Ban powermeters? After Nairo Quintana’s statement a few readers have emailed in asking for thoughts on this. For starters the possibility of a ban happening seems somewhere between impossible and unimaginable so any debate is academic.
Quintana probably didn’t even mean it. He wasn’t delivering a presentation from behind a lectern but probably just make a quick remark outside the team bus to stir up Team Sky rather than give a reflection on the use of technology in sport. What’s perhaps more interesting is the sense of experimentation and change, that there are always elements to be changed in order to make the contest and the spectacle better. Just as when some found the Tour de France wasn’t as exciting as hoped for there were soon calls to change the rules or format of the race and so on.
Thibaut Pinot saved up prize money as a junior and used this purchase an SRM. Now he won’t race again this year after abandoning the Tour de France mid-July. A virus and then “persistent fatigue” has left him unable to resume training properly. What to make of Pinot’s season? It’ll be interesting to see if people remember him for his Tour de France flop or whether all the success prior to then is remembered, including the time trial improvements? Normally Pinot would aim for the Tour of Lombardy – he was second last year – but if the route has yet to be announced, today’s L’Equipe also quotes Marc Madiot who says the course has changed a lot and there’s only one steep climb in the final 50km meaning it’s not worth Pinot trying anyway. The Lombardia route will be officially unveiled next week.
One fixture, at least in the Vuelta a Espana, is the tradition of an official song. This year’s offering is “El Ganador” by Marta Sanchez, a big name in Spanish pop music. The Giro used to have one too but it’s been dropped. A quick check of the Spanish social media and blogosphere suggests 1983’s “No tengo tiempo” by Azul y Negro, a Spanish version of Kraftwerk, is the cult hit.
Contract deadline: onto musical chairs now and we’re in September which means any pro holding out for a contract renewal from their team has to be informed in writing by the end of the month by their current team whether they’ve got a job or not. A normal courtesy but also black and white in the rules too. Only almost every year some riders wait in vain, some even into November, only to find they’re not getting a renewal and by then rosters are full elsewhere too.
18 teams, 17 places? With the Chinese takeover of Lampre and the creation of Bahrain-Merida there are now 18 teams chasing 17 World Tour places for 2017. Who will lose out? The points arithmetic says Dimension Data are in an awkward place at the moment as they’re last on the rankings. They need more points or signings to meet the sporting criteria ranking. The Chinese and Bahraini teams will surely see World Tour status as an important validation of their ambitions but they need to secure the right signings. But what if Bora-Hansgrohe said “no thanks” or rather “nein danke” to a World Tour licence? With Peter Sagan alone the team scores well – if Sagan was a team he’d be 12th on the UCI World Tour team rankings – but it’s Sagan’s charisma that matters more and ensures the team a start in every race they want and there’s Rafał Majka to help too. They’ve only got 16 riders so riders so far and without the obligation of doing all the World Tour races they don’t need to recruit a squad of thirty but could manage on 22-25 riders. Either way it’s livened up the jobs market for riders still without a team but holding points.
The 2017 Giro will start in Sardinia, the scenic island where Fabio Aru was born. As the 100th edition it’s said the route will celebrate Italy with a visit to Sicily likely along with the “greatest hits” of the Giro like the Passo Stelvio which part explains why this year’s route lacked several celebrity climbs, they were being saved for next year. What about Fabio Aru? Does Astana’s leader go back to the Tour de France to make amends or must he start in Sardinia, a chance too good to be missed?
A frequently asked question at the moment is whether the Vuelta puts grand tour doubles back on the agenda. One hypothesis cited on here several times is that it’s probably a matter of fashion, if one rider succeeds then it’ll tempt others to copy; conversely if someone fails then others will be wary just as Alberto Contador’s 2015 Tour de France put people off. Now with the likes of Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde doing the Tour-Vuelta double does this open the way for the Giro-Tour double? Probably not as the Vuelta is seeing riders trying to make do with whatever form or energy they’ve got left, the physiological equivalent of cooking with leftovers. By contrast everyone wants to go to the Tour de France pinging with form, as sharp and as refreshed as possible so surely the Giro-Tour double is not the same as the Tour-Vuelta?
Talking of local riders and starts the 2017 Scheldeprijs will start in Mol, the town where Tom Boonen lives. This mid-week race will be Boonen’s last race in Belgium before riding Paris-Roubaix the following weekend and retiring on Sunday evening. It’s a nice tribute and illustrates Boonen’s status in the sport.
ASO + RCS = ? L’Equipe has bought the TV rights to show the Giro d’Italia and other RCS races in France for 2017 and beyond. Is this a sign of the Amaury family, owners of L’Equipe and the Tour de France, extending their corporate tentacles into Italy? Perhaps but it’s also the story of the past rights-holder in France, BeInSport, focussing on soccer; plus L’Equipe’s review of its TV channel where it looked at throwing in the towel among other options but decided to continue, invest and live cycling has brought in good audiences. It’s also likely to be a small value purchase so this is probably more about business than politics and powerplays.
Stagiaires and U23 racing: it’s worthy of a full piece here some day but for now a quick observation: once upon a time taking a stagiaires was a way to test a promising rider in pro races, both to see if their legs were good enough and then to check they fitted in with the team. Now all this is known thanks to a range of development and feeder teams so when, say, Axeon Hagen Bermans’ Adrien Costa rides with Etixx-Quickstep this season there will be few surprises. It’s a more a way for Specialized to help advance the career of a rider in their stable. Similarly Tour de l’Avenir winner David Gaudu is part of FDJ’s “foundation” team and he was helped on the final climb of the race by Léo Vincent of CC Etupes, the amateur team that’s fed enough pros into the top flight to compose a strong Tour de France team (Pinot, Barguil, Adam Yates, Vakoč etc). Gaudu beat Italy’s Edward Ravasi, a member of the enduring Colpack U23 team which is now Lampre’s feeder team. In short recruitment and talent detection looks a lot more refined than it was a decade ago and a lot of the risk has gone with many neo-pros much more a known quantity.