Friday Shorts

The Criterium International’s been scrapped. It began in 1932 and has ended up homeless so owners ASO have pulled the plug.

But it’s been an itinerant race that’s moved from place to place over the years, once even in Algeria. In 2001 it moved to the Ardennes and icy starts in March and then Corsica from 2010 in one of those cross-selling deals that owners ASO do, an entry ticket ahead of the 2013 grand départ of the Tour de France. The Corsical deal was extended from 2014 to 2016 but now local politicians voted not to renew and so the race stops because there’s no where else to host it. A pity the politicians didn’t back the race, the island offers great cycling but the event never showcased the roads to their best. The name alone overlooked Corsica.

The race had its moments but had become as formulaic as algebra. The sprint stage and a time trial stage on the Saturday were not required viewing and then Sunday’s summit finish selected the winner after a long slog of a climb that was hard but not too steep so it suited the strongest team in the race. Thibaut Pinot won the last edition ahead of Pierre Latour and Sam Oomen, a podium full of promise while poor Daan Myngheer suffered a heart attack and died the following week.

Anyone sad at the loss to the calendar might be cheered at the news that the Tro Bro Leon race is already interested in taking up the late March slot on the calendar.

“Farce in Liège”
If Corsican politicians have said non to cycle sport then local politicians elsewhere are busy spending money. “Farce in Liège” says Het Nieuwsblad’s headline and reports the Tour de France will visit the city in July and the proposed finishing straight has just been narrowed of late for traffic calming. Only it now requires €300,000 of works to widen it again for the race. A joke? Perhaps but it’s always good to see a proper city finish rather than having finish out by a sports stadium or industrial park, this seems a small price to pay to show off the city.

Guilder-land: Talking of headlines and cost-benefit analysis for bike races, it helps to have some data to hand for these things and the Giro’s Gelderland grande partenza has been subject to analysis (Dutch PDFs here). The report states the Giro cost €12,462,000 and they had an income of €12,097,000 so therefore the Giro’s visit ran at a loss and its generated negative headlines. Only the income minus cost calculation really means the event ran close to budget, it doesn’t include all the intangible things such as hundreds of thousands of people enjoying the free show (nor those counting the cost of being stuck in traffic because of closed roads).

London calling
Maybe a grand tour in Britain is more profitable than a Dutch one? You might have seen the pictures of Rouleur’s “Classic”, you might even have taken part. If not then it’s part trade exhibition, part festival of cycling culture with talks from various people in and around the sport and some teams even used it to unveil their 2017 team kit. Meanwhile this week Assos, the Swiss clothing firm that’s been bought by US investors, is opening a store on London’s swank Regent Street and there’s already a Pinarello store on the very same street. It’s curious London has events like this and these flagship shops are opening too when the likes of Paris or Milan don’t get them, nor cycle-mad Belgium.

Custom clothing?
London’s Savile Row is just a short ride away from the Assos store. Why is there no custom cycle clothing? Not the custom kit as in putting your own design or logo but the tailored kind. A lot of team-issue kit is made to measure because the usual XS-S-M-L-XL sizing isn’t great for the pro cyclist’s skeletal morphology. Similarly Le Coq Sportif has offered a fitting service during the Tour de France (pictured). In both cases the manufacturers want the kit to look perfect so it’s tailored to suit. Granted a lot of ordinary customers are happy with the standard size range but some are not and there’s already a supply of custom shoes, frames and so on.

Get together: sizing up riders for their race clothing is one of the jobs done at the moment as teams gather for pre-season camps. Ag2r La Mondiale have finished their camp in the Alps and there was almost no cycling save for some indoor trainer sessions for those bound for the Tour Down Under. As well as taking measurements for gear there’s team building including initiation rites such as having to stand up and sing a song in front of everyone, possibly in costume. There’s serious stuff too, seminars from sponsors on the team issue products so the riders and staff can use and promote the gear and perhaps a session on social media with some dos and donts. As well as welcoming the new riders it’s a rare chance to get everyone together, a pro team is really two or more teams with climbers and stage racers going one way and classics riders and sprinters another during the season. It’s possible for some team mates never to see each other again until next year.

Old and new: one oddity at these camps that still persists is the sight of riders still in their “old” team kit. The sport is still structured that contracts must run from 1 January to 31 December but this means riders moving to a new team have to wear and use what they’ve been given for 2016 right up until the end of the year. But meanwhile they’re attending team camps and training for races they’ll do with their new employer. Why not move the contractual period to 1 November – 31 October?

50 thoughts on “Friday Shorts”

  1. “Why not move the contractual period to 1 November – 31 October?”

    Yes this.

    Would also stop the transfers happening in the middle of the cyclocross season.

      • It’s certainly complicated by the fact the cycling season doesn’t stop. Teams are still racing now and earning various rankings points. A Nov/Oct system works for a WT calendar, but not an Asian or Oceanic or teams that race these odd November/December races.
        As a random example, Peter Schulting is currently racing for Parkhotel Valkenburg in the Tour du Fuzhou. But his “2017” team will be Destil-Piels and not Parkhotel. This is where a Dec/Jan contract works because races are still happening because the season is continuing.

        What needs to happen is that the UCI brings the various continental tours together and defines a “cycling year” with all of them. So that Road Cycling has a defined year, and then contracts can match to that. Rather than the messy overlapping thing we’ve got right now

  2. Not sure which view holds sway for me regarding Crit Intl. Losing races is bad but if anyone can afford to lose one, ASO can. I agree that Corsica deserved a better race. The politicians probably made the correct choice. If I had to choose between watching that and Tro Bro on TV then Tro Bro gets the nod every time. But the zero sum game thing tends to irk. I’d guess many fans want to have both races, financially healthy, well structured and not lumbered with a weekend TT, plus a stack of others,from under-represented regions. I’d rather struggle to decide which race to watch live than have only one or none at all.

  3. “It’s curious London has events like this and these flagship shops are opening too when the likes of Paris or Milan don’t get them, nor cycle-mad Belgium.”
    Why is this curious? It’s not about cycling, it’s about MONEY and those who have and spend it. Currently it’s the rich MAMIL’s in the UK, just as it was the rich MAMIL’s in the USA during the BigTex era. I’d suggest with Wiggo’s current woes and plenty of folks tired of Froome’s dominating the TdF, the cycling biz in the UK has pretty much peaked? Brexit will hasten the return to reality – then we’ll hear the laments about how-it-used-to-be when what was an anomaly has passed – same as in the USA. You’d think folks in the CYCLING biz would realize this stuff runs in….well….cycles. Cycling will not be the “new golf” forever once the hedge-fund and MBA boyz move on to the next big thing…it’ll just be the long-time fans of the sport, unless they’re successful in ruining it before they get bored and move on?

    • There’s certainly money in London but – and British readers can chip in – not every British cyclist is a millionaire out on a networking ride 😉

      One bit of feedback I got from someone who attended the Rouleur event was that it was more mixed that they might have imagined too.

      • London population = 8.7million
        Paris = 2.2m
        Milan = 1.3m

        Every city in Belgium = 1.1m or fewer

        More people => more potential customers.

        That is why.

      • It’s not that British people are rich, or numerous. I think it’s that in Britain cycling is an “aspirational” activity, a sport that although its best athletes are the Tejvan type, is thought of as something for lawyers and dentists and fund managers. Those people might not cycle much, but they think nothing of buying an £8k tri bike and showing it off, likewise with clothing. To me that’s why Rapha works in Britain, but doesn’t make sense in Italy or France (no idea what actual sales are, but I’ve never seen anyone but Sky riders wear it there). I don’t think Italy or France see cycling as “luxury goods” thing. Would you folks agree?

          • Castelli is about 3-4 times cheaper than Rapha, the reason is that Castelli, apart from being cheaper, is more easily available from multiple stores which offer real discounts, not like Rapha.

        • Generally speaking you are correct about France. But the Rapha brigade exists in Paris. They are to be found riding laps at Longchamps on Wednesday afternoons and in the Chevreuse at weekends. And there are plenty of swanky shops selling top end bikes on Avenue de la Grande Armée, near the Arc de Triomphe. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Pinarello (or similar) opened a shop on the Champs Elysees next door to the Renault and Citroen showrooms. It’s not as bad as London but Paris has its fair share of chubby men with $10k bikes.

      • I was there and was pleasantly surprised at the diversity at the event. Really great to see lots of different people there. I hope cycling continues to grow in popularity here. I live in Cambridge and my perception at least is that there are more and more riders when I go out. One car free 20km stretch of pathway (locally known as the guided busway) gets very busy on sunny weekends, which is absolutely fantastic to see.

        On a bit of a tangent, I think these types of car free roads are critical to encouraging people to ride and continue riding. My wife for example is a good rider capable of long rides but simply does not feel comfortable out on the road where one mistake by any party can lead to death. My experiences riding around Cambridge make me feel like she is not alone in this regard. Riders on the busway seem to form a very diverse group in age, sex and size while the road rangers typically conform more to the MAMIL stereotype. Hopefully more of these long distance cycleways come into existence, similar to the networks around Netherlands, Belgium and South Tyrol in Italy.

      • “not every British cyclist is a millionaire out on a networking ride”

        I don’t think you know the demographic, 37% of London’s population wasn’t born in the UK. A lot of the serious cyclists came here as established bike riders to find jobs. We earn decent money but we work the hours for it, we also appreciate the value of decent components and cycling clothing that is fit for purpose.

        Yes there are a lot of Team Sky fanboys but we think of them as swallows, we certainly don’t see them in the lanes this time of year. I ride with Finnish, US, French, German etc guys ( and yes some super cool English guys too), the big plus is the networking side when we travel on riding trips.

        There you have it, the top end of cycling consumers in London isn’t Rosbeef mamil millionaires it is ‘foreign’ guys like me mostly working in the financial sector.

    • “You’d think folks in the CYCLING biz would realize this stuff runs in….well….cycles. Cycling will not be the “new golf” forever once the hedge-fund and MBA boyz move on to the next big thing”

      Maybe they do realise and that’s why they’re cashing in now. However, cycling participation among kids in the UK is massive compared to when I was a kid in the 90s so I’d still expect the sport will have high levels of participation come 2030 or whatever. Whether it has the same media profile is another matter, as the current Cav, Wiggins, Froome generation is probably a freak occurrence. Although given the funding and number of young athletes gravitating towards the sport I think we can still expect world track champions, plus the occasional GT talent.

    • Some interesting (albeit oldish) data on demographics of cycling in Britain -

  4. Criterium International. It is always a shame to loose another of the older races. I am not sure if this is because of clashes with a new Pro Tour race or simply a lack of sponsorship. Another hit in the lengthening line of races disappearing from the French race calendar and from French TV screens. There must come a time when French team sponsors will have to consider the return on their investments.

    UK. Having spent time driving through southern England, and on the odd occasion riding, the number of ‘new’ bike riders is simply beyond belief. The numbers suggest they can’t possibly all be very wealthy individuals, just people who have been inspired to ride bikes. The sheer scale and numbers makes the USA, even at the LA peak look rather pedestrian. The demographics are almost certainly different, even if there are to odd banker or two.

    Having said all that, it is true that these fashions are indeed cyclic, or more probably a once in a lifetime phenomenon. Opening a shop on Regent Street must be an enormous business gamble, unless those involved have very short leases.

    • Indeed, although the full-Rapha clad executive is not a myth on the country lanes surrounding London, it’s a shame people outside of the UK seem to be so cynical about genuine growth in the sport. I’ve been a fan since my teenage years (early 00s, whoops…) but I can say from my own experience that a lot of my friends of similar age are now committed pro cycling fans and enthusiastic riders, it’s as normal for them as football and rugby were when we were kids (and still are). Not rich people, not corporate high flyers, just regular people who’ve fallen in love with the sport.

      • RJS- It’s similar to the USA during the BigTex era. But they’re not putting up fancy cycling emporiums in “East Weetabix” are they? The interest and money to indulge it’s on Regent Street in LONDON. I’m not saying increased interest in the sport in the UK is bad, just that anyone who thinks (as so many did in the USA) it’s anything but an anomaly could be in for a rude awakening – as the US is finding out these days. To me it’s the same attitude that looks upon the BigTex (and late LeMond) era, when huge, multi-national corporations dumped piles of money into the sport as the way-it-always-was and way-it-always-should-be rather than the anomaly it actually was.
        No matter what Velon does, I don’t think those days are coming back anytime soon. Do you think anyone else will come in to bankroll Brailsford’s team when/if Murdoch’s son loses interest in the sport? I think it’ll be “OMG, what happened to British cycling?” in the same way that question’s being asked about Italian cycling these days.

        • I’m not sure I agree with you Larry. I think the success of British cycling is built on slightly stronger foundations than it was in the US. In the US it was obviously all built around one all consuming god like figure, their wasn’t much of a pyramid under Armstrong despite the efforts of Hamilton, Leipheimer and a few others. Plus it was all very Tour centric. In the UK there is not only Wiggins but also Cavendish and Froome as well as a lot of other very good riders who are winning major races, the Olympic programme and a lot of good female riders; not to mention the domestic time trial scene that’s been bubbling away forever. Sky are synonymous with cycling now and are a household name. Should they walk away there is massive potential for another company to gain the same recognition.

          Also, I’m offended at the thought that the only people riding their bikes in the UK are ridiculous Pinerello riding, rapha clad corporate banking types from London. Not everyone here is like that. That’s a bit like saying all Americans are coffee drinking wise crackers or shot gun wielding hicks. I own 3 bikes, none of them are carbon and 2 are second hand.

          • Richard and Larry,

            Not to start a dust up with the UK and the US
            Let’s not discount how much public money is spent on cycling in the UK to win olympic gold medals? lots of little Brads and Lizzie’s watching the olympic podium ceremonies with star struck eyes.

            US women always out perform their male counterparts…

            Lots of 10K bikes and Kit here in Silicon Valley

          • Richard S – sorry, no offense intended. The truth is the “Pinarello riding/Rapha wearing/corporate bankers get all the attention from the industry, be they Brits, Yanks or others. One thing I’ll say I’m truly happy about when it comes to the UK cycling boom (though I still do think it’s as shallow as the USA’s..but only time will tell) is the increase in English-language writing on the subject. Whether it’s Brit authors the likes of Herbie Sykes, who can now make some money penning books written in English or Italian-language books getting translated into English due to demand from the UK, it’s a great time to be interested in pro cycling past and present! And of course there’s the Inrng as well.

        • “East Weetabix” – love it.

          I basically agree. Once the Tour is no longer being won by a Brit, there will be a deluge of people ceasing to watch.

          • There will be a reduction, no boom lasts forever. But you’d hope the likes of the Yates brothers, Carthy and maybe Owain Doull would keep up some success, even if not in the Tour. Where I live there are a lot of cycling clubs with a lot of new members but I wouldn’t say that many of them are interested in professional cycling, they are into social riding and doing Sportives (which have exploded in number). There are only a relative few of us who are into racing, still less obsessed with professional cycling. But that’s just where I live.

          • Richard S – Obviously I’m not there seeing first hand what you’re describing but NOTHING you’ve described is any different than what happened in the USA. I got interested in the sport back when LeMond won his first rainbow jersey as my moto career wound down. The first TdF I saw live, in-person had official cars from Peugeot and drinks from Perrier with guys playing tunes on an accordion as they stood up through the sunroof of cars driving along the route. Since then I’ve watched interest in the US go way, way up and then come way, way down while the bike industry seems to scratch its collective head wondering what happened. They seemed to think the boom would last forever and are still coming to grips with over production in a very saturated market with US bike shops closing their doors left and right. Their current wet-dream is online, direct sales but I can remember from my motorcycle retail daze at some point everyone who wants one has one (or 3) and then the race-to-the-bottom begins.

        • I probably would disagree with Larry, much of the shopping that gets done on regent street and the west end is by tourists. As for cycling as a passing fad, I don’t buy that either. Until cycling got profile your sport options in the U.K. were football , rugby, cricket. One of those is seasonal and not everyone likes the others , unlike many other sports it’s cheap to set up cycling as the infrastructure exists so no need for expensive grounds or buildings and as most know once you’ve tried cycling you get the bug

          • Please remember the quote my original post was in response to “It’s curious London has events like this and these flagship shops are opening too when the likes of Paris or Milan don’t get them, nor cycle-mad Belgium.” which was a bit of British jingoism to start. I never said UK cycling was “a passing” fad but pointed out the piles of cash being thrown at the sport by the bike industry at present mirrors what we saw in the USA starting in the early 1990’s and predicted a similar eventual outcome. I understand a lot of readers here might have been pedaling a tricycle back then so have no idea what it was like, but so far there are far more similarities in the two scenes than differences – which includes the vigorous defense of the two country’s long-term cycling prospects when someone describes the whole thing as an anomaly. Reminds me of what Homer Simpson once said, “It may be a fad, but it’s here to stay!”

          • I think there is too much emphasis being put on pro and Olympic performance and not enough on climate and cycling infrastructure. I suspect that climate and infrastructure play an even bigger role than role models at the top of the cycling world. The brave and dedicated will battle 20-30 minutes of city traffic to get out of town, but the new and timid will most likely not.

            Another factor that could play a big impact is the price and quality of modern bikes. I started mountain biking seriously in the 90’s and the quality and reliability of bikes have come so far since then it is staggering. I did not start road cycling until later when I moved to the UK, however I feel that quality and reliability of road bikes has improved as well. As mostly experienced riders, I think we sometimes do not appreciate just how much easier modern components change gears and stop our bikes, especially at the lower end of the price range. Someone can get a perfectly reasonable road bike for 500-1000 GBP. While this is still off-limits for some, if compared to the price of gym memberships and car costs it could be justified and afforded by many.

            It’s not a slam dunk that cycling is here to stay in the UK. But if bike prices remain competitive and cyclists feel safe heading out to ride, I think the future will be bright.

  5. Sorry to CI go (was always on a bad w/e, clashing with Gent-Wevelgem and Catalunya).

    One type of race the calendar is lacking: a one day race for climbers. This was almost it.

  6. Sad to lose the Criterium, it was always a sign that Spring is here and eagerly waiting and hoping there might be a pic or two in the comic to see riders in their new kit. (pre internet age). Sad that the name could not somehow live on as a top amateur race with a fixed location! rather this than losing it all together. Re the Assos shop, does anyone know if they run a Christmas club?

  7. See this why this sport is brilliant and flawed. I don’t want to see Tro Bro Leon to step up and change. It’s a gorgeous local race. I been over to Llannilis 4-5 times and ridden the day before on the ribinous. It’s in my mind fine where it is, geographically in the calendar. I’m no hedge fund contributor or have any wealth other than that what I spend on tractors and biokes, but what I do know, at this time anyone spending huge sums on trying to draw visitors to an event is akin to buying a wheel barrowful of lottery tickets. It’s all right when it comes off. But I’m buggered if I want some local Politian basking in the glory, telling me some BS numbers about how much its generated on paper. Good on the Corsicans deciding the money could be better spent. ASO seem very good at selling the sport and getting everyone else to fund it.

  8. “ASO seem very good at selling the sport and getting everyone else to fund it.” This is bad or good? Is this not what Velon’s trying to do at present? To me ASO seem the only adults in the room at present when it comes to pro cycling. Not so much a compliment to them but more a measure of how juvenile the other stakeholders appear. They’ve all contributed to the continuing doping crisis and now that it’s combined with the European financial crisis, too many are running around screaming “the sky is falling” instead of working together.

    • You’ve said what I was thinking. ASO is far from perfect, BUT, they do seem to be the only rational stakeholder here.

      The other stakeholders have to let ASO lead, and build from their lead, rather than try other ways to wrestle control of the sport from ASO. Cycling’s lead revenue source is the TdF and the French, which ASO controls, therefore stability and strength for this sport must come from this. Every other stakeholder has to work directly with ASO to build on this. No more public squabbles and fighting, it is really childish and petty and is why our sport is so instable.

  9. Custom clothing: our club gets their team kit from Vermarc, and even weekend tourers who don’t even have a race license like me get the opportunity to order custom size adjustments. My long sleeve shirt has 5 cm extra sleeve and body length, for example. I don’t know if they offer this type of service in shops too.

  10. The ‘British’ boom in cycling is far broader than the Lance effect in the US. We not only have Froome and co on the road but thanks to our Olympic track success we now have five indoor velodromes that are buzzing with young people anxious to emulate the likes of Laura Trott, Jason Kenny and a whole new generation of up and coming track stars. Our Revolution series is highly successful at nurturing new talent in front of sell out crowds. We will have the Road worlds on 2019, British Cycling has just signed an 8 year sponsorship with HSBC and membership is of BC is currently 128,000.
    Sure Wiggins will be missed but there is a lot more to British Cycling than winning the TdF.

    • OK, yeah, sure. Same stuff was said about the USA’s cycling scene. BigTex bowed out in what, 2010? This of course after the LeMond era and the win of the Giro d’Italia by Hampsten, when we had a rich backer claiming his east coast stage-race would rival the TdF in a decade.
      So get back to us 5-6 years after Froome and SKY are gone (one hopes without scandal) and we’ll see how UK cycling has (or has not) followed the trajectory of the USA.

      • I think it largely depends on the money, National Lottery still sponsoring the track programme, Sky continuing with the road team.

        From a utilitarian point I think you’ll find bicycle commuting will continue to be a success – £212 per month for a zone 5 travel pass in London, so the motivation is there and the cycle lanes are improving. (at least in London anyway)

  11. I still hope someone will come up and wish to host the Critérium International. It doesn’t even need to be in France. Otherwise it’s dreadful news, one more reference lost.

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