Friday Shorts

Many races have been zapped from the calendar already but the season-opener in France, the GP La Marseillaise is set to go ahead in just over two weeks’ time and better still it’ll be on TV, a first.

Regional TV and the stream will be shared worldwide with Eurosport. Assuming it goes ahead of course but it’s still on and recent restrictions announced by the French government impose an evening curfew but don’t stop a bike race. It’s said to be a race not to win as the winner is cursed or more realistically to win in January means you’ve hit form too early or you think you’re on top of things and ease off… or both. But Benoît Cosnefroy won last year and seemed to have a decent season.

Staying with TV, the Amstel Gold Race has thrown its lot in with Flanders Classics as part of a package deal for international TV rights to be managed by Swiss firm Infront (which also part-owns the Tour de Suisse). It shouldn’t change much for viewers but makes sense as the Dutch race won’t be a standalone event trying to sell its rights. It leaves the E3 as the only major classic out by itself now. It also marks a further step forward for Infront in cycling.

Cofidis are to launch a women’s team. What sort (World Tour or not) remains to be seen but the French squad will build on its men’s World Tour team and its paracycling team. Is is the effect of the women’s Tour de France already? This race is due to be unveiled later this year but a flagship event in France with mainstream TV coverage should be a pull factor for sponsors to launch teams. Next is who to recruit, French riders are employed elsewhere and the likes of FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope in the World Tour, plus Arkéa’s squad already have an interest in signing strong domestic riders. A nice problem and interesting that the market could go from little demand to tension in the space of a couple of years.

Talking of contract moves Marc Hirschi‘s move is a big deal. He was featuring in photos for Team DSM at the start of the year and then within days joins UAE Emirates. Team transfers of riders under contract can happen and you can see why this one did: UAE Emirates are flush with cash and probably the second biggest budget after Ineos, still some way behind. Meanwhile Hirschi is worth millions but earning thousands. DSM may wish to retain him to the contract but better to “sell” him on for a tidy fee rather than retain a sulking rider. There is a transfer window, either the first half of August or for a change between seasons – which applies here – up until the 31 December so Hirschi’s deal had to have been rushed through over the Christmas holidays. The next question is how he fits in, for example do UAE team him as a stage hunter to the Tour de France?

The bigger question is whether Hirschi’s move is indicative of wider trends. Many riders are signed on longer term deals, a few years ago a three year deal was exceptional while now it’s common for important riders and some neo-pros alike. Events will happen and we should see more contractual moves and the big teams paying a premium to buy out riders. For example Dani Martinez (pictured) has moved to Ineos before his contract ran out.

One rider set to stay put is Wout van Aert with La Gazzetta Dello Sport reporting he’ll stay with Jumbo-Visma until the end of 2024 despite talk of Ineos being interested. WvA is the perfect fit for Jumbo though, a Belgian rider on a Dutch squad to help accompany the Dutch supermarket’s expansion into Belgium and that’s before the sprint, classic and time trial winning capabilities, his winter’s spent in cyclo-cross, and his role as a helper too.

La Gazzetta has also reported Egan Bernal wants to ride the Giro d’Italia. Now there’s an element of every rider being interviewed by an Italian paper saying they’d love to ride the Giro and we’ll see what plans Ineos have. But it highlights how squad have recruited so many riders this year their problem is there are only three grand tours to deploy them in how to manage the ambitions of Bernal, Thomas, Geoghegan Hart, Adam Yates, Sivakov, Martinez and Carapaz? Presumably bring two co-leaders to each grand tour and work around that.

Another Colombian said to be interested in the Giro is Nairo Quintana. But given his team Arkea-Samsic need a wildcard for the Tour de France, have French sponsors and have yet to win a stage of the Tour de France so it’s hard to see them focus on May rather than July to put it mildly.

At the other end of the market Davide Rebellin keeps on riding, a curiosity as much as an athlete. But he might be running out of road with his team, Eurosport reports the Cambodia Cycling Academy outfit is under investigation from the French Ligue, the body that oversees pro cycling in France and the UCI. Investigation though as in making some calls and enquiries rather than about-to-be-convicted and cycling’s third tier of teams is a bit of a wild-west almost by design as it’s a pro-am scene.

Finally, back to the first photo at the top. You might be missing riding in France or want to day dream about it? Many are limited to surfing the landscapes instead thanks to an art project by two photographers, Nelly Monnier and Eric Tabuchi called the Atlas des Régions Naturelles which probably doesn’t need translation. It’s across two websites with as a front page with over 100 images to browse. Or with a big screen go to and chose your small region, theme or something else and then click on “rechercher” on the top-right. The images are mostly blunt and bleak but this is rural France as it is rather than the postcard scenes, to browse many of these images is to go for a ride out of season. If you watch the GP La Marseillaise on the last Sunday of January time look out for the spot in the top photo as it should be on the route.

13 thoughts on “Friday Shorts”

  1. Wondering whether the Giro will be a beneficiary of the reported quarantine rules for the Olympics. The road race seems to be a rare chance for GC type riders to win, but they’d have to potentially forego the Tour. Possibly a tough decision for the likes of Roglic?

    • There could be work-arounds here if the Tour riders are considered as already being inside a sanitary bubble. Last season’s experience of riding the worlds/ classics straight after the Tour might alter thinking as well, in that you can do a grand tour and then win a long one day race a week or so later. If the games go ahead, fingers crossed.

  2. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how Team Ineos divide their GT teams this season.
    With recent recruitment, there’s potential to almost have an exclusive South American team around Bernal and a British one around Thomas / Yates / TGH.
    Maybe that’s wishful thinking perhaps, but it’s not beyond imagination to think that Sir Jim might want to see another British push for a Tour win?
    In hindsight as well, recalling the time when the Arab teams came into the World Tour, we did discuss their ambitions and the possible financial extent to which they’d pursue such ambitions.
    Low and behold, it hasn’t taken them long to make their mark on both counts.
    It looks like this season’s trident could be the three ‘super teams’ vying for Tour de France supremacy?

    • But UAE don’t have a team of super domestiques who are going to dominate in the mountains with their train. They have Pogacar. He can follow others’ trains and then win, as we’ve seen – as long as some of their many classics specialists can protect him on difficult flat stages.

      • If their growing budget, and home of the Tour winner, doesn’t afford them super team status, I feel that it’s only a matter of time. The Arabs do not do things by halves, and I’m sure that they will continue to recruit top riders over the next few seasons to come.

    • I can’t see either Thomas or TGH being the main GC riders at the TdF. More likely it will be a South American – that’s where the push with this squad seems to be. Though Bernal will need to have put his injury worries to one side if it is to be him.
      We still have a whole early season to get through of course… I guess there is always Richie Porte.

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