Thursday Shorts

Grand tour previews take up molto time so here’s a chance to look at things in and around the sport that can’t fit into a stage preview and got stored up for later…

No Vuelta previews in case you’re wondering. The Dauphiné-Tour-Worlds-Giro stint is plenty, previews take up more time than anything else with recon rides, poring over maps and so on and there’s been no opportunity to visit Spain to check out the unfamiliar roads either. It’s proving enjoyable to watch though.

Giro director Mauro Vegni is still sore about the treatment he got from the teams in the Giro, calling on the UCI to sanction Jumbo-Visma for leaving the race, and for EF Pro Cycling’s going over his head to the UCI to ask about ending the race early. No chance. The UCI has already said it’ll be relaxed on rules when it comes to Covid, and Vegni probably knows this but vented anyway. However he’s said before he adjusts the compulsory “participation allowance” that grand tours pay to teams, it seems there’s a base rate and a top-up if star names come. He’s free to scale this back.

Talking of supplemental income sources for teams, Mitchelton-Scott could be leaving the Velon group of teams reports Dutch website Wielerflits. There’s no story why for now. Perhaps it’s just not been the money-spinner it was hoped for by its founders? The big deal is whether they can sue the UCI, not to make money from it but as a power play and they’re trying to put a case to the European Commission but this is a long range matter, it takes years.

To shorter term issues and another story with a single source: Gianni Moscon still has a year left on his contract with Ineos but could be leaving early, so said Gianni Bugno during RAI’s Giro coverage and so take with a pinch of salt but Bugno’s also the CPA union boss so should know contract news better than most. If he is going where to isn’t known, his reputation precedes him but there’s a talent to work with all the same if he grows up.

Seeing Ben O’Connor and Ryan Gibbons land contracts with Ag2r La Mondiale and UAE Emirates is good news for them, but bad for NTT’s future as the team’s lost two prize assets. It doesn’t bode well for the team who need a replacement sponsor in a hurry, as in now because the UCI is reviewing their licence at the moment. One other option is to sell the licence to an ambitious ProTeam in cycling’s second tier. Circus-Wanty bought CCC’s licence. It doesn’t have to be expensive, the Israel team bought Katusha’s licence for one dollar.

But who wants to move up? Alpecin-Fenix top the tables as the best “ProTeam”, ie the best squad in cycling’s second tier. As such they’ll get an automatic invite to all the World Tour races for 2021, an invite but not the compulsion to ride so it’s the best of both worlds, they can cherry-pick the calendar without having all the extra regulatory and roster costs. If NTT don’t survive then Arkéa-Samsic will also get the same invite as Alpecin-Fenix because they’re the second best ProTeam and the rules say it’s normally for two teams (this year was exceptional with 19 World Tour teams so only Total Direct Energie got the golden wildcard).

These invites include the right to start the Tour Down Under, but will it happen? We should know in a week’s time as the race is reviewing the travel restrictions and quarantine laws in Australia. As things stand visiting pros and team staff could be required to isolate on arrival and this is impractical, yes riders could train indoors in hotels but given the quarantine would last longer than the race it sadly points to the event being reduced to a local cycling festival, or postponed to 2022. Some Australian pros will be wintering in Europe as being able to return next year isn’t a given.

Things are more immediate. Normally the season would have ended now and teams would be holding 2021 preparation meetings, the kind where new recruits are measured for their new bikes and kit, race schedules get sketched out, admin gets done in the day and there are bonding exercises in the evening. It’s often the only time when a rider can see all their team mates, as when racing in the following season they can have totally different programmes to others. Now these get-togethers are being postponed and could be probably impractical for many riders too given increased restrictions on travel and meetings in Europe. It’s not a big deal in the scheme of things but shows how the season might be ending but the virus isn’t.

In the background in Britain we’ve got the hearings for Dr Freeman, formerly of Team Sky. It’s hard to know what to make of it, essentially it’s an inquiry as to whether he’s fit to be a medic rather than a review of British Cycling and Team Sky but UK Anti-Doping are taking part. Some of it is embarrassing bordering on vaudeville with talk of Shane Sutton’s erectile dysfunction treatment but there’s a serious side as presumably if Sutton was treated for any medical condition as part of Freeman’s private practice then there ought to be notes, prescriptions, correspondence and other paper trails. The same goes for a cycling team when it comes to the medical files of their top riders but these seem to have all been on one person’s laptop alone with no cloud copy, no back-up, no email sharing. One to watch and hopefully the hearings can reach a conclusion without any further postponements.

44 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

  1. Could see Moscon at Astana or UAE. A move to an Italian environment (Italian based teams if not sponsors) might get the best out of him, especially an experienced DS like Martinelli.

  2. Moscon is 26 so it’s not a question of ‘growing up’, and there’s no excuse for racism.

    As for the Freeman case, one would have to be terminally delusional to believe that all of this was down to incompetence, losing data/laptops, etc., and that it was only Freeman’s actions. Those who back British Cycling and/or Sky/Ineos no matter what will continue to proclaim this, but there’s now so much evidence of nefarious goings on it’s just silly.

    • In my world people do grow up, mature, undergo significant character development, learn to deal with a hot temper or other personality issues – call it what you will – also in their late twenties and even in their thirties.

      As for racism, I’m still quite disinclined to brand him as a racist. If I called him a racist solely on the basis of what I can truly say I know about him, it would in my opinion be just an exercise in…well, you know what. If I want to make a public stand against racism or to keep ridiculing racists, there are better ways to do it and more appropriate targets,
      But then, I haven’t read what “people in peloton” have told us about Moscon’s habitual and continuing use of racist language.
      PS I’d like to think my mind is not set and it’s not that I wouldn’t like to make progress, but it ain’t easy without any names, quotes or indeed links.

      • I think I know what you’re saying. Moscon’s bad behaviour is only documented third hand, and most of us don’t know him personally. His behaviour could be a product of his environment/education/background (Bigotry born through ignorance essentially) and therefore something he can unlearn and grow through, rather an active engagement with unsavoury politics (which seems unlikely).
        Some will have a less tolerant view of his behaviour and as such racism/fascism is how they’ll characterise it.
        I would like to think that Moscon can grow up, at whatever time of life. If you bury a person under such slurs you’ll unlikely invite them to change themselves. If you label a person a thief, they will eventually come to own that label, and there’s no incentive to avoid thievery because they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t (other than imprisonment). Anyway, he seems more like a thug if you are going to pass aspersions.
        I hope for the sake of prosperity, his own professional reputation he changes his ways sooner rather than later.

        • Quite agree with your sentiment. However, not sure about whether he is involved in extreme politics. But Italy being on the fore-front of the refugee crisis, tension must be high. Then again, he can still be redeemed if he wants to.

          The choice is left to Moscon himself. Whilst his past action should be condemned, what he can be is still open.

      • There is enough and clear evidence of racism in the peloton. It is not anecdotal and can be read and heard by everybody who cares enough. It is clear evidence from riders, who directly heard what other riders said. And of course it are people, who witnessed it telling us about it – what do you think? That riders stand up in front of a camera or a reporter and say „Yes I am a racist and yes I called him the n-word“? Please!

        It is „nice“ that you all are so good darlings and so understanding towards moscon and you feel so much empathy, that he has to suffer so much because of his racism and because he hurts other people. It is „great“, that you feel with him for being still adolescent or ignorant due to not being grown up at 26 years. Poor lamb! Bravo for being big hearted and human with this poor victim moscon! (Because these days nothing can be taken for granted, Ì will add, that this is of course sarcasm).

        I just wish there would be the same kind of empathy and solidarity for Kevin Reza. Or Nacer Bouhanni. I think it is very telling, that a racist gets so much understanding, while not one thought is spent on the people he hurts.

        As an aside: mosconˋs problems not only consist of racism, he has also shown, that he has a problem with aggression and with bullying others. Mostly these things go hand in hand anyway.

        Comments like the ones here (not you J.Evans )really make me desperate. They show, that still most people find it easier to identify with a racist than to feel for the ones he hurts.

        • Hear hear, anonymous.
          Moscon’s words after his six-week ban and ‘diversity awareness course’:

          “I don’t have much to say,” Moscon told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper when asked to reflect on the Reza episode.

          “My conscience is clean, I accepted the punishment, I took my break.”

          Asked if he was repentant, Moscon said, “I didn’t kill anyone and the accusations are not completely founded. But I prefer to not talk about it anymore.”

          It’s all too easy for those who don’t suffer racism on a regular basis – ask any black person how their reality is – to view these incidents without sufficient seriousness or understanding.

          • J Evans, I don’t need to ask “a black person” about their reality, I have more than one in the family.
            But, hey, what about those “people in the peloton” you mentioned?

            Anonymous, sarcasm often just dresses up a lot of bullshit – also in your case. You say so many stupid things and make so many false assumptions and accusations it would be fruitless to reply any further or to attempt a discussion with you.

        • I don’t understand why you bracket Bouhanni and Reba. The latter seems to be nice chap who has found , in his own words, a good role within his team: the former was given plenty of rope after several ‘incidents’. He did what people often do with such rope. Speaking of them as a ‘set’ seems rather in the line of the r word, ‘cos that is about all they have in common.

          Enough already, as one of my forebears would say.

          • There seems to be a clear misunderstanding on your part what racism is (I think you mean racism with the strange expression „r-word“? Seldom heard such a weird thing like „the r-word“. As if it is too much to bear to say it!) I exactly mention those two, because they experienced racism in cycling (and in all probability also in the general society). What do you think?

            You act, as if this is something shameful to say, a secret or whatever. It is not. It is shameful, that it happened, but talking about it, acknowledging it is not. It is a fact. And they both told us so (but in all honesty, we donˋt need anybody telling us this, everybody with eyes and ears knows this. If you want to know more, I redirect you for example to the twitter of Janez Brajkovič, who twitttered something very interesting and important about this some time ago).

            And no, it is not enough talked about such things. By far not enough. Especially not here. Maybe exactly because in cycling there is virtually an omerta about racism and the racist ideas too many riders and fans have, some on this site are apparently confused about racism and nationalism. Or maybe it is simply, because when there is only one set of people, who all only talk amongst themselves, they donˋt realise how strange and skewed their talk and point of view is.

            I only come here into this perfect bubble once in a while, because after some very short time the nationalism, the sexism, the racism here, that seeps into way too many comments and is never checked by anybody, is by far too much for me and I have to leave again.

  3. I hope when you’re ‘pouring over maps’ it’s with a fine restorative beverage after all the excellent work this whacked out, head spinning year.

    Thanks again for all the coverage – best work out there.

  4. Sam Bennett’s relegation seemed to be pretty marginal, maybe there has been a decision to be tighter with sprint rules with the various accidents this year. Didnt seem to me to be any different to what has be going on for years, Sam usually avoids pushing and shoving in the final sprint.

    Richard Freeman seems to be a rather sad character, difficult to tell how much grasp he has on reality, especially just by reading media reports. What is clear is that the management structure around British Cycling / early days of Team Sky was pretty dysfunctional, evidence elsewhere of a culture of bullying. I know little about Shane Sutton but he appears to be a pretty unpleasant individual, I believe he was involved in the Jess Varnish case. I doubt however that any conclusions will ever be reached over the “jiffy bag” saga etc too much water under the bridge, too long ago which is not helpful to anyone remotely connected with the whole business. All rather a mess.

    • It’s just sad that Freeman is the one taking all the heat over this situation. Obviously his responses in this Inquiry are ludicrous, but he’s the only one involved who is being held accountable – where is Brailsford’s hearing, or Froomey’s, or Wiggins’, etc.?

      The only conclusion that makes any sense is that whatever Freeman ordered it was never for a valid patient (or else, as Inrng pointed out, there would be medical records). Everything he purchased went to win Gold medals, maillot jaune’s, etc. There can be no other conclusion. I don’t care how you feel about Sky/Ineos, but we all need to realise this.

    • Undoubtedly the game with Freeman is that he is taking the hit for dubious practises. Like any gangster, his job is to just take the fall for the rest. The omertà is alive and well in cycling, and any suggestion otherwise is naive. What Freeman gets in return is anyone’s guess…

      • Early retirement, I expect. Whether he wants it or not.

        He said in his evidence that Team Sky’s policy was to go right to the limit of what was allowed, but not beyond it. I believe the first part, not so sure about the second.

        • Comments like this I think are a sort of fan omertà. Obviously he doesn’t have strong evidence, none of us do. How could we? None of us were there. If you’re looking for statements backed up by strong evidence an Internet blog/forum is probably the wrong place to be. Thankfully we aren’t in court here so we can discuss what we think has happened without a series of exhibits and witnesses.

          • In that case I suggest that opinions should be couched as ‘I think that’, ‘In my opinion’, ‘I suspect that’ or similar.

            (I didn’t understand your reference to ‘fan omerta’?

          • You’re saying we can only discuss doping if we have evidence. Since we don’t and never will have evidence we can’t discuss it and therefore just have to accept and go along with it.

          • It all depends on what exactly what you mean by ‘discuss doping’. Since there is not much hard evidence around, most discussions are no more than endless speculation, often rancorous. X rode very well, therefore he must be doping, just like his compatriot/teammate/other rider I don’t like did 10 years ago. If that’s your thing, there are other websites which facilitate such discussions.

            Here, though, I think we should take our lead from our host, who discusses doping very rarely, in a measured, non-partisan way, and on the basis of facts. (As he, or she, covers all topics, in fact.)

            I don’t think I have any more to say on this.

          • WTF? Calling out the use of words like ‘undoubtedly’ and phrases like ‘the only possible conclusion is’ cannot be omerta. Cannot. In your own way, you are stifling debate by doing this.

            Declarations of absolute certainty about things where one cannot, simply cannot, be absolutely certain is the stuff of bigotry and prejudice. It isn’t just hyperbole or the fuzzy language of social media. It says that alternative views are not valid, not to be respected. As is telling people they are in the wrong place if they object to such language. All exclusionary, all designed to stifle debate.

            It commits the precise sin of which it complains. Put simply, it is hypocrisy and bullshit.

  5. There is one reason for a lower team to get a protour license.
    Most big sponsor’s needs the guarantee to get the approval to come aboard. So getting a protour license could potentially unlock a big deal.
    But at this late point of the season its probably to hard to find the sponsor and most good riders already have a contract. Although rider bargains are possible with so many without contract’s for next year.

  6. Thank you for the blog I really enjoy it. I know you’re not covering La Vuelta, however, I was curious what you thought of the bunch sprint in stage 9 and Sam Bennett’s relegation? In real time, it felt like too much aggression on his part even though this aspect of the sport can get physical.

    • Think it was too much from Bennett, the shoulder barges were very pronounced. You can get away with contact for defensive reasons but this looked like more than holding a position.

      Two things related to this:
      – in response to the calls for increased rider safety the UCI has told the commissaires to be stricter in sanctioning foul play, we’ve seen many examples of late when calls that were borderline before have been sanctioned, eg Alaphilippe’s sprint in Liège might have been risky but he might have got away with it in 2019, I remember a sprint from the 2016 Dauphiné from Bouhanni were he was butting like Bennett but made it but now that wouldn’t stand
      – Also Patrick Lefevere takes to social media but he often does this when a rider of his makes a mistake, it cleverly makes him the story and lightning conductor for things rather than Bennett who instead of trying to explain his risky moves can concentrate on getting today’s sprint finish right

      • I agree with this. The UCI is – understandably and rightly – cracking down. Instigating any sort of contact when travelling at those speeds – except for safety reasons obviously – must be a no-no

      • Your last comment on Lefevere is very eye opening, sometimes he seems “stupid” on for example twitter, but perhaps he is just probably smart to move the attention away from his riders.

        Mourinho and many other football managers are doing this very ofter I believe.

        • Yes it’s a staple of sports management, say something outrageous to the press to take the attention away from your under pressure player/rider. Alex Ferguson and as you say Jose Mourinho being fairly prolific.

    • I don’t think it was any different than Sagan, but he got relegated. I was surprised that Bennett did it given what happened in the Tour in his favour.
      Sean Kelly made the comment that these things usually go on and that we don’t normally see it, but that with more cameras and angles we get to see more of it. I wonder if he’s still living in the 80s in that respect.

      • The “TV commissiare” makes a difference, I don’t know if it’s at the Vuelta (probably as it was at the classics) but it has access to all the various camera feeds and not just the ones the producer selects for output. Jolien D’Hoore’s sprint also comes to mind, probably acceptable a few years back but not know.

        • I heard one of the commentators (possibly David Millar or Gary Imlach but don’t hold me to that) say that in order to save money the TV commissionaire vehicle hadn’t been sent to the Vuelta and that this was one of the reasons why it took so long for the decision around Bennett’s demotion to be taken.

          • There is only one UCI TV truck (minibus actually). It was at the Giro so couldn’t be at the Vuelta at the same time.

            There is a TV Commissaire at the Vuelta and he is working with the host broadcaster and has access to all the necessary feeds that the UCI truck would have provided.

            As for the Bennett decision – unless you are in the room when the decision is made it is hard to know exactly what the conversation was but one movement might have been seen as ‘one of those things that happens in sprints’ but two movements in quick succession is inviting a decision to be made, especially in the current climate.

      • After the race Sean Kelly was clear that he thought Bennett’s relegation was the correct decision. He spend several minutes on the subject in the post-race GNC show. I only say this because one could take from your comment that Kelly thought the relegation wasn’t just and was only about appearances. I realize there is no contradiction between the two ideas – it can be true that the relegation was justified and correct, band also that Bennett would have gotten away with it in the past.

  7. “ If he is going where to isn’t known, his reputation precedes him but there’s a talent to work with all the same if he grows up.”

    Sort of feel that first sentence needs a comma after the “If he is going” as it’s a conditional part of the sentence. I’m hardly a grammar expert though.

  8. Not confirmed rumors tells Moscon didn’t take part at the last moment at Classics to solve familiar problems due to Covid-19 emergency: seems his parents took it in the pick apple harvest time and a great part of workers took it too, so he chose to leave temporarily cycling and return in Val di Non to work personally for his family business.
    It could be irrelevant, I know, but I wanna (stubbornly) see this like a little grew up man choice, less hot blooded more “human”, but I think this could be the very end with IGD also.

  9. @Inrng Absolutely understandable about the Vuelta previews but couldn’t you post some reviews every few days? I really enjoy your posts and even when post-race they always provide interesting hindsight. Plus, they generate comments which are generally fun to read. Thanks for your hard work anyway!

    • I think Mr/Mrs Ring deserves a rest. OTH, I hope our host wouldn’t mind us having some more meaningful discussion about Vuelta using this thread.

      On this note, I find it interesting that JV somewhat out-Skyed Ineos on Yesterday’s finish. Roglic watched a 2008 race video (or even reconed the finish himself according to rumour) to study the finish and got it right. I wonder if things would have been different had Portal been there. He is certainly missed.

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