Saturday Shorts

Chris Froome won the Dauphiné, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana marked each other up the Port de Balès which leaves Vincenzo Nibali as the big name with questions over his form. He was thereabouts in the Dauphiné but his epic ride to Villard de Lans confirmed his audacity and not his form. When it came to combating gravity he lost a lot more time on the Alpine climbs than he did last year. Today’s Italian championships make a good test with the uphill finish to the Superga outside Turin, 5km at 9% and more famous to cyclists as the tough finish of the late season Milano-Torino race and to others of a grizzly air accident.

If Nibali is tested this weekend, one failure so far was the French time trial championships where Jean-Christophe Péraud abandoned mid-ride. No crash, he was simply on a bad day. Péraud secured his first pro road contract when as an amateur he beat many pros. L’Equipe says he rode past a road safety camera which normally warms motorists if they’re speeding by flashing up their speed in red numbers but Péraud’s numbers were nice and safe and the screen read 34km/h, a discouragingly low figure. Repeating last year’s podium finish was always a daunting task and now it looks even more unlikely and the talk now is helping his team.

Team tactics: Try to catch the national championship road races this weekend, especially the elite men’s races. It’s a very unusual contest where almost entire pro teams can clash. Take the French race where over 20 FDJ riders can take on large mobs from Ag2r La Mondiale, Cofidis, Europcar, Bretagne-Séché and others swell the ranks. Ditto in the Netherlands with domestic teams Lotto-Jumbo and Roompot both having a terrible season so far to the point where you wonder if a lone wolf like Lars Boom or Niki Terpstra will win the day. Napoleon once said “a soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of coloured ribbon” and it holds true for racers trying to sport their national flag for a year.

Suited and booted

A man in a hurry: Talking of national champions you might remember David Lappartient’s ambition for a “French Team Sky”. He once took this a step further with the call for the Tour de France to be run with national teams, enraging FDJ team boss Marc Madiot. Lappartient’s hit the headlines recently after his work to torpedo some proposed reforms and giving an interview to to explain his opposition. Several people pointed out his multiple conflicts of interest and how he wears several hats as boss of the French federation (which has a small deal for income with ASO), President of the European Cycling Union and sits on the UCI’s Management Committee. Enough to keep anyone busy only his cycling work is just one part of his working life.

He’s mayor of Sarzeau – population 6,941 – where he stands on the “Sarzeau en Mouvement” ticket, presumably thrashing the “Sarzeau immobilisme” candidate – but this is just one of his politics jobs. He’s also a councillor for the Morbihan départment too and presides over grouping of several towns to share various public services. Busy man.

Ruben Zepunkte

From Mayor to minor: on the subject of mayors, a random fact: Cannondale-Garmin’s neo-pro Ruben Zepunkte is the son of Klaudia, Bürgermeisterin of Düsseldorf in Germany, population of 600,000. Let’s hope they have good cycle lanes.

Mayors matter: the Giro has confirmed the 2016 race will begin in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. London is in “secret” talks to host the grand départ of the 2017 Tour de France. These foreign starts ensure big publicity crowds and above all, money. London will pay far more for the Tour than any French municipality. It’s good for business although as ever starting the Giro in Denmark, the Netherlands or Ireland just seems to be stretching it. But there are still talks about a grande partenza in Washington DC.

Pierre Latour

From Le Tour to Latour: while we we’re trying to look for clues to the relative form of Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana the one with the best view during the Route du Sud was Pierre Latour of Ag2r La Mondiale. The neo-pro climber wasn’t a direct match for them on the Port de Balès so he took off early on the climb to build up a buffer and it worked, he managed just to hold on to the two Tour contenders over the top before cramp got the better of him on the descent. He’s listed all over the place as “Pierre-Roger” Latour with that double first name but it’s wrong, he’s just Pierre. It stems from a mix-up long ago on a results sheet from which his name was copied into the UCI database. Even his team calls him Pierre-Roger when friends and family don’t. A podium photo with Contador and Quintana is already impressive for a first year pro and we’ll be hearing his name again in the years to come.

Quintana’s pinky finger: a tiny detail but watching Quintana on the Port de Balès he seemed to be spinning an unusually low gear and when he stood on the pedals and rocked his bike side to side his little finger would stick out to the side, think of a princess holding a teacup (youtube video, see 50m20s). While Pierre Latour was wrestling his bike as if he was trying to tame alligator, Quintana seemed to be so light on the pedals. A tell or too much analysis? Answers in July.

Europcar are waiting for answers of another kind, the riders have given team manager Jean-René Bernadeau until the end of the Tour de France to land a sponsor before they start to leave. Riders aren’t supposed to sign contracts until 1 August but this doesn’t stop them talking and even shaking hands on deals with other teams. Any rider leaving their job hunting until August or September is leaving it late as many teams will have already filled up spaces and spent budget on recruitment. It’s looking increasingly unlikely the team will be saved and the greater the chance the team’s best riders – Rolland, Voeckler, Coquard – have offers from others, the less chance a sponsor will sign up to back a relatively empty vessel.

48 thoughts on “Saturday Shorts”

    • Aside from the truly horrendous notion of the TDF never starting in France, those crowds would be guaranteed for about two years until the largely uninterested UK public tire of the novelty.
      If you live in Britain, do you ever try discussing – say – Paris-Roubaix with people? I occasionally enthuse over such things and am met with blank, uncomprehending faces.
      Once Britain again has no riders capable of winning the TDF, cycling will once more be relegated to a tiny corner of the 4th back page of the broadsheets. (Can’t wait, personally, as I tire of the nationalistic hype that has little to do with any actual interest in cycling.)

      • ” largely uninterested UK public tire of the novelty”

        The ASO and Welcome to Yorkshire would appear to disagree on the interest in cycling, given they’ve signed a TEN year deal for the Tour de Yorkshire, and London are trying to jump back on a bandwagon that’s a long way down the road.

        Newcomers and the wider public might not know about the Classics or read Inner Ring (I recommend @UKcyclingexpert on Twitter for an entertaining spoof on arriviste fans) but cycle racing is no longer a niche novelty.

        • It’s the same the world over, the French don’t care that much for Paris-Roubaix, Italians follow the Giro and Tour but won’t get too excited by the Tour of Lombardy or the Tour of Flanders etc.

        • Thanks for the tip about Ukcyclingexpert. The tweets have raised a smile. I don’t bother discussing cycling at work as, come the Tour de France, most of the office are coming out with this sort of stuff

          • Likewise I don’t really bother discussing it in the office (there are only so many times you can explain why Cav doesn’t have the yellow jersey).

            But the great upsides of the mass media ‘discovering’ cycling are more good journalism and more coverage on TV: long may it last.

      • I personally wouldn’t want cycling to return to its historic place in the UK. The more people have watched a bike race or, more importantly, know a cyclist, the more likely they are to treat cyclists better when they are in a car.

        I agree that we need to be careful on not overdoing it and losing the novelty factor, however. It’s been a great success on the last two visits but revisiting every 3 years may be a little too often.

    • Yes, let’s have it in London ; the city with an horrendous safety record for its cyclists and the worst air quality in Europe.
      It’s akin to sweeping all the rubbish under the living room rug when your parents visit, then crapping the place up again after they’ve gone.
      Bring it to the UK by all means, but not London. We can’t even get a blue line painted through the city without all hell breaking loose.

  1. Does Roompot really have a bad year? It’s their first in the peloton. They seem to be very content with a guy in the breakaway in almost every race and with top-ten finishes. This is what they expected.

  2. @Cameron, I spent an afternoon standing on Peyragudes under the Flamme Rouge in 2012 waiting for the tour to come through. (Port de Bales was the climb prior to Peyragudes that stage).

    I was with a French lady & her daughter who were local to the area. They assured me that it is ‘Port de Baless’ because although it’s in France, the local Occitan dialect pronounces the last letter.

  3. Agree with the sentiments of my UK brothers on overdosing on home field starts for the TDF,

    Although we would love to have the tour start in the USA, a little is better then a lot.
    Once or twice in 10-15 years is probably enough to garner some grass roots interest for road racing here in the US.

    That said, you have the momentum with your recent GT UK based standouts! Use the publicity while it is available.

    God know that we are still waiting for second coming of Greg Lemond.

    • A grand depart prologue or TTT from Times Square up Broadway and once around Central Park would be amazing for the Tour. New York is the biggest media market in the world after all. Race a few stages up through Connecticut to Boston or even Montreal and then restart the race from Bordeaux after the first rest day. French Canada would go nuts for it wouldn’t they?

      • But that length of transfer would be terrible for the riders.
        I can see how it would be good for America, but other than financial reasons, can’t see any particular benefit for the Tour.
        As ever, money is the motivation for these things.
        I think it makes a bit of a joke of the history and traditions of the races. Fair enough, countries next door, but not the Giro starting in Denmark, Ireland… Qatar?

        • “I think it makes a bit of a joke of the history and traditions of the races”

          The history & tradition of the races is to advertise commercial ventures and to make money. Le tour was created to sell papers.

          Get over yourself.

      • They’re talking about the Giro grande partenza in Washington DC

        Wouldn’t it be more appropriate in Noo Jersey – that’s where all the Italian mobsters live, right ?

  4. The ease of Nibali’s repeat in the Italian National Championships makes me concerned for the lack of depth in Italian cycling at the minute. It certainly fits the narrative that he would win again and be in the national jersey for the Tour.

    • I never saw the race, but read off CW site that Nibali’s Astana team mates rode for him ?
      There are ten Italian members of Astana and there can’t be many other Italian riders that could call upon that number / depth of talent for assistance ?

      • Astana wasn’t there in full numbers (6 riders) – just a little better than Garmin, for example (5 men, among them a good Villella) – while others teams were there in forces. 9 athletes for Lampre-Merida (riding for Ulissi) and Bardiani (Bongiorno), 10 for Nippo and Androni (Zilioli, Taliani, Stortoni, Pellizotti), 12 for Southeast (Finetto).
        What is more, Scarponi clearly underperformed, probably because of very hot weather. Cataldo is the only rider who offered a relevant contribution in the final part, producing a notable selection on the penultimate Superga climb. I guess that Nibali was partly forced to race in a more spectacular fashion (besides the will to test himself and his general attitude) since he realised that he could found himself in troubles because of the lack of teammates in the finale.
        Two possible contenders, Pozzovivo and Rebellin, were indeed quite isolated, one or two teammates for each of them.
        At the end of the day, it was really a man on man thing, only Androni could bring number as a factor in the last part of the race.

    • There’s a big part of truth in what you observe, still we must note that there’s also a state-of-form question. The Giro still is the most important race for the majority of Italian teams (the lack of financial resources to back more WT teams is a separate albeit not unrelated matter), hence a lot of Italian riders focus their preparation on it – and then ride the three weeks – with the logical consequence of arriving to the Nationals in one of the worst possible condition. It’s possible while not so easy to stretch your form until Suisse/Dauphinée, but it’s quite hard to go much further. Aru and Visconti, that is a very strong young climber and a rider especially suited to this kind of race, were out because of this reason. Same goes for Damiano Caruso, even if he’ll be at the Tour. And so many others. Ulissi, who evidently wasn’t in top form, is a different case, since he couldn’t focus his preparation with great precision because of his disqualification. Note that Pozzovivo and Rebellin, who really didn’t ride the Giro, did more or less well.
      We should also add that there’s an ongoing generational question. Italy finally has got a decent number of riders born in the 90s or a little before (Aru, Formolo, Villella, Ulissi, Battaglin, Zilioli, Bongiorno, Cattaneo, Bonifazio, Felline, Nizzolo etc. etc.), that is, who are supposedly entering the best part of their careers – even if, quite obviously, not everyone will live up to the expectations, despite having yet shown good things in the pro ranks.
      The problem is that there’s some sort of a void around the age about which a cyclist is at his top, around 28-30 years old.
      The present moment makes this situation evident enough.

  5. Excellent summary thanks Gabriele.
    I guess Nibali is hitting form at the right time.
    I don’t know about strength in depth of Italian racing but he is a GT winner after all and the classiest rider there.

  6. Starting grand tours away from their base, while a money maker, has become a bore. The idea of a start in America begs belief simply because if distance. What’s next, starting the Vuelta on a comet?

  7. re the Tour in London. Yorkshire seemed to work and be hugely successful because it took over the whole area, and the enthusiasm was infectious. I suspect that if the grand depart was in London then people on the next street along would be oblivious to it. They need somewhere else, and maybe go through London on the 3rd day – options could be Devon / Cornwall, Cardiff & South Wales, Scotland etc.

    on another note ASO seem keen to start it in France now and again, so I don’t share the negativity about it always being abroad – eg Corsica

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