you would also have to allow junior men to ride as they are significantly faster than Elite women according to the world records they set (even though they might not have the same stamina yet). I know these are track records but they show the baseline ability. Bear in mind most women would not make the time-cut on stage races and they would rarely if ever feature on normal podium presentations.

      World records :
      Women team pursuit (4km): 4’16″552 (GB)
      Junior team pursui (4km)t: 4’02″632 (AUS)

      Women individual pursuit (3km): 3’22″269 SARAH HAMMER (USA)
      Junior individual pursuit (3km): 3’13″958 PARKER DALE (AUS)

      Women 500m TT: 32”836 ANNA MEARES (AUS)
      Junior 500m TT: 26″969 ALEXANDRE KHROMIKHE (RUS)

      I wholeheartedly applaud better presentation of Women’s racing but lumping them in with the men in world tour races would only do them a disservice and highlight the massive difference in performance.
      Women in motor racing is fine as it’s the car that is doing the work. Women physically make better military jet pilots but rarely make the grade due to generally lower spatial awareness. Sometimes there are really basic reasons for why things don’t work, it’s just physics.

    • You assume demand isn’t there. But the only reason men’s cycling is popular is over a centrury of promotion bringing it into public consciousness and creating an audience.

      If women’s cycling was given greater exposure why shouldn’t it reach similar levels of popularity to the men’s sport?

      That strikes me as a sensible thing for the UCI to promote irrespective of equality motives – growing participation, interest and revenues for cycling is all upside for them.

  4. Incycle is an almost identical format to their Golfing World show which started in 2011. IMG Media which reps a lot of big sports events has the broadcaster relationships in place to make shows like these very easy to sell. Many broadcasters are keen for cheap magazine formats to fill up time around live events.

    They won’t shoot much show specific content, more an aggregation of what’s available plus the interview pieces.

      • Its also available via cyclingnews.
        They’ve just posted a MSR preview which (IMO) is very, very good. If this is a flavour of what’s to come for the rest of the year, then I for one will be watching every episode.

    • “They won’t shoot much show specific content”… tell that to my wife and daughter who’ve barely seen me these past weeks. There will be plenty of specific shooting done for each show, fear not!

  5. “Rules should be black and white, crystal clear leave no doubt. ”

    A lovely sentiment but truly a rarity in a wide number of contexts–especially the law. According to one school of jurisprudence, the formal rules of law only gain content via application and the courts developing precedent. One problem with this rule is it is never applied and you rightly express concern that it will be used arbitrarily. Maybe the rule is just a liability protection as @RayG suggests but, until UCI rules are applied consistently over time, the precision of the language used in writing the rules will not help teams and riders be able to predict the outcomes of UCI decisions.

    • I think this isn’t too bad now, given the addition of the words in brackets which do add clarity. Frankly, the only reason a rider will hop off the road *is* to gain an advantage; they’re in a race, after all. This rule now clearly allows Commissionaires to punish them for doing so, unless (a) no advantage was gained (unlikely) and (b) it wasn’t dangerous – which seems to apply regardless of whether they gained an advantage. This only really leaves them the defence of “trying to avoid an accident”.

      It’s now not a million miles away from the F1 rule (20.2), which says that drivers must use the track at all times, the kerbs are not part of the track, but if a driver does leave the track he may only rejoin (a) when safe to do so, and (b) without gaining any lasting advantage. The FIA seem to be OK at policing the rule.

  6. Contador’s comments about SKY probably have to do with de Jongh’s nondisclosure with SKY. I’d bet their training methods are tied up as proprietary and I’d bet they’d litigate.

    • Non-disclosures have a contractual duration – typically up to 12 months.

      Anyone who thinks De Jongh hasnt been asked for info is living in la-la land.

      • Non-disclosures and non-competes have a contractual duration that is determined by the entity that writes the contract. 12 months would be typical for an NDA that had very little importance. The business of bicycle racing at the top is not much different than the businesses of technology or genetic engineering. A winning formula is worth a considerable amount of money over the period of time that it is the leading formula: until another company invents a better formula.

        Beer, coffee and cigarettes were followed by stimulants which were followed by steroids and EPO and blood doping and Aicar and micro-dosing and then on to today’s rumors and scientific experiments. Expensive experiments. Team process is also important and guarded; Individual, unscientific efforts eventually evolved into team wide doping programs like Festina and Rabo. Alternately Tailwind with Stapleton and Bruyneel supplemented the team doping with bribing a network of people for information about surprise testing, etc., SKY has the aggregation of marginal gains. Today, in this era of zero tolerance clean, we have riders that are consistently breaking performance records and power #s. The information regarding how that is achieved is more valuable than ever before.

        de Jongh has information from working at SKY that is the reason they win. That information is not comment section speculation and nonsense; it’s secret, it’s information that determines the fortunes of a lot of people. It is information that is the very cutting edge of the science of bicycle racing. Contador, by law I’m sure, is not allowed to know what that information is. de Jongh is fully within his rights, or NDA, to use a system of his own design. And, Contador is going well.

    • I doubt if most of Sky’s training methods are proprietary or secret, just highly organised with excellent data interpretation based on the latest academic research which is easily available.
      I’m certain De Jongh learnt a hell of a lot basic stuff from Sky that contradicts many things he learned during his career and he is applying this directly to Alberto Contador. It is not secret but sufficiently contrary to traditional training methods to make a difference (and by traditional I don’t mean PEDs).
      There is a huge amount of know-how out there that most teams just don’t know about or think that doesn’t make a difference. Due to British Cycling they have started to look.

  7. I think that race video of the women WC race is just about perfect. Yes, commentator audio is pretty bad, but otherwise what more to expect? Good description of the action, good pictures, podium shot, some interviews.

    As for the stick to the road rule. I think Sagan’s win in Omar is a break of this rule. “Significant advantage” and “separated by kerbs”

  8. Stage 1 Dauphine 2012, Evans rides to glorious win. BUT Watch 29kms to go, Dan Martin, LBL 2013 Winner, skips a kerb at a round about, slides off the gutter and careens across the road wiping out Simon Gerrans in the process. Ruining the teams Rouler options for the race.
    It happens so often it is ludicrous. Thor Husvold did himself in at Pars Roubaix in the same year, in such a similar way, only he didn’t ruin anyone else’s race.
    It is important for the sport to protect other riders, the sport is hard enough in its own way, to not have high risk actions risking riders careers.
    Thoughts to the Sydney 6, mowed down on Southern Cross Drive, 4 had surgery this week.

  9. Dont get me started on the Colombian Cycling Fed appointing Tarsi.

    There are too many refugees from Puerto and the like, influential in Colombian cycling, for Colombian anti-doping campaigners’ comfort.

  10. Hey there

    Re the women’s cycling video, the podium presentation looks like bingo night at the local club. Are the household appliances there as prizes for the women? If so, really? They’re giving a woman a vacuum cleaner for winning a professional cycling race?

  11. The Women’s World Cup race: it was an excellent and exciting race, as women’s races so often are.
    That doesn’t make women’s racing better than men’s, but it does make it entertaining, relevant and worth watching. If you watch it a happy coincidence is a consequent increase in funding, meaning teams can pay all their riders a wage they can live off, allowing them to give up the part time jobs some have, train harder and make an already exciting sport more competitive.
    That’s fair.

Comments are closed.