Friday Shorts

Hopefully you’ve seen the on-bike footage above from the Tour de Suisse. You might note each time we seem to see footage it’s from Giant-Shimano. Some teams are supportive of the use but others are outside the loop. A reminder that the IMG inCycle videos are there to showcase the member teams of “Project Avignon” meaning Astana, Ag2r, Katusha, FDJ and Europcar are not part of this. So while we might want more footage and for it to be on TV, we don’t have a unified front. So while the footage is progress it also speaks to the dysfunctions and divisions in the sport.

What dysfunctions? Well the Belkin team are losing their sponsor after just 18 months. For a global sponsor the sport is still massively Euro-centric, for example TV audience figures for the Tour of California are modest and tend to reach niche cycling fans rather than a broader public, a subject to return to in more detail one day.

The team might be losing their main sponsor but they haven’t lost any time. Management have started a crowdfunding initiative and are soliciting donations. I’m uneasy about this as it seems like a grab for money without much in return. Is your €10 needed to keep the team on the road this year or next? What is the fundraising target?

Few teams have worked by subscription in the past. Euskaltel-Euskadi tried the model with different tiers of funding from local fans. Europcar are trying it now with a much clearer model. They want to raise €80,000 and at pixel time have collected just over €30,000. You can chip in €10 and get your name on the side of the team car during the Tour de France. Slip them €10,000 and they’ll give your name on the team car, a team-issue bike and a day with the squad. There other intermediate options and the video above explains what the money is for. This is the model for Belkin and other teams to copy.

The Route du Sud starts today and is run in conjunction with La Dépêche du Midi, a regional newspaper, making it one of the few races to retain a connection to printed newspaper. The race is cherished by Christian Prudhomme, the Tour de France director. ASO are unlikely to buy the race but they do like the way the event finds new roads in the Pyrenees which they can then borrow.
Alejandro Valverde is the main attraction. He had a storming spring followed by a long break. Now he’s back in action. This might seem unusual but remember Nairo Quintana didn’t ride a single race between Liège–Bastogne–Liège and the Tour de France. Another rider in the Route du Sud is Nacer Bouhanni. There’s only one sprint stage on Sunday and it’s on Sunday evening that FDJ announce their nine riders for the Tour de France. This is a week earlier than usual for Marc Madiot who has tended to wait for the eve of the French national championships. But it’s still late with the Bouhanni-Démare saga dragging on. Bouhanni has been training hard in the Vosges mountains and according to FDJ team trainer Jacques Décrion “pedalling on air”.

Thin air now with Alberto Contador and Tinkoff-Saxo’s Tour team training in Italy with a base on the Passo Pordoi in the Dolomites. Italy too for Vincenzo Nibali and his Astana colleagues are over at the Passo San Pellegrino. Team Sky are repeating their formula of a pre-Tour camp in the Châtel, France at the northern end of the Alps. If you want to know Team Sky’s nine for the Tour see who goes there after the Tour de Suisse.

Finally amid the fuss over Chris Froome’s Therapeutic Use Exemption story there have been various explanations and accounts. But where did the information come from? Only a few people in Team Sky, the UCI and WADA and the Tour de Romandie race doctor had access to the information. The leak was detailed with information on the substance, the dosage and delivery method suggesting the info was passed on first hand rather than gossiped.

47 thoughts on “Friday Shorts”

      • There’s a place near where I work that I can buy last years Team bikes with full EPS for about €5000. Now it doesn’t come with wheels, those are an additional €1000. Team Sky sell their old issue bikes as well for a lot less than €10000 as well.

        That’s not what this is about though, those that have €10000 to ‘donate’ do it because they are passionate about the sport, the bike is almost secondary. I know if I said to my missus, hey I just bought a team bike for €10000 my headset wouldn’t be the only balls to be tightened.

  1. Re the TUE leak, I think the race organisers have TUE information as well.

    So lets have a think about this.

    Who’s director of Tour de Romandie? Patrick Chassot. Long-time supporter of Pat McQuaid (remember he tried to push through McQuaid’s nomination via Swiss Cycling Fed, and ended up getting booted from that fed’s presidency as a result)

    The JDD source bigged up the Cookson-Team Sky link, insinuating preferential treatment

    Beyond the realms of possibility that a McQuaid attack on Cookson, is at the root of this?

  2. I felt Belkin’s approach to crowd funding was desperate and lacked all the good traits like transparency, target amount or give-backs. I think it only creates bad-will and few donations

  3. No way would I look that fresh after “3 hours of intense training..” And in the Dolomites, mind you, up/down/up/down ad nauseam.

  4. Belkin’s (what’s next..jerseys with “Your Name Here” for LeTour?) internet panhandling shows the depth that pro cycling is now floundering at after the years of Mr. Mars and The Mad Hatter’s mismanagement of the sport. Short-sightedness has left the sport in this sorry state and when combined with the world’s economic crisis teams are literally begging for help. Will the UCI respond with some measures to reduce the cost of fielding a competitive world tour team? They could, but the bike industry will fight them tooth and nail over anything that reduces the effect (mostly illusory) of the equipment while the teams will whine on about revenue sharing as the salvation. It’s a chance for Cookson to show some real leadership facing these challenges. I wonder if he’s up to it?
    Regarding Froome – in 2001 Jonathan Vaughters’ face swelled up like a pumpkin after a wasp sting, but any treatments were banned despite the obvious need. Fast forward to 2014 and “widdle Cwissy Fwoome” suddenly can’t breathe – but he gets to honk on an inhaler and take oral steroids while continuing his race. And the UCI expects the general public to take this sport seriously?
    Maybe that’s what’s been missing for Nibali…..time in Italy rather than France or some island somewhere. If that can’t do the trick, nothing will help, but note that Il Pistolero’s trying the same scheme….not that it seems HE needs much help at the moment!

    • You do know that Dan Martin sometimes carries and uses his inhaler in races? And ditto Matt Goss? And a host of other riders?

      Froome isn’t the only rider, by a long shot.

      • Just to add: I have no idea about the rights and wrongs re Froome. But I do think it silly that some people act as though he’s the only rider in the current peloton to have /use an inhaler

        • Sure, but while it was common knowledge about the other’s inhalers, wasn’t it a surprise to find out Froome was using one? I had to laugh about his claim about only using it when needed – the same thing Fausto Coppi supposedly said about doping. And how do we square letting one unfortunate wasp-sting victim suffer and go home while another gets an almost instant TUE for symptoms that were far less obvious/visible? And you have to admit this sport seems to have a whole lot of guys who “need” these inhalers, so-often containing otherwise- banned steroids. I remember some recent claims that riders being sick enough to require medications perhaps ought not to be racing until they recover….whatever happened to that idea? A lot of spinning going on at SKY and it’s not only the wheels and cranks.

          • More common than you may think !! Asthma inhalers contain powerful drugs ( look up your pharmacology 101 texts or read the paperwork enclosed in the packaging one day) they are designed to open up the airways , increase O2 movement across the Alveola and a lot more. Many are steroidal and in most cases use at any time increase lung performance even in the absence of an attack.
            I went to my Doctor with a detailed description of symptoms of Exercise induced bronchospasm , (you push really hard then later cough your lung up) to see how hard it would be to get an Inhaler prescription, % minutes later Voila prescription for Inhaler full of good stuff.
            Maybe lots of riders use inhalers because they “can”.
            Idea is to prevent an episode” so use liberally when you think possibly, maybe, probably not but should’nt risk it , better to be safe than sorry ahhh what the heck .
            Your defense can always be “” I didnt Inhale…………………………………

          • I remember a similar incident with Viatcheslav Ekimov when he was riding for US Postal, he had a wasp sting, his face was blown up like a balloon, but he wasn’t allowed any treatment.

            It all seems somewhat ironic now, considering US Postal’s history!

          • many inhalers don’t contain steroids, they contain beta agonists. seems there would be little utility in “as needed” use on the road for a steroid type inhaler, it would do nothing to open up the airways acutely.

            not sure asthma equates to “being sick” with an acute problem, at least to me. it will most likely never go away and they won’t “recover”. you’re advocating people with asthma never ride?

  5. Belkin look like they’re panicking. In a rush to get a few thousand Euros but no obvious goals.

    Surely if they knew their sponsor could walk out they’d have other sponsors waiting in the wings?

    • I was going to say panic was too strong a word but the management will be nervous about losing their best riders. We’ve already seen Mollema is being touted to other teams, riders will not wait for too long.

      Apparently they do have other contacts and they’re reactivating these but the Belkin withdrawal has been a surprise.

  6. Loved the race footage. You can see the tension in the peloton, the shouting, the pushing, the close calls and the fear in the riders’s facial expressions.
    What a crazy sport.

    • I always thought i’d try bike racing when i get reasonably strong. But even if i can push 1000’s of watts forever, i’d never have the cojones to be in the middle of that chaos.

    • So, will we see a new specialization: rider who captures the best footage in a bunch sprint? I can see it now, on the Giant-Shimano bus “…okay, John is our guy for the sprint, Koen will have a rearward camera on John up to 500m and Luka will follow John with a forward facing cam to get the victory salute…”.

      Degenkolb didn’t have a camera mounted on his bike as it looks like he is the focal point in these films. Still, fascinating to watch and hear the action!

      • Degenkolb carried a camera for two stages of the Tour of Calif where he lost in photo finish sprints to Cav. He may have tried to avoid ‘marginal losses’.

    • That finish was mad…and rather unsafe with the narrowed road and two 90-degree corners in the last few hundred meters. Not surprised there was a crash; who makes a course like that when you’re trying to attract riders to a Tour de France tune-up?

  7. Re: TUE leak, Sam’s suspicion above looks reasonable. I first was puzzled why Froome and his team were being attacked by the leaker but couldn’t come up with good explanation. But throw the feud b/w McQ and Cooks into the mix and it all comes together nicely.

    As for the search for team sponsorship, why are Dutch teams in particular facing this dilemma now? The Netherlands looks to be more economically stable than other euro nations. Also, with so many good young German riders on the scene today, will we be seeing German sponsored teams anytime soon, or are they still bitter about the doping scandals of yesteryear?

    • Stable yes, but growing, no. The Dutch economy has been struggling to recover from the crisis, and has had only recession all up until this spring when it stabilized, and hardly any growth since. This is curious because we are largely dependent on the German economy, which has been growing nicely. This lack of growth comes from lack of structural reform, with the government instead relying on austerity measures to stay afloat.

      I believe this is why Dutch companies are not so keen on sponsorship anymore, together with the observation that most of them seem to think of cycling sponsorship as a risky venture due to doping. If they want to sponsor, they’d rather do football, field hockey or ice skating, which on a national level probably get a higher exposure for the investment needed.

  8. As were continually told about the growth in cycling as a hobby/commuter level, maybe the wash of money into the industry could trickle towards sponsorship. Or maybe the Managemnt Consortiums who swallow up your local bike shop could think to spend some money in this direction. Or then again they could simply decide how big their next yacht will be. Ex Honcho of M&S springs to mind, he who resembles a tailors dummy.

  9. What do say about Bouhanni’s 3rd on the Route du Sud today? I understood that this came after a significant climb (didn’t find a stage profile).
    And what about OPQS having the TdS leader of 7 stages, who also delivered two stage wins and pulled for another, but they have a team built around Cav (just 1 stage win)? And now they will have trouble providing race leader Martin enough support in the mountains! Aaah, guess I’m just not enough a fan of that egocentric Cav.

    • Cav was taken out in one sprint! And Martin will never win in the mountains. It’s Costa’s to lose and as he’s in my Podium Cafe team I hope he doesn’t. But 3 stages for OPQS is good going. There are 15 flat, medium mountain and TT stages in the Tour. If Kwia gets back a bit of form they could win a lot of those.

  10. Take something as simple as the jersey for a moment. In cycling you can’t even break the jersey up into advertising packages (left sleeve, left lateral, collar etc) and auction these off effectively to raise funding, because you can not properly quantify ROI for any potential buyer. Say Gillette really liked one particular rider on one particular team and was prepared to buy that team’s jersey collar for $700k but, realistically, were only interested in the Tour. It is statistically unlikely but not inconceivable that that rider wins an 8 minute prologue and goes wire-to-wire in yellow, spending the rest of the event wearing LCL on their collar and not Gillette. If not yellow, then certainly white and therefore Skoda. Either way Gillette consider it $700k wasted.

    In Formula 1, sponsors know there are 17 grands prix, 3 practice sessions, a qualifying session and a 300km or two hour race (whichever comes first). There are still variables that effect TV exposure such as the performance of the drivers and the competitiveness of the car, but by and large they know what they are going to get. No one says to Ron Dennis “Ok Ron, Lewis is leading the driver’s championship so you have to paint the car yellow and put Credit Lyonnais on it”, and frankly Vodafone, Santander, Diageo, SAP and Mobil wouldn’t desire the MacLaren rear wing in quite the same way if there was.

    Even the UCI’s regulations that deal with national champions jerseys and the rainbow jersey interfere with this model by placing limitations on size and even amount of advertising. None of us are clairvoyant, so how on earth do you do a deal (knowing a sample of the jersey must be submitted to the UCI by 31st Dec) with blue chip corporations if there’s a chance five guys on your Tour team win European national championships the weekend before the Tour begins? Put it another way, to sell a car first you must possess the papers to that car.

    The teams should forget the ASO’s television money and focus on their own jersey. It’s an area where they would receive greater sympathy from the general public, not to mention the European Court of Justice should race promoters wish to play hardball.

    On-board camera coverage will only heighten the value of jersey/kit advertising in the future and so the teams should be proceeding cautiously. They should not be undermining the rights of host broadcasters by releasing this content themselves, irrespective of any UCI decree. Without partnership there will be no profits to divide.

  11. I hear the pain of team owners. No revenue from TV coverage to millions, no spectator revenue from the millions that watch a GT. Retricted on how they can sell advertising as that previous post explains pretty well. But, looking around the sports world, even with better revenue streams owning a team is the preserve of billionaires playing and mega corps that have the marketing budgets to not worry about a few tens of millions.

    You’d think the parts of cycling that set it aside from most other sports (I could drive a car round a track, play 90 mins of football, but even after years on a bike I’d have trouble completing a GC) could be marketed well enough for brands to get real value.

  12. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not finding any of this on-bike stuff interesting. We already enjoy the moto-mounted cameras that can give us excellent coverage of what is going on when combined with the helicopter and fixed cameras. A view pretty much out-the-a__ of rider X or from the headtube of rider Y doesn’t add much for me, especially if (like too often with MotoGP and F1) they start to show this more than the wider shots where you can see who is doing what. I wonder if the technology will ever be good enough to truly give a riders-eye view via live telemetry, as in the aforementioned events. Perhaps they’ll ballast the too-light for the regs bikes with camera equipment instead of bits of lead, etc? Might be a reason to resist the call for moving the minimum weight limit downwards? Maybe I’ll change my mind if/when they can provide video that shows what the rider actually sees rather than a rocking-from-side-to-side view from under his handlebars?

    • I am all for advances in technology and this in camera action is great. But I would hope as viewing technology advances that this feature would be a viewers choice, ala picture within picture type thing on your screen. Some of the best momentary footage is from a still road side camera such as they “sometimes” show on a hairpin downhill corner. You get a great feeling of the speed their travelling.

      I do get annoyed with MotoGP coverage where these bloody fly by wire cameras and zooming camera’s on booms, whilst great, always lose the feeling of speed to the viewer. Rant over.

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