Thursday Shorts

Lotto Soudal verkenning

All roads lead to Belgium. No other country embraces cycling in the same way, the fervour is extensive and comprehensive. There are billboard ads in the streets and at bus stops to promote races – including that one for the E3. The local press are full of reports for this weekend’s double of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and last night’s TV had reports on the route recon by teams. Gossip magazines put cyclists on the front page. There was even a live stream for the great Claude Criquelion’s funeral yesterday. The pedal revolution is televised.

Etixx-Quick Step didn’t recon the course yesterday. The foul conditions meant they stayed inside, not a bad idea since the most of the riders must know the course well and getting soaked wasn’t a good idea; although look closely at the pic above and you’ll see the towering figure of Stijn Vandenbergh. Lotto-Soudal rode and now pre-race tip Jurgen Roelandts is out of the race with “flu” and André Greipel is doubtful for the weekend with illness too.

To warmer climes and well done to Thomas Dekker for getting so close to the UCI Hour Record, just one lap short with 52.221km. I didn’t think he’d last an hour but he really got to work in recent months. As the result shows he can hold his place in the pro peloton if he he was struggling to hold the black line last night, he does have a big talent. So will a contract appear? The difficulty is to convince a pro team that he can maintain the same focus and discipline while collecting a salary from them, results in the past two years suggest he’s been drifting but perhaps he needs disciplined team? In a small way the record attempt will change his label. Just as some riders have nicknames like the Eagle of Toledo or The Professor, others have frequently-repeated associations, for example Nacer Bouhanni is “the boxer” while Rui Costa is a “former world champion”. Dekker now goes from “busted for EPO” to “came close to the hour record” and if he can’t escape the past, he’s helped to improve his image.

Talking of images, if Dekker missed, the biggest failure of the evening was the television coverage. The velodrome seemed to have two cameras while an on-screen graphic counted the time. After several laps it became clear there was no indication of the distance covered so it was almost meaningless to watch. Worse the on-screen stopwatch was actually wrong, in 60 seconds of real time the clock would languidly reach 50 seconds. You have to laugh but a clock that can’t count the time accurately during a time world record attempt is astonishing. The UCI was quick to disown the production.

Another thing disowned by the UCI was the E3 Harelbeke poster with the UCI issuing a public statement about it. If the UCI is worried about Belgian race posters and sexism it’d also do well to review the everyday sexism in its own rules and ways. For example if you watched the recent world track championships you’ll have seen the women hanging around for the medal ceremonies: there is a specific UCI rule that insists on “six maids-of-honour” for all world championship medal ceremonies. I’ve pointed this out before and will keep doing it until it’s changed. Also the UCI are hiring an assistant for Brian Cookson. Visit the UCI website and you can see the job ad in English but see the job ad in French and it’s for une assistante, the feminine form of the word in French. English is gender neutral for nouns but in French it’s clear they want a woman for the job (hat tip @yvclassics)

Thibaut Pinot

Thibaut Pinot is training in in the Canary Islands but on Gran Canaria, not Tenerife. There is a volcano but it’s not as high as Tenerife’s Teide and Pinot has gone for the good weather. But this symbolises a big change, the French teams are getting focussed on performance and starting to plan their season more and more, investing in training camps and planning for the season with specific goals and objectives. Ex-pro Erwann Mentheour gave a good interview to the radiovelo podcast bemoaning the way some French teams still pick riders for a race based on their performance in the last race, for example have a good Dauphiné and you’re in the Tour squad but this means riders are fighting to peak for June and turn stale by July.

Pinot used the Tour of Oman as preparation but this might not be an option for some in the future. After the rider protest and decision to neutralise a stage Eddy Merckx and the other organisers were upset. There’s talk of revenge as it’s their prerogative to invite teams. This is not a World Tour event so there is no obligatory attendance, the organiser can invite the pro teams that they prefer. The race is run by a company called Paumer, the Pau- being Dirk De Pauw and the -Mer being Eddy Merckx and they bring in ASO to manage logistics and filming. Turning down the likes of Etixx-Quick Step would seem mean and risks wider repercussions in Belgium: the biggest cyclist rejecting the biggest team.

One thing missing from the Oman fiasco is a statement from the riders. They decided to stop the race but there’s been no coherent message after the event, a lot of the chaos could have been avoided if we got a clear explanation within an hour after the race. What seems to have happened is that a wave of punctures for the Bardiani-CSF team was the straw that broke the, ahem, camel’s back on a day that had already seen the start moved because of a sandstorm and then when the racing resumed was held in searing temperatures. But you need detective work to piece together what happened and why, collecting a statement here, looking at a photo there. It points to the need for a rider union, if only to issue a common statement to explain their decision.

Make sure you have some tires that won’t explode for 100 Climbs That are Better Than Alpe d’Huez . Sometimes lists are clickbaiting silliness but this isn’t one, after all it took time to write-up 100 climbs and it’s is very useful if anyone wants some summer planning ideas. The premise is that Alpe d’Huez has a status and notoriety thanks to its embrace of the Tour de France but it’s not necessarily any better to ride up than any other ski resort in the area.

If you won’t be riding in the Alps this summer, you’ll probably see the landscapes on TV. One element of the Tour de France coverage are scenes of farmers making a show of their fields. These are not spontaneous gestures as they’re coordinated farming union the FNSEA, even the GPS co-orindinates are given to the TV production crew ahead of the stage so that the helicopter camera crews can line up the best shots. Today saw race boss Christian Prudhomme dishing out the prizes at Paris’s giant Salon de l’Agriculture trade exhibition. It makes you wonder if the Belgians should do the same to brighten up the grim landscapes that will appear in the coming weeks? But what if the tractors got stuck in the mud?

55 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

      • I suppose from the UCI’s perspective that’s the same thing, as the poster containing their logo has gone down (replaced by the same thing without the logo). So they can distance themselves from that unacceptable sexism, and go back to their own variety.

  1. I don’t find the E3 poster remotely offensive. I doubt many but the usual Twitter suspects do. It must feel great to be so right on. Meanwhile most people in the general population don’t even know what E3 Harelbeke is.

    • I didn’t want get into to far into this, those who took offence and those who didn’t are probably not going to come to an understanding and will only cause antagonism.

      But if the UCI does want to tell others what to do on this subject hopefully it’ll look at its own practices too.

      • It says “Who will grab it this year?” Referring both to the race and Peter Sagan’s podium antics from last year. It’s kind of clever. And it’s gotten plenty of publicity – which is the purpose.

          • Sagan won E3 last year. Also, they’re obviously cashing in on a scandal to get a bit of publicity, and it’s worked. Normally no one would be talking about E3 until the Monday before it, but now it’s huge news in Feb.

          • Quite, they’re going for the publicity stunt. It has got the headlines in the week when we should be talking about the Omloop and KBK but it might come at a price.

            The E3 Harelbeke is a brilliant race, normally better than Gent-Wevelgem and a last rehearsal for the Tour of Flanders… but the organisers come up with a poster that’s offended some and for others it’s just a bit crap, as if the podium antics matter more than the brilliant race, as if the race needs a cheesy marketing stunt rather than a proper celebration.

          • Must be hard for Andrew and other dick owners that these women are allowed to talk in public nowadays and dare to criticize some dick owners for their narrow minded view of the world, or?

          • I like the ad. It’s funny and damn sexy, and it nicely fits the style of past E3 ads. The closest the feminist outrage mongers can get to a plausible reason it should be regarded as offensive is that it condones Sagan’s original butt pinch. No it doesn’t. Making light of past mistakes, our own or others, is a fairly common way of dealing with them as mistakes and doesn’t entail that we do not think they were mistakes.

        • Point of order, I think it translates better as “Who will nip/pinch it?”, which is why it’s funny. It’s just cashing on past noteriety so the casual viewer can differentiate their race from Gent-Wevelgem, Scheldeprijs, KBK and all the other 4522 semi classics in Belgium next month.

          If you want to confront Belgium on casual sexism, there’s a million better places to start (including, but not limited to truck stop brothels, near pornographic TV ads for mundane household goods, the media portrayal of Sven Nys’ ex and the male population of urban Brussels.)

      • Rumor has it, the E3 poster/twitter photo contains the smooth posterior of Justin Bieber, which may not necessarily remove the issue of sexism in the advertisement.

    • I’m not offended (I’m not a woman) but I can definitely see why it could be found offensive – but then I don’t think it’s about offence; it’s more about cycling continuing to fail to get it’s act together in terms of the ‘men = athletes, women = decorative/sexual objects’ attitude. INRNG is right to continue pointing out the maids-of-honour bizarro-world stuff.

      The ‘grab’ thing is a bit weird though, and is what has made this stand out amongst all the everyday stuff. Non-consensual grabbing of bottoms isn’t something to put at the heart of a marketing strategy. I don’t think it’s particularly ‘right-on’ to hold that view.

  2. Great read as always. Good to see someone challenging the farce that is the ‘maid of honours’ too.

    Keep up the good work, INRNG cap duly purchased etc.

  3. Ref job ads, in Denmark we don’t have male/female gender in the written nor spoken language but nevertheless you are obliged by law to specify both genders are equally wanted in job-ads. If this is a good thing I don’t know, most of the time you can read between the lines what gender is wanted.

  4. We talk of a union to help the riders create a voice; but how can they have a unified voice when Cancellara, Boonen are arguing the stage is too dangerous but Van Garderen wants to race. If the ‘heads of state’ are unified, there’s no hope for a union. ….Atleast a unified union 😉

    • You think every member of a miner’s or steelworker’s union thinks exactly alike, and agrees 100% with every decision the union makes? Differing views between Boonen and TVG is an illustration of why they need to organize. That is one of the precise functions of a union. Provide a system to make policy, and a vehicle to advance it with other stakeholders (teams/races/UCI).

      In the absence of a rider’s union you have an unpredictable chaotic decision-making process on the road. That is the last place it should happen.

      Pro cycling should act PRO like other major sports. These things should be put in place in the offseason, with clear agreements formed between all the stakeholders. If certain factions disagree with elements of an agreement, there is always the upcoming offseason to try to tweak and change things. Not on the Stelvio mid-Giro.

      • First: Cycling is by no means a major sport Second:The very nature of cycling, where riders have their own targets, where most teams have very different targets and where even inside a team often little teams or fractions with different agendas exist, the hirarchic structure inside the peloton, stands in the way of any agreement between riders. The incident in Oman showed that very clear: The ones having something to gain saw the situation totally different from the rest and were very vocal about that and didn’t care at all if others were endangered!!! Personally I can’t see any agreement or “union” happening: Riders are told “You got to have the killer instinct” and “to go where it hurts” and lots of other warlike stuff and then we expect them to come together, look out for other teams and riders and leave all that behind in a situation where one of them could maybe get a win? I don’t think so! And I am not completely sure this is a bad thing. Cycling is probably in the top ten of the most regulated sports, there are already million rules (and many nobody cares about) and look, where that has led us?

      • “You think every member of a miner’s or steelworker’s union thinks exactly alike, and agrees 100% with every decision the union makes?”

        Exactly. That’s why you need a shop steward to bully and threaten dissenters into toeing the line 😉

  5. No to de-sexualisation, no to self-righteous and lifeless prudery, and yes to humour, liberty, provocation, and traditional sex roles. Je suis E3 Harelbeke!

  6. No to humourless de-sexualisation!… well, as long as you’re a bloke obviously, if you’re a woman you can just lump it (that’s traditional after all)

    (Apologies Inrng, I couldn’t resist it, but I really don’t want to turn your blog into a slanging match.)

  7. The pressure for Het Volk is all on Van Avermaet I guess. He’s the only one for whom even second place will be a failure. I wonder how he is going to cope with it.

    • My thoughts exactly. I still have his beautiful ride last year on the citadel burned into my brain and so hope this weekend isn’t the neckbreaker for “the beast”.

  8. Wrong time of year to be messing about making Flandrian lion shapes and destroying soil structure spinning around up to the axles. Most of us in farming got enough to do keeping stock fed and watered. But of course there will always be exceptions to the rule.

  9. I certainly disapprove of butt-pinching without prior consent and I’m all for equal opportunities – especially if that means Sagan has to kiss a guy if he makes it to the Flanders podium this year. But I don’t quite understand why those who are so vocal about gender equality don’t have a problem with the complete separation between genders that is part of almost every sport, cycling included. Abolish male and female racing and just let people race against people and let the best person win.

    • Yess, and short people should be included in basketball teams, and people with bad eyesight should be able to play soccer, oh no those already become referees. 😉

  10. AK – with fans having outdated attitudes like yours, its no wonder cycling seems to be stuck in the past. Its about equal opportunities, not prima facie equality. Equal opportunities = women having the same opportunities to race each other as men do, same team structures, same TV coverage etc. Its obvious that forcing women and men to race each other is pointless for half the competitors, and will force them away from the sport. But I suppose that’s what you want – stay at home in the kitchen etc. Dinosaur.

    • I don’t want to drag this out but I have to react to this because you have me all wrong. I would much rather see women become CEO’s, prime ministers, doctors, lawyers, university professors or many other things than professional cyclists. Unless they have the talent required to be among the top 1000 or so athletes that make up the pro peleton. I don’t watch the 60+ masters or U23 races at the World’s, or the paralympics, even though these races may be exciting and I have great respect for what these athletes achieve despite their shortcomings. Pro sports is entertainment and I only care about seeing the best of the best because that is what entertains me most.
      There are many intrinsically smart people in poor countries that do not have access to good education, but even in well-developed countries a large percentage of people (male and female) simply do not have the talent to finish a university degree and they are mostly confined to less glorious carreeers than those with more talent. That’s tough for them but I don’t want special medical schools with easier exams established for undertalented people, and then have someone who graduated from there to operate on me. With sports it’s slightly different because nobody really gets hurt from separate male and female races but on the one hand admitting that women are not as good at cycling as men so they need a separate league, and on the other hand complaining that they don’t get the same number of viewers -and with that sponsors and pay- is fairly pointless to me.

      PS I think the Western world would be a better place if people would spend a bit less time at work and a bit more at home with their children but this currently applies more to men than to women.

  11. Perhaps they should have a ‘lads of honor’ for the womens podium presentations…you know to offset the ‘maids of honor’. Pretty men in tight fitting clothes, perhaps?

  12. I wonder why we’ve not heard much about Movistar’s tire issues?
    I went to Flanders a couple years back (it’s L-B-L this year) and expected to find the cycling-mad attitude to extend to motorists..but in this case “cycling mad” meant they honked and yelled at us pretty much any time we were not in a bike specific lane or path.
    Cycling should ditch the use of T & A for promotional purposes, same with MOTOGP, but look at NFL or NBA pro sports in the USA where gender equality is supposed to be important while “cheerleaders” still wiggle and jiggle for $50 a game. Same as it ever was.

    • ” went to Flanders a couple years back (it’s L-B-L this year) and expected to find the cycling-mad attitude to extend to motorists..but in this case “cycling mad” meant they honked and yelled at us pretty much any time we were not in a bike specific lane or path.”

      The other thing the Flemish are mad for is rules and the following thereof. It’s the law that you must ride on the bike path where it is provided unless in a group of more than (i think) 10.

      • DG: I was there with an organized group led by folks who know the rules and as far as I know we followed them. I would expect not to be bothered on the bike path, but I was shocked at how unfriendly (to be frank it reminded me of the USA) the motorists were towards cyclists in general after reading so many accounts of the cycling culture in this area.

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