Thursday Shorts

When is a shoe not a shoe? When it’s an elaborate Sidi trompe l’oeil. Look at the image above and it looks like a Sidi Wire but look again. Those ratchet dials are flat and it’s an elaborate shoe cover made to look like a Sidi. The next photo reveals another version, this time with perforations to help on a hot day.

As you can probably guess by now these are the shows of Rui Costa, the reigning world champion who rides with Lampre-Merida. The team has Sidi as a sponsor. The company’s promoted “vanity overshoes” that look like their own shoes but look closely and it seems the shoe underneath isn’t a Sidi. For example there’s no shape of the ratchet dial under the cover. It seems he’s wearing Bont shoes underneath, he’s been wearing the Australian brand before and the shape under the cover matches. Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader for the tip.

What’s amusing is just how well it’s done although a giveaway is that Rui Costa has more rainbow stripes on his frame, socks, helmet, gloves, socks, shorts, saddle and sunglasses but has the Lampre-Merida team issue fuschia on his shoes. It’s not new and a reminder that some riders might have shoes or saddles where you see one logo but the product is made elsewhere. It doesn’t mean there’s a problem with a particular shoe, just that the rider might be morphologically suited towards another product and something worth bearing in mind as the contact points on a bike are personal.

Talking of being in uncomfortable shoes, the people in the photo might not be laughing so much today. On the right is Sergey Chemezov, the CEO of RosTec and the latest name added by the US government for sanctions in retaliation for Russian activity in Ukraine. As well as a Kremlin corporate chieftain, Chemezov’s the chairman of Russian Cycling Federation and on the board of the Katusha team. The sanctions won’t change much for the team but are a reminder that Katusha is Team Kremlin and there’s the possibility of wider sanctions being imposed which could hit Igor Makarov, owner of the Katusha team and UCI board member. I imagine the UCI would say sport and politics don’t mix… but they do.

One Year On
It’s a year ago that we got the news that the Kimmage Fund money was missing. Money was donated by many to help support Paul Kimmage in the face of legal action brought by the UCI. The action was dropped and a pledge to repay the money is still outstanding. It feels so much longer ago especially because this time last year we were looking at Pat McQuaid standing unopposed for a third term.

McQuaid Reappears
Pat McQuaid’s kept a low profile after losing out to Brian Cookson. He appeared at a race in Kazakhstan last year and now he’s in Turkey and sat down for an interview with Cüneyt Kazokoğlu for He comes across as more relaxed, presumably life’s easier now he’s freed from having defend himself from decisions like trying to block USADA’s US Postal prosecution. Notably he says the World Tour reforms are “going to be disaster for the sport”.

UCI Points Blame
For some the UCI’s existing system is bad. Not a month goes by without someone blaming the UCI points system for killing off exciting racing and it was cited as a factor for the cautious racing in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But a reminder that for 2015 the system will see teams ranked on the basis of their five best riders. This means a squad can have 25 riders without a point between them or more practically a rider with a handful of points is irrelevant, only those with a sackful will count.

Crucially it’s gone from the total points haul of 15 riders in a team down to five which means if teams were racing for points, they tactics would change as the count changed. But they haven’t, which suggests the point system might not be to blame. But if these changes are a fact, not everyone knows about them including riders who still believe their worth is dependent on their points.

Was Liège-Bastogne-Liège simply too long? Look at the grand tours where stage distances have been reduced substantially, the idea being that fresher riders are able make sharper accelerations. Bastogne-Liège anyone?

Team Sky call for Tramadol Ban
To mind-numbing races of a different kind. After Michael Barry said he and others were using the powerful painkiller at Team Sky the squad’s said it would support a ban. Contradictory? Perhaps but it explains something because if a drug is legal and potentially confers an advantage then some will use and abuse it. A ban prevents this, much like the Geneva Convention is supposed to limit the weaponry used in warfare. Sky’s joining the call by the MPCC for WADA to add the substance to the banned list. Rightly so, it should be available for injuries but if anyone needs a painkiller this strong they need to be resting, not racing.

But where are the six other teams: BMC Racing, Cannondale, Movistar, Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Saxo-Tinkoff and Trek Factory Racing? Hopefully everyone can agree something soon because WADA monitors this product and it has noticed many cyclists are using it in competition.

Team Sky Part II
It is said that on hearing of the death of a Turkish ambassador French diplomat Charles de Talleyrand is supposed to have said: “I wonder what he meant by that?” It’s a tale of looking for significance and signals in events. In the last shorts Team Sky’s absence from races was a topic and reader Sam pointed out the injuries in a comment. I found it interesting to read the comments elsewhere with many assuming a plan by the British team, that this was all deliberate. It’s a tribute to the team’s PR that many fans today adopt the Talleyrand stance of thinking that everything the team does comes from a master plan and has a meaningful significance.

ASO to introduce “podium boys”
On the subject of deliberate decisions the exhibition women’s criterium La Course will offer the winner the same prize money as a stage of the Tour de France. Among the other features from the press conference with Tour patron Christian Prudhomme and peloton patronne Marianne Vos was news of a podium ceremony with “podium boys”. It sounds daft but it’s the podium that’s got people talking about the race.

The whole race is a publicity coup by ASO because it’s got a closed circuit, a waiting public and TV cameras in place and better still live TV will have something to show while the men soft-pedal to Paris.

46 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

  1. All the planning in the world can’t stop things going belly up. It’s just how things are! illness, injury, crashes etc. or is it all a deep conspiracy? Nah, i’ll stick with the former. Good pic of the best female racer in the world, what’s her name? umm err oh you know…thingy bob.

  2. I think the cycling world’s response to a tame LBL is really out of proportion. Isn’t it the case that once in a while we simply have a boring race? Happens always. Moreover, we had an extremely exciting P-R and RvV, best editions in years…

    • I tend to agree but organisers want action every time and they’re changing the courses in stage races to engineer this. Bastogne-Liège was a throwaway idea but does make the point that the stage races are often getting shorter while the classics remain the same.

      • The classics can change, but is it not the point of the monuments that they (more or less) stay the same?

        Would make a good final chapter for a book….

  3. Oh, and a second point I wanted to make was regarding hte point on distance. If I would have been organizing Romandie, then I would be really inspired by the short 90k stage and be tempted to play around with that format a bit more: more concentrated, exciting racing, less space for huge time gaps during the stage race, and less costs. What’s not to like?

    • …especially since TV cameras are only on for the last few hours of a 6-7 hour race. You could eliminate a good hour of ‘pre-racing’ and most wouldn’t know.

  4. Chicanery with product logos never stops – exactly why everyone should take the advertising claims of the bike biz with a grain of salt. McQuaid belongs in the BigTex file – please go away, thanks for nothing. Will Oleg Tinkoff be ensnared in the anti-Russian sanctions? I wonder if some of these pro teams are being used for money-laundering at present? Bring on Il Giro, even if (for some silly reason) the thing begins outside of Italy….W La Corsa Rosa!

  5. INRNG. I have to disagree with your constant proposal that the ‘monuments’ would possibly be more exciting over a reduced distance. They are what they are because of the distance. Once an event gets past the 200 – 220km point, only a small number of top riders should be truly competitive. That this has not been the case recently, is because the riders are NOT RACING. They are riding to instructions like controlled zombies. It’s not rocket science. Reduce the distance and they will still not race, because that is the current mentality. If Roubaix and Flanders are exciting, it is because the better riders are FORCED to race in order to be in with a chance of victory.
    The real question that should be concentrating minds is how and why have we reached this ridiculous situation. It has nothing to do with race distance.

    Change or improve the courses yes, but to reduce the race distances will answer nothing.

    • I’m not really arguing they’d be better, more that reduced distances have become the default solution to make stage racing better. Of course comparisons aren’t the same, there’s no need for a 240km mountain stage in the third week of a grand tour but riders can cope with a one day classic.

      • There’s no need for a sprint in the Champs-Elysées either… It’s not about “needs”. It’s about what can make riders’ performances more admirable and sympathy-deserving, and that we can see real differences between them. If they are all the same minute after 250km, then try 280km.

  6. Being, normally, a well-balanced, glass-half-full-type-of-guy (‘dude’ for you Americans) I have found that the perfect solution for any, nay all, blips, bullshit, bollocks or blasphemy on the wonderful sport of cycling is this: blame it all on he who appears to be able read and instinctively comment upon all aspects of each and every rider’s/and or team’s, mind-set…the one, the only (mythical being(s) be praised) Carlton Kirby.

  7. What makes the monuments great is that, time and again, we have seen that only the strongest and greatest riders can perform beyond 250km. It’s an endurance test of those who are pretenders to the crown.

    A 180km LBL would stop being a monument.

  8. Maybe there never was a mythical past where the monuments saw more exciting racing? If it’s chess on wheels then much of the racing is going to be less than stellar.

  9. Slightly random, i know, but is whats going on at the Tour of Turkey any indicator for whats going to play out at the Tour of France? And is Adam Yates exciting to watch or what?!

    • Apart from the fact that Kittel’s not there, and that Griepel’s still not 100% after coming back from his crash so isnt contesting. Its basically Cav up against 2nd and 3rd tier sprinters.

  10. Longer/shorter stages have very little to do with aggressive racing. Longer stages on the surface would lend itself to more doping/cheating so more riders can go the distance. Does it lead to less animated racing ? Perhaps.

    It’s the points system. With only the top five riders getting points, many DS’s discourage riders from getting into the break. When they are there, they are not looking for stage wins, KOM points, or any other bonifications. Their job is to force other teams to chase, then ultimately fall back to help out the ‘designated’ rider to score points. No one else on the team is being allowed to race for “Gold”.

    You can also point the finger at the various team salary structures. There are about five “Haves” within the PT and the rest of the teams operate on meager bare bones budgets. All you have to do is look at Sammy Sanchez’ reaction to moving from a “Have Not ” squad to a well financed BMC squad. Not just in terms of salary, but perks. A team like Sky can place their riders into 3 star or better accommodations, travel better and have better technical and training support, while squads like FdJ have to scrounge for a tent in the campground.

    Cycling needs a salary cap so all the PT teams have a more equal playing field. What incentive does an emerging star have to stay with a Pro Conti or smaller PT squad when a Movistar can walk the walk.

    Why are we surprised that Russian Oligarchs are connected to sports as well as other nefarious activities ? Based on the small amount of Russian history I am aware of, this is the way it has always been. A small percentage of the power elite have always controlled every aspect of Russian life. Whether for good or evil.

    Podium boys ? Here in the states there is a lot of entertainment and products aimed at women. Why not cycling. If good looking podium boys can help draw female fans, supporters athletes to womens cycling, I say, enjoy the “Eye Candy” ladies !

    • -Short or long courses, there is still doping. The shortest popular race in track and field is 50m and loaded with doping.

      -InnerRing did a great article on salaries and worth a careful re-read. Revenue and attracting viewers are the two things the UCI work the hardest on improving.

      -It’s not just Russian Oligarchs. The UCI fund quite a bit of their professional athletes from State-run sporting programs. Sky in the UK, Katousha, the Khazak team, the new spring stage races in Oman, Dubai, Tour of China, the new ASO event coming in the UK, are all variously State supported affairs. Football is hardly better as Sep gets nations to bankroll his World Cups.

    • On Oligarchs; not to start a fight but only to illustrate that corruption is a human affliction, John Kerry is worth just under $200m, his wife $750m. He is legally allowed to invest that money with insider information that his position makes him privy to sometimes years before an investment advisor, even though the practice is illegal for US citizens. He is presently failing (flailing) to broker a peace treaty between two factions; one the US gives almost $4bn annually, required to be spent on US weapons. The other faction gets $0. Nefarious?

      Elsewhere, LA is paying some version of a price; too little, too much, who knows? Thom Wiesel? Relatively unaffected..

      That’s the way it’s always been. Everywhere.

      • You’re right there. Former Aussie PM Kevin Rudd’s wife is worth $200m from her ownership of a company that benefitted from..government contracts.

        The Australian administration for the sport Cycling Australia has been a virtually bankrupt and paper thin organisation for some time, reliant on constant government handouts and handing the keys recently to wealthy cycling benefactor Gerry Ryan. Luckily he’s got the riders and sports interest at heart, but he even got to pick his own CEO.

        The UCI academy in Switzerland is a socialist dream, except they’re well looked after and seem to be under complete secrecy. Most nations have their own talent development programmes for cycling, so I’m not sure why the UCI needs to have one. Best keep it hush hush though, even to the point no cyclist ever seems to progress from there into being a Pro…

    • Let’s see if the introduction of podium boys sparks a debate about female chauvinism and the exploitation of males by their use as sex objects.

      • the other debate waiting to happen is about homosexuality in the peleton (male and female). In today’s politically correct world the only answer is a bloke on one side and a girl on the other – it would be interesting to see which male rider was the first to pinch the blokes ar*e…
        seriously, they should really just scrap the whole podium girl thing…

        • What’s the debate about homosexuality then? Is it contagious?

          Seriously, I hope no one in cycling media follows the football codes in this. Pretending they are supportive of efforts to stamp out homophobia, they really just whip up a hysteria and try to be the first to ‘out’ a player. It would be good if the peloton and media just went “meh” and moved on instead.

  11. Bastogne-Liège???? You’re unquestionably joking there. Who cares about speed… It is exhaustion, the exhaustion of some while others are still able to go on, that gives the best and most memorable racing. More mileage, please, and don’t listen to what riders of today might say. They can’t be objective. They don’t want racing to be about the very limits of their endurance, which is exactly what it should be basically about.

    • Sacrilege, eh? I know but to repeat a comment above we see reduced distances as the quick solution to stale racing in grand tours. But we can’t easily reduce the classics. It’s not to say it can’t be done, for example Paris-Roubaix is really Compiège-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders largely sticks to West Flanders. But the distance is part of the legend.

      • The quickest solution to stale racing would be to ban race radios. As long as they are in use, a break is just an advertising exercise. Without radios and team car radio and video coverage, competitive cyclists would be forced to think and ride more cleverly.

        Add to that the removal of the points system, which just creates an unnecessary level of politics, then bring back a stoic Patron.

        • +1 That’s as good a start as any. Don’t go messing with distances and route changes as an attempt to make an exciting race. Also any points systems should encourage “racing”.

          • Exactly. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was one of the most exciting races this classics season, and radios are not allowed in it. It forces riders to think on their feet, and definitely promotes more aggressive racing. On the subject of the points system, perhaps offering points at intermediate sprints or KOMs along with prize money would encourage more aggressive racing. Sure, you probably won’t see the favorites, but it would at least liven things up by prompting attacks.

  12. I well remember riding in a five rider break in the distant past, couple of minutes up on the peloton. A well known individual, with a megaphone wedged between his few remaining teeth, threatened too disqualify us all as we tackled a 20% climb – for not trying hard enough !

    If he were still amongst us today, I wonder what his reaction to the current situation would be. I think I know what his solution would be !

  13. I was training Tuesday evening with someone who’s daughter was a women’s pro until this season and his son-in-law spent 8 or 9 nine years on Phil Gilbert’s former team (you know, the one where he won all those races on Canyon bikes!), and we started talking about L-B-L and how boring it was. Koen has also trained neo-pro’s, so I respect his insights. His comment (translated into English), “Did you see how fast they were riding in the last hour!”
    Seems like a descent tailwind for a few hours can bring a bigger peloton cruising to a finish line, despite the course profile/distance in! Even with a tailwind you can still get pretty tired, pedalling furiously in the big ring for a few hours. We often seem to forget the weather effect when judging performance in an outdoor sport!

  14. In Laurent Fignons book he says that making races shorter encouraged doping. The longer races were more suited to the naturally gifted endurance athlete. I don’t have the book to hand but that was his opinion. I am thinking that most people like the idea that longer race distances prune the field to leave the strongest most in form riders. Personally I like the longer distances but I can imagine the costs and difficulty for commentators etc to keep things fresh for hours more.

    If LBL was 80 km shorter but still climbed roughly the same elevation would the same riders contest the finish?

    • The quote from the book ” long distances themselves have never forced riders to take drugs. That is proved by the fact that in the last 15 years (first published 2009) races have been pared back like never before but this has been the time when we have seen drug taking at its worst. Personally I liked, long selective races. There are plenty of champions who can get past 200km without falling by the wayside, but 240 kms or more is a different story and a genuine ‘natural’ process of elimination can take place.”

  15. I’ve been wondering if it wouldn’t be better for the stability of cycling teams, if the points were counted like in probably every other team sports — all points to the team. Football, Basketball etc, hired-off athletes never deduct from the past-year tally of a team.

    Individual athletes will always build their reputation around goals scored / podium placing etc, but the actual points should be booked on the team, which provides all the framework. Cycling will not be a real team sport until they count score like other leagues.

    • Under the new reforms for 2015 a share of the points will go to the team.

      But the riders “keep” most of the points. I think this is fair as they do the work and it’s their career, to let teams keep the points is to reward team owners a bit like a boss owning all the rewards of his workers.

      • But it works for every other “real” team sports. Nobody can take away reputation gained by a rider with wins, placings and other standout performances. And it’s totally fair for the employer to own the result of the work, they pay for it, and facilitate it, after all. (If you see the points as extra bonus/reward, what would be the “regular” work delivery?).

    • Also, teams are often transient (eg HTC, Euskatel etc) or can merge (Leopard/radioshack) making re-allocation of team’s points from season to season a difficult task.

  16. I watched some of ChickaSmith’s LeTour vids on UTUBE. In the eighties the Podium Girls were podium people. Kids or Largess blokes in T-Shirts of sponsors standing alongside Riders.

    It is obviously not such a Tradition, that we cant change it somewhat.

    There would be more coinage in returning to moving ad banners alongside riders, than pretty local pageant winners.

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