Thursday Shorts

Up popped Dylan Teuns. Third in the 2017 edition aged 25, he looked set to win the race as when a young-ish rider can place, they often return and improve thanks to wisdom and in particular how to negotiate the two last bends.

Teuns is now hot property on the transfer market. Lotto-Soudal are interested, likewise Intermarché-Wanty says Het Laatse News. Not long ago if these teams came calling the former would have been the obvious destination, less so now with Lotto-Soudal looking more like the riskier bet given relegation risk and Intermarché establishing themselves in the World Tour.

The Flèche Wallonne is always an uphill sprint much in the way the Scheldeprijs is always a bunch sprint (ok, not this year) because there are so many teams willing and able to set it up for their leader going into the foot of the climb that it’s almost inevitable. The women’s race over the years has seen more action with breakaways sticking. What if the ever-improving performance and density of the women’s field also means both races become bunch sprints?

Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix was a thriller, up there with… last year’s edition too which was excellent. Perhaps the lack of suspense in the final moments meant this year’s version can’t quite compete alongside the 2016 edition won by Mathew Hayman but that’s a matter of taste and us being spoilt for choice, like picking between the best vintages of a fine wine. The race was so lively, a sense heightened by the hectic TV direction, that even though van Baarle was well ahead by the time he rode onto the velodrome it felt like something could still happen, that the chasing riders could ride onto the track just as he came past the entrance and they’d all collide.

Much has been made of Ineos’s reinvention as a classics team this spring. Surely they’ve always been strong? They’ve won Het Nieuwsblad twice and many times given it everything in Paris-Roubaix: Wiggins and Thomas were in the mix until Terpstra snuck away in 2014 and they had a good time in 2016 and Gianni Moscon could have won last year were it not for that puncture. Perhaps one difference is that in years past they often tried to place riders up front, now they’re more aggressive and not just getting riders into the front group, they’re making more moves. Knowing they don’t have the best rider and changing their tactics to a more risky form of racing is interesting and the big question is whether it can be done in July?

Normally Quick-Step are the team to watch. It’s still too soon to write about their failure in the classics as there’s still Liège-Bastogne-Liège this Sunday. But as things stand, the stats show they’ve had their worst spring classics campaign ever as measured by wins, podium places or top-10s. The signs are not great with Julian Alaphilippe a few pedal strokes slower on the Mur de Huy, a performance not helped by the crash provoked by his own team car in the Brabantse Pijl. But Liège is his big goal, it’s the one that’s got away from him so far and he deliberately avoided some of the cobbled classics to focus on this.

This blog’s praised the idea of teams having development squads and the rules that allow them to draft in “devo” riders into pro races. Lenny Martinez has had a good showing in the Tour of the Alps after making the front group on the second stage. Just 18, he’s the son of Olympic and World MTB champ Miguel Martinez and the grandson of Mariano Martinez, the 1978 Tour de France mountains competition winner. Last year he was duelling with Cian Uijtdebroeks in junior races, now their in the Tour of the Alps which is a handy race to test younger riders with the shorter stages and significant climbs.

Staying with old names and new models, Colnago has a new frame out, the C68 and it’s one of the last brands to offer a rim brake option, the mid-market is getting close to 100% disc brake, with calipers reserved as an option on ultra premium bikes, Pinarello too, or standard fare for basic models.

Finally, staying with new products… of a sort, pharma giant GSK is now seeking regulatory approval around the world for Daprodustat, a pill that “increases endogenous production of erythropoietin”, the hormone that promotes red blood cell growth. It’s EPO in a pill. For too long in pro cycling a lot of riders and team staff dedicated plenty of time, energy and money to acquiring and transporting EPO. Tales of vials being stored in secret compartments, stashed in inside vacuum cleaners and so on to make a furtive cold chain all before it could be injected. Now it comes as a tiny pill, presumably a lot easier for genuine anaemics with a clinical need which is the main point of course. The good news for sport is that it is already on the WADA banned list, in part because of collaboration between GSK and WADA.

56 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

  1. “They’ve won Het Nieuwsblad twice and many times given it everything in Paris-Roubaix” makes a classics team if you’re a fan of this one I guess? Good thing they don’t need anything other than TdF wins to keep their money-man happy…but with Bernal out, perhaps they do need something else?
    “It’s EPO in a pill.” Let’s hope the makers put a tell-tale marker in ’em so the cheats can easily be caught and not have any chance to escape sanctions with excuses like their gel caps were contaminated at the pharmacy, the pills were for the dog, I ate contaminated beef, blah, blah, blah.

    • “They’ve won Het Nieuwsblad twice and many times given it everything in Paris-Roubaix” makes a classics team if you’re a fan of this one I guess?

      I think you underestimate the team’s palmarès in the spring. Perhaps by stealth Sky/Ineos have won the following classics and semi-classics since 2010. OK, it is not the same as the various incarnations of Quick Step, but which team is? I suspect the likes of Lotto or other similarly long-lived teams that style themselves as classics teams wouldn’t mind that list of victories over the same period.

      Milan San Remo – 2017
      Liege – Bastogne – Liege – 2016
      Paris – Roubaix – 2022
      Amstel Gold Race – 2022
      Strade Bianche – 2017
      Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – 2014, 2015
      Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne – 2011, 2012
      Dwars door Vlaanderen – 2021
      Brabantse Pijl – 2021, 2022
      GP E3 – 2015, 2016

      From the spring, it is only really the Tour of Flanders, Flexhe-Wallone and the Scheldeprijs that they haven’t won.

      • Whilst above is true and whilst I did forget about MSR 2017, a third of their classics victories have been in this and last year. When tactics where visually different compaired to the ‘Sky-years’.

        Being one of (or the) richest team in cycling you can say there winning before last year were quite meager.

  2. I had to read the penultimate paragraph a couple of times to see whether you were suggesting that Colnago was a mid-market brand. Which felt unlikely at €14,000 for the C68!

          As to INEOS suddenly becoming the new Wolf Pack…let’s not forget Lefevere’s team has been suffering from the same maladies that have sidelined so many others in the pro peloton so far in 2022. Would the same fanboys who celebrate this so-called new Wolf Pack also admit Sir Dave Dopecheat’s team is no longer the force it once was in Grand Tours or are they eating their cake and having it too… like the UK’s BOJO?

  3. It’s always fascinating watching the final climb of the Mur in the Flèche Wallonne.
    Alaphilippe was glued to Pogacar’s back wheel for the climb but ultimately chose unwisely and ran out of road on which to correct his mistake.
    Just looking at the Strava segment of the Mur (1240 metres), the record time of 3.04 is held by Michael Woods.
    That pace is roughly akin to Sir Roger Bannister’s 4 minutes mile run, then a world record of course.
    Considering the elevation of the climb, and that it comes after other multiple climbs at the end of 200 km, it is very impressive.
    I wonder at what gradient steepness is it quicker / as quick to run than to pedal a bicycle, if at all?

  4. I wonder if quicksteps issues are a side effect of spending big on evenapoel and his ambitions. They don’t seem to have renewed much on there classics team for a few years.
    Having such a big and presumably expensive star plus having to keep riders to help him might have diluted the classics team.

    • I think that’s a part of it, Lefevere has spent big to keep Alaphilippe and then to put Evenepoel on a big long term deal and it’s taken up a share of the budget which could have gone on, to pick a semi-random case, hiring Christophe Laporte. We’ll return to the subject once Liège is done.

      • According to the ranking site Cycling Ranking he is the most successful cycling manager in history. I probably won’t live long enough to see that written about Sir Dave…even if I live to be 100.
        Seems like the old “but what have you done for me lately?” routine? Like a “Greatest of All Time” bike feature I saw awhile back….oldest bike on the list was barely two decades old.

  5. “old names and new models”, USA’s NBC had a new color commentator broadcaster Chris Horner (old model GC racer) with Bob Roll for the Flèche Wallonne.
    That was nice, perhaps we can now retire Phil Liggett on NBC here in the new world.

    Is he still a broadcaster on Eurosport in the UK or other countries in the EU?

    • Chris horner has an excellent youtube channel as well. His race reviews are worth the viewing time. He concentrates on tactics and roasting the various teams for wasting there energy.

    • ‘Is he still a broadcaster on Eurosport in the UK or other countries in the EU?’

      Not in the UK or Ireland at least. Ned Boulting replaced him on ITV’s coverage of the Tour in 2016. He (Boulting) is a serviceable broadcaster and has a good rapport with David Millar on co-commentary.

      Liggett is regarded as an institution by many but it’s not so long ago that I can’t remember the frustration of listening to him day in, day out. I was surprised to see him on NBC a couple of years ago.

      I’d assume most Europe based anglophone Inrng readers are GCN/Eurosport subscribers.

      • I find Boulting overly excitable and he also says some pretty stupid things at times while also having a strange obsession with riders – Gaudu for instance. Otherwise, he’s ok. Liggett was the voice of the Tour when I was growing up so even if it turned out he wasn’t very good, he is an institution.

    • We all loved the Phil and Paul show, but it’s over w/o
      Paul Sherwen.
      Could we please get rid of Bob Roll next ? He’s horrible.
      He calls the riders wrong calls the tactics wrong and tells you things that are just plain wrong over and over.
      Plus he just sounds like a goofball.
      Really though, HornDog sounds goofy too but he just gets excited. He knows his stuff and he is tactically brilliant.
      I also like Magnus Backstedt and Robbie McEwan.
      Announcers could be a good topic for this blog

      • Everyone has their own preferences. I don’t watch much, if any bike races with English commentary so would probably leave most English-speaking readers confused, I like to watch the locals, so Sporza for the cobbled classics, RAI for the Giro, France TV for the Tour etc (there are limits though, eg the Tour of Basque Country). You get the local info from people often at the race and they often have their own motos at the race for added in race commentary, France TV has two roving commentators even at Paris-Nice.

        With the Walloon races at the moment the commentary on RTBF is excellent, experts who read all the newspapers before the races, they’re often happy to stop talking and let the images speak for themselves.

      • ZKelly, totally agree. As an American who used to rely on Belgian friends to fax race results pre-internet, I appreciated finally being able to see at least some TdF on television featuring Phil and Paul, though Phil’s lack of even basic tactical nous has always been an irritant. He lost me when he went Lance-apologist and consipracy-theorist. At this point, he misses critical moves and calls replays as if he is seeing them for the first time regularly, which is just plain painful to watch. I have subscriptions to GCN and Peacock and generally turn the volume off for Peacock. Horner sounds like a kid trying to get Mom’s attention. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but find him and Bob Roll to be rather obnoxious. By comparison, the calm delivery and sheer expertise of Magnus is much preferred.

  6. “Knowing they don’t have the best rider and changing their tactics to a more risky form of racing is interesting and the big question is whether it can be done in July?”

    They have developed from the sky train to a more ‘risky’ form of grand tour racing which just involves keeping at least a couple riders close on GC and sending one rider up the road halfway up the last climb – a tactic which is almost never successful as the pog or rog grind them down. They’re going to have to try to blow stages apart, particularly rolling and windy ones.

  7. Shoot me down in a ball of flames but I’m on holiday this week and I have hired a bike with disc brakes. It’s my first experience of disc brakes – shimano ultegra – and I don’t feel they’re any better, even as good, as the callipers on my bike at home -campag chorus. Throw in the squeaking and the occasional rubbing noises after heavy braking and I’m not bowled over. I appreciate it’s a hire bike that’s no doubt seem plenty of use but even so, I don’t see anything approaching a game changer. A couple of years ago I had my only experience of electronic shifting on a hire bike and felt similarly unenthused. Looks like I’m going to have to look after my bike if I’m going to want to stay on rims and mechanical shifting.

    • I have a love / hate relationship with disc brakes. When they are good they are great but when they they have a problem like air leaking (consistent problem on all sram avid brakes i have had) or something else they are a pain. Installing them if you have to adjust the cable length is a pain compared to just cutting the cable shorter. No tolerance so any wobble and you hear it. I have had brake pads seemingly evaporate in one muddy mountain gravel ride. A plethora of different pad types. So many annoyances.
      But there are a couple of times i would prefer them by far on a road bike.
      – Mountain rides with good descents as i have had tubes / rim tape fail when over heating on steep decents (mt baw baw in victoria australia).
      – And particular when i used to amateur race on my carbon rims. Braking with carbon rims is noisy and crap. The smell of burning brake pads and noise when there is a heavy braking corner in master races. No way i would take carbon rim braking over good disc brakes.

      • As an enthusiastic UK bike commuter I was an early adopter of disc-braked road bikes, but of late my affection seems to have cooled on them considerably.

        Pads are more expensive than for rim brakes, and it’s a lot harder to assess when they need replacing (or when they have just got a bit dirty and are so making a racket…) although they certainly need replacing considerably more often than rim brakes.

        While disk brakes are noticeably superior to rim brakes in the wet, their performance in the dry can be distinctly underwhelming, certainly noisier, albeit somewhat harder to lock-up (which is a good thing in general…)

        I’ve several times on the commute found myself having to spray my bidon on the calipers in order to restore brake performance – hard sustained braking will often also sort it but can be harder to arrange in traffic. I’ve never had to do that with rim brakes!

    • On my road bike in the dry I don’t think there’s much between Ultegra rim brakes on an aluminium surface, and disc brakes. They both have great stopping power and you’ll lock the wheel before running out of breaking force.

      In the rain (lots of that in Britain!) disc brakes have the edge over aluminium rim but the latter are still fine – the difference is that most carbon rims are absolutely lethal in wet conditions. Apparently the Campy Bora are an exception but I can’t afford them.

      That doesn’t matter to World Tour riders of course and we’ve seen that Pogacar prefers lighter rim brake set ups for big mountain stages, paired up with Campy wheels that cost thousands and have a brake track that actually works. Not sure if any other riders have that choice now, although Giant (and Pinarello?) still do rim brake frames.

      The big advantage of discs for me isn’t on a road bikes, I’d happily take rim brakes with aluminium brake tracks, but on cyclocross / gravel bikes. Bigger tyres and increased stopping power in muddy off-road rides / winter commutes is much better.

      • Very interesting.
        I’m no tech enthusiast or expert – and I’d happily welcome some feedback on this subject by people who are – but I’ve long felt that the disc brake obsession by the industry (which has been clearly pushing them much further away from what looked reasonable and well beyond any actual market demand) might be related, among other things, to also pushing mid-to-low level carbon wheels, which, by the way, also make little to no sense at all for the user, I’d say.
        But why should the industry be so fond with mediocre carbon wheels vs. decent aluminium ones? More margins? Easier to externalise in Asia? No idea.

        • I’m very far from any technical expertise but I have used the oldish Dura Ace C50s with rim brakes and like them. They’re lighter carbon wheels but with an aluminium braking surface and are a good compromise between the two options.
          I think, at the time, the Sky Team were using them.
          Not the cheapest though.
          I thought it was all about feathering braking, rather than grabbing at them?
          Do disc brakes give for a lighter feathering touch?
          Who was the rider at the Flèche, yanked suddenly on his front disc brake (even at very low speed) and duly somersaulted over the handlebars?

        • Re: “I’ve long felt that the disc brake obsession by the industry…might be related, among other things, to also pushing mid-to-low level carbon wheels”

          There might be something in that, I don’t know the margins. Hydraulic groupsets are way more expensive too, although again I have no idea how much of that is profit for the manufactures. Ditto electric vs mechanical groupsets.

          Mechanical disc groupsets are far cheaper but perform worse than rim brakes with alu brake tracks in my experience (Shimano worse than SRAM for reasons to do with pull ratios, I think).

          I do know loads of cyclists like carbon rims as they’re “stealthy” and pair beautifully with gumwall tyres – but you’ll have to sacrifice breaking power if using rim brakes!

          Hydraulic brakes are easier to modulate than rim brakes – you gradually squeeze and the breaking power increases controllably. Rim brakes are a bit more on/off but you can easily feather them to regulate their power, but I suppose if you’re careless they can lock up easier.

        • My guess is mediocre carbon wheels yield better margin? The other thing with disc brake setups is the wheels no longer need to be very true side-to-side. That’s gotta save money whether the wheels are laced and trued by machine or low-cost labor in Asia.
          I used to say the average cyclist would be far better off with a bicycle optimized for Paris-Roubaix instead of one for racing up Alpe d’Huez, but if the typical P-R machine is going to have wheels so fragile (not to mention 2000 euro a pair!) that whacking them with rocks (if the tire goes flat) reveals the structural integrity of a potato chip and the bike becomes unrideable – perhaps I can’t say that anymore?

    • “Looks like I’m going to have to look after my bike if I’m going to want to stay on rims and mechanical shifting.”
      That’s a game-changer IMHO – you’re now a vintage bike enthusiast who might start thinking about stocking up on a few specific items, especially since your bike has Campagnolo parts. The story I once got from Vicenza was they back-ordered out-of-production bits until the numbers were high enough to justify a production run. After they made that stuff and it sold-out, they waited until enough orders came round again. I try to keep enough parts on-hand to cover whatever my bike fleet might need so I can wait until parts are readily available again rather than scramble around and end up paying $Way-too-much.95 because there’s no other choice.

      • Damn disc brakes. Can’t do without them on the mountain bike but I can hardly work on them. for road bike, they are a no no unless as one friend has trouble with strength in fingers…

        DuraAce rim brakes are awesome A+.

        Disc brakes, electronic shifting, carbon rims, wide tires etc…

        I’ve been griping for years the UCI or whoever must lower the minimum weight for bikes. 6.8Kg / 14.99 lb is dated. Pr0 teams need to add ballast to get bikes up to that requirement. -So instead of ballast they use heavier parts, which bike manufacturers create, while they may have a hand in keeping the minimum weight high. Lowering minimum weight will negate much of the heavy stuff that would not be right enough to use…

        • What teams are adding ballast now that most everyone is using discs? UAE can’t give their riders a bike with discs that is as close to 6.8 kg as one with old-time rim brakes.
          What’s to be gained by letting them use even lighter bikes – more flimsy wheels that crack like potato chips when run on a flat tire, bikes that end up being held together only by wires and hoses when they get crashed, or maybe bikes that break apart when the rider hits a bump at speed?

          • Larry T,
            Years ago weight was added to bikes to get them up to minimum weight. Back then, that equipment worked well with bikes easily capable and safe under the weight rule, with more equipment being developed to make bikes lighter still.

            If the UCI would have lowered the minimum weight years ago, it would have been a credible decision & bike manufacturers would have less motivation to pour heavier, more expensive disc brakes, electronic shifting, wider rims, wider tires etc. because they wouldn’t be able to use pro racers bikes to help market it.

            What’s to be gained? I never get to the top of a pass and wish I had more weight. There are a lot of light weight racers who end up towing the same weight bike as a bulkier racer and that’s a disadvantage.

            More flimsy wheels etc? Wheel technology has gone in the wrong direction; they keep getting heavier lately. A few years ago there were many choices for aluminum wheels that were feather weight and dependable.

            A heavier racer needs heavier equipment and so might not want a sub 6.8Kg bike. The skinny climber should be allowed to race on a sub 6.8Kg bike.

            All that makes it more difficult to get the lighter style equipment which was widely available and easier to work on.

          • If you’re going to complain about what’s available/not available let’s ditch “Years ago weight was added…” and discuss current events – like Sunday when a couple of $2K rear wheels cracked like potato chips under guys weighing-in well under your usual Sunday morning punter on his weight-weenie special. Yes, I know the tires went flat on the pave, but an old Mavic GP4 wheel would have likely rolled along until the racer could get a replacement. I remember seeing a SLS saddle/post assembly fail under a rider in a pretty important race back in the daze you mention and wondering WTF they would use such a thing when they had to ballast the bikes anyway? Your response explains it – the Sunday punters want it. They don’t care about minimum weights, they care far more about what the digital scale in their garage says since they couldn’t tell you on a climb if their water bottles were full, half-full or empty unless they pulled ’em out the cages and checked. It’s a strange market, I’ve lost count of the WTF moments with customers since I got into bike retail all those years ago. I’m really glad I’m no longer have to rely on it for an income!!!
            I’ll finish (promise!) with the idea of no minimum weight scares me – the industry is irresponsible (with some exceptions – Campagnolo and Colnago for example) enough IMHO catering to the weight obsessed, the idea of no limits on the super light frames, wheels and components is a recipe for a lot of catastrophic equipment failures.

        • “they couldn’t tell you on a climb if their water bottles were full, half-full or empty unless they pulled ’em out the cages and checked.”

          To be fair, whether the water bottle is full, half-full or empty doesn’t change the total weight of the bike+rider until you go to the toilet!

          • Not if you just drank from it, but what if you’ve been having a bottle shower ’cause it’s a hot day? 😉 It worked great for Landis 😛

          • Funny 🙂 but not the point. I’d bet the vast majority of ’em couldn’t tell the difference on a climb between bikes 6.8 kg or 7.8 kg unless they pulled over and hung ’em on a scale. In my decades in bike retail I came across plenty of “anorexics” when it came to their bicycles. I remember more than one case where they’d replace a SLS part that failed with the exact same thing, even if that failure resulted in a crash/injury! There was one guy who rolled-the-dice (played Russian-roulette?) THREE times with an infamous set of wheels…to this day I wonder if that 3rd set of ’em managed to fail catastrophically enough to really injure him or are they just collecting dust in a garage now that they’re long out-of-fashion? There was no reasoning with these people, a big reason I was happy to get out of bike retail.

        • That stuff is still out there but it takes searching and spending a fair amount to find it, not to mention brake hoods and blocks can be found in reproduction parts that may not pass muster in a beard-stroking, pipe-smoking concours, but will let you keep riding 🙂

    • Hope you’re getting good weather to ride in while on holiday. In those conditions, I agree that disks don’t offer much over rim brakes. I find them better/easier on long descents, but otherwise pretty similar. In wetter/muddy/gravelly conditions, though, I do find them much better, albeit much noisier in the wet.

      • That’s really the only time that I could see discs being the better option, in the wet. But I never go out in the wet so can’t really see the need for them. Surely the added weight and lack of aero would offset any potential wet braking positive? Not to mention they’re ugly as sin as well.

        • At my pace (and weight), those factors don’t seem to make much difference. And I think I probably brake more than the pros, so might get more value than they do.

    • You may be missing the point of disc brake bikes if you only focus on braking (indisputably better in the wet but decent rim brakes are pretty similar in the dry).

  8. It’s striking that Ineos have had a very successful classics campaign with little or no input from what seemed to be, pre-season, their brightest two young stars: Hayter and Pidcock. Hayter doesn’t seem to have raced since Coppi-Bartali in March, while Pidcock apparently has this debilitating stomach condition. I hope they both recover for the GTs.

  9. Team trains and overwhelming squad power is what’s gone from racing this early season, and it’s not been missed at all. Sure there have been moments when the likes of Bahrain, UAE or Ineos have tried, but it’s often ended with their leader being attacked. There’s just enough spread if top riders across the teams now to avoid the bad old days of watching the dominant team grind all hopefuls down. Instead we have situations where it really is worth having a go, and riders can surf the wheels until it’s time. Young talent is not crushed either so unpredictability and effort being rewarded can balance with experience, which makes the races seem a lot fairer.
    I doubt this can continue into the grands tours but it’s been good to watch so far.

  10. Mur de Huy always creates a spectacle (sort of an Alpe de Huez for the low countries). Seems as though there is generally a big bunch at bottom but only a couple fighting it out at the top.

  11. Flèche Wallonne – as a race it’s a bit tedious now but I would love to see a genuine World Hill Climb Championship there akin to what we have here in the UK every Autumn. Basically an uphill individual time trial, anything between 2-10mins in length.

    Absolutely brilliant spectator events, I’d love to see a UCI sanctioned WT version and, linking to the discussion above, you can guarantee rim brakes will be back for that if available to teams.

  12. the final paragraph reads like a promotion. “Tired of the hassle of storing and transporting EPO? Well, now your prayers have been answered…”

    • Just click-thru for the affiliate sales link… of course not but there did seem to be a time when plenty in the sport dedicated a lot of effort to sourcing and smuggling EPO rather than working out how to train better or win bike races (presumably because if they could avoid police/customs agents then it’d make the winning difference).

      The good news for sports is that from the early stage this molecule, and sister ones that seem to have fallen by the wayside in clinical trials, can be tested by WADA and for it to work it seems users have to take it regularly so it’ll be there in samples in or out of competition.

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