What Next For Pro Cycling? | The Cycling Race News Show

What Next For Pro Cycling? | The Cycling Race News Show


Coming up on this week’s GCN Racing News
Show, is there about to be a seismic shift in Pro Cycling? EF Education First announce a new partnership
that will see their riders take part in some very different events next year. The European season wraps up with Il Lombardia
and the Tour of Turkey, there’s controversy in Hong Kong in the final of the Hammer series,
and it’s a successful weekend of cyclocross for Mathieu Van Der Poel, despite doing this
to his ankle: Last week, US team EF Education First announced
a new partnership with Rapha, who I’m sure need no introduction. Nothing new there, teams often change sponsors,
but the partnership is about more than just clothing. Next year, we’ve been told, we can expect
to see the likes of Taylor Phinney not only competing in the traditional WorldTour races,
but also at gravel and fixed gear events, presumably meaning the Red Hook Crits and
Dirty Kanza etc, and they’ll be documenting their journey through video along the way. Why? Because they believe this will gain the riders
more attention and more fans, and therefore bring a bigger return on the investment from
team sponsors than is achieved through competing in 2nd tier pro level races. The decision has not been taken on a whim
– Rapha recently concluded a 2 year study into the future of professional cycling, interviewing
over 50 key players, and although the results have not been made public, we can safely assume
that their conclusion was that they could improve on the current model. Are they right? Well, the opinions that you gave us last week
on this show regarding the addition of gravel sections in Paris Tours were enlightening
– contrary to the opinion of Quickstep boss Patrick Lefevere, 68% off you felt that the
course change was NOT a step too far, with Gryffes commenting: “Nobody watched Paris
Tours before the change, why not adapt and bring a bike with 28-32mm tubeless instead
of running 25mm tubulars and complaining when you puncture? Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.” And it seems most of you are in agreement,
you enjoyed the spectacle, it was something different. Strade Bianche is the perfect example – that
is an event that has become incredibly popular in just 12 editions. Why? 48km’s of gravel – it’s beautiful and
brutal at the same time. It ticks all the boxes. So why not 200km of gravel? There’s a strong sense that cycling fans
are crying out for something different, the Red Hook Crit series being very good example
of that. On the weekend of the first of this year’s
event in Brooklyn at the end of April, there were a total of 10 UCI sanctioned road events
in Europe alone. It’s safe to say that the protagonists in
Brooklyn enjoyed as much worldwide exposure as the winner of stage 2 of the 61st edition
of the Vuelta Asturias that same day. On the other hand, there’s no doubt that
the rich history of professional cycling is a huge part of it’s appeal. Paris Roubaix, Milano San Remo – in fact all
the monuments – they’re monuments because of their history, we don’t need to mess
with them, they’re just fine as they are. But that’s the very pinnacle of the sport
– it’s races that are one or two levels further down the food chain to which Rapha
appear more skeptical. For example, winning a stage of the Tour du
Limousin will mean an awful lot to that rider, to their immediate family, to the local newspaper
and to any local hardcore cycling fans, but it will mean very little to an international
business sponsoring a professional cycling team. We don’t yet know exactly what new events
EF Education First are planning on doing in 2019, and we don’t know exactly which of
their riders will be doing them, but we’ll soon find out, and it’s going to be very
interesting to see if this experiment is a successful one. One thing that should be pointed out is that
their budget is at the lower end of the WorldTour scale, likely less than a third of that of
Team Sky, who have not only recently signed Egan Bernal for 5 years, but are also rumoured
to have snagged the services of fellow Colombian super talent Ivan Ramira Sosa. EF are never going to be able to compete with
that wealth and depth of talent, and so it makes complete sense that they are thinking
outside the box when it comes to giving their sponsors maximum exposure throughout the season. Here’s hoping that leads to job security
for their riders and staff. As ever, we would love to hear your thoughts
– are EF Education First taking steps that others will follow, or do you think pro cycling
is just fine the way it is? Let us know in the comments section below. Talking of historical and beautiful races
– it was the 112th edition of arguably the most beautiful, Il Lombardia on Saturday. In an effort to spice things up 8 years ago,
organisers RCS Sport added the Muro di Sormano, a cruelly steep climb with an eye watering
maximum gradient of 27%. This year, it was the pivotal point in the
race. Double winner Vincenzo Nibali went on the
attack, and only Thibaut Pinot was able to match. And it would ultimately be the Frenchman who
would snatch victory from the jaws of, well the Shark himself. Pinot is in the form of his life, he dropped
Nibali on the last main climb with 20km’s to go, and would never be seen again. This time last week, Pinot had never won a
one day pro bike race, but now he’s won 2. His victory on Saturday came off the back
of victory at Milano Torino two days previously – that’s how you end your season in style! And we’re going to go for the blindingly
obvious choice for our rider of the week this week – chapeau Thibaut Pinot. Prior to those two races, Sonny Colbrelli
produced one of the longest sprints I’ve ever seen to win the Gran Piemonte, whilst
Toms Skujins completed a solid season for him by winning at Tre Valli Varesine. Incidentally, if you’d like to follow the
commute home from work for Thomas De Gendt and Tim Wellens, follow the hashtag #TheFinalBreakaway
on twitter and Instagram. The Lotto Soudal duo are doing a bit of bike
packing, riding home from Il Lombardia to Belgium this week. And yes, they’ll probably get themselves
and their sponsors a lot of publicity for that. They’ve even got new bikes from Ridley for
the occasion. On to the rough stuff now, the cyclocross
season continued at the weekend with the 4th round of the Brico Cross on Saturday and the
1st round of the Superprestige on Sunday. In Lokeren, the expected Van Der Poel Van
Aert duel didn’t happen after Van Der Poel made an uncharacteristic technical mistake
through one of the many ditches that littered the course. He remounted, but soon called it a day – his
ankle swelling up like a balloon. He was taken off on a stretcher and I think
we all expected him to be out or at least a few weeks. Not so – incredibly, he made the three hour
trip to Gieten, where he managed not only to start, but also win, comfortably. Van Aert had his own problems on Saturday,
puncturing a long way from the pits and rolling in 6th, over a minute down on race winner
Daan Soete. And that result threw up this incredible stat
from cyclocross24 on twitter: “Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel
have ridden in the same race 134 times since they were Junior. And always, one of them stood on the podium…..until
today. #cxfacts” How incredible is that?! There was no such trouble on Saturday for
the women’s world Champion, Sanne Cant, who powered her way to victory. On Sunday, however, she was involved in a
crash on the first lap that ended her chances of victory. Up front, it looked as though Marianne Vos
would take another convincing win, but it wasn’t to be – 22 year old former U23 World
Champion Annemarie Worst of Staylaerts 777 took the biggest Elite win of her career,
leaving Vos in 2nd. The Superprestige continues this Saturday
in Boom, and you can catch both the women’s and men’s events live on our facebook page. Stop, it’s Hammer Time. Yep, the Hammer Series finished off in Hong
Kong at the weekend with Mitchelton Scott making it a clean sweep for the series. In the final team time trial pursuit, the
just managed to hold off Quickstep Floors, who were perhaps still recovering from the
previous race’s controversy. Initially called as the winners of the sprint
event, it turned out that two of their riders had actually taken a lap out after puncturing,
before rejoining the race in teh lead group. They were then relegated to second, but received
no further punishment. Finally, the 6 day Tour of Turkey came right
down to the wire on the final stage yesterday. In finishing 2nd, Eduard Prades of the Euskadi
Murias team overhauled overnight race leader and winner of the queen stage, Alexey Lutsenko
of Astana. The 6s bonus that Prades picked up put him
level on time with Lutsenko, but he was awarded the win due to a better average finishing
position. Winner on the stage was Sam Bennett, but not
in his usual style. He chose not to wait for the finish and attacked
with over a kilometre to go, holding on by 6 seconds. That added to the wins that he had already
taken on stages two and three. Quickstep floors picked up their 70th and
71st wins of the season on stages 1 and 5, through Max Richeze and Jose Alvaro Hodge
respectively. We shall finish this week with the Hammer
Hong Kong. 2 events in one day, the sprint first and
the chase 2nd, and it looked as though Quickstep could snatch overall victory in the series
from Mitchelton Scott after a dominant win in the first event. A win that was subsequently rescinded after
it became clear that two of their riders had been scoring points despite being a lap down
through punctures. It meant that Mitchelton Scott started the
chase first, and with Quickstep unable to close the 20s gap, it meant the Australian
squad took victory in both the Hammer Hong Kong and the overall series. Right, that’s all for this week – don’t
forget to give us your opinions on the future of professional cycling in the comments section. Speaking of which, if you’re not entirely
sure what these other events are all about, we’ve got a good example for you now. Our very own Hank competed recently at the
Red Hook Crit in Milan, find out what it’s all about, and how he got on, by clicking
down here.