Riding is Life


Spin Cycle: Set your alarms for 2026

And the Academy Award goes to ... Nacer Bouhanni?

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 19.02.2024 Photography by
Richard Siegel & Cor Vos
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Welcome back to Spin Cycle, Escape Collective’s news digest.

Two big stories for you in this edition. There are yet more potential details of the One Cycling revolution (which UCI President David Lappartient doesn’t seem exactly opposed to) as well as an illuminating post-retirement interview with French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni, who is plotting a potential second second act career as an … actor!

It’s also been a bumper few days for team friendship and the club of old men yelling at clouds. And we’ve dug out a photo of Bahrain-Victorious boss Milan Eržen smoking a cigar in the middle of London’s Regent’s Street … the things you find online …

Set your alarms for 2026 …

We have some fresh updates in the ongoing psychodrama/wrestle for the soul of road racing that is the shadowy One Cycling movement!

These latest details come courtesy of Bahrain Victorious head honcho Milan Eržen, by way of an interview with Slovenian radio’s Igor Tominec.

According to Eržen, One Cycling will begin in 2026, include some existing WorldTour events and around half a dozen new races to fill the gaps in between in order to create a full calendar of 12-13 events for the season.

More intriguingly, the Slovenian boss claims that all 18 WorldTour teams are now included in the arrangement, and that One Cycling will not attempt to directly compete with the three Grand Tours, so as to allow the peloton’s star riders to still target the biggest races on the calendar, but will provide three-day races in the build-up where they can test their form. The exact format has not yet been nailed down, but Eržen hints that the high mountains will remain the domain of the Grand Tours, while North and South America, as well as Asia, will be considered as hosts for new races.

Okay, so what’s the pull for the big riders to turn up to these One Cycling events? Prize money, which will be more than is currently offered at races. According to Eržen, the prize money pool will reach €450 million by 2030, which is as much as the current total budget of the 18 WorldTour teams.

Alongside the races, a new digital subscription platform will be launched to give fans the chance to watch race recaps, interviews and merchandise.

One Cycling will not only be a series of races, it will also be a new digital platform where the subscription audience will get race recaps, behind-the-scenes interviews, and merchandise.

Our gut reaction? The prize money thing could work – riders have short careers and like most of us are not impervious to the call of a bucket load of money for a reasonable amount of work, and teams are also always looking for ways to fill their coffers.

As for the format, if they can pull in some fairly high-level WorldTour events and match these with some enticing new events (hold that L, Hammer Series), then maybe this thing has legs?

If they’ve managed to reach consensus amongst the 18 WorldTour teams, that gives one of the biggest reasons as to how One Cycling could pull this off. Velon’s Hammer series had participation from as many as 12 WorldTour teams, but never the full slate.

UCI President David Lappartient, in conversation with Het Nieuwsblad this past weekend, has not exactly poo-pooed the One Cycling idea either, saying, “As the UCI, we support every initiative that wants to improve the financial situation of professional cycling. But I will always emphasize the importance of cooperation and the leading role of the UCI in moving the sport forward together.” 

And as for the rumoured Saudi Arabian bankrolling of the scheme, Lappartient is open to it, unsurprising given he was in Riyadh last week to sign a framework agreement between the French and Saudi Olympic committees.

“Sports are not politics,” Lappartient told the Belgian newspaper when asked about the potential Saudi involvement. “You must keep these things separate, as the Olympic philosophy prescribes. I especially see that Saudi Arabia wants to play a leading role in the sports industry, with a lot of attention to sports that target a large and young audience. For me, this is an opportunity to grow cycling in this part of the world, and that will also help us progress internationally as a sport.”

Cryptically, Lappartient hints that there will also be changes to the UCI WorldTour structure from 2026, the same year that OneCycling is supposed to begin its competition.

“Not a revolution, but an evolution. From 2026 onwards, we want to implement changes for the period up to and including 2028,” he explained. “Crucial? We want to avoid as much overlap as possible between different WorldTour races. I compare it to women’s cycling. When we started the UCI Women’s WorldTour there in 2016, we stated from the start that we did not want any overlap in the calendar. We have had plenty of opportunities to deviate from this, and requests to join the WorldTour are pouring in. But we have always stuck to our principle. In the interest of the teams, of the viewers, and of clarity.”

There’s a new best agent in town ✍️

We know Lidl-Trek have had fun getting their shopping trolley out and snaffling up riders these past few months, but adding another year to Gaia Realini’s contract two minutes after you announce her previously-new deal? Come on.

Alternatively, maybe Gaia Realini’s agent is just that good? All we know is that it definitely wasn’t a teeny tiny (and subsequently corrected) mistake from the squeaky clean, forensically professional team press officers.

Bouhanni’s second act

Here’s someone you probably didn’t expect to be hearing from this Monday: Nacer Bouhanni! The 33-year-old Frenchman retired at the end of last year, and one of the things he’s got planned for his new life off the bike is … acting in a film!

Bouhanni’s girlfriend of six years, Hafsia Herzi, is an actress and director, and is nominated for a César (the French Oscars), whose award ceremony takes place on Friday.

Bouhanni will be there too, and more than that Herzi has written a small role for him in her next film.

“Nacer needs to get rid of the shell he built during his career to protect himself. Seriously, I can see him as an actor. I wrote him a small role in my next film,” Herzi told L’Équipe, in a magnificent, sprawling interview. “He’s a pretty character who’s getting married. For now, he doesn’t want to do it. He’s still thinking. 

“A casting director also told me that Nacer has a cinema physique,” she continued. “An agent would like to take care of him because he finds him dark, with charisma … It must be said that Nacer catches the eye. It’s not easy for everyone. I tell him that all the time.”

Bouhanni says he still has an athlete’s mindset, training with half an eye on the numbers and keeping fit while helping look after the child he has with Herzi, but that he knew the time was right to call time on his career at the end of 2023.

“After the accident in Izmir [at the Tour of Turkey, where he fractured his back], I was no longer the same on a bike. The fear! Like I had never felt before. I saw dangers everywhere. A sprinter who is always on the brakes is finished! In 2023, I fell three more times in the race by trying to be too careful. I felt a permanent tension which made me lose the essence of the sprint. I no longer understood anything. Before, I rushed into a small space at 75 km/h without shaking.”

Nacer Bouhanni during the final year of his career.

Bouhanni spent 10 hours in a hospital corridor in Turkey before he was seen, and says he intends to sue the Tour of Turkey race organisers for a premature end to his racing career.

“I still go to the physiotherapist every week and have to undergo a new MRI scan because my neck has still not fully recovered,” Bouhanni explained. “I have therefore started a legal battle against the organizers of the Tour of Turkey. This incident forced me to end my career at just 33 years old. I could have raced for at least another three years.”

Strikingly, Herzi gives quite a dour appraisal of her glimpse inside the world of cycling.

“The rare times I went to races, I found the runners gloomy, withdrawn. Most looked depressed. With their very thin bodies which radiate a lot of sadness,” she said. “I felt them on edge, always on the verge of crying. Among these men who look like big, unhappy children, Nacer was the brightest.”

“This is the first time I’ve heard you say something like that,” Bouhanni replies. 

“You yourself told me about the hellish tension you were under,” Herzi responds. “That your teammates were starving themselves to stay on the team.”

Well, glad to hear Bouhanni is well and for sure we will be keeping tabs on his potential acting career.

Feed Zone ?

?? Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step) sealed the overall at the Volta ao Algarve thanks to a dominant time trial victory on the penultimate stage 4. On the final stage 5 he lost a second sprint to Bora-Hansgrohe’s Dani Martínez, saying he couldn’t shift out of the big ring for the final 20 km, and this also cost him in the sprint. In the time trial, he employed a 62-tooth chainring, an idea he admits to Het Laatste Nieuws he stole from his friend and fellow pro Victor Campenaerts.

? That final stage was animated by Wout van Aert, who attacked as he tried to steal the GC, and at one point was virtually in the race lead, but it came to nothing and the Belgian finished seventh overall. “It’s been a good week,” Van Aert said at the finish. “I also won a stage, that’s nice. In addition, I was able to show myself in two difficult stages. The terrain was a bit too tough for me to win, but it was beautiful. Today was also a typical battle and that was always included as a training incentive. This also makes me better.”

? A miserable weekend for Uno-X Mobility’s Tobias Halland Johannessen, who followed up getting pipped in the Classic Var by Groupama-FDJ’s Lenny Martinez with a fall in the final stage of the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var on Sunday.

?? At the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var, Ethan Vernon took a first sprint victory for his new Israel-Premier Tech team, before Benoît Cosnefroy (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) won the final second stage and the overall.

? In Saturday’s Exact Cross, Michael Vanthourenhout won ahead of Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal teammate Eli Iserbyt, while Lars van der Haar outsprinted Toon Aerts in the latter’s first race back following his doping suspension. The next day in the final roundof the X20 Bathrooms Trophy series, Iserbyt won after needing to shout to Vanthourenhout not to pull a group back to him, allowing Iserbyt to seal the 50th victory of his career. Baloise-Trek Lions’ Lars van der Haar finished ninth and sealed the overall classification victory for the competition. In the women’s events, Van der Haar’s teammate, Lucinda Brand, came away with back-to-back victories in the Exact Cross and X20.

? Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck) will start her road campaign earlier than expected following her cyclocross season, as she is scheduled to line up at this weekend’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

? Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek) closed out the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana as she started it – with a stage win. Marlen Reusser (SD Worx-Protime) took the overall victory.

?? Soudal-Quick Step’s development team won the opening team time trial of the Tour du Rwanda.

?? Ben Healy of EF Education-EasyPost, who finished fourth overall at the Volta ao Algarve, told CyclingNews the Ardennes Classics are his main goal this season, while he is also targeting a debut Tour de France appearance.

? Six-time Olympic champion Chris Hoy has announced he is undergoing treatment for cancer. “Last year I was diagnosed with cancer. That came as a big shock, because at that time I had no symptoms yet,” Hoy said via social media. “Fortunately the chemo treatment is going well. I will continue to work, cycle and live my life as I always have.”

?? Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quick Step) won the opening stage of the UAE Tour ahead of Tudor Pro Cycling’s Arvid De Kleijn and the Mark Cavendish of Asian races, Jakub Mareczko (Corratec-Vini Fantini), which also featured a big and nasty finishing straight crash.

?‍⚖️ The UCI has decided Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Dstny) will only get 20 points for his time trial victory at the Ruta del Sol and not the full 220 for also winning the GC of the curtailed five-day stage race. A big thumbs down from us. Justice for Gils. [Ed: more like Minimum Van Gils … I’ll show myself out …]

Cycling on TV ?

Tuesday February 20th

UAE Tour, Stage 2 (ITT)
(05:30-08:00 ET/10:30-13:00 GMT/21:30-00:00 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ??Max, ??FloBikes

Wednesday February 21st

UAE Tour, Stage 3
(05:30-08:00 ET/10:30-13:00 GMT/21:30-00:00 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ??Max, ??FloBikes

Thursday February 22nd

UAE Tour, Stage 4
(05:30-08:00 ET/10:30-13:00 GMT/21:30-00:00 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ??Max, ??FloBikes

O Gran Camiño, Stage 1
(09:30-11:30 ET/14:30-16:30 GMT/01:30-03:30 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ??FloBikes

Friday February 23rd

UAE Tour, Stage 5
(05:30-08:00 ET/10:30-13:00 GMT/21:30-00:00 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ??Max, ??FloBikes

O Gran Camiño, Stage 2
(09:30-11:30 ET/14:30-16:30 GMT/01:30-03:30 AEST) ??Eurosport/Discovery+, ??FloBikes

There’s less respect in the peloton nowadays quote of the week ?

Welcome to the old man yells at cloud club … Geraint Thomas!

The well-worn road and true mark of getting old (in racing terms) is publicly decrying the lack of respect in the current peloton compared to the ‘back in my day’ halcyonic era of racing.

Speaking to Red Bull’s Just Ride podcast, Thomas said, speaking specifically of the Tour de France:

“It used to be more chill, but these days it’s basically full-on from kilometre zero from the start until the end. It’s as if it’s junior or under-23 racing. There’s less respect, everyone just goes where they want, chopping each other up a bit whereas before you’d fight for position but it’d be a bit more calm.

“Now it’s just bonkers and that respect, that hierarchy in the peloton, it kind of was a good thing, in a certain way. But now it’s just every man for himself, dog eat dog, and you’ve got to join them really.”

And finally … yay team friendship of the week ?

Following a huge pile-up on the finishing straight of the UAE Tour’s stage 1, Astana Qazaqstan’s Michele Gazzoli helped his teammate Harold Tejada who had been caught up in the crash.


Corrections corner ?

We got our Volta ao Algarve stages mixed up on Friday, accidentally erasing Gerben Thijssen’s stage 1 victory from the record, while we also omitted the weekend’s cyclocross coverage from the TV guide (but if you’re still watching cyclocross in February, we imagine you were already locked in to exactly what was going on and where to watch it).

? Send us yer laundry pics

“I’m back in Spain again, enjoying the warm sunshine in Valencia as a break from our Seattle winter (think London, but with more gravel),” writes Richard Siegel, attaching today’s featured laundromat.

“Here’s a nice lavandería, La Jabonosa, in the north part of town, with fully automatic machines that work great. I’m becoming a connoisseur of laundromats here and this one gets five stars.”

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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