Thursday Shorts

So far, so good. The measures unveiled by the UCI yesterday to detect motors are good. Of course they’re not really there to detect motors…

…they will serve two purposes. First to deter anyone even thinking about it because of the enhanced probability of being caught. Second to reassure the public and this matters, as it’s one thing to check for motors and another to tell the world you’re doing it. It’s a bit like doing maths in school, you can get the right answer but the teacher wants to see your working, to know how you got to the answer. The UCI needs to do something similar, to share the X-ray images of the winner’s bikes in the same way a photo-finish of a sprint finish is shared so all can see. The more theatrical and open the better as it shows the public this is being done rather than the “trust us, we’re scanning bikes” approach of the past. Instead of a footnote to the commissaire’s communiqué that 36 bikes were checked, every TV channel should be invited to watch.

Can ASO ban Chris Froome from the Tour de France? There’s news overnight that they might try. Both the UCI rules and the Tour de France’s own rulebook have paragraphs that allow a rider or even a team to be excluded if they risk damaging the race. Here’s the rule from last year’s Tour de France rulebook (my highlighting):

Unlike detecting motors, the problem is in the trying. ASO tried to exclude Tom Boonen before only for him to be reinstated by appeal and as explained here before if Chris Froome is eligible to ride other races then it’s hard to exclude him from the Tour de France. Perhaps and probably the message here is a public one to both the UCI and Froome along the lines of “if you think its a mess now, delay and it’ll get even messier”.

For now this is all legal theory, especially since it’s hard to imagine how this case drags on without a verdict until July. It’s good not to rush justice but surely it can’t require another three months? Unless there’s a twist that’s unknown it’s not a particular complicated case, the rules can be reduced to one concept: prove it or lose it. Froome has to prove where the excess salbutamol came from or lose the Vuelta. Velonews has a good explainer on it this week.

One question over the ongoing delays is whether Chris Froome and/or Team Sky or any connected entity stands to collect an appearance fee or other related-payment if Froome takes to the start of the Giro d’Italia. If so and the sum involved is substantial then it may not explain why things are taking so long but you can see at least see an incentive to delay this case until at least May.

From long delays to missing days as The Three Days of De Panne has become two one day races, one for the men yesterday and one for the women today (live on Sporza Eurosport Player). It still keeps its name, adding to the oddity of the cycling calendar which includes the six-day long Four Days of Dunkerque or misleadingly-named races like Paris-Roubaix. At least Dunkerque over-delivers and if Paris-Roubaix hasn’t start in Paris since  1965 it’s all the better for it as it allows the course to zig-zag over more pavé in the final two hours. De Panne was for years a fraught race but a final tune-up before the Tour of Flanders, the succession of hard stages and the time trial a perfect place to gauge form. It’s now a race in need of identity. It held out for long against the siren calls of Wouter Vandenhaute and his Flanders Classics business with race organiser Bernard Van De Kerkhove saying as long as he was alive the event would be independent. He died in 2015 and the race has been bumped out of its traditional slot in the week before the Ronde. As a one day race it doesn’t stand out much from all the other races at the moment, different scenery with the marshland perhaps but not very coastal and odd because De Panne is Belgium’s answer to Miami… in Belgian way of course. There’s even talk it could be moved to another month on the calendar and also promoted into the World Tour. Does the World Tour need another one day race in Flanders?

Dimension Data’s injury woes continue with cobbled classics specialist Scott Thwaites the latest to be out of action following a training accident. This matters in the short term for the teams they field but also for the future of the squad. Remember the World Tour reforms see the World Tour shrink from 18 teams to 17 in 2019 and 16 for 2020. It’s got to be worrying several teams. The table above shows the current UCI team rankings. Katusha sit last but we can imagine the likes of Simon Špilak and Ilnur Zakarin harvesting points in upcoming stage races and Trek-Segafredo will count on Bauke Mollema to do the same.

Finally bad luck can strike at any time but Cofidis seem to have self-inflicted problems. Nacer Bouhanni was left out of Milan-Sanremo on health grounds only to spend the subsequent days giving interviews and retweeting stories saying it he believed he was fit to ride: openly contradicting the team management. So he started the Volta a Catalunya, struggled and quit on the morning of the second stage. He hadn’t recovered from his previous illness according to the team. Having the team’s star rider in open conflict with management is difficult to say the least and it’ll be interesting to see if they can patch things up. There’s more behind the scenes with the team stopping their employment of Bouhanni’s father and more. It’s a small soap opera but will all be resolved if the team wins a stage of the Tour de France.


79 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

  1. Couldn’t the Giro stop Froome from racing?
    Or is money from Israel, or others, dependent on this?
    As you say, Sky/Froome could then take some sort of action to stop this.
    To stop this rigmarole, the rules – via whichever body – need to change: by a specific to cycling voluntary agreement if needs be, so that if a rider is over the limit they’re banned.
    It’s riders’ responsibility to be under and there are no excuses – don’t go close to the limit if you’re worried – the limit is already very high.
    Froome’s is far from the only doping case that is endlessly ongoing.

    • I agree, and the next doping case will also be a long drawn out farce, and the one after that…..And the winner of the 2018 Tour will be announced in 2020!

    • EXACTLY. There may be an appearance fee paid to Sky/Froome, but you can bet the Giro organisers don’t want to pay someone who’ll give negative publicity to their race. That is a big topic to discuss and I’m not sure of the result – how to quantify this case’s effect on Froome’s popularity in each region.

    • Reports from November’s Froome/Giro announcement suggested he was receiving a €2million start fee.

      You would think, however, that any even vaguely competent lawyer would make that appearance fee conditional on no doping revelations etc.?

      • As of now he’s still innocent of course and if the case continues he could start the Giro innocent and therefore he or Sky collect on the contract. If the sum was that big, and I’m not sure it could be, you can see an incentive to wait, no?

        • He’s not innocent anymore. He’s *conditionally* innocent at most. He’s got the right to try and prove his innocence – as any person whose being indicted following any AAF – sure: but in sport justice, he’s not actually innocent, for now. In case he does nothing, he should be already guilty by default.
          The only difference is that, as salbutamol is a specified substance, he’s receiving a more favourable treatment in the while (not being suspended); and more room is allowed for his defense, too.
          But it’s not like “he’s innocent”. At best, it’s the good ol’ half doped half innocent cat.

          • @inrng
            Of course, I more or less agree with you about the specific point Sidamo was commenting: I simply wanted to stress that the way you put that isn’t quite much appropriate.

            However, if I was a cycling lawyer, I’d made any clause dependent on AAFs, not necessarily doping sanctions. Sport laws would allow that: you’re already being prevented from racing after your A-sample is found positive, although you’re not “guilty”. You’re even less “guilty” than Froome is, on a scale of gray! And, just in case UCI rules don’t already specify that (I think they do), the opening of the final phase of a biopassport procedure can be deemed equivalent to an AAF.

            Anyway, let me add that this is pure theory.
            I suspect that RCS is equally happy to have Froome at the start, rather than not having him at all, *if* he’s not going to be stripped of the result later.
            And I suspect that the whole Giro thing was brought about by the AAF, which Froome and Sky obviously were already informed of.
            I just think that RCS didn’t know or they wouldn’t have paid him (so much).
            But it’s not like RCS aren’t happy this way, too, assuming that the albo d’oro stays unchanged.
            I’d go as far as saying that they really never repented of having had Lance 2009 or Alberto 2011, even with all that happened later – and, whether we find it sad or not, they’re probably right (just ask Mike Turtur or the Flanders guys).

          • Their concern must be that if Froome proves his case then he was innocent and they would have had no grounds to exclude him/the AAF wouldn’t count as a doping revelation.

            If I were them, I’d be investigating the cost of insuring against a Froome win in the doping tribunal.

          • @Nick
            Come on, the appearence fee is a private agreement between the parts (if it even exists!). You can put in there whatever you want. Even random events. An AAF is and always be an AAF, it’s not a “positive test”. Even if Froome proves himself innocent, he’ll have generated an AAF in September 2017 all the same. I guess (hope for them) that RCS included some clause saying that if Froome can’t compete in appropriate physical conditions for reasons depending on his will *or not* (say, knee problems or bronquitis), he’s not going to receive the fee, or the full fee. This should be the same. Betting or private insurance is about people making private agreements involving money about events which don’t depend on their will, so that must be feasible in legal terms. You don’t have to see the AAF as a guilt, just as an adverse event which will prevent you from being paid, as many other unfortunate events might do. Whatever happens next is irrelevant.

  2. Big shame about De Panne – seems a bit of a nothing race now – the little guy losing out: they shouldn’t have been allowed to move DDV.
    I’m not a fan of Lappartient – he seems only to be concerned about the Tour and not the Giro, which isn’t surprising – but at least we should now know that the motors issue is done with. Who knows if there ever was a problem.

    • I guess we’ll never know, and – things as they are – all the better for cycling if nobody ever does.

      The question is rather if the way the matter had been tackled until very recent times was appropriate, in every possible sense of the word.

      And, in case it wasn’t (what I’m pretty much sure of, both in terms of technology & technicalities, not to speak of its whole “governance” – who writes to whom, who decides what, which company sells what device and so on), why didn’t anybody even try to take any serious step?

      Better not to ask.

    • Agreed, best not to find out if each of Cancellara’s miraculous attacks was aided by a motor.

      Imagine if his TdF stage win in the yellow jersey was motor-aided? The Monuments wins and World TT Champs all aided by a motor? I’m still completely undecided and I really don’t want to find out.

      It is a good thing hard evidence is impossible to deliver.

      • Perhaps not a GT. They’ve got an impressive line-up of riders, no doubt: Poels, Thomas, Kwiatkowski, Henao, Castroviejo, Intxausti (if he recovers), Rosa, Elissonde… they all could be captains elsewhere.
        But, despite having ridden at least half a dozen (and up to ten) GTs each, and not necessarily at Froome’s service, they barely collect some 4 top tens – summing up all they got as a whole. And half of them was obtained by Intxausti! None of them at the TdF.
        Not a single GC top 5 in *any* GT. Everything can happen, but leading is just a different thing than being a very strong rider.
        It would be, anyway, a surprise result. Like, dunno, Geniez or Trofimov or Monfort winning the Tour. Well, Arroyo nearly made it at the Giro and Hesjedal, you know… so you can never say. Just a big surprise.
        Just compare them with a rider who’s really got a serious potential for GTs like Landa (leaving aside the debate about his mental focus in order to actually win one): that’s a guy who’s got the potential. He’s been sacrificing his own chances most of the time, and yet he’s got both a podium and a top 5, at the Giro and at the Tour. He alone has won nearly as many GT stages as those other guys together (and, again, half of those collective spoils were collected by Intxausti!).

        Frankly, I’d be less surprised if Sky won the Tour with Bernal or Sivakov. At least, you could think that they’re a relatively unknown force *among the pros* (and now not *that* unknown in Bernal’s case) and expect them to confirm their class in the following years.

  3. Pro cycling as a whole is a farce. They have to check that the racers are not secretly hiding electric motors in their bikes, and that says it all about the willingness of pro cyclists to cheat. And the Sky thing, surely all that is is a representation of all the other teams? Cycling, in the eyes of the general public, is a sport associated with cheats, period. It’s so sad such a wonderful activity has such a deeply tainted reputation.

    • David,
      I feel some of the same. Kind of like the old U.S. Pro wrestling was a farce. ‘Course cycling is at least a notch above…, however, it takes a stretch to believe…

      I’m pleased the Tour people are making this move. Wish the Giro people would do the same.

      Boonen was different; coke party drug, not involved with performance cheating isn’t the same. To Me.

    • All sports which use a tool of some sort have strict rules about what allowed and whats not, from tennis to F1. Everything is regularly checked.

    • Hey, David, would you please suggest me a *serious* pro sport to watch? ^__^

      I might agree about what (maybe) the general public thinks about cycling, but how is it that everybody is so good at forgetting all the crap about the rest of pro sports while at the same time building up this strong feeling about cycling? Wouldn’t that be because we’re remembered about cycling by media all the time, just as you can see similar news fading away in other sports?

      The Wade Exum thing is barely older than the Armstrong case and it was arguably bigger (or as big, at least). Why the latter is constantly around and the former isn’t?

      We’ve been told about the endemic/epidemic plague of matches being sold in tennis to manipulate the betting market. What did tennis do to solve that, exactly? Is everything okay, isn’t it? Or we just don’t know because media let that flow away? Are we up to date about the sanctions or the court trials which may have come from that? But we’re still speaking about one single race having possibly been sold in cycling, where the thing’s got a whole different meaning, by the way. We’re reading news about “okay, the court decided that they’ll sit in some months time, see you later”. That’s the news.

      I’ve rarely read anything more laughable than Phelps comments about doping last year. But that’s how you make “general public” believe any nonsense.

      I could go on way longer, as you can easily imagine, but I guess you get what I mean.

      • It irks me so much when people learn I ride bikes and follow pro cycling htat they take this attitude up whilst all being completely oblivious to athletics/swimming/tennis/rugby which have the same issues but are not as easy to be-little.

        Cycling has had and does have issues but its seen as such an easy target when people ignore others and also have little knowledge of the sport itself.

        I laugh rather than cry when I hear reports like I heard yesterday on the Irish radio – ‘Sam Bennett is unfortunately way down the GC in Spain at the Volta Catalunya in 158th place almost 15 minutes down’ (or along those lines) – this just shows the general ignorance of how the sport works.

        Cycling is serious sport, no doubt, full of intricacies and complications – it is just an easy target for sensationalism.

        • Barry, In the Uk cycling is from the grubby, working class pastime of yesteryear whereas tennis is a rather splendid whiter than white hobby favoured by those of a certain clip to their accents. So no more than even a paracetamol could possible be mixed with their cucumber sandwiches and spring water! I jest somewhat, but at far as the national tv channel stands, this sentiment has strong foundations.

          • The question of ‘why cycling?’ Has been bugging me.

            Drugs and the lack of enforcement in other sports is evident all the time, and yet the stench doesn’t seem to linger around them. The story bobs on the surface like a fetid corpse and quickly sinks, while cycling’s dead bodies continue to float.

            There’s a great webpage called ‘50 years of doping in football’, and one called ‘tennis has a problem with steroids’ which demonstrates that history is littered with such flotsam.

            I particularly like the one where Serena (or Venus) locked themselves in their safe room and called the police when a USADA guy turns up looking to take a sample.

            Or, the fact that the Jamaican Athletics Association continually fails to test any athlete out of competition. No wonder some of our guys go out there to train.

            Manchester City have contrived to miss three out of competition tests too, and the FA only fined them. I guess what happened to Rio was deemed unsatisfactory within football.

            My thoughts have been unevenly stretched to different ideas; to the extent that cycling attracts geeks, and perhaps that gives rise to earnest truth seekers, or to those who cannot be scientifically hoodwinked.

            Perhaps the UCI is uniquely weak in being unable to control the media – though the Armstrong-Verbruggen cabal seems to dismiss this scenario.

            Perhaps cycling is particularly prone to drugs. I surprised myself proposing this idea on the basis that few other sports require 4-5 hrs of exercise, a sport which is uniquely aimed at reducing competitors down to complete exhaustion giving rise to any means to keep ones self on the bike and at the sharp end.

            There are definitely sports where the physiology, application of science and effort are very similar. Their lower profile and reduced riches probably mean that their network of coaches and top athletes are lower. Doping failures are less likely due to less money in the ADA, and less publicised because there is less interest.

            Paradoxically sports like American Football, Basketball, Baseball and Rugby where doping appears self-evident also appear to have a massive blind spot.

            The reasons cycling appears high on the list seems to be unique to cycling, and I do think there is a singular casual effect.

    • David – all sports do this stuff, eg. Fancy Bears leaked TUE information from top World Cup soccer players. Operation Puerto uncovered Cross Country skiiers, soccer players..

      The Russian Cross Country skiing men’s 2014 podium sweep was all banned.

      Peyton Manning was suspected of HGH use in his final Super Bowl winning season

      Major League baseball, etc.

      I could go on, cycling is no different from any other sport, OH, except that we throw our athletes under the bus immediately for doping. Other sports protect their athletes much better.

  4. Acute marginal gains translate to approaching the line knowing if it’s crossed with EPO etc. they loose and not race.

    When salbutamol’s line is crossed, racing continues. Especially with money and sharks, racing continues. That may have been calculated beforehand; Sky betting not to get caught but if caught would survive. Betting in fact the powers that be, have no power or less than Sky’s, thinking they can completely squirm out Scot free, in fact.

    Tour de France small print may not have been anticipated. Isn’t the Giro owned by the same owners? -They just don’t have the same small print???

    There is no question, Froome is guilty. Busted. Am I mistaken? Those who choose to wait and see, are not waiting to see if He’s guilty; they’re waiting to see if He gets off! -Gets by with tainted test.

  5. Once the Froome story was made public, couldn’t the UCI set a date to which it should have been resolved? Or at least a date where Froome would present his arguments to move onto the next stage?

    Shouldn’t it be relatively easy to explain how you managed to get twice the amount of salbutamol in your system? We’re talking about double the amount, not a tiny bit over the limit. It seems to me that the longer they wait means that Froome and Sky are exploring other avenues than the real ones that caused the adverse findings and have probably nothing to do with the reason he had double the amount. There was a story at one point that he was blaming kidney malfunction. If that excuse doesn’t hold, are they just checking other stuff hoping that it works, when surely you should know how you managed to have twice the amount in your system.

    • Part of the problem here is that this shouldn’t be public, until due process has been completed. And that might take some time, whether we like it or not.

    • i don’t think many (any? not a legal scholar, correct me if i’m wrong) courts can set arbitrary dead lines to resolve a case. i think they can impose limits on collecting and presenting evidence if it’s argued that the defendant/plaintiff is stalling for time.

      why wouldn’t they explore all other avenues to explain the result? a lot is on the line. it would make sense to me for a legal team to exhaust every possibility before presenting their case because, presumably, they want it as air tight as possible. maybe his kidneys were to blame? strange things happen to human bodies over a three week grand tour.

      think of how long other cases are arbitrated in the courts: for months? years? there are briefs to draft, motions to file–all taking time to write, deliver, process, review, respond. i have no idea, but my guess is that the judge or court presiding has other cases on their dockets requiring their time as well.

        • It’s not that different, because ultimately CAS decisions can be appealed to the Swiss courts in some circumstances. So while the courts will give the sport tribunals a lot of margin for discretion, there will be certain basic standards that they will have to comply with.

          What will happen is that the anti-doping tribunal (which is independent from UCI) can set deadlines, but then the parties will be able argue against them, and the tribunal will have to consider their arguments properly if they are made in accordance with the rules.

          • It’s very different because normally if you go to normal courts you know that your sporting career is over. Some sports even make this official in their rules (I think that football in Italy does).
            Then, there’s the time factor. Sport justice is relatively fast (and maybe even relatively cheaper) when compared to normal courts.
            Sure, Heras got his Vuelta back. But he was very careful to go and try that when his career had already ended.
            Sport justice, in fact, does *not* usually comply with the principles of general justice, it’s a systematic thing (long list of examples, not just the Heras one above).

          • Any Olympic sport will usually require athletes to go via the sport’s judicial body and then CAS, but CAS is still subject to the Swiss courts. And the reason for successful appeals – which are rare – has generally been procedural unfairness.

            I agree, though, that in the context of Sam’s comment it’s much normally faster than most court systems, as that’s the point of arbitration arrangements generally. If anything, that’s an example of the normal courts not delivering “ordinary justice”.

  6. Don’t know why it will take 5 minutes to scan a bike when an airport can do similar in 5 seconds. Should aim to scan all bikes. Personally I don’t like the idea of subjecting winners to stricter rules than the rest of the peloton… winning shouldn’t be a poisoned chalice.

    • …to expand on this ‘treat all cyclists equally’ thing, would Froome’s salbutomol levels have been tested if he weren’t in red at the time?

      • I hope so, at least in case he was in the top-ten, being an athlete who’s well-known to be taking a potentially performance-enhancing medication. The sort of situation which should be always targeted to keep it under control.

  7. I think the worries about Froome’s grand tour appearances this year will become academic once the racing starts. He didn’t look too hot in Del Sol in TA and I don’t think he was sandbagging. This is just my opinion but I’m expecting him to underperform in the Giro too, most likely he will abandon. His brand is permanently damaged. Again this is just my opinion but I am expecting that his 2018 season will reveal that his 2011-2017 performances were most likely a massive fraud and that the wind has changed and Sky are now a team like any other worldtour team. If I was RCS and the Israeli tourist office I would be thinking about other stars over Froome now, perhaps persuading (with $$$) Nibali and/or Uran, Landa, Quintana to ride against Dumoulin and Aru.

    • Another reason for underperformance is Froomesickle is now 31 and Dumolin/Landa/Bardet are 27. Everyone ages at different paces, but it is very clear that most athletes change significantly as you get over 30. In cycling, the smallest changes are magnified as even 0.5% in power-to-weight ratio can lead to you blowing up if you try to keep up with the peak athletes.

      Also, needless to say Froome has just completed the most stressful winter of his Tour winning years (so we think). It is my impression that Froome is very more concerned with the public’s opinion of him so reading all the opinions (such as yours’) would be very tough to take and would affect training.

      • Right, it’s aging. But more likely that he has to play by the rules now, even if he wriggles out of the Salbutamol case without a suspension, his “preparation” will have changed. He won’t be at the pointy end of either the Giro or the Tour..

        • C’mon chaps, have a little sympathy.
          Whatever you think of his case, and obviously many already have pre-judged, the whole thing must be a huge weight on his mind and invades into every facet of his life at the moment.
          He’s under massive strain, and yet I admire his fortitude to front up.

          • I’ve no idea how he feels about it, though as a wealthy elite athlete he is probably shielded from the worst of it by team management, agents and lawyers. For myself I’m happy about it, more open racing seems to be on the cards and It seems plenty of other fans feel the same way.

          • I’m sure you would be writing the same about Contador racing the Giro 2011 with the burden of his impending case or Valverde even being forced not to race in Italy before his final DSQ… yet, he was still racing elsewhere in the while. Admirable fortitude ^__^
            It’s not like I don’t agree, at least partially… perhaps I’d just switch “admirable” with “extraordinary”.

  8. I understand that Froome feels he has done nothing wrong, and he is certainly acting completely within the existing rules to contest the Salbutamol finding, whilst continuing to complete.

    I do wonder if it might have been best for Froome, his team and the sport if he had desisted from competition whilst contesting the findings. It would allow Froome to concentrate on the issue 100%, the team to re-organize its race programme and the sport to be free of yet another unwelcome distraction.

    A year off would potentially allow Froome to be competitive for longer than would otherwise be the case.

    It’s all another unwelcome mess. The rules certainly require revision, in order that the sport doesn’t find ourselves in a similar position yet again.

    • You make some good points, BC.

      If he had pulled out of competition, it would have benefitted his team and the sport. And if he is banned, it would be retroacted to to the date he removed himself.

      This situation would be so much simpler if they simply made a rule that removed riders with adverse findings until their cases were resolved. That would likely speed up the process as well.

    • Here’s why he doesn’t. He’s over 30 and has precious little years left to get that 5th tour. If he presses on, wins the giro and the tour (number 5!), get suspended in July/August – which is most likely, he loses the Vuelta but keeps the giro and the tour. He sits out 10 months (comes back for tour next year) – 12 months (the Vuelta next year) if he wins the Vuelta he has the whole set and retires. He just needs to get the decision date occurring after July 29 and it will have very little affect on him – in respect of his racing and palmares (not reputation – clearly)

  9. Sick of seeing news regarding Bouhanni. I would say since 2016 his wins are far too infrequent for the media attention he commands. He’s like the Kim Kardashian of bicycle racing.

    I’ve got a laundry list of sprinters I would put my faith in before I wagered on him.

  10. Lappartient needs to focus on the future… Sky slipped through a TUE loop hole, so it’s now too late – rather than wasting time bleating about it, he needs to make sure it is now closed. Similarly with Froome. He’s excercising his right to race as they currently stand – we may all not like it, and it’s a rubbish situation for the sport, so rather than pointless statements he can’t back up, he needs to focus on sorting out the rule book with time limits or whatever so we dont have to go through this again in 3yrs time with someone else.
    and I imagine if the ASO try to ban Froome it’ll end up in CAS and expensive lawyers and Froome on the start line…

  11. Bored of multiple Tour “winners” Indurain, Pharmstrong, Froome! they all become boring after the first couple of wins and their teams become boring too. I won’t be sorry to see the back of Froome but I would rather he was beaten fair n square.

  12. Does anyone actually know whether or not Froome gets to keep his results if he is banned?
    E.g. Should he win the, let’s say, the Giro, does he get to keep that title?
    Normally, that would be the case, of course, but I’ve heard people say that it’s different for AAV’s.
    I have now read so many conflicting opinions on this (Froome, for instance, says that he will – which does suggest that his tactic is stall, win the races, then take the ban, and/or retire), but have yet to hear anything definitive. Anyone?

      • If eventually suspended, he would keep all results – except the event the problematic sample came from – to the date of his suspension. He is not suspended as it is a specified substance and any suspension would not be backdated – unlike Contador.

        As the AAF process is, at this point, supposed to be confidential it is hard to see how CAS would allow him to be excluded from events simply because the guardian and le monde published the fact of the confidential process. Exclusion from events would be hard not to see as many a harsh punishment for having his confidentiality breached.

        • It’s not clear but the principle is that all results are stripped. The relevant rule (10.8) says:

          all other competitive results of the athlete obtained from the date a positive Sample was collected… .. through the commencement of any Provisional Suspensio or Ineligibility period, shall, unless fairness requires otherwise, be disqualified

          So if suspended all results from Los Machucos onwards are disqualified… unless “fairness requires otherwise” which is the odd bit. Is it fair to strip Froome of 34th place in Tirreno on the basis of one salbutamol test from September? But if the delays to the case were to be from his side then it could swing the other way.

          • Oh right, well then my post above is certainly not the case.

            It would be hard to be motivated to be training hard if you were of the view that it was likely that any results you achieved would be wiped out. Maybe this explains his recent form

      • Thanks to both: UCI rules, as ever, clear as treacle.
        I’m not a fan of lawyers, particularly, but the UCI seems to need some decent ones in order to draft rules that are unambiguous.

  13. Froome is truly becoming the “turd in the punchbowl” at the pro cycling 2018 party. But he’s the only one who can’t see (or smell) this? A rule technicality lets him show up at the start line despite the previous examples of Petacchi and Ulissi who were banned. ASO is probably the only organization with deep pockets and powerful lawyers to match SKY/Froome so I hope the speculation about them un-inviting him turns out to be true. And if true and SKY/Froome somehow prevail at CAS, might it set off the cataclysmic action by ASO to start the new pro cycling program that the likes of Velon (whatever happened to them…have they saved pro cycling yet?) have had their chamois-in-a-bunch for years about?

    • I think we can assume that ASO is just posturing to put pressure on the UCI to resolve the case. Any unilateral action by the ASO would be extremely hazardous and possibly financially ruinous-such unilateral action would be contrary to the rules of the UCI,and, worse,be against the rules relating to the free movement of labour as enshrined in the Treaty of Rome-As such the ASO would not be able to rely on the French courts to protect them as such complaints would be heard before the European Court of Justice in the Hague and the financial penalties for breaching the the rules relating to the free movement of labour can be extreme. To use the poker analogy this would be overplaying your hand,and worse the corporate sharks would smell blood in the water-You DO NOT litigate if you cant afford to lose.Hopefully the UCI will be able to resolve this and wise heads will prevail.

  14. Not sure on the logic of turning De Panne into a one day race and then moving Dwars Door, yet another mini-Ronde, into its pre-Ronde slot. I might have been in the minority but I really liked De Panne. Its unusual to have a stage race on that terrain that favours the classics men and it was always good to see who was bubbling up in time for the big show. It feels like there is a bit of overkill with very similar races in the build up to Flanders, and I’m not sure it does Flanders Classics biggest event any favours. Having so many similar races in the build up could be seen to de-value the main event. I’m not saying there cant be tonnes of one day races in Belgium, they just don’t all need to be World Tour I suppose. But I don’t think it’ll be long before all races are World Tour. It probably wont be long before I’m facing off against Sagan and co in my local E123. Joking aside, the two genuine classics for me in Flemish Belgium are De Ronde, obviously, and Gent-Wevelgem. The rest are semi-classics, in my opinion.

    • Unrestrained globalisation isn’t the only “enemy” of local races – other local powers can be even worse. The experience of Fignon facing ASO after he had bought Paris-Nice was telling.

      In this case, the Dwars door Vlaanderen belongs to the “Flanders Classics” group. It was an interesting but clearly secundary semiclassic – it wasn’t even HC until 2013. But its powerful owners recently decided that it deserved to be pushed up to WT level, and then kicked it into that more favourable slot between Gand and Ronde.
      In fact, the previous week isn’t suitable at all for a three days race as De Panne was, given that you’ve got a big race in a different country on Sunday and the most important among the lesser classics on Friday, that is Harelbeke.
      This decision was pure nonsense, Waregem (as I still tend to call the DdV even if now that’s only the name of the U23 version) could work quite well where it was, while De Panne can’t make it the other way around.
      De Panne’s organiser famously said that he wasn’t going to sell the race or to sell the format until he was alive. He died in 2015.
      It’s a shame. That was a really interesting race, with two slightly different types of sprint, ITT and cobbles, an uncommon format which worked really well, providing emotional racing both day by day and – however incredible that may seem – for the GC. It was exceptionally good to tune form before Flanders. It was he sort of mix which Eneco Tour has been trying to mimic with mixed fortunes.
      Frankly, as the UCI is managing the calendar, here they have a way to help smaller races! This is the sort of situation they should prevent – and they’ve also got the power to do it, for once, at least on paper. De Panne was also more or less working from an economic POV. It really doesn’t deserved this, even more so if you think that nobody, except perhaps the “Flanders Classics” group, is going to benefit from the situation. Surely not cycling as a whole, and not even Waregem itself, as a race, I mean. It won’t get that much better, even if I can imagine that the organisers’ objective is to make of it another Harelbeke, which might be good for their wallet, but still presents all the downsides Richard S and inrng have pointed out above.

      Agreed about the lack of planification in WT, it looks like that’s only about blindly following the fast money (stress on “blindly”).
      And, of course, the Belgian cobbles could be easily ordered, IMHO at least…
      Ronde > Gand > insert space here > E3 > (Brabantse Pijl – actually sort of an aside) > Het Volk > Kuurne > insert space here > De Panne > Waregem > Scheldeprijs > insert space here > Le Samyn > Nokere Koerse > Dwars door West-Vlaanderen > Handzame Classic
      You’ll easily observe how UCI classification doesn’t always agree with me… but I could bring arguments, dunno about theirs.
      I’d be curious to know what do local fans think about it.

      • I would put gent wevelgem together with Het Volk en E3 (Het Volk being above E3). I would downgrade Kuurne to the Waregem group. But for the rest I pretty agree.

        • They have become as big a deal with their World Tour status. In fact I think it was van Avarmaet who said Het Volk/Nieuwsblad was the next biggest race in Flanders after De Ronde. But to me they are 200km and Gent-Wevelgem is 250+. That makes it a proper classic.

        • I might see the opportunity of introducing a further “spacer” between Ronde and Gand, if anything, but the Gand isn’t at all comparable with the “lower” group. The fact of being (or having been) more sprinter-oriented can indeed “reduce” so to say the value of a race, but – IMHO – not to the point of changing its “category”.

          The Gand is way older than the rest, in fact it’s the only one besides the Ronde which was born before WWII, among the best Belgian cobbled classics. And, even more important, as Richard pointed out, there’s a significant difference in length.
          Some would go as far as to say that it’s the only true classic besides the Ronde, the rest being semiclassics. I wouldn’t be that radical, I think that they’re classics until Kuurne included, the rest being semiclassics.

          Other factors: early internationalisation, which is paramount. The Belgian are and maybe always will remain the best, yeah, but what’s the level of competition? Is the rest of the world interested in testing themselves on these roads?
          We’ve got more or less convincing stats about the level of a race for the last 20 years or so, but international qualified participation says a lot about the past.

          The Gand was won by 15 different nationalities (7 countries winning more than once), and the Belgian’s got a 62% of victories. Its internationalisation started clearly in the second half of the 70s.
          The E3’s got a 64% of Belgian victories, the totale being 12 countries (5 repeating victories). It became more international at the very end of the 70s.
          The Omloop’s got an impacting 77% Belgian wins. It’s been divided among 9 countries (4 with at least a couple of wins). International winner started to show up with at least decent frequency in the 80s.
          The Kuurne sits at 74%, 10 different countries won it (4 winning more than once). International winner appeared in the 80s.
          Waregem’s been win by Belgian 75% of the time. 7 different countries won it, only Belgium and the Netherlands have multiple wins, even if foreign winners showed up as early as mid-70s.

          Another key factor: the quality of each race’s historical top winners (3 or more wins).

          For the Gand, they’re Van Looy, Merckx, Boonen and Cipollini. The strongest complete sprinter ever, the strongest rider ever, the strongest cobble specialist ever and the strongest pure sprinter ever (sharing the title with Cav?). Van Eenaeme also won it three times, but two of them were before WWII and reserved to indipendent riders, which isn’t the same thing.

          For the E3, we’ve got Van Looy, Raas, Boonen and Cancellara. For the Omloop, it’s Sterckx (not Merckx ^__^), Bruyère and Van Petegem. At the Kuurne, it’s just Boonen (Planckaert, Museeuw, Tchmil, De Vlaeminck at 2). Waregem’s got only 2-times winner, Terpstra, Eeckhout and Hoffman.

          I think that the difference is so coherent and well-marked through the whole ranking that there’s little margin for the debate, under these specific conditions, I mean. Other different POVs might constitute arguments for a different order, but I’m pretty much convinced by the above.

        • Let me add some data about the more recent perception and value of these races. The first test might be checking their respective Wiki pages’ length and available languages ^__^… as a measure of current public interest. A quick check appears to confirm my general proposal above.

          Let’s have a look to the level of participation in the last 20 years or so, thanks to the classic stats websites. The Omloop lived a golden age between 2000 and 2005, while the Gand was facing sort of a short crisis.
          But making the WT and shifting the Gand’s date was decisive to get back to its golden standard (same operation they’re trying now with Waregem? Only, it never was as good as the Gand).

          For the last 13 years, the Gand has been *consistently* superior to the Omloop except for 2010 when for some reason the Omloop startlist proved notable and just slightly superior. E3 wasn’t ever at Gand’s level, either, except for 2007 only.

          In the last decade, the avg. syntetic index of Gand is 862, the Omloop’s is 662. And I’m including the Omloop’s exceptional 2010.

          The E3 is a much fairer match for the Omloop, and obviously so (that’s why they belong to the same “group”). E3 had several highs and lows. But in the last two decades, Omloop beat it only in 2009-2011 and in 2001-2005 periods (no Omloop in 2004, actually). 7 years out of 20. Its index for the last decade averages 727.

          Not only the respective hierarchy in historical terms is quite much defined, but also their status in the last 20 years, despite the short-lasting Omloop triumph in the first part of the years 2000.

          Let’s now check what about Kuurne and Waregem. Waregem was better in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2015. Waregem averages 506 in this last decade, the Kuurne 552. Quite similar? Yes and no. It’s the 2018 effect: without it, Waregem would sit at 474, while Kuurne wouldn’t change much (540).

          All in all, the only changes suggested by Irungo which the data might support would be pushing the Kuurne one step down, making it by far the best race of the lower level instead of the worst of its actual group. That is, moving the “void space” between Omloop and Kuurne instead of keeping it between Kuurne and Waregem. It could make sense.

          OTOH, I still sense a huge and consistent difference on every level between Gand and the rest. No term of comparison. Of course, we might stress, if one feels that it’s really needed, that the Ronde is a Monument and the Gand isn’t at all. But the gap between the latter and the rest remains evident, especially if we consider – and that’s another “fact” – that in that group E3 is the best one and Omloop (or Kuurne, in case we don’t put the gap there) the worst.

          • I agree with all of this, including ‘pushing the Kuurne one step down, making it by far the best race of the lower level instead of the worst of its actual group’ – which is lucky because if I did disagree I would never be able to front-up to your stat attack.

  15. In previous TDF’s its been quite gentlemanly towards Sky from the other teams, if not over the top but fair amount of respect.
    Whats the general opinion will the other teams give them a harder time, Froome has been given a armchair ride on a few occasions, the sky train set such a high tempo etc, we cant compete etc etc
    I have thought for a time now that if teams work together (cant remember stage in the Vuelta Contador and Quintanta, do that daily they surely cant keep it up)then crack sky then fight between themselves for the GC.
    The peloton doesn’t seem to be anti sky but riders cant be happy about it behind closed doors. Will this blood in the water be enough for a mentality change against Sky.

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