The Wait of a Nation

Giant Alpecin

Ein Stein. Lifting the cobbled trophy last Sunday was a triumph for John Degenkolb and the culmination of a lot of team work. But behind the scenes it’s also the remarkable story of riders as ambassadors who’ve managed to convince German TV to give the sport a second chance, partly thanks to solid results, partly thanks to soft power and coffee.

I’ve often said that if there was one race to interest the Germans, it’s got to be Paris-Roubaix. It’s so crazy, it’s unlike anything else. It can only appeal to the people in my country
– John Degenkolb, L’Equipe, 13 April 2015

Now Degenkolb didn’t win Paris-Roubaix out of patriotic duty but he’s concious of the media impact his win can have. He’s not alone. Earlier this week L’Equipe told the tale of how Marcel Kittel was supposed to share a coffee with German television executives at home but the meeting went on for five hours. It happened a year ago and the newspaper says he helped play a significant role in getting the ARD channel to return to the Tour de France.

It’s also my role to defend the interests of my sport. It had been said that we had to get results to be credible. With Tony (Martin), André (Greipel) and John (Degenkolb), we’re within our rights to demand more coverage.
– Marcel Kittel, L’Equipe, 8 April 2015

We can see how the success of a rider might draw the media in. But actively arguing their case in a direct meeting with broadcasters? That’s extra.

There’s a long term thread here. Go back to 2011 when John Degenkolb was a neo-pro with the HTC-High Road team. He was a promising amateur after a silver medal in the 2010 Worlds in Geelong and two stages of the Tour de l’Avenir. But he quickly went from promise to delivery in the pro ranks with a stage win in the Volta ao Algarve, another in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, then he won the Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt in Germany. All good but things went up a level when he took two stages in the Dauphiné, a neo-pro winning in the World Tour is rare and he even outsprinted Edvald Boasson-Hagen back in the days when the Norwegian was a winning machine. Then the team folded.

All that promise, all those instant big wins and yet he joined Argos-Shimano, a Pro Conti team in cycling’s second division that has since mutated into Giant-Alpecin. They might be a German team today but they spent a long time as a Dutch team with a francophile vibe. Back then Argos-Shimano was a modest outfit that, for years under the Skil-Shimano label had tried to seduce ASO for that wildcard invitations. Despite Dutch sponsors they’d hired a handful of Frenchman, often raced in France and were an early joiner of the MPCC, a deliberate bonjour to Christian Prudhomme.

At the Tour de l’Ain one year an Argos manager spotted a lanky rider, “wearing a white jersey and with his build and his climbing style I thought it was another Colombian” but it was actually Warren Barguil, the Frenchman was signed to the team. This was a team trying to break through but when Degenkolb signed during 2011 that had yet to happen. It was a chance to link up with an old team mate from the amateur days… Marcel Kittel. The two work well together to the point where we might wonder about primacy in the team but the squad and the leaders manage it all.

Gretsch Degenkolb Kittel
Patrick Gretsch – John Degenkolb – Marcel Kittel

Come 2012 and the team got a wildcard invitation to the Tour but the ticket was the triumph, to take part was the reward instead of winning. Success came later that year when Degenkolb won five stages in the Vuelta.

Nobody really understood why I’d joined a second division team, but I know today that it was my best decision. Since 2012 we’ve built a ream in our image. We haven’t always had good times but we’ve been able to bounce back.
– John Degenkolb, L’Equipe, 13 April 2015

There have been plenty of good times. The bad moments? At one point the team ended its deal with Argos Oil on the promise of a wealthy American philanthropist who pledged to sponsor the team but the deal fell through and team was close to collapse. Bicycle sponsor Giant stepped in at the last minute. Another low was over Kittel’s tale from his amateur days with tales of blood irradiation, the practice of removing a some blood and shining UV light on it to kill bacteria and then re-infusing it. It wasn’t banned at the time and WADA’s since ruled that it’s not doping but it was an awkward moment for a team that’s quietly built the image of a clean squad.

Ask who the best manager in the sport is and obvious names come to mind, think Sky’s Dave Brailsford, Bjarne Riis and Eusebio Unzué of Movistar. But what of Iwan Spekenbrink of Giant-Alpecin? He’s built a team up over the years that’s now beating the best and nobody seems to have a bad word to say about them.

Better still Spekenbrink’s landed a German sponsor and thanks to behind-the-scenes activism from his own riders, they’re helping to put the sport back on TV in Europe’s largest and most prosperous country. Sponsors couldn’t be happier. The return of German TV is provisional. A Damoclean sword hangs above the Tour de France, ready to fall on ASO’s accounts and worry sponsors hoping for a stable, pan European audience. If ARD are back after quitting in 2011, ZDF fled in 2007 and still refuse to come back. So things have turned around but the wait goes on for normality to resume, it’s curious that the Tour de France is a roaring success in France and ignored in Germany, as if the Rhine was an ocean rather than a river.

Marcel Kittel

A team win last Sunday but behind this, a long term strategy that’s taken Skil-Shimano from hunting wildcards and fighting for the Tour de France’s lanterne rouge. Now they’re winning some of the biggest races, whether the classics or grand tour stage wins and all without a sugardaddy sponsor. A masterplan? Maybe… maybe not as the story could have been different if Giant hadn’t stepped in. Today a slender budget means they still have to pick their fights, they can’t compete on as many fronts as the likes of Team Sky, BMC Racing and Katusha and they might not be able to afford Degenkolb for too long.

Meanwhile German TV viewers have waited years to see the Tour de France once again on a mainstream channel after years of absence. André Greipel and Tony Martin have done plenty to help with impressive results over the years but this didn’t seem to cut through. Wins and World Championship titles have ensured triumph for German cycles but what if Marcel Kittel’s coffee chat was the clincher that ended the wait?

97 thoughts on “The Wait of a Nation”

  1. It would have been awesome if Giant-ALPECIN had signed Chris Horner… just imagine him in the TV-adds for Alpecin hair shampoo that aired during the Eurosport Coverage of Paris-Roubax 😀

    • I suspect there’s another reason why Giant would want nothing to do with Horner.

      They are a team which I trust, built in good principles. Koen de Kort I’ve met a few times and he is one of the really nice guys in cycling. Interestingly, so many of them have very good language skills and are just a little bit more engaging than your average pro.

        • I’m well aware of Kittel being sent to a doctor for some “ozone” treatment in his youth. Which was legal at the time and which the poor sap knew little about. It’s well documented and he has spoken about quite openly. If you want to compare that to Horner, well….

          I don’t know who you are – you have exercised your right to be “anonymous”, which is fine – but if you ask about the pro peloton and all the various hangers on, I’m pretty confident that the Giant team will come out with pretty much the best reputation of all.

          • There; I’m no longer anonymous according to your standards. Looks silly, huh?

            It’s sort of silly too, that cycling fans now argue about who’s team is cleaner rather than stronger for the Spring or the Summer.

          • It wasn’t thought to be legal at the time. Germany’s NADO took Kittel all the way to CAS on this. Kittel prevailed on a wording technicality because the WADA list banned blood manipulation that was /effective/ at improving oxygen transport, rather than blood manipulation that was /intended/ to.

            (AFAICT from reporting at the time – for some reason the CAS website *still* does not seem to have the Kittel judgement available, which is starting to look strange by this point: )

  2. I’m delighted that German riders are enjoying such well deserved success. Particularly within Giant-Alpecin; they come across so well, you can’t help but celebrate with them.

    I can’t wait for a time when parts of Germany get involved in a Grand Depart, and more. It’s such a beautiful country.

    Thanks INRNG, I now appreciate there’s much more to this team then simply training for a bike race.

  3. It’s weird how cycling seems to get alienated in larger money markets, Germany, US, even a little in the UK… “Chris Froome t-shirts aren’t exactly flying off the shelves.”

    Good for Degenkolb to help proCycling in GER?

      • Preposterously, people are obsessed with ‘personality’ – as if you actually know what a stranger is really like from seeing them on TV.
        And even if you do ‘like’ this or that rider, you’re not going to the pub with them, you’re watching them ride a bike, so what does it matter?
        Never understood fandom.
        Also, never understood liking someone just because they happened to have been born within the same arbitrary borders as yourself.

        • I think its more than a little complicated – as that article linked to by Anonymous, highlights.

          In Froome’s case there are a number of factors as far as many Brits are concerned.

          • “He speaks with the wrong accent and his British heritage is paper-thin”.

            Someone please tell me that this just isn’t true.

          • Sorry for involuntary anonymity, that was me.

            About ‘personality’, well, I personally didn’t like the way Froome behaved, as a rider, in 2012, but that’s more or less everything about it.
            And maybe some unnecessary declarations about doping, but Wiggins wasn’t that better in that sense. You can say that some cyclists shine thanks to their strong personality… *on the road*, but that’s not especially the case of Froome nor Wiggins, really.
            What else? Wiggo is way nicer to see on a bicycle and has a serious cycling culture, but these factor are more appealing for a ‘hardcore’ cycling fan, I can’t see them affecting the larger public, or at least not the same persons worried by accent and national heritage.

            Generally speaking, I share J Evans view about how much all of that can be ‘crunched’ to media built narratives.

          • So far as Boulting’s comments about “the wrong accent” are concerned, he is right that Froome sounds South African, whereas Wiggins (and Cav) sounds English. And he is somebody who was born in and has represented Kenya, grew up in South Africa and lives in Monaco, having recently “become” British for sporting purposes, which is what the perception of “paper-thin” heritage probably alludes to. In terms of public acceptability those are both factors. Both cricket and rugby have an issue with players from overseas becoming English, and it does seem that the public often takes longer to accept them than players who are recognisably brought up here. (This isn’t really a skin colour/ethnicity thing, there are Tongans playing for the English and Welsh rugby teams with thick south Wales accents, having grown up here, who have quickly become fan favourites.)

            I suspect Boulting is right, the British public might have taken to Froome more if he was billed as the first African to win the TdF, rather than the second Brit.

          • I can someway understand what Nick says about rugby and cricket, since, for example, in Italian football – and just there, curiously enough! – every now and then someone jumps up shouting against foreign players being “nationalised” (or worst).
            Nevertheless, I’m quite surprised by the article, because that kind of statements usually meets general reprobation and strong media campaign have surged against even uttering something like that.
            The mere fact that someone could be deemed, by a single person or by the general public, in a way or another, even if just in “likeability”terms, because of his or her accent or provenance, couldn’t appear in the press without a simultaneous negative assessment of that same attitude.
            On one hand, there’s a good lot of hypocrisy in this situation, since Italy still suffers from widespread racism, and the media are among the responsibles. On the other hand, it’s not so bad to remark that something, in a society, won’t get a pass. Whatsoever.

            What is more, I find those reflections quite “strange”, to say so (even if I guess they’re well founded), because I’m used to see cycling fans as the less interested of all to the athletes’ nationality, generally speaking; imagine when we’re speaking of shades like accent and the such!
            There’s still a quite strong nationalistic bias – as it’s obvious, since sport is precisely one of the channels through which nationalism gets boosted – but it’s a long way far from what can be seen in other sports.
            Maybe this lucky situation has developed historically through the habit, not universal but quite widespread in cycling fans, to cheer on rivals, too.
            Anyway, I see more and more cycling fans whose “fandom” for one cyclist or another doesn’t depend at all on nationality, hence I perceive as “out of place” that kind of attitude I saw reported in the article. I guess it could be due to the relatively recent rise of cycling in the UK, and maybe to the specifically nationalistic circumstances which have accompanied it. But this is just small talk, don’t take it too seriously 🙂

          • Gabriele, in Britain, both conservatives and supposed liberals don’t count it as bigotry if the person is white (ask any Eastern European who lives here).
            Italy’s racism problem – like many, many others in mainland Europe – is pretty much out in the open: British people like to think that ours is not as bad, but it’s just not acceptable (or legal a lot of the time) to say it in public.
            In private, Britain is the same as every other country: in a recent survey, 30% of British people described themselves as ‘racist or a bit racist’. And those are the ones who are willing to admit it – not only to a compelete stranger doing a survey, but to themselves (so you can probably double that number).

            One of the things I have liked about cycling is the lack of interest in nationality (presumably because teams have little national affiliation). In Britain, at least, this has changed since we had some successful cyclists. The new fans often seem more interested in nationality than the sport itself. For me, that’s a negative: national divisions usually are.

          • @ Gabriele, I don’t think Boulting was expressing agreement with those attitudes. And he wasn’t saying that these were reasons why Froome was “unlikeable”. Rather he seemed to be saying that these could be reasons why Froome was not as popular among the general public (not necessarily cycling fans) than Wiggins. And it’s partly because Wiggins’ accent marks him out as coming from a humbler background than Froome’s rather than the Africanness. I suspect the “Sky = the Ingerland of cycling” image that seemed to accompany Wiggins’ rise to prominence might have been relevant too.

        • ^Nick has summarised it fairly well, J Evans.

          Add to that that Froome spends the absolute bare minimum amount of time in the UK, and as Ned Boulting has said in the past, he simply has no desire to spend any time here. As soon as its down time for him, its back to Africa (which is of course totally his prerogative). Its where he will move back to permanently as soon as he moves away from a Europe-centric career.

          But people pick up on that, and it all helps to inform their view.

          You might not like this way of looking at it and dismiss it out of hand as ‘nationalism’, but its the way that many here do look at things.


          • Sam, much easier to believe that everything is the way it is because that is the way it has to be.
            Much easier to dismiss anything that goes against the norm as ridiculous: just believe what you’re told and be sure not to think for yourself.

          • Ill-founded may it be, perhaps believing in the lizards (more or less as factual as the greatest part of the nationalistic credo) would help: see Moore’s “Watchmen” for some hints on the subject.
            (No, I’m not seriously suggesting to fight one delirium with another 😉 )

          • We were also talking about the fact that Froome is less popular because he’s ‘less British’, so it’s not like me saying that this thinking is misguided has stemmed from nowhere.

        • Apologies for original comment’s anonymity, that was me.

          The point of the article is that your average fan (not the type who reads and comments on a niche pro cycling blog) is mostly about things like personality. People like Andrew Flintoff and Bradley Wiggins are more prized because they give good quotes and come up well in interviews. Froome is earnest and polite, but also pretty dull. Also look at the way many fans project onto their favourite teams – “we played really well last week”, no YOU didn’t, a bunch of millionaires did.

          • Tell it to Irish people… 😛
            Sorry, some themes shouldn’t be addressed in facetious terms, but it was stronger than me. Back to work, now, and I guess we’d better go back to cycling, here, before inrng kicks all of us out.

          • But the island is divided up into further countries (these borders were decided centuries ago along the lines of ‘Who is best at killing people’ – like almost all borders).
            For now, they’re not completely separate politically, but very much separate in most people’s minds: most British people when asked their nationality will unthinkingly say English/Welsh/Scottish, not British.
            As for the island next door…

      • As Gabriele says, I think Froome didn’t endear himself to the hardcore cycling fans in the 2012 Tour when he didn’t do his domestique job properly. He was/is clearly the best out of the two in a race like the Tour but at that time, his job wasn’t winning the Tour, it was to help Wiggins win.
        His attack in the Alps and when in another stage, Wiggins couldn’t follow him on the mountains, he turned around and kind of had a go at him for not following him, made me didn’t like him, along with his “style” on a bike.

        However, it is weird that since then his popularity hasn’t gone through the roof as he has the potential to win a lot of GT’s. I don’t think the fact that he’s not 100% English or has the wrong accent is the reason, I think it’s just the fact that as cycling is not popular in the UK, unless someone has a bit of a personality (Wiggins and his style, Cav and his sometimes outspoken tirades) then they won’t make it and the media will not be interested in them. You just need to look at Geraint Thomas who had an immense classics campaign but even after his win at E3, there was barely anything about him. I’m sure you ask anyone with a passing interest in cycling and they will tell you that they don’t know who he is.

        • Personally, I’d have had a lot more respect for Froome if he had attacked Wiggins in 2012.
          And I’d have a lot more respect for Wiggins if he had been a bit more grateful for Froome’s help/not attacking.
          Similarly, I’d have a lot more respect for Froome if he hadn’t whinged about it later: he knew what the situation was when he signed the contract – either attack and take the unpopularity, or put up and shut up.
          I’d rather see the best rider win than the annointed one. (Feel the same way about Roche winning the Giro against team orders – impressive, not deceitful; for me.)

    • I know an Al b at Madison.

      Chris Froome is probably the least marketable cyclist in the pelaton with a riding style of a spider, er ‘making love?’ to a light bulb.

      • Funny to see how an article about Germany and German riders instantly turns into endless debates about Froome and Wiggo. People on that island obviously have no other problems. 🙂

  4. The German media dilemma is just one reflection of the damage the doping culture has inflicted on our sport. Riders lives, public support, sponsorship and media interest are just four of the areas to be highlighted. That some of the ‘enablers’ are still allowed to haunt all echelons of the sport is to be much regretted. That they should be removed from their positions of influence before they inflict further damage is in little doubt – the question is how, when and by whom.

    It is excellent news that the German media is slowly coming round to covering the sport once again. Lets hope that there are no further doping incidents which reach the public domain.

    • +1 And I like that you wrote doping INCIDENTS rather than scandals, which the UCI used to be so keen on managing while not doing much about the actual problem. I think there’s little doubt German TV “pulled the plug” because of the attitude of guys like Verbruggen and McQuaid. It’s a start but pro cycling’s still got a long way to go to regain credibility.

      • I’ d say that there’s NO doubt that they didn’t do it because of that.

        You didn’t need to be any sort of sleuth to get what was going on, with enough evidence to justify whatever decision, at least ten years before they started to step back. Especially if the problem was supposed to be “UCI attitude”.

        I’m ready to believe more or less any economic or political explanation on the subject, but I’ll just laugh at any hypothesis like “they didn’t want it because of the doping”. They didn’t complain much about Müller-Wohlfahrt, at least until Bayern lost that Champions League match too much and he was forced to resign – yesterday.

        • Perhaps you could explain what it was if not the continuing doping scandals? I’m pretty sure that was the reason given for stopping the broadcasts despite the sport being very, very popular in Germany with the success of Ullrich, Zabel, etc.
          Sadly, football doesn’t get the same public scrutiny when it comes to doping (it was said FIFA would ask for the World Cup back from Spain if the full client list of Fuentes was ever revealed) as they seem to believe doping doesn’t really affect the outcome of the matches as it does in cycling. They go on about how no dope can make you a good player skill-wise, but neglect how those skills could be utilized late in a game by players with the benefit of extra red blood cells.

          • Quoting you, I’d say that it was for “the scandals”, not for “the incidents”.
            And why or how have the scandals been raised in such a fashion… I’ll leave it to German readers. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because of the doping *as such* because I just can’t believe that what had long been apparent abroad, instead went unknown and unperceived along some ten years there, in Germany, where they can also be proud of a nice tradition when investigative journalism is concerned.
            For sure, I could tell you something about Italy, and the CONI, and where does most of its money come from, and how are the big names named, both there and in the FCI, or about Italian televisions and newspapers, and where their interests lie (nice verb). And much more. But I hope you know, living there.
            I’ve got no reason to think that the two countries, Italy and Germany, who share much of an uncomfortable past in terms of State organised doping (and it was about *both* Germanies, as the general public only recently discovered), do work in a very different way, all folkloric differences apart.
            And, as I said, I find it inexplicable that such an attitude, if it’s really due to doping *as a fact*, isn’t applied to every pro sport (not just football), since no pro sport has fallen short of doping incidents. Athlethics anyone? …Berlin?
            If doping-as-a-fact was *the* motive, in a cause-effect world we should observe the same consequence wherever the same cause is present, but it just doesn’t look to be the case. If anything, we could speak of the “media constructed image”, but this answer still doesn’t explain the whole story. As I said, I could detail much more about Italy, what I can’t do in Germany’s case – hence I won’t pretend to -, but this doesn’t prevent me from observing that there are logical troubles when people say “German TV went away because there was doping in cycling”.

          • Like the Spanish, the German media are happy to ignore their dodgy doctor(s) in football.
            This suggests that doping is/was not the cause of the lack of German media interest in cycling.

          • gabriele: OK, so why exactly did pro cycling get yanked and why is it now BACK on German TV? There was plenty of money to be made when they stopped the coverage, so what has changed? If you don’t want to credit Cookson’s new regime and the efforts to clean things up as a good reason, that’s fine with me, but I’m waiting for another credible explanation for this change.

          • The Official Explanation for ARD/ZDF to stop the broadcasts was Doping. however even at the time various other media pointed out that, excluding one sport and not others was a Problematic Approach. If I remenber correctly the Consensus was that they indeed where concerned over Doping, however the main reason for the Timing was that the numbers where going down, and they needed the Money to Buy other Sports rights (Soccer).

          • It’s about our German hobby of wanna be moral lecturers. And about the fact that we never were and never will be a cycling nation. The market was just economically dead withiut Ulle. Like in the 80ies every station showed tennis 24/7 with Boris and Steffi. After they are gone, you can seee tennis only on Eurosport again. German television has no problem at all showing other sports with doping problems or football with betting scandals. It’s just bigotry. And real cycling fans wont give too many f’s if ARD is broadcasting or not, they watch Eurosport. Cause everyone know the commenattors at ARD will talk 80% about doping, cause moral highground lecturers think people wanna hear that.

  5. No disrespect to Degenkolb intended, but the implications of his statement are really not pretty:

    “It had been said that we had to get results to be credible.”

    Whoever has put these words in John’s mouth, to me, is part of the doping problem.

    • It could be lost in translation, I suspect the words went from English into French and I’ve put them back to English again. But the point is that German TV won’t return without some domestic interest, a local to watch. Ironically it was what brought them in so close last time.

      • It seems like they feel (as much as it can be “collectively”) a betrayal from Ulrich and Zabel. Like a kid who’s found out his dad cheats on his mum or something – “I hate you!!! I hate you!!! I HATE YOU!!!”. They fell madly in love with cycling in the 90’s and then the fall was probably bigger as a result.

        Take a country like Australia and it’s been a slow burner since right back to Phil Anderson and then the early successes of O’Grady & McEwan and onto Porte, Gerrans & Matthews now it’s as if it’s a more rational love. Heaven forbid one of those goes down but I suspect it won’t effect the sport so much in Australia (as O’Grady’s “confession” didn’t seem to)

        • I think you are spot on with that observation. In the UK there is more and more mainstream TV coverage on the BBC and ITV (not just Eurosport) and in the press but if there was ever a scandal to match Telekom at Sky I suspect it would disappear in an instance.

        • I think we’re too willing to believe our sport stars are beyond reproach, despite evidence to the contrary. Back during the Festina ‘incident’, an Australian sports journo was asked, on a TV panel show, whether Neil Stephens would be implicated. The answer was something like ‘he wouldn’t take drugs, he’s Australian’.

          • I think the crucial difference was that in Australia in 1998 probably only a dozen people had even heard of Neil Stephens, whereas in Germany Ulrich and Zabel were superstars.

        • its more than that. german television were not very objective back then. they were more a sort of collaborator and first fans than holding a critical distance. ARD sponsored telekom and were juornalists at the same time.

  6. Do you see how very important it is then for the TdF to help Kittel get a green jersey this year, just as the finagling of the points ensured that Cav eventually gets a green jersey for his efforts?
    Good vibes for Giant-Alpecin/Germany indeed.

    • Very good points.
      They should leave the green jersey alone. It’s not a sprinter’s jersey; its’ for the most consistent rider.
      Ideally, they’d have a sprinter’s jersey too, but the UCI only allows four jerseys. (Personally, I’d ditch the young rider jersey for it.)
      The green and polka dot jerseys need a hike in prize money to help them be taken more seriously: the mountains jersey, in particular, has lost lustre in recent years.
      But I can’t begrudge Giant-Alpecin anything and let’s hope they can re-build the sport in Germany.

      • The young rider jersey is interesting in the sense that a future GT contender can often be spotted. The polkadot on the other hand has, in my opinion, lost much, to the level of being without interest. What was supposed to be a competition between the best climbers has been reduced to a consolation prize for “would’ve been” or “has been” GC contenders. The best climber rarely wins the polkadot.

        • Some of my favourite Tour De France memories are guys doing a couple of long days on a doomed breakaway to get their points though… Jalabert in his CSC swansong, Soler before he mullered himself out of the sport, Il Diablo (although his masterpiece was when he was already wearing the jersey)…

        • Yes, that’s the sad thing about the polka dots.
          I’d much rather keep the white jersey too: I was only suggesting ditching it if the UCI insists on the absurd ‘four jerseys only’ rule.

  7. Well done giving credit where credit’s due, Inrng. Must admit I had never heard of Iwan Spekenbrink myself. It would seem many a team manager (looking at you, Marc Madiot) could learn from his results in building a team as a cohesive unit.

  8. Strange couple of articles the last two days. One complaining that the Ardennes Classics aren’t exciting enough for TV and another bemoaning the fact that cycling isn’t aired in Europe’s dominant economy. One of the reasons I like cycling is because it is one of the few sports that hasn’t ruined itself in attempt to please TV officials and sponsors. Be careful what you wish for, 200 underweight men riding bikes for 6 hours at a time is never going to be a TV friendly activity without some pretty drastic changes.

    On to Argos-Shimano/Giant-Alpecin. They are a good team who seen to be well run and are very very good at what they do. They are a little one dimensional though, they remind me of HTC in Cavendish’s heyday. Barguil appears as a bit of an after thought, he’s practically an independent in mountain stages he has so few team mates capable of staying with him. If he’s ever to challenge for a Grand Tour you’d suspect he has to move on.

    • Not really a complaint at this end about the Ardennes racing, I suspect you and I will be watching and enjoying them. But the wider audiences aren’t following as much and no matter what the organisers do the format is the same. As for Giant-Alpecin, the HTC aspect is there with several sprinters (Mezgec) and don’t forget Tom Dumoulin too.

    • People seem to be focusing on the TV aspect that Inner Ring brought up – but the thrust of the article was, ostensibly, making the Ardennes classics more interesting: i.e. for current fans. And I think the suggested flatter finish to LBL could well help with that. Or do other fans want all three of these races to end in a big sprint at the end?

    • I think Barguil is better off at a ‘non-GT’ team for now. We’ve all seen how riders fare at Sky and how the Yates brothers are doing at Orica. Better, early in your career, to be given the freedom to ride your own race; then, when your abilities are greater, join a bigger team.
      Better to be an Uran than a Konig.

  9. In terms of sponsor-engagement etc. it’s great to have the Tour back running on ARD.
    Still gonna watch on Eurosport though, I like their german commentator-squad and they stood behind cycling the whole time.

    • Similar for many, Eurosport goes for the more dedicated sports fan while some national broadcasters have the wider appeal, explaining what a breakaway is or showcasing the landscapes.

      For everyone else the Tour in Germany is on Eurosport and the channel is free to air in Germany… but it’s never going to hit the mainstream audience that prime channels like ARD and ZDF can offer.

      • Bless my Eurosport pirate feed so as never to be forced to watch cycling spoon fed by American commentators “educating” the lowest common denominator with grossly effusive x-games toned enthusiasm.

        • Christopher N, why not watch Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen? We get them here in Australia on SBS and as someone who has always followed cycling in the Netherlands on the Dutch or Belgian stations or on Eurosport with English commentary I have got to say that Phil and Paul are generally doing a better job at cycling commentary, catering to a wide audience from different nations. With their vast experience and knowledge and without the tendency to constantly speak to the lowest common denominator they are a joy to listen to. Even though my allegiance to Dutch riders (it is impossible to lose that completely) means that I tend to be more critical of commentators that mainly talk about local Australian, British or US riders, they are doing a pretty good job of recognising and commenting on other riders’ performances. Another, more recent addition to the SBS commentary team is Matthew Keenan and he is getting good as well.

      • ZDF until now may hold off on resuming broadcast of the TdF, but on Saturday night they invited John Degenkolb as the main guest of their main sports show, the Aktuelles Sportstudio ( It’s rare for a non soccer player to be bestowed such an honor. And Degenkolb came across as likeable and modest. Cross fingers, but this bodes well for the future.

        • I saw that, a 20 minute TV interview and he seemed to go down well with the audience, they liked his family references. The “Torwand” only proved his father right, that he’d make a better cyclist that a footballer.

  10. As a german long timer cycling fan I can only warn to expect too much

    Telekom did a very good and sustained marketing in the 00 years. That was the main reason for the Ulrich boom. There never has been much passion for cycling before

    After the fuentes scandal& all the doping talk everything fell apart. It will be very difficult if not impossible to correct this image. For many germans cycling and doping is one inseperable thing now

    Also there were some individuals who were working ridicoulously hard on destroying any positive public cycling image. Journalist Andreas Burkert from Süddeutsche Zeitung is one example.

    He is working for Bayern München now

  11. This article just reminded me of this vid where Prudhomme said “I trust Iwan Spekenbrink” which at the time I thought was a really strange thing to say

    They are very limited in what they can go for as you say, but the riders always seem to be smiling, happy and quite healthy looking.

  12. Interesting topic. I fear here in the US we will be waiting a along time before we have our second cycling Renaissance since Lemond. We are off the back! Behind our back toof our English, Aussie, and Conti, cousins.

    We continue to be hamstrung with the bad taste left in our mouths by Armstrong.

    Great news for Germany

  13. Over the years, Germany is consistently producing good quality riders despite a very limited pool of talents compared to “real” cycling countries like Italy, Spain or France.
    This is due to a good work of the local clubs and a functional development system of the federation, virtually all current pros came through that path, with very few exceptions.
    John Degenkolb is, however, an exception and everybody was aware from his early junior days onwards that there was a good chance that he would be the next “big” rider of Germany.
    Also to be mentioned is the ability of both Degenkolb, Kittel, Greipel and Martin (but especially the two former) to speak, express and defend an opinion, which is FAR superior to the average pro and which goes well with the press. Just look at John´s victory interview or the speech Kittel gave on TV stage when he was awarded some reward at the end of last year (its on youtube in German, but well worth watching).

  14. Uh, WADA has since updated the prohibited list to make blood irradiation clearly be doping. WADA didn’t state blood irradiation was not doping, they stated it wasn’t technically outlawed as doping by the wording of the rules *at that time*, as the rules banned *effective* blood manipulation to improve oxygen transport. Further, many thought even so it was illegal, including the german NADO who took Kittel all the way to CAS. WADA has since banned any kind of autologous reinfusion – at least in part because of the Kittel case, it seems to me.

    I still havn’t found an english translation of the Kittel CAS judgement (as required by CAS rules) to verify it directly, however reporting at the time was that Kittel won the CAS case because he showed it did *not* affect oxygen transport of the blood (and AFAIK it has no known immediate effect on anything?). Kittel basically had to argue that what he did (or his docs) was quackery, in order to ensure he got off.

    The facts of the matter do not exactly show Kittel to be a paragon of virtue.

    Now, I’d happily forgive Kittel, as he was quite young and probably not in control of or aware of the implications of the treatments much older coaches, etc., were putting him through. However, there is a touch of hypocrisy from him these days on doping, where he professes to be and always have been squeeky clean and never seen anything remotely like doping, when his own NADO took him all the way to CAS…

  15. Is Giant-Alpecin really a German team now, besides the sponsor and UCI registration? Dutch riders outweigh germans by about 2:1. The manager is dutch. The DS is dutch. The manager’s dutch company SMS Cycling owns the domain name registration. Various people on the commercial side of Giant-Alpecin seem to be located in Deventer, the same places as SMS Cycling. Etc., etc.

    The German UCI registration seems to be a marketing thing for a sponsor, plastered over an otherwise dutch-run team, no? 🙂

    • Of course, but each team can choose what they want. For years some Italian teams would be registered in Britain or Ireland to exploit low taxes but they were Italian. Greenedge briefly had an Italian flag because the UCI read the team address near Verona. It’s up to each team to chose and having a Dutch core but a German flag is very handy for sponsors.

Comments are closed.