Monday Shorts

It was a good openingsweekend. The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was a lively race with a satisfying finish. We saw a big breakaway with 100km to go, then the winning move of seven riders form with over 70km to go and then this was whittled down on the Kapelmuur and Bosberg to a trio. Jasper Stuyven and Yves Lampaert cracked Søren Kragh Andersen on the run to the finish before Stuyven took an important win. He’s had a lot of pressure on his shoulders since turning pro, more when Fabian Cancellara retired. But among the spring classics there’s been only Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne to show for it so far on his palmarès. The Omloop isn’t everything but it puts him in a decent position now.

Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne was improved by the course change, it’s more Flandrien now with fewer laps of the around Kuurne in the finish. Kasper Asgreen must be a fan of the new course, arguably if he had to do more laps the chase behind would have got him because they could measure their efforts… but remember Bob Jungels and Jasper Stuyven have both taken similar solo wins in recent years. Still it’s often been a race reserved for the sprinters only feels less so now. The new course is better, it works especially as it’s the start of the season when we can’t get enough of the cobbled bergs. But it does feel like almost every race in Flanders is coalescing around a similar format with climbs and cobbles thrown in late to split the field. Tomorrow’s Le Samyn has more pavé, the Omloop used the old Tour of Flanders finish, Gent-Wevelgem used to be for the sprinters but has got harder and is now a mini Ronde too and so on. It’s understandable, the same formula applies to the grand tours which are also reducing the number of sprint finishes and adding in lively climbs.

There was racing in France too with the Ardèche and Drome Boucles. Rémi Cavagna did a huge ride to win the Ardèche race on Saturday, a 182km breakaway, much of it solo. Whole teams chasing on the front at one point and the gap barely fell. He got comparisons with Jens Voigt for his breakaway style but he’s also a TT specialist with good technical skills… in a straight line. You might remember his awkward descending in the Tour of California and in the wet last weekend this was evident too. Sunday was less successful for Deceuninck-Quickstep as Julian Alaphilippe struggled in the finish, his hopes for Paris-Nice taking a knock. Was it the cold rain too or is his form short? Simon Clarke showed the better finishing skills to beat Warren Barguil and Vincenzo Nibali after a strong display from the US team and Nibali had been making multiple moves. These are two handy races and attempts to streamlines the calendar don’t work as a large share of the peloton wants hilly races like these as opposed to cobbles.

It seems the UAE Tour was cancelled out of panic and precaution rather than actual cases of Covid-19. Sporting wise we didn’t miss too much, Adam Yates had the GC sewn up and two likely sprint finishes were skipped. Yates has gone from 75-1 to 25-1 for the Tour de France with the bookmakers. Several teams are still in Dubai, unable to get out and unsure what is going on. The Abu Dhabi authorities buy in cultural and sports events because they need to fill their cities with cultural attractions. Only this time in their desire to import some Italian culture they got more than they bargained for.

What next for the sport with the spread of coronavirus? Perhaps the cycling world is rather trivial compared to a public health epidemic that might become a pandemic but it’s this blog’s niche and you haven’t come here for the virology so let’s explore the narrow angle. Already other sports have seen games postponed, matches held inside the stadium without spectators and other restrictions. So far pro cycling isn’t interrupted. Italian race organiser RCS has told the teams today that Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo are going ahead. The teams need to know this in order to pack gear from their service course into their trucks and head for Italy in the coming days. But that’s only because nothing has been cancelled by the authorities so far. Cancellations of events are rarely voluntary from event promoters at the moment, instead they’re happening because of national and regional decisions by governments and health authorities.

Meanwhile in Paris,A ASO, the rival race organiser to RCS,  has seen an event halted. Not cycling but running as the Paris Half Marathon was supposed to happen last weekend but didn’t. However it’s been postponed to an unknown date for the moment which is good as it is signalling current problems will be overcome… handy too as it means tens of thousands of entry fees do not have to be refunded for the time being.

If the virus does spread and cause races to be postponed for public health reasons it’s the tiny events with shoestring finances outside of the financial umbrella of RCS, ASO and Flanders Classics that are at the greatest risk. The other risk is to riders who risk finding themselves in repeat of the UAE scenario where they or possibly a third party in a hotel or aircraft comes down with symptoms and people are quarantined or told to “self isolate”, as in stay at home for a fortnight. But all this is up the air, nobody knows.

Photo credits: Jasper Stuyven in Ninove by Tim de Waele/Getty Sport via team press release; Royal Bernard Drome Classic podium by James Startt / Agence ZOOM via race press release

77 thoughts on “Monday Shorts”

  1. “So far pro cycling isn’t interrupted.”

    Well, apart from the UAE race you just mentioned?

    Interesting that Milan-San Remo’s still on. The whole of Lombardy is in the “yellow zone” where sporting events have been banned for coming week. Presumably RCS are relying on the fact that the Government has been imposing restrictions on a week-by-week basis, so MSR won’t be banned for a couple of weeks?

  2. Fingers crossed and wood touched (along with iron) for the Italian races, especially Milano-Sanremo. I have some optimism since the Duomo in Milano has been reopened to visitors though La Scala has been closed. My hope is outdoor vs indoor is the difference but politics outweighs science in Italy as much as anywhere so as they say here, VEDIAMO or more accurately VEDREMO.

  3. Enjoyed both races but KBK for me was the standout, Asgreens hold out to the line was a beaut. Looking forward to Le Samyn tomorrow, its forecast dry weather- thats rare for the race in recent years gone by. The best part of the year is here for pro cycling!

  4. Its difficult for a race to remain a sprinters paradise. Eyeballs on TV are important for sponsors or TV rights and fewer people are going to tune in for 3 or 4 hours to watch 10 minutes of sprinting glory.

    • Exactly, which is what makes many of the classics so good with moves happening with 100km, 70km to go etc. That said the majority of races still end in bunch sprints so the move to a certain format of race is a direction for the moment rather than a destination.

  5. Didn’t want to touch on Tinkov or Moscon? Probably a good idea to save the comments section going nuts! And probably because there isn’t much more to say on either of them at the moment, despite both people breaking into wider new circles beyond the sports pages.

    I for one hate to see the slowly shrinking role of sprinters. Always my favorite terrain, because Cav was my true way into the sport. I also blame Sagan for making the Green Jersey a boring contest for so long, hopefully a few years of some decent battling there can give sprinting the boost it deserves.

    • The internet seems full of “You’ll never guess what Moscon did – here’s what he did – it’s not the first time he did it (list previous controversies) – Ineos promise to look into it – his career could be in jeopardy if he keeps this up” pieces. But I’d only add the fines he’s got are usually paid by the team so he’s not impacted, the UCI could open a disciplinary case against him and being forced to sit out a few races this spring might prompt him to cool things down.

      As for sprinting, it is exciting but it’s a tough ask to get people to tune in. When I do previews here for nailed-on sprint finishes the friendly advice is to tune in for the final 15 minutes. If anything perhals the arrival of so much live TV is a problem, hours of airtime to fill and watching the peloton soft pedalling doesn’t work when a few years ago nobody would watch anyway? One thing that is missing is the post-stage analysis, cycling is not good at replays and explaining the sprint, a race finishes, we get an aerial shot of the finish overlaid with the top-10 and video of the podium ceremony but little analysis of the sprint.

      • I suspect that the Moscon thing will play out differently this time, though, because of the change of sponsor. The Sky sponsorship seemed to be about James Murdoch wanting to win bike races, and telling the accountants that the cost was good marketing. In contrast, Jim Radcliffe is a plastics manufacturer who is looking to greenwash/sportswash Ineos, so he needs the team to look clean and ethical. Sky were prepared to ignore racist thuggery if Moscon delivered in races. I don’t think Ineos will risk tolerating it?

        • Gianni Moscon would appear to be a text book case of someone with an anger management problem. A nice enough and sensible guy in normal circumstances, including race situations, until something happens that makes him see red.
          But let’s not join the crowd and brand him a racist as well. It is so nice and easy to judge other people and especially from a comfortable distance and for us who would also in the heat of a moment be calm and collected enough to quickly stop ourselves from using an N-word and to exchange it for something else equally stupid.
          Those who have stood along the sideline of a football field and watched boys get mad at someone who tripped them or kicked them in the shin should be quite familiar what a white boy can shout at a black boy (or vice versa) even when his best mate is black (or white).

          • Not sure I’d agree with that.

            I get that people respond differently to anger, and that some people can be awesome 99% of the time and downright dangerous in specific situations (not that I mean it as an excuse). I don’t really know what makes Moscon tick and I’ll leave the psychology lectures for people who are more knowledgeable in the field.

            But when you’re under pressure, or on an adrenaline kick or whatever, and the first thing you reach for is a racist slur, that doesn’t paint you in a good light. At all.

            Frankly, pro cycling has enough image problems, and this needs to be nipped in the bud. If Team Ineos doesn’t have the will (or the PR pressure) to do it internally, instances need to step in. Impunity is a bad signal.

          • “who would also in the heat of a moment be calm and collected enough to quickly stop ourselves from using an N-word”

            The vast majority of people, I’d hope. If you’re a grown adult and choose to use the N-word in an argument, it’s pretty clear you hold some level of racist views. It isn’t acceptable and Moscon was fortunate to receive a relatively light punishment.

          • Watch out! I’ve grabbed someone’s bike and I’m about to throw it without looking!
            Who said it was acceptable to use a N-word (or whatever Moscon said to Reza)? Who said that the punishment Moscon received wasn’t light enough because it should’ve been a mitigating circumstance that he is a hothead and an asshole who loses it completely when he gets angry?

            All I said was that I find it wrong and mistaken and quite frankly distasteful when we who never throw bikes and who have been fortunate enough to receive some kind of awareness education are so damn quick to brand other people as racists when the only thing we actually know about them is what they said in a certain situation. Perhaps it’s not quite as bad as jumping to conclusions about someone simply on the basis of his skin colour, but…

            PS If Reza had been German and Moscon had called him a Nazi or if Reza had been a Swede and Moscon had told him to go back to Lapland and to have sexual relations with his reindeer, we wouldn’t be having this increasingly pointless discussion:-)

          • If someone used an Italian racial slur at Moscon I’d say they were racist too, as I use the simple measurement that saying racist things makes you a racist.

          • Moscon appears to be a victim of his own reputation (on social media). I’ve only seen a twitter clip of the bike throwing incident and that’s all I’ve seen, and what I’ve read is above and below. It’s not the nicest thing, and lacks basic human curtesy, but I can imagine him being angry and upset at crashing, and frustrated at not being able to extricate his bike. It’s certainly not foul and abuse language, nor is he striking anyone, looks like he got his punishment, and hopefully moves on. Nothing to be hounded out of cycling for and I’ve seen worse. Definitely someone that needs grow up, but that’s hardly something to be condemned for.

          • RQS: You might want to review the footage again. He threw the bike at the head of Jens Debusschere.

            “I didn’t crash but I tumbled into the ditch and was crawling back out of it, then I had a bike – not even mine – thrown straight to my head. I had to raise my hand to protect myself in order not to get it into my face. The bike hit me with the chainwheel. At that moment I could have punched him. You’re full of adrenaline but then you realize that the best thing you can do is get back on your bike.”


          • If he used the N-word, he’s racist. There’s no exception for hot-headedness or heat of the moment anger. Anyone who makes excuses for other people using the N-word needs to look in the mirror and ask “am I a racist, too?”

          • Cedrik: a racist is someone who thinks racist thoughts and/or commits racist acts, basta. You can be a prejudiced racist asshole even when you can filter what you say and you’d never commit the sin of calling a German a Nazi or a Hun, a Swede a penguin-loving Eskimo or using a word referring to skin colour or place of birth when you get mad at someone from Erithrea, Ethiopia or South Africa.
            If you bring a banana to a game of football for the purpose of throwing it at a player who happens to be from Ghana or Nigeria, you are a racist, there is no doubt about it.
            Besides, I don’t anyone has in the least sought to excuse Moscon. I simply explained why I found branding him a racist rather premature and quite distasteful.
            PS I think it was Jean Genet who wrote something like: those who are the quickest to judge other people harshly for certain offenses are those who would be the very first to commit those very same offenses if it weren’t for fear of punishment or condemnation:-)
            PPS High time we can talk about racing.

      • Where the UCI could improve on discipline is in incentivising self-policing by teams.

        Time penalties should be applied to both the offending rider and the team’s highest placed rider in the race.

        Suspensions for WT riders should be “X number of racing days” where the rider is banned from all racing until the team has gone one rider short for that number of WT racing days. The team might choose to serve the ban quickly (but at the risk of going short in a major race) or they might choose to prioritise entering major races with a full team (stretching out the offending rider’s ban) so they serve the last of the ban at the Tour of Guangxi – or they could fire the banned rider and replace them with a recruit promoted from their development team.

        It’s a team sport, you win together and you lose together.


        But back in reality, nothing is likely to be done because the UCI doesn’t have enough skin in the game to care about it (they didn’t even fine Elisa Longo Borghini when she intentionally threw another rider’s bike last March) and Moscon has the full support of the team owner – he was quite on brand for James Murdoch, and is even more so for Jim Ratcliffe.

        The only hope is that a race organiser will decide to use the Regulation 2.2.010bis special provision to ban Mascon and that the Court of Arbitration for Sport will find in their favour:
        “Special provisions applicable to road events:
        The organiser may refuse permission to participate in – or exclude from – an event, a team or one of its members whose presence might be prejudicial to the image or reputation of the organiser or of the event.
        If the UCI and/or the team and/or one of its members does not agree with the decision taken in this way by the organizer, the dispute shall be placed before the Court of Arbitration for Sport which must hand down a ruling within an appropriate period. However, in the case of the Tour de France, the dispute shall be placed before the Chambre Arbitrale du Sport [Sports Arbitration Chamber] (Maison du sport français, 1 avenue Pierre de Coubertin, 75640 Paris Cedex 13).”

        • “The organiser may refuse permission to participate in – or exclude from – an event, a team or one of its members whose presence might be prejudicial to the image or reputation of the organiser or of the event.”
          Good luck with that in a sport that recently welcomed back “Mr. 60%” with pretty much open arms while another cycling website is running a feature on the “Smug Thug” that seems to be aiming at sympathy for that creep, though I can’t say for sure as my gag-reflex stopped me reading much more than a paragraph or two.
          But (for now) Milano-Sanremo is on with Strade Bianche just around the corner 🙂

      • I wholeheartedly agree with your comment about the paucity of post-race analysis, particularly when it comes to sprints. When I own my own sports channel I will make Cosmo Catalano an offer he can’t refuse to provide this coverage!

  6. “One thing that is missing is the post-stage analysis, cycling is not good at replays and explaining the sprint, a race finishes, we get an aerial shot of the finish overlaid with the top-10 and video of the podium ceremony but little analysis of the sprint.”

    This. I was disappointed that the UAE Tour was cut short – the sprint battles were fascinating. After each one I rewound and rewatched the sprints several times to see as best I could how each sprinter worked their way up front, or what they and their team did wrong. It would have been great if the television producers and commentators had done that, with their superior knowledge and some clean graphics. I realize that usually the commentators just comment on the views they’re given, and that they have no control over what the show producers choose to televise, but the capabilities of slow motion replays with real-time graphics by commentators has been established for decades in other sports. This is some low-hanging fruit. By contrast, most bike races do a good job of a post-race summary of other kinds of stages, showing the early attacks, the decisive attacks, and so on. For the sprints the focus is on the last 100 meters, when it’s usually already settled.

    • +1 to that Kevin…. I am forever replaying the last 3km of stages multiple times to find out what happened to who and when – it’s quite fascinating (well to me anyway…)

      on that topic I’m starting to get a little concerned that Cav is not yet getting involved. I’m not going to write him off – he’s earned that over the years, but he seems to be there or there about, but then not get stuck in to the nitty gritty of the last km. Hopefully it’s just a process of working his way back, but I think he’ll need to start showing himself otherwise his chances of a spot in the Tour are receding…

    • Eurosport are pretty good at dissecting sprints at the grand tours when they have an analysis show straight after, Brian Smith usually pulls them apart.

      But agree with you all that they are lacking outside the GTs, which is a pity, because usually it all happens a bit, well, fast for me to take in live.

    • Have you ever checked out Cyclocosm’s website? He is reduced to producing podcasts, but had tried to launch his analysis vlogging/podcasts by reviewing races. Eurosport in fact sponsored him to do a few for the Tour De France and one or two other races. However, I get the sense that these are rather labour intensive in re-reviewing hours of cycling footage, and so are uneconomical to produce for TV viewing.

      He does an awesome job of dissecting races, and often demonstrates how teams mates try to control a race (blocking chasers or ramping the speed up, or trying to animate it. His vlogs are usually quirky and always interesting. His format is very much more suited to the Spring Classics though, hopefully Eurosport will chuck him a chunk of change for this season.

      • Thanks for the recommendation – I look forward to checking it out. Maybe we can spread the word and make this kind of thing more popular, and therefore more common.

        @Noel – Can’t say I’m a Cav fan, so that this for what it’s worth (nothing!), but it really seems to me that he is looking for excuses to not go 100% at crucial moments. He seems to take any excuse to ride for someone else, and then to sit up as soon as there’s any jostling about. It’s as if he doesn’t want to confirm that he doesn’t have the legs anymore, and so he defers going all in until the next race. And then the next one after that. Don’t know if it’s fear, or fading physiology, but I don’t see him turning it around.

      • Cyclocosm’s HTRWW analysis series is a treasure, regularly highlighting obscure tactical points and doing it with wit and ‘snark’. On more than one occasion I’ve lost hours having fallen into his ten year back catalogue. As I understand it, Eurosport only ‘sponsored’ Cosmo on the provisio that he publishes through them and after trying to block him and threatening legal action, but we should be thankful for small mercies. That said, I believe the incompatibility of pulling all night editing stints with earning a honest buck at his day job is the main reason that there are fewer episodes these days.

        • For Cosmo to have his analysis become a regular part of official TV coverage he’ll need to be able to work within the structures and schedules of the TV world.

          Instead of poring over footage overnight and doing the editing himself, he needs to be working with a producer to start selecting clips and putting it together while he race is still running. Then let a producer handle the editing while he writes his script, and have it ready to be run 15-20 minutes after the finish.

  7. On the subject of event cancellations, the préfet of the Morbihan department has banned all sporting events until (for the moment) 14th March. This includes the Elite National Manche-Atlantique scheduled for 8th March. Surely not the last and despite the UCI go-ahead MSR must be improbable. All a blow for cycling enthusiasts after a long winter though, if things develop as many expect, pro cycling will be the last of our worries.

  8. Good race the Drome Classic. Exciting parcours and pretty bad weather. Nibali seems in good early form. I think he will be one to watch at T-A. He seems rejuvenated by the move to Trek. Meanwhile Alaphillipe seems to be struggling at the moment. He was way off the pace. Maybe the decision to ride Flanders and thus tinkering with his race schedule this year will backfire on him.

  9. “But it does feel like almost every race in Flanders is coalescing around a similar format with climbs and cobbles thrown in late to split the field. Tomorrow’s Le Samyn has more pavé, the Omloop used the old Tour of Flanders finish, Gent-Wevelgem used to be for the sprinters but has got harder and is now a mini Ronde too”

    I think that’s for the better, once you look at the proportion of races already available to the sprinters compared to classics guys. Even at the start of the season there are loads of 5-7 day stage races with multiple sprint stages embedded in them. Maybe a big focus on one sprint classic (Scheldeprijs?) plus the stages you naturally get in Paris-Nice / Tirreno is enough. MSR is sometimes a sprinters Monument too. While there’s an obvious need for flat stages in GTs, I do think the one day sprint classics are a bit dull. You can fast forward to the last ten mins of Scheldeprijs or the London Surrey “Classic” and not feel like you’ve missed much.

    • I find it interesting even among hardcore fans (which I think would describe most here?) how little respect sprinters and their teams get unless it’s their own nation’s star. Not too long ago The Manx Missile was the darling of the UK cycling fan, now it’s Mr. Froome, a rider who generally is dull, dull, dull while sprinters (since Cavendish seems past his sell-by date?) get the old “tune in for the last 10 minutes” routine. Too few understand or care about the complexities of making sure your sprinter is in the right place before those “last 10 minutes” and how great the feeling seems to the team when it all goes right and your guy delivers the result of your hard work. Milano-Sanremo gets dissed in this way, but what about the drama slowly unfolding all race? A lot is going on if you’re paying attention.
      To me it’s like skipping all the foreplay and getting right to the sex – which I guess is OK for some…but I think you miss a lot that way.

      • It’s not meant to belittle the abilities of sprinters as I’m a cyclist too and understand the unbelieveable strength of a sprinter to do 200km+ racing and then put out 1500-2000w. Incredible. And as we’ve also discussed their ability to get over climbs is vastly underrated.

        It’s just that if you’re time-crunched, as many people are, then the prospect of sketching out an hour or two to watch a one-day race which is 99% certain to finish in a bunch sprint is less appealing than to me than watching a race with the dynamics of a classic.

        As it happens I think the balance in MSR is really great, the course is challenging for the sprinters and there’s the will they / won’t they make the catch final few KMs which are some of the most exciting in the sport. Kwiatkoswki and Nibali’s wins were some of the best races in recent years for my money.

        • OK but the races you cite (at least Nibali’s win) were anything but sprints so it’s clear your preference is the escapes and “will they or won’t they? run-in to the finish. Nothing wrong with that but did you tune in only to the “last 10 minutes” of those races? Your “time crunch” reference is telling – does the sport really need to cater to those with attention-spans measured in minutes or seconds? They already have some track cycling events for that, no? I go back to my foreplay reference…to each his/her own but I don’t want pro cycling to ditch the foreplay.

          • What would be useful would be stats like:

            – time a rider spends in a break
            – time rider has spent on the front
            – time Team has spent on the front of a break/peloton
            – no. Times a team has launched an attack or closed down an attack.
            – no. of races individual has appeared in recently (something which indicates form, or over use)

            As well as things like wins/placings in similar races, and wattage – the point being to help add up narratives to the race, to help build the story e.g. “here comes Lotto Soudal again. They’ve closed down 4 moves off the front, and are looking to but Caleb Ewan in the sprint. But their team captain and lead our man, Jelle Wallays has punctured and Tim Wellens who closed down three of those moves looks spent”. It gives the race a bit more narrative. Unfortunately some of the commentary just resorts to generalities, such as “Sunweb have been very animated” or “Ineos on the front again”, which give a hint and a clue, but to the uninitiated may be nothing more than a team occasionally getting up to the front of the peloton.

            I wouldn’t go as far as to have American Football style graphics obscure the action, but having pop ups with stats can add something. At the end you could review the racing much more easily, and demonstrate why a team was lucky/unlucky, and review riders with form. It’d also be good to see who accumulated UCI points, because this could also demonstrate team tactics – being aware that the teams goal might not be winning the stage, but nicking something because they know they can’t win.

            I think the biggest effect of reducing the WT teams to eight riders has been that sprint teams find it harder to control a race, and so lumpy profiles don’t end up with a sprint finish. I’m not crying out for sprint finishes, but I do feel that there’s an uneveness about teams. Smaller teams are having to work much harder to score points while your DQS are soaking up the lion share. Pros and Cons to both I suppose, but it hasn’t really affected Ineos/Sky which is who I expect the change was meant to trouble.

          • I think sprint stages (or races) are fine but imo more than 2 in a row during a stage race gets pretty boring. The first couple of weeks of last year’s Giro were dull as dish. It’s the same when races chuck in loads of these goat track finishes, if you see the same thing over and over then it gets boring. To use your sex analogy, no one wants the same position every time do they?!

          • I’d say “time crunch” is different to attention span. I happily watched the live coverage of Omloop on Saturday and will do so for Strade Bianchi on Saturday.

            However, for the semi-classics which are midweek (Le Samyn, DDV, Scheldeprijs etc) then by the time I get home from work, put the kids to bed, make a meal etc it’s 9pm so watching 4hrs of a race is not possible, so highlights it is. And I maintain in that format a one day sprint race is not as interesting as a “classics” style course.

      • Sorry, Larry I had visions of you pulling an old steel frameset into bed with you and your wife.
        Stroking it gently in foreplay! then I woke up.

        Oh! back to reality hope the virus is contained to such an extent that we proceed into the season with no interruptions.

  10. So there never was any positive test result after all that, only suspected cases? Crikey, so many websites and so hard to find the clear facts sometimes.

  11. A Scientific Committee appointed by the Italian Govt. suggested the ban of all sport events in Italy for one month. If Govt. agrees, these are the Pro races to be cancelled: Strade Bianche (7/3), GP Industria Artigianato (8/3), Tirreno-Adriatico (11-17/3), Milano-Sanremo (21/3), Settimana Coppi e Bartali (25-29/3), maybe Giro di Sicilia (1-4/4).

    • My brain says they are correct, my heart is telling something else. I spoke with friends today in Milano, and it’s basically on an unofficial lockdown. Can’t image bringing the whole circus to Milano for the start in a few weeks. Statistically 1 infected individual spreads to 5.6 others. It would only take a few exposures to wreck the peloton. The only viable way would be to have them stay outside of Lombardy and bus them in for the start. It’s just so uncertain at this point. My medical brain says cancel, my cycling heart wants all these races.

      • I’m beginning to think the UCI should put a stop to racing world-wide for a set period rather than discriminate (as JV is currently doing) against a country where they’ve made massive efforts to control the spread of the virus. No matter where-in-the-world they race, riders and staff arrive there from all over the world, possibly bringing the virus with them as we’ve seen with the UAE fiasco. The idea of everyone going to a place not (yet) reporting widespread Covid-19 cases (while avoiding places like Italy) to race is dumb, as they’ll just bring the contamination with them. Crowds of fans will spread it around even more in places with no reports – too many seem to think no testing = no cases.
        MOTOGP has cancelled their first two races with the first-of-the-season to now be in Austin, TX. By then Covid-19 cases will likely be widespread there as well as the USA finally gets going with testing (if the current, early results are any indication) and that race will end up being cancelled as well.
        Perhaps the UCI should just announce there will be NO racing until X date and reassess the situation as they go? Bike racing (and MOTOGP) survived world wars, they’ll survive Covid-19.

        • No thanks, that would be discrimination against countries which have their act together.

          UCI could meet in the middle by refunding sanctioning fees to cancelled races or rolling over their fees to the next year.

          • It’s unlikely to be simply “countries which have their act together”. In many cases, the virus simply hasn’t got there in such numbers yet.

            But Larry’s apparent assumption – that all countries are equally affected, but only some are properly reporting – seems unlikely too. Plainly, it’s reached some places before others. That’s not discrimination, it’s just bad luck.

          • Nick “…..that all countries are equally affected, but only some are properly reporting ” isn’t really what I said, it’s more like all countries WILL EVENTUALLY BE equally affected, though of course nobody can predict the future. One thing I think can not be argued is the countries doing the most testing are finding the most positives and vice-versa. Those smugly sitting at their keyboards in countries currently doing low numbers of tests (which of course results in low numbers of positives) should be more concerned, not less. That smugness will evaporate rather quickly IMHO.

          • “… all countries WILL EVENTUALLY BE equally affected…”

            This is unlikely, for a wide variety of reasons. As for countries that appear to have their act together, Taiwan seems to be one such case. But this is early days.

            One thing I haven’t seen people getting their heads around is that most pandemics have 2 or 3 peaks of infection. My expectation is that we’ll have a huge number of confirmed infections in the next few months, then the caseload will die down during the summer, and then next winter we’ll see another major spike.

            Even more worrisome is that we’ve never done a coronavirus vaccine before, and there is a chance this variant will become endemic like the 4 common coronaviruses that have circulated among us for many years. There is also evidence that our immune “memory” isn’t as robust for coronaviruses, meaning that people may be prone to reinfection, and a vaccine may be far less effective.

    • Velonews is reporting EF wishes to withdraw from these Italian races if there is no suitable health protocol. “EF cited the Center For Disease Control’s recent Level 3 Warning for Italy—the designation urges Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to the country.” It will be interesting to see what RCS and UCI have to say about this request because a compulsion order on EF would render them liable.

      Condolences to those around Nicolas Portal.

      No way should Moscon escape sanction for the bike throw, the tantrum a n d the words spoken. Cycle sport has always been international and that’s long been its appeal, seeing a wide range of countries and backgrounds represented entails an acceptance of different people. Just like they always tell the riders at the International Youth Tour in Assen, ours is a sport that’s done with the legs, heart and head not the mouth, fists or fear. Chuck him out and change his attitude.

    • I don’t see that the UCI needs to ‘act’ much at all. They just need to accept the decisions of the teams and race organisers (the parties who actually have skin in the game) and schedule a meeting at some point to discuss applications for revised race dates.


      • Can a world tour team exempt itself from a world tour race? I thought part of the deal was you had to do all the races. Hence, why the old euskadi euskatel team had to turn out on the cobbles when none of the were suited to it or wanted to do it (and why all the teams do that irrelevant Chinese race after lombardia)

        • If there is justification, yes. Only unjustified absence is penalised.

          The rule doesn’t define what is justified or not, but it is probably clear enough that “we suck at riding the cobbles” is not what was intended. The teams know that there are cobbled races on the calendar when they put in their paperwork each year, they didn’t know about COVID-19 when they did their forms for this season mid last year.

          I would be extremely surprised if the UCI were to challenge it, as a court may well find that the entire rule is unenforceable and the whole WT model goes out the window. Then Larry would be stuck in the awkward position of being glad that the WT is dead but having to give Mitchelton-Scott the credit for killing it.

          • DaveRides- I gave Mitchelton-Scott some props for having the balls JV doesn’t by stopping until things are settled rather than singling out a country doing more than most to contain Covid-19, so why wouldn’t I give them some props for killing the WT if that happened? I have nothing against MS, I even like to watch Esteban Chavez’ exploits. I can’t see this killing the WT though, as nobody is gonna force a team to show up at any race under conditions like these.
            BTW – still waiting for your list of countries that “have their act together.”

          • France seems to be handling it well, their communications have been pragmatic and productive without excessive drama. If they say Paris-Nice is good to go then there’s no reason to disbelieve them.

            The MTS decision is about their logistics, not about “discrimination” or avoiding offence to RCS. They have a huge task at hand to get resources into place for the rest of the Classics, given their service course is near Varese and they are one of the teams in real trouble if borders get closed.

            Where JV erred is in asking the UCI to make his decision for him, which made him look small. He should have been more decisive and announced his team’s intentions as other teams have done with their decisions to pull out of Italy or Italy & Paris-Nice.

          • To be fair to JV he doesn’t own the team and the owner isn’t a billionaire. EF is actually one of the few real sponsors out there who value the marketing outside a few of the Belgium/Dutch/French sponsors so they probably need to be more delicate about these things. Usually I criticize JV but I think its a bit unwarranted here.

          • Yes, but he’s not that involved with the team as far as I know, not just a rich super fan using his business to justify owning a cycling team which was the point I was making. That article itself has said he’s stepped back from the company sneaky. And everything I’ve read was that EF stepping in was a true marketing decision and not just a vanity project. They own the team, not JV. He needs to be much more diplomatic in his role now. He’s even bitten his tongue on Twitter now.

          • cd – EF is an interesting situation for sure: as you note the owners don’t seem to be rich cycling hobbyists or some rich guy stroking a massive ego by owning big-time sports operations. But at the same time I gotta wonder how many “study-vacations” are gonna be sold based on JV’s boy’s racing exploits? I know a bit about how EF Tours works since my wife’s in academia so I don’t see a demographic connection with selling high mark-up “study-vacations” for college/high school students.
            But they’re the ones getting rich on the idea (and they’re not an autocratic regime, gambling interest or resource extraction industry engaged in sportwashing) so I assume they know what they’re doing, especially when it revolves around buying the team and license from JV rather than just writing a sponsorship check or three.

    • But now it looks like EF will line up for Paris-Nice? While I’m not an expert in geography I think the end of this race will be as close to the “red zone” of contagion in Italy as any of the stages of Tirreno-Adriatico are…so it would seem this is really just CYA on JV’s part vs the much more honest approach taken by teams like Mitchelton-Scot and INEOS who are stopping entirely for a few weeks.

  12. RCS have cancelled the Strade Bianchi. In light of that I can see other races (MSR) following suit.

    There comes a point when it will likely be pointless stopping these events because of COVID-19

    • First there comes a point where it will be pointless to even hold races that are not cancelled, just because only a half of teams will participate. More and more teams say they will not race anywhere the next 2 weeks. And for all that we know now, the situation is more likely to be worse in 2 weeks than better. So I’m very pessimistic about at least the spring season. Will it be better in May, June? We just don’t know…

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