The Vuelta’s started with a bang and we’re back to “tapas cycling” where there’s often a tasty morsel every day. It’s the most unpredictable of grand tours and this year’s route should spice things up a touch more as in recent years they’ve often ridden straight to the foot of the day’s summit finish, this time there’s more climbing in advance of the final climb. And yes the Vuelta has an official beer this year.
One team not raising a glass last night, unless to drown sorrows, was Ineos which had a rough day yesterday with GC hopes Wout Poels and Tao Geoghegan Hart losing over nine minutes. Presumably they will now look to make amends by stage hunting.
L’Equipe writes (€) that the late switch of Kenny Elissonde wasn’t down to the Spanish media berating Ineos for not picking Spanish rider, but because David de la Cruz is out of contract. Movistar won’t sign him and so he needs a ride to prove his use and so his agent Giuseppe Acquadro – who is also the agent for several others on the team – asked if his rider could start in order to prove his worth and so Elissonde got bumped. True or gossip? Until Ineos explain why it’s a good hypothesis.
There won’t be daily stage previews of the Vuelta here. After holidays which meant this blog has been a bit slow of late… now it’s time to pack up, move house and then there are works to do in the new place so the laptop won’t come out amid the cement and sawdust. Of all the blog posts, stage previews take by far the most time to type up with the route checking before (rule 1: bin the roadbook and ride the route for yourself, if you can’t then map it) and there won’t be enough time for it. This blog will stay fairly quiet from here into September.
Readers have asked about Jumbo-Visma’s recruitment of Tom Dumoulin and how the team will cope with so many top level riders. As the cliché goes “it’s a nice problem to have” as they’ve clear got motivated sponsors with flexible budgets, even if the reported budget is €20 million, still half that of Team Sky last year. It can help to have two leaders for each grand tour, it provides internal competition where riders know there’s no automatic right to start, say, the Tour de France, as leader. Also it’s back-up, whether against injury and illness before a big objective or during the race should one rider falter. Viewed from the outside – and the Vuelta result in Madrid might tilt things – it should be possible to persuade Primož Roglič to try and win the Giro after coming close this year, leaving July open for Tom Dumoulin. But all this depends on the routes as well which will be published in the autumn. There are two differences to Team Ineos trying to juggle multiple grand tour leaders, first is money because millions of Euros can buy loyalty, it’s not meant cynically, simply that riders may know it pays more to stay at Ineos than leave even to be a clear leader elsewhere. Second is Dylan Groenewegen, he’s not been as prolific this year but remains one of the sport’s top sprinters and will want to ride the Tour de France. The way around this is to bring versatile riders who can work in the leadout but also shepherd leaders in the crosswinds and along valley roads and the likes of Wout van Aert and Tony Martin come to mind.
One concern from Dumoulin’s move is breaking the contract. Everyone’s free to change jobs and here Dumoulin, Sunweb and Jumbo-Visma have all shaken hands so people are happy although you suspect Sunweb aren’t exactly beaming here. But put aside the specifics, and in abstract and principle there’s an asymmetry here where if a rider signs a long term deal and starts to feel they’re worth more than their current deal then it won’t take long to see rival teams make enquiries; if they’re struggling then they’ll enjoy the rest of the contract. The simplest way to mitigate against this is not to offer long contracts. Offering long term contracts in the hope a team does come along and “tap up” the rider is Gianni Savio’s model for the Androni team where he signs riders on long term deals – like Egan Bernal – with the hope someone will come and buy them – like Sky paying €300,000 to buy out Bernal. The latest move by Savio sees him signing Alexander Cepeda, winner of final stage of the Tour de l’Avenir.
One rider without a contract so far is Sam Bennett. Long touted to be heading to Deceuninck-Quickstep, he told cyclingnews.com he hasn’t signed yet. Normally his market value ought to be going up as he keeps winning – perhaps today in the Vuelta too – but it’s getting late in the season to land somewhere. Still other teams as well should be interested, especially as he’s not a pretentious rider asking for a big train either, he can often win by himself.
The Katusha team have until mid-September to find a future reports Het Nieuwsblad. But a reminder that teams have to tell their riders in writing by the end of September at the very latest if they’re not going to propose a new contract and generally by then it’s too late anyway. If the jobs market is a game of musical chairs then by mid-September the game is almost up.
Talking of time up, the Tour du Limousin was on TV for the second year running and possibly the last. The race paid for TV coverage but regional government has pulled the plug on the funding leaving the race to crowdfund cash for next year and for all the talk of livestreaming and phones, this type of production makes for a poor viewing experience that only hardcore fans support… and that’s before a race heads into rural zones with barely a signal, let alone 4G coverage. Europe has plenty of “Tour of [Region]” races and several have vanished off the calendar completely, particularly in Spain and Italy. A2gr La Mondiale’s Benoît Cosnefroy was a convincing winner.
Third in Limousin, and 12th in the Tour de France, Guillaume Martin’s going from Wanty-Gobert to Cofidis. Cofidis boss Cedric Vasseur has big ambitions saying Martin could crack the top-5 in the Tour. A fertile imagination? Presumably if Vasseur thinks Martin is this good then hopefully he’s paying him the going rate too.
Staying chez Cofidis Attilio Viviani won the Schaal Sels on Sunday and so is one of the rare stagiaires to win a race and rare triumph for Cofidis. He’s obviously signed because his brother Elia is joining the team next year too but this is no bro deal, he should be a useful addition to the team.
One novelty for stagiaires this year is the compulsory salary, they must be paid the UCI minimum wage on a pro rata basis for their time with the team. Why not just sign them? Because all neo-pros have to get a two year contract, this method still allows a rider and team to work on a trial basis. Still this isn’t needed as much these days. Now teams have development squads, bring riders to their training camps and know a lot more about a rider when they hire them compared to a decade or more ago.
Is Nairo Quintana moving teams? Yes, surely? Only the latest is that Arkea-Samsic team boss Emmanuel Hubert presented his new plan to the board of Arkéa for approval and there’s no news since which is a slight concern given this story has leaked since the start. Arkéa is an umbrella brand for mutually-owned banks in France’s Brittany region and all part of the Crédit Mutuel group which partly owns Cofidis too. It’s probably a formality and perhaps for politeness they’ll wait until the Vuelta ends or a rest day before making it official.
Finally one thing forgotten from the Tour de France wrap-up was to mention Patrick Chassé’s odyssey. A journalist, here working with Europe 1 radio – he covered the Tour via bike and public transport to see if it was possible do a “zero carbon” Tour. It was and the aim wasn’t to ride much at all, often just enough to get to the nearest railway station or bus stop, very much the ordinary commuter rather than a sports cyclist racking up the distance. Despite some long journeys and sketchy connections it worked, he proved a lively host for the evening “Club Tour”. One interesting thing from his account is that the Tour de France flies riders to Paris for the last stage these days because France’s railway company, the SNCF, won’t put on a train in case there’s a strike and the bad image this would send around the world.