Monday Shorts

The Vuelta’s got off to a rotten start with rain, darkness, punctures caused by people throwing tacks on the course, trouble with the timing systems leading to delayed results, crashes galore and one of those rider semi-strikes. A leading Spanish journalist quipped all that’s missing is a plague of locusts. Of course by Madrid all this can be forgotten and hopefully today’s summit finish stage to Andorra should sort things out.

GCN has a good story from the Vuelta, click here for it and the added bonus is you can read it your browser these days as their stories are online rather than reserved for app users with the recent hires there is some good breaking news.

One reason the GCN story is good is that it pieces together what’s happening behind the scenes. Only some of this should be better communicated by the sport. One suggestion for all rider protests, go-slows, neutralisations and more is that if a rider or team wants to lead on the protests, they should also go to the TV cameras and social media to explain and apologise to the fans who might have taken a day off work or spent money on fuel only to get to the race and see it neutralised. This is typed sincerely as a positive suggestion – and not a moan or seeking to impose a duty or burden – with the idea being that riders can say “we’re really sorry but the route had this/that danger and so we had to take measures so that you can enjoy us racing for all three weeks, again apologies to all those who made their way to the race today“, that sort of thing because in the semi-hidden axe-grinding and political stand-offs between the peloton, organisers, the rider union and the UCI the fans ought not to be forgotten.

The Tour de l’Avenir Femmes starts today. It’s interesting to see how fast the women’s calendar is growing and here were can see a “top down” or even “reverse” calendar growth where we had an U23 jersey awarded at the Worlds in Glasgow for the first time, now we have the Tour de l’Avenir. But there are few other international U23 races, there’s only a very sparse calendar when ideally you’d have a regular series of women’s development races all year and then some trophy races on top to identify or coronate the very best, like the Worlds and the Tour de l’Avenir. This wider calendar should follow but launching new U23 races is hard given they can often share the same costs as any other major race but don’t get the same publicity. So arguably it’s easier to launch the big events rather than local ones.

Staying with the Tour de l’Avenir Isaac Del Toro was the convincing winner of the men’s Tour de l’Avenir, taking the Col de la Loze summit finish stage but also placing second or third on the other three mountain stages, a feat that saw him take the mountains, points and best young rider jersey too (yes, for 19-20 year olds), a sweep last done by Warren Barguil over a decade ago. Pre-race pick Johannes Staune-Mittet did crash out early so he and we will wonder what could have been. But still it was impressive as Del Toro saw off many riders who are established professionals, including taking the yellow jersey off Matthew Riccitello, a rider who completed the Giro earlier this year. It comes on the back of third place in the Giro della Valle d’Aosta too so it’s not his first big result either. All this and Del Toro is only 19 so the Mexican now has a stampede of rider agents and World Tour teams at the moment. There’s talk of UAE but only that for now.

The transfer saga of Remco Evenepoel rumbles on although things have quietened down. A recent idea has been that Soudal-Quickstep and Ineos could merge, the story prompted by just how few riders they have under contract and that Ineos has reportedly been turning away riders who they were planning to sign, like Carlos Verona and Tobias Foss. Two thoughts on this, first is that Ineos probably have more riders under contract that stated, it seems Geraint Thomas has renewed… although this could have been a pre-agreement, a handshake rather than a deal but they’d hardly bump him out. This means it’d be harder still to merge teams and cap the roster at 30 riders, some might have to be paid off and placed on other teams at the expense of “Ineos-Quickstep”. Second is the cultural difference, even if Quickstep’s trying to become a grand tour squad these days it’s long been the team where a lot of the roster wins, many can get opportunistic wins and often while on a low contract, the idea being is they can move to another team and cash in as we’ve seen many times over. A contrast to Ineos where they line up behind a leader in stage races, sacrifice their chances with the quid pro quo that eve the domestiques earn a regal salary. It’s not to say it can’t be done, it’s more that doing it is going to be more than 1+1=2. It’s a very complicated way to hire Evenepoel.

Another transfer saga this summer is Caleb Ewan after his exit from the Tour de France and team management criticising him in the press. He presumably signed for Lotto-Dstny for big bucks and his win rate has fallen substantially, just the Van Merksteijn Fences Classic this season, a race that you’d be forgiven for not knowing anything about, although the old name of the GP Marcel Kint might be more familiar and of course Ewan has come very close to some big wins. With sprint opportunities reduced as well, plus rising talents filling spots on teams already, to move teams and break the contract would presumably mean taking a pay cut. So it could be that Lotto-Dstny management and Ewan are stuck with each other.

Finally talking of being stuck, cyclo-crosser Toon Aerts railed against the presumption of innocence in a statement that accompanied the news that he’d got a two year ban. The problem for him was A and B samples both containing a banned substance, and he couldn’t explain where it came from. It’s another reminder of the “strict liability” principle in the WADA anti-doping code, something we’ll also see in potentially similar upcoming cases of Shari Bossuyt and Michel Heßmann where it’s likely to be on them to prove contamination in order to be cleared or reduce a likely two year ban. This can be done, you might remember the case of the tennis player Sara Errani who said her mother’s anti-cancer medicine fell into a pot of broth while making pasta at home. Yes, your eyebrows might be raised but all the same if there’s an established prescription history for the medicine such as a parent taking the substance in question there’s path out.

76 thoughts on “Monday Shorts”

  1. Tuning in for first time to Vuelta today… excited.
    missed wkend madness but seems like I didn’t miss much other than general anger…

  2. Evenepoel’s attitude at the finish of the TTT was, at least in part, justified, and the organisers were, in part, unlucky with the early darkness and downpour. Saying that Evenepoel should manage his anger and frustration better. We seen his behaviour before and real objections are better managed through teams and the CPA. He should also remember that pro cyclists need organisers, sponsors and media, and that intemperate lashing out won’t encourage any of them.

    • I like his outspokenness, its refreshing in a sport where traditionally pro riders have often been meek and avoidant. Sometimes its productive to bare your teeth in the workplace and nowadays Evenepoel is being positively assertive rather than perhaps brattish as he was before. It seems to me that the sport has a major problem with being proactive and thinking through all the implications of race design, its good that the riders are pushing back against that more now.

      • I agree, about time riders spoke out when something isn’t right. For far too long they’ve been treated almost as serfs….it’s 2023, not 1983/93.

        And again, race directors need to be far more pro-active, they always seem to be reacting; they need to take a leaf out of motor racing, and be far quicker to pause/stop a race, no matter the situation. Eventually, we’ll all get used to it…..

        • The riders, the CPA, the teams, the UCI, as well as the race directors, all knew that this TT was happening at that time – and they knew weeks, presumably months, in advance. And they should have realised it was an issue beforehand. Hopefully, all concerned will learn that it’s not a good idea to have a bike race at a time when it might be dark if it’s cloudy.

          • I believe the problem was that a team time trial at night was not a novelty, it had been done before. Neither was riding a team time trial in a city centre.
            (Look up the opening stage in 2010 in Sevilla…)

            PS My memory is short and I don´t know how far back we need to go before we´ll find TTTs that were long the way “they used to be”, but in the past 20+ years they have been both somewhat longer (28 km) and quite a bit shorter (7.7 km) than this year.

          • Sevilla is also further west than Barcelona. Hence sunset and twilight occur 45 mins to an hour later than in Barcelona.

            Obviously something the Vuelta Organizers failed to take into account.

            The stage three finish was a disaster in slow motion. How hard would it have been to move the finish 100 meters down the hill ?

          • I would have guessed that the difference between sunset times is 30 minutes, tops.

            But anyway, if you had been curious enough to search for pictures of the 2010 TTT, you would have seen that it took place well after the onset of darkness – which was only natural because the first team started at 10 PM (whereas the first time this year started at 7 PM).

            In other words: my hunch is that it wasn´t the lack of natural light that took the organizers by surprise, it was the fact that the street lights didn´t turn on everywhere and at full capacity.

            That said, when I looked at pictures of this year´s TTT, it struck me that some riders (and teams and soigneurs) had apparently forgotten to switch their tinted visors for
            clear ones with a considerably higher light transmission 🙂

  3. Evermore rider protests regarding ‘safety’, and yet what we see at the end of most of these races is that it was perfectly safe to race.
    There were some leaves on Stage 2.
    Making them ride in the dark was preposterous, and that’s where and when they should have protested.
    The riders’ protests rarely seem to be about the issues that are actually dangerous to them: riding in darkness? (no protest); no significant reduction in the numbers of motos? (no protest); spectators all over the road at the Tour de France? (no protest).
    But give it some rain and suddenly it’s dangerous to ride. And yet I’ve watched them ride in the rain for over three decades – was it always dangerous?
    We’re constantly told that the riders ‘working together’ is good for their safety, but safety doesn’t seem to be the issue, in most of these cases.
    And how much are the riders simply doing what their teams tell them to do?
    And how much are these ‘safety concerns’ actually down to GC riders (and their teams) simply wishing to reduce chance and to ensure that they/their rider wins because he’s the strongest?
    And, again, they never dare do it in the TdF (to my recollection).

      • Are you suggesting that any race where someone breaks a collarbone is dangerous?

        I still remember the stage in the Tour that ended on a huge, wide race track and there was more than one crash (I think) and more than one rider went home because of incidents on that stage. It was dry too.

        • No but he slid out in the wet. So yes it is more dangerous when slick out. What the tipping point of safe and unsafe is what’s at issue and for this stage it fell to 9km to go. So be it. I don’t even show up when it rains. My collarbones won’t let me.

    • Err, are you deliberately ignoring the protests about riding in the dark and then riding in the dark in traffic back to their hotels to suit your narrative?

      • They *complained* about having to ride in the dark, and did so after the fact; they did not do anything about it – there was no protest.
        On stage 2, when it was wet, they protested – before the race – and had the GC contest neutralised.

        • They still protested. To the media. Then when the organisers didn’t listen to them on the second stage they took matters into their own hands. So yes, you’re being disingenuous at the least.

          • One of those actions is a protest – ergo, actually doing something – that happened before the race happened.
            One is complaining afterwards in the media.
            They protested about the wet day. That protest was not about the darkness of the day before, regardless of how much you want to disingenuously twist this to suit your narrative.

    • This is millenium bug fallacy stuff. Nothing too bad happened because the riders did in fact agree to neutralise the GC race, more or less, therefore the race was perfectly safe. Abandoning safety measures because no accidents occurr is folly.

      • No-one’s talking about ‘abandoning safety measures’, I was talking about a number of races where we’ve seen the riders refuse to race because of the weather – usually rain, sometimes cold.

        • Yes but you missed my main point, you are asserting that nothing really bad happened because it was ”perfectly safe” when in fact it is more likely nothing bad happened because of the action taken by the riders, hence the millenium bug analogy.

          • Yes, but your initial main point has nothing to do with what I said. I never claimed that it was safe because nothing bad happened. You argued against that point, but I never made it.
            The idea that a race would be provably safe because nothing bad happened is as ridiculous as the idea that the race was dangerous because there were crashes.

            I claimed it was safe because it was just wet. As it so often is. (And there were some leaves.)

          • To clarify, when I said ‘we see at the end of most of these races is that it was perfectly safe to race’, what I meant was not ‘there were no crashes’, but that the course was not deluged with water – it was just wet, with some leaves.

  4. Today’s stage (3) once again shows the kind of racing that bonus seconds encourages: we got about 300m of the GC contenders attacking each other. Thrilling.

  5. “where we had an U23 jersey awarded at the Worlds in Glasgow for the first time, ”

    Niamh Fisher-Black may have a different memory…

  6. If Evenepoel had not hit that person, he would have gone straight into the metal barrier that was directly behind her. Of course he regards himself as blameless, doesn’t apologise to the person he hit and blames the organisers. Every other rider somehow managed to brake on time – perhaps because they applied them while he had was indulging in a lengthy celebration.

      • Yup (original comment was me), and I suspect that had it been a lesser rider who had done this, the general opinion would be that it was his mistake (as per Robbie McEwen’s chuckling ‘he forgot to brake’ commentary), rather than the many suggestions I’ve now seen that he could/should be a future voice of the peloton. (I can’t think of anyone worse: a man who complains about going downhill.)
        Even if that group of people were too close, that’s where they always are at the end of races: you know that, so you brake.
        A good ‘voice of the peloton’ would have said sorry to the person he hit, admitted his own mistake but suggested that riders could have extra space after a finish line.

      • The regulation is for photographers, and in every other race finish the photogs only take up half the width of the road between the barriers leaving a run off lane to one side for the riders to safely pass.

        • What’s worse: the organizer changed the rules when the race was ongoing, allowing “everyone” (all journalists, staff, etc.) in the finish zone (normally only a small selection of them is allowed there), making an already small finish zone even more crowded…

        • Just look at the heli shots. There were barriers, there were no “half” of the road to be free, it was never meant for riders to pass behind that point. It was a corner, a well concept even Remco could have seen. Like the other 173 did.

  7. Riding a TTT in the dark was ridiculous, especially when some teams didn’t have to face that at all. The rain is hard and part of an outdoor sport- riders have to adjust to the conditions.

    The collision on the line wasn’t too clever either, though Remco was celebrating his win for quite a while and maybe lost his concentration. I do think he has appeared articulate and considered in his press interactions, but part of the fun is seeing what he really thinks in unguarded moments!

    Jumbo seemed to be disjointed and could be ripe for the picking early on while they sort out their leader, though they may have made their mistake early and can rectify it soon. Ineos look a lot worse off now, unless Arensman is their leader now.

    Sad to see no top sprinters bothering to come any more.

    • After the first stage farce it won’t just be the sprinters not bothering to come to the Vuelta any more. It’ll be interesting to see whether Vingegaard, Roglic and Evenepoel return if each races the Tour next season. I can’t see it, I suspect JV and RE if not Roglic have seen and had enough.

  8. Is it just me, or did JV catfish Remco into taking the red jersey. He gained like 5 seconds but now he wastes time and energy with podia and press, and more importantly his team will be worn down by defending it. Kuss could have flown off to that stage win easily but sat up and let it all come back together.

  9. Jumbo could have won the stage and reduced the deficit, but Remco would still have been in red. Now he has extended his lead. Think Remco looked very smooth on the climb but he doesn’t have a team if he has a mechanical when the race is on.

  10. I thought that starting the TTT on a skid pan was a bit novel.
    Ayuso and UAE were respectable on stage 3. They at least set the pace on the final climb.

  11. I think the chance of an Ineos/Soudal-QuickStep merger is very nearly zero, if not very actually zero. The Ineos ego is far too great to share space and branding on jerseys and tour buses. I’d see them as more likely to exit the sport than acknowledge defeat in a merger.

  12. Straight talking from Geraint Thomas has been the best thing about the first two stages;

    ‘We are all just pawns in their game.’

    The organisers possibly didn’t want to schedule a TTT finish 5mins after sunset, but it was still twighlight in theory, so should have been ok.
    City politics and TV schedules were probably the main driving factors we can’t pronounce on. The organisers had brought in a lot of special lighting for start ramps and podium. – It could have been a great spectacle for completely better reasons.
    Stage 2 again couldn’t be rerouted for reasons of local politics and broadcasting commitments, so a call of sorts was made to bring an ‘arrivee fictive’ with bonifs to have some kind of a race to the line. The error was only to do with where the GC times were taken, but how could the organiser know where/when the rain would start? Imagine the fuss if it were dry…

    These early stages will soon be forgotten but the impact of Thomas’ words remain. Our hosts point that riders should go direct to the media is well made.

    • It was a crap idea all round. Town centre fiddly TTT’s are rubbish even if ran on dry tarmac under a spotlight. Running an event where riding in extreme proximity on difficult to control bicycles is paramount in darkness is a level of stupidity that I can’t comprehend.

      • Sure, you’re right about town centres not being ideal for road racing or TT.
        Hold on, aren’t whole professional series based on this very thing? Where’s the money coming from? Where are the people who could watch?
        The streets used for the TTT were massive wide boulevards with long straights which should have been great for the spectacle and all about bringing the race to people in a place where they can spend time around the event, spending money.

        The real issue was the rain. Get these roads wet, especially after a long hot summer and you’ve got a skid pan.
        Bardet said they got their strategy right. The only thing he mentioned about this was the wet tyres they were using that were fine treaded. Sure, it was a lot drier when they went out, but any damp on these roads is known to be curtains for adhesion.

        So the organisers are damned if they do put on events in cities and damned if they don’t bring races to where the people are.

        We can have a whole different discussion about whether any TT is a crap idea in road racing, but so many people like to see it so it goes on. If it were up to me, all TTs would be on the bike your brought for racing, and you’d be expecting the course to be about handling and power, less about aero and long level straights. But what do I know?

        • I’m not aware of any professional series of town centre team trials but I am willing to bow to your greater knowledge on the subject. Team time trials used to be long and about getting up to speed and staying there whilst not allowing the strongest rider in the team to fry his team mates. Not fiddling round bumpy potholed, oil covered city centre streets millimetres from your team mates.
          Town centre individual prologues do work. They’re obviously just as slippery in the wet but one man crashing doesn’t necessarily wipe out his entire team.

          • Dave Zabriskie crashed out the Tour in Yellow when on a TTT.

            Lots of TTs, team or individual have happened in cities and lots of riders have crashed out over the years.

            La Vuelta has a history of TTTs in less than suitable conditions. Think it was Alicante where the first K was on a sandy track.
            Precedent does not justify their stupidity in repeating the feat but it’s part of the event’s charm and it certaily pays the bills.

            As Thomas said, the riders are pawns.

          • Sure, agreed.
            Although it was black clouds and heavy rain brought about the darkness, so the organiser cancels the stage at mid way through.
            – Now what’s the main complaint?

          • The answer would seem to be to consider the possibility of clouds darkening the route, and either move the time back or ensure the whole course is adequately lit. This is something that should have been addressed long before the event.

          • The rain (and thus the clouds) were announced in the weather reports…

            They could at least have tried to convince the local government that moving the starting time up 1-2 hours would be better for everyone.

          • @JanC The problem is it took months to plan out the road closures for that time, including having staff in place, and notifying residents and businesses. You can’t just change that on a snap decision on the day.

            Well, you could, if you’d planned to keep a much longer window “race ready” – staff in place, barriers in place, police in place, residents/businesses notified of road closure, etc. – but that has its costs too. Residents don’t want roads closed unnecessarily long, for a start, and other costs.

            I agree though, they should have consulted meteorological information and noted not just the sunset time, but also the starting time of twilight – when the light is /already/ fading – and set their plans to ensure racing finished before then.

            Either someone in the Vuelta planning is unaware of the difference between sunset time and twilight time, or they /were aware/ and were deliberately aiming for what they thought would be “atmospheric” TV shots of the riders in the final teams finishing in the last of the suns ray.

            Bad planning.

          • It would appear that a part of the problem was that at some sections of the course the street lightning was programmed to turn on at a set time and – as ridiculous as it may seem – it couldn´t be turned on any earlier at such short notice.

            Of course, it should have been a part of normal planning to think of all the possible what-if situations and to find out what can be done in such a situation and even to make a test run to make sure everything will function as planned…

          • For sure the roads were already closed several hours before (for various reasons, including safety, allowing riders to try out the parcours, etc.)?

            And they knew this could happen since at least Thursday, which would have left them some time to make some changes to move the start earlier by at least 1 hour. Obviously there would have to be some coordination with the local governments (including Barcelona & Catalan police), but like I said those had to gain from it too, so I’d expect them to be willing to cooperate.

  13. Quote n.1 from the GCN feature:

    《…incidentally it was Jumbo-Visma, Ineos and UAE Team Emirates who had originally formed a select group to cook up the non-neutralisation option that was tabled and rejected.

    “It’s mostly the GC teams,” Lotto Dstny’s Thomas De Gendt told GCN. “For us it’s not a problem as we don’t have a GC rider, so we are not in the discussions.”…》

    Stress on “incidentally”. Also notice how they define “non-neutralisation option” their shameful insistence on turning a sharp Classic-like finale into a bunch sprint stage (we all know that sprint stages aren’t dangerous at all, both during the bunch sprint itself and when those same superteams make a chaos when the 3 kms line is approaching).
    …i.e. “a proposal from Knees to avoid any neutralisation by cutting the climb and descent in Montjuic and heading straight for the line from 6.5km out”.

    Quote n.2:
    《Still, some felt strongly enough about it that they started to mobilise towards a protest, with talk of a demonstration both in-person and via mobile messages. This could well have taken the form of a refusal to start the stage. It was tricky to organise, as the CPA was adamant that unity and unanimity was required – rather than some protesting and some racing. And so, with 22 teams in the event, it was a scramble to get 12 on the same page so as to form a majority stance.

    It is unclear quite how many were on board, and to what extent any protest plan took any detailed form. That’s because, at the last minute, the organisers suddenly backed down. No one has stated what the precise trigger for this was. In any case, with minutes to spare, the riders took to the start line with a new plan in place, and the show could go on.

    Who’s acting and threatening and pushing things? …”Some”…
    Then notice how “unity and unanimity” turns into a “majority stance”, quite a different thing. Even that was “a scramble” to get.
    The rest is…”unclear”… even “how many” were on favour of this supposed protest? (Hansen cites 40-some riders at most on his chat, not necessarily backing the protest).

    Organisers “suddenly” back down. They had offered to neutralise the (not really) dangerous descent, but for Geraint and Primoz that was not “safe” enough. They really wanted the climb out, and they got it. Admittedly, both are more than capable of crashing uphill ^__^

    This whole story is a shame and hinders the sport. As if the superteams weren’t already a big problem as such because of their dominant position and excessive resources compared to the rest, making any hope of a broad and deep competition void from scratch. Now being so big they’re also drawing the course on the spot. No surprise they’re also been deciding what’s legal or gray zone (according to them).

    Knowing first hand that descent, it’s just nonsense to speak about any special safety issue there. The premise of Hansen (free fall for him, a mere politician in the worst sense) says it all: he needs to use the day before, totally not-related, to justify what happened on Sunday, because the latter in itself lacked any credibility. Same as the Giro stuff on the Swiss stage.

    Too bad. Whatever…

    • What’s funnier or sadder is some cyclist (and the journos sort of backing the idea) defending that this will make the riders feel less like pawns of sort, while they’re precisely being used as such in a way vaster power struggle about who’s got real control in cycling, the athletes being stuck at zero as always, to start with… that huge majority of them who aren’t even granted a voice by this governance of the “sindacato”.
      They’ve always been forced to use equipment which isn’t actually the safest only for the industry’s interest (and still are). They die training on open roads, and obvioulsy even way more often than that they end up injured, attacked, threatened, stressed and scared to say the least (ask Van Aert about Brianza).
      What I see there is that the sport and the athletes (and, well, the language) are being hurt by the inflation of an extremely spurious concept of “safety”, especially manifest re: the Montjuic descent (it’s not only that it is and was a safe road, under Sunday’s conditions too, it’s also – even more important in this case – a very short one, which means that no serious GC reasons prevents anybody to go down very very slowly and lose at the very very most 30 seconds or so). Not to speak of the supposed lack of safety… of the Montjuic climb!
      This makes every day clearer and clearer that nobody in the driving seats of the sport, these “protesters” included, really cares much about safety. They make of it all a mere farce, which I hope they wouldn’t if they cared about the real issue.

  14. Obviously too early to speculate, but I’m now really curious about the consequences of Kuss’s ride today for Evenepoel: he’s 2:39 down on Kuss. If Kuss gets protected status, that 2:39 could be very very hard to pull back–the ITT is too short to do it all there, no?–unless he just doesn’t have the gas any longer after 2 GTs and he collapses. Did Evenepoel just watch this year’s Carapaz ride away? Or is this just a silly thought?

    Of course Evenepoel is not the only GC contender out there.

    I can’t wait to see how JV play this.

    • It’s just an extra card for JV to play? They could send Kuss up the road again, and Evenepoel can’t let that go now. But his team isn’t so strong. So they wear him down, and we’ve already seen that Roglic and Vingegaard are just waiting to strike when he’s vulnerable.

    • Besides the time trial, I can’t see Kuss managing to win, having ridden the Giro and the Tour already.
      If this turns out to be not just a bad day, Evenepoel’s value might plummet, and all this talk of pay increases, transfers and team mergers might look a little silly. It was always premature: this is a guy who has won one Vuelta, where he beat Mas, and beat him by taking time in the time trials.

      • Also, when riding as a domestique, Kuss always has a few days off. How would he cope if he had to ride every day, and also not lose time on non-mountainous stages – and all in his 3rd GT of the season. I don’t see it. And I don’t think he’ll really try to do it.

  15. “If Kuss gets protected status”
    eh, Movistar’s “Trident” didnt work out too well.
    Rog & Vingegaard both had very good days on S6. Two leaders is plenty.
    Nevertheless, putting Sepp off the leash for a 1-week stage race, that included TTs, might be a nice change of pace for him, if he wants it.

    • Did the Movistar trident ever find itself in a position anything like the one Jumbo – Visma enjoys now, one prong 2,5 minutes ahead of the main opponent and the two other prongs?

      Anyway, isn’t it enough to *pretend* that Kuss is going for the GC : as long as keeping up the pretense doesn´t take anything away from Vingegaard and Roglic, there is a chance that the other GC teams will go for it (because the risk is too big, if they don´t take Kuss seriously).

      BTW if Kuss and the team deny it in interviews, the other teams might be fooled into thinking that it´s just Jumbo – Visma being clever…

      That said, I don´t think Kuss will race as anything other than a superdomestique. He is much too likely to have a bad day.

    • I guess the JV DS reads this blog because they clearly have taken my advice (I can’t figure out how to put in a self-deprecating ironic eye-roll emoji here…) according to Cycling News! But maybe the best thing is not necessarily that Kuss could win but that others might think he can…

      Maybe Ayuso will figure out how to exploit all of these possible scenarios…that’d be fun to see.

      In any case, it’s all become interesting.

  16. Thanks for the write-up, Inrng. Great, as always.
    What do we think of Toon Aerts’ statement? From his account, the whole process sounds extremely frustrating, opaque, and unfair. But obviously cyclists have been cheating forever, so it’s hard to sympathize with a rider who claims they don’t know how their A/B samples could’ve possibly been contaminated when every other doping rider has said exactly the same thing. Is there a better way for the UCI to handle it? Does Toon deserve any sympathy? I’m conflicted.

    • The UCI has followed the WADA rules on this, the sport doesn’t have much choice – although sports can suspend riders following a A sample test and cycling is among those that do – anyway there’s not much leeway, these are shared international rules. The principle of strict liability is harsh as Aerts may not have intended to cope but if he can’t explain where the substance came from then he cops a ban.

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