Thursday Shorts

Spain’s had a rough time of it recently with only Movistar in the World Tour and Caja Rural in the Pro Conti tier, not much given the rich culture of cycling, the extensive calendar and the sheer number of Iberian pros, almost a national export. So news of a third Spanish team on the up should be greeted with cheers. Only there’s a catch: it’s run by Manolo Saiz.

Yes, Manolo Saiz is on his way back after his inglorious exit from the sport in 2006 when he was rumbled in Operacion Puerto for running a team-wide doping programme. He quit the sport to run a castle and restaurant. He’s never given up on cycling and apparently Katusha came close to giving him the reins a few years ago. Since then he’s been working with a Spanish U23 Aldro which is stepping up a gear for 2016. Should he be back in the sport? This is a moral question to which the answer says more about the respondent’s position than Saiz. It’s moral because legality doesn’t come into it given Saiz was never banned but simply stripped of his team licence and this is the root of the problem. If he was punished like Johan Bruyneel then he’d be gone for good but since he wasn’t he’s free to work in the sport in the same way Eusebio Unzué, Bjarne Riis, Neil Stephens or Viatcheslav Ekimov can run teams. We might not welcome Saiz’s return but given others are running teams we probably have to live with it and be vigilant. Saiz does stand out for his provocation at times rather than keeping his head down.

Now for a team on the up as MTN-Qhubeka, soon to be Dimension Data, was celebrating their appointment to the World Tour for 2016. But is there much to celebrate? There is all the “historic” tales of the first African team to join the World Tour but since the UCI Pro Tour only started in 2005 it’s not quite the story. Dimension Data now get access to all the top races and a new logo on the jersey. The roster in place already qualified them for the empty spot in the top division whether in terms of rankings or the minimum team size. Given there’s nothing dodgy for them to fail the ethical element it came down to admin and financial criteria, in other words having the money and filling in the paperwork. The real test is whether they’re competitive and for that we’ll soon see when Mark Cavendish’s race programme is announced. Perhaps the real celebrations will have come from inside the UCI which avoids the embarrassment of a top tier with an empty spot?

The Pro Conti scene is diverse with huge gaps between teams, some can rival World Tour squads any day of the week while others are shoestring operations. In cash terms you sweep from teams like Cofidis spending €14 million down to some squads with a budget of €2 million, a ratio of 7:1 between the top and bottom, much wider than anything we’d see in the World Tour where it is 4:1 at most.

No so Direct at the moment

Four teams are still waiting for a licence, Bardiani-CSF, CCC-Polsat, Direct Energie (ex Europcar) and Southeast and will hear in December. There’s no word on what’s gone wrong, it could be a missing piece of paper, it could be a fundamental failure. It might not linger for long but it’s acutely embarrassing to be named as a team that’s not ready. It’s especially true for Direct Energie which is supposed to be a fresh new start for Jean-René Bernaudeau only we’re seeing a repeat of past admin problems, you’ll remember Europcar fell out of the World Tour because of a financial shortfall.

One perpetual headache is the bank guarantee which teams must front. Essentially this is a sum of money that is put aside in case the UCI wants to call on it, normally in case the team vanishes overnight leaving wages unpaid. It can amount to a sum equal to fifth of the team’s wage bill, a huge cost equivalent to signing a star rider… that sits out the entire season. A bit like signing Carlos Betancur.

Naming rights are a big draw for sponsors of course and UCI rules limit this to two sponsors per team, like Giant-Alpecin or Lotto-Soudal. So it’s curious to see how French team Delko-Marseille-Provence-KTM has managed to get such a long name. Delko sells car parts, Marseille is France’s second city, Provence the region around it and KTM make bikes as well as motorcycles and garden equipment. Even if Marseille-Provence are lumped together it makes for three names rather than the usual two. It’s possible they keep their geographical name as a tribute to their roots. Still as sneaky as getting all these names into the official name is they’re probably going to be “Delko” to most people or Marseille to others, reflecting their origins from the city.

Disc Brakes

Disc brakes are back in the news after the cyclingtips scoop they’ll be allowed in the World Tour for 2016. It seems short notice as sponsors need to have bikes ready in no time. The debate rages with some saying there are improvements in braking and others claiming this is being driven by the bike industry in order to complicate the bike with more expensive equipment that requires more servicing. But if the latter is true then it’s your choice to buy a replica bike, pro teams might be given disc brakes by their sponsors whether they like it or not but consumers have free choice. In short if you don’t like it then you don’t have to buy it.

If you do like discs then things only start to get complicated given the mix of standards and fast changing designs. Be sure to get a properly designed model rather than one that simply has disc mounts added to a standard road frame as the braking forces are different or at least applied differently. Ideally this is true for the wheels as the rim is not longer part of the brake system so the design needs to reflect this. It all makes for a headache if you want a new bike given the constant flux in design with ever-changing bottom bracket “solutions”, electronic shifters that aren’t compatible with last year’s model and all this is before engineering from MTB bikes crosses over with thru-axles which seem certain, 135mm rear dropouts are possible… and even 29-inch wheels, an idea that’s under gestation in a few places. Is this flux making people hold off from purchases?

Finally having looked at how a pick of 10 neo-pros got on in 2015, thoughts had turned to who’d be worth watching in 2016 and Australia’s Robert Power was among the top picks only he won’t be turning pro any more after falling ill with a rare bone marrow disease. Power had been whispered about as a huge talent, even “the one” by seasoned observers. Best wishes to him.

124 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

      • to have a 29” external diameter tyre 25mm wide would require a 687mm rim! There used to be wheel size called 700A which has a BSD of 642mm (ref Sheldon Brown)

          • Green Lantern, Google Sheldon Brown, tire size. spend a half an hour. Then go to a couple of tire sites, maybe Conti and Vitoria. Rims, and specifically bead seat diameter, is the standard.

          • I referenced Sheldon in my comment above. The term 29er came about around 15 years ago when tyres of average width for mountain bikes began to be made for 700c rims which gave an external diameter of about 29 inches, eg a 57mm tyre on a 700c rim gives you 622+57+57mm = 736mm = 28.98”. So in mountain bike terms 29er = 700c = 622mm BSD. The 700c denomination originates from early 20th century standardisation in france when 700mm (27.56”) was chosen as a suitable external diameter for bicycle tyres. A 700c rim is 622mm so was intended for use with 39mm tyres and was used for road racing (in those days a 39mm tyre was necessary on rough roads). This standard remained even when road cyclists moved to much narrower tyres eg with a 23m tyre on a 700c rim gives an external tyre diameter of 668mm/26.3”. If I understand INRNG correctly there is a move or a rumour of a move going on in road bike design to experiment with larger wheels with a 29” external diameter which will require a new rim standard bigger than 700c.

  1. Hello,

    Thanks for the v. informative post as usual. I only take issue — in a courteous fashion of course, this is the inrng — with the “if you don’t like it you don’t have to buy it” comment about the disc brakes. The bike industry is famous for imposing so called improvements on us regular cyclists. I have a perfectly good ultegra 9-speed gruppo parts of which are well-nigh impossible to replace, thanks to the “improvement” of the new 10 speed gruppos — worse, now 11-speed are out there. The result is often you have to buy a whole new gruppo or bike. There is no choice anymore for the consumer: it has become buy the “next new thing” or don’t ride.
    With disc brakes, this could also happen and the market could be flooded with an innovation that’s really all about improving their bottom line.
    Any my two-cents.

    • I’ve got an early 90s Chas Roberts frame with (6-speed) Deore XT kit… quite hard to find any replacement parts for that. Fair enough in some ways, although the frame is good as new.

      Not being able to replace parts on a comparatively recent Ultegra gruppo seems like taking the mickey. I wonder if e.g. Campag are better at keeping old parts available?

      • For parts that wear out, as in cassettes, chainrings and the like, Campagnolo will produce a batch of parts to meet requests from their distributors. Eight-speed bits are available from time to time, same with nine-speed. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of spares for most old stuff available through the likes of ebay, etc. though of course you have to be proactive and have a spare on-hand since you’re unlikely to pop down to your LBS and get one Saturday afternoon before your big ride on Sunday.
        I’d hate to be a neutral support provider during this brake transition! And long-term, the esthetics of the bicycle are at grave risk with pro road cycling and disk brakes – rapid wheel changes will require single-sided forks and rear ends, making for some ghastly-looking contraptions. All the so-called technologicial “improvement” pretty much leaves me cold these days.

    • I know what you mean but surely this redundancy scenario will only exist if enough people buy disc brake bikes? Otherwise if everyone keeps buying callipers or a mix they the equipment will continue to exist, in the way mechanical gears continue to live alongside electronic shifting?

    • lol at Bikini Carlos.

      I’ve signed him for my draft team for 2 years, albeit at a price that means it won’t be the end of the world if his new role turns out to be a profiterole.

  2. Does the bank guarantee sit in an account for the entire year? Surely it would make more sence to release the funds back to the teams once 4/5 of the season has passed and they can use the cash for wages for the last part of the season.

    • The guarantee is an undrawn commitment, or letter of credit. It’s not cash in a bank account but rather is a binding contract that states the Bank will pay up to X million if the UCI requests it.

      The Bank charges a fee to provide this commitment (usually an upfront fee as well as charging interest on any drawn/outstanding amount), and will usually secure the commitment on the assets of the Team or personal assets of the Team owners.

      • One of the more interesting side spats in the Floyd Landis ban was Landis’ claims that he went unpaid at a team that folded and the UCI was indifferent. Apparently Floyd would not let the matter rest which caused some enmity all the way up to McQuaid’s office.

  3. I’d like to see the bike industry focusing on lowering the cost of entry into the sport rather than on marginal technological gains.

    Cycling remains a sport where the economic barriers to entry are very high. I would love to see the numbers — how much it amount to on average, once you factor in the bicycle, shoes and clothes, maintenance, racing fees. Compare with the equipment costs of running or basketball, and you immediately understand why the sport isn’t more popular.

    I obviously don’t have access to the numbers, but I imagine the sport has much to gain from, say, putting out a $400 race ready bicycle (a CAAD 8 Sora is $1K). A more popular sport means more draw for sponsors, more money for racing organizations, more infrastructure and support for users, among many other things. Instead we often shoot ourselves in the foot — culturally with elitism, snobbery, and over-competitiveness (leapfroggers and wheelsuckers, *sigh*) — more materially with a high cost of entry and participation. I know personally I could not afford to race during my college years — probably the best time for me to have entered the sport. And even today, I notice the financial sacrifices that participation takes — there’s money which I’d rather have left over to give to charity.

    Disc brakes are fine. They make sense on some bikes — on the road I’m not convinced. But what’s disappointing is the lack of more strategic prioritization from the industry. It’s as if the industry is fighting amongst itself over a small number of bike geeks, rather than seeking to enlarge the number of racing (and non-racing) cyclists.

    A second issue is that, even when the industry does make these advancements, there seems to be little pragmatism and understanding of consumer needs. The bottom bracket standards and other lack of standardization comes to mind. You spend thousands on a disc bicycle in 2014 and 2015 only to see a completely different hub standard come in in 2016. The industry needs to understand that many, if not most, of us are happy to sacrifice some performance for convenience. We are not pro teams, so please don’t treat us as such.

    Personally, I would rather see almost the opposite approach — something akin to the NJS for the road. Steel or alu frames, aluminum clincher, rim brakes — if you race, you have to do so on a bike that meets those specifications. Eliminate the arms race, remove advantages that can be bought, rather than earned; sport should reward fitness, not wealth. As a consequence the bikes are practical and parts easy to swap out and maintain, and the bike industry can focus on cutting prices. I know this would never happen and I say all this as an outside observer, not having the numbers or experience. But to me it signals how far the establishment has strayed from what I honestly, if naively, believe is truly good for the sport.

    /end rant

    • There are plenty of bikes available at the lower level you suggest. Regarding the capability of those machines, the advances that are made every year mean that the cheaper bikes benefit from better spec year on year.

      But…you say $400. Let’s look at that figure.

      That is the RRP which isn’t the market price. The retailer has costs and overheads and his cut will be 30-40%, the manufacturer has costs and overheads and needs to make a profit on this too. So realistically your $400 machine probably has a cost of manufacture of $150.

      I’m not really sure what you are expecting.

      • Hi Joel, thanks for the feedback. My number isn’t a business proposal, and I certainly understand that there are economic factors that come into play.

        Still, a few things:

        1. I understand that costs and overheads are cut with a cheaper bike, but presumably, you would also sell more of them, no?

        2. Does manufacturing disc equipped carbon aero frames actually drop the manufacturing cost of cheaper bikes? I’m not sure the advances actually translate into that advantage.

        3. I still see shortsightedness in the industry’s strategy — conceding that’s from where I’m standing (no numbers, not in the business).

        • Hi DWTZ – FINALLY! Someone says what I’ve been thinking for years! You’re bang on right (IMHO) that cycling’s cost of entry, plus its’ inherent risks/bad publicity ABSOLUTELY is almost prohibitive for many people and really limits the popularity.

          I could go on for days and days about this, but I just wanted to say thanks for saying what I’ve been afraid to. I will not go into the details, but this is basic economic theory, and it has worked for every single industry/sport/pasttime in history.

          I think that a) the bike industry could absolutely afford to put out a great (but not perfect) standard racing bike for $400 and that b) the overall industry/interest in racing, etc. would increase dramatically if it focused on this.

          • Besides, the old racer in me says, I don’t care what $10k bike the rich doctor is riding, I’ll destroy him on my ten year-old 10-speed, half ultegra/105 old soft creaky frame! If you don’t have the legs, who cares how nice your bike is!

            I used to love dusting the rich guys on their 13-lb bikes with disk wheels on a group ride on my 19lb whip with brutal spinergy wheels that were out of true! haha

          • @Chris

            I think that’s missing the point a bit.

            We’re not discussing the buying choice of the occasional consumer. Rather, it’s the strategy the industry has chosen to pursue revenue, and how that aligns, or rather fails to align, with what’s best for the sport.

            You are free to buy what you want, but that doesn’t mean we all have to agree that your buying decisions are wise, thoughtful, and well-informed.

            I also do care what people ride in competition, because it affects my safety. For example, I’d support a ban on carbon clinchers in the lower racing categories, at least on rainy days. But I am a fan of the NJS/NKA approach.

          • @dwrz

            I think you’re missing my point, which is that DMC seems to be suggesting that bike quality should be aligned to fitness or whatever.

            “You are free to buy what you want, but that doesn’t mean we all have to agree that your buying decisions are wise, thoughtful, and well-informed.”
            I don’t give a toss what you think of my purchases – what makes you think anyone cares? Actually, please do tell me what I have purchased and where I’ve gone wrong. What twaddle.

        • Agreed, dwrz.
          I’m very much on the side of technology taking a back seat – also ensures it’s about the rider, not the bike. Getting rid of having different bikes for time trials would also make a big difference (plus on normal bikes, a smaller rider has a greater aero advantage – somewhat negating the advantage of powerful riders in TTs).
          Disc brakes is just another piece of short-termist gimmickry in order to sell more bikes.
          Tom Boonen:
          “Everybody is acting like it’s the biggest deal of the century, but it doesn’t change a thing. The one thing that limits brake power is the tyre of the bike, it’s not the brake. With a rim brake I can brake as hard as the disc brake, because when the wheel jams, the wheel jams.”
          On another note, how will disc brakes affect the time taken to change a wheel – if at all?

          • Boonen’s comments should, of course, be qualified by the fact that he’s not actually been allowed to use disc brakes until now.

            In my experience, it’s not the power that differs, but the ease with which you can moderate it. Discs simply offer more control than rim brakes in the range between free-wheeling and skidding. And, in the wet, there’s the obvious difference that the braking surface isn’t covered with a layer of water. Disc brakes are significantly better when descending in the rain.

          • I’m assuming Boonen has tried them at some point and knows more than you or me.
            As for wheel changes:
            Filip Tisma, mechanic (Team Sky)
            “The main challenge is to make both levers feel the same, front and back. Just everything is different, wheels and everything. You have to go back to basics and make sure everything is correct. The plan at the moment is just to change the bike, not to change the wheel. It’s not about time, but every time you put the wheel in the bike you need to set the calipers up. So if you do it in a rush, in the race, it’s impossible to get it correct.”

          • Well, if he doesn’t think there’s a difference, I wouldn’t rely on that assumption. Or at least wouldn’t assume that he’s tried them in the rain.

      • I’d go along with Joel. There are economic effects in play here, that affect both manufacturers and retailers.

        Look back a few years, if you can remember, at the custom low price PC builders. For years the price was £1k, not matter what advances in technology were made. The reason was that the price was dictated by the profit margins needed to be made by all actors in order to stay in business. It was only disrupted when a new economic model for manufacturing PCs (Dell) turned up.

        • I think you just proved DWTZ’s point that bikes can be made for under 500 quid. The computer industry shows exactly what I mentioned above.

          A PC can now be bought for well under $1000, whereas they used to be multiple times that. Cycling can and should follow this. Instead bicycles are more and more expensive than ever, which defies economic logic.

          It will take one manufacturer to take a more sensical approach to their marketing/product line, but it is definitely possible.

          • PC ownership is much greater than bike ownership, most households have at least one and businesses often have multiple PCs (some can have hundreds) though smaller portable versions like tablets and smart phones are now taking over. There are far less people that own a decent bike. So there isn’t the same economy of scale.

          • That’s the point… cycling should aim for an economy of scale… so instead of using one year’s R&D for a handful of years it seems that manufacturers spend tons on R&D each year far beyond a reasonable ratio compared to their sales.

            R&D is good, and it can be great, but the arm’s race between the manufacturers is getting out of hand.

            Economies of scale can be achieved in any size of market, as long as there are thousands of purchasers, which there are in cycling. It doesn’t have to be an industry with billions of customers to see gains from economies of scale. All it takes is smart decisions within that industry. Retooling every 2-3 years for major industrial shifts is ridiculous, especially because they’re only improving things by tiny margins.

    • You always have the option to buy a bike second hand, especially if you are not interested in the latest and greatest innovations. It takes time and some luck but you can buy pretty good bikes.

    • I don’t understand the apparent logic to this argument. Just because good pair of running shoes can cost as low as 50 bucks doesn’t mean everyone is out running.

        • A lot more people run than ride a bike because running costs $100 for shoes versus $2,000 for a bike.

          Apply this argument to soccer/international football. It’s the most popular sport in the world, in large part because the cost of entry is so low so kids everywhere can play.

          • A lot more people run than ride a bike because running costs $100 for shoes versus $2,000 for a bike.

            Apply this argument to soccer/international football. It’s the most popular sport in the world, in large part because the cost of entry is so low so kids everywhere can play.

          • but as Joel points out, you don’t have to pay $2k for a bike, there are plenty of cheaper options out there – surely the pointy end of a sport that requires some equipment is the place for the top-end kit to be tested out, with the rest of us getting the trickle-down benefit over time.
            Now, just because a bunch of middle-aged middle class blokes pay up for super-light aero kit that they will never get the benefit out of doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to.
            (having said all of that, in the case of disc brakes it seems to me that they are of more use to rank and file cyclists than pros… see David Millar’s comments…)

          • Noel – of course, but still you can’t get a competitive new ride for less than $1,000 so this is a huge deterrent for most kids to enter the sport.

          • I think the “trickle down” development model is flawed, or at the very least doesn’t produce the best equipment for amateurs. The reality is that despite the obvious similarities, the needs, and the budgets, are different. I’d like to see the bike industry recognize those differences and work more to meet the needs of amateurs. That means giving more priority to cheap, durable, safe, easy to service and maintain, and less to marginal technological gains. Perhaps a (risky?) metaphor is that the approach should be more “clincher” than “tubular”.

            Cheap is debatable. I’d like to see something that a college student can afford and maintain. If I can be ambitious, I’d like to see something that a college student in a third world country can afford and maintain. To me these are the real victories, and I’ll respect a bike company that works for that more than one that is spending millions on delivering a 15% aero gain. Again, fully appreciate caveats for feasibility, but my feeling is that there hasn’t been much thought on feasibility. The culture, values, and objectives aren’t there in the first place.

          • Me too, I want all university level, senior 3, 4 and lower racing (including espoirs and juniors) to have to be on the following bike:

            ~ steel frame
            ~ paris-roubaix box set wheels (like a mavic open pro) – imagine how cheaply these could be made if on large production scale?
            ~ 18-gear cogset – steel cogs and shifters
            ~ metal brake group
            ~ minimum weight 22lbs

            No carbon anything, no aero equipment. If all of above classes of racers had to use these bikes, then there would be hundreds of thousands of current riders worldwide.

            Now, the only issue is that many of these racers practice on group rides against older men/women who’re using top-end equipment! But, I guess the extra 7lbs (at least) of bike is offset by the racers’ youthful (sic unfat!) bodies! haha

          • I’m not sure cost of entry is the main limiting factor. How many kids run competitively? the cost of entry is low, but I don’t see thousands of school kids (or adults) lined up for competitive cross country runs. I would challenge the argument more people run competitively than cycle (I don’t have the figures, but I see more people on the roads cycling than I do running)
            The main barrier to entry, I would suggest, is that it is bloody hard work to race, training takes up quite a bit of time (on often dangerous roads) and you have to physically get there, most of the time a car journey away. It takes a lot of commitment to race.
            I often see people on bikes you could pick up for on ebay for a couple hundred (£) in races.
            If someone at College wants to race, they can get a bike for the cost of a smartphone.

          • Dodge2000 – I think you’ve got your stats/facts mixed up:

            1. Running races have way higher participation rates than bike races. Eg. high school cross country races have hundreds of competitors per division, very little for cycling races (if cycling races even exists). You might see more people biking to work than running to work, but way more people run in races than in bike races.

            2. There is arguably equal levels of hard work required to prepare for running as in cycling (cross country, track and field, marathons, half-marathons, 10k’s, etc. also take hours of training).

            3. “If someone at College wants to race, they can get a bike for the cost of a smartphone.” – No way!

          • @Dodge2000

            I don’t have international numbers, but here’s one example:

            50,000 runners in the NYC Marathon, and the number is limited by a lottery. NYRR, the local organizer road running and cross country races, has over 40,000 members. Many morenon-members also run at their races, which regularly visit thousands (and over ten thousand) participants. CRCA, the local cycling organization, has a fraction of that. Maybe a few thousand members total, with only a couple of hundred at the local races. As a result of the numbers, NYRR can host more races and has priority over race times. Not to mention of the fees they can rake in, which they can then reinvest to grow and manage the sport.

            My high-school, which was a private school with a decent income bracket, had large track and road running teams, but no cycling team. Same for my college, which only had a club. Certainly there are other factors for this, but cost of entry is definitely one of them. I suffered that barrier personally. You’re also going to be especially hesitant to commit any money to begin with if you’re not even sure you want to actually race. A smartphone has far more obvious use in everyday life. That, among other factors, is why the cost of entry has to be lower than what it is.

            And this is in a developed country. For developing and transitioning countries, the contrast is even larger. For a sport that is trying to become global, the composition of teams at the World Championships is embarrassing. You won’t find that with running.

            I’ve been scouting eBay for a few months now for bikes for friends, and so far I haven’t seen any prices in a bracket I’d consider affordable for most people. One friend is right on the average height for the US, but it’s worse if you’re looking for more extreme sizes.

            Again, the problem is, why isn’t the industry addressing this? Disc brakes, fine. Stiffer BB’s, fine. But where is the strategy for growing the sport?

  4. Don’t Bardiani and Southeast use that ‘registered in a foreign country to avoid Italian taxes’ wheeze? That might be a reason that the license is taking longer to come through, given Ernst & Young’s role in auditing the applications.

    Also, Southeast were already under additional scrutiny when awarded their 2015 license following Rabbotini, Santambrogio and Di Luca – then had Carratero pinged for doping during this years Tour of Turkey.

    • I’d certainly be asking questions over Southeast and their constant doping busts; Giro boss Mauro Vegni has hinted he doesn’t want them in the Giro. They had stopped the offshore trick, or at least they were supplying Italian addresses for the teams.

  5. If Johnny Sideburns can run a team and be lauded, if Makarov can be an upper official of the UCI, then Saiz can run a team. If they could get rid of all the cheaters, there wouldn’t be much of a sport left…

    • I agree, if you get rid of the cheaters then the sport would be gutted. Plus, it’s ridiculous to only blame cycling for this. Has every other sport proposed to get rid of their old cheaters? Or, to get rid of every team owner/manger that encouraged (directly, indirectly, or by omission) athletes to use drugs? This would have to extend to every single walk of life too…

      For every Manolo Saiz there are x amount of people who cheated on an exam in high school, cheated on a partner, cut corners at work, etc. Aren’t we taught to forgive (I didn’t say forget!).

      I think that yes, Manolo Saiz should be allowed back, but his team needs to be tested more than others. Plus, WADA should employ some other measures to randomly monitor his whereabouts/movements/decisions/etc. He’s paid a high price for what he did (some would say not enough), but let’s turn the screws on him to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

      • I think there’s a danger in the idea “this would have to extend to every single walk of life”. This is SPORT after all, not life. People caught cheating on tests fail, those who cheat on their partners can face divorce proceedings, while cutting corners at work can result in the predicament VW currently faces.
        SPORT is totally artificial, the rules purely arbitrary. Nobody has to play if they don’t want to follow the rules. Any right to play is demolished if you don’t play by the rules.
        In Saiz’s case, it’s hard to say he shouldn’t be let back in unless the sport’s ready to toss out the rest of those involved in doping, especially as he’s (so far?) escaped any official sanctions in the cheating scandals. Hasn’t the UCI created a “from this point on” rule where team managers, etc. can be banned if caught? Just because the old cheaters have been sort of “grandfathered in” doesn’t mean action can’t be taken for future rules violations, does it?

        • I thought that sport was life… no? haha. Of course, and I see your point, we should strive to make sports mimic what life should be.

          Yes, I think that even if it isn’t a formal rule, the practice has been to give a bit of amnesty for past transgressions.

        • I’m just amazed that a sponsor with half a brain would go anywhere near Saiz… Aldro Energía.. an electrical supply company. Surely they have done some basic due diligence?

  6. Cofidis don’t get much for their 14 million, do they? They seem guaranteed a start in both the Tour and the Vuelta, but rarely enliven either. I don’t think Bouhanni will prove a good purchase – so far, he’s proved to be a flat-track bully. He’s still young, but his attitude seems all wrong – blames everyone/thing but himself for when it doesn’t happen.
    Does anyone know if there is any truth in the – unlikely-sounding to me – rumours that he wasn’t really injured in the Tour, but just sulked out of it?

    • I don’t know much about his attitude (didn’t read interviews, and I could hardly have said if he was right or not about his supposed claims), and I don’t know anything about the rumours.
      What I know is that Bouhanni is no “flat-track bully”, the likes of Degenkolb, Matthews, Sagan, Viviani are good enough for me, and the guy could beat them in top WT races (Giro, Pa-Ni, Vuelta, Eneco etc.) where they were on form and where the field was even deeper with also fine second-tiers (Nizzolo, Mezgec, Sbaragli, Hofland, Debusschere, Guardini etc.).
      I’d stress he’s not about the track being *flat*, either, when compared to, say, Kittel – and probably many others.
      He just had an awful 2015 season… something which can usually happen to sprinters when they change team. Besides, it’s only 25 – let’s see how things develop from now on.
      However, I’d say that Bouhanni has made a bad – sporting 🙂 – deal going to Cofidis rather than the other way around.

        • Yes, fair play.
          I just can’t see Bouhanni winning many grand tour stages – he can’t match the best flat sprinters and I think there are always likely to be a few who can beat him on the more hilly finishes. It’s not that he’s not good; more that he’s not a rider to base your €14 million a year team around. In 2014, his Giro successes only came after Kittel had stepped off the bike – but his Vuelta stage victories were very impressive.

          • We’ll see.
            However Kittel stepped off after *two* stages (except TTT), which means it’s to be seen whether the German would have retained his overwhelming power as things went more difficult day after day. Not much of a deep-fought challenge, either.
            Besides, also note that:
            – Kittel was then older than Bouhanni is now… and the latter was still 23.
            – They’re a different kind of sprinter, hence in a typical pure flat finish Kittel is obviously faster; yet, Bouhanni has already delivered against most of the guys that are supposedly “likely always” able to beat him on a mixed terrain. Middle grounds are a complicated terrain in modern cycling (ask Sagan), but I really fail to see any insormountable gap.
            – Few people (pretty no-one) was able to ever beat Kittel in a straight sprint that year. Most of the time, he couldn’t make the sprint or he won it. He’s got *no 2nd nor 3rd places* during all the year. He made a top-ten without winning only three times, in a couple of complicated finales of minor races and in Vattenfall Cyclassics (not including the ITT where he impressively collected four top-ten placings).
            The Kittel thing really means nothing, under those circumstances.
            That said, Cofidis were clearly hoping to raise their wins counter, and a sprinter tends to be the best way to achieve that. And he’s French. And he’s sort of a character, too. Quite easy to criticise with hindsight, but it was no nonsense decision, albeit risky, and Bouhanni isn’t getting much more than 10% of those 14M. Let’s say that he and his train don’t even make a 20% of the budget. Don’t know how they’re spending the rest of their money, but the problem isn’t just hiring Bouhanni – other WT teams have got several well-paid top riders while managing a similar budget.

          • Well, as unspectacular as his season was – other than the Dauphiné, he never looked like winning a big race – he certainly wasn’t outshone by his team (nor by Démare).

    • He crashed at the French Nationals just before the Tour, hurt his ribs, wrist and hips. Was doubtful to even start the Tour and then had the Stage 5 crash where he was taken away in an ambulance. Sounds more than unlikely that he sulked out of the race.

      • Yes, he’s had some bad crashes. The Tour was was in his words “an idiotic fall” but it meant he landed again on the injuries he’d sustained the week before. If he can stay upright then he’ll pick off more wins and is versatile too, he works hard to be good in long races and can manage a short climb or two. He’s similar to Mark Cavendish in attitude at times, the confidence comes across as arrogance and he’s sometimes seen as a bad boy but he’s more complex.

    • Love Bouhanni.

      Does anyone know if there is any truth in the — likely-sounding to me — rumours that Froome wasn’t really doused in urine, but just made it up to distract?

      • Nobody knows, short of testing Froome’s jersey after the stage and besides, sweat contains urea nothing can be proved. Cavendish did say he was doused in urine in the 2013 Tour TT (after his tangle with Tom Veelers I think) only to later say it could just have been warm beer but others have been soaked before, in recent years it’s happened a few times and a few years ago a rider fell ill after getting soaked in urine and put his withdrawal from the Tour down to the urine spraying.

        • Unlikely the rider became ill from urine. It is usually a sterile fluid. Gloves aren’t even required to handle it whereas it is required for most bodily fluids. It’s more the “yuck” factor than any real danger if urine is actually tossed at someone.

  7. Very interesting to see Astana in the news as they remain unbeaten in home games in the Champions League. It would be interesting to look at the benefit for tourism of a WT team and a football team.

    You’d imagine the football would be more costly but also comes with a (almost) guarantee that there’s no negative news other than an embarrassing scoreline.

  8. “Naming rights are a big draw for sponsors of course and UCI rules limit this to two sponsors per team, like Giant-Alpecin or Lotto-Soudal. So it’s curious to see how French team Delko-Marseille-Provence-KTM has managed to get such a long name. ”

    Sounds to me like what Rapha-Condor-JLT did – create a company called Rapha Condor that basically exists purely in name alone, so technically it’s only two firms sponsoring a team. A loophole allowing them to follow the rules in a literal sense but not in spirit.

    • I think the UCI is going to change the rules for for ProCons as they dis already regarding the world teams:

      2.15.050 The name of the UCI WorldTeam must be either that of the company or brand name of
      one or several principal partners, or the name of its paying agent. Upon specific
      request, the Professional Cycling Council may authorize another designation which is
      linked to the UCI WorldTeam project. …

      2.15.055 The sponsors are the persons, firms or bodies who contribute to the funding of the UCI
      WorldTeam. Among the sponsors, a maximum of three are designated as the principal
      partners of the UCI WorldTeam. …

      Three priviple partners -> triple names allowes.

      source: UCI-rules, version on 01.11.25 (

  9. Is there any word on disk-brake standardization? I like disks a lot, and I like the idea of them being in the peloton, but it strikes me that without a good bit of standardization, someone in 2016 is going to lose twenty minutes in a Grand Tour and to use the Americanism, the team and fans are going to lose their s***. Wheel changes are already painfully slow, I remember Valverde losing 10 mins in the Tour a few years ago, and sure often it’s nobody’s fault. But as much as I like disks, I would not like to be the (neutral or team) mechanic standing there with six different wheels that don’t fit a team leader’s bike, or worse, trying to bodge in one that I think is the right one and damaging something.

        • Disc brakes have gone big in CX, as you’ll probably be aware, although some riders have stuck to the cantilevers and some have both on different bikes depending on the terrain.
          I have a ‘roubaix’-type bike as well but I’ve noted that the 2016 model of this has gone disc brakes.
          Most gravel / off-road terrain bikes are on discs now.
          I wonder if they’ll go big during the cobbles-season next Spring?
          That would have to be the ultimate test of wheel changes surely ; Sep Vanmarcke on a disc bike!?

      • This doesn’t solve the issue. Through axles vary as does hub spacing. The S-Works Tarmac Disc can be used only with the Roval wheels, for example. Rotor position, even on two apparently identical hubs, will be sufficiently different that it will rub or be difficult/impossible to fit without adjustiing the position of the caliper, which is not a 10 second job like adjusting a rim-brake caliper is.

        At the very least, Mavic are going to need a much bigger roofrack.

        • I think the writing is on the wall. If the peloton goes to disk brakes, wheel changes are going to be a rare sight. They’ll just be swapping the whole machine. Just like the Tour was pre-fitting the likely race leaders for jerseys, Mavic will be pre-fitting the favorites for bikes on the rack. …though that wouldn’t be very neutral.

  10. From the Twitter timeline: “Tibial plateau fracture, aka smashed knee, for Pauline Ferrand-Prévot “.
    Without further details (besides a similar programmed recovery time), that’s the same as Contador…

    • If she’s going to follow the Contador model, then we can expect sorrowful tweets along the lines of ‘I cant even train, my knee hurts so much’, followed by a surprise appearance at the Worlds in Heusden-Zolder where she will smash everyone including Cant

      • She’s got the quality, so why not?
        By the way, she wouldn’t be the first CX athlete to come strong in the Worlds after not being able to race, or choosing not to, during most CX season.

          • I thought that this had been set when the whole timeline of what happened was posted here, but it looks like that cycling fans are even better then Alberto when exaggerating about exaggerations is involved (laying – or was it lying? – layer over layer…).

            However, what I found curious is that in the case of PFP an epic “smashed knee” is evoked, while in the case of Contador most of the people dedicated themselves to explain why and how that’s wasn’t really anything serious, at the end of the day.

          • Guess what? It *was* questioned. And – this time – he wasn’t lying.
            Stopped clock or whatever.
            If it’s five o’clock, you may insist as much as you want that it *must* be noon because the old clock we all know it’s wrecked gives exactly five… it’s still five o’clock, as some of us took care to check on several other clocks out there.
            Well, I guess this is the off season strain, for all of us 🙂

    • Only for the vain. Keeping up with the latest trends is more about the ‘P.O.O’ (pride of ownership) factor than noticeable performance gains for the average MAMIL

      • Remember Cinelli’s SPINACI bar extension? A couple of seasons at the TdF it seemed every client had a set of those bolted on, just like the pros. They struck me as little more than an expensive helmet-holder but the next year, after they were banned, plenty of the same clients showed up – but without this accessory that I heard endless praise for, including comments on how I (one of the mechanics on-staff) must be an idiot not to have had them. Obviously it had nothing to do with performance or usefulness and everything to do with the punters wanting to look just like their hero. Disky-braked, thru-axled contraptions will see sales take off as all the punters’ current machines are almost instantly “obsolete”. There should be a lot of bargains on “old-time” bikes with rim brakes and standard dropouts, but I hesitate to call it a “win-win” scenario. I’m glad I don’t make or sell bicycles these days!!!

        • I have mountain bike with disk brakes (also ridden it with slicks on the road), and a road bike with rim brakes. There is a huge difference when riding the wet. I wanted disk brakes when I bought my current road bike, but I couldn’t have them at the time because they weren’t available anywhere. And that was because the stupid pros were not on them, all worried about wheel changes which are never a problem for me because I have to fix the flats with my own hands. I’m very happy that the pros are finally switching so by the time I want to replace my current bike at least there will be plenty of choice in disk-equipped road bikes.

  11. I think that the disc brakes will probably become the norm, when the technology catches up with the practicalities.
    But the bigger picture for me is the ‘specialisation’ (no pun intended) of types of road / racing bicycles.
    There’s ultra-light climbing models, aero sprinting machines, TT’s, ‘roubaix’-types.
    Over the past season or two, we’ve seen how riders are switching bikes mid-stage to suit the terrain.
    This seems to be where things are increasingly going – a different bike for different races / stages?
    Top spec on every bike too with the latest gadgetry..

    • Interesting and I’ve been wondering the same with the predicted end of the 6.8kg minimum weight limit. Currently bikes have weight added, sometimes a chain or lead dropped inside the frame but usually not deadweight but something useful like heavier aero rims or a power meter. Without the weight limit you could see climbing bikes with calliper brakes and other lightweight parts. I suppose the bike trade would love this as they can try to sell customers several bikes for different uses.

    • Discs also lose a bit on aerodynamics. So maybe riders will be deciding which bike to use based on whether they’re aiming to get into the breakaway. Choosing a bike for descent finishes may become tricky – discs for braking into the corners, or calipers for aero and speed on the straights? 🙂

  12. FYI, thru-axle is coming to road. It’s the “right” way to mount a wheel with a disc brake. The standard QR has a chance of twisting in the fork with a disc brake. This can cause a number of problems.

    There’s no way the old QR remains the standard on discs.

  13. 29=700=622

    Discs- bike change will replace wheel change. Stop fighting it, they’re better. Wool jerseys, hair nets, aluminum rims, wire cables, and rim brakes be damned. Lead, follow, or gtfootw.

    • Rim brakes can be handled just fine. Just at slower speeds with less actual control. Try proper road discs before you hate them. Miles ahead of a rubber block on an alloy or carbon rim, especially in the wet.

      “The industry” is following consumers, and actual performance, on this one.

      BTW- “your” does not mean “you are”. You meant “you’re”.

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