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.