Tuesday Shorts

Dan Martin’s done his last race. A likeable rider with a palmarès everyone can celebrate, there’s one win that’s worth citing again as his Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory had a catalytic effect among other riders of his generation.

This season Dan Martin’s win gives me the right to believe even more than before. He succeeded in getting past rides like Valverde and Rodriguez which you can’t ignore
– Romain Bardet

For years they saw races being won by riders who’d either been busted for doping or were likely to get rousted. Then Martin won and several riders said it gave them faith that there was a way to win clean, that quote above is from Bardet in Vélo magazine and others said something similar.

André Greipel is also retiring, coincidentally a team mate of Martin. You can see riders on TV or pictures online and in magazines and think they look like big athletes, especially the sprinters and classics contenders. Then you can meet them in real life and they’re very svelte, and probably only really looked big before because they were riding alongside even smaller athletes. But Greipel has calves as big as they look and the Gorilla nickname was real. He’s also got a new autobiography out (in German) which should be worth looking out for, he’s had a long career and should have some stories to tell.

The spectator who brandished the Opi-Omi sign causing Tony Martin to crash and bring down many other riders on the opening stage of the Tour de France this year is in court this Thursday reports Ouest-France. ASO dropped charges but the CPA Union pressed on. You or I might have a view on this and that’s exactly not the point here, what matters instead is any verdict or judgement because of the legal precedent here and it’ll be worth reading the outcome. The court case is this week but the conclusion could take minutes or months.

We’re certain to know the Tour de France route this week as it’s unveiled in Paris… on the same day as the case mentioned above. As usual the whole thing has leaked out to the regional press in France and the Velowire website does a fine job piecing them together, with added sleuth work to call towns and enquire about hotel vacancies in July and deducing that beaucoup bookings means the Tour is coming to town. As ever though we’ll get to see what the climbs and novelties are along the route.

By contrast the Tour de France femmes route also comes out on Thursday and good luck finding details of the route in leaks… until today. RTL radio’s cycling journalist shared some of the likely towns:

If he’s right, and he is usually well-informed, it’ll be a route to the east of France, going to Epernay for the same finish for puncheuses where Julian Alaphilippe took the stage and yellow jersey in 2019, then a mountain stage with the Grand Ballon or Ballon d’Alsace and the savage Planche des Belles Filles summit finish, complete with the gravel section on top, to conclude. It’s interesting as this isn’t a Tour de France clone. Obviously the eight day format can’t mean a tour of France (nor does the men’s race, aiming to visit each area at least once every four years) but no Alps or Pyrenees is distinct. Organisers ASO have just appointed ex-pro Marion Rousse as the new event director which is promising… but her TV commentary will be missed, she can identify a rider from afar.

Talking of tough mountains to climb, Qhubeka-Assos are hunting for a replacement sponsor just as teams are busy registering with the UCI. There’s a deadline for the paperwork coming up this week but a file can be submitted here and the details, like funding, can come along later if there’s a realistic prospect of landing a sponsor. From the sounds of a cyclingnews.com article the team’s been asking all its sponsors to pay their dues for the rest of the year early so that the team can meet its wage bill. Perhaps just to cover wages until September and the remaining three months can be covered by the team’s UCI wage guarantee posted with a bank. Drawing on this is hardly going to help the licence.

One solution could come in Canadian horticultural firm Premier Tech. Fresh from exiting out of Astana, cyclingnews.com reports (them again) they won’t be linking up with Bike Exchange and so could still sponsor the Qhubeka team but are said to be talking to Rally and Israel as well and want to buy into a team with the ownership as well sponsorship. Ownership is one thing, control another because as we saw with Astana this is a fraught thing, someone can own up to 49.999% and still get flicked by the other owner, even if you take your sponsorship away. But it’s also one giant bargaining chip for teams keen for sponsorship, like Qhubeka.

Staying with deal-making, Dutch company Pon is buying Dorel Sports, the sports goods division of Dorel. Pon started out as the importer of Volkswagen cars to the Netherlands and is now a big trading company that owns Cervélo among several brands, likewise Dorel has Cannondale in its stable. Which means the possibility of two brands under the same roof as bike sponsors in the World Tour if the merger gets clearance. Yes Specialized and Merida are linked companies via ownership but they’re not brands in the same portfolio which is what Cannondale and Cervélo will be alongside Gazelle, Schwinn, Focus etc. What happens will be interesting, presumably both brands continue as they’re valuable in their own right but ultimately someone, somewhere will be in charge of both of their marketing budgets. We see this elsewhere with Giro and Bell as two competing brands under the same ownership of Vista Outdoor, or saddles with Fizik also owning Selle Royal while rivals Selle Italia also have Selle San Marco too.

25 thoughts on “Tuesday Shorts”

  1. I had hoped that Premier Tech would, as was once reported, associate with Gerry Ryan’s Greenedge and give them a desperately needed boost. Thier budget seems to have been squeezed over several years with the results – or lack of them – clear to see.

    Agreed on Marion Rousse’s rider spotting skills. Not only that, but she can read tactics and identify struggling riders with ease. She forrms a pretty good team with Jalabert and even Voeckler. Surely her new role won’t keep her off all commentary? At least we don’t have the excitable Thierry Adam much these days.

    If Qhubeka do find sponsorship, it will be late in the day to find a decent roster for 2022.

    And the 2022 TdF seems to be heading this way again and maybe finishing in Longwy Haut as in 2017. Great news.

      • She didn’t do that with Tony Gallopin back in the day, getting breathlessly excited at the prospect. Perhaps because it didn’t happen so frequently?

    • I hope too that she will continue commentary… She was the best one for french TV with Jacky Durand on Eurosport, always smart, sober and remarkably accurate.

    • Agreed – Greenedge has really stalled the last few years. They lost all their promising stars and seemed to have stopped developing as well.

      The premier-tech group (including Steve Bauer) would have been a great addition. Bauer is a very motivated leader and did really well with the Canadian Spider-Tech bunch.

      • They wanted 51% ownership for just a $5 million investment. Control of the team for a secondary sponsor amount of cash.

        Greenedge were correct to tell them where to shove that sort of “offer” and Bauer should be looking to re-evaluate his association with them.

        But perhaps Doug Ryder might be a little more desperate?

  2. It’s an interesting point about the size of pro riders. Van der Poel looks like quite a big guy in the peloton. I saw a photo of him the other day next to do tennis players (strong guys but by no means body builders) and he looked like a scrawny 17 year old weed. I’ve read somewhere that the only professional cyclist who looked genuinely big in real life, and would appear big in a pub, was Magnus Backstedt. Dario Pieri might run him close though.

    • Ha ha, I saw that photo, and was surprised as well. He’s quite often called a ‘Big unit’ by Rob Warner; compared to other cyclists he probably is, but that photo was quite telling. He actually isn’t – and his legs didn’t look that impressive either.

    • Conversely, I’m sometimes surprised by the weight of pro riders – when I’m struggling up a hill I try to reassure myself that I’m not built like a pro cyclist, but if Wikipedia is to be believed then guys like Politt, Sagan and van Aert would be boxing light heavyweights while Max Walscheid (heaviest?) would be at the top end of the cruiserweight category.

    • I can confirm Big Maggy deserves his moniker. Wearing a long leather coat as he picked up a prize at a UK 3up TTT, he looked the archetypal Bond movie bad guy.

  3. Interesting with the PON take-over; how far “behind the scenes” will the UCI go to define “…registered with the UCI with the same paying agent or main partner…” as stipulated in art. 2.2.001
    I doubt it will affect anything practical nor lead to weird situations, but interesting nevertheless. How and where – in a company set-up – is “paying agent” defined?

    • It should be ok with paying agents unless Cervélo and Cannondale become owners of teams, to rival Trek-Segafredo etc. But there’s another rule (2.15.052) which means teams can’t share some other links but we already have teams like Bora and DQS on Specialized bikes and this hasn’t been a problem as long as the bike sponsor is just a sponsor.

    • The paying agent is the team itself, not their sponsors. That means the companies like Denk Pro Cycling GmbH (Bora-Hansgrohe) or EUSRL France Cyclisme (Ag2r-Citroën) or Greenedge Cycling (Team BikeExchange).

      The “main partners” part is generally understood to cover naming rights sponsors.

      • Thanks fo rclearing that up, DaveRides. I must admit that I am not very good at business-setups and alike. It makes sense setting up a company to run the team and this being the paying agent. But it also makes the wording in the regulations slightly difficult to interpret, I’d say.

  4. I’m getting a bit scared, how will i get through winter without inrg race-previews/reports/shorts…?

    Your writing is second to none, not only in cycling but in sports-writing in general!

    please keep up the good work!

  5. Sad to see the Martins etc go. It feels like they were all representatives of a transitional generation that was at least trying, if not always succeeding, to make a break with the sport’s unpleasant past. While the new generation is more talented, I’m not sure that talent would be being rewarded if it weren’t for the attempts at cultural change that came before.

  6. Phil Gaimon is a surprisingly good writer and was a teammate of Dan Martin. He writes very well and very warmly about how talented Martin was and also how good Woods was. Can’t remember the name of the book but I think its his 2nd one. (PS Vaughters comes out really badly. His modus operandi – apparently – was to agree a salary with a rider then send a contract with a lower salary on. Gaimon skewers Vaughters without once sounding biased which is some feat.)

    • that book might have been draft animals? or pro cyclist on 10$ a day. Cant remember which but yes he does speak very fondly of rusty woods and dan martin.

  7. I wonder who would add their name/money to a team bankrolled by this guy- “Time ran out on the Trump administration, and we saw some of your achievements backslide, but hopefully President Pompeo will continue that path,” billionaire philanthropist Sylvan Adams, a co-chair of the event, said — to huge applause — before adding that he thought Pompeo and the Abraham Accords architects would have been a “much more deserving” winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Note to Premier Tech: Once bitten, twice shy.
    Is it gonna be 17 teams fighting for 19 spots in “Heinie’s Folly” 2022?
    Cannondale/Cervelo? Who cares? As you’ve noted many times the only thing Cannondale or Cervelo on the bikes might be the decal as the bikes themselves are so often mixed and baked in the same Asian factories if they’re not made-to-measure products of artisan builders done up in team livery to fool the public.
    OTOH, great news the “Opi-Omi” dolt will face some consequences. Will it keep other morons from interfering in the race just to get their mug on TV?

    • I usually mock or moan, but you are spot on about this deeply unpleasant clown. I wish there was a simple programme that could simply suffix every internet mention of ‘billionaire’ with the word ‘exploiter’ or ‘parasite’. At least whenever the weasel word ‘philanthropist’ is invoked.

  8. Dan Martin’s win at L-B-L was all about him actually winning this time, and not falling at the final turn like he did before. Real fire in the eyes.

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