Spin Cycle: Even Roubaix isn’t safe from product placement

Where history and brand activation combine!

Photo: Unsplashed/Gurber Images

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 11.04.2023 Photography by
Unsplashed/Gruber Images
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The Spin Cycle is the 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! The Escape Collective’s news digest.

What a weekend – a couple of weekends, actually – of bike racing. Roubaix was sublime. Shock, horror, disappointment, elation, sadness, it had it all.

Tucked away somewhere on continental Europe, Nairo Quintana may have been watching on TV, reminiscing about his (now scrubbed) domination of the Roubaix cobbles at last year’s Tour de France. Also watching was Patrick Lefevere, as his Soudal Quick-Step squad continue to strike out on their historically preferred roads. With rumours swirling that Soudal Quick-Step and Quintana could be set to wed, we can’t help but imagine Quintana entering the velodrome alone next year before being hoisted on Paddy LeFev’s shoulders.

Anyway, here is your bi-weekly Spin Cycle (24 hours late, apologies, we’ve docked ourselves 500CHF and 5 UCI points) from the travel day combo of Caley currently flying back over the Atlantic Ocean and Jonny sitting at the restaurant at the end of the universe – which turns out to be the Sbarros at Bruxelles-Midi train station – who knew!

Seamlessly gross brand integration

Mathieu van der Poel made his way to the Roubaix showers, stripped down, pulled the metal chain that opens those iconic taps, then reached over and plopped a dollop of German Engineering for (his) Hair™ on a palm and proceeded to execute a seamless brand integration.

We can’t really blame team sponsor Alpecin shampoo for using the moment, that’s what companies do. But seeing the Roubaix showers, hallowed ground, used for corporate promotion still irks. The emotional pull of the showers comes in part from their purity – blank concrete walls, old pull-chain shower heads. Simple plaques. A hundred years of history without a logo in sight.

It isn’t just Van der Poel. Wout van Aert’s win in stage four of the last year’s Tour de France was capped with a flapping-wings victory solute, an obvious reference to the Belgian’s personal sponsor Red Bull (tagline: Red Bull gives you wings™), though he denied that connection at the time. Guess what we spotted in a petrol station in Belgium last week? That exact photo, Wout’s arms flapping mightily, used in a wall-sized display for Red Bull.

Is nothing sacred? The team could do an identical photo shoot any day of the year. This is not the moment. Get your advertising out of here. How long until the the boys over at ASO are pouring bottles of Vittel into the water tank at the velodrome showers for the riders to vertically bathe in the water-that-tastes-like-carpet goodness of their H20 sponsor? Come on people!

Feed Zone ?

?‍♂️ After rolling into the velodrome in 128th place, Ineos’ Cameron Wurf laced up some running shoes and ran a half marathon. He’s currently training for Ironmans, which feature few cobbles but do require running. A member of Ineos staff described him as an “absolute nutter” and we agree.

? Dylan van Baarle’s broken shoulder was the worst (as far as we’ve seen) of the Roubaix injuries. The defending champ crashed hard on the Arenberg along with other top riders like Matej Mohorič. Fred Wright was also taken to hospital after the race as a result of that crash, though is thought to not have suffered any broken bones.

? The men’s Roubaix was the fastest in history at 46.841 km/h, eclipsing the record set last year by 1 km/h. Speed records were also set at Milan-San Remo and Flanders this year.

? As mentioned in our last newsletter, a bird pooped on Van der Poel’s head at Scheldeprijs last week. This is now confirmed as an omen of good luck.

Lukewarm quote for a lukewarm classics campaign

“I hope the best is yet to come.”

So said Patrick Lefevere at the close of the team’s worst cobbled classics campaign in years. The team that has dominated Roubaix was down to just two riders in anything remotely resembling contention (a large chase group behind the Van Aert/MVDP group) by the exit of the Arenberg. Top finisher: 23rd.

It would be unfortunate if what is yet to come is worse than that.

Quintana’s quick step back into the WorldTour?

Like a geriatric batman, none other than Patrick Lefevere is the latest super hero/villain (depending on your cycling politics) that is rumoured to be ready to swoop in and save the career of Nairo Quintana.

News outlet Semana suggests a potential departure of star rider Julian Alaphilippe could vacate a Nairo-sized hole for the Colombian climber, and would fit the changing evolution at Soudal Quick-Step as they transform from Classics powerhouse into Grand Tour targeters.

Quintana in a Quick-Step jersey? Stranger things have happened. And at least the Tramadol should take the edge off when reading his new boss’s scathing reviews of any sub-par performance in Het Nieuwsblad.

Cycling on TV (all times CET) ?


• Giro di Sicilia, Stage 1 (13.50pm-15.50pm)


• Women’s Brabantse Pijl (12.20pm-14.45pm)

• Men’s Brabantse Pijl (15.15pm-6.15pm)

• Giro di Sicilia, Stage 2 (13.50pm-15.45pm)


• Giro di Sicilia, Stage 3 (14.00pm-15.45pm)


• Giro di Sicilia, Stage 4 (14.00pm-15.45pm)

• Classic Grand Besançon Doubs (11.32pm-14.32pm – very precise)

And finally …

Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift 2023 already feels like a million years ago, doesn’t it? That’s the emotional toll of the Roubaix weekend. But Alison Jackson’s handlebar messaging (and her ride on Saturday tbh) deserves another bump. It’s one thing putting instructions across your handlebars, it’s another thing to follow them to the letter.

It’s also nice that Jackson is doing her bit to reclaim jurisdiction over motivational messaging, which seems to be have been captured in its entirety by the grindlife365 sales executives over on LinkedIn dot com, but we can all do with a bit of positivity every now and again. The above photo is from one of our man Ronan’s fantastic Roubaix galleries he collated during our trip. If you missed them you can find them here.


Just a reminder that you can check out the whole Escape Collective podcast network at any time on iTunesSpotifyGoogle Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Corrections corner

On first reference, we should have typed out Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift in our last newsletter, because sponsors are important in cycling. Subsequent references can be shortened to “Paris-Roubaix” or “Roubaix.” Thanks for attending our Ted Talk on the Escape Collective’s meticulous style guide.

The NCL was listed as a track event in the TV guide (but kudos to anyone who can tell us what that whole thing was on Saturday night) and it also included a formatting error, two for the price of one!

Re: Friday’s intro, Jonny’s dad says he had 16 years of Catholic schooling, not 18. It must have just felt longer.

Until next time …

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