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Welcome back to Spin Cycle, Escape Collective’s news digest.
Can you smell that? The road season is back! Our friends in Australia are getting the ball rolling with the Tours Down Under, and even though I wont be staying up to watch it live, I’ll sleep soundly knowing it’s going on, that somewhere a peloton is gently bringing a doomed breakaway move to heel.
Things feel a bit French this week, courtesy of Julian Alaphilippe and David Gaudu, two mischievous fellows who – if they weren’t currently racing their bikes in return for a medium-to-large sum of cash – would almost certainly be chugging frothies with Thibaut Pinot in an Alpine resort somewhere.
Alaphili-pping hell, is loyalty not worth a damned thing anymore?
Is this the next stage of the squeeze out of Julian Alaphilippe or the realities of Soudal–Quick Step becoming Remco Evenepoel’s team? Either way, the Frenchman will not be at this summer’s Tour de France and instead target the Giro d’Italia.
“It is not a non-selection and it is not a punishment at all,” Alaphilippe insisted to L’Équipe. “Riding the Giro has been in my head for a while.
“It is of course strange to miss the Tour,” he continued, “but I am satisfied with my goals and a possible participation in the Olympic Games in Paris. It is a chock-full season and so you have to make choices and stick to them.”
The 31-year-old signed his most-recent contract (a three-year deal through 2024) in April 2021, coming off the back of a two-year deal in which he won two stages of the 2019 Tour de France and wore yellow for 14 days, and won the 2020 Road World Championships. Alaphilippe immediately delivered on his (likely) bumper three-year extension in 2021 by winning the opening stage and yellow jersey of the Tour in the rainbow bands, before going on to defend his world title in Flanders.
A decent return, you would say, but revered/reviled accountant/team boss Patrick Lefevere counts three years, not one, on the terms of Alaphilippe’s contract and his results since signing that deal have been limited enough for Quick-Step’s one-time poster boy to be the latest rider to catch Lefevere’s ire.
“You can’t keep hiding behind illnesses and falls,” Lefevere said this time last year, experiencing his latest bout of buyer’s remorse. Later in 2023, Lefevere would not renew the contract of Alaphilippe’s coach, his cousin Franck, another signal that when Julian Alaphilippe’s contract also expires at the end of 2024, a new one (at least on similar terms) will not be forthcoming. The writing is very much on the wall.
Where does this leave Alaphilippe? Well, with Thibaut Pinot retired and occupied by The Beers, Alaphilippe is by far and away the biggest French cycling star, and you know what nearly every French professional cycling team currently lacks? A homegrown rider with true star power. The question now is which squad would be the obvious fit?
Well, when they’re not “fuelling Russia’s war machine” by being the third-largest buyer of Russian liquified natural gas, TotalEnergies spares a few Euros to fund a middling cycling squad, one which has recently acquired a Peter Sagan-sized space in its budget. When August 1 rolls around it would be of little surprise if that deal is one of the first that rushes out of the gates.
Gaud(only knows what I’d be without)u
This time last year David Gaudu was getting himself into all sorts of trouble, after Discord messages he’d sent detailing how he didn’t want Arnaud Démare in the Tour de France squad emerged, before a couple of months later he was also quoted as saying he didn’t really fancy sharing the eight-man squad with Thibaut Pinot either.
The Frenchman was still riding the high of his fourth overall place at the previous year’s Tour de France but after getting half of his wish (Démare out, Pinot still in, obviously) he failed to build on his billing as the next ill-fated French hope for the yellow jersey, finishing a distant ninth overall.
What went wrong? Maybe it was all the snogging of his girlfriend (reporting corroborated by the Tour Daily podcast’s Iain Treloar and the Watts Occurring podcast’s Luke Rowe)? Maybe it was his profligate internet usage? Yes, actually, Gaudu has now come out and said. That was it.
In an interview with L’Équipe at Groupama-FDJ’s 2024 season presentation, Gaudu says he’s deleted his Twitter (he also barely posts on Instagram or livestreams on Twitch anymore) and has instead taken up fishing, saying he now spends hours with his line cast out to sea gazing at the horizon. Wonderful.
“I fish on a boat, by the sea,” Gaudu explains. “Sometimes I sit on my rock for three hours with a lure in front of me and I don’t think about anything else.”
More seriously, Gaudu will race both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España this season, with his home Grand Tour still being the obvious main goal. He is, however, undecided whether he’s aiming for a stage win or a good placing in the general classification.
We will miss the unruly social media version of David Gaudu, but maybe it’s just the path of every French leader of Groupama-FDJ that eventually they turn to nature and realise some things are bigger than winning the Tour de France. Thibaut Pinot: master of the forest and farm animals. David Gaudu: emperor of the high seas.
Feed Zone 🥖
📬 Fabio Jakobsen will ride the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in his debut season for DSM Firmenich–PostNL and will be aiming for at least a stage win between the two races, he’s told Wielerflits.
🤷♂️ Tim Merlier still doesn’t know which Grand Tour he’ll ride in 2024, after also not being included in a 2023 Grand Tour line-up for Soudal–Quick Step, also told to Wielerflits.
💪 Tom Pidcock was forced to cut cyclocross races from his winter schedule after coming down with illness after a December training camp but now says he’s better and will be ready for the Benidorm World Cup round (January 21) before turning his attention to preparing for the road season.
📰 Remco Evenepoel has told Het Nieuwsblad he probably paid too much attention to the media hysteria (guilty) around both his mooted transfer to Ineos Grenadiers and exit from the Giro d’Italia.
🤔 This year’s Milan-San Remo will actually start in the town of Pavia, 35 km south of Milan. Now, will it make the race distance longer or shorter?
🇪🇹 After not receiving a new contract from Jayco–AlUla, 32-year-old Ethiopian Tsgabu Grmay will wave goodbye to the peloton at the Tour du Rwanda, where he will race for his national team.
👋 Lawrence Naesen (31) also did not receive a new contract from Decathlon–Ag2r La Mondiale for 2024, and so will be embarking on a career as a privateer, having gained a number of personal sponsors such as Rapha and Scott.
🤝 Dutch track stars Harrie Lavreysen and Jeffrey Hoogland have put a disagreement last summer about changes to staff in the national team behind them as they focus on the upcoming Paris Olympics, Lavreysen told NOS.
🛤️ Still on the track, after two days of competition at the European Championships, the German women and Dutch men came away victorious in the Team Sprint events, while Italy (women) and Britain (men) took gold in the Team Pursuit.
🛶 Ben O’Connor will race the Giro d’Italia in May, his Decathlon–Ag2r La Mondiale team have announced, while new arrival Sam Bennett will kick off his career with the squad at the Tour de la Provence next month.
👨⚖️ Shari Bossuyt will not appeal her two-year doping suspension, but maintains her innocence. “They confirm and acknowledge the fact that the contamination was not intentional. But we cannot, as with Toon Aerts, prove the source of the contamination. For that reason, they cannot limit the punishment further,” she posted on Instagram. “I don’t have the strength or the money for this. The feeling of fighting a losing battle, the sleepless nights due to constant worrying and the financial suffering of having to spend tens of thousands of Euros on an already lost cause, made me decide to leave it at that …”
Nominative determinism of the week 🤩
The aptly named winner of the New Zealand Cycle Classic’s second stage? 22-year-old Kiaan Watts!
Cycling on TV 📺
Friday January 12th
European Track Championships, Apeldoorn – Day 3
(12:25-16:00 ET/17:25-21:00 GMT/04:25-08:00 AEST) Eurosport/Discovery+
Saturday January 13th
Tour Down Under Women – Stage 2
(19:30-23:30 ET (Friday)/00:30-04:30 GMT/11:30-15:30 AEST) Eurosport/Discovery+, on FloBikes in the US
European Track Championships, Apeldoorn – Day 4
(11:55-15:45 ET/16:55-20:45 GMT/03:55-07:45 AEST) Eurosport/Discovery+
Sunday January 14th
Tour Down Under Women – Stage 3
(19:30-23:00 ET (Friday)/00:30-04:00 GMT/11:30-15:00 AEST) Eurosport/Discovery+, on FloBikes in the US
French National Championships – Elite Men
(08:15-09:35 ET/13:15-14:35 GMT/00:15-01:35 AEST) Eurosport/Discovery+
French National Championships – Elite Women
(09:35-10:45 ET/14:35-15:45 GMT/01:35-02:45 AEST) Eurosport/Discovery+
European Track Championships, Apeldoorn – Day 5
(08:25-11:45 ET/13:25-16:45 GMT/00:25-03:45 AEST) Eurosport/Discovery+
Monday January 15th
No live racing
Just-what-you-want-to-hear-from-your-new-expensive-signing quote of the week
I believe I can win the Tour-Primož Roglič
Just the thing you want the man you’ve signed to a big ol’ contract to try and win the Tour de France to say: that he believes he can win the Tour de France!
“We should not be afraid of the final outcome,” he told RTV Slo at Bora-Hansgrohe’s team presentation for the new season. “But we should do our best. If we do whatever it takes, we can be happy at the end. For me, the Tour de France is the icing on the cake, but it is not an obsession.”
Roglič will be supported by Jai Hindley, Aleksandr Vlasov, and Dani Martínez at this summer’s Tour, a very strong corps of climbing talent.
As Roglič gets used to the warm embrace of Ralph Denk and the Bora Bois™, while also salivating at the prospect of drinking water from a Red Bull can post-race, Visma–Lease a Bike are preparing for their first Rog-less year.
“I know that Jonas can beat anyone, but also that Primož will beat us very often,” Visma sports director Merijn Zeeman told the In Het Wiel podcast. “He is almost impossible to beat on some finishes.” Already looking forward to Richard Plugge’s face when Roglič flaps his arms for a “Gives You Wiiings” celebration at the summer’s Tour.
And finally …
We’ll finish with our ‘timewarp meme of the week’ that gave us a good hearty chuckle and made us forget about All Of The Bad Things for a minute.
🥴 Corrections corner
We incorrectly stated in Monday’s edition that Annemiek van Vleuten had finished 17th at the Dutch National Cyclocross Championships (it was actually the Kasteelcross Vorden) which was an impossible feat seeing as it’s actually taking place this coming weekend.
We also accidentally omitted the European Track Championships listings from Monday’s TV Guide. Apologies, we are still recalibrating in this new, uncertain and poorer GCN-less universe.
🧺 Send us yer laundry pics
“Hanmer Springs, Canterbury New Zealand,” Andy Chalmers writes, attaching today’s feature laundromat. “Please enjoy the proximity of beer while you wait for the spin to finish.”
We’re not sure whether we’ll be visiting this establishment any time soon, however. ‘Laundry or naked’ sounds a lot like a threat we’d rather not fully understand.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time …
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