Wednesday Shorts

You must have heard about the bird attacks on riders at the Worlds in Wollongong – to look at Twitter today has been to see Bauke Mollema – this blog can’t add much more. So have some alternative avian content instead… the image above is an advert for racing pigeons from Japan, snapped by ex-pro Fumy Beppu. Weirdly the birds have a cycling theme as the first pair listed, yours for 100,000 (about €700), are called “Good Kittel” and “Young Sagan”… presumably they pack a fast finish.

Mentioning pigeons is a reminder of one of the all time great excuses for failing a doping test. As Wikipedia reports*:

In 1983 [Adri van der Poel] tested positive for strychnine. He said that his father-in-law had served a pigeon pie for Sunday lunch, and only when he tested positive did he realise that the pigeons had been doped with strychnine

But there’s just one problem with this story: van der Poel was not married in 1983. In fact he’d only meet his future wife Corinne Poulidor for the first time in 1987 and they married in 1989. * Hopefully someone can go and edit Wikipedia, the more likely source of the doped pigeon could be Hennie Kuiper according to a report in Dutch newspaper NRC but that spoils the joke.

Talking of alkaloids, on to more serious matters and Tramadol could be banned by WADA reports London’s The Daily Telegraph. Now it’s already banned in cycling but it’s still news for our sport because a WADA ban would send a clear message, and crucially it’d mean all testing is done by WADA rather than the current system where the UCI has been ordering the tests for itself, something Nairo Quintana is appealing. Put simply it would mean a lot more resources would go behind the Tramadol ban across all sports, cycling included.

Can’t mention Tramadol without Nairo Quintana’s appeal. There’s no timetable and it can’t be rushed. The screengrab above is from the UCI rulebook and it’s a big headache – no pun – for Quintana and his legal team. The highlighted paragraph in particular which says it doesn’t matter how it got there, if the sample is positive then the rider pays the price, although within the limits of justice. But it’s this wider question that Quintana’s legal team has to explore and harder still given two positive tests and this is going to be very hard.

What’s happened to the big new sponsor for the B&B team? In the summer it was reported that the new sponsor was just a board meeting away from signing off the deal which would boost the team. Some forum chat that it could be retailer Carrefour got picked up by the Belgian media but that’s been formally denied and B&B manager Jérôme Pineau told the media mid-July that “you’ll know between now and the end of the Tour the new name of the team” but there’s no news. The other aspect doing the rounds was that the team could do some deal with the city of Paris, becoming a Parisian team but the reports were clear that Paris town hall wasn’t funding the team, it would just be lending the name. It’d be interesting to see this as a concept to rally around – a team can exist without being named after its sponsors –  but it’s an odd one, reports said Paris would not be paying for this, which would make any actual sponsor putting cash in think twice if they’re not getting name rights.

B&B is one of several ProTeams needing to make some signings. As many will know by now, a grand tour normally has 22 teams taking part. 18 are WorldTeams who qualify every year, two come from automatic invites to the best two teams on the rankings from the previous year. Which leaves two wildcard invites, and a conundrum for the Giro, Tour and Vuelta alike as to which teams to call and which teams to leave out. Take the Tour, do B&B and TotalEnergies get invites? It’s not certain, and some signings could help both. Plus have you heard about this three year points thing? Some teams Astana have been saved because they had a good 2020, they need to be signing riders now to bolster their score in 2023 and 2024… or it’ll be them next.

Parts of the 2023 Tour de France route are leaking out. Much of this is via the regional press so inhabitants of France in one place learn if the race is visiting their area. So the Charente Libre reports the Tour could pass through the Charente region, the Dauphiné Libéré says it’ll return to the Col de Loze and so on. This parochial way means the whole route is still a surprise to most when it gets unveiled, even if some cycling fans of course piece together much of the route, Velowire has traditionally done a great job. ASO tells town halls not to leak the route but it’s never watertight. Apparently the race organisers don’t mind a few leaks, something Jean-Louis Pagès mentions in his book. Yes they want the presentation in Paris to wow the audience… but last thing they’d want is the race not to be talked about.

It’s also time for the Giro reveal too. The presentation has moved around over the years but this time the 2023 Giro route presentation is set for Monday 17 October, for once ahead of the Tour de France which comes on Thursday 27 October, likewise for the Tour de France Femmes. There are always things to look for in the route, such as “new” climbs but for 2023 the amount of time trialling could be the big interest for some, riders like Remco Evenepoel will be attracted to this… while others could make their plans in the opposite direction.

Regardless of route, 2022 goes down as the first time Ineos/Sky haven’t won a grand tour since 2014 and that year was down to particular circumstances. Now it feels like a long spell comes to an end. These things happen but it’ll be interesting to see if they can correct this in 2023. It looks like a challenge as the sport has opened up to other teams, for example UAE Emirates and Jumbo-Visma look their equal if not superior, see Adam Yates moving to the UAE team as a sign of this as they look to add more strength to their squad.

44 thoughts on “Wednesday Shorts”

  1. I think its only fair and just that riders across the world should be subjected to magpie attack. My helmets have so many scratches and indentations that they look to be 100 years old. The ones that hit your helmet are not the worst, you can really just ignore them if you know there coming (the first hit may be a surprise). The worst ones come in at low level with the claws down the side of your face in the vicinity of eyes and ears and they do draw blood.
    They usually won’t strike a large group but lone riders in particular are easy prey so no solo breakaways except for the brave.

    Not all magpies attack but of course and the government will not move them away from a cyclist path. I would think that a number of people stop commuting if an aggressive magpie sets up on there bike path to work in the city. Laughing matter it is but people (normally elderly) people die when they are startled after getting hit or trying to fend them off and crash.

    • I’d never heard of birds attacking cyclists until this summer. I was cycling through a wooded area in the middle of nowhere a couple of months ago when I felt what seemed like a hand with sharp nails grabbing my shoulder. Suitably freaked out I stopped.. nothing to be seen or heard. After riding home for half an hour in zone 7 I googled it and apparently Eurasian magpies can attack cyclists too. I’ve never heard of it happening to anyone else round here though.

      • I’ve never heard of magpie attacks either, although once in a while someone gets splatted by a passing bird.

        A friend of mine was knocked off his bike in Scotland by a deer that leapt out of a hedge on a country lane. If that sounds funny, his injuries weren’t, and not longer after the bones mended he fell foul of a more expected hazard: a car. Down this way, squirrels and rabbits are the more usual dangers, not forgetting four-wheel idiots of course.

        For the Worlds, are bird attacks an unexpected danger or something that the organisers should have been aware of?

        • I’m in Scotland and nearly got taken out by a deer earlier this year: had just adopted the puppy paws position when it jumped out right in front of me… particularly bad timing! Previously I lived in Michigan and there were far more deer there. Over here it’s the squirrels and rabbits I’m more wary of

        • Lots and lots of deer in Scotland. So many, they even go into semi-urban areas. I’ve seen deer in suburban Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld.

          I had 2 stags shoot across the road in front of me while I was descending down a lane once. Only missed by a littl. They seem to have that prey animal instinct of taking a 90 degree path to any oncoming perceived danger, which makes them very dangerous if you startle some while cycling.

      • Magpie attacks are well known in Australia in Spring. There are many websites/facebook pages that identify hotspots of particularly nasty birds protecting their young. Google magpie attacks for some laughs (or nightmares!)

        • I’ve been dive bombed by seagulls a few times (both while riding and running) in London. The first time it happened there was a woman walking on the opposite side of the road who screamed so loudly everyone thought she was being attacked. Usually it’s the South London Attack Squirrels that I’m more worried about.

  2. I still believe Quintana has a chance of getting off if his legal team do a good job.

    Lots of rumors of more TT kms at TdF next year. Attempt to get Remco there maybe?

    Ineos have made some bad choices in the recent past but the young riders they have now looks promising for the future.

    • On what basis do you think Quintana will get off?

      The UCI Regulations look good to me, and are supported by the precedent of alcohol being controlled internally by sports (for similar safety reasons) after a transition away from it being a WADA matter. I don’t think CAS will find that the regulations are illegal.

      So that would leave the option of disputing the test result itself.

        • As an example, “Reimbursement of the costs incurred for the Tramadol Control.” it states IF the UCI Medical Director sanctions a rider for a first infringement. So a negative result does not have to pay the costs for “collection process, transportation and analysis of the Tramadol Sample.” Does this not seem strange? If Quintana is cleared by CAS can he claim the costs back? Then, “A sample collected from a rider under these Rules (Tramadol Sample) is owned by the UCI”. The rider gives his own blood but the UCI owns it and the rider can not get it re-tested for confirmation, even though he’s paid for the “collection process, transportation and analysis of the Tramadol Sample.” The UCI, one could say is acting as judge and jury. Those are just a couple of thoughts of the top of my (non-lawyer) head.

  3. If RCS are going to put a couple of decent length TTs in the Giro, and I hope they do, then I hope they compensate for it with some of the really big climbs they have to choose from. A Mortirolo/Gavia/Stelvio stage plus the Finestre and Tre Cime di Laverado or something. Make it an epic.

    • I have no idea what they will or won’t do – but I love the Giro and will always be excited.

      I think the Stelvio is my favourite climb in all of cycling, De Gendt’s ride to 3rd overall there was in my top10 days of the last decade. Epic.

      Likewise the Mortirolo, maybe it’s not as cinematic as the trees prevent wides, but the Landa/Contador/Aru battle up there was likewise just awesome, the gradients really make it special, and better than the Zoncolan imo.

      Obviously the Finestre as above, the Froome stage there was my favourite of the last decade so I cannot wait to go back.

      Finally – I really hope they persist with city centre circuits like last years Naples route, I really believe these stages give GT’s something extra as well as being great for fans.

      The growth of gravel/pave in GT’s I love, likewise heavier gradient climbers as riders get stronger/better gears, and now adding tough city circuits to that mix can only be a good thing. I feel like some people’s dislike of TT’s will calm if more stages have the variation and interest of the above, as a fan of TT’s I’d like to see them remain.

  4. The B+B Hotels new sponsor announcement thing is odd. Conjecture only, but could the Paris inclusion in the name be a clue?
    ‘Je te paris’ (I bet you) there was a gambling sponsor lined up, and the Paris connection would greatly have helped the whole logic of the team’s naming, since every time it gets a mention in commentary, it becomes what advertisers define as a call to action. The Paris administration got a sniff of this and instantly pulled out with dire threats against any leak of the intended main sponsor and team. The main sponsor backed out too, because top people have each other as contacts.
    Poor old B+B is back to square 1 with neither sponsor and no announcement.
    Just a guess.

  5. I’m not sure we will see a lot from Ineos in GTs in 2023 unless Bernal gets back to form. With the signing of Michael Leonard and Josh Tarling they are building the youngest squad in the WT and must be looking more longer term. I wonder if they have marked Fin Tarling’s card yet.

    • I was thinking the same thing, and Bernal seems a very long shot at this point. I’m expecting a lot more success in one-day races in the near term, with a lot of potential for a return to prominence as the youngsters develop over the next few years.

      • Pidcock, Sheffield, Hart, Hayter major, Sivakov- not yet potential winners but definitely likely to light up GTs in a way not previously associated with the (still) evil empire. Plus Bernal, whose awful injuries are surely no worse than Evenepoel suffered.

  6. Around here (SE MN) we have extremely territorial red winged blackbirds which will swoop and flutter at you, but thankfully don’t strike. I have had owls come in a mm over my helmet at night, presumably making a last second decision not to hunt my helmet. They have huge claws…..

  7. I’ve had an owl fly into my bedroom (summer night, lights off, window open) to hunt down my helmet. Something to do with white stripes and a curved back, perhaps?

  8. I think that somewhere between about 1980 & 1983 Adrie was dating Karin Janssen, the daughter of former world champion & Tour de France winner Jan Janssen, which would make him the source of a doped pigeon, no…?

  9. I assume “Young Sagan” is a descendant of “Sagan”, a pigeon from a Dutch pigeon racer/breeder which was sold for €40k in 2019.

    And “Good Kittel” is probably a descendant of “Best Kittel”, a champion racing pigeon in… sprint races (=short distances) from Belgium.

  10. re Tramadol:
    A few weeks ago I ingested Tramadol for 2-3 days for pain relief from a back injury. Tylenol and NSAIDs were not working for me.
    Tramadol made me groggy, sleepy , and mildly nauseous.
    It’s inconceivable to me that a cyclist could take this drug during competition, it seems a crazy risk for everyone.
    But out of competition, it should be permitted.

  11. Surely b+b would be likely for a tour spot as total gets an auto invite as per their current points. Thus they need to show some sporting characteristic, otherwise my current guess is that Israel and UnoX might be possible contenders.

  12. “equally dangerous while training, right?”

    Agree — it’s as dangerous & stupid as driving while under the influence of tramadol or alcohol.
    But should athletes be suspended for doing stupid things out of competition?
    The effects of tramodol & alcohol “wash out” and wear off pretty quickly — hours — so there’s no benefit or unfair advantage to their out-of-competition use.

    • When dosed right, most painkillers can be & are being used to train longer/harder (as you no longer “feel the pain”), so there certainly is a (potential) benefit.

      Of course pain is a signal from your body that you are “damaging” it, and if you ignore that for too long you’ll likely get injured or overtrained…

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