Tuesday Shorts

A look at a few stories and issues in and around the sport this week, from Bergen to beards.

What made the TV stop during the final of the men’s road race in Bergen? A power cut says the European Broadcast Union:

“RF signals from the Helicopter and Motorbikes were lost 3-4 km before the end of the race. The RF antenna receiving the RF signals from the plane, which was located on top of Mount Floyen lost power. Initial reports from the city grid power company indicates that the whole Mount Floyen area lost power, apparently due to a failure in a power cable.”

What made the Bergen world championships so good? The racing was good but not great, instead it was the crowds that helped enliven the event. Even in the rain – normal for those parts – there were thousands of people out by the course and a stark contrast to last year’s race in Doha. What brought the crowds out? Well Bergen is not a big place and so the sport took over the town for the week and it was an unusual event and probably a once-in-a-generation happening for the place. Now the worlds have been to small places before, take Ponferrada in 2014 but there locals could always catch a bike race from time to time. Not every edition of the Worlds can go to a welcoming place that doesn’t get a big bike race at other times of the year but it shows a template to help a lively event.

New UCI President David Lappartient travels to Aigle today and one of his ambitions is to see the Worlds in Africa. We can imagine the huge crowds in Rwanda or Eritrea going by the fervour that local races enjoy there. But could (or should) a host city pay the going rate? As a reminder the Worlds is the UCI’s biggest income earner. Lappartient has promised new money for African cycling and maybe tapping wealthy European towns for the Worlds is the way to fund these ambitions.

Some have asked “where is the piece on Team Sky’s accounts” following the one on Ag2r La Mondiale a couple of weeks ago. In the last few years the team published accounts in July but so far there’s nothing. Perhaps the summer publication led to a lot of articles about the team’s budget just at the point when they wanted people to be wowing at them rather than their wealth. So no accounts yet but when they emerge there will surely be a piece here.

Talking of hunting for money, Cannondale-Drapac are saved thanks to language learning business Education First. With the subsequent news of Andrew Talansky retiring and Dylan van Baarle going Team Sky there’s over a million dollars in savings off the payroll already and over half a million dollars in help from the crowdfunding to help too. One interest is the future recruitment policy, the team has long been a distinctly American squad. Now with EF on board this could change as the sponsor operates around the world and typically sponsors with global operations like to have a riders from their key market wherever possible. It makes sense, everything else being equal, a rider can give the sponsor some reach into their market. EF is HQ’d in Switzerland but probably much like Garmin is, for tax. So will there be a more global roster? Or is having the best team possible the most effective way to reach the target audience?


Meanwhile even the long-standing teams can face sponsorship challenges. FDJ is up for privatisation, the sponsor and not the team. The state lottery could be sold off by the French government in the coming months and this may impact its cycling team. First because it is its cycling team, unlike many squads which are seperate corporate entities and rent out their jersey and naming rights, the FDJ team is part of the lottery business rather than a separate entity, apparently Marc Madiot even has an office in the company HQ. Any change in ownership leads to a review of marketing, who knows maybe the new boss likes tennis or golf. The lottery has launched a sister women’s team this year but under private ownership this duty might end. Still precedent says lotteries are a great fit, just look at Lotto-Soudal, Lotto-Jumbo, Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij and so on. FDJ are looking for a co-sponsor too.

Talking of jackpots RCS will get a big windfall from next year’s Giro in Israel with an opening stage in Jerusalem. It makes previous departures in Denmark, the Netherlands or Northern Ireland look almost local but a flight from Dublin to the south of Italy, as the race took in 2014, is roughly the same length as one from Tel Aviv to Sicily. Whatever the “narrative” attached to the departure it comes down to money and the Israelis paying top price for the race. Past filed corporate accounts showed RCS banking more income from the likes of the Dubai Tour than the Giro’s grande partenza precisely because these places need to import events.

The start is controversial but it’ll only be launched with the tacit agreement of the UAE and Bahrain teams who will have promised to attend because the Giro can’t start without Vincenzo Nibali or Fabio Aru.

One event in Italy that’s not under RCS’s umbrella is the Giro dell’Emilia this Saturday and it’s live on TV this year. The region is a hotbed of cycling, the course is good and the finish sublime with the climb to the Basilica San Luca above Bologna.

It’s not just fans who can watch more video content, the UCI can too. A tweak to the UCI rules – the red ink above – now allows the UCI’s disciplinary commission to sanction riders rumbled for things like crossing a closed level-crossing or taking a sticky bottle rather than this having to be detected by race officials in the moment or straight after a race.

From UCI disclipline to team codes and news that the Sport Vlaanderen team has banned riders from having beards, the idea being that it’s unhygienic and can look messy after a race says team DS Walter Planckaert although this hasn’t stopped the likes of Simon Geschke being instantly recognisable and even launching a branded beardcare products. Planckaert’s decision is all over social media today…. despite facial hair being seemingly non-existent on the team. It’s a slow news day. Meanwhile Sport Vlaanderen are ending their women’s team only there’s no online buzz, presumably it’s less amusing to share and go viral. The good news is that the team is saved thanks to new sponsorship but it still means Flemish men are given a development path by their regional government but women don’t have the same.

Top photo credit: Lars Petter Larsen / https://bergen2017.no

50 thoughts on “Tuesday Shorts”

  1. “New UCI President David Lappartient travels to Aigle today and one of his ambitions is to see the Worlds in Africa. We can imagine the huge crowds in Rwanda or Eritrea going by the fervour that local races enjoy there. But could (or should) a host city pay the going rate?”

    I don’t know, but Eritrea is also known as ‘the North Korea of Africa’, so it would be a monumentally bad idea to organise the WC there. The more logical candidates are probably South Africa and Morocco, but Froome finishing his career a World Championships in Kenia would also be a great idea.

      • following up Inrng’s reply to Martijn’s comment– the Eritrean government may have many problems but keep in mind that the Eritrean people (1) have little voice in their government, and (2) really love cycling! So it’d be a shame to just discard a proposal to hold the championships in Eritrea based on the bad behavior of the government or the powerful elites, when after all cycling is (ideally, anyway) a sport for regular people across all walks of life.

        This is quite different from the Doha championship, where the government is questionable AND the local folks generally have little interest in cycling.

        • The UCI held the Track Worlds in Belarus a few years ago, Europe’s last dictatorship, the Giro (which I know is not owned by the UCI) is about to start in Israel, the Apartheid state in the Middle East, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi have World Tour teams and Sky, Katyusha, Astana… so I very much doubt that human rights issues will concern any of cycling governing bodies

          • Eritrea is absolutely another step below those places though, especially in the aspects directly related to cycling. For example while the political scores for Eritrea and the UAE are similar on the Democracy Index, their civil liberties score is 1.18 compared to the UAE’s 2.94

          • Eritrea is a great place to visit but simply could not hold any major event, regardless of political issues. There is simply not enough even half reasonable accommodation in Asmara to cope with the teams let alone any travelling spectators. Further, obtaining entry visas is difficult for tourists. Limitations on travel for foreigner outside the capital would also but the brakes on numbers wishing to attend. Lastly, communications are dire – think not being able to have a mobile phone if you are not a resident, 2G network at best if you do get a phone and hotel WIFI that makes dial up seem an attractive option.
            Other than those minor issues it would be a great spectacle around the old Italian city precinct. I would love to ride the road from the port city of Massawa to Asmara – about 120kms with over 2,500m of altitude gain on a fantastic road with multiple switchbacks and a surprisingly good surface for any part of Africa. Starting temperature of about 40C at the coast but dropping to low 20s by the finish.

        • The irony is, that all the cycling enthusiastic Eritreans you find at races in Europe fled from this regime.
          Germans loved sports too in 36, and still the Olympics were a one big ball pump for Adolf.

          • not sure how ironic that is. I spent some time in Asmara some 20 years ago, and watched a local bike race in streets crowded with fans… made a big impression on me. Anyway I think that INRNG has got it exactly right— “how to stop the event becoming a pro-government show for a week is a big consideration”— but I’m only saying that the grass-roots enthusiasm for cycling shouldn’t get lost among condemnations of corrupt regimes. Withholding international events like the WC from a regime with poor “civil liberties” punishes the local people perhaps more than the people in power. An ideal solution (probably a fantasy) would be to bring the event to the local fans without enriching or rewarding the ruling elite.

    • SA had the football worlds so they should definitely be able to stage a cycling worlds, which is a much smaller event. It would be great to have a worlds in Africa for a change. But the choice between a large sum of hosting fee money from a rich country that can be invested in Africa vs the symbolic value of an African worlds isn’t easy.
      Even though most South American pro cyclists are from one nation, the continent hasn’t had many WC compared to the number of top riders currently from there.
      Some prominent countries when considering riders/teams that have never hosted the Wordls: Russia, Poland, Kazachstan.

    • I also think Ethiopia should be mentioned, as it has less of mountains and it’s extremely popular from the locals, according to an article in the cyclist magazine and the roads are in really good condition as I believe China has paid for them and Eritrea is it’s neighbour.

      • Monty, probably best check your facts before you contribute.

        Not only is Ethiopia one of Africa’s ‘most’ Mountainous regions, the capital Addis Ababa actually sits at 2000+ meters above sea level.

        I believe the country is 50% mountains and elevated plateau as opposed to sea level lowlands. (0-250m).

        However you are still correct, Ethiopia should definitely be considered as the road network has been heavily invested in to support Chinese industry.

        • Oh sorry, I meant loads not less. It doesn’t make grammatical sense anyway in that context. I use the android swipe keyboard on my phone so that’s how it most likely happened. I know that Ethiopia is one of the most mountainous countries in Africa, if not the most mountainous and it’s also politically stable I believe.

    • Martijn – Oh yeah, we can’t have cycling in morally questionable regions because cycling is free of morally questionable individuals and has a completely clean past.

      Cycling, like the IOC umbrella it falls under, has had multiple instances of teams and events run by or held in places with significant human rights issues.

  2. Wow, I never realised that the French lottery was so big; Europe’s second highest with a turnover of €14.3 billion in 2016. It is 76% state owned.
    The UK’s private National Lottery provider, Camelot, takes a 1% cut of its revenues as profit.
    So, if a similar amount was taken by a private lottery provider in France, that would be around €140 million leaving its coffers.

    It now typically costs upwards €15 million per year to run a WT team, with perhaps up to a 10% annual budget increase needed to keep track of other teams,
    That figure doesn’t seem huge when compared to the French lottery’s huge total revenue but, unless it were ring-fenced, it would for instance account for over 10% of potential profit of a private provider.

    All back-of-a-fag packet calculations, but you can see why the concern.

  3. The same logic for shaving legs of bike racers should apply equally for shaving beards–in the event of injury, it keeps the hair out of the wound. Also, there might be some aerodynamic advantages for a clean shaven mug. Aesthetically, it depends on the rider, . . . perhaps Aru might actually benefit from a beard!

    • Let’s be clear, there is virtually zero logical reason to shave legs. I told the hair out of the wound reason to my then-GF-now-wife who’s in healthcare and she said that was garbage, haha.

      Beards same thing, it’s all about personal preference.

      Zero aerodynamic reason either.

      • Tim – Yeah right, 70 seconds over 40k?!? For one, 6 athletes is hardly a proper sample size, and secondly, there are so many factors that go into that time savings, this experiment does not factor them in properly.

        In a hydrodynamic setting (eg. the pool), leg hair has a much larger drag effect, but shaving legs won’t save 70 seconds over a full hour!

        For this to be “proven”, you need a real scientific test, hundreds of “samples” and different conditions, variables, factors, etc. and further testing over the calculations used in the conclusion.

          • To make a scientific argument here, you must have had the same crash on same place with same amount of road rash, then compare. I guess the asphalt don’t care that much if you have shaved legs or not when it rubs down your skin.

      • Sagan now won 3 World titles with different hair styles. Hair “aerodynamics” are an overrated talking point for nerds who sit too much in coffee shops instead of actually riding.

  4. Got excited about watching the Giro dell’Emilia this Saturday – but looks like it’s not on Eurosport in the UK, no? Booo.
    Anyone know if there’s another way to watch it here? Thanks…

  5. wouldn’t it be great if the UCI said ‘ oh forget the money, lets just put a huge smile on everyone’s faces and have the Worlds in Rwanda…’

    oh well, back to work…

  6. Is Aru all but confirmed for UAE (as suggested in the piece about the Giro start)? I’m guessing so, it’s quite late in the season for a fairly major piece of the GC contender jigsaw to be slotting into place.

  7. Are Slipstream to be sponsored by the global EF group or purely the american branch (similar to Europcar being sponsored only by the local branch I seem to remember)?

    I ask because in a lot of their twitter post the refer to EF US, apparently the deal was also helped by an introduction from American politician John Kerry who I think has visited the tour with them in the past.

  8. A ban on beards? Perhaps that’s going too far but a maximum of one beard and one set of flowing locks per team would be good, that way a Simon Geschke or a Daniel Oss is easily identifiable in any situation.

    • Hopefully the tourist income arising from Bergens exposure will pay dividends in the next few years. I was so impressed with what I saw on tv, I would love to take a trip there and I’m not exactly one for travelling. They certainly don’t deserve any negatives from the whole show, I thought it was wonderful with great great racing.

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