It’s not neccessarily your fault but still.
Post the U23 Worlds there seems to have been a huge amount of hand wringing and gnashing of teeth from Pros saying “Well everyone drafts the cars, so please let me massage my conscience for a minute to make it seem as if it’s okay”. It really doesn’t matter if the nicest guy in the Peloton gets back on using a draft. It’s still against the rules. So lets set the rules out fairly clearly, here they are from the UCI Website. (PDF Download Here)
So lets get a couple of cards on the table, I’ve DS’d, I’ve rode races (the latter not in a while, kids eh?) I’ve been on both sides of doing this. I’ve been the one sheltering, I’ve been the one shouting at the driver to close up to the car in front so I can jump across, I’ve been the one shouting at the driver “Steady Trapper, for f**ks sake”. I’ve also been that guy in the drivers seat, one eye glued to the rear view mirror, the other eye watching speedo, wing mirror and the road ahead, sweating bullets to make sure you don’t have a rider come in that back window. I remember on the first day of the Rás, the first rider to sit on my bumper was Russ Downing, as I was moving up to feed the riders, me absolutely bricking it to get up and get my job done, but also to give Russ a good chance to get back up through the cars.
Any good DS that doesn’t help his own team, or others out, in this scenario isn’t a good DS.
With all those cards laid out on the table, how do I still see this as cheating ? Simple the rules as defined above deem that it is. The UCI Regulations on everything are not designed to give anyone clarity but mainly to put a veil of decency over what happens and they like to seem in control.
In Nils’s case, it was such a prolonged time behind the car before he was even in the cavalcade that it really warranted detailed attention. The only thing mitigating in his favour was that in my own experience when you have the prescene of a Commisare on a motorbike, they will normally warn you when they feel you are breaching the tolerance for fairness.
Instead of wringing the hands, and oh sure look everyone does it, how *can we all be cheating*, Professional Cycling needs to put it’s own house in order. And sadly this is where it all falls apart, an invisible CPA, a UCI that doesn’t really care and riders divided, you can be sure nothing will change. We’ve been down this road before, actually we are always down this road, the usual sign posts occur, someone threatening to sue, the UCI hiding behind something and the rest of the world still turning. And nothing changes.
We’ve moved passed the era of Armstrong, Ullrich and the super charged doping, the UCI, the CPA, they have no super baddies to fight, but like any relationship, the hard work is the grind. Riders need to pull the finger out and put the CPA to the sword, or do the decent thing and join the Cyclist’s Alliance. No amount of David Millar throwing shapes is going to change anything. What’s needed is actual change.
Sadly in the case of Nils or Larry the problem is there is no Referee’s Whistle, there’s no pause in play, there’s no second chances. Riders, and the CPA need to stop pissing about and actually start making meanful changes to the sport now, before it’s too late.
Episode 29: Transfers, Aquablue Saga and La Vuelta
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Going into the 2020 Season it looks like Team Ineos has the strongest team of all time put together. In reality, is this true? Or could they be heading for what looks like a different style of team altogether?
When you say the names Carapaz (Current Giro Winner), Bernal (Current Tour de France Winner), Thomas (Last year’s Tour de France Winner) and Froome (4 x Tour de France, Giro, 2 x Vuelta) you have to wonder what they can’t win next year, in reality how do you manage these riders and get them to ride for someone else. Which brings us to the point if you look past the headline names are Team Ineos changing to a model of Galácticos, rather than structure around a defined leader.
If we look back at previous Grand Tour wins for Sky/Ineos you can see they have a structure to the team, a couple of Rouleurs/Gregarios, a couple of mountain domestiques, a trusted lieutenant and a leader. Looking past the Galácticos and you get a sense of a team on the wane. Elissonde, Rosa, Poels, Halvorsen on the way out, and you have to look where the slack will be taken up. You also have to factor in, Kiryienka and Knees are no longer the forces they were in years past. Previously you saw Sky/Ineos sign the likes of good GC challengers (Roche, Kwiatkowski, Nieve, Landa) and make them into supercharged domestiques for the defined leader (Froome/Thomas/Wiggins). Now we have 4 possible leaders, with only three possible Grand Tours, so we now have a conundrum on our hands as to how Sky will play it.
If we look to this year’s Tour de France we can possibly see a glimpse into how they intend to play their role going forward. It’s going to be less about the front foot dominance and more about well we think we have the two best contenders in the race, it’s up to everyone else to get rid of us. It’s pushback time. You could see this year that the Tour de France was less controlled from Ineos and they were okay with taking a more passive approach. They still kept Thomas and Bernal up the front and out of trouble but they weren’t attempting to ride tempo all day and launch themselves at the final climbs. Now there is a slight aside here, was this by design, or by circumstance, but more on that later.
I think they have gone out and purchased what they see as the most capable GT Contenders for the next 5 years and will put them in a position to make their own attacks on GC. You can see how Movistar executed that this year in the Giro with Carapaz, and how Bernal stole a march in the Tour de France before the stage was cancelled.
There are drawbacks to this, if we look at Movistar over the past few years were they’ve left the road sort out the favoured rider it really hasn’t worked. And sometimes the road doesn’t necessarily give you the result you want. We look at the 2018 Tour de France and how Thomas was clearly the best rider, but the plan was clearly to back Froome. Even to the point that Thomas didn’t have the favoured rider status in the TTT, they still backed Froome.
The other fly in the ointment of this plan is the rise of Jumbo Visma over the past few years, and they are aligned with some super domestiques behind a singular leader. And now with the signing of Tom Dumoulin they’ve added a superstar to slot in at the top of their train. They really look like a team that will challenge the status quo of the past few years.
Now that question from earlier, I think a couple of events have aligned at Team Ineos and this has been less by design and more by circumstance. I think for sure they have had the policy to recruit the best, and younger riders than before. This has happened alongside another event, the leaving of the man who seems to have been the glue in the team Rod Ellingworth. You look at the way Poels and Kwiatkowski were really off the boil in the Tour De France, and how the rest of the team this year has failed to fire as a collective unit in the three Grand Tours and you’ve got to look at a management failure. Ellingworth was put on gardening leave quite early in this season and perhaps the slack wasn’t quite taken up by others. I don’t see Ellingworth as a messiah and guru that held all the training secrets, but he was just that guy who did everything. And in an organisation sometimes when a person like that leaves, it takes some time to replace him, and in fact he maybe irreplaceable and it could end up that the position is eventually carved out into separate more defined roles.
This transition in both management and purchasing is signalling an alignment to the idea that this year’s Tour De France may be the method of winning we see more often than not from Team Ineos. It also means that Team Ineos have evolved before the Tour De France has had a chance to, we can see with the 2020 route, they are looking for a less controlled race, they are looking to climbs that don’t favour one strong team to ride tempo, as we have seen previously. They are looking towards the individual, and Team Ineos have gathered the most talented individuals, for such an occasion.
The King is dead long live the King.
Post Rás, I’m still in contact with a good few of the guys from the Collins Race Team. One of those guys is Connor Lambert, a confused Irish man, born in Australia to Irish parents, but racing in Belgium. I reached out to him in the last week or so to get his favourite training routes. He sent on the following …
I am an Irish/Australian cyclist for Belgian team Mysenlan-Spie-Douterloigne which is registered in the Flanders region. We are an U25 team and are apart of the Topcompetition in Belgium which allows us to race races from 1.12b kermeses to uci 1.2 races.
I have spent the past 6 months Living in a town called Ronse which is 12km south of Oudenaarde, one of Cycling’s most famous towns.
My favourite ride while I’m Belgium would have to be the red loop of the Tour of Flanders course. I like this ride so much because it has a very good mix of flat roads, hilly roads, smooth roads and rough/cobbled roads. It also goes up many of the famous climbs which are raced up in the Tour of Flanders. I follow the red signs which show the route up until De Muur van Geraadsbergen and then I turn off and head back to ronse. The signs go on for another 60km back around to Oudenaarde but usually by De Muur I have a few hours already in my legs and it’s time to head home which is another hour of lumpy riding still.
While back home in Australia I have a multitude of different rides and different variations of loops to chose from depending on how many hours I have or if I have efforts to do. My favourite loop to ride I like to call the “King Tree loop”.
This ride starts out from home and heads inland, I have about 15-20km of flat roads before any hills. After 40minutes if riding I get to a road called ironstone road which is about a 3.5-4min climb at a very inconsistent gradient so it really makes you think about gear choices and pacing. From there I continue inland out towards a little tourist attraction called “Gnomesville” which is about 3km stretch of gnomes scattered in the bush for people to walk around in and see. This is the furthest inland this ride goes as I head north for a while and turn on to King Tree road. This road is one of my favourites around, from this direction it starts with a 1km climb at 8-10% and from there Plateaus before turning into gravel. It has a nice gravel decent which is twisty but not too technical through some bush. It flattens out after 2km or so and is rolling till the end of the road which turns onto pile road and it is tarmac again. From there on it is mainly downhill into town for 45-50km or so with only one 4-5minute climb on the way. To top it off as well it is normally a headwind into town making the ride even more enjoyable.
Next season I go back to Belgium with Mysenlan-Spie-Douterloigne again to race from March onwards after spending some time in Ireland acclimatizing to the weather and time zones while staying with family.
So I’ve been very busy lately with family and life, but I’ve managed a few appearances on The Velocast. To keep you going to the end of the Vuelta, I spoke with one of the riders I looked after during the Rás, Connor Lambert. I put a few questions to him about what life has been like for a Ginger Aussie/Paddy in Belgium these past few years and what he’s taken from it.
Hey Connor, so you’ve based yourself in Belgium the last three years, how have you found that in comparison to the standard in Australia ?
The comparison in the standard of racing to Australia is next to none. While in Australia the top riders would also be the top riders here once you go past the usual top 15 or so the consistency and level drops drastically.
In Belgium you can race as many times a week as you want for the better part of 6 months and with races usually between 100-120km and with fields of usually 70 minimum but can be upto 175 as a maximum to the race organisation but there has been cases of early season races being 200+.
With the National series in Australia declining you rarely see races exceed 100km (excluding Grafton-Inverell+Melbourne-Warnabol both 230km and 277km respectively). I have noticed as well that these “National series” races are also putting out fields of 40-90 riders at best which is a shame considering the level it was at just a few years ago.
Would you recommend this path for riders wanting to try make it as a Pro ?
I definitely would recommend to any aspiring racer from Australia to give the Belgium experience a shot.
For the first year as an U23 I’d say give it the 3 month stint and really go for those kermese level races where you can. This is so you can experience the living away from home aspects but not be away for potentially damaging times on your first go.
Then if after that you Decide that you want to give it another crack apply for a visa and email some teams and come over for 5-6 months if you can and try and see what it’s like in team racing here and get as many interclubs, pro kermese’ and if you manage a team that does some UCI races that is valuable experience.
After those years it’s all about creating contacts and seeing what other avenues are possible for you to chase down and continue on the dream of one day making it as a professional.
What advantages and disadvantages did you find with moving and racing in Europe ?
There was lots to take from it to be fair but I suppose if I was to list the things out it would look like this
- High level racing
- Experience living out of home
- Meet new people/make new friends
- Open doors to new opportunities
- See the world
- Learn more about yourself
- Grow as an athlete/person
- Potential head crack
- Away from family and friends
- Monetary expense
- Easier tempted to eat bad foods
You’ve done your three years, what lessons did you take from it ? And what would you change ?
The major lessons I have learnt is to be strict on myself in terms of diet and training regimens. My first season in the Netherlands I got lazy and found myself eating cheap/easy food which caused me to gain weight, in turn declining my performance, leading to lack of motivation, then to taking the easy option in training. As you can see something as simple can have a snowball effect and cause more things to go wrong which cracks a lot of people. I have also in the past neglected my racing equipment which caused me to have mechanical issues when I couldn’t afford to be having them.
If I could change things from my past seasons here I would be stricter on my diet and my bike maintenance which would have made a massive difference from the start and potential have me at a higher point than current. I would also loosen up a little too. I am someone who can be quite insular and keep to myself which I believe did get me through my first season here but being a shut in isn’t a good thing in the long run. Each year I have gotten better at socialising and learning to actually “live” here rather than just exist. I have made countless friends in both Belgium, Holland, the Uk and Ireland.
What’s your next move now – and what’s your plans for the next 1-2 years ?
So now for 2020 I will move onto riding for the Zappi Racing Team based in Italy. I will get the opportunity to race a different style of racing and some very big races over the course of next season. We have a very busy program with the U23 Giro being one of my major goals to be selected for. As well as riding for Zappi I am hoping to get the call up for the Irish National team for the Nations Cup races as well as the European Champs and World champs.
As for 2021 nothing can be said for certain but I would like to be coming back to Europe and racing at a high level again so we will take it step by step and see how my progression through 2020 goes!