Wednesday Shorts

Congratulations to Biniam Girmay for winning Gent-Wevelgem. A big win, a stage in his career. He was so strong Euro pro teams took notice in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo race in Gabon and he came recommended by the UCI’s World Cycling Centre.

A telling thing is that he joined the Delko team, which points to gaps in the talent detection for the big teams, a talented Belgian junior can practically name their team these days while Girmay didn’t start in the World Tour, not even Qhubeka. After the Delko team imploded mid-season last year he joined Intermarché and won a race for them last year, another in Majorca this year and came close to the win in Paris-Nice too, especially the stage to Dun-le-Palestel. Then he was third wheel going up the Paterberg behind the Jumbo-Visma duo. In other words he’s on the up and we’ll see what comes next. Literally the Giro. The team are obviously keep to keep him and they’ve risen up along with him,

Girmay? Ghirmay? Girmaye? Grmaye? His name’s been spelled differently at different times, his own Instagram account uses Girmaye, his Twitter account Grmaye. But the sport seems to have settled on Girmay. It doesn’t matter much given the correct spelling is in Tigrinyan script rather than the Roman alphabet, but does mean that if you want to search for part articles and stories you might have to look under each name. The convention for Eritrean names is to have a given name, then the next name is that of their father and possibly their grandfather. So he’s Biniam who’s the son of Girmay who’s the son of Hailu.

If you see images of parades in the streets of Asmara in the coming days… a pinch of salt. While many Eritreans will delight in the win, and scenes of a triumphant cyclist being greeted by huge crowds are often joyous moments… it’ll also be instrumentalised by the Eritrean regime, it happened last time when Daniel Teklehaimanot was feted for wearing the polka dot jersey in the Tour de France. Put simply it’s great to celebrate the achievement a line is crossed if government officials start to appropriate any of it. Eritrea’s an authoritarian dictatorship that manages to finish last on the Reporters Without Borders index for media freedom, even below North Korea so images might be hard to find anyway.

From political censorship to omission, this time probably for commercial reasons. Dwars Door Vlaanderen today and a dense startlist for both the men’s and women’s races, with Tadej Pogačar, Mathieu van der Poel and Annemiek van Vleuten taking on those who’ve already been busy on the pavé so far. It’s worth tuning in for later today. What time? Well good question and a prize if any readers can find this on the race website. Annoyingly the Flanders Classics website won’t tell you, you have to apply by email for a link where you can then get a PDF and find race info like the course, timings and profile. It’s been the same across all Flanders Classics race websites, including this Sunday’s Ronde. Which isn’t much use for a website is it?

Onto electronic fails of a different kind: jammed chains, dropped chains. Are there more this season, or is this just recency bias where we remember fresh images of riders suffering mechanicals? One aggravating factor is the move to 12 speed gearing meaning a narrower chain with tighter clearances, then heightened by some teams running mix-and-match systems, either deliberately because they don’t have full system sponsorship or unwillingly because they’re short on spares. We’ll never know though as nobody’s going to speak on the record about it.

Staying on bike tech but with things we can verify, as MatosVelo reported from Paris-Nice, almost all teams are on 140mm rotors, riders are usually light and they don’t warp as much compared to 160mm ones. If anything some would like smaller, especially for the rear wheel. As for tires, 28mm is becoming widespread, a shift after a decade ago moving to 25mm felt new. 28mm used to be Paris-Roubaix but that’s 30mm now, with Filippo Ganna training on these tires as he makes his long awaited bid for Roubaix.

Is it tech or media? The Tour de France and Strava have announced a deal together. But there’s not much more to go on. One angle here is who owns the data? Not all riders have accounts, plenty don’t upload their day’s data to Strava. But you can have timed segments using the timing chips on the bikes and mats placed at the start and finish of a climb so that’s a way to time all riders and log them on Strava, although only by start and finish for linear data. They could use the tracking devices on the bike instead which are used at the Tour too. Does this presage a change in the mountains competition? Who knows although you’d think they’d try this out first in a smaller race or use this summer’s Tour to build up some data before changing the competition. Plus the mountains competition is already sponsored by retail giant Leclerc so there’s that to manage as well.

Certainly media and less PR, Season 3 of Movistar’s El Dià Menos Pensado (“The Least Expected Day”) is out, but for Movistar customers only in Spain right now. Apparently it’s off to a good start. Having only seen Season 2 it should be worth a watch when it’s released for wider consumption and at times to watch a Movistar tactical implosion has been to wonder if this was “content creation” for video. A lot of team videos are produced by communication agencies for the teams themselves and “behind the scenes footage” is the scene, with everything carefully edited and portrayed and even the negatives get spun. But El Dià Menos Pensado has been much more unfiltered and refreshing because of that, look out for it.

43 thoughts on “Wednesday Shorts”

  1. I guess the moviestar things is in Spanish only so no good for many of us. Perhaps netflix or someone could subtitle it in the future.
    You could surely do an entire season just following Solar.

      • It’s not on Netflix yet. Not sure if they’re going to buy this season. It’s just on Movistar which is a mobile phone/internet/TV company here in Spain (in case you didn’t already know that)

  2. Movistar look like a bunch of amateurs in Seasons 1 and 2 but funnily enough I like them more for it. Not surprised they sacked the main DS and I’m sure the chap from Bora (Patxi??) will iron out the creases

  3. Read somewhere that Girmay was a product of the UCI’s rider academy in Switzerland. If that’s true, some of the dough teams pony up for Heinie’s Folly might have been put to good use!! IMHO helping riders from non-cycling countries (though I read something about someone pointing out the cycling heritage established in Eritrea when the Italians were there) is much better than putting races in places where nobody cares. I hate to see the man’s success tarnished by the government of his country – are we gonna slime on anyone from Russia now?
    Race on TV times? Dunno what the Flanders folks are doing but it’s pretty easy to check Eurosport and see the race is on starting at 14:45 today.
    Interesting comment about the mechanical issues – I was wondering if it was just me who seemed to notice an increase? Have teams yanked off all the “chain-watchers” in a battle to get disc-braked bikes down to the 6.8 kg limit? Are the problems really related only to Shimano’s 12 speed setup?

    • The UCI world cycling centre (CMC) is an amazing project. Since the moving of Qhubeka away from African development, it’s one of the only development structures outside of Europe and North America, one of the best avenues for worldwide development of cycling (beats the Tour of Guangxi anyway) and its importance has never been higher. I only wish the structure had better funding, but the UCI, for all the talk of greed when the fines are published, is pretty tiny.

      On a tangent note, Vincent Jacquet, who was leading the CMC since late 2019, has passed away yesterday at only 52.

  4. Seriously, would any rider go out with kit they know is likely to fail?
    There have been so many dropped chain incidents, and Mohoric at San Remo was close to a disaster, I’m starting to wonder which teams are rewinding to 11sp and even cable-shifting.
    Cobbled classics are most likely to find out any issues so it’s reasonable for team mechanics to offer-up a ‘Roubaix special’ but there must be major gripes for so many teams beyond this period.
    I guess we will never hear the full story unless the manufacturers retreat.
    Can’t be fun being a team mechanic right now.

    • Do they have any choice? C’mon, there are teams out there with SRAM for Pietro’s sake! They’re not using that for any other reason than the money SRAM pays ’em.
      When teams have to spend their own money they buy Shimano for a variety of reasons…and when that doesn’t work….ARRGGGHH!!!
      I’d REALLY hate to be a team mechanic these daze – I count my blessings to have retired from the bike tour biz before ever having to troubleshoot someone’s electronic or hydraulic setup or fiddle with internal wires/hoses 🙂
      RIP Richard Moore. I enjoyed In Search of Robert Millar.

    • Yes, very sad news. I’m not a regular listener to the podcasts but the Robert Millar book was great, even when I read it again with the benefit of knowing about Pippa York.

    • Devastated.
      Been a dedicated listener of the Cycling Podcast from its earliest incarnations.
      Richard had a rare ability to connect with people and lead conversations while letting others have the limelight. So sad.

      • This is well said – “lead conversations while letting others have the limelight.” I totally agree.

        It was always clear to me that Richard was an absolute master of his craft (Lionel and Daniel not so bad themselves).

        My enjoyment of the sport just won’t be the same without him. Strange how much this has affected me; I’ve never met the man!

    • This is very sad. I’ve been a semi-regular listener of the Cycling Podcast (I think via a recommendation here), and always enjoyed both the chemistry between the three hosts but especially Richard Moore’s style and approach.

      Am I correct that he recently took a break from the podcast to deal with depression, which I believe he was pretty open about (an attitude I wholeheartedly applaud)?

      • That was his colleague Lionel Birnie.

        I’d recommend Moore’s books, particularly “In Search of Robert Millar”, “Etape” and “Slaying the Badger” as the kind you can read and then pick up a year or three later and enjoy again. Moore often came at stories from a different angle which makes the reading more enjoyable.

        • Ah, of course, what a brain fart.

          I look forward to reading some of Moore’s books. Based on your recommendation I recently read The Rider, and as soon as I get through a couple of other books on my shelf I’ll check out ‘Slaying the Badger.’

  5. Just seen the Richard Moore news, gutted. After almost a decade of listening to the podcast you almost feel like you’re friends with the presenters. Sincere condolences to any of his actual friends or family if they happen to read this blog, which does get frequent mentions on The Cycling Podcast. He was a great journalist and seemed like an equally great guy. RIP Richard.

  6. Thank you for this post.
    I didn’t realise re Eritrea press freedom.
    I wish there was a more coordinated attempt to get African cyclists into the pro peloton.
    Feels like it would need someone like Lefervere to be loud and respected enough to do it…
    I hope Girmay goes to Quickstep – makes perfect sense…

    • I think they rather need a Gianni Savio – someone who will learn local conditions, spend a lot of time there, scout young talents and get them to the level where they can race and move to bigger teams.

  7. What’s bugging me in pro cycling at the moment is that the uci appear to have thrown the non Russian riders and staff of Gazprom rusvelo under the bus. Apparently this includes some Ukrainians as well

    • And on PCS all Russian riders shown with no country flag.
      WTF is this all about, is now everyone born in this country on paria status, no matter what they may think about the situation and no matter nobody that nobody could choose their place of birth?
      I’m all for not letting politics out of the sport, but blaming individual athletes is something out of the uberwoke morale toolbox, which leds to absolutely nothing good, IMHO

      • The outrage is rather selective. There are recent – and even still running – aggressive wars taking place without similar reaction. Putin’s aggression is clearly inexcusable, but – without trying to be a red herring spilling whataboutist – next year would be a twentieth anniversary of much more destructive (as yet), albeit similar war crime commited by US and their puppet “coalition of the willing”.

        But at least the vast majority of people are now outraged by a war, which is good to know. Back to cycling, I suppose.

    • The AG2R bikes are equipped with Campagnolo Super Record EPS 12 speed groupset. (Unless, of course, the team mechanics have changed it after the promo pictures were taken and the bikes were put on show.)
      There have been a couple of instances of chains dropping at an inopportune moment, say, on an uphill where it has brought the rider in the brown bib shorts to a halt and putting the chain back on and regaining speed hasn’t been such a simple and fast affair….

    • The tweet makes it sound like a Shimano problem – is there “firmware” inside Di2 that can be confused or suffer a Ctrl/Alt/Delete moment? Dunno for sure but just like any other sponsor deal, I’d be surprised if Campagnolo teams weren’t using their newest-latest.
      These days I’m thinking 140 mm brake rotors and 12 speeds are almost standard with maybe the only question being how the wheels attach to the bike? How many different thru-axle/quick-release setups do the poor schlubs working neutral support have to carry?

      Looks like 12 cogs in back to me. I’ve not read or heard anything negative about Campagnolo’s 12 vs their previous 11 groupsets. The widespread issues and rumors seem to center on Shimano’s 12 speed groupsets, though as I’ve noted elsewhere I’m wondering if it’s as much operator-error as anything? Are there any techs out there who keep close tabs on Shimano’s service bulletins and tech news issues who would know if there’s something wrong with this groupset that’s being addressed now?

  8. Interested to see the trend on tyres. I read somewhere that the rolling resistance on the narrow tyres is actually higher than for slightly wider … aerodynamic advantages weighed in favour of the skinny tyres.
    I suspect that there may be advantages with the wider tyres in terms of fewer punctures and prangs but that may be wishful thinking 🤔.

  9. As an inveterate wrencher myself, it’s nice to see the tech issues mentioned. Everything is so hush-hush due to sponsorship, so we have to speculate from whispers and videos.

  10. Richard Moore. Only knew him through his journalism, and wouldn’t have recognised him on the street. But if others are feeling so bereft about this, the aggregate weight of mourning is colossal. Sincere best wishes to those more closely involved.

  11. I’m a day too late on this, but Belgian police are questioning that guy holding the Luc sign about rogue signals being transmitted from antennas in his banner. It is rumoured that these mimic Di2 impulses with the intention of causing equipment failure or ghost shifts.
    Commentators report they noticed Intermarche Wanty Gobert equipment is unaffected.

    • I’ve always wondered what that guy(s) is advertising – isn’t clear to me – printing? Or is he just a fan?
      At least I knew what Dirk Hofman was trying to flog.

  12. Electronic gears have always failed more than mechanical ones.
    Disc brakes are also a disadvantage because of the time to change a wheel.
    If you’re not in a race, maybe these things are better – I know nothing about bikes – but in a race, they’re not.
    The pros must know this, but are forced to ride with this stuff. (I remember Cancellara refusing to use electronic gears, at least in cobbled races.)

    • I know statistics are worse than damn lies, but do we really know that eletronic gears fail more than mechanical ones? I take it that you don’t mean a dropped chain but a problem big enough or a malfunction that necessitates a bike change?
      In my very limited eperience of one, mechanical gears fail when a cable that should have been replaced a year aggo snaps or when the chain somehow yanks the rear derailleur and electronic gears fail when one has forgotten to charge the battry or when the rear derailleur is yanked off. The first mentioned shouldn’t happen to a pro whose team mechanics take care of these things anf the last mentioned are probably equally rare events.
      The achilles heel of electronic gears is probably the safety feature that is designed to prevent worse damage in case of a crash or the bike falling, Allegedly it can misread the situation in a cobbled race and shut itself. (But it has never happened to me, even on off-road adventures on my gravel bike, Maybe because I didn’t have electronic gears in Cancellara’s days and never had the latest group…)

      A wheel change is no big thing when it doesn’t happen at an unlucky moment during a race. It really doesn’t matter if it takes 30 seconds or even a minute longer than with a bike equipped with disc wheels – and if it happens late in the race, during the final as they say, or when there are no team cars to help the rider back to the group he was with or when there are no team mates left, the game is over anyway.
      It is, of course, something between hysterically hilarious and annoyingly unfair when the wheel change of a disc brake equipped bike seems to take forever, but I’d hazard a guess that the instances when the greater amount of time lost actually has been what cost a rider a win or a podium finish.

      • “In my very limited e(x)perience of one” is the key here. Just because it hasn’t happened to you or you haven’t seen it first-hand doesn’t mean it’s not an issue, especially when for these guys (unlike you) it can be the difference between winning and losing. A dropped chain seems quite often to end up being a jammed chain once the rider flails away trying to put it back on and gets it all jammed-up in the rush. Same with flat tires – back-in-the-day every support vehicle, neutral or otherwise had a front or rear wheel that would almost instantly swap-in as a replacement.

      • You really are something 🙂 But thank you for (adding) the x my fingers failed to type!
        But you know what? In my very limited experience of one I have managed to jam the chain in the fashion you described only once – and it was on a bike with mechanical gears.
        Which of course doesn’t prove that it couldn’t happen with electronic gears. It is simply that it can and does happen quite regardless of whether the gears come with a battery and a small engine or not…
        So we are back wit the original question: is it true that we see more dropped chains now that the gears as a rule are elecronic? Or are we, as spectators, just paying more attention? Or has it become “an issue” simply because the 2×12 is brand new, shiny and expensive, and any mishaps – even though they are the same that happened all the time and at any time, including inopportune moments during a race, with mechanical gears?
        And yes: a lightning quick wheel change back in the day when thruaxles were something for mountain bikes could still be the thing that was the difference between winning and losing. It is not enough to dislike or abhor something and then to make sweeping statements based upon witnessing two or three incredibly slow wheel chnages.
        But we probably shoud just agree to disagree. There is very little hope of this getting us anywhere.

    • What I should have said:
      ‘Electronic gears have always seemed to fail more than mechanical ones.’
      I have no personal experience whatsoever, and the above is only based on watching races.

      • It is indeed a possibility that I can’t and won’t deny. But it strikes me as odd because neither the front nor the rear derailleur does anything that it wouldn’t do if the force that made it move came from a human finger instead of a small electric motor.
        The only difference that I know of is the one I’ve heard Magnus Bäckstedt comment upon: the sheer force of the pull on the rear derailleur is stronger in an electronic group and this can cause a problem in a situation where a human controlling a mechanical group could avoid it.
        The subject has been discussed during coffee breaks on my group rides and the consensus among riders who, unlike me, race – and some even in order to win 🙂 – and although I’ve heard of electronic gears that suddenly stopped working because of a connection failure, those were all in the early days of di2. And no one has yet complained that the damn thing threw his chain off the ring.

        But all this doesn’t tell us anything about the pros, the demands they make on equipment and the bugs that the newest of the new may have and that are revealed only or first in the heat of a high intensity ricing.

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