Case closed. A year ago it was all comedy rap videos from Astana, now they’ve been on the receiving end with the leaked report. But the CADF has cleared this up now and on the basis of the evidence they’ve got they won’t be taking the matter any further.
We’re not back to where we were before this time last week though. Jakob Fuglsang’s been dunked and if he gets good results this year it’ll be met with suspicion… and if he gets bad results people will be suspicious about his results last year.
One interesting thing from this is the use of private detectives to track riders and others. It’s not new, the UCI was at one point looking to recruit a criminologist but this time the investigation was outsourced to an agency which has been touting its services for the UCI but it could make some think more if they’re skating on thin ice or at least paranoid if they think someone’s watching them.
Talking about thin ice, cyclo-cross in the Winter Olympics? The UCI World Cup for 2020-21 will include a round in Villars, Switzerland, a ski resort with the idea being to demonstrate the sport can be run in cold conditions and on snow and ice. But the Olympics? The topic’s been explored in more detail before here but the short version is the Olympic charter says the winter games can only include sports that are on ice or snow. Of course you can have a cross race on snow but you could also throw a javelin or hold a volleyball tournament. So any inclusion in the Olympics sounds fanciful and that’s before we consider that few nations would support the bid either. But that’s enough cold water (ice?) poured on the idea, what if visiting a ski area turns out to be a money-spinner? Lots of resorts need to differentiate themselves and imagine a round of the World Cup in, say, Alpe d’Huez which is as popular with Dutch tourists in winter as summer. It’d be something to put on the events calendar and could see resorts bidding with more of a premium than the current hosts do.
Keeping with UCI expansion, could it get in on the gravel scene? Ideally not, this is a grass roots sport that is flourishing because of its simplicity and nobody wants to see officials in blazers crashing the party. But more pro riders are involved, brands get investing, races are being bought up by event promoters, and presumably lawyers are getting involved: gravel is getting corporate. With this there’s a need to regulate – see the spat over aero bars – then they’ll be a need for a rulebook, for oversight, anti-doping and before you know it you need a governing body. Maybe not the UCI but something.
Finally on the UCI, it’s binning the Extreme Weather Protocol. Fear not for hot or cold days, it’s now called “The Protocol” and is being expanded to include road surfaces, vehicles in the road convoy, barriers, road signs and more to make it a more comprehensive safety protocol.
Enough sports admin. It was almost a coin-toss picking between Benoît Cosnefroy and Valentin Madouas for the recent “Riders to Watch” and they finished 1-2 in the GP La Marseillaise last Sunday. Expect to see more of both.
Staying in France, there’s long been a lament that there are no more training races, that early season races are increasingly stressful. These days even the obvious smaller events are getting harder. The early season races in France all have “summit” finishes of sorts, the Etoile de Bessèges has a finish on Mont Bouquet this Saturday and the Tour de la Provence even goes up Mont Ventoux in February, albeit to the Chalet Reynard ski station and not the top. The idea is it makes these races more selective and spectacular but means stage races like these are reserved for the stage race specialists when early season races would often reward others.
The Etoile de Bessèges has looked like one of those events hanging on the calendar by a thread but it’s still here. Indeed it’s got plans to be sustainable in the environmental sense and wants to become the “ecological reference point” for bike races. It aims to be carbon neutral by 2023 with hybrid or electric vehicles, measures to protect and value the environment the race takes place in and initiatives to get more people cycling, young and old. It’ll be interesting to see whether this race can achieve it – saying and doing are different things – but also it should serve as a model for others.
Mads Pedersen has extended his contract with Trek-Segafredo through to the end of 2022. It’s notable because teams are tying down their biggest contracts earlier and earlier, it makes sense to know their spending needs ahead and so they can budget. This is happening earlier and earlier, deals that would have been done in the summer started happening in the spring and now are done in winter and some even happen a year or more out. Keep an eye on Ag2r La Mondiale where 18 riders, two thirds of the team, see their contracts up at the end of the year including Oliver Naesen and Romain Bardet.
Ben Perry is a name to remember for fans of cycling trivia and history, or trivial history perhaps. Because the Israel Cycling Academy rider is riding the Herald Sun Tour for the Israel Start Up Nation team making him the first rider under the new rule that allows World Tour teams to draft in riders from their Continental development teams.
Finally what’s Mitchelton-Scott’s budget? Like most teams there’s no public information but each year the teams receive a pack from the UCI that shows the spread of budgets and their position and in a video interview with team owner Gerry Ryan by Ride Media that’s informative several times over, Ryan says his team is tenth in the rankings of World Tour budgets.