Astana team hires PR agency

Astana fans

Kazakh team Astana has hired a British public relations agency called Weber Shandwick to help manage the team’s image. In the agency’s own words “to use the riders and the team to get media to re-evaluate perceptions of Kazakhstan” which is a nice way of saying trying to get people to forget Borat.

Nevermind that the film was a comedy, nevermind that the “Kazakh” scenes were actually shot in Romania, for many the Borat comedy films are indelibly associated with the country. Worse, if the films aren’t for you and you’re into more serious things then a mention of the country might make you think of an oil rich state gripped by personality-cult for its President. Cycling fans though think of Vinokourov and his sky-blue squad.

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Spotlight on Qatar

Qatar is the world’s wealthiest country on a per capita basis. Last year locals were worried for the state of the economy after it grew by a meagre 15%. No typo, that’s fifteen percent. Whilst most Europeans long for the day their economy expands by 1.5%, the Qataris get richer by the day.

The reason is primarily the prodigious oil and gas reserves that lie under the country’s sands and off its shores. There’s so much of this valuable resource that the country has gone from nomadic desert dwelling to the highest per capita income in the world in one century.

You haven’t come here to read about Arab wealth, nor oil and gas. But this wealth is the reason why the country has a cycle race starting tomorrow with the Ladies Tour of Qatar and then the Tour of Qatar for men on Sunday. Here’s a look at the race.

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That’s what he didn’t say

A number of microphones

Mark Cavendish has signed a deal for sports agents the Wasserman Group to represent him and to mark the moment there’s been a press release to announce the deal. Here’s an excerpt:

I’m really excited to be joining Wasserman,” said the sprint cyclist who currently rides for HTC-Highroad. “Their client list is the best in the world and being part of a company who has a history of successfully managing top athletes can only be beneficial in what is a big few years for me. It’s extremely important to have the right management behind me now to allow me to focus all of my energies into riding my bike as fast as I can.

Only he probably never said these words. Welcome to the phenomenon known as the “attributed quote”. It’s widespread. The use of the attributed quote is systemic, a worldwide phenomenon that goes well beyond sport and into news, politics and more.

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Europcar says thanks

Europcar L'Equipe

That’s an advert in today’s L’Equipe newspaper, snapped by a twitter user. The wording below Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler translates as “3450km full of courage” but “le plein” is also the term for a full tank of fuel so it also means “3450km on a full tank of courage” , an appropriate message for a car hire company.

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Where’s Alberto?


Today sees Alberto Contador’s pre race press conference and he has some explaining to do. Now maybe you know what’s been happening during the last year, you are aware of the series of events beginning with his positive tests, the delays, the rulings, the appeals and more. But millions of French citizens aren’t aware of these intricacies

So like or not, the positive tests from last summer have left many scratching their heads. This isn’t about doping, it’s more giving the French public an explanation and the chance to put his side of the story. Only nobody’s seen him in France.

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Losing the agenda

Lance Armstrong Avoriaz

Today sees the Dauphiné head to Les Gets and a large section of today’s stage borrows the same roads as last year’s eighth stage of the Tour de France that finished in Avoriaz, won by Andy Schleck.

On Sunday 11 July 2010 the bunch was speeding to the first proper climb of the race, the Col de Ramaz and on a downhill section during the approach there was a roundabout, a small junction to control the traffic to a nearby supermarket and the kind of thing you find all over France. But it was on a fast piece of road and the passage of traffic arriving fast at the roundabout and braking hard had rippled the tarmac a touch, itself softened by the summer heat. Most riders got through but the skittish surface claimed one victim: Lance Armstrong. Up until then everything was going to plan, Armstrong had finished second in the Tour de Suisse and took fourth in the Tour’s prologue.

But everything went wrong thanks to this roundabout. It took a long time to get going and once he was on his way Armstrong was in the red, chasing with team mates to the start of the Ramaz. Team Sky were driving the pace ahead and Armstrong never got back on, especially since Astana kept the pace high to Les Gets and he eventually trundled up the finish line in Avoriaz, over 11 minutes down.

Yet if a roundabout ruined Lance Armstrong’s hopes last year, it was a random and freak event and his team tried their best to get him back in the race. Fast forward to 2011 and I can’t help but wonder if his troubles today are not being compounded by the result of bad decisions and poor advice.

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The Quick Step team have held their pre-season training camp in Tenerife. As well as the stock individual photos, the team took a moment to publicise latex pillows and mattresses on offer from their sponsor Latexco in a rather bizarre way: Caught napping I put the same photo on Twitter earlier and received plenty of … Read more

Luxembourg Secrecy

Luxembourg can be a secretive place, the OECD’s “grey list” of countries accused the country oof lacking financial transparency and it’s reportedly the country of choice for the North Korean dictatorship to stash its ill-gotten gains. We are still weeks away from reading anything official on the workings the Luxembourg cycling team. Remember this is … Read more

Riis gets his man

Team Sungard-Saxo Bank has grabbed more headlines recently thanks to the exodus of riders and the Contador controversy. Only now Bjarne Riis has made a signing designed to change this: 35-year-old journalist Anders Damgaard. Damgaard (pictured left) will work as the team’s new press officer from January. He’s worked with Berlingske Tidende and, where … Read more

Mick Rogers and Sky: true or false?

“We have more signings still to come. So far we’ve signed Alex Dowsett, who’s a great prologue rider and has come through the British system, we have the Spaniards, Xabier Zondo and Rigoberto Uran and Mick Rogers” So went Team Sky’s Dave Brailsford in an interview with Velonews’s Steve Thomas. It’s in quotation marks, implying … Read more