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Spin Cycle: Don’t open the door!

Lay down your lugworms.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 24.11.2023 Photography by
Todd Potter, Cor Vos, O País Do Ciclismo, change.org
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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. Sign up here.


Hello!

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

Doping news can be draining. Sure, sometimes the cloak-and-dagger nature of it gets the blood flowing, piques your interest in the Great and Bountiful Exercise Competition that is professional cycling. But sometimes it’s also tiring. Sometimes it’s better to just think happy thoughts.

But it is the news and that’s the business we’re in. So in this edition we give Jonas Vingegaard a fair hearing in his admittance he once missed a doping test, while also bringing you the latest developments in the Great Lugworm Scare of November 2023.

Also, just a warning that there’s a video later on that has a lot of flashing lights in it. We haven’t seen one of those TV warnings you used to get for a while … and after a quick google it turns out that’s because newer television screens don’t flicker like they used to. You learn something new every day. Still, better to be safe than sorry, so just a head’s up on that.

Ever heard of knocking?

The big news of the week is Jonas Vingegaard admitting that he once missed a doping test back in 2019.

“I had left my mobile phone in the kitchen, and then our doorbell didn’t work. They tried to call me, and it was clear that it was impossible to answer,” Vingegaard told the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet in an extensive interview.

“Of course, it’s not cool. But then they came two days later. You get tested there, but of course, it’s not great to have a missed test hanging over you. It’s definitely something I think about afterwards to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“I don’t think it’s that difficult. You always have to remember it,” he said of the Whereabouts system where riders have to provide a time slot each day when they will be available to get tested. “It’s a hassle, but when I’m just at home, it’s not so difficult.”

Firstly, credit is due once again to Vingegaard for speaking openly about doping. It’s a simple thing that not a whole lot of riders do. In the interview he also said that riders saying they’ve never tested positive “rings hollow”.

Back to the missed doping test. We’ve checked in with a native Danish speaker to make sure we are properly grasping the nuance of the interview, and it appears that Vingegaard was asked directly whether he had ever missed a doping test and he subsequently revealed that he had. It’s unlikely the journalist was about to spring a “gotcha” moment on the two-time Tour de France champion had he said no. Having a single missed test is not information that’s usually made public, so extra kudos to the Dane for answering honestly.

And of course, no one is perfect and mistakes can happen. A missed test does not imply guilt, which is why three missed tests are needed to trigger a ban – that’s when clumsiness begins to look more like wrongdoing.

Jonas Vingegaard at the 2024 Tour de France route presentation last month in Paris.

Some people will raise their eyebrows at the phone-not-ringing-and-doorbell-not-working combo, but equally, back in 2019 before Vingegaard had established himself as one of the best cyclists in the world with a salary to match, surely his house wasn’t so grand that the testers could have done more to check if he was in? Did they bang on the door relentlessly, making sure they’d done all they could to be heard? Equally, did Vingegaard genuinely not hear the testers?

These are questions we are unlikely to ever get answers to, but unless Vingegaard is a complete psychopath able to willingly engage in the topic of doping while bareface lying – and of course this wouldn’t be the first time this has happened – we are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Portioned off into a separate Ekstra Bladet article, Vingegaard is also asked about his Jumbo-Visma teammate Michel Hessman’s positive test for a banned diuretic. The Dane lends his weight to the explanation that the positive stems from an accidental ingestion.

“I don’t know how it got into his body,” Vingegaard said. “But I think every cyclist’s biggest fear is that you get it through some food or something you eat, and that way test positive without your intention has been cheating, but you still get it into your body.” Hessman’s case is still one where further information is desperately needed in order to draw a line under the episode, one way or another.

Lay down your lugworms

In more doping ‘news’, turns out the lugworms had about two days in the sun before getting debunked as a potential doping product. They can now return below ground to be left unbothered forever more by the cycling world.

Peter Van Eenoo of the Ghent anti-doping lab, who is described by Wielerflits as a “well-known Belgian doping hunter” (a moniker we like a lot), has told Het Nieuwsblad, that the hand-wringing can stop as the peloton is probably not getting their performance-based rocks off by shooting up worm haemoglobin.

“Theoretically that is indeed possible,” Van Eenoo explains. “Only one thing: it is forbidden. And two: we have known about it for two or three years now and for the time being I am not aware of any athlete who has been able to get his hands on it. There is only one company, in France, that develops the product and they maintain very strict control over it.”

If some people have known about it for years already, why are the public only just hearing about it now? If anti-doping efforts didn’t exclusively occur in the shadows, you get the sense people would have much more faith in the enterprise.

“An alternative, illegal production circuit seems unlikely to me,” Van Eenoo continued of how likely it is worms are being farmed for the specific use of blood doping. “The procedure is quite time-consuming and complicated. You can’t rule anything out, but we have no indication that it is being used. Plus, it’s also pretty easy to track down. In normal blood, plasma turns yellow when tested. With a synthetic haemoglobin, such as Hemarina [the lugworm haemoglobin], it turns red. I’m not really worried at the moment.”

Some reassuring news. But we will always remember the Great Lugworm Scare of November 2023.

Gee, see anything else that’s a bit of a waste of time?

Of all the wasteful things on this Earth – single-use plastics, the BBC Good Food website, the hashtag-built-on-purpose Ineos Grenadier 4×4 – the website change.org has to be right up there.

We’re happy to be corrected, but has anything ever truly changed exclusively because of change.org? Sure, it likely provides a platform to highlight issues, and maybe the weight of signatures is a persuading factor, even if the whole things feels quite performative, but what I hope we can all agree on is that it is not the place to petition the Warner Brothers Discovery media conglomerate, calling on them not to chuck GCN+ and its app in the trash at the end of the year.

You can’t imagine the spiritless c-suite executives’ hearts will bleed upon hearing that 1,500 people have added their email address to likely be farmed by the for-profit change.org asking them to stop doing their job in delivering profits at any cost to shareholders. “Sorry,” they’ll squeal as another minute of their finite lifespans ticks by, “that’s just how sweet, sweet capitalism works, baby!”

Instead, we need direct action. Maybe this could involve finding out where the execs responsible for the decision live and stand outside blasting Carlton Kirby’s commentary at them day and night. “We were prepared to put up with listening to this nonsense due to the fantastic UX design of the GCN+ app,” we’d shout over a megaphone. “But now YOU have to listen to it 24 hours a day until you undo the very bad thing you did!”

We’re just saying it might be worth a try …

Feed Zone 🥖

🇮🇪 Trouble ahead of the Dublin round of the Cyclocross World Cup, as Brexit-induced costs for teams needing to transport equipment through the UK are hit with extra costs, and the headache of extra paperwork. Speaking to Wielerflits, which has written an extensive report on the issue, the Dutch federation said the Dublin trip will cost them €15,000 to take eight riders, while the recent round in Troyes cost half that and they could take double the number of riders. I don’t know … €15k sounds like par for the course for a weekend trip to the eyewateringly expensive city of Dublin.

🇸🇦 Saudi Tour purists will be dismayed to hear the race is undergoing some extra sportswashing as it changes its name to the AlUla Tour, named after the city at the forefront of the country’s touristic ambitions.

🇮🇹 Nairo Quintana and Simon Yates will be at the start of the 2024 Giro d’Italia, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, while Wout van Aert has also confirmed it’s one of his main goals next year. Geraint Thomas is also considering it, although Tadej Pogačar also says he probably won’t contest the maglia rosa as he looks to fully focus on the Tour de France.

💭 Het Laatste Nieuws reckon they have more insight on Wout van Aert’s 2024 calendar, where he will race fewer Classics (but of course show up for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix), before skipping the Tour de France with a view to the Olympics, and then the Vuelta a España could also be a very real possibility for the Belgian.

🇫🇷 Meanwhile, the same Belgian paper thinks Remco Evenepoel will use Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné for an optimal Tour de France warm-up, while Liège-Bastogne-Liège will be on the menu as well as another Classic, possibly La Flèche Wallonne, Milan-San Remo, or the Amstel Gold Race.

🌏 While Thomas De Gendt has announced he will stop racing at WorldTour level after 2024, he still wants to continue for a few more years at Continental level and take part in Asian stage races.

🇬🇧 Fred Wright has told Rouleur he will target the Spring Classics and Olympic Games road race next year.

✍️ Junior road world champion Albert Withen Philipsen still has four WorldTour teams chasing his signature: Ineos Grenadiers, Lidl-Trek, Bora-Hansgrohe and UAE Team Emirates. Jumbo-Visma are out of the running to sign the 17-year-old Dane, his agent Alex Carera told Ekstra Bladet.

🦁 Thibau Nys has signed a new contract with Lidl-Trek and Baloise Trek Lions until the end of 2026.

📰 Jumbo-Visma has hired Eurosport’s Sander Kleikers to be its new press officer after Ard Bierens got a job doing press for Dutch football club PSV Eindhoven. Elsewhere in the press officer merry-go-round this winter, Pauline Farazijn has moved across to Lotto-Dstny from Soudal Quick-Step, while cycling journalist Sadhbh O’Shea joins the dark side press team at Jayco AlUla.

🇯🇵 EF Education-EasyPost has signed 21-year-old Yuhi Todome on a two-year contract. The Japanese rider previously raced for the EF training team for the past couple of years.

🚗 The recently retired Dries Devenyns will continue as a sports director with Soudal Quick-Step.

📝 Caja Rural-Seguros RGA has signed 23-year-old Australian Sebastian Berwick, who leaves Israel-Premier Tech after three seasons.

💼 Patrick Lefevere has announced Jurgen Foré, the son of former rider Noël Foré and a 53-year-old partner at consultancy firm Deloitte, will become Soudal Quick-Step’s new COO (Chief Operating Officer) with a view to taking over as team manager when Lefevere retires.

😔 David de la Cruz is still without a team for next year.

🇸🇰 As part of his preparation for the Paris Olympics (which he hopes to qualify for), Peter Sagan will race on the road occasionally for Slovakian Continental outfit RRK Group-Pierre Baguette-Benzinol, where his brother Juraj is a sports director.

⚪ Bahrain-Victorious’ Santiago Buitrago has told Bici.Pro he wants to make his Tour de France debut next year because now that Tadej Pogačar has aged out of the classification, the 24-year-old Colombian can compete for the white jersey.

🚲 Visma and Lease A Bike have been confirmed as Jumbo-Visma’s new headline sponsors for next year. The exact length of the deals are not known.

🇪🇸 The Vuelta Femenina was considering moving to a June start date but will continue in its late April fixture in 2024, AS reports.

✅ Soudal Quick-Step have completed their 2024 roster with the signing of 19-year-old Frenchman Paul Magnier on a deal lasting until the end of 2026.

🗿 DSM-firmenich PostNL has signed 18-year-old Brit Angus Stoneham to a two-year contract.

Cycling on TV 📺

Saturday November 25th

Cyclocross

X20 Trofee Kortrijk, Urban Cross – Elite Women
GCN+ (07:42-08:57 ET/12:42-13:57 GMT/23:42-00:57 AEST)

X20 Trofee Kortrijk, Urban Cross – Elite Men
GCN+ (08:57-10:15 ET/13:57-15:15 GMT/00:57-02:15 AEST)

Sunday November 26th

Cyclocross

UCI Cyclocross World Cup, Dublin – Elite Women
GCN+ (07:30-08:50 ET/12:30-13:50 GMT/23:30-00:50 AEST)

UCI Cyclocross World Cup, Dublin – Elite Men
GCN+ (09:00-10:30 ET/14:00-15:30 GMT/01:00-02:30 AEST)

Monday November 27th

No live racing

🤌 ‘There’s no respect anymore’ quote of the week

Welcome to the Old Man Yells at Cloud Club … Rigoberto Urán!

Perhaps slightly worn out and grouchy in the aftermath of South America’s answer to Glastonbury, the Giro de Rigo, the Colombian found the time to appear on the Spanish-language version of The Move podcast and made his thoughts on the younger generation very clear.

“Nowadays they only look at their wattages,” the 36-year-old began about the younger generation breaking through in the peloton.

“Nowadays people no longer talk to fellow cyclists and there is a lot of stress in the peloton. They are now pushing from the first kilometre. A lot has changed in that area too. In the past, as a young rider, if you rode too close to stars like Mario Cipollini, they sent you to hell. I once saw a young rider elbow Chris Froome. When I was that age, you knew where you would end up … Now at the age of 20 they already go to the Tour with the ambition to win.”

Partly, Urán argues, this is due to the structural up-ending of road racing, where the superstars are young and coming through at an increasing rate of knots.

“Respect in the peloton has been lost because the leaders are 20-year-old children. There is now a completely different hierarchy in the peloton. There is no longer a patron, every two years a new star emerges,” Urán continued.

“It will be very difficult for riders like Tadej Pogačar and Remco Evenepoel to be competitive after the age of 32, although there are of course always exceptions. The average speed continues to rise. You just can’t keep that up for years.”

And finally …

At the end-of-year party for the sports agency that manages Tadej Pogačar, their Slovenian superstar was making his love of podiums clear, showing off the sort of dance moves your dad would be proud of.

📬 You’ve got mail

“For a newsletter about sandworm riders,” writes Felipe Pires Dias, referencing the lugworm doping story from Monday’s edition. “I’m disappointed by the lack of Dune references.”

An oversight on our part, apologies Felipe. Especially considering Timothée Chalamet, who stars in the film adaptation, has the appearance of a neo-pro making his Tour de France debut with Cofidis.

The Dune references don’t stop there, however, as Leo Tonozzi adds: “Can we agree to call sandworm haemoglobin the spice melange?”

🧺 Send us yer laundry pics

“I thought this was very simple and concise,” writes Todd Potter, attaching today’s laundry image. “My laundry room, sir. Have fun with it if you like …”

Thanks Todd, nice to get a domestic submission. We haven’t had many of those recently and who doesn’t like a good nose around other people’s houses?

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: jonny.long@escapecollective.com

Until next time …

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