Want to beat Peter Sagan? Then make him work. One small observation is that his position this year remains relatively upright and so he presents a bigger aerodynamic profile compared to his rivals. Once he’s done 50km in rotation with two breakaway companions, as we saw in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, then he’s likely to be low on energy. This won’t make him easy to beat, just an observation and an angle on how to tackle someone who otherwise looks formidable as his explosive power with 250m to go in Kuurne showed.
Déjà Vu: The openingsweekend provided plenty of action and a reminder why the Belgian classics are so compelling as the top names launch their moves with 60km to go and there’s plenty of suspense all the way to the finish. Still it did all look rather familiar with Greg Van Avermaet winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ahead of Peter Sagan, just like last year. There were several other familiar themes: Quick Step losing out as did other teams but QS get the headline treatment for it; Sagan having little team support; Ag2r’s Alexis Gougeard going in the early moves; confusion over whether riders can use paths or not and more. All familiar? But remember one year ago both GVA and Sagan were painted a serial losers, or at least the kind of riders most able to finish second. Now in a weekend they’ve both taken significant wins.
Déjà Vu, Part Deux: the Tour de France’s grand départ for 2018 has been announced and it’s not that grand. The Vendée area isn’t famous for much, it doesn’t have stunning scenery or much of a rich history. Nor does Düsseldorf but there’s the whole story of pro cycling trying to renew its appeal to Europe’s largest consumer market. By contrast the Vendée département is sold on cycling already, it’s home to the Direct Energie team and it’s Vendée-U feeder squad as well as several local pro races… and also the host of the 2011 Tour de France start where the race began with a procession from the Passage du Gois, the tidal causeway that will be used again. The two opening stages offer nervy stages with likely sprint finishes before a team time trial.
Where will the race go next? To the Brittany region where local paper Ouest France says there will be a stage finish in Sarzeau where the local mayor is none other than David Lappartient, the outgoing president of the French cycling federation, UCI Vice-President and likely challenger to Brian Cookson for the UCI’s top job. The rest is unknown and the presentation is slated for October. But to open the speculation a summit finish at Alpe d’Huez seems very likely as it’s not been on the route since 2015 and it’s going to feature in this summer’s Dauphiné, often a clue of what happens the following year.
Sadly one race that’s going nowhere is the Route de France. Effectively the Women’s Tour de France, it’s been an eight day stage race but never enjoyed the status to match. Participants seemed wary of the race but welcomed the chance to partake in a substantial stage race. Now La Route de France didn’t get included in the new Women’s World Tour after missing the deadline last year according to a Facebook post which meant the race was awarded a lower status and clashed with other major events in August. It’s exactly the kind of event you’d like to see ASO get behind.
Communication Brake-down Was Owain Doull’s shoe sliced by a disc brake? Probably not on analysis but the subject has shown up the dysfunctional nature of peloton where riders have been cautious not to speak out against disc brakes for fear of upsetting their employer-sponsors but this incident was like a dam breaking. It shows how riders are not able to voice their concerns openly leaving them to build up. For years riders were just expected to shut up and pedal but this is no longer the case as we see a more vocal stance on matters from race safety to riding in extreme weather. Consent matters. If manufacturers want to salvage this product launch they’ve got work ahead.
What next for Doull? He had his appendix removed on the eve of his debut pro race in the Tour Down Under, then he had his shoe shredded in Abu Dhabi. Hopefully his third race is incident free.
Big deal… Staying in the Gulf, the UAE Abu Dhabi team is now UAE Team Emirates after picking up title sponsorship from regional airline Emirates. This is a big deal in several ways, a new corporate sponsor entering the sport and one of the biggest names alongside Gazprom and 21st Century Fox/Sky. This would be coup for any team but even more surprising for what had been a lowly team that almost vanished during the winter. The money will start flowing and the team will presumably build a roster to match its sponsors international ambitions so we can expect them to make some cosmopolitan hires.
…Small detail: One area where the team could spend a few dollars or dirhams is social media. Upon re-branding as UAE Abu Dhabi The team abandoned the @Lampre_Merida Twitter account and its 80,000 follower count to create a new @TeamUAEAbuDhabi account that’s only got a couple of thousand followers so far when all they needed to do was log in to the Lampre account, go to settings and rename the account as they wish. It seems they still can’t work this out as the team’s Twitter account is still @TeamUAEAbuDhabi rather than @UAETeamEmirates to reflect the valuable new naming rights deal they’ve signed. It’s not a burning issue but does show how some teams struggle to get the basics of their message across.
Cyclingnews.com has a good series on the 1990s at the moment, the era when you could collect Panini stickers for your album. There’s nostalgia for some but if you’re brand new to the sport then it’s worth reading through the pieces as the names involved are in various managerial roles.
Housekeeping note: in case readers were hoping for a “moment the race was won” piece from the weekend: there wasn’t. It’s partly because there weren’t enough photos to accompany and illustrate the piece. Why? Well this blog wrote to the Cor Vos photo agency last year to cancel the photo account subscription, it was a big expense and even if enjoyable and useful it was a four figure sum and the single biggest cost. Races and teams offer a supply of photos and as you can see at the top of the page Getty Images allows pictures to be used for free, helpful if you’ve got your own blog or just want to browse a photo archive. So there will be many post-race pieces but perhaps not as many as before.