Monday Shorts

Leopold Konig Tour de France 2014

Team Sky announced five signings and the unanimous opinion seems to be there’ll all strong riders, to the point where picking nine for the Tour de France will keep some list-makers busy over the winter. Injuries and other incidents will hit the best laid plans, just ask Richie Porte who’s Giro bid went bad before the race started. With Nicolas Roche and Leopold König the team is buying in riders to work as helpers who could be leaders on other World Tour squads… and this is exactly what big teams do.

König’s case is perhaps the most interesting. Seen as a climber he finished seventh overall in the Tour de France via fifth place in the final time trial, his second highest placing in the race so he’s much more complete than a pure climber.

Who’s Leaving Sky / Alonso Update / Bardet’s 4 year deal / All change at FDJ? / Ferrand-Prévot’s ambitions / Contract Deadline Day / Milan-Turin / Jean-Paul Gaulthier inspured by Del Tongo team

Who’s Out?
All the focus is on Sky’s five new riders but even Sky’s budget can’t beat the UCI rules: teams are capped at 30 riders. Sky started the year with 29 and finish with 27 after Gabriel “Gabba” Rasch retired mid-season and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke’s conviction. So in order to welcome five more at least two have to leave. We know Edvald Boasson Hagen is going and it seems Joe Dombrowski is going to Garmin/Cannondale. With Bradley Wiggins set to move mid-season in 2015 you can see see today’s five signings resulting from the cash savings of Wiggins and Boasson Hagen. All this pre-supposes just five changes but there could be more.

“I hope you drive faster than you do business”

Team Alon-slow
Fernando Alonso’s plans for a pro cycling team continue but just. A press release from a Dubai firm called Novo says Alonso and his manager Luis Garcia Abad are working with Novo to build the team. Readers might say The Inner Ring is longwinded and pointless at times but the 550 word press release from Novo seems to say nothing more than there’s been a deal between Novo and Alonso’s entourage and they’re talk of acquiring “a portfolio of assets” but what these assets are isn’t known, it could be a whole team it could be nothing of consequence. Reading between the lines it seems Novo will try to find some wealthy backers and the implication is that if the project’s alive, the only thing they’ve got to announce is a deal with a sports investment company nobody has heard of.

Now to real deals as Romain Bardet’s signed a four year contract with Ag2r to keep him with the team until the end of 2018. Such longevity is rare in the sport where two year deals are the norm and many are on one year contracts. Robert Gesink once signed a five year deal with Rabobank. It’s unlikely to be four years of simple employment, there will be win bonuses and more. It gives Bardet long term security – welcome to pro cycling where four years is long term – and a certain exclusivity over his future for Ag2r La Mondiale who are signalling their presence will continue too.

FDJ’s privatisation? Ag2r and FDJ are some of the most enduring sponsors of the pro peloton but could things change? FDJ is the French lottery and the government is considering privatising it. A change of ownership could cause a change of sponsorship but that’s speculation, they could equally decide it’s a great publicity tool and up the sponsorship. The bigger difference is that Christophe Blanchard-Dignac, the current boss, is a big fan of the team and his time could be coming to an end. If so the team loses it’s biggest supporter.

Pauline Ferrand Prévot France

One rider in need of sponsorship is Pauline Ferrand-Prévot. It was reported in L’Equipe over the weekend that she doesn’t earn a salary from her team, riding only for travel expenses, win bonuses and a bike. That’s true but only partially so. It’s the case with her Giant Pro XC team, the MTB team she rides for. But it’s not true for Rabo-Liv where she’s salaried. Still a win bonus would see her in clover this year. As well as the new world champion on the road she’s also the reigning MTB relay champion and current French champion on the road – time trial and road race, as well as the mountain bike and cyclo-cross champion. She won the Flèche Wallonne and was second in the Giro Rosa. Quite how she improves in 2015 is unknown but she told L’Equipe in a great interview that she plans to ride the road and the MTB at the Rio Olympics.

Today’s the deadline for teams to tell riders whose contracts are up at the end of the year that their services are no longer required. Written notice has to be given and the idea is that riders aren’t left waiting for a contract that never arrives. It’s in both the UCI rules and the joint agreement between the CPA and the AIGCP, the rider union and team association respectively. Some teams do it but others don’t and given this written notice is supposed to be copied to the CPA you’d think they’d be onto the teams that haven’t acted. But apparently little happens.

Riders still waiting for a contract need a result and Milan-Turin is on Wednesday. It’s not a famous race today but it is a classic in the true sense. While new races abuse the label, Milano-Torino was first run in 1876 and it’s Italy’s oldest bike race. Looking ahead it’s a good warm-up ahead of Sunday’s Il Lombardia. The course includes two climbs at the end of the Superga, the hill outside the city dominated by the church on the top but often remembered for an air disaster that wiped out the entire Torino football team. The good news is that it’s on TV, the bad news is that it’s on Italy’s Rai Sport 2 only and at 11.00pm. No other country broadcasts as much cycling, even U23 races get helicopters to broadcast the race. Not every race could be on TV but this is a genuine classic with a selective finish and the kind worth watching, as good as, say, the GP Wallonie with its arrival in the citadel of Namur.

Finally it’s Paris fashion week and Jean-Paul Gaulthier has just presented his 2015 collection on the piste. There’s a cycling connection as several of the outfits appear to be inspired by cycling jerseys of the 1980s, notable the Del Tongo team; for more head over to Vogue. Gaulthier hardly sells any clothes so these images create the imagery of wacky luxury needed to peddle perfume but that’s another story. Back to cycling and another show was cycling-inspired with Balanciaga whose American designer Alex Wang was in Paris this summer and caught some of the Tour de France.

53 thoughts on “Monday Shorts”

  1. I keep hoping to hear that Ted King has a contract for next year. I also keep hoping that Andy Schleck will get healthy and really pull things together to be a GC contender again. (I live a rich and full fantasy life, don’t I?) So I also wonder if he’ll have a ride next year, too.

      • I was under the impression that he was still in talks with JV for one of the last spots on the Cannondale/Garmin squad. I believe I read that Ted had made a comment suggesting that he will remain World Tour next season. I checked his web site, no clues there.

        • I think Mr Ring was talking about Cult Energy with respect to Andy Schleck (since I immediately cruised the web a bit and saw the connection talked about).

          The last I saw from Ted King about next year hinted at the Cannondale Garmin team, but I haven’t heard more.

  2. she doesn’t earn a salary from her team, riding only for travel expenses, win bonuses and a bike.

    An international elite mountain biking winner gets no salary. That’s a widespread problem in cycling outside the Men’s World Tour . The situation appears worse now than decades past, so I’m lead to believe it is a matter of UCI policy to discourage athlete revenue on a national level. I’m not sure why the federations choose to do that to themselves.

    At minimum, hopefully Cookson does not go backwards on his promise to improve Women’s cycling.

    • Clearly this is a subject for another post, but you can’t yet effectively legislate sponsorship levels for women’s cycling and this is essentially what one is doing if one legislates/mandates salaries. If the sponsorship was there, more women would receive salaries.

      In other words, while the UCI can set up standards for certain tiers (such as the men have World Tour, Pro-Continental & Continental) in women’s cycling, and they can set minimum rider compensation levels, that doesn’t mean there will necessarily be any teams that can meet the standards. But it would be a start.

      • I suspect it would be easiest for the UCI to concentrate on increasing media coverage for women’s races, as that helps attract the sponsors. Some of the comments during the coverage of the World Championships suggest that is indeed what they are doing – e.g. the news roundup and highlights package for all the world cup races available for broadcasters and the internet.

        • “…she doesn’t earn a salary from her team, riding only for travel expenses, win bonuses and a bike. That’s true but only partially so. It’s the case with her Giant Pro XC team, the MTB team she rides for. But it’s not true for Rabo-Liv where she’s salaried.”

          So she DOES get a salary and it’s paid to her by Rabo-Liv. For the MTB races she does she is on a more ‘modest’ package. Without knowing the comparative sizes of her racing programmes in each discipline, we cant really comment on this arrangement. If the majority of her programme is on the road with Rabo-Liv and she does a few races per year off-road (as and when her road programme permits) then is it really such a bad situation?

          • An elite international mountain biker gets no salary in 2014.
            -What does that say about the level of money in competitive mountain biking decades into the UCI’s recognition of the sport?
            -What does that say about the UCI’s management of the discipline?
            -Her off-road situation is the international elite norm with a very small group of riders earning a living wage riding a mountain bike.

            Ms. Ferrand-Prévot’s road activities are a separate matter. We know Rabbo-Liv’s wage-capable budget is a rare exception too.

            I realize mountain biking isn’t a subject covered on this site, so let’s just leave it there.

      • you can’t yet effectively legislate sponsorship levels

        Ahh, but the federations do exactly that.

        A sponsor’s costs paid to the sports federation rise dramatically if salaries are officially part of the sponsorship program. Those costs paid to the federations have risen dramatically. Meanwhile, taxes and fees paid to federations for high-ranking events have also risen dramatically.

        I’m sure it varies from country-to-country, but the UCI’s federations have been on this policy path for decades now.

        • Sure.

          But my point was more along the lines of, just because a federation or governing body mandates minimum salaries for a certain tier doesn’t mean that the teams will have sufficient sponsorship/budget to make the tier.

          I think for the most part teams would pay riders at least minimum salaries, assuming they have the resources to do so. Most don’t; this includes women’s teams and a large number of continental teams. While there are certainly some greedy team bosses, the lower level teams (and the vast majority of womens teams) are typically just struggling to get by as-is.

  3. Regarding Ms. Ferrand-Prevot’s statements in regards to Jeannie Longo, is that the general sentiment towards the latter from French pro cyclists? I guess Longo’s longevity (heh!) meant that more than a few women didn’t get a chance to ride for France in the Olympics or Worlds, not to mention the fact (if I read correctly) Longo seemingly was never one to mentor younger generations.

    • I don’t know if he’s under contract or not. A good rider with room to improve but, for the sake of sport, surely better on his current team as a leader? He’s limited by the high mountains for now but isn’t just a TT specialist, see his attacks in the Eneco Tour etc.

      • Last year too. I like Eneco Tour a lot and he added a lot these years. I would be sad to see him as a domestique only trying to keep Froome at the front of the TdF.

    • It’s happening, but slowly. Far from the game-changing team with stardust and petrodollars we could see a Pro Continental team staffed by out of contract riders and it’s just possible to build the 18th World Tour team in buying up some riders still on the market, for example picking over Lampre-Merida’s roster to collect, say, Horner and Niemec. But this would be a far cry from the early ambitions.

      • Now I’ve never set up my own professional cycling team but I would think it might be a full time job, something that Señor Alonso already has. I wonder if he’s regretting not just buying the Euskatel licence?

          • I don’t know if you know something more 🙂 …but I knew that…
            …eventually it was a sponsorship problem. Alonso would have liked to buy the license but to kick out some of the technical sponsors to replace them with *friendly* brands. However, same license, same contracts, so he should have paid penalties, but he didn’t want to. He expected “cycling’s gratitude” for what he was doing, that is, bending the rules or waiving the claims for penalties 😛
            Anyway, this wouldn’t be in contrast with what you’re hinting at: that is, he hadn’t the money to pay the penalties or to abide by the ongoing contracts.
            In any case, what I know was just hearsay, not real information.

  4. When I remember it correct, the whole Alonsocyclingteam-Saga started around/at the Vuelta with talk about him rescuing Euskaltel-Euskadi. Then there was a little silence and the intention was officialy confirmed. Then a little more silence and the buying of Euskaltels licence was cancelled, but there still would be a new team with Alonso as the moneyman. Over 1 year has passed – and nothing has happened. Makes you wonder what happened inbetween these silences and different metamorphoses of the teamidea. Doesn’t he know how much money he has and how fast he can use it? Has he counted on other sources shouldering the team with him, that didn’t materialize? Whatever it is, this is really ridiculous. It started as: I love Spain and cycling and therefore I will spend money on both combined and right now is: If I find someone who takes the risk and gives the money, maybe I will give my name. If he can’t make it happen till the beginning of the next year, it would be better for him and for cycling if he finally pulled the plug on the whole idea.

    • My wild guess is every sponsor Alonso brings to the UCI is some combination of rejected by the UCI and the sponsor not liking UCI’s demands. They approved a German sponsor and that seems to be all they have planned for the near future.

      Also remember the process for becoming a World Tour team is secret.

  5. Re. König’s TT abilities: I tend to take the results of the final TT in any Grand Tour with a grain of salt. You typically have a small number of specialists looking for a stage win, a handful of riders in the top 10 looking to do just enough to protect their position, and pretty much nobody else trying very hard.

    • Konig is a decent TTer for a GC guy. Can be inconsistent but on his day does pretty well. He’s scored top 10s/just outside top 10 in last year’s Vuelta, Dauphine, California, this year’s Bayern-Rundfahrt, as well as that 5th place in the final TT of this year’s Tour

  6. I was somewhat surprised that Viviani’s name was not amongst those announced. There has been a subtle change in the relationship between SKY Italia and other parts of the group. As you rightly say, we will have to wait and see, but it is a surprising change of tactic by SKY to drip information.

    • Nope. Sky never do all announcements in one big bang. Last year saw rider announcements as early as Jun with Earle, and as late as Dec. And god knows there was plenty of speculation by autumn as to what was happening re the likes of Kennaugh and Stannard staying.

      It seems that Brailsford told SSN yesterday that there are a further two sets of new rider negotiations ongong (separate from the Wiggins contract discussions)

  7. I am a bit worried about the Sky signings. Because to me they look like a troublesome development. Yes, they all fit into their lineup and team tactics and their plans for the next season, but especially looking at Roche and Poels it feels like Sky not only looked for a fitting rider for their lineup but also to purposeful weaken their opponents’. Something in my impression is quite common in football.
    But great deal for König. I believe he can learn quite a bit at Sky and maybe in a year or two get a real chance to go for a GT, like the Vuelta or Giro.

    • The “weakening” plan seems too much for me. But concerning König I agree. He made top 10 GC results as a leader of a Pro Conti team on both GTs he rode, he can repeat top 10 even as Froome’s lieutenant at Sky. Last year Kreuziger was only 1 place behind Contador in that role. Comparing to Porte – both tend to have a bad day within a GT. But on such a day Richie slides some 20 places back, Leo 2-3 places. He should be the plan B. I think Sky learned from this years TdF, where no plan B worked.

  8. Eh? I think that’s pushing it a bit. For starters, Sky were after Roche a couple of years ago, but he went to Saxo as was instead. Do you think they were after him then specifically to weaken AG2R?

    Would you say that Astana have hired Cataldo specifically to weaken Sky?

    Sometimes there really is no conspiracy at work.

  9. From Reuters

    Thailand are in talks with Tour de France organisers about bringing the world’s most prestigious cycling race to Asia for the first time and are confident of doing so by 2016, a senior tourism official said on Thursday.

Comments are closed.