Spin Cycle: Oh man

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Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 12.02.2024 Photography by
Tim Cupery, Jonny Long, 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.


Welcome back to Spin Cycle, Escape Collective’s news digest.

Look, hand up. In Friday’s intro we kind-of straight-up lied about how going to the Tour of Oman could never be misconstrued as a free holiday masquerading as a work trip. The whole plan was to spend a week in the desert fully comped, (safely) using my pale British body as a solar panel to return to the dreary wintertime of the UK well rested and with a cracking tan. Oh, and to have a few interviews in my back pocket to get me through professionally until Classics season.

The weather had different plans, however, as it’s been raining on and off for more than 24 hours, meaning the racing has been curtailed and therefore unfortunately slightly blunted, and there’s been more sun back home the past couple of days than the literal desert. I’ve been told by Omanis that they usually only have three days of rain the whole year and we’ve been around for two of them. Unbelievable.

Anyway, we’ve naturally been out gawping at riders on the start line trying to spot anything interesting in between the downpours and have the usual irreverence and borderline irrelevance for you below, as well as the usual actual news.

Please also join me in welcoming Kit Nicholson to Spin Cycle’s shores, who’ll be bringing us the occasional dispatch of what you need to know heading into the summer Olympic Games’ cycling events. We tried to say appearing in this newsletter is probably a mark on an otherwise glittering journalistic palmarès but our warnings fell on deaf ears.

How to Vla-solve a problem like Aleksandr?

So, after having successfully rid himself of competition in the form of Cian Uijtdebroeks for GC hierarchical supremacy within Bora-Hansgrohe, Aleksandr Vlasov now turns his attention to new arrival and one of the best Grand Tour riders of his generation: Primož Roglič.

In an interview with Bici.Pro, Vlasov is asked: “At Paris-Nice you won’t be the sole leader, Roglič who has already won it will also be there: how will you manage yourselves?”

To which Vlasov replies: “We’ll see who’s in better shape and we’ll adjust accordingly.”

“How do you like them apples,” asks Aleksandr Vlasov of Patrick Gamper. “Aleks,” Gamper replies, “those are oranges.” “Not if I say they’re not, I’m the leader here,” replies Vlasov. “But, we’re at the Volta a Valenciana, those are unmistakably Valencia oranges.” “If you say one more word,” threatens Vlasov, “you will be off this team quicker than you can say Cian Uijtdebroeks.”

There’s nothing wrong with backing yourself, especially at Paris-Nice, where the stakes aren’t at the shatteringly-high level as at a Grand Tour, but when the next question comes as to whether the arrival of a strong leader like Roglič, recruited in order to take the fight to others at the Tour de France because none of the current squad are able to, Vlasov remains steadfast in believing that the road will decide and that there is a slither of possibility that it won’t decide in favour of his Slovenian teammate.

“In some cases it could happen,” Vlasov says of a rider of Roglič’s ability ruffling feathers at a new team. “He himself left where he was before, because he couldn’t find room for the Tour and wanted to be sole captain. This year we too will go to the Tour with all the best, such as Jumbo and the UAE which will even bring five captains. But it doesn’t mean that I will start pulling for Roglič from the first kilometre and that he will immediately lead the rankings. First we need to see how the race goes.”

I can already sense Ralph Denk’s moustache quivering in equal parts exasperation and rage.

Spotted in Oman ?

Finn Fisher-Back and sides please, barber

Which came first, the winning or the tuft? Having consulted the archives, Finn Fisher-Black was sporting hair through the helmet before his wins in Oman, and so already delving into the Pogačar cauldron of coiffurist magic tricks, but once in a leader’s jersey, the Kiwi let his hair follicles fly. I mean, this is getting too much now.

We’re a tech newsletter now

Yes, we have been known to zone out any time Ronan McLaughlin starts talking to us about nuts and bolts or whatever, but this doesn’t mean we walk around with our eyes shut, oblivious to the bike racer’s clobber and machines. Maybe you feel the same, and if so we are here to point at things and ask the dumb questions.

For example, our eyes bulged Looney Tunes-style when we spotted Rasmus Bøgh Wallin’s space-age clogs, like something your grandma would wear to sweep the deck in the year 2089. Thankfully we refrained from shouting out a ‘what are thoooose’ because we are old enough to know better (just about).

“They are made by Antiloper, a guy in the Netherlands. They are custom-made so they fit for my different-length legs. It’s pretty good for me,” Wallin told me before the start.

Are there any other advantages, aero or otherwise, as they’re a pretty weird shape?

“The stack height is pretty low, which is also important,” he answered. “But the main reason is for comfort on the bike and if you can gain something from the aerodynamics it’s nice.”

Every day’s a school day. Especially when you start off knowing very little.

Feed Zone ?

?? 33-year-old Aaron Gate of Burgos-BH has been crowned New Zealand road race champion for the first time in his career, beating out Corbin Strong and Laurence Pithie.

? Italian sprinter Alberto Dainese (Tudor Pro Cycling) couldn’t start the Murcia or Almería one-day races after falling during training and injuring his face and jaw.

? Mark Cavendish says the passion and commitment from his Astana Qazaqstan teammates during the stage he eventually won at Tour Colombia “brought tears to my eyes”.

? Caleb Ewan won the opening day sprint at the Tour of Oman to take the pressure off his second stint at Jayco-AlUla. Matt de Neef has the story on the sprinter’s comeback year.

? Lucinda Brand of Lidl-Trek won the Superprestige Middelkerke ahead of Laura Verdonschot and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, with Alvarado securing the overall Superprestige victory. In the men’s race, Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal’s Eli Iserbyt bested Michael Vanthourenhout and Joris Nieuwenhuis.

? Ben O’Connor (Decathlon-Ag2r la Mondiale) got his 2024 off to a winning start with a solo victory at the Vuelta a Murcia, his first win in nearly two years.

? Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step) was also victorious at his season opener at the Figueira Champions Classic in Portugal, where he attacked solo from 55 km out, saying he enjoyed riding to the line on his own.

?? Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) can’t stop winning as he took the prologue and stages 1 and 2 en route to overall victory at the Tour de la Provence. He was thwarted for a perfect four out of four stages as Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel-Premier Tech) took the final stage ahead of Sam Bennett.

? Florian Vermeersch (Lotto Dstny) fractured his femur in a crash at the Vuelta a Murcia. The 2021 Paris-Roubaix runner-up will be out for months and miss the Classics season.

? Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost) won the queen stage of the Tour Colombia atop the Alto del Vino. More like Richard Carafpaz, am I right?

?? Jhonatan Restrepo (Colombian National Team) then won the final stage in Colombia while Rodrigo Contreras (Nu Colombia) sealed the overall victory by only six seconds over Carapaz.

?? More than 40 km of gravel sector was removed from the Clásica Jaén due to rainfall making the course incredibly muddy. In Oman, stage 3 was also shortened and altered to take out the summit finish climb to Eastern Mountain (the biggest in the race) due to heavy rainfall.

? Olav Kooij won the Clásica de Almería with a little help from Visma-Lease a Bike teammate Wout van Aert’s leadout, the latter of whom said he felt good after his first road race of the year.

? Rigoberto Úran (EF Education-EasyPost) has formally announced his retirement from professional cycling at the end of the year. Iain Treloar has the story. Pre-sale tickets for Rigostock 2025 opens soon … probably.

?‍? FDJ-Suez’s Amber Kraak ensured SD Worx-Protime didn’t close out the four stages and overall victory at the UAE Tour with final stage breakaway heroics, surviving by mere metres to claim the win. Lorena Wiebes finished second that day, having won the opening two sprint stages, while her teammate Lotte Kopecky took the queen stage 3 to Jebel Hafeet to seal the overall.

Kit’s Olympic countdown ?? ⏲️

Our Kit Nicholson will be bringing you occasional reports to keep you in the loop with riders’ Olympic preparations as we hurtle toward Paris 2024.

It seems only last summer that we were talking about the moist and muggy Olympic Games in Japan, but believe it or not, the summer tournament is about to roll around again.

Naturally we’re eagerly anticipating what is hoped and expected to be a thrilling one-day spectacle on the road: can Julian Alaphilippe deliver at his home Games, in doing so sealing a much-needed comeback? Will Lotte Kopecky still be flying high at the pinnacle of the sport and soar away solo? And can Stefan Küng, the people’s champion, finally net a TT gold medal before riding off into the sunset? However, there’s also the track cycling to look forward to.

Track specialists arguably have a better chance of becoming a household name than their road counterparts (even if that’s a better chance than near-zero; the bar’s pretty low) thanks to the wider public interest in the Olympics, and yet besides the Games themselves, it’s quite hard to keep up with the discipline. With that in mind, this little corner of the internet is intended to keep you up to date with how the contenders are progressing in the build-up to August.

For instance, in last week’s Adelaide round of the Nations Cup, Great Britain led the total medal count with a timely return to form after a less-than-ideal 2023, while a formidable New Zealand topped the actual rankings with four gold medals, Ally Wollaston earning three across Omnium, Elimination, and Team Pursuit two weeks after winning the first stage of the Tour Down Under. The host nation, meanwhile, didn’t have a bad competition with seven visits to the podium, but the Aussies will have hoped for more than the single gold won by the men’s Team Sprint squad.

The next UCI Track Nations Cup is coming up in Hong Kong from 15-17 March, with Milton, Canada, hosting the third and last round in mid-April. We’ll check in every couple of weeks with any big news about riders, results, squad selections, even new tech if/when it appears. And maybe we’ll bring the mountain bikers into the picture too – reigning Olympic MTB champ Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) started his knobbly tyred season with a victory at the Shimano Super Cup Massi in Spain this weekend, overcoming a not-so-good start to catch and pass Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Sam Gaze in the last lap. His win came a few hours after Ineos teammate Pauline Ferrand-Prévot also took gold as she builds towards a home Olympics.

Cycling on TV ?

Tuesday February 13th

No live racing …

Wednesday February 14th

Vuelta a Andalucía, Stage 1
(08:00-10:00 ET/13:00-15:00 GMT/00:00-02:00 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ?? FloBikes

Volta ao Algarve, Stage 1
(09:50-11:50 ET/14:50-16:50 GMT/01:50-03:50 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ?? FloBikes

Thursday February 15th

Vuelta a Andalucía, Stage 2
(08:00-10:00 ET/13:00-15:00 GMT/00:00-02:00 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ?? FloBikes

Volta ao Algarve, Stage 2
(09:50-11:50 ET/14:50-16:50 GMT/01:50-03:50 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ?? FloBikes

Friday February 16th

Vuelta a Andalucía, Stage 3
(07:15-09:15 ET/12:15-14:15 GMT/23:15-01:15 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ?? FloBikes

Classic Var
(08:20-10:00 ET/13:00-15:00 GMT/00:00-02:00 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ?? FloBikes

Volta ao Algarve, Stage 3
(09:50-11:50 ET/14:50-16:50 GMT/01:50-03:50 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ?? FloBikes

And finally …

Is this a sponsorship activation a la Wout-gives-you-wings where Remco Evenepoel feigns ordering a delivery from his grease-based backer Pizza Hut? Or maybe it’s a shot across the bows to Tour de France rival Jonas Vingegaard that yes, he can call his own wife on the phone too? It’s probably not a reincarnation of Mark Cavendish’s iconic HTC Tour celebration. We’re all out of ideas, but it was a fun thought experiment.

? Send us yer laundry pics

“Door isn’t open,” Tim Cupery from Berkeley, CA, writes, attaching today’s featured washing machine. “But you can Photoshop someone into the reflection in the top door.”

Unfortunately, our Photoshop abilities don’t extend that far, but thank you for your belief in us.

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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