Spin Cycle: A midnight stumble

The Valverde dynasty will outlive us all.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 06.10.2023 Photography by
Lisa Neumann, Cor Vos, Fran Reyes.
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Spin Cycle is Escape Collective’s news digest, published every Monday and Friday. You can read it on this website (obviously) or have it delivered straight to your inbox. You can sign up here.


Welcome back to Spin Cycle! Escape Collective’s news digest.

Mark Cavendish is back to distract us from the chaos and impending disaster of the merger/takeover. Actually, we’re thinking of installing a moratorium on those two words, to cordon this place off as a sanctuary from that news story. Maybe we’ll ban both terms at least for one edition, and perhaps we’ll just refer to them as the M-word and the T-word from now on. That could be better.

Anyway, yes, Cavendish is back and that’s good because he’s a known quantity. Predictable in both good and bad ways. We’re already excited to find out if unnerving, smiley Cav returns to the 2024 Tour for his second farewell (and hopefully this time it’s a triumphant one).

We certainly hope disaster doesn’t befall him again, and especially not the same type that struck the soigneur in our opening story today …

A soigneur slippage

Soigneurs must be protected at all costs. They are the poorly paid, hard-working spine of the racing world, looking after riders and undertaking all manner of tasks to keep their riders not just performing at their best, but also happy and content.

Therefore, when news emerges of misfortune striking a bottle-holding helper, it hits hard. Like when Bambi’s mum gets shot, it’s simply an unjust state of affairs.

On Tuesday, 69-year-old soigneur Geert van Diepen, who was working for the Dutch continental Metec-Solarwatt team at the BetCity Eleven Cities Race, woke in the middle of the night and needed a wee, as men of a certain age often do.

Soigneur Geert van Diepen hands bottles to riders at a race. The Belgian soigneur is holding six bottles in his left hand and crook of his arm as he hands one off in a no-look transfer that would make Aaron Rodgers weep.
Geert van Diepen in 2017 carrying more bottles than thought humanly possible.

Unfortunately, while getting up to use the bathroom he fell in the dark and tripped, breaking his collarbone.

Therefore the experienced soigneur, who has previously worked for CSC and Saxobank amongst others, was unable to perform his usual duties at Wednesday’s race.

“That’s why I’m playing soigneur today,” Metec-Solarwatt’s team manager Michel Megens told Wielerflits.

What is it with cycling and collarbones?

The spirit of … Wout van Aert possibly wearing jorts

Can you smell that? The spirit of gravel has landed on European shores once more! Returning to the Veneto region for the second edition, you can expect at least a few people trying to make tiny cans of beer and jorts work amongst the picturesque and historical backdrop of Bella Italia.

Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert is the big favourite, but he’s trying to pre-empt any moaning from the gravel racers (?) who are likely to have their dreams stomped into the literal dirt by the WorldTour big boys, giving some lip-service to their prowess: “There are of course the WorldTour riders, but I also have to keep an eye on the gravel specialists,” the Belgian said in a press release from the race organisation itself, of course.

In the same passage of text, 43-year-old Alejandro Valverde was less accommodating, saying: “I have been training throughout 2023 with the Gravel World Championships as a major goal in the back of my mind.”

The start list reads like a 2019 WorldTour race, with Niki Terpstra, Nicolas Roche, Alessandro De Marchi, Daniel Oss, Matej Mohorič, Petr Vakoč, Nathan Haas, and Connor Swift all taking part.

No doubt this will add fuel to the flames of the really-quite-low-stakes road vs. ‘grav’ culture war, but the funniest and best timeline would of course be Keegan Swenson riding everyone off his wheel in what would be a demoralising defeat for the WorldTour’s self-esteem and superiority.

Luckily for the competitors on the women’s side, Valverde’s Movistar-and-also-brown-short-clad teammate Annemiek van Vleuten has had to withdraw due to injury.

Don’t worry, there are still a bunch of top female road talents taking on the championships, including Demi Vollering, Lorena Wiebes, Emma Norsgaard, Kasia Niewiadoma, and Tiffany Cromwell (the recent Australian winner of the European Gravel Championships). But in a more intriguing state of affairs, defending champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot provides the sternest test (if she’s recovered from the Covid that forced her out of last week’s Euro champs) against those coming over from the road to try and mop up a crumb of additional glory and not leave any for anyone else.

The bad news for the women’s peloton, however, is that Alejandro Valverde’s nine-year-old daughter recently came second in her first-ever race in the town of Jumilla in Spain. Her father also finished second in his debut as a junior at nine years old in exactly the same town and we know what happened next … the Valverde dynasty will likely outlive us all.

A contender for the Didn’t Happen of the Year Awards

Let us start by saying we are absolutely gassed to see Mark Cavendish returning for another season and hope that he manages to get that 35th Tour de France stage win.

But … that didn’t stop our bullshit-ometers going haywire when we were treated to a video message from the man himself doing his swaying-on-camera thing, all hands and head-bobbing, saying that he received help in his decision making from a perhaps unlikely source.

“I spoke to the kids and I said, ‘What should dad do?'” Cavendish tells us. “And they said, ‘Carry on,’ it’s not a question, so …”

Not only does this sound exactly like something that maybe didn’t ever happen, but why, then, if Cavendish was waiting for his oracle offspring to read his cycling tea leaves, was he telling Michael Mørkøv less than 24 hours after crashing out of the Tour de France to join him at Astana-Qazaqstan next year?

That’s what the lead-out marvel has told Danish outlet Ekstra Bladet happened after his signing was also made public. Maybe it was a final and unfair practical joke to get Mørkøv on Vino’s bus for no good reason if he decided not to sign in the end. But all in all, we are looking forward to at least another year of Cavendish and his … idiosyncrasies, shall we say.

Feed Zone ?

? Greg Van Avermaet’s last professional race will be this weekend’s Paris-Tours. Soon after retiring, the 38-year old plans to do a triathlon in Girona before a high-altitude tour of Peru. “All for fun,” he says …

? Nacer Bouhanni (33) has also announced his retirement at the end of this season.

? Fabio Jakobsen raced his last race for Soudal Quick-Step at Tuesday’s Binche-Chimay-Binche, where he finished 49th.

? Alexey Lutsenko has won the time trial event at the Asian Games, while his compatriot and teammate Yevgeniy Fedorov was victorious in the road race.

? Lidl-Trek’s Giulio Ciccone won’t participate in this weekend’s Il Lombardia after his fall at Tre Valli Varesine.

? Wout van Aert is lamenting the potential loss of his first and only coach, Marc Lamberts – who is following Primož Roglič to Bora-Hansgrohe – he told Het Laatste Nieuws, but hopes a fresh start could benefit him in his prime years.

?? Ryan Mullen, Cesare Benedetti, Jonas Koch, and Frederik Wandahl have all renewed with Bora-Hansgrohe.

? After a tough year of coronavirus and needing surgery on both legs to treat iliac artery endofibrosis, Zdenek Štybar, 37, fears the Tour of Guangxi could be his last-ever race, with no news of any contract for 2024 in the works. “I am in my worst condition ever,” he told Wielerflits.

?‍♂️ The Tour of Guangxi will also be 34-year-old Shane Archbold’s last-ever race, but luckily there’s a new flying mullet on the scene in the shape of Bolton Equities Black Spoke’s Kiwi George Jackson, whose opening stage in at the Tour of Hainan is his fifth Asian road race victory in five weeks.

? Oscar Riesebeek has renewed with Alpecin-Deceuninck for two more years, the rider told In de Leiderstrui.

? Tour de France 2024 route rumours are picking up, with L’Est Éclair reporting stage 9 will start and finish in Troyes and the route will feature some gravel roads in the hilly champagne region.

? In a turn of events that will shock absolutely no-one, TotalEnergies are interested in Julian Alaphilippe and have been since before the talk of the m-word, Ouest France reports.

? If you are in need of a pick me up, Cycling Weekly have published photos of 250 toddlers competing for Balance-Bike Gold in Arkansas.

? “We just don’t know anything,” Remco Evenepoel told HLN of his understanding of the ongoing t-word situation. Hmm…

? It’s all starting to come out now, as reports in the Slovenian press suggest sports director Grischa Niermann is one of the main reasons behind Primož Roglič’s departure due to favourable treatment of Jonas Vingegaard at the recent Vuelta a España. Sportklub alleges team boss Richard Plugge didn’t know how bad the situation was and only found out before the last stage of the Vuelta that Roglič thought it had all gone too far and he wanted to leave the team. After finding that out, Niermann and fellow sports director Merijn Zeeman apparently received the hairdryer treatment from Richard Plugge.

? Primož Roglič is officially a Bora boy. Read the full story here.

Cycling on TV ?

Saturday October 7th

Il Lombardia
GCN+ (04:00-11:00 ET/09:00-16:00 BST/19:00-02:00 AEST)

Mountain bike

UCI MTB World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne – Downhill Elite Women Semi-Final
GCN+ (10:30-11:15 ET/15:30-16:15 BST/00:30-01:15 AEST)

UCI MTB World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne – Downhill Elite Men Semi-Final
GCN+ (11:15-12:45 ET/16:15-17:45 BST/01:15-02:45 AEST)

UCI MTB World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne – Downhill Elite Women Final
GCN+ (12:45-13:45 ET/17:45-18:45 BST/02:45-03:45 AEST)

UCI MTB World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne – Downhill Elite Men Final
GCN+ (13:45-16:00 ET/18:45-21:00 BST/03:45-06:00 AEST)

Sunday October 8th

Paris Tours
GCN+ (09:00-11:00 ET/14:00-16:00 BST/00:00-02:00 AEST); Also on FloBikes (9:10AM ET)

Mountain bike

UCI MTB World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne – XCO U23 Men
GCN+ (08:55-10:25 ET/13:55-15:25 BST/23:55-01:25 AEST)

UCI MTB World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne – XCO U23 Women
GCN+ (10:55-12:30 ET/15:55-17:30 BST/01:55-03:30 AEST)

UCI MTB World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne – XCO Elite Women
GCN+ (12:30-15:00 ET/17:30-20:00 BST/03:30-06:00 AEST)

UCI MTB World Cup, Mont-Sainte-Anne – XCO Elite Men
GCN+ (15:00-17:15 ET/20:00-22:15 BST/06:00-08:15 AEST)


Exact Cross Cyclocross UCI C2 Cyclocross, Beringen, Belgium – Elite Women
GCN+ (07:45-08:40 ET/12:45-13:40 BST/22:45-23:40 AEST)

Exact Cross Cyclocross UCI C2 Cyclocross, Beringen, Belgium – Elite Women
GCN+ (08:40-10:30 ET/13:40-15:30 BST/23:40-01:30 AEST)

Monday October 9th

No live racing

? Peculiar self-own quote the week ?

Cycling is for wimps

We’ve said it a million times before. Belgians are known for giving you their unfiltered opinion live and direct. We love it but it also fills us with unimaginable dread.

So step forward sports director Franky Van Haesebroucke of the Bolton Equities Black Spoke team, who in an interesting interview with Wielerflits said that the squad struggled to attract European sponsors as they want European riders ‘selling’ their brand. Meanwhile, the difficulty in finding a replacement Kiwi sponsor following Bolton Equities being forced to pause funding is in part due to his estimation of New Zealanders’ perception of cyclists.

“Cycling is for wimps, they say here,” Van Haesebrouck suggested. “A cyclist is something to laugh at. Something like that certainly doesn’t make it any easier.”

Thanks for that, Franky …!

And finally …

Screenshot of an e-mail notification from Team Jumbo-Visma announcing "Sale at Team Jumbo-Visma!"

We could only get a Dutch version of the email sent out to Jumbo-Visma fans on Tuesday evening, but we’ll translate: “Sale at Team Jumbo-Visma!”

You don’t say …

?? A public service announcement ??

We’re off to the Tour of Guangxi next week! We’re 99% sure Monday’s edition of Spin Cycle will still arrive in your inbox as planned … maybe at a slightly different time to usual … but just in case it doesn’t that’s the reason why. For clarification, we’re talking about being able to access the internet rather than anything else (you never know who could be listening).

Corrections corner ?

On Monday we used the incorrect plural of Grand Prix. Apparently it’s Grands Prix instead of Grand Prixs, and we think we’ll take this opportunity to exercise our fifth (?) amendment right to continue using the wrong version in perpetuity. No, you’re being petty.

? Send us yer laundry pics ?

“We recently did the Canberra thing and went for a long weekend down the coast – to Merimbula,” writes Lisa Neumann, attaching today’s laundromat photo.

“I could not help but to take a photo of the beautiful ‘Laundry Day Laundromat’ located in Market Street, Merimbula, NSW. I noted its tag line: ‘Relax. It all comes out in the wash.’ Not a bad idea considering transfer/merger chaos at present.”

As always, we are accepting your laundry photos (especially ones with the doors open so we can Photoshop riders inside the drum) to star in Spin Cycle. Either send them via the Discord or shoot me an email: [email protected]

Until next time …

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