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Welcome back to Spin Cycle, Escape Collective’s news digest.
The big news that flooded our inbox over the weekend was Thibaut Pinot sharing a beer with Richard Plugge. In the latest skirmish in what is slowly developing into what we’re going to coin “The 100 Beer War,” Plugge trolls his nemesis Marc Madiot by enjoying a frothy with the recently retired darling of French cycling.
In fact, Plugge has provided a fair amount of the content in this edition. Maybe what he means by his ‘One Cycling’ project is a mass assimilation of the sport into one Visma–Lease a Bike lump, where everything is yellow, everything is hashtag samen winnen, and only the big boss is allowed to knock back the beers.
On the beers with Richard Plugge
We’re kicking ourselves for not including this in our 2024 predictions, because of course Thibaut Pinot was going to have one
poison beer with Richard Plugge!
Turns out the pair were both in the Alpine resort of Tignes, Pinot enjoying his zillionth beer of retirement, having been spotted double parked at a PSG Champions League game last year, while Plugge is likely spying on Primož Roglič (who has a house there) like a jealous ex-lover. We’re joking.
Presumably, Marc Madiot was on the can scrolling social media when this photo popped up, showing his golden child having a grand old time with his mortal enemy, who knew this was the way to get an off-season jab in at his French counterpart following their spat at last year’s Tour de France. A single tear escaped his left eye and fell down onto his knee. Marc Madiot will never love again.
One question, however. Is this the final proof we needed that Richard Plugge is a cold-blooded mammal? Look how wrapped up Pinot is in comparison …
The One Cycling to rule them all …
In more Plugge news (thank you Richard for keeping the lights on over here!), the Dutch team boss has revealed in an interview with Belgian news site De Tijd (paywalled) some further details of how his One Cycling project would look, including “a clear calendar with a limited number of races in which the best riders compete against each other.”
Plugge counts Flanders Classics organiser Tomas Van Den Spiegel as an “important ally” in this attempted uprooting of the sport’s status quo, where Plugge would look to put himself and the teams on more of an equal footing with bodies such as ASO and the UCI by making a new company that brings together the various stakeholders to create new revenue streams, such as repackaging the rights of smaller races and marketing athlete image rights.
Most intriguingly (and perplexingly) however, was his comments regarding how cycling needs to better emulate other sports and its stars in order to increase the number of fans, name-checking none other than … sometimes social media guy/sometimes boxer Jake Paul.
“[Jake Paul] gets surrounded by screaming young fans,” Plugge told De Tijd. “Those young people do not rush towards Jonas Vingegaard or other top riders. I want to change that.”
Part of the uphill battle for Plugge, however, has been his strained relationships with other team bosses due to the fact the Visma–Lease a Bike head honcho is currently the president of the AIGCP teams’ union, and he is often seen to be operating in a less-than-collegial manner.
Some team bosses don’t like the idea of this ‘super-league’ that is being proposed, while the prising of Cian Uijtdebroeks from Bora–Hansgrohe also ruffled some feathers. It’s now come to light that another Uijtdebroeks-esque case nearly occurred with Lotto Dstny’s Andreas Kron.
“What is annoying is that the Visma–Lease a Bike manager Richard Plugge is the president of the AIGCP, the association of all professional teams. When we have a president who doesn’t respect the rules, he’s hard to trust,” Lotto-Dstny boss Stéphane Heulot told RTBF. “What they did with Cian, they also tried with Andreas Kron with us. It is annoying and not for cycling.”
Visma tell a different tale, however, with Wielerflits reporting the Dutch team were contacted by Kron’s manager, who stated the rider had a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave for a WorldTour team. “When it turned out that that clause was not there – or at least when Lotto Dstny disputed it,” Visma told the Dutch publication, “we withdrew.”
Plugge has created some good PR for himself and his team, though, by signing Julien Vermote to the spot vacated by the retiring Lennard Hofstede. Having not had a team for the 2023 season, Vermote is rewarded for not giving up by earning a contract with the sport’s best team.
Feed Zone 🥖
🌅 Olav Kooij will make his Milan-San Remo debut in March as part of the Wout van Aert-less Visma squad in Italy.
🇳🇴 Edvald Boasson Hagen (36) is rumoured to have signed for Decathlon–Ag2r La Mondiale, according to Landevei.no, and so may not be forced to retire after not being renewed by TotalEnergies.
🔮 Lotto Dstny will not compete in the Giro d’Italia, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of the Basque Country, the Tour of Poland, or the Tour Down Under in 2024 with its status as the best-ranked ProTeam in 2023 allowing it to pick and choose which WorldTour events it competes in.
🏆 Zoe Bäckstedt won the Hexia Cross Gullegem ahead of Manon Bakker while in the men’s race Michael Vanthourenhout bested Cameron Mason.
🇫🇷 Romain Bardet will target a Giro d’Italia stage win in 2024, which he doesn’t rule out could be his final year in the professional peloton.
🤕 Stefan Küng has told Radsport-News the UCI needs to make changes to prevent incidences like the Swiss rider’s bloody time trial crash at last year’s European TT Championships. “The UCI should tackle the problem. You can’t tell a rider to just put his head up in cases like this. A rider is always looking for the best and fastest cycling position,” he said. “The UCI must create better preconditions so that the sport can take place safely in the way it is currently practiced. The aerodynamic positions on a bicycle are becoming increasingly extreme and as a cyclist you are also sensitive to that.”
📈 Puck Pieterse won her fourth cyclocross race in a row at the Zonhoven World Cup after Lucinda Brand crashed out (with Inge van der Heijden and Zoe Bäckstedt rounding out the podium places) while in the men’s race Mathieu van der Poel took a 10th consecutive win, with Joris Nieuwenhuis and Laurens Sweeck second and third. Check out all the action in our gallery.
🇳🇱 Annemiek van Vleuten finished 17th at a cyclocross this weekend in Vorden, the Netherlands.
🤒 Tiesj Benoot has contracted coronavirus while at a Visma–Lease a Bike training camp in Alicante, Spain.
The ice man cometh home 🥶
Omar Di Felice’s 60-day challenge to reach the South Pole by bike has come to an end. The Italian always had a window of two months when the weather conditions allowed for the mammoth ride to try and cover the 1,600 km, which meant around 30 km a day in temperatures between -10° C to -25° C and against relentless catabatic winds.
Di Felice managed a total of 716.5 km before making the call that he couldn’t go any further due to safety reasons, knowing he wouldn’t reach the Pole before the end of the ‘season’ of so-called favourable conditions.
“I am proud of every single meter of these 716.5 km traveled,” Di Felice posted on Instagram. “Constantly living between -10° C to -25° C, facing the fierce Catabatic winds.
“For 48 very long days I lived and explored the most extreme place on the planet. I rode, pushed, suffered.
I laughed, cried, enjoyed. I lived the most incredible experience of my life, fulfilling my biggest dream but, above all, I learned one thing: the real goal was what Antarctica left inside me. The finish line is just a detail. I managed to stay here until the last second that was allowed to me, never giving up even in the hardest moments: I gave it my all. Do you know why I can’t be sad? Because everything I’ve been through is bigger than any record.”
A fantastic achievement for the 2023 Trans Am winner, an undertaking that has stretched the possibilities of what can be done on a bike.
Cycling on TV 📺
Tuesday January 9th – Thursday January 11th
No live racing
Friday January 12th
Tour Down Under Women – Stage 1
(19:30-23:00 ET/00:30-04:00 GMT/11:30-15:00 AEST) Eurosport/Discovery+, on FloBikes in the US
And finally …
Remember Magnus Pedersen from the last edition? The 17-year-old Dane whose social media kilometre challenge got picked up and amplified by Tadej Pogačar? Well, the final kilometre total is 1,217 km, which Pedersen is currently riding over eight daily stages, which you can join in with on Zwift by searching up his name.
On day one he had Soudal–Quick Step’s Kasper Asgreen and junior World Champion Albert Philipsen join him, which is pretty cool.
🏡 Clarifications cul de sac
“One of my club members rode 36,500 miles [58,741 km] in 2023,” writes in Mark Mingelgreen of his pal Brian Mackay, in response to our fawning over Łukasz Owsian’s 39,000 km total distance covered in 2023. “That’s right, he averaged an imperial century every day.”
Can anyone else beat that?
Also, we can confirm (probably) that Domenico Pozzovivo didn’t break his shine bone and even if he did, it takes a lot more than that do dampen the diminutive Italian’s spirits.
🧺 Send us yer laundry pics
“Snapped these on a recent trip to Paris,” writes Eric Torch, attaching today’s laundrette photo. “I utterly confused my daughter when I stopped randomly, went into the launderette and proceeded to open doors and snap pics. How would one explain doing something so seemingly stupid? Asking for a friend.”
There is no explaining. The first rule of Spin Cycle club and all that …
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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