Spin Cycle: We hit the wall with our faces

We don't want whatever Jérôme Pineau is having for breakfast.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 11.09.2023 Photography by
Nick Montoya, Cor Vos, Eurosport/GCN, La Vuelta, nowthisnews
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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. You can sign up here.


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

Today’s edition is a particular flavour of cycling news. We make no bones about being a bit off-kilter, rough around the edges. Sure, at times, we are a podcast and a faceless producer away from being a slightly Joe Rogan ‘Hey Jamie, pull that up’-pilled media product.

But where else are we supposed to put these thoughts swirling around our tiny minds? If we post on social media about Jérôme Pineau getting the zoomies on French radio, we’re going to look as borderline-unhinged as the former Men In Glaz boss.

Equally, do our families really want us to regale them with tales of a former Iranian cyclist who tried to run in a hamster wheel across the ocean from Florida to London? If you live in the Treloar household, maybe, but otherwise, probably not.

Either way, the good news is that Rohan Dennis is planning on starting his own vineyard after retiring from cycling, which is nice.

Jerome Pineau is really out here

Whatever Jérôme Pineau (Giro d’Italia stage winner and former manager of the B&B Hotels squad) is having for breakfast, we certainly don’t want it. We also hope that whatever it is the French libel laws are written very clearly on the back of the packet.

That’s because the 43-year-old Frenchman has gone on a bit of tirade on French radio effectively accusing Jumbo-Visma of motor doping, which, it’s fair to say, is quite a bold thing to do.

Speaking on RMC, Pineau said:

“The acceleration of Sepp Kuss on the Tourmalet, two days ago, he goes 10 km/h faster than the group in front, where there are nuggets like Juan Ayuso. There is a spectator who takes a step forward, he brakes, he then goes 10 km/h faster, on the Tourmalet. How do we explain that? The Col de Spandelles, last year, Sepp Kuss, without pedaling, moves 10 seconds, I do not know how.

“The three jokers [he refers to Christophe Laporte, Primoz Roglic and Wout Van Aert winning 1-2-3 on stage 1 of Paris-Nice 2022] are going to the coast near Yvelines which is 800 m, [racing against] the international peloton. And, at Paris-Nice, there were not three months of competition. We all did training camps but they pedal four times and they take 10 meters. How do they do it?

“Some authorities need money to survive, need large teams. I’m afraid, it worries me, greatly. There is no proof, but Armstrong, we didn’t have proof either, but everyone knew. The same thing happens. We wait to hit the wall with our faces and say: ‘Ah yes, obviously’.” 

There is no doubt Jumbo-Visma’s domination has raised eyebrows this year, it did at the 2022 Tour de France, too. Our Kate Wagner recently wrote eloquently and at length about the Dutch team’s success.

But for Pineau to hang his mistrust on accusations of mechanical doping is quite extreme. Especially when the clip of Kuss he’s referring to doesn’t even look remotely dodgy? Does it not just look like an attack from somebody not on his limit? And that it was so well-timed it caught everyone else off-guard, making it look like he was going that fast.

Pineau’s comments a clearly accusatory, but he’s almost dancing around the topic. It kind of feels like if you’re going to say it, just say it!

The media has rightly not been shy to ask questions to Jumbo-Visma of their superlative performances, but it cuts both ways. These seemingly baseless accusations are quite wild and come from a notable figure within the cycling world, which is uncommon.

Before the Pineau interview was published, retired pro Dan Martin posed an interesting question of the change in reaction to Team Sky and Jumbo-Visma’s dominant periods.

“Team Sky were much less dominant and faced constant scrutiny and let’s face it, abuse. Now we have a superior Jumbo conquering all being applauded. I’m not skeptical and find the belief refreshing but what’s caused this change in attitude and lack of questioning/doubt?”

Someone then responded to Martin’s tweet asking why the Irishman wasn’t sceptical himself, seeing as cycling has rarely if ever seen dominance like this.

“I don’t think that they would do anything illegal. Do I think they have a competitive advantage somewhere? Yes. But the fan in me wants to trust.”

Of course, Jumbo-Visma’s 22-year-old Michel Hessmann is currently being investigated following a doping positive, so however painful it is for the team, any suspicion can’t be put down to dominance alone. But there is a way to to air constructive scepticism, and unless there’s something extra Pineau knows but isn’t telling us, the Frenchman’s accusations are a bit much.

? Go team friendship of the week ?

A nice moment from Remco Evenepoel’s comeback Vuelta stage win after falling out of contention in the GC battle, when his stage 14 breakaway companion Romain Bardet shares some cooling water handed out by a roadside fan.

“He did 80 percent of the work,” Bardet said at the finish after finishing second to Evenepoel, and giving explanation as to why he assisted his in-race rival. “It was really terrible in his wheel. I had pain and cramps.”

But was is it only us who shuddered when he started drinking out of the bottle handed to him by a random man? ‘No Remco, don’t drink the forbidden liquid!’

A big weekend for tangential cycling stories

First up, it has come to light that a Florida man called Reza Baluchi was arrested after trying to cross the Atlantic Ocean to London in a human-sized hamster wheel.

The 51-year-old was discovered 70 miles off the coast of Georgia, US, by the coast guard last month as they were preparing for Hurricane Franklin. It took them five days to convince Baluchi to go ashore.

Baluchi has had quite the life so far. A former Iranian national team cyclist until he defected to Germany in 1992 and then was granted political asylum in the United States in 2002. This latest voyage was the fourth time Baluchi has tried to cross an ocean in a homemade craft, with the other three times resulting in him needing to be rescued.

He has been released on a $250,000 bond with the caveat that he “may not go to the ocean or board a vessel on to the ocean.”

There’s this article from 2016 that tells more of Baluchi’s wild story, and his Wikipedia page is also worth a look if you’ve got a spare few minutes.

Meanwhile, the UK has been gripped by the ready-for-TV story of a prison escape. 21-year-old former soldier Daniel Khalife, who was previously charged with plotting a fake bomb hoax and of trying to spy for an enemy state, escaped from London’s Wandsworth prison by strapping himself to the underside of a food delivery vehicle (he worked in the kitchen while locked up), with a frenzied manhunt ensuing for the next three days that captured the imagination of the national press and the public.

“No offence but put him in some Uniqlo chinos and a Muji shirt, New Balance trainers and any cap and he could literally be any boy in London. He is gone. They will never find him,” tweeted one obviously close observer of British male fashion trends. “Well now that’s over, I guess I’ll lock my doors again,” added another, who was clearly taken with either his dashing looks or daring nature.

There were many things odd about the story, especially why a presumed “terror suspect” was being kept in a category-B, so not a high-security, prison. “But where does cycling come into this story,” you are probably by now yelling at your screen. Well, during the chase widened from Richmond Park westwards throughout the Greater London boroughs, Khalife was finally caught riding on a canal towpath and pulled off of his bike and arrested by a plainclothes police officer.

In a country where cyclists are often wrongly vilified, this is yet more bad PR that British two-wheeled advocates didn’t need.

Feed Zone ?

?? Adam Yates added the GP de Montréal to an impressive 2023 results sheet, finishing three seconds ahead of Ineos Grenadiers’ Pavel Sivakov with Movistar’s Alex Aranburu in third place.

? Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) won the Grand Prix of Fourmies this weekend.

? A nice Vuelta stat from Rouleur Editor Ed Pickering: “Great nerd possibilities for the current podium in the Vuelta. Jumbo-Visma on track to become the first-ever team to win all three Grand Tours in a single season. For the first time since 1989, the podium of the final GT might also include all three GT winners of the year.”

? Geraint Thomas had been planning post-stage 15 of the Vuelta on heading over the border to Bordeaux to watch Wales play in the Rugby World Cup. However, a slip on a loose bidon and a resulting crash and sore back meant those plans were postponed in view of recovering for Tuesday’s stage 16, Daniel Friebe reports.

?? Rohan Dennis flew out to the GP de Québec despite being injured and not able to race just to sign on so that Jumbo-Visma didn’t get fined. It will officially be the final race of his professional career. In an interview with journalist Alejandro Matiz Piña before the start, the Australian says he leaves the sport with “no regrets” and his post-retirement plans involve starting a vineyard on his property and learning how to produce wine.

⛰️ Austria’s Mona Mitterwallner beat Puck Pieterse at the Les Gets round of the XCO Mountain Bike World Cup, while Victor Koretzky pipped Nino Schurter in the men’s race.

? TDT-Unibet continue to acquire riders for next season, with former Qhubeka-Assos Dane Andreas Stokbro heading to Tietema’s squad, according to EkstraBladet, while former triathlete and fellow YouTuber Cedric Bakke Christophersen, a highly-touted 21-year-old Norwegian, has also signed, Wielerflits reports.

? Lucinda Brand (Lidl-Trek) has suffered an injury to the ligaments around her collarbone after her crash in stage 4 of the Simac Ladies Tour.

? Fernando Gaviria has similar collarbone woes, fracturing his clavicle in a fall on the Tour of Britain’s stage 6.

? The final road race of Peter Sagan’s professional career will be the Tour de Vendée on Sunday October 1.

?? An emotional Daryl Impey finished his final race as a pro at the GP de Montréal: “It hasn’t really dawned on me yet. I think it will only dawn on me today: gosh, this is really the last race of my career. I don’t know what to expect and what it will feel like.”

?? Negotiations ‘are heading in the right direction’ for the Portuguese capital Lisbon to host the 2024 Vuelta a España Gran Partida.

?? Fresh off his impressive Tour of Britain overall victory, Wout van Aert has told HLN he’s added the Coppa Bernocchi (October 2) and Gran Piemonte (October 5) to the Super 8 Classic (16/09) and European road (24/09) and time trial (20/09) championships to his calendar ahead of the UCI Gravel World Championships on October 8 in Italy’s Veneto region.

? You thought we’d gone a while without reporting a Lidl-Trek transfer? Don’t worry, Sam Oomen has been unveiled as the team’s latest purchase, heading over for 2024 from Jumbo-Visma.

?? Any bets on where George Bennett is off to next year? The 33-year-old New Zealander has bid farewell and thanked UAE Team Emirates for the past two years in an Instagram post announcing his departure from the squad.

?‍?‍?‍? 39-year-old Luis Léon Sánchez has announced his retirement: “I am most grateful to my wife Laura and my three children. They have always supported me. From now on they are my priority. They have suffered and sacrificed more than I have in recent years.”

Cycling on TV ?

Note: Vuelta a España timings are for GCN+ coverage, not Peacock, but Peacock is where American viewers who don’t own a VPN can watch the race.

Tuesday September 12th

Vuelta a España, Stage 16
GCN+/Peacock (08:15-11:45 ET/13:15-16:45 BST/22:15-01:45 AEST)

Wednesday September 13th

Vuelta a España, Stage 17 (Angliru)
GCN+/Peacock (08:30-12:00 ET/13:30-17:00 BST/22:30-02:00 AEST)

Giro della Toscana
GCN+ (07:30-11:30 ET/12:30-16:30 BST/21:30-01:30 AEST)

GP de Wallonie
GCN+ (10:30-12:30 ET/15:30-17:30 BST/00:30-02:30 AEST)

Thursday September 14th

Vuelta a España, Stage 18
GCN+/Peacock (06:30-12:00 ET/11:30-17:00 BST/20:30-02:00 AEST)

Coppa Sabatini
GCN+ (09:30-12:30 ET/14:30-17:30 BST/23:30-02:30 AEST)

Friday September 15th

Vuelta a España, Stage 19
GCN+/Peacock (08:30-12:00 ET/13:30-17:00 BST/22:30-02:00 AEST)

Tour de Romandie, Stage 1
GCN+/Peacock/FloBikes (08:05-09:35 ET/13:05-14:35 BST/22:05-23:35 AEST)

Kamp. van Vlaanderen
GCN+ (08:20-10:15 ET/13:20-15:15 BST/22:20-00:15 AEST)

? Stirring the pot quote of the week ?

“I think it’s more down to his teammates, if they will attack him or not.”

Geraint Thomas is out of the Vuelta’s GC race, but does that stop him from stirring the pot a touch? No, of course not.

“If he’ll win?” The Welshman was asked of the current race leader Sepp Kuss. “I think it’s more down to his teammates, really, if they will attack him or not. I won’t be surprised if they did, to be honest.”

There really is something to be said for mind games when you no longer have a horse in the race.

And finally …

A DNF often means skulking off back to the bus for an early shower, but the jovial Harry Tanfield stuck around to hand out bottles to his teammates before the slow-burner of a race served up a scintillating finale where Wout van Aert held off the hordes of challengers to take the overall victory.

We’ll admit our scepticism was foolish and here’s to more races with zero bonus seconds and having most of a week’s GC movements decided on count-back before a final flurry of action!

? Send us yer laundry pics ?

“Tiny laundry machines at a launderette in the Outremont neighborhood of Montreal, QC, the weekend of the GP Cycliste Montréal,” Nick Montoya writes, attaching today’s laundrette photo. “Excited to find out if Arnaud De Lie is indeed 9 lbs of sausage in an 8 lb sack.”

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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