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Spin Cycle: It’s all kicking off in France

There is toiling going on in Bessèges.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 02.02.2024 Photography by
Kirsty Bishop, Katy M, Gruber Images
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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.

Boy it’s good to be back. We’re out the other side of January and people in Lycra are zooming across finish lines in the European afternoon on a regular basis once again.

This week we’ve got news of how US authorities managed to capture Kaitlin Armstrong, and how things are maybe looking up for the Tour of Britain after it went missing from the UCI’s calendar this week, but first we head over to France, where the French be Frenching.

I toil, you toil, we all toil in Bessèges

The opening stage of the Etoile de Bessèges was cancelled after the race route was caught up in the ongoing roadblock protests by farmers over unpopular policy changes amidst the tough economic challenges being faced by rural France.

With one blocked road intersecting the course and the protest showing no sign of relenting, the decision was made to cancel the stage. You know the French farmers are really fed up as they’ve gone as far to say they need their own Jeremy Clarkson in their corner – the Top Gear presenter-turned-celebrity farmer after he punched a TV producer and got the sack.

The next day, with stage 2 successfully underway and bike racing proceeding as planned, Maximillien Juillard, bedecked in Van Rysel-Roubaix’s EF Education-EasyPost knock-off kit, decided to do his own audition to be Lachlan Morton’s EF Gone Racing body double, as he completely overshot the corner up onto a grassy verge, needing to dismount and carry his bike back onto the course.

As he gets going again, he nearly rides right into a team car, which really could and should have waited behind. In the video below (don’t you miss the days when everyone could just screen record off GCN?) behold the noise made by one of L’Équipe’s commentators that nicely sums up the pictures we’ve just seen.

Away from the toiling in Bessèges, things are even crazier (!) as two men have gone on trial accused of pushing cyclists into ditches “for fun.”

The 20 and 22-year-old were arrested last year after a number of cyclists in rural south-west France were pushed off their bikes.

““It was April,” one of the victims told La Dépêche. “I’d gone out on my bike for the afternoon. When I got to a little country road … I felt a car was following me silently. It was driving very slowly behind me when it could easily have overtaken me. Then after a few minutes it drove up beside me. The car’s passenger suddenly pushed me down.”

In total, at least 12 cyclists were hit, with some breaking bones, and another is said to have had tomatoes thrown at him.

The two men who stand accused have denied any involvement and say they have no bad feelings towards cyclists.

The not-so-great, but-maybe-okay Tour of Britain?

So, the Tour of Britain and Women’s Tour disappeared from UCI calendars this week following British Cycling’s termination of their contract with organiser SweetSpot over a financial dispute concerning unpaid rights fees. Abby and I wrote about it, and how things were not looking so great.

Potential salvation arrived the very next day, however, with British Cycling confirming to Cycling Weekly there would be a men’s Tour of Britain this year in its usual September slot and the Women’s Tour will be rebranded as the women’s Tour of Britain, and although a slimmed-down edition is planned for June, they hope to return with a bigger race in 2025.

British Cycling confirmed to Escape Collective (which is the journalism way of saying I texted their press guy, I don’t know why we don’t just write these things like normal human beings) that the races would be funded in the usual way, via a mix of local authority money and commercial sponsors but with British Cycling now as the organising body.

We then followed up by asking if they could shed any light on just how much local authority and commercial sponsorship money had been acquired so far, but specifics were not given, only that conversations had been encouraging so far.

We’ll take their word for it and wait for news on just how much commercial money and local authority cash they’ll be able to extract in order to fund two races that cost multiple millions of Great British Gold Coins to put on.

Seeing as British Cycling themselves had to settle for an icky sponsorship deal with Shell (that was also for not as much money as you would expect them to sell their souls for) because there was so little interest out there, the hope is that the Tours of Britain are a more attractive prospect. Meanwhile, local councils shelling out to bring the race to their areas will be quite the coup considering the UK government has described the dire financial situation of many council as “out of control,” with widespread bankruptcy feared without an injection of cash.

Making the announcement in the first place surely must mean British Cycling feel fairly confident of pulling it off, but successfully doing so is another thing entirely.

Feed Zone 🥖

💪 Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) will aim for the final podium at the summer’s Tour de France, he’s told GCN, but that it’s increasingly difficult to go up against the super teams.

💸 Red Bull’s purchase of 51% of Bora-Hansgrohe has been approved by the Austrian Competition Authority. Do say: YES, I can feel the taurine coursing through my veins. Don’t say: Is my heart supposed to be beating this fast?

👨‍⚖️ The German courts have dismissed Michel Hessmann’s (Visma–Lease a Bike) criminal doping case, meaning he won’t face prosecution. The German national anti-doping agency is yet to make its ruling on the case, meaning Hessmann still faces a possible sporting suspension.

🇮🇹 The 2024 edition of men’s Strade Bianche will include four extra gravel sectors and the length of the race will rise above 200 km for the first time. The women’s course also gets new sectors, but other changes keep total length at 137 km.

👴 Rigoberto Urán is having second thoughts about retiring later this year, our Dane Cash has the report on this story.

🇸🇦 Tim Merlier had to hop on teammate Bert Van Lerberghe’s bike 5 km from the finish of the opening stage of the AlUla Tour and still managed to finish third. The stage winners over the week have been Casper van Uden (DSM Firmenich-PostNL), Søren Wærenskjold (Uno-X Mobility) and Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quick Step), who won stages 3 and 4 to seal the overall. Jayco-AlUla’s sprinter Dylan Groenewegen DNSed stage four due to illness.

🇩🇰 Copenhagen has submitted its bid to host the 2029 World Championships.

🇪🇨 Richard Carapaz is the new Ecuadorian time trial champion, his second TT title and third overall after also winning the race against the clock in 2022 and the road title last year.

🇭🇺 The Hungarian Blanka Kata Vas is too ill to start Saturday’s cyclocross World Championships after picking up a viral infection following her best major result of the season (second place) at Hoogerheide.

🇫🇷 Paris-Roubaix Espoirs will, for the first time, be held on the same day as the elite men’s Paris-Roubaix, joining the Junior race. Both fields will start earlier in the day on Sunday, April 7 and get a name change, to Roubaix Next Gen.

Cycling on TV 📺

Saturday February 3rd

Road

AlUla Tour – Stage 5
(06:35-08:35 ET/11:35-13:35 GMT/22:35-23:35 AEST) 🇬🇧Eurosport/Discovery+, 🇺🇸 FloBikes

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana – Stage 4
(10:00-11:30 ET/15:00-16:30 GMT/02:00-03:30 AEST) 🇬🇧Eurosport/Discovery+, 🇺🇸 FloBikes

Cyclocross

World Championship, Tabor – Junior Women
(05:00-06:00 ET/10:00-11:00 GMT/21:00-22:00 AEST) 🇬🇧Eurosport/Discovery+, 🇺🇸 FloBikes

World Championship, Tabor – U23 Men
(06:30-07:45 ET/11:30-12:45 GMT/22:30-23:45 AEST) 🇬🇧Eurosport/Discovery+, 🇺🇸 FloBikes

World Championship, Tabor – Elite Women
(08:20-09:45 ET/13:20-14:45 GMT/00:20-01:45 AEST) 🇬🇧Eurosport/Discovery+, 🇺🇸 FloBikes

Sunday February 4th

Road

Vuelta CV Feminas
(05:00-06:00 ET/10:00-11:00 GMT/21:00-22:00 AEST) 🇬🇧Eurosport/Discovery+

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana – Stage 5
(10:00-11:30 ET/15:00-16:30 GMT/02:00-03:30 AEST) 🇬🇧Eurosport/Discovery+, 🇺🇸 FloBikes

Cyclocross

World Championship, Tabor – Junior Men
(05:00-06:00 ET/10:00-11:00 GMT/21:00-22:00 AEST) 🇬🇧Eurosport/Discovery+, 🇺🇸 FloBikes

World Championship, Tabor – U23 Women
(06:30-07:45 ET/11:30-12:45 GMT/22:30-23:45 AEST) 🇬🇧Eurosport/Discovery+, 🇺🇸 FloBikes

World Championship, Tabor – Elite Men
(08:15-10:05 ET/13:15-15:05 GMT/00:15-02:15 AEST) 🇬🇧Eurosport/Discovery+, 🇺🇸 FloBikes

Monday February 5th

No live racing

And finally …

An update from the Mo Wilson murder case, which saw her killer Kaitlin Armstrong (35) sentenced to 90 years in prison (eligible for parole in 30) in November.

Armstrong was captured in Costa Rica after a 43-day international manhunt, and US authorities have now revealed on the CBS News show 48 Hours how they managed to pull it off: by posting a job ad seeking a yoga instructor. Armstrong, a certified yoga instructor, had fled to Costa Rica using her sister’s passport after shooting and killing Wilson in May 2022.

Having undergone plastic surgery to hide her identity, authorities were struggling to flush her out of the small beach town of Santa Teresa, where a tip-off said she was hiding. They were told many women in the area had a similar appearance to Armstrong and agents stalked yoga classes as they tried to find her. The job ad initially received no responses but after a week Armstrong got in touch to say she was interested and subsequently she was arrested.

🧺 Send us yer laundry pics

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when driving to my parents for Christmas. An outside laundry in Weedon, Northamptonshire, UK. On an A road!! (Maybe I just don’t get out much?)” writes Kirsty Bishop, attaching today’s featured laundry machine, which we’ve crudely photoshopped behind one of the Gruber’s brilliant Tour de France photos.

“Just had to stop and take a picture for you having duly opened all the doors of the unused machines.”

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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