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!
I’m super excited about this week’s ‘Belgian Guy.’ I might have to retire this award after today, because Guillaume van Keirsbulck is about as Belgian as they come. For starters, he’s actually Belgian. In fact, he’s the grandson of Belgian cycling hero Benoni Beheyt, who won worlds in 1963. Van Keirsbulck has proven to be a worthy heir to grandpa’s rainbow stripes. This week he won the midweek race Le Samyn, which was a gritty, muddy affair. As you can see in the clip below, the racecourse was full of cobblestones and coated in slick mud, and it passed by industrial farming equipment and (I’m guessing) more than a few piles of manure. All of those things are extremely Belgian. Finally, the name “van Keirsbulck” is nearly impossible for my clumsy American mouth to pronounce. Bravo sir, you are the UBER BELGIAN.
The drama keep coming with this endless disc-brake saga. Now the riders’ association, the CPA, has unleashed its lawyers on the UCI, citing an EU labor law as reason to stop the disc brake trial. There’s a problem with this strategy, in my opinion. How can you compare a professional cyclist to a workaday European? The pro peloton cannot take off all of August for a summer beach holiday in Croatia, like your typical European. Pas possible! Instead, cyclists must race the Vuelta a Burgos, the Eneco Tour, and then the Vuelta a España. Does working these extra hours (by European standards) give the cyclists more leverage in this situation?
During the 2016 Tour de France Chris Froome dispelled rumors of his subpar bike handling by descending like a champ. It appears that ASO hopes to test Froome’s bike skills for 2018. My guess is the Tour’s course designer twiddled his Snidely Whiplash mustache as he chose the Passage du Gois as the host of the 2018 Grand Départ. For those who are unaware, the narrow causeway links the island of Noirmoutier with the French mainland, and is flooded twice a day by the rising tide. It’s infamously slippery. During the 1999 Tour, pre-race favorites Alex Zulle, Ivan Gotti, and Michael Boogerd lost six minutes on GC when riders skidded and crashed on the slick road. Everyone knows that Sky likes to ride a controlled, calculated Tour, so the inclusion of a slippery, sometimes underwater, land bridge on the Atlantic coast is surely ASO’s way of thumbing its nose at Sky.
Wait, I’ve read this story before: A cycling team is struggling to secure sponsorship in a tight economy — what will they do!? Oh, but those stories are usually about Pro Continental teams, not Quick-Step, which Andrew Hood called the New York Yankees of cycling in a previous column. Apparently team management is trying to secure a new sponsor in order to keep the organization going. My bet is any Belgian company would love to jump on board, so long as the team can step up and win a race this spring. I’m sure they will. Quick Step won 57 major races in 2016. I have a hunch they’ll be able to get by, some how, some way, even if Quick-Step jumps ship.
Ooh, there has been plenty of fun inter-organizational trolling this week! Velon announced the details of its new Hammer Series race on Wendesday. But what’s this? The Hammer Series runs during the Criterium du Dauphine, which is owned by Tour operator ASO? And the new race offers teams a cut of the revenue? Will any Tour favorites choose the Hammer Series and Tour de Suisse instead?
Think back to every professional bicycle race you’ve attended. What music do they play? Yep, organizers always pump out tons of ungodly European dance jams. The new Colorado Classic has a different approach. In addition to the pro racing, this event features Wilco and Death Cab for Cutie headlining a major concert. Will this work like a wedding DJ? Can we request Darude’s “Sandstorm” for the bell lap?
Somehow this tired story of Bradley Wiggins’s TUE from years ago just won’t die. In fact, the Brits have chosen to pour gasoline all over it. This week we were treated to the newest wrinkle, and it involves a missing laptop computer that, coincidentally, contained all of the team’s medical records. Here’s the quick recap of Sky’s story: Sky’s doctor went on a vacation in Greece, and he just happened to bring his work computer with him, and — weird coincidence — it was the only computer with the team’s medical records on it. “Oh, my bad guys, I left it beachside at the cabana while I was snorkeling and some kids stole the computer! Sorry” [Not an actual quote]. The only response I have to this is a big old hmmmmmm.