Spin Cycle: Goddamn salad days

We are circling the Plugge-hole once more.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 15.01.2024 Photography by
Cameron Cook, Matthis Waetzel, Stanley Gordon, Cor Vos
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Welcome back to Spin Cycle, Escape Collective’s news digest.

Racing is back with the Tour Down Under after the women kicked things off this weekend just gone and the men follow this coming week. It feels good to have racing back, although one reader’s suggestion that us in Europe should watch along live in the dead of night to experience what it’s like being an Australian cycling fan for the other 51 weeks of the year has fallen on deaf ears.

Likewise, I will also not be engaging in checking under the toilet seat for spiders or choking down a durry before my morning avo. And yes, I will be carrying on like a pork chop for the foreseeable.

Wout van Aert for Prime Minister?

As the United Kingdom plunges towards a general election in 2024 and a familiar sense of foreboding ensues (Americans, we’re in the same boat this year), the media prepares us for more of the same old rubbish by inviting us to get to know the people tasked with pulling the wool over our eyes and generally not doing enough to ensure we are getting the best deal possible by those we’ll elect to lead us.

One such person, who will be helping the incumbent Prime Minister Rishi Sunak try to hose down the garbage fire of his government and turn things around electorally, is Isaac Levido, an Australian political strategist who has worked on countless British and American Conservative and Republican campaigns. Why are we interested in him? Turns out he’s a big fan of cycling, specifically Wout van Aert, as revealed to the Financial Times in their profile of him.

Isaac Levido, the man charged with delivering Rishi Sunak a highly unlikely and historic fifth Conservative election victory this year, is said by friends to be obsessed with Wout van Aert, a Belgian cyclist sometimes labelled “a beast.”

Van Aert is a race winner in his own right, but in the Tour de France he acts as a “domestique de luxe,” half killing himself to protect his leaders and drag the team through the mountains. The Australian political strategist expects similar Tory discipline and graft as he tries to get Sunak over the line.

While we have deep respect for using a stretched metaphor to get cycling into the pages of a Sunday broadsheet newspaper, for the good of the United Kingdom and the people in it, let’s hope Levido and the Conservatives do what Wout van Aert also does best: finish second. (On a serious note, if the Conservatives do somehow win I will need one of you in the United States or Australia to do me a solid and grant me a visa marriage or something. Thanks in advance).

Circling the Plugge-hole

Welcome back to our regular ‘Down the Plugge-hole’ segment, as Aimless King on our Discord server suggested we brand our continued, 24/7, wall-to-wall coverage of the Visma–Lease a Bike boss.

The RadioCycling podcast, always a fine source of peloton news, have sat down with Plugge to discuss his OneCycling project where he plans to unite all of cycling’s stakeholders to both increase the size of the economic pie and redistribute it in a more favourable manner for the teams, as well as Michel Hessmann’s ongoing positive doping case.

“OneCycling is progressing slowly,” Plugge told RadioCycling. “It’s been faster at previous times, but right now not much progress. If you fast forward 10 years from now cycling will have a problem … to make sure that we are still able to race on the roads near your house where they build more speed bumps and roundabouts. That’s why we have to work together.”

Plugge was then asked about ASO’s involvement as well as being asked for a second time whether OneCycling will potentially be backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which has flooded various other sports with cash in the past couple of years.

Visma-Lease a Bike manager Richard Plugge speaks during the team's recent presentation.

“I can answer one of those questions,” Plugge responded, not willing to discuss the Saudi Arabia gossip, which potentially hints that there are indeed ongoing discussions, although this in itself is also speculation. “ASO is of course really important but again, hence the name OneCycling, it’s not for me or one organiser, it’s for everybody. We want everybody in there but we can’t make them join, so if people don’t want to join it’s up to them.”

As for Hessmann’s case, with the 22-year-old German returning positive A and B samples for a banned diuretic, Plugge has hinted that Hessmann is looking at the possibility something he ingested was contaminated. Although this has not been confirmed by any official source at the time of writing.

“It takes a long time, we are still waiting for NADA [German Anti-Doping] who are the first one to say if there will be a suspension or not,” Plugge said. “We are still waiting for that. It’s on a personal level for the rider frustrating that it takes so much time. We have to wait for these procedures and it looks like it was a contamination so it could take some time because he will have [his chance] at [launching] a defence. It can take a long, long time before the ultimate verdict comes up. On one hand I understand and the other it’s very difficult to cope with if you are a young rider and want to have a future in this sport.

“I’m not able to say but it looks like something has a contamination but again I’m not sure, we have to wait for the official results.”

Both are interesting threads that the cycling world will continue to follow with interest. No doubt we’ll be circling the Plugge-hole again very soon!

Goddamn salad days?

L’Équipe are back at it again after their revelation that David Gaudu has turned the wifi off in favour of fishing, as they report that Primož Roglič is already making his mark at Bora-Hansgrohe by: simplifying the salad bar.

“He thought we had too many different salads at the buffet,” sports director Rolf Aldag told the French newspaper. “Nutrition is super important today in cycling, so the idea is: what we need, how we prepare it, and we go all in, leaving no choice. Otherwise, the rider will ask himself: ‘What am I having today? A squid salad? But do I need it?’ Our chefs, in collaboration with our nutritionists, create a very good menu, but only one. This is a concrete example of what Primož brings.”

Primož Roglič trains solo. He's pictured bundled up in his new lime and green Bora-Hansgrohe kit, although the blurred landscape behind him suggests Spain rather than Slovenia.
Credit: Matthis Waetzel

It’s safe to say the German team are impressed by their €3.7 million purchase already (a figure reported by L’Équipe, and presumably the buyout of Roglič’s final year on his Visma–Lease a Bike contract), adding that the Slovenian coming in as a clear GC leader has solved the previous hierarchical issues where Jai Hindley, Aleksandr Vlasov, and the now-departed-to-Visma Cian Uijtdebroeks vied for supremacy.

“He questions everything, talks to everyone, says what he needs, what suits him or not without waiting three months,” Aldag continued. “I’ve never seen that, it’s pure leadership. “He challenges us on details that we had never talked about before,” adds team boss Ralph Denk.

Roglič has admitted the success of his season will hinge on his performance at July’s Tour de France, but we’re already excited to see what the Bora-vintage Roglič looks like at his first race for the team at Paris-Nice in March.

Feed Zone ?

?‍♀️ Ineos Grenadiers Jhonatan Narvaez won the Down Under Classic criterium, with Lidl–Trek’s Natnael Tesfatsion second and UAE Team Emirates’ Isaac del Toro third, with the Mexican nearly as happy about Narvaez’s victory as Narvaez was.

? Caleb Ewan skipped the Down Under Classic, of which he’s won five of the past six editions, because he’s not feeling 100%. This was confirmed to GCN by Jayco-AlUla boss Matt White, as they try to let the sprinter rest ahead of Tuesday’s opening stage of the Tour Down Under. Rupert Guinness has also been asking questions for us of the team as to how they plan to balance the sprinting ambitions of both Ewan and Dylan Groenewegen this season.

?? At the European Track Championships, Lotte Kopecky, Ethan Hayter and Dan Bigham were amongst the top performers. Our Kit Nicholson has the run-down of the action as we head towards the summer Olympics.

?? Sarah Gigante won on stage three’s Willunga Hill to confirm her Tour Down Under overall victory. Her AG Insurance–Soudal teammate Ally Wollaston won the opening stage before Cecile Uttrup Ludwig took the honours on stage two. Matt de Neef has been on the ground for us at the race, here’s his report from Gigante’s Willunga Hill heroics.

? This weekend saw a host of cyclocross national titles decided, with Anna Kay the best of the British women (albeit with Zoe Bäckstedt not present to defend her title) while Cameron Mason defended his jersey in front of a home crowd in Falkirk. Lucinda Brand won a solo victory in the Netherlands over Puck Pieterse and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado despite carrying a broken nose last weekend while leading at Zonhoven (Fem van Empel did not compete). For the Dutch men, Joris Nieuwenhuis topped an all-Baloise–Trek Lions podium ahead of Pim Ronhaar and reigning champ Lars van der Haar. In Belgium, Sanne Cant captured a 15th title in a row in what could perhaps be her last appearance, while Eli Iserbyt won the men’s title for the first time in his career. Speaking of dynastic runs, in Luxembourg Marie Schreiber defended her title against Christine Majerus, who until two years ago had been unbeaten for 12 years. Finally, in France, Hélène Clauzel successfully defender her title while Clément Venturini won for the sixth time in his career. Thank you to Weekend Editor Kit Nicholson for this cyclocross natty round-up.

Cycling on TV ?

Tuesday January 16th

Tour Down Under Men – Stage 1
(19:30-00:00 ET (Monday)/00:30-05:00 GMT/11:30-16:00 AEST) ??NBC Peacock, ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ??Seven Network

Wednesday January 17th

Tour Down Under Men – Stage 2
(19:30-00:00 ET (Tuesday)/00:30-05:00 GMT/11:30-16:00 AEST) ??NBC Peacock, ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ??Seven Network

Thursday January 18th

Tour Down Under Men – Stage 3
(19:30-00:00 ET (Wednesday)/00:30-05:00 GMT/11:30-16:00 AEST) ??NBC Peacock, ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ??Seven Network

Friday January 19th

Tour Down Under Men – Stage 4
(19:30-00:00 ET (Thursday)/00:30-05:00 GMT/11:30-16:00 AEST) ??NBC Peacock, ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ??Seven Network

Bad dog owner of the week ?

Just as Cecile Uttrup Ludwig gave us a glimpse of the peloton’s first celebratory Fanta of the season …

A screengrab of Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig taking a sip of Fanta after winning stage 2 of the women's Tour Down Under.

… we also ticked off another square on the 2024 season bingo card with our first loose dog on the course of the year.

And finally …

In what has quickly become the newest ‘please don’t tell me you watched that with your relatives over Christmas’ film, Geraint Thomas confirms he’s also been subjected to the Saltburn scenes that once you’ve watched them can’t be unseen. Let’s hope he manages to find something else to think about during the long training hours ahead of him.

? Send us yer laundry pics

“Thought it was time I contribute to the Spin Cycle laundry cache,” writes Cameron Cook, attaching today’s laundromat photo. “My local laundromat WaveMax here in Durham, North Carolina. It’s clean, quiet, and has plenty of seating to peruse the pages of Escape Collective while my kits get sudsed up. “

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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