Friday Shorts

Andy Shleck is alive and well. A lot of the coverage of his retirement has resembled an obituary, with sorrow at his sudden departure, talk of a promising career that stopped too early and people sharing fond memories. Apart from a knee that can’t take the demands of pro cycling – the doctors said if he kept riding he’d need a knee transplant before he’s 40 – he’s in rude health, has a young family and he’s a millionaire too. He’ll be ok.

There is an obvious element of disappointment and the unfulfilled promise. The knee injury was sustained in the Tour de France this summer but we never got much of an explanation as to what went wrong before. He broke his sacrum in the 2012 Dauphiné and this is often cited as the beginning of the end but prior to this was dropped on a small climb in the same race and had struggled all spring.

Earliest Retirement
As L’Equipe points out today Andy Shcleck is the Tour de France winner who has retired at the youngest age.

The Transfer Market’s closing down sale
With the collapse of Fernando Alonso’s team the game of musical chairs has taken a sudden twist with a lot of seats being pulled in one go. Only with one less team in the World Tour it means there are fewer jobs and fewer well paid ones. While some teams opted to recruit early, Lampre-Merida’s still to sign up several riders and could save a lot of money by having the pick of the jobs market as one of the few employers left in town.

Bouhanni wins
The winner of the transfer market this year has to be Nacer Bouhanni who timed his move to Cofidis perfectly. It was done during a Giro winning streak but crucially when the transfer market was at its hottest. Bouhanni could play off one team against another while they still struggled to recruit riders knowing Alonso’s project was threatening to sign up talent. The mastermind agent behind this deal? Karim Bouhanni, his father, a construction worker.

FDJ’s busy recruitment
The French lottery team is losing Bouhanni and the subject of their challenges for 2015 is worth a whole blog post another day. They’re quietly recruiting for a better future.  They’ve signed Kévin Reza, a good helper for Arnaud Démare who can win races too. But the squad has been hiring new coaches in David Han and ex-pro Sébastien Joly. They’ll have three coaches, each is tasked with 10 riders plus other duties. Han for example is in charge of a new project reports L’Est Eclair that involves a dedicated video server where race footage will uploaded for analysis.

Sylvain Georges

From hiring to firing: remember Sylvain Georges? If you do it’s probably for two reasons, either his Tour of California stage win in 2012 or his 2013 Giro d’Italia positive test. The doping offence was one of those cases of testing positive for stupidity, he was taking a product naively bought over the counter in a pharmacy rather than anything sinister. But that was his fault and he paid the price with his job. Now his ban is ending and he’s signed for an amateur team in France.

MPCC UCI cycling logo

George’s story isn’t big news but it brings us to a bigger and more current topic. His suspension meant Ag2r had to self-suspend under the MPCC rules back in 2013, a live topic at the moment. Back then the UCI agreed to this but now it seems the UCI won’t accept Astana’s suspension and is minded to fine the Kazakh team a large sum of money. The team can afford it, the real story is how the UCI is trying to assert the primacy of its rules over the MPCC. With Roger Legeay’s passive response to Astana’s case the MPCC’s own future is at stake now.

Any colour you like as long as it’s not black

1.3.030 Rain capes’ design must be transparent or be similar to the jersey by use of one of the principle team colours. The team’s name must be displayed on it.

Onto other UCI rules and there’s a new one for 2015 that stipulates rain wear has to look like a team jersey. It’s a much-needed rule because when it rains half the peloton turns black, often with no way of telling one team from another. Viewers can’t see, commissiares are confused and even riders struggle to tell friend from foe.  There’s also the sound commercial logic which says a sponsor’s logo ought to be visible at all times. Some teams have got this already but others haven’t. Will they all get it for 2015? There’s just one problem, the old rule on clear jackets was ignored so what chance this one gets treated selectively?

Air quality
To cloudy conditions of another sort. If there’s a new rule for rainy days there’s nothing new on the air quality issues for the peloton in the Tour of Beijing. There are general safety rules. The early stages are held in rural areas but video of the opening stage showed smog. It’s subjective viewing from the camera but after the race several riders took to twitter to report the health risk. At pixel time the realtime air quality reading in Beijing is “hazardous” and the final stage in the City could be under threat.

This Sunday’s Paris-Tours classic is proof that status and excitement aren’t always correlated. There will be a preview here soon and it’s often a better race that its lowly status suggests, all thanks to the three sharp hills in the final which create a delicate balance between the bunch and attackers. Look out for the race on Sunday.


A big thanks to everyone who’s bought a cap. Again they’re selling fast; some have sold out. If this second order is much bigger than the last one, some had signed up on the Prendas website to get theirs and so it meant once the stock arrived it went out again within hours. Thanks to Prendas who’ve been busy printing, picking, packing and posting for the last two days.

To get your hands on one visit the shop.

41 thoughts on “Friday Shorts”

  1. Placed an order for my cap today.
    A small gesture of thanks for all the reading enjoyment and insight you have provided over the last few years.

  2. Great for Bouhanni; I hope he has a good season next year. The shiny new UCI is starting to make McQuaid look positively competent, even when he had his shoe in his mouth.

  3. Sad to see Andy retiring, would have liked to see something more of his talents but it has come as no surprise at all. He is probably relieved its over and is financially secure. I for one won’t be rushing to see Millar’s last effort, fawning over his departure. No thanks.

  4. Sorry for the circumstances of Andy’s forced retirement, but not sad to see him go…the event in which he showed his ‘immense talent’ (which no doubt existed) was the Giro 2007. Go and look for yourself at the names, results (racing and peeing-in-a-cup), and doping cover-ups…it is absurd. That said, I did enjoy his raid on the Galibier in the 2011 Tour, and earlier that year, the finale of L-B-L with Schleck x2 vs Gilbert in which they failed to make their numerical superiority count.

  5. Your first paragraph’s candor is refreshing. The news is depressing, but I still found myself muttering ‘you know, he isn’t dead‘ at my computer screen when reading about Andy. (And Jensie and D. Millar and Cadel and…)

    I bought a cap, it is the least I could do!

  6. I’m pretty sure that the rain cape rule is not a new one. As of Jan 1, 2000 the rule said “Rain capes must be transparent or made to look like the jersey.”
    I think this will fall under the section of rules that have been in the book for a period of time, that will now be enforced.

    • That’s right, it’s the wording that’s changed. Now not just “transparent or made to look like the jersey” but it has to have the team’s name on it. If they gone and changed the rule let’s hope they enforce it.

  7. For me, last year’s Paris-Tours was one of the best races of 2013, likewise with 2012. Any reason why it wouldn’t be world tour? Having demare, degonkolb etc attacking made for an exciting race, the route is exciting and it made for good tv

  8. In the part about riders complaining from the smog in Beijing on twitter, the most interesting or intriguing part in my eyes is ‘twitter + Beijing’. I figured it was banned in continental China ?

  9. Paris-Tours did used to feature in the UCI World Cup in 90s… I assume it didn’t get to feature on the World Tour because the UCI were keen on getting some Asian races on the WT calendar instead?

  10. I’m a relative newcomer to watching cycling races, and the 2011 Tour was probably the first I watched with real attention, so the Galibier stage stands out to me, and for that, Andy Schleck, too. At the time, as a new watcher, it seemed a real feat. And since then, I’ve wished to see more. But alas.

    I hope he does well at whatever comes next for him.

  11. Why do so many of the teams only have plain black rain capes?

    It doesn’t seem like a budget buster or logistical problem to have capes matched to the team kit. I recall when the Castelli Gabba first came out, many teams used them because their kit sponsor had no equivalent product, but surely that is no longer the reason.

    • I’m sure Rapha have developed one for Sky. Unfortunately, it’s black. I understand that the best performing material is self-colored black which makes it difficult to dye and it won’t take screen printing.

  12. For that matter, I have never understood why the riders’ names are not on their kit. Names or letters could simply be stuck on if need be.

  13. Still consistently the best coverage.

    Bummed i missed the large black caps!

    Prendas had best keep those in regular stock! As long as this excellent content keeps coming, cyclists will be more than happy to buy them.

    Your blog has grwatly deepened my understanding and appreciation of cycling as a sport (rather than my usual transportation and recreation). Thank you.

  14. Good point that you make about Andy. Lot’s of articles point to his 2012 Dauphine crash but he was anonymous in the Ardennes that year after being lively at those races the previous 3 years. He was also talking about it not being the end of the world if he never won the Tour and there being more to his life than cycling. Clearly something changed between the ears. Looking at his highlight reel I can’t help but feel a bit sad. Still….winning the Tour, L-B-L and iconic mountain-top stages is more than most cyclists will achieve.

  15. Au revoir “Fons de Schleck” Way too much hype was thrown onto this kid by the likes of TV’s Heckel & Jeckel and others. More than reasonable talent but it seems he just didn’t have the mental strength required. Perhaps things came too easy at the start? At 29 he’s got a long life ahead of him and I hope he finds success and happiness in something.

    • I think no matter how close you are and how much love there is-it can’t be easy to have a father and brother in the same metier, when the metier is so much about winning and competing. There are a lot of emotions to be sorted out after a race and their results never were seen as their results, they were always seen in context with the other brother-every reporter saying something about Andy is sure to say something about Fränk in the next minute and vice versa. That is nobody’s fault, just the way things are. When I imagine that my brother would be in the situation Fränck was in after his positive-as a sibling it would break my heart. I think the sadness some feel (including me) about Andy’s retirement comes from the feeling that his career is an unfulfilled promise and that in his career everything could have gone right and most of the times didn’t. Even when he gained the most wanted win in cycling, it was nothing to be really satisfied about, no delirious joy, because he hadn’t finished it first in Paris.

      • His ride up the Galibier will love longer in the memory than whole Tour de France victories for others… I agree, we should not feel too sorry for him!

        • I agree on the point about the Izoard/Galibier attack. I believe Eddy Merckx said something similar to Schleck at the time.

          I just feel sad about the lost years in his early 30s, when GC riders really hit their peaks. On the other hand, I also wonder how much more successful he could have been if someone had made him see that he was a pure climber more than a GC rider. If he’d really gone after KOMs and mountain-top stages rather than GC.

          Maybe the last tiny bit of mental toughness was lacking. I’ve heard it said that in his early years he was such a freakishly talented kid that he got big wins with minimal training. The GC level does seem to have risen markedly in the last few years. Maybe he couldn’t commit to the work needed to keep up with Froome/Contador etc.

          Sure, he might well retire with plenty of money, but I can’t see how that makes it alright. I doubt that was his real motivation.

  16. Abandy Schleck’s Galibier ride wasn’t brave, it was part of a typical umbilical brother move. Frank was interviewed after and said Andy winning was plan B. Plan A was the rest of the contenders chased him down, tiring in the process, then Frank would counter attack.

    Gilbert beating the two of them summed up all Abandys issues in a few hundred metres. Lack of mental toughness and too tied to his brother.

    • I don’t think anyone expected either or both Schlecks to beat Gilbert inside the last km. They’re beanpole mountain climbers, not puncheurs.

  17. Andy’s career gives me a stomach full of anger. what a waste of talent. His response to his TT weakness was to work on climbing. Technical downhill, complain how it is unfair.

  18. May I suggest a supporter item that would be more appealing to women? I understand that the point is to support INRNG and I can simply buy a cap and give it to someone else but it would take away from the satisfaction of wearing something from the blog that has taught me everything I know about cycling!

    I’m happy to contribute either way. Thanks!

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