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Spin Cycle: Farewell brown shorts

Plus, there's cash in the attic.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 27.11.2023 Photography by
Sam Nugent, Matt Crimp, Declathon Ag2r Citroën, Cor Vos
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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.

Yes, the festive season may be upon us, but things have certainly taken a turn for the worse in cycling’s news cycle as a barren wasteland of interesting developments in various storylines opens up before us and we are pushed to even more desperate lengths in order to fill today’s running order.

We rejoice when an email lands in our inbox from a reader pointing us toward an interesting tidbit, and when a video of Tadej Pogačar doing, well … anything … pops up on social media we breathe a deep sigh of relief.

Not to under-sell this edition, there is still the weird and the wonderful of what’s going on in cycling contained within, but let’s just say we look more and more forward to the Tour Down Under with every passing day!

But then, at the eleventh hour, who else but Decathlon (!) Ag2r La Mondiale come along with some world-upheaving news …

Farewell brown shorts (we hardly knew ye)

The big news to start the week is Ag2r will no longer have Citroën as a title sponsor next year, will once again have the fancy ‘La Mondiale’ in their name (which is great), AND welcome Decathlon as co-title sponsor and equipment supplier.

What’s more is that Sam Bennett was unveiled as a new signing for the team as they turned the big announcement vibes up to 11, but what was left unsaid was the fact the team will be saying au revoir to the brown shorts.

Why does no-one tell you you’re in the good old days when the good old days are occurring? People often ridiculed the brown shorts of Ag2r La Mondiale, but really they were revered as amongst the most iconic team looks in the peloton, conjuring images of Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet at the Tour in front of home crowds.

We can only hope the Decathlon era will usher in increasingly pained sponsor activations such as Victor Lafay and Benoît Cosnefroy trying to shift half-price canoes. That would be fun.

This one could go to tri-al

Time to check in on how things are going for our cousins over in the world of triathlon … a bunch of them have had their bikes impounded due to a financial dispute they have nothing to do with!

A mad story courtesy of none other than Triathlon Magazine, where a New Jersey-based shipping company called Horizon Entertainment Cargo is currently holding 180 bikes hostage after failing to get payment from TriBike Transport (TBT), who were responsible for shipping the bikes belonging to the athletes who had represented USA Triathlon at the recent world championship in Pontevedra, Spain.

A lawsuit filed in California shows Horizon Entertainment Cargo says it’s owed over $300,000 by TBT and “has exercised its lien rights and is currently in possession of these 180 bikes.” While the company says it has the right to sell the bikes at auction unless paid by TBT, the lawyer who filed the suit says the company won’t do this and will instead contact each bike owner to arrange the return of their machine.

This is where things start to get messy, however, as three of the 180 athletes have now started a class action suit against Horizon, claiming the company only has the right to seize TBT’s property in case of breach of payment. This suit puts the value of the bikes being held at over $1 million, which averages out to over $5,000 per bike. Blimey.

“It’s a mess,” one of the claimants, Tim Lundt, told Triathlon Magazine. “I’ve worked a long time to be able to afford a tri bike, and then the first overseas world championship I go to, my bike doesn’t come back. This is day 56 that we haven’t got our bikes back yet.”

Some of the athletes have AirTags on their bikes and have traced them to a warehouse in Chicago. Lundt spoke to a Horizon employee at the warehouse who said the company felt they had to hold onto the bikes because “that’s the only way we’re going to get our money back.”

Lundt has since been forced to pull out of the USA Triathlon Long Distance National Championship in Daytona as he hasn’t been able to train properly without his bike. Meanwhile, TBT also won’t be providing any services to athletes in Daytona, presumably to avoid being torn apart by an angry mob. USA Triathlon are trying to reach out to triathletes in the local area to see if they can loan athletes bikes for the race.

A depressing story with no winners. Let’s just hope the situation gets resolved and Horizon don’t sell off people’s bikes.

Pay your way

A newly released joint agreement between the CPA rider union and AIGCP body that represents teams details the new increased minimum salary requirements for WorldTour and ProTeam athletes.

Unlike the women’s peloton, as the Inner Ring points out, where the minimum wage is set by the UCI in the rulebook, for WorldTeams and ProTeams on the men’s side of the sport, wage levels are governed by negotiations between the rider union and teams (that agreement, however, is enshrined in the UCI rules).

On the face of it, this news of wage increases might seem like a positive thing, even though most riders will of course earn more than the minimum. However, as is often the case in the professional ranks, there is more than meets the eye.

In a recent piece by French publication Le Télégramme, several riders reveal the practice of private benefactors paying riders’ salaries instead of the teams.

“I had to find €24,000 for them to recruit me,” a rider using the fake name Felix, who had already spent a number of seasons in the professional ranks but found himself without a team one off-season, says. “They were ready to pay employer contributions, equipment and travel, but I had to find the equivalent of the gross salary.” Felix went out and found half of that sum from local business leaders before another team came in and offered him a proper contract, where they would pay him out of their own pockets.

Another rider, called “Jordan,” had to find €20,000 for several seasons in a row in order to have a spot on a pro team.

“Without the money, I might have had a small career, but always with the fear of the end of the contract, the fear of unemployment … I have a much more comfortable life this way,” the rider said.

“Some teams in Belgium, Italy but also in France are accustomed to doing [this],” an anonymous agent then explains. “[They say] you can go pro, but you bring your budget.”

Situations like those detailed above seem outrageous and exploitative. With so few spots and so many hopeful pros, the power rests with the employers. In other circumstances, such as when Mark Cavendish signed for Soudal Quick-Step, the sprinter was paid only the minimum salary and then private benefactors paid the rest. A great deal for team boss Patrick Lefevere, Cavendish still got paid, and some rich person presumably got access they otherwise wouldn’t have got to one of the most successful Tour de France riders in history.

But still, anecdotes like the ones detailed by Le Télégramme reveal how murky a business pro cycling can be and proud professions of minimum wage guarantees seem laughable when practices like these are going on.

Feed Zone 🥖

🤷‍♂️ Cian Uijtdebroeks is giving interviews again, this time telling VTM that a lot of the rumours around him potentially leaving Bora-Hansgrohe are incorrect, before adding: “Would I stay with the team until next year? I’m not going to answer that. I have no comment on those matters at this time.” The 20-year-old Belgian has also told Het Nieuwsblad his 2024 goal is a top-five GC finish at the Giro d’Italia.

😔 Some very sad news as the Basque cycling federation announce 19-year-old Íñigo Díaz Sanchez has passed away after a driver struck him with a car during training last week.

🇨🇦 Michael Woods is making the Giro d’Italia his main goal of 2024, he’s told Bici.Pro.

🇮🇹 28-year-old Giulio Ciccone has told Bike Channel he’s not yet given up on aiming for Grand Tour general classifications.

🇲🇨 Peter Sagan won the Beking criterium in Monaco ahead of Tadej Pogačar and Mark Cavendish.

🏅 Primož Roglič finally received his award for winning the 2020 Velo d’Or at a ceremony before the weekend’s Beking criterium.

🇮🇪 Lucinda Brand won the cyclocross UCI World Cup round in Dublin ahead of Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, while Pim Ronhaar outsprinted Laurens Sweeck in the men’s race.

Cycling on TV 📺

Tuesday November 28th – Friday December 1st

No live racing

😵 The pros are clearly not alright moment of the week

The further we follow this sport and the more we get to understand it, our respect (and sometimes sympathy) for those who race the bikes continues to increase.

After another long season, a bit of staying in one place while maybe starting to train again is surely exactly what’s required for the professional peloton, right? According to one rider, in conversation with agent Gary McQuaid, they can’t wait for the new season to start so they can relax! That is a level of stress that is simply just not good for you surely.

And finally …

Strip away the rainbow jerseys and accompanying multiple-time World Champion cyclist, and this attic room could be any other. It’s nice to see out-of-this-world athletes in regular domestic settings. Humanises them. Makes you think, “hey, I could have that attic room, too.”

But this photo is in promotional aid of the final Annemiek van Vleuten attic sale of her professional road career. Doubling up as a satisfying decluttering exercise, the Dutchwoman also raised €18,000 for the “I’m swimming along” charity, which teaches underprivileged children how to swim. Would be a fun thing for more pros to do, and also a likely cheaper alternative than shelling out for any other good quality kit, which these days almost requires a small mortgage in order to purchase.

📬 Mailbag

“Look what I just spotted in Aberdyfi [Wales]!” writes Matt Crimp. “It’s the first Grenadier I have seen in the wild.”

We’re not “car guys” by any means, but that is quite an ugly sight to behold. Exactly the sort of thing to drive around while thinking about going down to London to defend the Cenotaph.

If you spot any obscure cycling-adjacent sponsors in the wild (we’re not talking Intermarchés, we’re talking niche) then feel free to pop them over to jonny.long@escapecollective.com to aid us as we hit up against the dearth of off-season happenings.

🧺 Send us yer laundry pics

“Here is a ‘ride on’ Zwift special laundromat outside of Washington, D.C.,” writes Sam Nugent, attaching today’s laundromat photo. “I know you just did the voice …”

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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