Any given week, there are oodles of cycling stories flying around in the news. So here’s a quick-hit summary of this week’s happenings, plus my own garbage opinions on each. Much like my gambling advice, these takes are for entertainment purposes only!
This week’s kerfuffle centered around the Movistar team at Volta a Catalunya. The Spanish squad was docked time in the overall, costing Alejandro Valverde the leader’s jersey, because JJ Rojas was spotted pushing his teammates back into rotation during the stage 2 team time trial. Come on guys! Would these super-tranquillo Spaniards really cheat? It was all a big misunderstanding! My guess is one of the team mechanics simply botched a bike and Rojas’s seatpost slipped by two centimeters, leaving him at the back of the group. No harm done, right? Well, it seems like this episode stirred up some animosity between Movistar and BMC Racing. I guess if Movistar starts smothering every breakaway with a BMC rider, we’ll know why.
At Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, Quick-Step pummeled the peloton with a one-two punch featuring winner Yves Lampaert and Philippe Gilbert. Boy, am I glad to see this poor, scrappy upstart team finally get a big win. After all, Patrick Lefevere has been shuffling around to potential sponsors, hat in hand, hoping to keep the team alive in 2018 with a new backer. Quick-Step hadn’t won a WorldTour spring classic since 2014 but now it’s on the board, thanks to a bit of mind games. Lefevere must have convinced Lampaert and Gilbert that their jobs were on the line, or that they didn’t actually ride for “Belgium’s New York Yankees.” What will he do for the Tour of Flanders? Make them put on their cleats under an easy-up tent like a Pro Continental team? Ask them to wash their own kits in the hotel sink? Whatever keeps the boys hungry, I say.
Sky partners with Douchebags
Team Sky, recently embroiled in controversy back home in Britain, had a bit of good news to share Thursday. It has a new partner: Douchebags. There is a company called Douchebags. It produces bags. I’m not sure what else to say, but I do know that I really enjoy watching a Sky mechanic say “Douchebags” with a straight face.
After classics star Peter Sagan sprinted to second place at Milano-Sanremo, Bora-Hansgrohe team manager Ralf Denk insisted it was a “great ride.” But you and I — and everyone else — know that the only finish Sagan really wanted was first place, since that wacky Sanremo trophy that looks like an Aerobie frisbee. Calling his team “strong,” Denk is surely bluffing ahead of the spring’s biggest classic races. Sorry man, you aren’t fooling anyone, especially rivals like Tom Boonen. If Sagan keeps trying to win by simply out-muscling his opponents at Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix, he might get worked over by team tactics again and shut out of a big spring win.
My goodness, our friends at the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), promoter of the Tour de France, have been busy this week by announcing they will add Volta a Catlunya to their event portfolio before saying Thursday they are launching a new race in Shanghai. Hmm, a Chinese race, intended to expand cycling’s appeal to countries beyond Europe — sound familiar? Yes, the ASO is once again engaging in its favorite pastime: challenging the UCI, which only months ago announced a new Chinese WorldTour race. If UCI president Brian Cookson plans a nice, romantic anniversary dinner with his wife at a classy Paris bistro, and then a bunch of ASO guys show up for a raucous bachelor party, we can be sure something is afoot.
American cycling fans got a bit of a scare Wednesday when Kiel Reijnen catapulted off the road in Dwars door Vlaanderen and was rushed to the hospital. Fortunately, the Trek-Segafredo rider was mostly uninjured, and in impeccable tough-guy fashion, he more or less said he would carry on with his classics campaign unless team staff took his bike away. That, dear readers, is a real “Belgian guy” move, but more than that, the Euro-style mullet is truly a sight to behold. By my calculations, if Reijnen reaches Laurent Brochard-level plumage by the Giro, he’s a shoo-in for a stage win.
In an interview on Tuesday, Trek-Segafredo’s classics hopeful Jasper Stuyven opened up about life beyond the bike. He’s studying business, opened a chocolate shop in Flanders, oh and by the way he wants to win Paris-Roubaix. It would be fun to see a fresh face in the front group at Roubaix, but it’d be even better to see a new Belgian team with an oh-so-fitting sponsor like a chocolate shop. Remember the Chocolade Jacques team from about 10 years ago? What’s to stop Stuyven from following Jonathan Vaughters’s lead as a racer-turned-team owner with a healthy dose of business acumen? If Stuyven totally bombs in the spring classics in the next few years and the chocolate money starts pouring in, who knows what could happen …