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.