Thursday Shorts

A new UCI rule (2.3.025) says soigneurs must stand no more than one metre from the kerb when handing up musettes to riders in the feedzone. The problem is self-fulfilling where once a soigneur stands in the road, the next must stand a little further out in order to be see and be seen and with, say, 20 teams in race the feedzone becomes an obstacle course.

The idea is noble, to stop staff from crowding the road and getting in the way of the race. But in practice? Who will be there to measure the gap, it’s unlikely commissaires will be there with measuring tapes but the most egregious examples could see fines imposed, especially via the new video truck (to pre-empt the “it’s a UCI money spinner” comment, remember race fines levied go to the local federation). So it’s a nice idea, hard to enforce, but could help. Ideally the whole idea of concept of handing up food could be redesigned, not just the amount by which soigneurs stand in the road but the space between them. Why not have zones of 25 metres per team and maybe set an order to the teams? Anything to create more space and order in this chaotic moment.

Onto rule changes that are more serious and the MPCC group of teams is calling for more blood tests and for them to be done closer to the start and finish of a race. It follows a conversation with Georg Preidler who rode for two member teams Sunweb and FDJ prior to be banned in the wake of Operation Aderlass. He seems to have informed them about his methods and the implication is he was able to infuse red blood cells prior to racing and then drain off blood soon after. But if the blood test on riders is at 8.00am and the race starts at midday then there’s a wide window after the tests to infuse stored blood. It makes sense and shouldn’t be too hard to do as it’s just changing the timing. A bit harder but testing riders more randomly during the off-season can help too as it’s expensive and awkward for blood dopers to keep up their profiles; the same for riders going to “altitude training” camps at relatively low altitude, this can be a ruse to game the profiles.

Staying with anti-doping and the UCI is looking at moving its anti-doping operation, the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation, into the International Testing Agency (ITA). The ITA is an agency created by the International Olympic Committee to help run anti-doping programmes for sports federations, the idea being that an outside agency can manage conflicts of interest better and also because the agency can cover several sports at once it can make savings on shared costs like admin, rent and so on. It sounds useful… only cycling’s CADF is doing a reasonable job so far and it looks like the imperative to fold the CADF into the ITA is from UCI President David Lappartient with allegations this will get him into the good books of the IOC because a medium size federation would bolster the ITA’s operations substantially. Some teams are making noises against this but it’s surely not for them to decide, no more than a chemicals producer should get in deciding how environmental regulations applied to them? But the CADF doesn’t get much of a say either and the IOC isn’t going to mediate.

The UCI has buried the “Classics Series”. How many people knew what this was? The UCI’s own definition is “around 20 one-day races, among the most prestigious or organised in strategic countries, will make up the UCI Classics Series” and all these were among the World Tour, so in short it was a pooled series of the World Tour one day races. There was even talk of pooled TV rights so that the series could be packaged, sold and broadcast as a whole. At first glance something that few knew or cared about not happening is barely news but the underlying disputes between the UCI and the Velon teams is behind this and so the story is once again one of stalemate and pro cycling in 2020 and 2022 should look a lot like it did in 2012.

Lastly on the UCI, they announced the World Tour teams for 2020 and Mitchelton-Scott don’t yet have a licence. Rhe new season is just over a month away. Sometimes though this can be due to some missing paperwork rather than anything more fundamental and nobody seems in a flap about this so hopefully it’s resolved otherwise they’re suddenly a Pro Team, the new name for Pro Conti, if they’re lucky.

  • Update – Thursday evening: World Tour licences for the men’s and women’s teams have been issued.

The 2020 release came out and several teams saw name changes, like Wanty Gobert becoming Circus-Wanty Gobert as existing sponsor Circus moves up to become a naming partner. Naming rights are valuable and expensive and ought to be a big deal… only the first we heard of several team name changes was the UCI press release rather than teams breaking the news.

WADA has banned Russia but this doesn’t mean Russians are banned. It’s more of a ban on the country and its sports officials than athletes and as long as cyclists like Ilnur Zakarin or Pavel Sivakov can get clearance that they’re not on the (manipulated) computer files then they’re clear to ride under a neutral flag at the Olympics.

Enough sports admin, some good news about the open road: the Poggio is viable. Closed after torrential rains had led to big crack in the road on the first ramp, the road was then partially closed. Now it’s open. Works are still needed but if the road is usable on a temporary basis today then it should be ok for Milan-Sanremo next March… barring any more natural disasters.

This blog’s Roads to Ride section is popular as people browse for the famous roads. A recurrent question is when to visit the high mountain passes. June to October is the simple answer, spring may begin in February for the likes of the Poggio and reach Flanders by April but the big Alpine passes are typically closed until late May and often still bitterly cold at the top.

Lastly the 2024 Paris Olympic games will hold the surfing contest in Tahiti, halfway around the world. Why not hold the road cycling events elsewhere in France rather than the current plan to lap Paris and its suburbs? Already there’s talk of alternative venues for the MTB events but that Paris will still come out on top. Maybe it’s time for the sprinters to have a chance but the risk is the longest events of the Olympic Games are only worth watching for the final kilometres. Imagine a 250km one day race across the Alps or Pyrenees…

50 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

  1. Talking of the paris olympics, are there no hilly areas near paris that the race could utilise? for the london olympics they went into the surrey hills and did several ascents of box hill, which although not much of a climb did have some effect in making the race a little more selective.

  2. We get plenty of questions about the famous Italian passes as well. For these I suggest mid-June to mid-September, but leave out August entirely as every Italian who can escape the cities (and doesn’t like the beach) goes up to the mountains, taking a lot of what they’re trying to escape with them.

    • Yep, I made the mistake of going to Bormio in August 2015! Was like cycling in a Moto GP race!!! Didn’t even get to do Stelvio coz of a landslide 🙁

      • Yep, even in July we moved our Passo Stelvio (from the side Fausto and Co. always climbed) day from a Sunday to a Monday just to avoid a lot of the boy-racers up there. The moto guys are bad enough but one year some a-holes in two-seat, open top sports cars (with Swiss plates) were actually racing up the damn thing – side by side! I was tempted to throw some rocks at them.
        One thing I learned about the moto guys – when you get tired of them buzzing past way-too-close, put your left arm out as you hear them roaring up from behind. They’ll move over if they’re not complete a-holes but even if they are, they often move over anyway, as your arm could (by accident of course) come in contact with their front brake lever.
        A few years ago I read somewhere about the Sella, Gardena, Pordoi, etc, folks trying to do something to stop the wannabee Valentino Rossi’s from ruining everyone else’ experience on their roads, but I never heard any more about it.

        • it was the noise that really irked me… I did the Stelvio on a relatively quiet day, but you can hear the noise ringing round the valley even when the motorbikes are miles away…

          • Our local climb, the Ballon d’Alsace, is similarly afflicted with two-wheeled noise pollution and anti-social behaviour (although the Audi A5 trying to keep up with the moro-boys possibly takes the biscuit). Last summer, meandering up the Northern side I became aware of a slowly approaching bedlam as something wound its way up the climb below me. It eventually appeared in the shape of a fully-faired Harley with straight through pipes and speakers in the fairing, playing cheesy 80s US soft-rock loud enough that the rider (wearing a full-face hemet) could hear it over the noise of the engine! Rude gestures duly ensued, but I was truly gratified on reaching the top a few minutes later to see the offending bike surrounded by so many walkers giving the rider the up close and personal explanation for their extreme displeasure that he was still there 15-minutes later after I’d finished my coffee and departed. Only in France…

    • A Roubaix-Paris would start with cobbles and end up with plain roads… but you could have a Flandrien twist for the Olympics with the sort of roads used by Paris-Roubaix, the Four Days of Dunkerque. I suspect municipal pride means it’s Paris-Paris but just as there are plenty of surf spots in in France they still went for Tahiti, they could pick an equivalent legendary location for cycling.

      • Not sure if it’s municipal pride, as much as the fact that the Olympics are awarded to cities, not countries, and their bid documents need to show how they will host the events in their cities. Exceptions are allowed where geography requires it – most obviously for the sailing and surfing – but generally the IOC wants to have as many events as possible in and around the host city itself. Not least because they like the concept of a single Athletes Village (and no doubt it’s easier to control the advertising the closer venues are together).

        • After the humiliation of being forced to accept all cycling events outside of Tokyo (other than the road race start line in the outer suburbs), I reckon the UCI will hold very firm on insisting that all cycling events be held in Paris and the surrounding area.

          Long term, I’d like to see the balance flipped around so that a more sustainable Olympics would have only a handful of sports at the central event (blue ribbon sports of athletics, swimming and gymnastics every time, plus a handful of other sports on rotation) and the rest of the sports would hold their Olympic events at a variety of locations earlier in the year. The top three placegetters in the sports held elsewhere would have their prize giving ceremonies as part of the central event.

        • Fair point but they don’t mind exceptions, see the marathon for Tokyo, especially on cost grounds as part of Bach’s “2020 Agenda”. I just saw the surfing going to one of the best waves in the world and was trying to imagine the chance to make one of the best midsummer one day races possible.

  3. the Paris Olympics organisers could resurrect the Paris- Bordeaux race, would be more interesting than laps round the champs Elysees for the second time that year.

  4. Time and circumstances do not allow for measuring anything on the soigneurs and I doubt – although I will ask the organiser – that he has any available to ensure and -force this rule. Easiest I believe will be to draw a line along the road like the press has it at arrival. Well, all particiants and DS’s are asked to pass “avec prudence” and I seriously doubt any incidents are malintended. They are just race inherent incidents, me thinks.
    Slightly on the silly side, this rule.

    • its about having a rule, so that when people do blatantly stupid things there is a simple mechanism for penalising them. nobody will care if a soigneur is 110cm past the kerb. however previously you could be as far out as you liked and there was no straightforward basis on which to say that is wrong and should be penalised. now, anybody clearly more than a metre out can be penalised if the officials think it warranted.

      yes, it will be another selectively enforced UCI rule but in this case i think that is appropriate

    • I tend to agree. Did this just start happening this year? They couldn’t have simply said (and again at each pre-race meeting) “OK guys, please tell your helpers out on the road to leave enough room for everyone to pass at the feed zones, some of you are getting way-too-far out and in-the-way. If we see (or get reports of) serious interference your team faces penalties, blah, blah, blah.”
      Or did someone demand to know exactly how far from the kerb their people could stand? I guess at that point the’d have to draw a line, literally and figuratively?

      • Race directors already do this stuff in team managers’ briefings all the time.

        My guess is that the rule has been amended because a UCI commissaire tried to enforce it and found that the existing regulations were too loose

        In the general sense this is a correct course of action: a rule that can’t be enforced is a bad rule, and bad rules need to be either fixed (i.e. turning them into good rules that can be enforced) or deleted.

        Whether this specific change will work is up in the air. There are two potential problems with it:
        1. there’s no clear link between the amended rule 2.3.025 and a penalty in the disciplinary regulations
        2. it will likely be undermined by races issuing their own more specific instructions or even including feed zone procedures in the event regulations.

        • This rule will work – just like the one they put in awhile back to prevent mechanics hanging out the window of the team’s car to fix something on the bike as they zoom down the road with the rider holding on.

          • I guess we’ll find out when the first penalty is successfully applied.

            If I remember correctly, the ‘adjusting the derailleur’ ban was more a case of teams being put on notice of how the existing rule would be interpreted and enforced rather than a rule being introduced or rewritten.

            In my opinion, a similar course of action would have been suitable in this case too instead of writing a specific procedure into the rule book.

            I guess the difficult bit is telling which race directors should be trusted to write their own procedures as appropriate for the local conditions and which race directors need things to be spelled out very specifically. The TDU, for example, could have double sided feed zones as many of the towns along the routes have very wide main streets from the days of horse drawn wagon trains.

  5. Just you lot wait, until the UCI bring in sock length rules for soigneurs. It can only be a matter of time.
    I suspect that they’ll be dope testing some of them next.

    It’s all about priorities y’know………

    • Dope testing the socks or the guys at the roadside with the musettes? 🙂
      Remember the old story about the rider worried about passing the pee test, so he “borrowed” what he thought was some clean pee from the team’s truck driver only to test positive for the methamphetamine the truck driver had used to stay awake on a long drive? The story was this “clean” pee was “installed” into the rider using a catheter, so he could provide his sample without the risks others had taken with squeeze bulbs and rubber tubing. I can’t even imagine someone going to this extreme, but that’s why they have the chaperones at the finish line keeping an eye on competitors until they provide their test samples. What a world!!!

        • That’s an old one: “You passed the dope test and congratulations – you’re pregnant!” I didn’t see anything about how he managed to supply the sample in a way that didn’t arouse some suspicions – the catheter idea creeps me out.

          • It wasn’t a random test, it was required by the local authorities as part of his application to be naturalised and play in Bosnia as a local rather than an import.

          • Why does that make any difference? I thought some authority was supposed to observe the sample being given to avoid any chicanery (hence the catheter scheme)? Did they let this guy just walk in with a jar of urine to be tested? The only time I ever took one (employment related rather than sport) things were pretty lax, someone could have easily supplied a sample carried in via a flask in his/her pocket but I thought WADA-type test protocols pretty strict.

          • It means that he could walk in already prepared, in a way that he couldn’t have done if it was a no notice test out of competition or at the conclusion of a match.

            I don’t really want to speculate on the method of preparation that was involved.

  6. The fantastic Jacky Durand did something in his race, the Boucles de la Mayenne, about the feedzones. The soigneurs have each a zone pictured on the ground, based on the team classification, and have to stay in their areas. It was some years ago : I don’t know if it’s still the case.

  7. Mitchelton-Scott WT and WWT licences are now confirmed. It was probably just the usual friction associated with the processing of the bank guarantee for pro teams from countries outside Europe.


    CADF should be actively engaging in the process of merging into ITA, as it would be insane to not pool those resources. Given the role of CADF as a smaller scale forerunner of ITA, it would be entirely appropriate for the UCI to suggest that an ITA board appointment be made available as well as staff transferring.

    • Mitchelton’s OK now, but it seems there was a lot ginned up before the confirmation with riders on that team linked to many others in case the whole thing collapsed. Makes me think a few rider agents started smelling commissions in the water?
      But ya gotta wonder how long Jerry Ryan(?) will spend his fortune(s) on this team? Is Australia in the same situation as Italy when it comes to big-money commercial sponsorships for cycling? Every season now it seems more corrupt, autocratic governments and/or rich cycling fans get into the show, taking the place of real business interests who see the sport as valuable advertising worth the expense.

  8. Thanks for those briefs!

    I’m not surprised at the soigneur rule, we’ve seen several times this season people handing bidons literally in the middle of the road, forcing even small groups to split. Coupled with teams basically choosing their own feed zones (and riders from other teams not expecting them) it was leading to chaos. I have a specific scene in mind with a soigneur this season refueling a teammate in a breakaway, and crossing the entire road, he came really close to taking the whole group down – even though it was a breakaway, and team cars were right behind. And then there was that Bora soigneur on the Tour that fell heavily after avoiding GvA.

    I remember TV pundits at the time stating that teams should get fined for it, but that no rule existed to fine them. Not sure if it was true, but this does look like a hotfix.

    Regarding the IPA, the IOC certainly is keen for the agency to hit the ground running, since it’s supposed to be self-sufficient in the long term, and in the meanwhile the IOC will be partially funding it. I don’t see it as a bad thing, especially if they can use expertise from different sports to improve the target values – not that the CADF was incapable of it, but it seems easier to follow doping tactics in other sports if you’re doing the testing for those sports too. Saving money on testing would mean more testing, especially for smaller feds or in less developed countries, which is a great step.

    I don’t have an opinion on the quality of the testing itself (how could I?) but the people steering it seem competent. There was an article about the ITA recently in French paper Le Monde, a few names will be familiar if you follow French politics or sports admin:

    On naming “revelations”, could it be that teams that are changing names wanted to make sure that the licence would be granted before going public? Circus is a betting company and I think they need special permission to be used as title sponsor, and the Israel-Start-up team may have wanted to confirm that they could obtain the Katusha licence while most of the Katusha riders will be out of contract? It might pay to be prudent, just to make sure you don’t have to backtrack your big announcements from a week before because of some misfiled paperwork?

    It’s good that the Poggio is fixed (but flooding and landslides can still occur, the weather is pretty chaotic over there right not). However, I was never a fan of that ride. If you happen to be around San Remo, I’d recommend heading in the direction of Nice, the “corniche” road on the cliff side is spectacular and traffic is manageable outside of the summer months. It’s a good ride, you can adjust the distance easily, and if you’re feeling brave, the Col d’Èze is not as easy as it looks on paper.

    I’d love to see a proper climbing race for the 2024 olympics, but they’ll want to stick to the Paris region whenever possible. Obviously, it was hard to imagine hosting surfing in Paris… But according to the reaction of other candidate hosts for the surfing events, Tahiti had been chosen long before the official process started. Maybe just sour grapes.

  9. On the ABP theme, does the Domingos Gonçalves case dating from 2016 and 2018 mean that interpretation, based on intelligence from the Aderlass case, is now more confident and more sensitive? Was his ABP reviewed in the light of Preidler’s testimony?

    • Or it could be done alphabetically by team name, or by the race numbers etc.

      If there’s a suitably wide section of road (e.g. a good quality highway, or a wide main street in a town) you could even go for a double sided feed zone with 10-12 teams on one side of the road and 10-12 teams on the other.

      I think we will continue to see race directors giving their own more specific instructions as well as the new version of the UCI rule.

  10. Wondered where that lead photo came from. Looked cold. Quick search for Campo Ligure was enough. Must be just before Passo Turchino in Milan-San Remo. Mid-March. Looks about right.

  11. Interesting that UCI has now dropped the Classics Series. I think I remember reading that UCI were causing problems for Velon saying that they couldn’t use the word “series” in the Hammer races. Does this mean Velon’s lawyers prevailed in the argument? If so is the UCI climbdown a sign of things to come?

      • Verbruggen-McQuaid-Cookson were all different versions of the same corruption.

        I have some sympathy for McQuaid as he did start to think for himself and try to do the right thing in the last couple of years that he was the president of the UCI. It cost him his job, as the key numbers man Igor Makarov pulled his support and swung it over to Cookson.

        I certainly don’t think that the Lappartient team is perfect, but at least they appear to be not just a Cookson cover band.

    • I think it’s more the teams didn’t support the series so it’s been dropped rather than a legal matter, the plan of the series involved the teams and races signing up to a sort of pact but the extent of this varies, it’s all behind closed doors for now.

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if race organisers were also sceptical about the benefits they would receive in return for handing over so much control of their assets to the UCI.

        There were always going to be winners and losers from the proposal for the UCI to coordinate a single TV rights deal.

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