Remco Evenepoel is going nowhere, at least when it comes to his contractual future. But the story of interest from Ineos is revealing as making it public can destabilise things, the mere act of having to say he’s staying put is awkward just when his programme for 2023 is being decided and has generated a lot of column inches in Belgium. The plan seems to be the Giro but of course the Tour is a temptation.
Evenepoel is central to Quick-Step’s project and also a personal matter for team boss Patrick Lefevere who pledged to the Evenepoel family to treat him like a son and he represents the chance to win the Tour de France before retirement, the ultimate triumph for someone who’s won almost everything else so far.
In the meantime Evenepoel’s supposed to ride the Giro. It seems he’s already pizza cognoscente but RCS is said to be dangling three time trials to win over Evenepoel. But is this a winning recipe? It might bring added media interest from Belgium but doesn’t it mean that he’s likely to run away with the GC and that the result is baked in from the start? It feels so, but any Giro is very different from the Vuelta, the climbs are much longer. We’ll have to see what the mountain stages bring as well as the amount of time trials.
The Tour de France route leaks gather pace with the local press as ever a reliable source. La Montagne reports a big visit to the city of Clermont-Ferrand in central France, including the nearby Puy-de-Dôme summit finish and it’ll also host the start of the Tour de France Femmes.
From one Ferrand to another, and Ineos are said to be making a big announcement next week. Is it the announcement they’re signing Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, the launch of a women’s team, a big signing to the men’s team? Wait and see.
…but one less announcement by them is the publication of their accounts. Ever since the start of the Team Sky days they’ve filed annual accounts, a regulatory requirement in Britain. But the disclosure has now shrunk to the minimal requirements and the latest set of accounts don’t include the income statement, so there’s no headline budget figure and it’s not worth doing a blog post about any more. While the budget figure was the headline, being able to see the accounts allowed us a good look at the workings of a team and their disclosure over the years has been quite instructive to understanding how teams work in part because few other teams published accounts and so many estimates of team budgets were just that, guesses at best and even the numbers for Sky and Ineos didn’t match the published, audited figure. Teams that do file accounts, as in are obliged to, are Lotto-Soudal, Ag2r Citroën, Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ and we can get headline figures and a bit more but not huge details. We’ll take a closer look over the winter.
Another team due to make an announcement is B&B Hotels-KTM, the news of their replacement sponsor with it, their increased ambitions is due soon too. They said this in the Tour de France too but L’Equipe reports this week something’s coming soon, although the same article said Nairo Quintana was talking to a French World Tour team and that’s been disproved. B&B have to say something soon given the UCI Licence review process is underway and besides…we’re only three months away from the new year.
Talking of things rushing up quickly, the UCI’s gravel worlds are fast approaching. It’s a fun activity to partake in but doesn’t necessarily make for great sport to watch on TV or read about although we’ll see how this weekend’s action is covered. But we should note the interest from manufacturers, they’re keen to have their bikes in the shop window and so want their best riders showing off the wares. With the money going into this side of the sport, the UCI wants in there too, in part because it to get a slice of the action but also because the more at stake, the greater the need for a rulebook, for officials, anti-doping and so on.
Others are still racing on on the road, they’ll be a Lombardia preview here shortly. ASO have their celebrity criterium in Saitama but several riders are making a longer trip to Japan to compete in the Japan Cup, the international race with a 1.1 rating which is a week before. The likes of Cofidis, EF and Israel are racing, perhaps the points tempted them although this relegation battle has fizzled out so instead of chasing points, meeting the fans can still pay off and it’s a rare chance to race in front of big crowds. And then there’s the exhibition criterium. Saitama’s known as a dormitory commuter city outside Tokyo so the race can bring a bit of Euro glamour for the day. For any riders going, or readers who ever find work or life takes them to Saitama, the hills to the west beyond it offer fantastic riding.
Looking to next season now and one question for 2023 and beyond is what do Canyon do? Assuming the promotion-relegation system happens as planned – and that’s not certain – the German brand will supply three of the men’s World Tour teams with Alpecin-Deceuninck, Movistar and Arkéa-Samsic, plus they’ve got Canyon-SRAM for the women too. Now they could keep all three men’s teams, after all each has reach into different markets. However a big season by Mathieu van der Poel probably covers a lot of the publicity and marketing. Still Specialized have Quick-Step, Bora-Hansgrohe, Total Energies and SD Worx so a big brand can back several teams. This is a bit like like washing powder retail where you might see lots of different brands on the shelves but they typically belong to two or three companies; now many of the bikes in the peloton could come from a handful of brands too.
Until now the UCI has allowed teams to change their jerseys once a season. This has helped avoid clashes with the yellow jersey – think Jumbo-Visma adopting their “mastepiece” kit in July – or just for marketing and a fresh look for the fun of it. New for 2023 is a rule tweak (1.3.036) allowing teams to have up to three alternative jerseys during the season. Now just because you can doesn’t mean you should, teams will need to consider it carefully, the novelty factor can wear off but there’s room for more creativity here too.
One bike brand hoping for exposure and a new kit in action this weekend sees Pinarello and Bio Racer backing Filippo Ganna’s track machine. He’s going for the Hour Record this Saturday and while we’ve had 25 attempts since the rule revision in 2014, with seven records, the Hour seems to work in a symbiotic manner with the record holder. It’s a prestigious record it itself, yet its prestige is also derived from record holder. Ganna is the prime rouleur of his generation and so if he’s in form then you imagine both him and the record will gain from this.