[06/24] This Week In Cycling

As we move into the second week of February the big cycling news this week has featured race results, racers being racist, and a resurgence in doping. Or at least dopers and their doctors being caught.

Beyond that we have the continual tail of two halves in cycling. One half has lots of money and wants to buy everything, and the other half … perhaps the bigger half (!) are struggling to stay afloat.

Yes, maths never was my strong point.

Anyway, as always you can see last week’s roundup by clicking here, or you can crack on and enjoy the best of the week just gone.

Van der Poel’s Cyclo-Crossroads

Mathieu van der Poel’s supremacy in cyclo-cross is undisputed, with a sixth world title win last Sunday adding to his impressive tally.

Yet, the question arises in the minds of several cycling talking heads: should the Dutch marvel pivot exclusively to road cycling?

The general consensus across numerous sites that ran opinion pieces on this topic are that his cyclo-cross achievements are monumental, yet there is still plenty left to be won on the road.

My personal take is if he is enjoying riding his bike, regardless of the discipline, who the hell are we to tell him what he should and shouldn’t be doing?

As I say, plenty of sites ran with this one. I saw it first at Cycling Weekly.

SD Worx’s Balancing Act

SD Worx-Protime, with only three riders officially on board for 2025, are in a financial pickle as they aim to retain the talent of Demi Vollering amidst tightening their purse strings.

Danny Stam, the team’s sports director, acknowledges the challenge of matching a rumoured million Euro offer from UAE Team ADQ for Vollering, a standout in the women’s peloton and Tour de France Femmes victor.

This is a story that plays out time and time again in sport. A rider (player / team member) does really well, and as a result the teams with fatter wallets come sniffing. Who can blame any athlete, or any person from wanting more money for doing the exact same job?

I think the gist of this one is Demi’s days at SD Worx-Protime are coming to an end.

GCN brought us this one..

Too Early To Predict The Whole Of 2024?

Pedal Predictions For 2024

Velo’s Spencer Martin shares his annual BTP NET Ratings, offering his macro-level predictions for the 2024 road cycling season, assessing how teams might fare based on off-season movements.

Martin introduces the BTP NET Rating, a unique system developed in-house at Velo, to project team performances by analysing Pro Cycling Stats points adjustments during the transfer window, aiming to fill the gap in advanced analytics in professional cycling.

Despite never telling us what BTP stands for, Martin explains that the NET Rating provides a comprehensive overview of team strengths and weaknesses, highlighting the strategic nuances of team management in the off-season.

The 2024 projections classify teams into tiers, with UAE-Team Emirates and Visma – Lease a Bike leading, followed by notable shifts among teams like BORA – Hansgrohe and Lidl – Trek, showcasing the impact of the transfer market on team dynamics.

It’s all a little beyond me, with tables, graphs, and many indented bullet points. But I found it interesting all the same.

Movistar Proposes Subs for the Tour de France

Team Movistar’s boss, Eusebio Unzué, suggests a radical shake-up for the Tour de France and other grand tours: introducing replacements for injured or sick riders within the first week.

Arguing for a more humane approach to the sport, Unzué criticises the outdated and “overly inhumane” rules that currently leave teams without recourse when riders are forced out due to accidents or health issues.

He proposes that new riders could join the race, starting at the bottom of the general classification to keep the competition fair.

This idea aims to protect athletes’ health and update cycling’s regulations to reflect modern sportsmanship standards.

Additionally, Unzué confirms Movistar’s engagement in discussions about a potential “Super League” in cycling, hinting at a future with significant changes and investments aimed at revitalising the sport. That one is covered next.

Read more on this one over at Velo.

Wheeling and Dealing

The cycling transfer market is already bustling with activity for 2025, even before stars like Primož Roglič and Cian Uijtdebroeks have showcased their talents for the season.

Both the men’s and women’s pelotons are bracing for a whirlwind of transfers, with the men’s field largely locked in, while the women’s side sees potential for significant shifts.

Top riders like Julian Alaphilippe, Jai Hindley, and Demi Vollering are among those on the move, with powerhouse teams and new investments, such as Red Bull’s with Bora-Hansgrohe, shaking up the landscape.

Teams like Visma-Lease a Bike and UAE Team Emirates are playing the long game with their rosters, while Ineos Grenadiers and others are making strategic signings to bolster their line-ups.

All quite speculative, but I enjoyed this one from GCN.

Cavalli’s Classics Comeback on Hold?

Marta Cavalli, the FDJ-SUEZ star, suffered a pelvic bone bruise during a training camp crash in Spain, putting a dampener on her season’s start.

Details of the injury and recovery timeline remain vague, casting shadows over her participation in the Classics.

The team’s statement highlighted Cavalli’s unfortunate training fall in Benidorm, confirming the injury through medical examinations and outlining her specific recovery protocol.

Cavalli, perhaps best known for her victories in the 2022 Ardennes Classics, has faced a challenging period with injuries affecting her career momentum, particularly after a crash at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in 2022 and subsequent issues impacting her 2023 Spring season.

Let’s hope for a speedy recovery.

Cycling’s New Era with a $270m Saudi Spin?

Cycling's New Era with a $270m Saudi Spin?

Revolution is on the horizon for professional cycling with the potential introduction of the One Cycling league, aimed to revamp the sport’s business model with a significant $270m investment from Saudi Arabia.

Spearheaded by the sport’s top teams, One Cycling seeks to introduce new revenue streams and events, reminiscent of Formula 1, starting in 2026.

However, not all are on board, with major race organisers like ASO and RCS currently out of the loop.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is the leading candidate to back this ambitious project, aligning it with the country’s Vision 2030 sports investment strategy.

Critics raise concerns about potential impacts on fans and the ethical implications of Saudi investment.

Despite previous attempts at reform, such as the World Series Cycling and Velon, One Cycling represents a bold step towards reshaping professional cycling, offering promise for more dynamic competition and a fairer distribution of profits.

I can’t even find a website for this just yet, so I think we are still very firmly in ‘rumour’ territory.

Britain’s Cycling Crown Jewels

Britain's Cycling Crown Jewels

British Cycling has taken the reins of the Tour of Britain and Women’s Tour, ensuring the future of these key events.

However, the clock is ticking to get the Women’s Tour on the road for 2024.

With the men’s race secured for its September slot, there’s a frantic scramble to shorten the women’s event from its planned June debut.

Despite challenges, including a significant financial hurdle and the aftermath of a licensing dispute, British Cycling is committed to delivering top-tier, sustainable cycling events.

Call me a cynic (and maybe it truly is about the men’s race being later in the year), but it doesn’t surprise me that the women’s event plays second fiddle in terms of priority. Tut tut.

Cycling Weekly ran this one.

However there is more to the story…

No Prize Money Paid (Yet… Or, Likely Ever)

Double podium for Team Jumbo-Visma in opening stage Tour of Britain

Wout van Aert and his team, Visma-Lease a Bike, along with other participants of the 2023 Tour of Britain, face unpaid prize money following the liquidation of the race organiser, SweetSpot.

Despite promises of significant prize sums, the collapse has left riders and their unions scrambling, with the CPA (riders’ union) taking a stand to ensure payment.

British Cycling, stepping in to manage future races, grapples with the fallout and legacy issues of SweetSpot’s financial woes, aiming to restore confidence among teams and the cycling community.

Amidst legal disputes and financial instability, the situation casts a shadow on the race’s future, with teams like Visma-Lease A Bike contemplating their participation pending clarity on the prize money debacle and race details.

In other words, it might go ahead but perhaps without the big guns in attendance?

Cycling Weekly also ran this one.

Glasgow’s £205m Clyde Kicker

Glasgow's £205m Economic Wheelie

The 2023 UCI World Championships in Glasgow, known as the ‘Super Worlds,’ generated a staggering £205 million in economic activity for Scotland.

Spanning 11 days last August, it united 13 cycling disciplines for the first time, making it the largest cycling event in history.

A new report by Ernst & Young underscores the event’s immensely positive economic impact on the host country, including the creation of 5,285 jobs and over £6 million in investments across Scotland’s local authorities.

UCI president David Lappartient lauded the championships for their extensive benefits beyond sports, contributing to the economy, tourism, and sustainable development.

Despite challenges facing professional road racing in the UK, the success of British cyclists at the event and the massive spectator turnout underscore the lasting impact and excitement surrounding the championships.

The next combined World Championships are set for 2027 in France’s Haute-Savoie.

Read in full at Road.cc.

Racing Racists?

Madis Mihkels and Gerben Thijssen, pro cyclists for the Belgian Intermarché-Wanty team, faced backlash for sharing racist gestures on social media during the Tour of Guangxi.

I’m not linking to the picture – several sites have, including Road.cc which ran the story I read.

As a consequence, they were fined, pulled from the race, and required to attend an educational course on combating discrimination.

In a move towards redemption, they’ve contributed financially to the team’s junior cycling academy and spent a day teaching young cyclists about the values inherent in cycling.

The team expressed regret over the incident, reaffirming their stance against racism and their dedication to representing cycling’s inclusive spirit.

madismihkels instagram

You can call me Beavis, but right now you look like a massive Butthead.

Yomp in the Park

Mamnick, a Sheffield-based cycling clothing brand I hadn’t heard of, accuses brand most cyclists have heard of Rapha, of pilfering its brand ethos and the concept of ‘yomping’ for Rapha’s ‘Yomp Rally’ bikepacking event.

Thom Barnett, Mamnick’s founder, feels infringed upon, noting his decade-long effort to embed ‘yomp’—a term he repurposed for cycling from military jargon—into the cycling culture.

Despite Mamnick’s lack of a trademark on ‘yomp,’ Barnett argues its cycling context originates from his brand.

Rapha, however, maintains that the term ‘yomp’ is not proprietary and believes both brands’ uses can coexist peacefully.

I genuinely don’t have any more insights into this, but the comments on the Twitter post by Mamnick are, shall we say, a little fruity.

Read in full at Road.cc, but do check out the Twitter linked above. Or X, whatever it’s called this week.

Doping Drama: Quintana’s Doc Heads for Court

Doping Drama: Quintana's Doc Heads for Court

Nairo Quintana’s former doctor and man with four names, Fredy Alexander Gonzales Torres, is set to face trial in Marseille this September, accused of possessing prohibited substances or methods during the 2020 Tour de France.

The charges relate to equipment and devices intended for infusions or intravenous injections without medical justification.

If convicted he’s looking at a possible 5 year prison sentence, and a juicy 75,000 euro fine.

The investigation, initiated after a police raid during the Tour, revealed suspect products and methods suggestive of doping.

The Marseille prosecutor’s office has confirmed their decision to prosecute Gonzales Torres.

Quintana, meanwhile, has faced his own challenges, having been disqualified from the 2022 Tour de France for testing positive for Tramadol, a decision later upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Despite this setback, Quintana has maintained his innocence throughout his career, highlighting his extensive history of doping tests. After an 18-month hiatus, he’s making a comeback with Movistar, the team he originally joined in 2012, and is set to compete in the Tour Colombia.

A very concise update here from BVM Sports.

Franck Bonnamour’s Biopassport Blip

Franck Bonnamour's Biopassport Blip

And another story from the same vein 😏

French rider Franck Bonnamour faces a provisional suspension due to “unexplained abnormalities” in his biological passport, as announced by the UCI.

Bonnamour, currently with Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale and a victor in La Polynormande 2022, finds himself sidelined while the case is under review.

The abnormalities predate his tenure with his current team, stemming from his time with previous teams B&B Hotels and Arkéa-Samsic.

Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale has suspended him provisionally, emphasizing adherence to strict ethical standards in cycling.

This is the first time a WorldTour rider has been implicated in a biological passport case in almost a decade. Progress indeed.

The biological passport, a cornerstone of anti-doping efforts since 2008, monitors athletes’ blood parameters to flag potential doping, managed by the International Testing Agency.

Get up to speed at Velo.

And Then Another 💉

Former Lidl-Trek and Jumbo-Visma rider Antwan Tolhoek has also been caught in the anti-doping headlights, returning an “adverse” test for steroids, says the UCI.

The Dutch cyclist, currently with Portuguese Continental team Sabgal/Anicolor, provided the damning sample during an out-of-competition control last November, while still under the banner of Lidl-Trek.

With the wheels now provisionally halted on his racing career, an investigation is pedalling forward.

The UCI’s announcement drops into a week already punctured by doping dramas, marking a rocky road for the sport. Tolhoek, known for his 2019 Tour de Suisse stage win, now faces a potential disciplinary uphill if the B sample mirrors the A, or if he opts against requesting its analysis.

Be on the lookout for Deloreans. It feels like we are going Back To The Future.

Pinarello Pedals into Women’s WorldTour

Pinarello marks its debut in the Women’s WorldTour by partnering with the Swiss WorldTeam, Roland Cycling, home to Olympic champion Anna Kiesenhofer.

This announcement confirms rumours sparked by sightings of the team training on Pinarello bikes and the brand’s logo adorning their 2024 kit.

Fausto Pinarello expressed pride in this landmark move, highlighting the alignment between Pinarello’s pursuit of excellence and Roland Cycling’s racing passion.

The team looks forward to competing on Pinarello Dogma F bikes across the season’s biggest races, including their WorldTour start at the UAE Tour.

This partnership not only signifies Pinarello’s commitment to women’s cycling but also strengthens Roland Cycling’s roster, featuring talents like Sylvie Swinkels and Sofia Collinelli, as they gear up for grand tours and aim for top-tier success.

GCN brought us this one.

Decathlon Eyes the Future with Apple Vision Pro

Decathlon Eyes the Future with Apple Vision Pro

One of the bigger tech news stories this week has been the release of Apple’s very expensive Vision Pro headset, starting at $3499 for their most basic model.

I do wonder what the cross over might be with Decathlon customers, but apparently that’s not stopped Decathlon releasing a Vision compatible shopping app for the platform.

As the headset is not available here in the UK yet, and even when it is the price is likely to be 1:1 in terms of dollar to pound (aka £3499), I don’t think I’m their target customer.

But still, a pretty interesting story all the same.

Bicycle Retailer dropped this one.

Zwift’s Redundancies Ride On

Zwift's Redundancies Ride On

This week Zwift announced more layoffs and the resignation of co-CEO Kurt Biedler, signalling a period of significant change despite assurances of a healthy and growing community.

This comes after a series of layoffs over the past two years, with the total number of staff let go nearing 230.

The company aims to become leaner, focusing on sustainable growth, amid slower-than-expected recovery in growth rates.

Zwift reaffirms its commitment to women’s cycling, maintaining title sponsorship for major professional races until 2025.

This may be why brands with deeper pockets (cough, MyWhoosh, cough) have been able to snatch up their UCI tie-in?

Read in full at Road.cc.

Peloton’s Uphill Battle

Peloton's Uphill Battle

Peloton’s shares took a nosedive this week, signalling tough times ahead for the indoor fitness giant.

Despite a pandemic-fuelled boom, the company’s revenues have dropped, with the latest report showing a 6% year-on-year decline.

Net losses, although improved from last year, are still significant at a frankly pant fillingly high $194.9m.

CEO Barry McCarthy admits growth remains their “biggest challenge,” even as the company downgrades its revenue forecasts further.

Amidst this financial turbulence, Peloton aims to revamp its customer service and insists on a turnaround with a hopeful return to positive cash flow by the end of 2024.

Rather them than me.

GCN brought us this one.

Revelyst Spinning Out and Trimming Down

Revelyst Spinning Out and Trimming Down

Vista Outdoor’s cycling division, Revelyst, is undergoing significant changes, including office closures in Petaluma, Overland Park, Eagle, and Madison, alongside layoffs to remove duplicated roles.

The company, housing brands like Giro, Blackburn, and CamelBak, is consolidating its bicycle-related brands into three main groups and plans to sell some non-core brands.

Revelyst, expected to become a separate financial entity soon, aims to streamline operations under its Gear Up program, targeting substantial savings and growth in the coming fiscal years.

As is pretty common when things like this happen, Revelyst say that despite a current sales dip, optimism remains for a revenue rebound and EBITDA doubling in fiscal 2025.

Just another happy week in the world of struggling bike companies.

Van Rysel Races to the WorldTour

Van Rysel Races to the WorldTour

Van Rysel, the French bike brand from Decathlon, makes a significant leap to the WorldTour with the Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale team, ditching the traditional brown bibs for a fresh start in 2024.

This marks the brand’s debut at road cycling’s elite level, showcasing their flagship RCR Pro and XCR time trial bikes.

Already highlighted during the Santos Tour Down Under, Van Rysel’s bikes feature Shimano Dura-Ace groupsets, Swiss Side wheels, and a host of innovative components, aiming for a blend of performance and comfort.

I can’t resist a juicy pro bike close up, and though I’m sure I have already seen these bikes elsewhere, I don’t mind covering them again. That seat, for one, is super cool.

All the lovely snaps via Velo.

Rider Meets Robot

A cyclist in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill was hit by a driverless Waymo car, sparking concerns amidst the autonomous vehicle’s rising city presence.

This incident, occurring in broad daylight at 3 p.m., left the cyclist with non-life-threatening injuries.

Despite Waymo’s claims of their vehicles being safer than human drivers, the collision is under thorough investigation.

The scenario unfolded when the Waymo car, after stopping at an intersection, failed to spot the cyclist obscured by a large truck, leading to the inevitable despite heavy braking.

Waymo’s decade-long operation and recent public taxi service launch in the city amplify the debate on autonomous vehicle safety, countered by officials highlighting their lower crash rates compared to human drivers.

Yet, city residents and officials remain wary, questioning the reliability of these futuristic transports in real-world scenarios.

Direct from San Francisco via SF Gate.

The Bumpy Road to Cycling Safety in England

The Bumpy Road to Cycling Safety in England

A recent IPPR report highlights the dire impact of under-funding on cycling infrastructure in England, leaving cyclists feeling unsafe on the roads due to close calls and a general lack of dedicated cycle lanes.

The study, “Stride and Ride: England’s path from laggard to leader in walking, wheeling and cycling,” reveals that only one in five people in England engage in active travel daily, a stark contrast to the European average.

Despite the clear benefits of active travel, including a potential reduction in premature deaths and the often touted savings for the NHS, investment remains woefully low, with only £10 per person spent annually compared to £148 on roads.

The report advocates for a significant increase in active travel funding to £50 per head by 2029-30 to make England an active travel nation, emphasising the importance of safety, accessibility, and a cultural shift towards sustainable transportation.

Don’t hold your breath.

20mph TT Rule

Cycling Time Trials (CTT) 20mph TT Rule

In a bid to enhance safety and mitigate public outrage, British cyclists competing in time trials must now comply with 20mph speed limits, sparking widespread concern among the cycling community.

20mph is roughly 32kph, which is just a tiny bit less than even I can average for an hour. To put that into perspective, I’m not particularly strong, fast, or competitive, even in Zwift’s Cat B races.

The governing body, Cycling Time Trials (CTT), has declared 20mph zones and time trials generally incompatible, urging course organisers to seek alternatives where possible.

This move aims to preserve the integrity of time trialling, known as the ‘race of truth’, by preventing an unfair advantage from speed limit breaches.

Exceptions exist for very short 20mph sections unlikely to affect speeds, but the broader implication is a potential reshaping of time trial courses across Britain.

With the new rules raising questions about enforceability and the future landscape of British time trialling, cyclists and clubs face a challenging transition, highlighting the delicate balance between safety concerns and preserving a historic competitive format.

Another mind boggling read.

Bike Video Of The Week

This week’s bike video comes via Instagram, and features someone you may not recognise, or you may recognise them but perhaps you can’t place them.

This is from Chris Morris, a UK comedian / satirist, and has plenty of cult UK comedy accomplishments under his belt. Personally I know him best as Denholm Reynholm from The IT Crowd, and Peter Baxendale Thomas on Alan Partridge.

But he’s also written and starred in The Day Today, Brass Eye, Spitting Image (the original), and a bunch more.

Anyway, the point is he isn’t one of those guys who traditionally ‘influences’, so when he used his Instagram this week to give out a call to support Brixton Cycles, his local bike shop, it made a bigger splash than it might otherwise.

You can read more here.

Bike Of The Week

enve melee bike of the week

Redditor repniclewis posted up their Enve Melee this week, and it was a tough call between this one and an equally awesome Tarmac SL8.

What won me over was the glossy sheen on the Supacaz bar tape, which I think is just a trick of the light. Still, looks good.

OK chums, that’s it for me this week. See you in the next one!

Leave a Reply