Friday Shorts

I didn’t bother with a “The Moment The Race Was Won” piece for the Flèche Wallonne because the race is so predictable. It’s got a tough course and a hard fight just to get to the foot of the final climb. But it always comes down to the final kilometre and the Mur de Huy. North of the Pyrenees Twitter wasn’t full of joy at Valverde’s win. Indeed there were insinuations of doping and overnight I got a couple of emails asking if Valverde is doping, after all he’d set the fastest every time up the Mur.

For starters if I knew he was up to no good it’d be front page news or maybe WADA or the UCI would get the tip. But let’s not speculate. Instead his ride up the Mur de Huy was a triumph of experience and I suspect that if we could compare his power data to that of others we’d see a much more linear curve for the climb compared to the others, very high but perhaps more consistent. Meanwhile Mollema, Kwiatkowski and Martin’s power data would each have a big peak in watts well before the line thanks to their attacks. This put them into the red and allowed the more experienced Valverde to ride past as their watts faded. As for Valverde’s time, if it’s indicative of anything then surely the same applies to Dan Martin who was almost as fast? None of this innocents or condemns anyone but Valverde’s win was tactically perfect.

Flèche II
FDJ’s Marc Madiot railed at the race saying “people were getting bored watching TV” and implying it’s a formulaic race. It’s true and he was probably upset because apart from Jérémy Roy’s late attack, the team wasn’t visible with Ardennes aficionado Benoît Vaugrenard first home in 44th place. It was made worse for his countrymen by French TV’s decision to show the race with about a 10 minute delay meaning viewers in France risked having their experience spoilt by the Internet. But if it is an obvious problem, there’s still nothing like the Mur de Huy.

Flèche III
What to do with the Mur de Huy? Show it in slow motion. A slow motion replay would be good. The climb is over before you know it, riders swarm over the road, and if it’s 150 seconds long it seems to fly by. Website is a useful way to review the race but a full HD TV slow-mo would be superior.

Evans in Pink

Cadel Evans dons a pink jersey. No it’s not a Photoshop impression of what could happen in the Giro but the Giro del Trentino on right now. Evans leads the race with one stage left featuring the legendary Monte Bondone. It’s impressive but of course the Giro is an altogether different test. But if anything I’d imagined Evans doing a steady Giro and climbing up the GC over the three weeks much like he did last year but it looks like he’s very sharp already. All the better if this form lasts to make the Giro a wider contest.

Invisible Sky
Whether in Trentino or at the Flèche Wallonne Team Sky have been fielding a reduced team. Lacking an obvious leader in Flèche Wallonne they were invisible David Lopez was the first rider home in 126th place. Now sometimes a race just doesn’t go to plan but they started with just six riders compared to everyone else with eight. It’s not because all their riders were racing elsewhere either, in the Giro del Trentino they are also two riders short. Illness, injury or does the team prefer Teide to racing?

Just the ticket
Team Sky will send a full team is the Tour de France. The Yorkshire Grand Départ is planning to sell tickets for the team presentation of the Tour de France. Wow, tickets for an event that’s normally free? Actually not, the 2011 race saw people obliged to buy tickets to enter a theme park. You might remember it, the crowd booed Alberto Contador and laughed at Thor Hushovd’s hammer.

You have to pay to get into the VIP stands at the Tour de France stage finishes too and other races have ticketing. Not that this is agreeable, cycling’s thrived with an open model where the public get to see a show for free and in exchange get their retinas seared with clothing that so covered in logos it looks like Shinjuku by night.

All this work and promotion for the 2014 Tour is wonderful but do they realise the Tour arrives in town one night and is gone within a couple of days? Like standing beside the road, it’s the present day anticipation of what’s to come that’s often better than actually seeing the race flash past.

New UCI rules for tall riders
To technical matters now and taller riders have long complained about the UCI’s rules on time trial positions. The rules are awkward to summarise but in essence all riders had to fit within a standard position created by particular measurements such as reach and saddle setback. No problem for shorter riders who could fit inside the prescribed “space” but taller riders have found it hard to get the right position because the rules were absolute and not proportionate to rider size. This is changing as the UCI is announcing some leeway for riders over 190cm tall, so the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Taylor Phinney and David Millar qualify. If the original rules are complicated the allowances aren’t simple either but the changes allow taller riders more room lengthwise, the measurement from the bottom bracket to the furthest point of the bars. Pity those who are 189cm tall. Longer term the UCI is undergoing a full review of its rules on bike positions but conclusions and changes are not expected before 2016.

Garmin growth

More certainty with Garmin’s new products. The company’s fortunes soared until the financial crash of 2008 and since then there’s been talk their products are being overtaken by smartphones with GPS tech, for example why bother with an in-car satnav device if your phone will do it for you? That’s true and Garmin’s income reflects this. But cycling’s shown a new way and the fitness device market is booming. Having a pro team is a good way to market the wares. Now it seems they want to take on Strava with a revamped website complete with segments and devices that are primed to signal them during a ride as opposed to the user uploading data post-ride and discovering what happened. But if fitness products sell well for Garmin, they’re still a small component of the company’s total sales. Here’s a chart from the company’s 2012 annual report, remember fitness is cycling plus running, triathlon etc.

Win a rainbow jersey
Finally this blog has many readers in the US so a heads up for a gran fondo ride, the Tour of Winston-Salem Gran Fondo. Why? Because it’s part of the UCI’s international series and those who come in the top 25% of the age group qualify to ride the “UCI World Cycling Tour World Championships” in Slovenia at the end of August where the winners that day get an official UCI rainbow jersey. As well as the US round there are more events to qualify around the world. More info at

64 thoughts on “Friday Shorts”

  1. Re Sky and being short on numbers at FW and Trentino:

    They started the year with 29 riders on their roster.

    JTL is suspended
    Sergio Henao is sidelined whilst the team have tests run on him – he’s back in Colombia now for that
    Rasch retired as a rider after P-R

    Sutton, Stannard and Dombrowski are all out with injuries (that latter has raced just part of Coppi e Bartali do far this year)

    So now that’s down to 23 riders.

    Like most teams core cobbled classics squad, most of their guys who raced from TDU through to P-R/AGR eg Thomas, Rowe, Eisel etc are being given a break

    Allowing for a couple of others being sick, and riders like Froome and Porte being given a few days post-altitude training before racing L-B-L, you soon get to the sparse available pool of 12 riders for FW and Trentino.

    • I hadn’t considered the connotations on Sky’s roster of the JTL/Henao affairs, plus the mid-season retirement. Thanks for pointing that out.

  2. Oh, should add that Sebastien Henao is back in Colombia also, presumably to keep his cousin company – so he’s not been available to race this week either.

  3. Cadel is in beautiful shape in Trentino. I watched the finish yesterday (a short clip at steephill) and couldn’t believe my eyes! It could be Alan Peiper’s magic or maybe he’s just super motivated for the Giro. Today’s mountain stage would be a cracker to watch live.

  4. I don’t event get to connect my edge 510 and my iPhone due to firmware issues and now they are releasing a new model with all the blings features? Shame. I’m an IT guy so the steps of pairing the Bluetooth is not a problem.

  5. I’m not sure what we need is another Garmin product, but a big competitor to Garmin. They make better margins on their Sports line than they do on the rest of their products, and I note that the Edge 1000 is another £100 more expensive than the Edge 800 I forked out for…

    • The big competitor to Garmin is called your phone.

      If you’re going to spend money get power at least. iBike Newton plus appeals but is still very expensive for what it is. I mainly use my iPhone 3GS and Strava with a lot of guesswork about the effect of wind, but battery life is a problem for longer rides. Even then I get round that by taking a plug and using a free socket in a pub! Also, I use a Bryton I won in a comp. when I want something more accurate than my phone.

  6. From my perspective the predictable outcome to Fleche Wallonne once again only has two answers. The course is selective if riders are prepared to make the race aggressive. The reality is that the riders are not really racing, knowing that the final fifteen minutes are where the decisions are made. If Joe public are giving up on the race as a spectacle, then there is a real problem. The second issue is command control via Race Radios, but I have already expressed my views on that subject !

    This rather dull presentation of our sport will continue until such time as those involved, riders and directors wake up and smell the coffee.

    SKY. For such a big budget team they are struggling to match continental squads. Lots of reasons and excuse’s but the bottom line is they are, with a few notable exceptions, underperforming. The question is, will DB take the action required.

    • Are they? Great performances from Swift, two top tens at a major classic and surely they would judge success from how the TdF goes?

    • I wonder also, how much the “zero tolerance” policy is hurting them. As they cannot take anyone in the Peloton with even a sniff of doping, that probably rules out a portion of the bunch.

  7. Not that I want to defend Valverde but during the race it did not seem that he made a superhuman effort it rather looked very measured by just following attacks and giving a final push in the last meters where the gradient was lower… was there a strong tailwind? that would justify those 3-4 seconds… On the other hand this is Valverde we are talking about…

    The Trentino jersey looks more purple than pink!!

  8. @James – there is a competitor. I got one the other day. It is called a Magellan Cyclo 505. I think they are marketed in the Europe as “Mio”. They sync to strava via wifi and are generally a bit more user friendly (and significantly cheaper). The maps are better than Garmin in my view. But they don’t seem quite as quick to register speed and gradient etc. There’s a website “DC Rainmaker” that does very (and I mean VERY) in depth reviews of these sort of things.

    I rode up Monte Bondone last year as part of the “Old Farts World Champs” that @inrng refers to above which was in Trento last year. Look forward to seeing how the pros crush our times overnight. That said, I could not believe how fast some old fellas flew up that climb! It is extremely tough (beautiful view though) and just goes on and on. A future “road to ride” @inrng?

    • There are several GPS device companies making bike computers with Ant+ compatability, for example Ag2r are sponsored by Bryton. But such is Garmin’s position in the market few seem aware of the rivals.

      I’ve not ridden up Monte Bondone so probably not for the series. It’s famous for Charly Gaul’s ride which makes it tempting to ride.

      • Nice climb – or at least the first half; had to turn around when I ran out of water half way up on a 30+ degree day.

        While it doesn’t have quite as many switchbacks as (say) the Alpe, there is one utterly ridiculous compound switchback at about the half-way mark that’s sure to bring a smile.

        It’s a big, solid HC climb, but it’s very Tour-like in that the road is well engineered and the gradient never exceeds 10%.

      • It is a beautiful area to ride. One of the best bits is that there is a bike path that runs through Trento that connects Lake Garda all the way to Bolzano. It is fantastic. The climbs are spectacular in this region too but the altitude is not so high that you cannot ride late into autumn.

    • Is there really competition against garmin that can read power aside from srm/pc7 combo? I would love to ditch garmin for another unit compatible with my quarq

    • Hate to be a stickler but that ad was filmed in Tucson, AZ and is pretending to be in Andalucia (Sierra Del Moro). Hopefully the new Edge 1000 doesn’t think you’re on a segment half way around the world!

  9. Not only is the Leeds TdF team presentation ticketed, the starting price for a ticket is £50. This is in a venue with a capacity of 13,500. Of course, price is an unreliable indicator of quality, but you can get a ticket to see Bryan Adams in the same venue for less money. Both are probably overpriced, but paying upwards of £50 to see cyclists waving from a stage seems ridiculous to me.

    • They’re promising an amazing show, the best spectacle ever…….but giving no details of this, and expecting people to shell out blindly….

      But I’ll bet its a sell-out anyway.

    • Not surprised at fees for VIP seating or for teams presentation. TdF is a huge world wide spectacle held during the summer holidays. If you didn’t restrict seating you would have 100k show up for the presentation.

      That’s why .1 races are a lot of fun. Lots of access to team areas, buses. Got to talk to riders while warming up/down during a TTT, plus before stages. Excellent Volunteer opportunities and perks. Yes, they have a paid VIP area even for smaller races, but it is not hard to find excellent roadside viewing and meet a few other fans along the way !

  10. As with regards to Sky, I do believe they prefer training blocks to racing for preparation purposes but this is not ideal for us fans. Sky’s sponsors obviously get fed the line that preparing to do well in the TDF is much more beneficial than racing in smaller events.

    I’m English and I have Sky as ‘my’ team to support in races because of the British riders (in particular the ones affiliated with Manchester velodrome) but because of things like this and Sky as a company I find it very difficult to warm to them. I would not buy or wear any Sky merchandise and really do wish that someone else sponsored them. I can imagine lots of Brits will hammer me for that saying that, as Sky have pumped £X amount into British cycling and we should be grateful, but I still can’t bring myself to like them.

    Why sign up with Rapha for kit manufacturing for instance? The brand is seen as snobbish and expensive, almost exclusive. They make kits for high earning fat middle aged/crisis wannabes, yet the track programme that the Sky road team was built for is based in a rough working (if your lucky!) area where sport is a hot bed and an outlet for many young kids. Can those kids parents afford Rapha kit? No!

    I live 2 miles from the Team Sky headquarters at the velodrome and I am dissapointed to say that the recent good fortunes in British cycling that have been created and nurtured from this base has attracted people to the sport that want to dissacociate with the local kids that live around this area. There are no Sky kits on local kids backs and they are not riding Pinerello’s! The people at the NTC have done a fantastic job incoporating these local kids, this is not a dig at those people. It is a SKY branding/association issue, only reaffirmed by their choice of partners/ sponsors.

  11. Well said Merino, I simply cannot endear myself that has anything to do with Murdoch. So I am quite enjoying watching them come through a second disastrous Classics campaign.

    • 21st Century Fox owns about 35% of Sky. Your pension fund probably owns some of it as well (and possibly shares in 21st Century Fox). It’s called capitalism. Do you check the credentials of all share holders of the companies that make everything you purchase?

        • And so you should. In an increasingly globalised world national governments are becoming emasculated. Your power as a consumer is what you are left with, and needs to be used wisely. The alternative is to be a sheep.

          Interesting post, Merino.

  12. I totally agree with Merino, Im a Brit, work very closely in the BC system but cant stand what Team Sky stand for. I wish Brad, G, Luke Rowe and Stannard wiuld move elsewhere.
    I believe they are one hit wonders with the TdF and thats not attractive to World Tour fans and cycling fans in general.

  13. i don’t check the history and background of all the companies i use or purchase from because i don’t get the time. cycling is my hobby and reading blogs like this is something i enjoy when i get 5 mins or so. The point i really wanted to make is as a cycling fan and customer i feel Sky are not interested in my ‘financial, social audience’.

    it seems they want it to feel like an exclusive club that certain financial and lifestyle markers need to be met before your welcome. is cycling not one of the last sports that is for all the people? Sky sell tv as well as many other things but to make cycling elitist and or niche is silly if you want more subscribers to your channel.

    • I don’t agree with your premise that they’re trying to make cycling elitist. Taking your Rapha example, I agree with your point that they’re expensive and people can’t afford them by and large, however Team Sky are an elite sporting organisation, and they’re responsibilities are to affiliate with the companies that will give them most money / supply them with the best products. They should then consider whether that will be to the detriment of their brand, but I don’t believe that a connection with Rapha is detrimental. As for pairing with Sky, INRNG has made a lot of the lack of sponsors around, so unfortunately from Team Sky’s point of view it’s a fantastic sponsor in the current market.

      However just to support you for a second, I don’t understand why they don’t setup a female team given the costs are negligible compared to Team Sky’s budget, and would give them a lot of exposure for the money.

    • I am not a Sky apologist but I feel they get a lot more stick (from the rugby community as well) than they deserve, especially compared to some of the other sponsors in cycling (Orica, Itera, etc.). But generally doesn’t the Sky Ride initiative exactly provide what you are looking for?

  14. What’s valverde wearing on his wrist (a watch obviously…but you get my question)? It’s hard to see in the picture but there doesnt appear to be a garmin/SRM meter attached to the bars. I can’t imagine racing and trying to tilt my wrist to see my wattage at the same time.

  15. What to do with the Mur De Huy/ Nothing, I love the cavalry charge each and every year, its a feature of this race. The riders make the race, the terrain provides the means. Having said that, I like nothing better than sitting for hours on end watching those Vuelta “spaghetti western” stages, especially when there is a small breakaway. Easily pleased am I.

  16. Valverde also has numerous critics south of the Pyrenees, although personally I have no more (or no less) reason to suspect him than to suspect Sky, Katusha, AG2R, OPQS, or basically anyone else, either when the perform well or when they perform really bad. The real news was that he got his tactics right, but I guess the guy is very good at managing predictable situations, and following a rulebook. It’s when the unpredictable happens that he (always) makes mistakes. What makes him an entertaining rider.
    Is SuperCadel not going to Liège? He could!

  17. Cilmeri, i understand and agree with some of your points. i am being very naive when i think about certain aspects of Sky’s role in cycling. Rapha has irked me with something it did locally but that is a story i don’t think will interest INRNG readers.

  18. What to do with the Mur De Huy? Add 50K to the race so everyone isn’t so ‘fresh’ at the base. I know this might conflict with its place midweek, when some riders might not want to go so hard with Liege coming up. However, Fleche feels secondary in quality because riders can ‘keep their powder dry’ for 200K and then sprint up the Mur.

      • But surely its “Ardennes Week” which I always considered a series of Big, Smaller and Big races, the middle one purposely NOT being of a long distance to compliment the other two. Anyway, I thought that post EPO era was supposed to look to shorter distances to discourage the possible reliance on dodgy practices.

  19. do you know what the regulations are for bikes with clip on tri bars, such as when used in mountain tt’s? are they classed as road bikes or tt bikes? how does the uci manage this, seeing as some riders would ride a mountain tt with a basic road bike, some would ride with clip ons and some might choose the full tt machine, surely they should all be under the same constraints?

  20. Il pinata – espresso is a coffee style, expresso is a play on words regarding being an ex coffee drinker, but thanks for your non cycling input, maybe you should be on a spelling correction blog.

    Everyone else regarding cycling comments apologies for the idiot

  21. Cilmeri
    Totally agree with regarding a Womens Team, and as I have one in UK domestic scene I know the costs of a team a level above mine.
    Sky could have a Womens Team using the money they spend on Brailsfords chauffeur !!
    Anyway, watch the 2015 Womens Team announcements, about time!!

  22. we do seem to be getting a few of the ‘cyclingnews style’ personal comments creeping into this thread.
    Pls feel free to head back over to that site to sling insults, and keep it civil here – it’s part of what makes this blog such a joy.

    • +100! Please don’t ruin this site with the “You suck!”…”NO, YOU suck!” crap that stinks up or causes comments sections to be removed. Lively, well-thought-out debates are what some of us come here for, snarky attacks are best posted elsewhere.

  23. I completely agree. I regularly re-visit articles I have already read in order to catch up on the comments section. Long-time lurker, first time poster today. Thanks everyone.

  24. Are the new rules for riders over 190cm in addition to the changes announced in December, where tall riders basically got another 5cm to play with without having to ask for an exemption? What are the specifics? When I squeeze into the UCI position I compromises my breathing and bike handling…I don’t have hours a week to get used to it.

  25. Sagan married?
    I just come from a promo “Riding with Peter Sagan”. In the finale he came in an open cabrio, dressed in a black suit and accomanied by a sympatic young lady. On the back side of the car it was written “Just maried”.

  26. The problem for me was Amstel Gold. I found the outcome was predictable and it was poor form from the course designers to have replica finishes. How many times have we seen Gilbert just ride away like that? The whole nature of a classics race is that it has lots of big name riders attaching, and not just at the end of the race. There was a very routine feel about it all. Gilbert is brilliant at what he does, but at this stage these finishes don’t offer much for the neutral. We know Gilbert will win and Valverde will be 2nd. But what is a bit dull to me is gravy for the locals. The Belgians are happy and it’s their race.

  27. Just to let you know, the Winston-Salem Gran Fondo was on Saturday, the 19th of April. Don’t know the results but it would be a good target next year. Beautiful cycling country at the foothills of the southern Appalachians.

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