Tuesday Shorts

Tadej Pogačar rode off to win the Clasica Jaén Paraiso Interior, leaving others in the dust (photo from Gomez Sport / race website). Yes it’s only a 1.1 race in February so just one thought rather than exhaustive analysis: UAE are riding much better as a team and their recruitment is starting to pay dividends. We saw this with Pogačar’s previous race, Lombardia but the new hires should reinforce this. Good news for him but for neutrals seeing a team riding a grand tour in train formation might be less inspiring.

UAE also go top of the UCI rankings for the year as of today, finally knocking Intemarché-Circus-Wanty off the top spot. The “musketeers” had been leading thanks to wins in Majorca and Valencia and placings and scrapping for points and placings as they did so well last season. There’s not much to report on the three year ranking as it’s very early. Astana lag like last year but surprisingly Alpecin-Deceuninck, still winless, have only 108 points when normally their sprinter-heavy team is good at results, they were once reliant on Mathieu van der Poel but really are not anymore. They’ll surely pick up but have had a slow start.

The women’s rankings are more pressing of course as World Tour licences are up for grabs for the top-15 teams. UAE’s development team has two asterisks, built out of the Valcar team it collects their points from last year but won’t be moving up as you can’t have a main team and a development team together and so the red line is drawn after the sixteenth place. The other asterisks teams are second-tier pro teams looking to move up. As you can see among the promotion contenders Ceratizit-WNT are off to a decent start in their promotion quest, Human Powered Health even better as they try to stay up. Meanwhile current World Tour team Israel-PremierTech-Roland face the drop.

Staying with women’s cycling and the Giro d’Italia Femminile and the men’s U23 Giro have both been awarded to RCS for the coming years. This should bring more capacity and support to the women’s race and the chance for RCS to “cross sell”, where towns that want the men’s Giro with its established large audience are encouraged to take on another race as well. We see ASO doing this where towns hoping for the big ticket of a Tour de France stage are steered to holding a stage of Paris-Nice, the Dauphiné where geographically possible, and now the Tour de France Femmes. Also one often underappreciated skill of grand tour organisers is they way they’re really plugged into regional and local government, a big network of contacts to help build the route and get the roads closed for the race.

Kool as a cabbage
The women’s UAE Tour saw two stage wins from Charlotte Kool, the apprentice trouncing her former master Lorena Wiebes each time, although a crash for Wiebes the first time and a powerful headwind the other time probably explain plenty too. Kool is an obvious delight for headline writers in English…but of course it means “cabbage” in Dutch.

Say it right
On the subject of names, Matteo Jorgenson won Stage 3 of the Tour of Oman yesterday. It’s with a hard-J, “Jaw-genson” rather than “Yorgenson”. And FDJ-Groupama’s neo-pro Paul Penhoët has a string of top-10s to his name already, his name is said “Pen-wet”. There’s a nice anecdote to share about Penhoët but that’s for the day he wins.

Arkéa vs Cofidis
Arkéa has extended sponsorship of the Arkéa-Samsic team until the end of 2025. It’ll keep the team on the road and presumably help them made additional signings if necessary. Arkéa? It’s a banking brand in Brittany and South-West France. Curiously it belongs to the Crédit Mutuel banking group, of which consumer credit company Cofidis is also a part. So here we have one bank with two World Tour teams? Normally teams can’t share owners and there’s even a page on the UCI website to list teams that can’t race together for fear of collusion, eg Groupama-FDJ and Groupama-FDJ Conti development team. The answer for Arkéa and Cofidis is that Crédit Mutuel is only a loose umbrella for these entities, they’ve got different management, offices and crucially even compete against each other for some consumers. In fact it’s got to the point where Arkéa’s been causing trouble for the wider group as it wants more independence, a spat in the otherwise sleepy world of rural banking. Still, for now, it makes Crédit Mutuel a big backer of pro cycling and with Ag2r and Groupama as other big sponsors, France’s mutual finance sector is all over pro cycling.

The Vanishing Paper

Arkéa-Samsic’s a team with red kit and was down to seven riders when it was raided by police during the 2020 Tour de France, a similar situation for the Bahrain team in 2021 when they too had red kit, seven riders and a gendarme roust. Anyway, remember the academic journal that had a paper proclaiming how it found traces of tizanidine, a muscle-relaxing medicine in samples from three cyclists competing in “international three week cyclist race in France”? Well an eagle-eyed reader points out that this paper has been retracted, jargon for binned. The testing method might be valid but the privacy concerns meant you didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce the team involved and this was a probably a breach of academic procedure, great that they could detect this substance from hair samples but they didn’t need to explain in such detail who they got it from. It doesn’t mean much for the sport and the police investigation rumbles on slowly, the substance involved isn’t banned by WADA but it is closely-regulated in France and so any team doctor carrying it and dispensing it might have some explaining to do.

EPO in a pill
Staying with pharma, GSK has got US approval for Daprodustat, a pill that “increases endogenous production of erythropoietin”, the hormone that promotes red blood cell growth. In plain English, EPO in a pill. For too long in pro cycling a lot of riders and team staff spent time, energy and money acquiring and transporting EPO, a furtive cold chains. Now it comes as a tiny pill, presumably a lot easier for genuine anaemics with a clinical need who don’t have to inject themselves which is the main point of course. If it’s convenient for patients, it’s much less so for dodgy dopers. It is already on the WADA banned list, in part because of collaboration between GSK and WADA. Easy to consume, easy to detect.

Pogačar vs Vingegaard in March?
To finish on a more optimistic note, let’s circle back to Pogačar who’s changed his racing plans this season in order to find new challenges and stay fresh both physically and mentally. L’Equipe writes this might include doing Paris-Nice rather than his habitual Tirreno-Adriatico, if so this raises the possibility of an early clash with Jonas Vingegaard. The Dane took the Tour with some fine individual riding and the backing of a very strong team, now we’ll see if they can do it again on a wet Wednesday in the Auvergne? We’ll see, Pogačar’s not certain for Paris-Nice and if he is then Jumbo-Visma may think about their plans in the light of this.

31 thoughts on “Tuesday Shorts”

  1. Again, thanks’ for an off beat and informative set of observations. I think it is ‘almost’ confirmed that Pogacar will ride Paris- Nice setting up an interesting clash.

    • Yeah, some behind-the-scenes info reports that a deal with the team was reached already in December, possibly even involving some sort of money transaction. Don’t say it loud because the source might be the usual well-informed or the way too common ill-informed. If it was true, Pogi will surely ride the ASO race – or races, later on? – while at the same time it could be quite an unprecedented step for ASO in recent years (borrowing more and more ideas from RCS?), anyway truth is that Pa-Ni was indeed struggling a bit, so some money injection (or is it pills these days?) to foster interest would be no doubt a good investment.
      Check the dates for Strade and Pa-Ni. Stressful weekend for Pogi, long transfer included. “Stay fresh”? Ooooffff.
      However, Ti-Ad course now became slightly worse, after a couple of recent masterpieces which delivered huge quality racing, so it’s good that they are forced to raise the bar again. Just in terms of route, I mean, not of extra pay of sort.

  2. just a small note – like you and many friends I followed the Clasica Jaén Paraiso having caught word of it last year and not just cause of Pogacar’s presence – which was incredible to see.

    despite cycling not having great mechanisms to oust the old and bring in the new it was noticeable to see how many friends voted with their feet and tuned into Clasica Jaén Paraiso – like many cycling fans I love Strade Bianchi and now enjoy this, races that give an audience in 2023 a bang for their buck rather than hours of monotony – or at the least variation in terrain etc.

    would like to see more like it, and races that served todays audience rather than tradition.

    • Oh the irony, the races which delve further into an imitation of the past are now the less traditional ones! Jokes apart, I’ll happily second the above. The name is either Clásica Jaén or Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior, it’s a play on words, sort of “the Paradise Within”, as in “within yourself” (spiritual or intimistic and so, note the reference to poet Machado, to whom is dedicated the path where Pogi attacked) but also “inland”, promoting a different image of Andalusia when compared to, say, Málaga. The official anthem of the province is a beautiful poem by Miguel Hernández, one of the greatest 20th-century Spanish authors, with a peculiar life, too, and a telling finale. Paco Ibáñez has it in music.

      It’s also interesting that as reported during the RTVE broadcast the race concept was thought (by National Spanish Team coach Momparler) in order to include the broader cultural references.

    • An interesting for a Monday. But it’s got a lot of the right things behind it, the right time of the year when teams are nearby for other races, a region willing to use cycling to promote the area, and as Gabriele points out, the likes of Spanish selector Momparler involved to help as well.

      • I did catch the race last year and the ending seemed to have been more hilly. Maybe a change in parcours could spice up the ending. ‘Tough that would n’t halt the likes of Pogacar going from 40km out!

        • The commentators on Eurosport said the course was reversed this year, with a couple of the more difficult (dangerous?) sectors removed. They opined that the new version was better than the old, but it isn’t clear whether the change is permanent or the organisers could reverse it again next time.

    • With a great field far better than most 1.1 category races and lots of action on the road (and gravel), it surely looks set to trade up to a deserved 1.Pro before too long.

  3. “Jaw-genson” I can take, given that the first vowel has already changed and the “r” has gone missing, but “Horgenson” would probably have been too much 🙂
    That said, a grand-uncle emigrated to Canada and while his sons have kept the spelling of the surname, their pronounciation makes it almost incomprehensible – but it’s there choice and probably in tune in with how the average Joe in Calgary willpronounce it. Or the avetage English-speaking cycling commentator…
    Anyway, Matteo Jorgenson is the one (of the surprisingly many young American talents) that I’ve started to follow.

      • Good Anquetil reference, was thinking of this.

        (For anyone wondering, Jacques Anquetil was winning plenty and wanted to do something memorable, an “exploit”, so after winning the Critérium du Dauphiné, he caught a plane to go to the start of the 500km+ Bordeaux-Paris race and riding through the night as they did in the longest on the calendar in those days, he won).

        • Apparently just to round it off, Jacques Anquetil rode a criterium the day after!
          I see Bernal is hoping to do Paris-Nice too, if his knee is ok, if so it’ll be a mini-Tour, or opening chorus to the main acts in July.
          If Pogacar turns up for Paris-Nice all bleary eyed, I wonder how fast Ineos & Jumbo will ride in the first hour, rapido?

  4. A week late but the previous weekend Chris Froome rode the Melbourne to Warnambool race which is australia’s premier domestic one day race. He flew in a small prop plane to the start line which was at an airport arriving about 10 minutes before the start. Froomy didn’t go in the break which unusually for this race actually won so he spent the day chasing.
    Currently the warny is down to about 270 km and a look at the profile would make it seem easier than it is. The entire route on a day of default winds is head wind/ head side wind. This race started i think in the 19th century and until the last 20 or 30 years was an over 300 km handicap race.
    Handicap races are effectively a team time trial with each group trying to catch the groups in front and i imagine would have been brutal at this distance.
    I did this race once and it was terrifying. About 230 riders from grades A (semi pro riders) – D doing 45 km/hr into a head side wind with riders taking risks just to stay in the group. After 10 km a large crash blocked all 4 lanes and my race in the peleton was over (i was behind the crash and just avoided it). I was happy just to survive with my skin intact.

      • Yeah, I read this fake news, too… At most, it’s the third oldest, behind the Doyenne, which is the obvious reference (1892), but also well behind Milano-Torino, which is pretty much older than the Liège itself, since its first edition dates back to 1876.
        Irony above, since of course a race which can be traced back to 1895 is obviously very notable all the same, whether the 2nd oldest, the 3rd oldest, the 7th oldest or whatever.
        More nice info here (fake news apart 😛 ):

          • Yes, penny-farthings, I suppose! (safety bike was invented precisely in 1876 but it still needed a dozen years to reach mass production and popularity). High-wheels – however hard to imagine might that be today – raised huge enthusiasm at the time and fostered the first cycling clubs, competitions and so on, including hour-records and examples of ultraendurance, in a sense, as journeys “across America” or around the world.

            Mi-To went down because of financial (plus UCI-politics) reasons, RCS had dropped it at the beginning of the 2000s and the race had survived being organised by a local club with limited resources. The confusion and transformations related to the birth of UCI ProTour looked the last nail on the coffin, the race barely resisted for a further couple of seasons. RCS got it back and revived it in style in 2012, since then it looks again in great shape – just scroll through the list of winners and podia – although with this sort of grannies you need to care a lot, a cold might be the definitive finish line (I’m not a fan of the recent brutal shifts in course nature from season to season, although if they make some sense of it, it may even work).

        • Interesting rabbit hole – winner of the first Milano – Torino was entomologist Paolo Magretti but he also won the Milano – Monza in 1873 – so that’s even older!

          • Indeed, I was referring above (as these stats usually do) to races which are still being held.

            I recommend having a look at the Italian wiki page of Milano-Torino, which includes photos of the original press reporting about the race (La Stampa, also still existing, by the way), announcing the race and then giving the results:


            By the way, La Stampa says that the wheels had a diameter over 4 ft. and relates it to high speed, so they should indeed be penny-farthings.

        • Also depends whether you count the like of Paris-Brest-Paris (1891) and the Catford Hill Climb (1886) which are still going but no longer for professionals.

  5. Currently think this has been the best start to a season I’ve ever known.
    Just wish these races properly meant something, no one will remember half of them but the racing has been superb.

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