A quick look at some stories and topics in and around the sport…
Tom Dumoulin is taking a break from the sport. Like Marc Hirschi’s switch to UAE it came almost the day after he was presented in team kit so it seems sudden. Only the idea behind both decisions was kicking around for some time before the decision was taken and then announced. What does Dumoulin’s retreat mean for the sport? Beyond Jumbo-Visma’s roster planning – and they’re a team deep with talent – not much as it’s one personal issue rather than a trend and maybe we should not extrapolate too far in looking into this?
Jumbo-Visma won’t be there but currently it’s full steam ahead for the season-opening GP La Marseillaise this Sunday. The French government is watching the Covid case data closely and could impose further restrictions on activities and movements but press reports say President Macron isn’t going to make a policy intervention this week so the GP La Marseillaise should happen… or at least it seems the President won’t get in the way. A reminder it’s on TV this year, a first and in part because people are encouraged to watch from home rather than the roadside.
Other races in February could face bigger hurdles so it’s possible the pro season starts this Sunday only to grind to a halt. We’ll also see differences as races of national importance get backing, for example the UAE Tour goes ahead while smaller, local 1.1 races vanish and lower down there are blanket bans, for example all amateur races are off until March in Belgium. Above all a matrix of conditions apply, obviously national decisions apply so there are differences country-by-country within Europe but also regional and below as it only takes one local to say no and another race bites the dust.
Several Spanish races are trying to move from February to May. This looks like buying time which is a valid reason alone. But absent the Tour of California this could work as a way to allow both Spanish squads and riders returning after a spring classics break to race, it could work for all.
Delete, delete, delete. Normally offering a calendar of races to download is something useful and worth sharing but like last year it’s becoming a job to manage it with more and more races being cancelled or postponed. This isn’t a sympathy play, no let’s save that for the race organisers, riders and locals who had been counting on the event. Instead if you are a subscriber to this blog’s calendar and notice a race has been cancelled but it’s still listed then an email or comment would be helpful here for fellow users.
One other thing that’s been missing is of late L’Equipe, France’s daily sports newspaper. Staff were on strike for 12 days after management announced job and budget cuts. The challenges of running a newspaper these days are well-known with shrinking circulation and fierce competition online. It’s a great source for cycling coverage, especially during the Tour de France. The good news is a compromised has been reached and the paper is back, hopefully with continued excellent coverage. Only today the paper has a deeper account of Marc Hirschi’s move.
One article looking at the L’Equipe strike mentioned something relevant and of interest: the Tour de France made a loss last year, a first it seems in a very long time. The titbit comes from French newspaper Le Parisien. If the Tour lost money, presumably most others did too although ASO pushed the boat out booking more hotels and hiring a substantial medical crew.
Talking of medical crews, the new Eolo-Kometa team is one to watch. Founded by Ivan Basso and Alberto Contador, it’s fair to say the pair have some baggage. Now in comes Carlos Barredo as team coach, the same Barredo who retired just when the UCI opened a case against him regarding abnormalities in his bio-passport. One to watch.
Another ProTeam now and Delko, formerly known as Nippo Delko One Provence last year (the UCI has scrapped the old rule limiting naming rights to two sponsors). The team is owned and run by Philippe Lannes who is the boss of Delko, a network of car repair workshops and spare parts retail. He’s lost both Nippo and the Provence region in the last year after internal wrangling. What’s interesting is that both Nippo and Provence have moved to EF Pro Cycling this year. Nippo was well known and a straightforward sponsor switch with the Japanese tarmacker moving to a team, it had hopped across from Italian teams before. Provence is different as it’s not just a region, it is the region where Delko was based and had been a long term backer. The US team is now going to promote the Provence region in return. Presumably the service course and riders stay in Girona for now – Provence is a side sponsor – but it’ll be interesting to see how they showcase the region, presumably someone is studying gravel tracks for Lachlan Morton at this minute. It should be an easy sell, the city of Marseille is France’s version of Napoli/Naples which is both good and bad but it’s a quick ride out to some great roads and tracks.