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