Wednesday Shorts

marcel kittel polska

Etixx-Quickstep have unveiled Lidl as a new sponsor for 2016, the German discount retailer’s commitment isn’t known yet but is expected to appear on the kit as a partner but the team’s name won’t change. It steps in just as construction materials group Renson pulls out after switching its allegiance to Giant-Alpecin for 2016.

In the other direction to Renson could be Marcel Kittel. Today brings news in Het Nieuwsblad that Marcel Kittel could move from Giant-Alpecin to Etixx-Quickstep, buying himself out of his contract to make the switch however cyclingtips cools things a bit.

Kittel’s move makes sense as Etixx-Quickstep needs a sprinter. As good as Fernando Gaviria is already he surely needs a season or two to improve. A demotivated rider is a liability rather than an asset, even if he brings celebrity status for his Germany sponsor. In order to move the following need to happen:

  • the departing team and the new team must agree
  • the UCI has to approve
  • The Professional Cycling Council, a co-committee of the UCI, riders, pro teams and others must vote yes to it

That’s all possible but far from certain. What looks more likely is that things have to change on the team between now and this time next tear. Giant-Alpecin have to find the way to keep Tom Dumoulin, John Degenkolb, Warren Barguil and others happy, there are only so many spaces on the Tour de France team. The team has done a good job over the years in managing Kittel and Degenkolb already and it’s luxurious position for a team that doesn’t have a big budget that’s still managed to bring on all of these riders.

Africa-ca-ca-ca-Cavendish: Mark Cavendish’s move to MTN-Qhubeka is finally announced. It’s been such a saga that the confirmation felt stale. He’s joined by Etixx-Quickstep team mate Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel from Sky, a reunion of a formidable sprint train of the past. The interest is how they work together again and the results they gain, especially because they’re on a smaller team: no more Tony Martin to close down gaps; no more big travel budget and sports science academies.

World Tour: the Cavendish transfer talk crowded out talk of a World Tour licence for Dimension Data. The deadline for the paperwork was 15 August so this could have been a speculative application in the same sense Jean-René Bernaudeau made sent in his dossier to join the World Tour for 2016 despite not having a sponsor. If it’s more serious then Dimension Data may need more riders so that they can race competitively on several fronts, sending the sprint squad to one destination and the others elsewhere. We’ll see, the UCI usually announces the applicants in October.

As of now there don’t seem to be any other contenders for the World Tour but several teams want to join the Pro Continental ranks, cycling’s second division: ActiveJet of Poland, Marseille-KTM of France which has announced a new sponsr in Delko, a retailer of auto parts, Roth-Skoda (said to be interested in Alessandro Ballan) and One Pro Cycling of the UK.

World Tour or Pro Conti: it doesn’t matter any more as far as the use of race radios goes as they have been approved for use in HC and .1 status races. It marks a change of policy where the UCI had been trying to get rid of them in totality. As ever the topic of radios is like a Rohrschach test with people seeing the patterns they want. Yes some World Tour races are locked down but this is because they’re high stakes races and big teams try to control the scenario.

What if the real pressure comes from newer technology? Today a manager in the pre-race briefing can demand riders be at the front near danger points in a race and scream repeat orders over the radio. Tomorrow with GPS telemetry they’ll be able to see where they are in the bunch and anyone caught lurking when they’re supposed to be upfront could have to explain themselves, it means less chance to hide and more pressure to perform. Of course there’s only so much room at the front but the technology could be used to track the difference between an order and its execution.

London/off: London’s turned down the Tour de France grand départ for 2017. It won the bidding ahead of other cities but when it came to signing the contract the British capital backed out citing budgetary concerns. It all seems too soon after Yorkshire and the ride through London in 2014 but this was very popular and you can understand ASO’s desire to cash in. Look to Münster and especially Düsseldorf.

Where are the B-samples? New of Lloyd Mondory’s A-sample positive came up in Paris-Nice and there’s still no news on his B-sample. It’s the same for Luca Paolini’s cocaine A-sample story in the Tour de France. Ditto Katusha’s Gianpaolo Caruso and Davide Appollonio, both EPO cases. It seems EPO tests are delicate, especially if trying to catch those using microdoses so a delay is inevitable but still, Mondory’s case is now over 200 days old and there’s no news on the B-sample or any resolution to the case. So are these cases slow or borderline?

Vampires: one anti-doping topic where there’s no more waiting is the use of night-time testing in France as the French parliament has passed the law to enable this. It’s especially useful for testing during an event like the Tour de France but will be used sparingly and probably with intelligence. In turn though this risks making the testing itself a newsworthy, or at least gossipworthy, event. If Rider X is rousted at 2am and news leaks out then fingers will start pointing; and even if the news doesn’t leak it’s possible that the media starts asking riders if they’ve been tested at night. It’s a good idea but needs careful handling.

The Moment The Race Was Sold? A Belgian prosecutor has been investigating the claims that Alexandr Kolobnev could have sold the result of the 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège to Alexandr Vinokourov. Now it seems the prosecutor wants to press charges and have the case heard in court. Scandal? Maybe but remember cycling is a strange sport where collusion is essential to win, for a simple example see two riders who conspire in a breakaway to keep clear of the pack. They might even come to a deal where one wins the stage as the other stands to gain the overall lead. There’s a line crossed when large sums of money change hands to throw the result, that goes from sport to fraud. It’s an old story now, it first emerged in 2011 when a Swiss magazine published claimed emails between Vino and “Kolobok” so if it does reach court it could take time to resolve. Still it mattered at the time the news would have mattered a lot because Katusha were strangers to first place and the sight of a Russian rider selling out to a Kazakh for personal gain could have been very awkward.

The whole issue was explored in more detail back in 2012 including who would be the winner in the event of both riders being disqualifed:

120 thoughts on “Wednesday Shorts”

  1. That was a lot packed into them shorts! It would be quite a surprise if Kittel is unable to finalize the move to Etixx-QS. If it doesn’t happen, he will surely be one unpopular man next year at Giant-Alpecin.
    Lefevre is quite the mastermind team maker indeed, playing upon the upswing in German cycling popularity. As for prosecuting Vino and Kolob in Belgium for selling the race, why not go after them for doping instead? It’s like going after Al Capone for tax fraud instead of the real crimes.

    • Proof, one assumes.
      Plus, just because you go for one thing doesn’t preclude you from going for another.
      And this is being done by the Belgian (non-cycling) authorities.

    • The more the UCI missteps, the more I am a supporter of all the past cheaters. All the better that Vino is unrepentant; I do not believe it is fair or ethical to single out certain cheaters while others in the business walk around like saints and saviors. EVERYONE cheated back in the very recent day. (Yes, excepting, Obree, Montcoutie, a short list of etc.)

      It’s probably time to give everyone immunity from prosecution and concentrate on cleaning up the present day sport. If the UCI really cared about an absolutely clean sport, they could make it happen. This would require some draconian measures, but everyone would get used to it and it would then be a truly almost clean sport. And, to the nay sayers, if everyone can get used to mass surveillance in the UK, anyone can get used to anything.

      • That’s all very well and good, but it’s not the UCI bringing these cases to court for the greater good of cycling, it’s third parties who have other vested interests. In the case of Armstrong it was USADA, in the case of Vinokourov and Kolobnev, it’s Belgian public prosecutors.

        The prosecutors believe that Vino and Kolo have committed a crime under their jurisidiction and want them punished for it. To them, it’s no different to an assault on the streets of Liege or a local company director embezzling funds, it’s a crime that should be punished. They don’t care about the sport of cycling, whether their actions are “cleaning it up” or “digging up old bones”, they’re interested in enforcing the law of their country.

        • I appreciate the distinction and glad that you made it. I’m sorry for not being clearer; how Cookson on record and the UCI handled the Astana license just makes me apathetic toward all professional cycling infractions. The uneven attention and prosecution is just as bad as the cheating. But to your point, how many race wins have been sold or traded in Belgium compared to the number of cases prosecuted? Maybe there are politics at play? I don’t know, but I’ve had my fill of it all.

  2. All very interesting business at Ettix. I suppose the German sponsor Lidl is to pay for Kittel and his link up with Tony Martin. I guess Cavendish seems more likely to race against Gaviria than Kittel in 2016, given the respective nascent sprint status of Dimension Data and the young Columbian, together with it being an Olympic year for both riders. Gaviria looks very, very good to me: perhaps two years ahead of Cavendish at this age and stage of his career.

  3. Cavendish needs to move on and stop trying to recreate his old boys club from his HTC days. That was a few years ago now and I don’t think Renshaw or Eisel are the lead out forces they were compared to whats on offer at Lotto-Soudal and Giant Alpecin. Kittel Quick Step would be one hell of a proposition assuming he can refind his form of 18 months ago.

    • In the good old days the lead out started with at least 10 to go. The roles of Martin, Van Garderen and Grabsch are too often overlooked.

      I’m surprised by the Kittel move, they had a great Tour without a sprinter winning 3+ stages, maybe they still will still move for him next year, but I thought Degenkolb the more likely mover in that direction. Looking at Boonen at the worlds, he looks like he has a big win left in him at Roubaix/Flanders but maybe only as the joker to a bigger card like Degenkolb.

      • For me, Dege moving over wouldn’t be the most sensible thing, maybe when Boonen retires but not before. It’s not like they’re short of Classics rstars at QuickStep at the moment. Replacing a star sprinter with a star sprinter is logical, the as-yet unproven Gaviria aside.

        • Only their star sprinter didn’t really produce the goods did he? Even away from the classics it was the non sprinters that got most of the stages and yellow at the tour.

          IMHO Amstel fell into Kwiatkowski’s lap, otherwise no “classics”.

    • I think there are other dynamics re at least Eisel’s decision, not least of which is 1) he desperately misses riding the Tour, but Froome blocked his inclusion in post-2012 Sky Tour squads (last year being the exception when Henao’s TdS crash forced Brailsford’s hand); and 2) I suspect he wanted at least 2 years on his next contract as he has said it’ll be his final one, but Sky would only offer 1 year.

      As for Kittel at Quickstep, he’ll have to contend firstly with a lightening-quick Gaviria, and secondly Peeters who’s race strategy re Quickstep and sprints over the last 3 years has not been exactly exemplary.

  4. I can see why Kittel’s current team needs to agree to his move, as he’s under contract, but if they agree terms and this happens between seasons like other transfers, why should the UCI or the other teams get a say? Not sure that arrangement would last very long under EU law.

    Also, did the ASO’s asking price for the Grand Depart go up between London bidding for it and this week? I’m all in favour of local government taking a more realistic view of the value of sporting events (it’s not like the world’s most visited city needs that much more publicity), but if it’s not value for money then why did London bid?

    • Good question on the contracts, presumably it’s to prevent what’s called “tampering” or “tapping up”, the idea of making an athlete unhappy in their current job so they move to a new one. A move could suit the rider but any transaction is bound to generate transaction fees for the agents and others who are certain to gain by stirring so a certain protection here, like UCI approval, helps calm things down and ensures a move only happens if everyone is happy. That’s the theory at least.

  5. Seems odd that Kittel would move from a team with an almost perfect lead out to one which has repeatedly misfired in big races over the last few years? Perhaps there’s more tension behind the scenes at Giant Alpecin than it seems on the surface

    • Always seemed the team dynamic was good on the surface. Perhaps this is more about adjusting the dynamic towards Dumoulin and Barguil. A bit of a risk if you ask me but then there is the health issues Kittel has had this year.

  6. On “Rohrschach tests”, one question: why is no one assuming that the debate about radios is not whether good racing can happen in their presence (or in spite of their presence), but whether it is clear or not that they provide for better racing? (Consequence: in the absence of a making a clear positive difference for the fans, they shouldn’t be allowed) Why is no one seeing the debate from this angles, so that the “burden of proof” is on radio proponents, and not on radio detractors?

    • I am dead set against radios as it diminishes the mental skills of cyclist who is a truly brilliant strategist and has helped turn the breakaway into a futile advertising sideshow. I don’t think anyone is considering anything beyond ease of doing business.

      Radios turn dumb, strong riders into much more useful chess pieces.

    • Well, the burden of proof wasn’t naturally seen to fall to radio proponents, because the practice evolved with full radio use. As widely reported, a cranky French TV exec implored McQuaid to prohibit them, on the grounds that radios were leading to less exciting, less watchable racing. The burden right at that point was on the cranky French TV guy. Pat McQuaid probably didn’t see himself as requiring any more justification than that a French TV exec was threatening to reduce coverage of the Tour unless the UCI prohibited radios. What’s the French guy’s excuse? I never believed that banning radios would make much of a difference at all. The fact that breaks appeared to be getting caught all the time at the Tour, which is a dubious claim itself, surely would have had more to do with the professionalization of sprinting, not race radios. I just haven’t seen a difference between racing with radios vs without radios. So, if it’s true there’s little or no difference, and the teams want to use them, as they have in the past, surely the burden is on whomever wants to prohibit them. When you add into the mix the sometimes plausible claim that radios can be a useful tool for protecting the riders from risk, the burden falls clearly on those who want to prohibit them, no?

      My suspicion is that the UCI’s new ruling on the matter has little to do with the quality of the racing and more to do with the teams wanting one more thing they can try to sell to a race organizer: live coverage of the radio communication between riders and directors. I want to hear that during a race, actually. That’s enough for me personally.

      • The security argument for radios is really the Rohrshcach test. There is no clear security advatange and there are possible increased risks. As for the “teams want to use them” idea, one thing should be clear in our minds: the race we want to see is not the race directors would like to direct. So their opinion counts for nothing if not as an indication of danger to us fans. And let me insist: the burden of proof on the advisability of introducing a new technical element in order to make races more appealing or memorable is on the proponents of the new technical element. If the proposed change doesn’t make the races more appealing or memorable, out with it, we don’t need it. I’m sure if you forced everyone to race the Tour de France on 1989 equipment, we’d have a better race. If that was the case, it would have been proven that the improvements introduced since then shouldn’t have been allowed. If their authorization had been subject to the “but will they make the race really better or not?” (which should be the first and last question asked), we’d have a better sport now.

  7. It’s especially useful for testing during an event like the Tour de France but will be used sparingly and probably with intelligence.

    Except, we know what happens in this scenario.
    Option 1: High profile riders are tested, but never test positive
    Option 2: Very low ranking rider tests positive “proving” dope testing works.
    Option 3: High profile riders aren’t tested.

    I’ll be impressed when the storied mid-career athlete transforms into a podium contender or three are finally sanctioned. It would be an indicator the sport’s minders are protecting the integrity of the sport.

  8. Could supermarkets be the new banks? Lidl joins the peloton a year after Jumbo and Carrefour was a very big sponsor of the Tour. It makes sense: cycling teams are not linked to a specific city or even really a country (like sponsoring a football team from city A, which could lose you customers in city B and C) and cyclists are more down to earth than most sport stars, which fits well with the image most supermarkets want for themselves.

    Still it’s a bit weird that Kittel joins “old cycling” team par excellence Etixx after all these years of principled talk about how cycling should change and Giant-Alpecin’s philosophy was such a great one that he chose to stay with them, even though other teams offered better money.

    • Doing some very quick research in to Lidl ; they’re part of a huge company and present throughout Europe, with planned expansion into Russia, US and Australia.
      They’re most established in Western Europe and have seen strong sales growth especially during the economic slump since 2008. But they’re looking to expand its customer base in some countries, like UK, to attract a more middle class shopper with new sales lines.
      Poor trade union / employer rights record, and controversy over large loans from the World Bank to fund expansion in to Eastern European countries which have undermined local food markets.

      So Lidl’s move in to cycling does make sense on several commercial and PR levels, apart from the obvious Kittel link.

      • on sponsors, it’s also interesting (and I guess encouraging from a financial aspect) to see Deloitte’s dipping their toes in with Qhubeka. In the UK at least, cycling is the new middle-aged middle-class man’s golf and I’m surprised more financial services companies haven’t tapped into this demographic. I’m supposing here that Qhubeka’s charitable perfume is offsetting the residual stink of the PEDs issue for this sponsor…

  9. Disappointed with yet another decision from a decidedly weak UCI – had hoped for better with the new regime. I am simply unconvinced by the endless arguments from DSs and team heads that this new rule is in the name of safety. There are cheaper and easier ways to ensure that riders are informed about route conditions. Radios have shown themselves to be the purveyors of predictable, unexciting and robotic racing.

    GPS trackers will be quiet unnecessary when the same inane instructions are being be bellowed at the complete field. Past experience tells us that at least half the riders will be found in one huge tangled mess on the ground – safety indeed ! These people simply want to feel important and control the race to their own pre-set predictable agenda. Even then the book is always the same, best set aside before the completion of the first chapter.

    • Agreed!
      On the doping and race-selling front, pro cycling still suffers from, “too little, too late” when it comes to sanctions and penalties. At this point with all the riders mentioned it’s close to “who cares?” One can claim “better late than never” but there’s got to be a way to speed these things up so the penalties are more relevant. Looking forward to a preview for Lombardia – Forza Nibali!!

    • Having only been watching cycling since the late ’80s – and having not paid attention to such things back then due to being a callow youth – does anyone have any knowledge/recollection of races without radios being so much more open, exciting, etc.?
      I haven’t noticed it in non-radio races these days and back in the pre-radio times, team bosses seemed to just tell their riders what to do via the medium of shouting through the car window.
      It’s one of these things that is stated as fact, but ostensibly with little to back it up. I’m not saying they’re good or bad – I don’t feel that strongly either way (although it’s certainly not a ‘safety issue’ – how many crashes are caused by too many teams piling to the front unnecessarily, due to a DS’s orders? – and riders could have radios that receive warnings from the race organisers).

        • Carlton combusted because Keisse shipped his chain with the bunch bearing down on him. The bunch were at full pelt as it was. Race radios would have made no difference.

          • Breakaway group had 46″ on peleton at 7km, but closed to 9″ by 4km without knowing Keisse had gone up the road (40″ ahead).
            But the peleton knocked it off and tracked the group, not passing them until last km.
            They’d have caught Keisse after he fell off if they’d known he was up there.

          • XNight, isn’t that an argument against radios?
            I, personally, don’t think it’s a good thing for a rider to win a race because the others are unaware that he is up there. (Normally, even without radios, the motorbike timeboard person – what is the name for that? It’s early – would tell the other riders, so then this victory just comes down to the lottery of whether or not that motorbike person has/has ben able to do their job.)

        • But those would have happened without radios.
          Froome did the ridiculous hand-to-ear sign, so that he could suggest to the public that he could be riding away at that moment, but wasn’t allowed. He already knew, long before then, that he wasn’t allowed to ride away – and he chose to obey that order.
          Landa decided – in the Vuelta – to ignore the orders for a day. He could have done this at the Giro, but presumably felt it would compromise his season, if not his reputation generally.
          Neither of these events happened because of radios.
          In 1985 TDF, Lemond was prevented from attacking Hinault.
          In 1987 Giro, Roche disobeyed team orders.
          The lack of radios didn’t stop team orders.
          I’m not sure either way – although I don’t think it would make that much of a change – but people who are anti-radio seem to have just decided that this is true, almost like some quasi-religious belief, without having any evidence for it, and like it’s a panacea.
          There are a lot of races without radios – they are not noticeably different from those with radios.

          • The difference is that it is possible to call that disobedience right at the moment or 10 minutes later, when the car gets to rider. But anyway, as I said, it’s not me who has to prove the damage done by radios, it’s radio defenders who have to prove the gain provided to us fans, and to explain their emphasis on preserving those radios. And in case the case is not clear, for the sake of prudence in preserving a certain ecosystem, don’t allow the innovation.

    • There were boring races before race radios. There are boring 2HC/1HC races (without radios). There are exciting races with race radios, just as there are duller ones.

      The emphasis on radios as being key to whether a race is predictable or not, is a bit of a red herring.

      A group going off the front from at some point in the early part of the race, has been standard tactics since racing immorial. Rivals too close on GC to the leader wont be allowed into the breakaway, or if they do get away, will get chased down until they either give up or his breakaway companions ‘persuade’ him to return to the bunch. Again, time-honoured tactics in terms of how a
      race is played out.

      You could argue that in the event of radios being ditched from World Tour races, the bunch would place an even tighter rein on any breakaway.

      • I agree: I think banning radios is a ‘simple solution’ and, like most simple solutions, wouldn’t work.
        I particularly think the last point would come to pass: when we’ve had the odd communications breakdown, there have been times when the peloton has let a break get too far away (having been told that they were 5 minutes, not 10, say). Without radios, they’d still have the moto times, but they’d probably rely on those less – so they’d be more cautious and catch the breakaway sooner.

      • Right you are, sam – and Ronin explained the radios appearance in the peloton well in a post above.
        Races were boring, races were exciting and they still are today, radios or no radios.

        I think that races today look more controlled because of the developments in sport science. It has become a lot easier today to achieve the full potential from any given physiology due to powermeters, HRMs and the generel raise in knowledge about the human body. The differences between riders’ abilities are quicly dimishing and you have more less only the tactics left to work with.

        Another view on the radios is that they can cause havoc in the convoy; team cars react to the radio and no one in the convoy is alerted but one single car that breaks order with high speed. The convoy order and control is difficult to maintain when problems does not go through Radio Tour. Often the team car arrives at the back of the peloton long before the rider can be attended, taking up valuable space for the maneuvers of the other cars at the front of the convoy for a prolonged and unnecessary time. This is an often overlooked part of the radio-conundrum.

        Radios are a great tool but as a commissaire, I would like races to be run without.

        • I don’t mind one way or the other about race radios.
          As said, seen good races with / without them.
          I agree with UHJ also about improvements in riders’ fitness impacting racing much more.
          Personally I’d ban race radios in one dayers, and allow them in stage racing.

  10. Bad move for Kittel. No doubt he’ll benefit financially, but without a dedicated leadout train of the same quality that he had at G-A, he’ll probably win fewer races.
    Good news for the likes of Barguil and Dumoulin, though, as the team will presumably now be less sprint-focused (although how many riders to they have to back-up those two?). Probably good news for Degenkolb too.

    And let’s hope they nail Vino.

  11. Some months ago, speaking of Nibali, I was considering what team(s) would have offered an environment without figures involved with doping “once upon a time”. Giant-Shimano was in the list, although it was clear that such a team couldn’t afford Nibali’s salary, even imagining a cost reduction thanks to the *privilege* of working in a *healthier* team (I wasn’t very convinced by Kittel’s attitude, either, but he would just have been a teammate among others…). Well, I hadn’t been watchful enough… Kemna is apparently head coach at Giant-Shimano. Yeah, he doped, but he regretted that so much that everything was ok with a six-months inside suspension from the team. Funny as the media constantly remind us about the misdeeds of this or that everytime their names appear, while the same doesn’t happen with many others…

  12. An additional News item: The USA ProChallenge may be no more.

    Apparently the race costs $10 million to $11 million to stage every year, but annual losses have fallen from $9 million for the inaugural race in 2011 to $2 million. The owners the Schaden Family – are throwing in the towel, and giving it to a new group – to try to find money.

    The loss numbers are queasy at best since two Family business “Quizno’s” and “Smashburger” were the primary sponsors.

    Various sources have said that other sponsors/investors were reluctant to work with the original owners for a variety of reasons (search lawsuit in Google). The rumor has also been that the US Pro Cycling Challenge overspent on the hosting of the event, in addition some of the host cities feel slighted by the representation of the economic benefits.

    If one was to take a random guess, right now there might be a 50-70% chance the race happens as in the past (perhaps not as a 2.hc, perhaps smaller). For US race fans – hopefully the challenge can be overcome and a better event evolves. Just dreaming – maybe they can combine with the Tour of Utah in a creative way with a combined classification and a “name” hand off in the middle, to create a 2 week race in 2017 or 2018.

  13. Selling races has gone on for a long time. Didnt Freddy maertens tow Roger De Vlaminck all the way to the finish line in the Ronde for a bag of money after Freddy got pinged for an illegal bike change on the Koppenberg. They way Freddy tells it Roger never coughed up the full amount. Presumably the prosecutor will go after these two now. What actual Belgian law does he think Vino has broken?

    • Just because things happened in the past doesn’t mean you allow them now.
      Presumably the Belgian judge will know what – if any – law Vino has broken.

      • The point I am making is that it has always gone on, and,as far as I know (maybe you can enlighten me on this) no one has ever been prosecuted for it. So why start now on this particular allegation and five years after the incident occurred? Again what particular law is it alleged has been broken? Perhaps a Belgian reader can give us some guidance on this.

        • I cannot say why now, I believe it would be to make a statement, set a precedent, define where the buck stops or something like that.
          You are quite right; it has always happened – and happens widely during 6-days for instance. Perhaps it is because Vino somehow has managed to pi$$ people off with his no-regret-attitude and thus makes, in some peoples’ eyes – the one to go for, the one that must be made to walk to Canossa.
          I think the layers will try to prosecute claiming matchfixing. I cannot think of any other law he violated with this alleged pay-off. (Well, that is not entirely correct but other thoughts border on libel 😉

        • I think it’s because they have evidence – e mails, bank transactions, etc. – whereas in the good ol’ days, it was just a bundle of notes.

          • The difference here is that private emails between two riders have emerged and been leaked to the media along with details of bank transfers. Someone has put one of these two riders under close surveillance.

  14. Is the Kittel move all about money or is there bad blood between Giant-Alp & Kittel after this year? Seemed at times like Kittel disagreed with being held out of races and Giant were displeased with him (or at least unwilling to race him when not at peak condition).

    • All last races he was in the squad last 2 months ended with DNF. And he had no results in the others and suffered from illness the whole year. So why should they had add him to more rosters? He was the only reason that held him out of races, not the team.

  15. About Cav’s move, it’s interesting to listen to what Brian Smith says, especially if we think back to the debate we had here regarding Mark looking for new options once his sprint has become less sparky:
    However, the company of his old mates may suggest that, on the contrary, he wants to go back to pure sprinting good ol’ times. We’ll see.
    I hope that what Smith hints at will be the chosen path.

    Is he going to take Holm and Aldag along, too? Clean HTC times would be back in style ^__^

    • Brian Smith seemed, to me at least, to be saying that Cav should not *always* wait for the sprint and therefore having Bernie & Mark is more for those times he does.

      He spoke more on Eurosport yesterday during Franco-Belge and it’s apparent he’s just wanting Cav to race more aggressively (like he did in the British Nats) and not be concerned with feeling, as Smith is intimating happened in past teams, that he has had to wait for a bunch finish as the teams expectation is he has more chance in a sprint.

        • Hopefully we’ll find out more in the coming weeks but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was more that EQS wanted Cav to take a pay cut for the disrupted road season to come. Maybe Dimension Dahtah were willing to pay more with Deloitte being the sweetener in Cavs musette??

      • Agree on this interpretation – yet, that depends on the fact that they may feel he hasn’t as many chances as in the past as a pure sprinter. Or maybe (something which Smith also hinted at) for him now it’s not anymore about just winning but also about *how* you win. Hope it’s true and that it can work, too (the Nats are sort of a different kind of race). If only more pure sprinters had believed enough in their *other* options (I remember an excellent Gent by Cipollini – like, only example in his career). Not easy at all, since tactically you’re doomed to a very hard life in every move, but worth trying.

  16. I’ve certainly taken the Kittel move as down to him falling out with Giant rather than just for the sake of a pay rise, though he may get one. He appeared pretty miffed at being left out of the Tour. He probably felt like he worked his nuts off to get fit only to be told ‘not good enough Marcel’. You can see why Giant didnt want to risk a semi fit rider when they had Degenkolb who’d just won two of the biggest classics and deserved backing. Marcel’s ego won’t have seen it that way though naturally.
    I wonder if Quick Step will attempt to tune him up for the classics or leave him as an out an out sprinter?

    • I thought that was a bad move by G-A – unless Kittel was just too out of shape. Deg was never that likely to win more than one stage, if that.
      Kittel’s never shown anything like the strength to be a top classics rider. Maybe they could train him up to be that type of rider, but that would surely compromise his sprinting – and might well not work.

      • If you look it is form of the previous two years its tempting to say a 90% fit Kittel is still better than a 100% fit Greipel/Cavendish etc. But professional cycling generally doesn’t work like that, you have to be at your best to win anything and Giant were likely taking that into account and being a little conservative. I think with the general lack of flat stages in this years Tour Giant were within reason to back Degenkolb if they were of the opinion Kittel wasn’t at his best. Kittel was obviously of the opinion he was 100% fit and didn’t enjoy being told he wasnt. It would have been interesting to see Kittel at his best up against Greipel this year. Long term I think Giant have lost out as they look to be losing the poster boy of German cycling who specialises in winning stages at the one race everyone watches. Out and out cycling fans might appreciate Degenkolb and Paris-Roubaix, but Johan Blogz (Joe Blogs!) might not.

        • I did not see how Kittel could reasonably expect to be selected at the time, given his form leading up to the Tour. His performance post-Tour has also been way below par, so I find it very strange indeed that he should be sufficiently upset to change teams mid-contract. I also question the wisdom of moving away from a team which has been built to his specifications for years. Even if the rise of Dumoulin and Barguil makes G-A shift focus away from sprints somewhat, I don’t see how he can expect G-A level of support at Evil-Quickstep.

        • There was nothing like an even 90% fit Kittel ahead of the Tour. He had not a single Top10 result. DNF Stage 1 in Yorkshire, nothing in World Ports Classic, nothing in Ster ZLM, a DNF in German Natinals 1 week before the Tour. And no, a 6th place in Rund um Köln, winning the bunch sprint in a chasing field of no namers one minute after head group don’t qualify for a a TdF place automatically.

  17. There seems to be a misunderstanding by some: Marcel Kittel’s move would have nothimg to do with money. I don’t know where this idea comes from? Maybe there is some confusion, because the (relatively small) Lidl deal got announced the day the Kittel news emerged. But from followung the story the whole year, it is clear, he wants out oft Giant-Alpecin, even if it would cost him money, because he has to buy himself out of his existing contract.

    • The Lidl deal could (and this is just speculation, but the two stories came out at about the same time) have been predicated on his move and could therefore be what finances this move; paying off his contract. With that covered, I think it’s likely that E-QS will be paying him a good deal more than G-A were. (Plus he’s very probably taken the hump about being left out of the Tour.)
      Similarly, we heard that Cavendish might have to bring a sponsor with him to move to Dimension Data – then we hear that Deloitte are sponsoring them.

  18. one important thing to clear up…. in the wake of the Leh-pard vs Lee-oh-pard debacle, can we clear up early whether it’s going to be Dimension Day-tah or Dah-tah… (day-tah please!)

      • Geez, I’ll admit to making fun of Heckel and Jeckel’s butchering of all things Italian but “daytah” vs “dahtah” is pushing it, don’t you think? The TV spots for Lidl in Italy say LEE-dil but I have no idea what the Germans say. Kind of like the argument of wine snobs on the German wine glasses from Riedel. Most in the USA say rye-DELL though I believe it’s pronounced REE-dell in German?

          • It is my impression that the “official” pronounciation, as in the TV ads aired in the various countries where Lidl operate, is suited to roll easily off the natives’ tongues. Thus, in Finland for instance, it is “LEE-dill”. (To Finnish eats the German “i” in “Lidl” is definitively longer than the Finnish short “i”, or long enough to sound more like an “ii” in Finnish.)
            But I suppose you can say it however you like – as long as you don’t make it rhyme with “rye-DELL”!
            Anyway, I greatly welcome Lidl as a sponsor and hope it heralds good things for road cycling.
            BTW the quality and the fit of their cycling merchandise doesn’t usually suit the requirements of a MAMIL such as myself but I must confess that I’ve found the few items that have passed my judgement more than perfectly decent: summer gloves, arm warmers, winter underwear, even a pair of SPD shoes.

  19. Wednesday Short: nice victory from Nibali in Tre Valli Varesine, attacking on a short climb some 3 kms from the line, after perfect cornering, then going solo all the way to the line.
    Slight differences from the Worlds: the big team support Nibali had received until that moment, no pavé and… well, the field ^___^
    (albeit the participation was someway better than in the rest of the Tri-Lombardo where Nibali had collected another 1st and a 2nd place… here we had at least Pinot, Meintjes, Arredondo, Polanc, Schleck, besides the usual Italians like Felline, Nizzolo, Sbaragli – or the *very usual* like Cunego, Pellizotti – Rebellin 😉 ).
    Oh, and no rainbow awarded, just a diamond.

    • I’m hoping the Shark will show his teeth at Lombardia. Gabriele – have you read any explanation/excuses for the Azzurri’s “performance” in Richmond? Lap after lap it looked like things were going according to a plan but when it came to the finale – niente.

      • No, I haven’t read anything. No explanation from Cassani nor the riders. Most fans didn’t like how the team rode, but those who justify the poor performance (worst performance *ever* in *all* the Worlds where at least an Italian crossed the finish line) just say that “we don’t have the right riders for such a course – it was classics-like, Flanders-like to be more exact, and we’re in a historical Monuments drought”.
        Probably that’s true, but, personally, I believe that a different race strategy was needed. At first sight, I’d say they didn’t have much of a clear idea about what to do.
        IMHO (every Italian is a coach… from his couch), most Italian riders should have tried to enter some long-range move.
        The only thing Italy has got is a good number of pretty fast-resistent guys, but they aren’t good enough to compete with the likes of Matthews, Degenkolb or Kristoff, nor have they got the power to get away on a climb with a GVA, a Kwiatkowski, a Valverde, a Gilbert – not to speak of a Sagan. Best news is that most of them wouldn’t be watched as dangerous riders. That is the perfect identikit of a “fuga bidone” medallist.
        They are resistent enough to survive the natural selection of the course – they were up there in numbers in the last lap, indeed – but none of them was good enough to go shoulder by shoulder with the best in such a finale, a very “man against man” thing.
        I’d say that the only hope was maybe to multiplicate Viviani-style actions several times (essentially: before); maybe with a couple of riders joint together in the later moves. You could save at most a rider or two (…Viviani the best candidate… with a helper) for a possibile reduced-bunch sprint.
        I suspect that the Boonen-Kwiatko move caught the squadra by surprise, Viviani went in because he was the readiest, but I suspect that maybe that wasn’t the plan. He came in late, too. He did fine, since his presence made a lot of sense and he spared an insane responsibility to the whole team, but from then on everything went confused. Were they hoping something from Nibali? This really “wasn’t his course” (the climbs were so short that they were like sprints, not even like “walls”, and Nibali is no fast man at all), and anyway he should have attacked before the finish, hoping to take advantage of his medium-range power. No Nibali-based tactics could make sense once in the last 5 kms.
        Why were they up front all together in that last lap? They made me think sort of a little group of poor beings about to be annihilated who huddle up and show their teeth/muscles out of pure fear and confusion… We don’t know how to sort this out, let’s put at least a brave face on… All the time/space that was available for them to try something (arrange a break or join some other sort of attack someone else may have produced) was the flat section *before* the three ramps. It didn’t make sense to go pulling and make it pass even faster! There was a moment when, I think he was Bennati, the “regista”, went and said Felline, who was on the front, something like: “hummm, perhaps you should relax, I don’t know why we’re doing this!” [dramatisation ^__^].

        • Adding that the inclusion of Nibali always looked strange from a sporting perspective and, post-race, it is hard to escape the feeling that they would have had more clarity, a more realistic focus, and better prospects if they had the strength and sureness of purpose to leave him pot-hunting at home.

          • Indeed. But I guess it was like: “he’s quite in form, he’s proven good in recent one-day races (albeit totally different from the Worlds) or less recent Classics a bit more similar to the rainbow race… Guess what? Perhaps he can be sort of a jack of all trades entering a break, working for some teammate, playing smoke and mirrors, whatever. He’s better than most other Italian candidates who remained at home in most possible *actions* which they could perform”.
            But how do they say? Master of none. Not *doing* anything at all, in fact.
            I agree that his presence might have spoiled the focus in the final phase of the race, something like, “hey guys let’s protect him (along with the others) instead of coming up with anything interesting, it will be up to him to find out how to make something useful in the finale”. Which was simply impossible.

    • Astana also looking very good today, with a 1 / 3 placing at Milano Torino.
      They will be super strong for Sunday, with several Italian riders in contention.

  20. On race radios, one positive is they give the chance for riders to ignore instructions and then blame the equipment. Landa anyone…. Always a fun bit of polemica…

  21. +1. Once a decade is just fine.
    just a shame that London got in the way of Edinburgh – that could have been an excellent 3 days of racing…

  22. According to the people designing Sagan’s rainbow jersey, “Under UCI rules we can only have team issue shorts or white shorts. We haven’t decided which Peter will wear yet but the rules mean he can’t use black shorts.”

    Why in the name of all things holy would the UCI ban black shorts?

    Caveat: this info. comes from CN.

Comments are closed.