[08/24] This Week In Cycling

This week brought the pro peloton closer to home, and as such feels like the real start to the cycling season for those of us in cooler climes.

Meanwhile there’s the usual mixture of retail woes to absorb, including Wiggle’s worries. Apparently if you read every single word on this page today, it would take you approximately 18 minutes. As a little teaser, that kind of time would have lost Wiggle £3,240 quid. Read on to find out more.

I had so many issues with Instagram posts displaying last week that this time around I’ve tried to switch it up for Twitter… err, X :/ Hopefully Elon’s bedroom biz performs a bit better.

As always, you can read last week’s news round up by clicking here.

Otherwise, let’s go!

Cobblestone Countdown

Some say that the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad marks the start of the ‘real’ cycling season, transitioning from lovely warm heat of the Australian races to the iconic, but cold and damp Belgian cobbles.

At the time of writing this one is still several days away – with the race taking place on Saturday February 24th February. However by the time this post goes out (early Sunday 25th) the results will already be known.

The line up for this years race is full of big names, with Wout van Aert as the fairly strong favourite with the bookmakers. However both Arnaud De Lie and Christophe Laporte are both also strongly tipped.

The race, renowned for its gruelling terrain, includes over 200 kilometres of challenging roads, featuring notorious climbs and cobblestone sections.

Pez brought us the preview.

Adam Yates’ Concussion Causes Concern

Adam Yates’ recent ordeal at the UAE Tour, where he continued racing with concussion symptoms after a severe crash, highlights significant concerns over the UCI’s concussion protocols.

Yates, unaware of his crash moments after, was not assessed long enough on the road, leading to many questioning the effectiveness of current protocols.

The UCI’s guidelines, aiming to balance rapid return and health safety, seem insufficient in real-world racing scenarios.

Innovations like HIT’s real-time concussion assessment could revolutionise safety standards, yet the sport’s reactionary nature to safety improvements remains a critical issue.

Urgent revisions and independent medical assessments are called for to prevent life-altering consequences for riders.

Loads of sites picked up on this story, but I read it first on Rouler.

Sagan Set For Heart Op

GCN report that Peter Sagan is set for a heart operation to address recent abnormalities discovered after his heart rate soared past 200 bpm during a mountain bike race.

The cycling icon, transitioning to MTB in 2024, faces a routine ablation procedure in Italy to correct his arrhythmias.

Pierre Baguette, his MTB team, are expecting a swift return to racing within a month.

The sudden heart concerns were spotlighted after intense race conditions, prompting immediate medical attention.

Supported by Dr. Roberto Corsetti, his long-time cardiologist, Sagan underwent comprehensive tests, confirming the need for surgery.

With a brief recovery period, Sagan aims to be back on track, gearing up for his next challenge in Marseille in just 20 days.

As an aside, I once went over 200bpm and it’s extremely scary.

Evenepoel and Van Aert Blaze Through Portugal

Evenepoel and Van Aert Blaze Through Portugal

After a stellar week of racing in Portugal, Remco Evenepoel is already showing promising form, an encouraging sign for his upcoming Tour de France debut.

Winning the Figueira Champions Classic and securing a third overall victory at the Volta ao Algarve, Evenepoel’s performances have been nothing short of impressive. Wout van Aert, not to be outdone, also shone with a stage win and a strong overall seventh-place finish, hinting at his readiness for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

The Soudal Quick-Step team, with Evenepoel at the helm, faced challenges but remained undeterred, with notable contributions from Mikel Landa in his new team role.

Evenepoel’s resilience was particularly evident when he overcame a mechanical issue to complete the entire Alto do Malhão climb in the big ring. Rather him than me.

Are these early signs of things to come at the Tour de France?

Read in full at Cycling Weekly.

🇬🇧🇬🇧 Good Luck Lizzie! 🇬🇧🇬🇧

Lizzie Deignan is determined to reclaim the spotlight with Lidl-Trek at this week’s “Opening Weekend” of the classics, aiming to outshine SD Worx after a winless 2023.

She leads her team into the cobblestone clashes of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, fuelled by the ambition to overturn last year’s drought and return to her victorious ways.

Deignan's Pedalling Past Shadows at Opening Weekend

Deignan, having taken a step back to focus on motherhood and recovery, is now ready to reassert her dominance in the northern classics, marking her first appearance since 2021.

Her journey, from past triumphs through Flanders and Roubaix to aiming for a strong season start, reflects her readiness to challenge the current titans, SD Worx, alongside her dynamic Lidl-Trek team.

The upcoming race is not just a personal challenge but a strategic move for Lidl-Trek to regain their position in the Women’s WorldTour, presenting a united front with cycling stars Elisa Longo Borghini and Elisa Balsamo.

This one will have already happened by the time this post goes out, so do check the big cycling sites for all the results.

A good place to start would be Velo.

🌶️ Lefevere’s Last Call for Alaphilippe 🌶️

Patrick Lefevere, the outspoken Soudal Quick-Step manager, has publicly reprimanded two-time world champion Julian Alaphilippe, warning him of potential dismissal for any further missteps.

Lefevere’s harsh critique follows a period of perceived under-performance from Alaphilippe, attributing his slump to excessive partying and influence from his partner, Marion Rousse.

Despite past achievements, Alaphilippe’s recent lack of results (by his very high standards), notably since his 2021 world title and subsequent injuries, has led to missed opportunities and being dropped from the Tour de France line up, instead now focusing for the first time in his career in racing at the Giro d’Italia.

With contract negotiations looming, Lefevere’s candid feedback is either a very cunning move to cut down on Alaphilippe’s wage demands, or perhaps more likely, a strong signal it will be au revoir.

GCN ran with this one.

Vingegaard’s New Identity

Jonas Vingegaard, two-time Tour de France Champion, this week made headlines not for his cycling, but for adopting his wife’s last name, now officially Jonas Vingegaard Hansen.

Vingegaard's New Identity

This change, quietly integrated into his life, is now reflected in UCI records though not yet in all public profiles, including (at the time of writing) the Team Visma Lease-a-bike website.

A tidbit of news here that should make absolutely no difference to anyone except Jonas and his family.

Read in full at Velo.

Lotte Kopecky Pledges Future to SD Worx-Protime

World champion Lotte Kopecky has committed her future to Team SD Worx-Protime, extending her contract until 2028, amidst on-going rumours about her career moves.

She cites the supportive team environment and personal growth opportunities as key reasons for her stay.

Kopecky celebrates the extension, reflecting on her achievements and the team’s positive atmosphere that aligns with her values.

Team manager Erwin Janssen and sports manager Danny Stam express their delight, recognising her as a central figure in advancing women’s cycling and a leader within the team.

SD Worx CEO Kobe Verdonck views her commitment as a sign of the team’s dedication to excellence and teamwork.

With Kopecky’s renewal, the team secures a leading talent while looking forward to the future of other star cyclists.

No news on what the contract value actually was. But persistent rumours around teammate Demi Vollering’s 1 million euro contract negotiation probably played into this.

Unsurprisingly, many sites picked up on this one. I saw it first at ProCyclingUK.

Stars, Stripes, and Sprints

Sepp Kuss’s triumph in La Vuelta 2023 may signal a resurgence for American cycling, with him and others like Veronica Ewers making waves.

Kuss, the first American in a decade to win a Grand Tour, alongside Neilson Powless, Matteo Jorgenson, and Brandon McNulty, is part of a promising group of male cyclists making their mark globally.

Stars, Stripes, and Sprints
Life size Sepp Kuss

On the women’s side, Ewers, Chloe Dygert, Kristen Faulkner, and Coryn Labecki are showing impressive prowess and resilience, each bringing unique strengths and inspiring comeback stories to the 2024 cycling season.

For those who like a heads up, there are some names you might not have heard of here. And some you very likely already have. Surely Sepp Kuss and Neilson Powless are no longer considered any kind of surprise?

Check this one out over at Cycling Weekly.

Big Names Return For Ford RideLondon Classique

Big Names Return For Ford RideLondon Classique

SD Worx-Protime, featuring stars like Demi Vollering, Lorena Wiebes, and the previously mentioned Lotte Kopecky, is set to make a grand return to the Ford RideLondon Classique in 2024, marking their first appearance since 2022.

Their comeback is expected to “inspire excellence” and elevate the competition level at the Women’s WorldTour event, according to RideLondon’s race director, Scott Sunderland.

With the team’s dominating start to the season, the race’s competitive standard is anticipated to rise significantly.

Despite Brexit-related logistical challenges for teams entering the UK, RideLondon remains a key preparatory event for major races, attracting top squads like Lidl-Trek and Canyon-SRAM.

The event’s organisation highlights the collaborative efforts to overcome obstacles and grow the event, amidst the broader context of British Cycling’s plans to launch a Women’s Tour of Britain in 2024, promising potential collaborations and the continued growth of cycling events in the UK.

Another one from Cycling Weekly.

(Shorter) Tour of Britain Women Returns

A four-day Women’s WorldTour race titled the Tour of Britain Women has been added to the UCI calendar for 2024, as British Cycling look to host an event in the spot previously held by the Women’s Tour.

The announcement comes after the Women’s Tour and the men’s Tour of Britain were officially removed from the UCI’s schedule due to the previous organisers, Sweetspot, going into liquidation amid financial problems.

British Cycling has announced their plans to take over the running of the two events – they already own the licences, which they contracted out to Sweetspot – in 2025 for certain, but there are also plans to try to put on the races in 2024.

With the women’s race only a few months away, British Cycling CEO Jon Dutton admitted it would be a race against time to organise the event.

A Tour of Britain Women is now on the UCI calendar, running from 6-9 June this year, meaning British Cycling have at the very least registered their planned race with the governing body, and set the dates they want to run it on.

Only four days in length, the Tour of Britain Women would be a step down from the previously six-day Women’s Tour, but this is not surprising given the circumstances.

There are no more details about the proposed four stages at present, other than that they are listed as road stages, meaning there will not be a time trial.

The Women’s Tour hasn’t been held since 2022, after the 2023 edition was cancelled due to organisational and financial difficulties.

At present, a men’s Tour of Britain is still absent from the UCI’s calendar for 2024.

Lots of places dropped this one, but I saw it first at GCN.

2024’s WorldTour Cycling Gear Round Up

The 2024 Men’s WorldTour cycling season is now underway, and GCN have brought us a one pager showcasing the latest tech and trends from the pro peloton.

Prior to Christmas / the start of the season, several sites ran smaller updates, either on a single or small handful of teams basis. Now this post brings together every WorldTour team in to one page.

Julian Alaphilippe amazing Specialized Tarmac SL8 (photo credit: GCN)
🤩🤩 Julian Alaphilippe amazing Specialized Tarmac SL8 (photo credit: GCN) 🤩🤩

The guide provides a very easy on the eye overview of the equipment choices of all top-tier teams, including any brand switches and tech updates.

Notably, Groupama-FDJ and Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale are making significant bike brand changes, while Shimano continues to dominate the groupset scene. Campagnolo, however, exits the WorldTour spotlight.

If you are a fan of lusting after pro team bikes then this is an enjoyable way to spend a toilet break.

Cyclist Meets The Audaxers

Audax – a test of endurance, navigation, and spirit. And honestly something I had no idea about until I watched a Katie Kookaburra video on the topic a good while back now.

One of the many interesting aspects of cycling, for me, are all the sub-disciplines that appeal to very specific types of riders. From the casual Sunday family rides, to crit racing, to bike packing, and then on to the extreme ends like audax and ultra-endurance riding. Something for everyone.

This story from Cyclist.co.uk follows a small bunch of UK audaxers on a 300km challenge. It’s not something I’d put myself through, but it was an interesting read all the same.

The Wahooligan Tour Returns

The Wahooligan Tour, formerly known as The Tour of Sufferlandria, is making its comeback from February 25 to March 2, 2024, as a dynamic and meaningful fund-raiser for the Davis Phinney Foundation, which supports individuals living with Parkinson’s Disease.

Starting in 2013, this event, dubbed “the hardest stage race of any imaginary country,” has successfully merged the thrill of indoor cycling with the spirit of outdoor racing, raising over US$1.9 million with the help of more than 16,000 participants worldwide.

As the event evolves, it now offers two challenging routes: The Wahooligan Route, showcasing SYSTM’s 4DP® workouts, and the Sufferlandrian Route, a nod to the event’s original intense challenges.

The Wahooligan Tour schedule

Participants can sign up easily, with a 14-day free trial from Wahoo X, making it accessible for everyone to join the cause.

Beyond just a cycling event, it’s a global community effort to support the Davis Phinney Foundation in its mission to help those affected by Parkinson’s Disease live well, marking its 20th anniversary in 2024.

Pez Cycling shared this one.

Ride with the Pros from Your Pain Cave

Ride with the Pros from Your Pain Cave bkool chris froome

Top professional cyclists like Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Remco Evenepoel, Mikel Landa and Julian Alaphilippe have recently led group rides on the virtual cycling platform BKOOL.

BKOOL’s Marketing Director, Ángel Luis Fernández, highlighted the pandemic’s role in boosting indoor cycling’s popularity, allowing us mere mortals to interact with the pros from the relative comfort of our own homes. The platform is set to welcome more stars, including former pro Oscar Freire and riders from Soudal-Quick-Step, enhancing its roster of virtual group rides.

BKOOL is also hosting virtual versions of the Giro d’Italia and Deutschland Tour races, both ending early in March, so if you want to get involved, be quick!

Bicycle Retailer announced this one.

FasCat Launches CoachCat AI Coaching

FasCat Launches CoachCat AI Coaching

FasCat Coaching introduces CoachCat, the first AI technology designed for endurance athletes, providing immediate workout feedback through wearable data.

Developed by cycling coach and former molecular biologist Frank Overton, CoachCat aims to offer detailed, timely analysis to more cyclists.

This tool, trained on an extensive proprietary data set, enables cyclists to receive personalised feedback akin to having a personal coach, but instantly and affordably.

CoachCat not only evaluates workout and wearable data for training readiness but also offers insights into recovery and fitness improvement strategies.

Having spent a bunch of time in January looking into cycling coaching, and cycling coach prices, I hadn’t even considered AI cycling coaching until I saw this. But it seems like it could make a heck of a lot of sense (and not just financially), for the average Joe (like me).

Available on the FasCat platform for a monthly or annual subscription, CoachCat delivers professional coaching experiences to athletes’ phones, making advanced training accessible to all.

This is not a sponsored posting or anything. I read about this one at Bicycle Retailer. Prices for this one are $34.99 monthly, $299.99 yearly, and an interesting $900 for a lifetime access.

Speeco’s UCI-Approved Revamp

Speeco Aero Breakaway Bar (ABB) 2.0

Speeco has unveiled the Aero Breakaway Bar (ABB) 2.0, a UCI-legal update of its pioneering handlebar, aiming to shake the cycling world again with its compliance to stringent regulations.

Despite its initial model facing a ban, Speeco’s ABB 2.0 has been redesigned with added curves to meet UCI standards.

This new version not only promises enhanced aerodynamics with its extended airfoil shape but also offers customisable features for a tailored riding experience.

Ditching carbon fibre for AlSi10Mg, a lightweight yet sturdy alloy, Speeco aims to combine durability with performance.

However, with the UCI’s ever-evolving rules, the question remains: will this innovation stand the test of time?

Priced at around €1000 (incl VAT, €826.44 outside of the EU), the ABB 2.0 isn’t for the tight of wallet. Which rules me right out.

This story via Road.cc.

Wheels of Justice

stolen bike recovery london

Cycling UK has praised an innovative policing approach that led to the arrest of a bike theft gang responsible for a spree of thefts totalling £130,000.

A bait bicycle operation by City of London Police resulted in the biggest haul of stolen bikes in their history and a subsequent 90% drop in local bike thefts.

The charity urges other police forces to adopt this effective strategy, which doesn’t rely on extensive resources but on smart, targeted actions.

This success story has led to a significant decrease in bike thefts in the area, with a notable recovery of stolen property and the sentencing of 11 individuals linked to the crimes.

But the sad truth of it is that bike crime is rampant in London. From bike thefts and bike jackings, to bike gangs roaming the streets snatching phones and other values, it’s a really grim picture.

Read in full at Road.cc.

Cycle Schemes Spin Retailers into Red

Cycle Schemes Spin Retailers into Red

A leading cycle retailer reveals that selling bikes has become a loss-making endeavour due to the financial strains imposed by Cycle to Work schemes.

Mark James from JE James Cycles in Sheffield voices a pressing need for an overhaul, citing shrinking margins and significant cuts from the scheme providers.

The Cycle to Work program, intended to encourage commuting by bike, has inadvertently squeezed retailers dry, with many unaware of the financial losses post-sale.

The situation is compounded by the government’s passive stance, despite the outcry from over 650 independent retailers demanding a reform of the scheme’s financial model.

Critics argue the current system unfairly burdens retailers, with negligible oversight on the actual use of the bikes for commuting.

Cycling Weekly brought us this good news story.

Rolling in Riches: Tacx Neo 3M Turbo Trainer Review

Rolling in Riches: Tacx Neo 3M Turbo Trainer Review

The Tacx Neo 3M, the latest from Tacx/Garmin, is lauded for its leading ERG mode, precise power accuracy, and solid sprinting platform, but at a steep price.

New features include a carry handle and permanent Motion Plates, enhancing stability and realism, contributing to its higher cost. Let me tell you, as a Tacx Neo 2 owner, it weighs an absolute ton. Carry handle or not, I very rarely move it.

Despite its hefty price tag, its performance sets new standards with fine-tuned resistance, lifelike inertia, and comprehensive connectivity.

Set up is straightforward, and the trainer is quieter than most, making it a less intrusive home training option.

I do wonder, how often do people replace their turbo trainers? They cost a fortune and have virtually no resale value. Aside from them failing on a electronic level, the incremental upgrades brought by yearly hardware improvements just doesn’t seem anywhere close to worth the hassle involved in replacing your existing trainer.

Prices are £1749.99 for the turbo, with the four different cassettes available at £70 each (but you can only choose one), and the Smart Network Adapter (you probably don’t need this) is another £130.

Read the review at Cycling.co.uk.

Zwift Games 2024

Zwift Games 2024: Gear Up for Virtual Glory

Indoor training platform Zwift has trickled out more on their upcoming Zwift Games, welcoming participants of all levels to join in the virtual cycling fun, with in-game and online registrations opening Thursday 22nd February, if I’m not mistaken. I certainly managed to sign up yesterday (at the time of writing).

The event features a five-stage series spanning from 1 March to 17 March, with additional make-up events running till the end of the month, allowing cyclists to challenge their previous bests within a competitive setting.

The series includes diverse routes, ranging from the sprint-friendly Loop de Loop to the gruelling Mountain Mash, alongside the launch of new routes like the Epic route, promising a mix of scenic explorations and intense climbs.

Wahoo and Adidas have partnered up, offering exclusive rewards, including a gold tron bikes and slightly less exciting unlockable cycling shoes for participants.

The elite series also promises high-stakes racing with the world’s top virtual cyclists competing across three disciplines, aiming to secure the title of Zwift Games champion and the largest prize purse to date.

Call me a cynic but this feels like such a reactionary response to MyWhoosh’s Sunday Race Club.

Read in full at GCN.

Mike Ashley’s Wiggle Chain Reaction Rescue

Mike Ashley's Wiggle Chain Reaction Rescue

UK man with lots of sports shops Mike Ashley and his Frasers Group is on the brink of acquiring Wiggle Chain Reaction.

Road.cc reports that the company faces massive layoffs and has ‘closed the shutters’.

The once-thriving online retailer plunged into administration due to financial troubles, leading to the loss of over 100 jobs.

Amidst a sea of debt and dwindling staff, the future of Wiggle CRC seemed bleak until Frasers Group, owner of Evans Cycles and ProBikeKit, stepped in.

The financials behind this story are frightening. A pre-tax loss of £97 million in 2022 is a pretty big number, but when you break that down it’s like losing £3 a second, every second, for a whole year. That’s like £9 you just lost reading the previous sentence. Crikey.

Bike Video Of The Week

This week saw the launch of the Zwift Academy 2023 finals video series.

It’s three videos long, each one around 25 minutes in length. Perfect for watching during endurance rides.

Here’s the first one:

I’ve only watched the first episode so far (just last night) so have no idea who wins. But it is curious why they chose 4 of the 6 riders who are in their mid 20’s, and then immediately moaned they were too old.

That’s not a spoiler, I don’t think. Anyways, enjoy!

Bike Of The Week

Allez Sprint, Woven 55s,Sram red,Rotor flow crank 15.8 lbs

Redditor mcdeez01 posted their lovely Specialized Allez Sprint. I’m not sure if it’s a custom paint job. I know the revamped Allez Sprint came out, what, a couple of years back (maximum?) and I cannot find any frames in that colour. It’s a nice shade though.

Super nice – but no way my posture could hack that position.

A couple more pictures to enjoy, along with the comments over on Reddit.

OK, that’s it from me this week, enjoy your week ahead and see you next time!

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