Friday Shorts

Visma-Lease A Bike kit looks a lot like the Jumbo-Visma kit. Team sponsors can change but the team keeps its visual identity, it’s a sensible idea as long as the sponsors are ok, very often they are so sensitive to their branding that they want “their” team to adopt every style and brand guideline they have.

Spot the difference: Several teams have unveiled kits and the good news so far is that there is less blue and red, it will be easier to tell them apart on TV for fans; even riders can have issues in races when they might glance over their shoulder and can’t be sure if the rider in red kit bridging across is from Bahrain or Ineos. But there’s plenty of time for other teams to resemble each other.

Kein Uijtdebroeks: Cian Uijtdebroeks is no longer with Bora-hansgrohe, it’s official. He is a Visma-LAB rider after his transfer went through this week. All is well that ends well but it wasn’t a very pro look for two teams to be arguing in public like this and for his agent to try and get the deal without UCI approval. The key issue was to have this approved both teams and the UCI by 1 January as transfers are only allowed between the end of the season until the end of the year, otherwise it’d have to wait until the transfer window in August.

Lapierre loses out: talking of Bora-hansgrohe, they might have had another deal. Bike brand Lapierre had long sponsored Groupama-FDJ but the company has been taken over by private equity and new owners KKR want – read need – to increase sales and opting for a more international team became a priority as Groupama-FDJ just looked too French. All this is told in more detail on the Matos Vélo website. So Lapierre dropped Groupama-FDJ, targetted Bora-hansgrohe… and whatever reason missed out as the German teams stay with Specialized so Lapierre is now without a men’s World Tour team.

Le budget: Staying with Groupama-FDJ, they have the 15th biggest budget in the World Tour. Every year the UCI gets to review teams and the finances as a condition of their WorldTeam licence and so the governing body knows the headline budget for every team. But this is guarded, except for when teams get a pack of info which contains their ranking in terms of budget on a scale so they can see the order between 1 and 18th and the team’s position was mentioned in L’Equipe this week. The team budget for last year was €22 million. Who is 16th, 17th and 18th? Cofidis’s accounts show about €16 million, Arkéa-Samsic have been on about €18 million according to memory from a radio interview and Intermarché’s roster probably means they’re the third team.

The drinks are on him: for the sake of a quick comparison, a decade ago Team Sky dominated the World Tour with a budget of €25 million, a sum that has doubled and Ineos today probably isn’t the biggest budget either. As La Gazzetta Dello Sport noted the other day the average team budget is now €28 million. Most of this is driven by rider wages going up, the average in the World Tour for 2024 is €449k but of course the average rider doesn’t earn this, the number is bumped up by the handful of riders on the biggest deals. Still it does touch the other end of the scale too, there is a minimum wage for the World Tour but few riders will be on it, even neo-pros typically sign for well above this floor… at least for the men.

July in the diary: Groupama-FDJ aren’t the only riders on Wilier bikes. So are Astana. If the Kazkakh team hasn’t announced its Tour team but you can guess, there will be Mark Cavendish’s lead out train in Mørkøv, Ballerini and Bol, Alexey Lutsenko plus a worker or two. Yet teams are announcing their squads for the Tour de France already, specifically UAE and Visma-LAB and that’s partly because they’re shaping plans around one rider and the task of trying to win the race overall; teams going stage hunting or aiming for the sprints don’t have to pick their eight yet even if they have a good idea of their preferred eight. Training plans have been hatched, Teams will try to send the same riders to races together, for example you could tell Intermarché-Wanty’s Tour plans from the riders it sent to the early-season Majorca races and by March and May riders will be on altitude training camps together. We might think gone are the days when teams would see who had a good Dauphiné or Suisse, or even the nationals but remember Felix Gall rode his way into the Ag2r Citroën Tour team this year but it takes this kind of performance to do it. The best plans change of course and no more so than Jumbo-Visma this year, you might remember the scramble for replacement riders in the days before the Giro.

Portfolio additions: away from the peloton and a note that ASO have picked up the Bemer Cyclassics race, the one day World Tour event in Hamburg that needs the “one day World Tour event in Hamburg” tag because it’s a good event but the late season slot and its relative novelty (it started in 1996) mean it’s still to take root. Similarly Flanders Classics have added the Amstel Gold Race to their portfolio as organisers grow. The mooted “One Cycling” project should be more of a story in 2024 and one big idea is to bundle races together so event organisers owning lots of races already gives them more sway in negotiations. But the likes of ASO and Flanders Classics are probably taking over extra events because it makes sense anyway.

Gap in the market? Tour of Britain event organiser Sweetspot is being pursued by British Cycling for funds and there has been news this week that the two senior members of staff, in both senses, Mick Bennett and Hugh Roberts are retiring. The race is on the calendar for now but with a question mark over it. Maybe a new race organiser steps in

Finally… there will be a Christmas Quiz here online in the coming days, after all it’s the season of tradition. The chart above missed the cut but see if you can guess what it shows. Less data-driven is a quote, translated from a now-retired French rider about their non-French team: “thugs who don’t use the toilet brush” but I can’t find the original so it didn’t feature… but feel free to guess the squad he was talking about.

31 thoughts on “Friday Shorts”

  1. No idea about the graph, though it does resemble how my daughter approaches changing street lights as they go to yellow. The quote cannot be about Bora Hansgrohe. I’ll never forget the sign in a bar toilet in Oberhausen, Germany: “Die Klobürste ist kein Dekorationsobjekt!”

  2. The graph is the exact reason why we’ve been very recently talking about ornithology in the comment section – and it wasn’t about the best saxo ever, or bird watching.

      • Exactly, and the curious aspect is that if there was only one, we’d already be shocked, but… two? With such a proportion between them, and then to the rest?
        Plus, one would expect this sort of distribution to mirror an underlying physiological situation of sort which manifests its consequences “all the time”, so to say.
        Where are those watts and that sort of genetical out-of-this-worldness under other circumstances? (with which I mean on other stages during the same race, during – some – other races, in different seasons etc.)
        The statistical image conveyed by that graph (such an outlier, then again a way further further outlier) requires some consistent reality behind to account for it.

        • It is interesting that the TdF TT speed vs rider plot discussed above would be topologically exactly the same for some of the cyclocross races now taking place: the ordinary humans and the two outliers (mvdp and Wout). There will always be a 1st and a 2nd, but that they are so far out is striking. Gabiele raises the interesting question of the physiological basis of this superiority.

  3. Lapierre must be almost the only WT frame which really stands out from the rest. If all WT frames were sold in grey primer most cycling fans could pick Lapierre out though all but the most obsessed would struggle to separate the rest. Was the radical design better, worse or just different? It can’t have been much worse or the FDJ riders and management would have discreetly complained, but if it had been much better then Bora might have been tempted to switch. It will be interesting to follow FDJ’s results in 2024 on relatively standard material.

    Finally how many bikes do Lapierre sell, and how much of that >£2m promotion budget is carried by a typical machine sold?

    • The performance of the bikes matters, but it also comes down to payments and the duration of existing contracts too so it’s always hard to judge but the French team was a bit annoyed it seems as they’d worked well together for a long time, if Küng wanted an aero improvement to the frame they’d work to make it happen etc. Apparently the new FDJ bikes are well received, “they would say that” but we can see that for all the changes at Astana to suit Mark Cavendish, no change with the frames.

      FWIW Matos Vélo’s “Echo du Vélo” posts (in French) are good for knowing what’s going on with the mechanics etc. The latest one is out today.

      • “The performance of the bikes matters,” mostly the chrono bikes to chrono specialists, which is one reason I wish the otherwise useless and dangerous contraptions would be banned.
        Otherwise, nobody will convince me Team X rides Brand Y for any reason other than the sponsorship payments. If anything else mattered HTF would SRAM have so many WT teams using their stuff while Campagnolo has zero?

    • Chapeau. On the very left is Alexis Renard’s speed, he was eliminated that day. He crashed at the start and then finished, presumably soft pedalling because he was later diagnosed with a broken ankle.

      A time trial stage is often an active rest day for many but you can see those going for the stage and those with some kind of GC in mind… and then two riders well clear of them.

      • Vingegaard’s TT ability is the thing that really makes me scratch my head. He’s the size of a child compared to his teammates (if you watch the podium presentations at GT’s it really stands out) and he weighs ca 60 kg so hats off to Visma for making him into a TT winner.

        • “..hats off to Visma for making him into a TT winner.”
          How would VISMA have done that? Back-in-the-day little guys like Charly Mottet were aces against-the-clock. Then, IMHO the tri-bars made everyone pretty much equal when it came to aero drag, so any advantage Mottet’s small size gave him was negated when the big boyz with their bigger “engines” (Think BigMig then or Pippo Ganna now) were punching more or less the same size hole in the air as the little ones.
          The pasty Dane may only weigh 60 kg but he’s got a thorax on him that seems to house a heart and lungs that rival those of the big boyz.
          Did VISMA have those installed?

          • You could also VERY CLEARLY tell that Jonas had trained and evaluated that stage route much more than Tadej (or likely any one else). He crushed every single turn and hill and knew every aspect of the route much better than Tadej. It was at least 30-40% of his margin IMO. He just did the analysis better and won bc of it.

    • You beat me to it! I do very poorly on the Christmas quiz so I was getting relatively excited scrolling though the comments until I got here.. Crushed. 🙂

  4. In ‘Cycling Weekly’ today is an article about the dire financial state of Lapierre’s parent company.
    “Accell Group, the company that owns bike brands Lapierre and Raleigh, has had its financial rating downgraded, due to its “unsustainable” capital structure.
    Top credit ratings firm Fitch has lowered Accell’s long-term default rating to CCC from B-, meaning the business is deemed to be at “substantial credit risk”.
    Tough times for the bike industry.

    • Seems to be on the back of other news in the cycle business media, Accell has seen its CEO step down, they are having reorganisations (code for sacking) and production of some brands, eg Ghost, seems to be moving out of the traditional factories to Asia etc.

  5. Mr. Ring, very interesting way to weave together a number of stories generally highlighting the problems with cycling’s business model, which seems to be heading for some kind of reckoning. This really is the top story of 2023. It’s fantastic that top cyclists are starting to make salaries commensurate with their talent and entertainment value, but the sad underlying reality is that the model doesn’t even support the rather paltry (compared to other international sports) average salary on the World Tour teams. Watch this space…

  6. Wow…. Looking at Lease A Bike branding, I don’t see any yellow in their colour schemes, unless I’m looking at the wrong thing. Why would they agree to their name on a Jumbo jersey?

  7. Visma was just valued at $21 billion yesterday. I thought LAB was a Pon Holdings company, so maybe they care less about the kit being in their color.
    On other news, WvA isn’t racing Strade or MSR. That’s too bad. I realize not everyone’s physiology is the same, but MvDP raced CX and won MSR and was still fresh enough for Flanders and Roubaix.

  8. > The key issue was to have this approved both teams and the UCI by 1 January as transfers are only allowed between the end of the season until the end of the year, otherwise it’d have to wait until the transfer window in August.

    Although it is certainly ideal that it be sorted out in time for 01/01/2024, the UCI regulations do have a ‘provisional registration’ process which covers for the possibility of a dispute carrying over into the new year without a resolution.

    This would have allowed for whatever legal processes are required to resolve the matter to be completed, followed by the provisional registration being retrospectively confirmed (working around the transfer period dates) and backdated to 01/01/2024.

    Well done to all involved for hammering out a deal that only required approval from the UCI instead of requiring

    • I doubt we’ll ever know how many euros changed hands to settle the Visma vs Bora dispute. A rebate of the loot paid by Bora to Visma to get Roglic out of his deal early? But how much?

      • There were reports that Bora was seeking €1 million to release Uijtdebroeks. I’d imagine it was less, given that it was clear he wouldn’t renew his contract in any case.

        • “There were reports that Bora was seeking €1 million to release Uijtdebroeks”
          I think everyone read those, but who knows what the real amount was….and will it ever be revealed like most of this stuff is once enough time has passed? And how much of a cut did the agents/lawyers get out of it? THAT will probably never be known!

          • You might want to know those things, but you should not be able to. I share your curiosity, but contracts, wage details (and a wide range of legal matters more broadly) are not public knowledge for a reason.

  9. I’m guessing that Bora are now the de facto Specialized ‘works’ team, especially since they’ve now signed with Sram; the Factory MTB teams are all on Sram, and they’ve even got one of their riders on the Bora team….(Koretzky).

    • Ironic? If not, answers above.

      However, the TDF avg. speed isn’t always growing steadily year after year, and, for example, 2005 was still faster than any recent edition barring 2022 only, I think. It’s quite shocking that riders are racing at similar avg. speeds as 20 years ago but on way easier (flatter, shorter) routes.
      The apparent turning point looks indeed 2022, we’ll see if fuelling fuels up a longer trend. Bike tech hummm, no huge leap forward between say 2020 and 2022… nothing like special swinsuits or shoes, for sure.

        • It’s the speeds of individual riders on the ITT at the last TDF. In the comments we had been speaking recently of “black swan” (now referred to as “ornithology”, above) for the distribution of performances on the right side of the graph…

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