Spin Cycle: You Ciant do that

Jumbo-Visma are back at it again.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 11.12.2023 Photography by
George Birnbaum, Cor Vos
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Welcome back to Spin Cycle, Escape Collective’s news digest.

We’ve come to the conclusion that Jumbo-Visma must have started 2023 with a whole bunch of New Year’s resolutions and a gritty determination to see the list through to the bitter end – no matter the cost.

How else to explain Vuelta-gate, merger-gate and now Cian-gate? These are events that would likely define a team’s entire history, not merely a single season.

We’re just worried what else they have planned but haven’t yet unveiled. Bringing on Lance Armstrong as backroom staff? Changing their standard kit to just being a mish-mash of all three Grand Tour leader’s jerseys? Giving up on cycling altogether and launching some sort of AI-based start-up? We’re both excited and fearful for what Richard Plugge and the fellas have planned next.

You Ciant do that

Not content to let a year in which they’ve almost single-handedly kept the two-wheeled news cycle humming along nicely, Jumbo-Visma’s attempted and potentially thwarted signing of Cian Uijtdebroeks is the cream on top of the Pannenkoeken.

To catch you up to speed, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Belgian promise Cian Uijtdebroeks has been voicing his discontent for a number of months now, with one potential documented flash point being his having to share team leadership with Aleksandr Vlasov at the summer’s Vuelta a España.

With his current contract expiring at the end of 2024, the 20-year-old had said in recent weeks his future was currently uncertain. A string of top-10 overall finishes at the Tour de Romandie, Tour de Suisse, and Vuelta in his second pro season hint at the beginnings of him being able to deliver on his promised potential.

What we didn’t expect that to mean was a press release dropping into email inboxes on Saturday announcing Jumbo-Visma had signed him to a four-year deal, with a follow-up email arriving 90 minutes later from Bora-Hansgrohe stating that, no, Uijtdebroeks was still their rider. Meanwhile, Uijtdebroeks released his own statement via his super agent Alex Carera stating he had terminated his contract with Bora-Hansgrohe on December 1, then going on to sign with Jumbo-Visma later that week, with legal proceedings now initiated by Uijtdebroeks against Bora-Hansgrohe.

Other team managers have, maybe understandably, had enough of Jumbo-Visma boss Richard Plugge, as he continues to tear up any and all rule books to try and bend the sport to his will. But the more objective complaint is the conflict of his trade team position and his presidency of the AIGCP where he is supposed to be a voice for teams, plural, which is pretty hard to do when you’re playing silly games/doing business (however you choose to view it).

Since the conflicting press releases, Cian Uijtdebroeks has been out training in blank kit (helpfully photographed by Chris Froome) and Bora-Hansgrohe are demanding €1 million from Jumbo-Visma if they want to sign their rider, Wielerflits reports, equivalent to almost 10 years of Uijtdebroeks’ current salary.

Uijtdebroeks was one of the hottest properties in the sport as a U23 racer, so take Wielerflits’ salary claim with a grain of salt. But if he is currently earning only in the neighbourhood of €100,000 a year, that would explain his keenness to ink a new contract, and who can blame him. There are only so many years in a professional sporting career for one to make their money.

It’s more the roughshod manner of Jumbo-Visma that has prompted further handwringing, coming off the back of a season in which the team has rarely been far from controversy, whether that be doping positives, aborted Grand Tour GC leader coups from within the squad itself, or failed takeover deals of other WorldTour outfits.

People may point to Plugge’s tenacity to get what he wants and say that’s ‘just business’, but if we decide to stop respecting contracts we’ll all be living back in caves before you can actually say Cian Uijtdebroeks (a pronunciation we’re still struggling with, to be honest). As the Inner Ring has pointed out, the UCI has to authorise these sorts of transfers before they can be announced, which is impossible seeing as Bora-Hansgrohe hadn’t agreed to it.

If Plugge stumps up the million Bora-Hansgrohe supposedly want, it will show his funding scare a couple of months ago has done little to curtail his desire to get the cheque book out to add to Jumbo-Visma’s already star-studded ensemble.

A couple of questions, however: Surely Jumbo-Visma thought they had signed Uijtdebroeks when they announced the news? It can’t have been a PR move designed to bring the situation to a head? Making the tug of war public doesn’t exactly force Bora-Hansgrohe’s hand. It also can’t be beneficial to Uijtdebroeks, unless he is so desperate to leave he will do anything at this point. The confusion is also a sharp departure from the apparently smooth process barely two months ago on Primož Roglič’s transfer from Jumbo to Bora.

If Jumbo-Visma end up paying Bora-Hansgrohe the money they desire, then it’ll be water under the bridge of yet another bizarre Jumbo-Visma PR episode. There have been so many recently that even the Fred Wright/Roglič debacle at the 2022 Vuelta seems a distant memory.

But should Uijtdebroeks manage to extract himself from the final year of his existing contract via legal wrangling (and assuming Bora-Hansgrohe have not violated any of the terms allowing for early termination) then what does that say for any other pro contract?

No business like snow business

Let’s cool off from the Jumbo-Visma melodrama with an update on Omar di Felice’s attempt to become the first person to traverse Antarctica by bike.

With high winds preventing plane landings, his arrival on the continent was delayed, before he finally set off riding on November 21. Progress was understandably slow to begin with as he acclimatised to his new normal, making his way uphill from sea level and also contending with leaking fuel tanks (for cooking), needing to have two new ones flown in by plane and dropped in the middle of nowhere, Di Felice simply sent the coordinates of where he could find them.

“Imagine finding a small invisible point in the immensity of the white desert,” he wrote in one of his Instagram updates. “It was not easy and I spent several hours with compass and GPS as well as stretching by a few kilometres, but luckily I saved the residual fuel and the food from contamination.”

Some days, his progress is as slow as managing only seven kilometres a day, which speaks to the sheer scale of the task he has at hand, with the total distance to his destination of the South Pole being 1,600 km.

“If I look at the ‘misery’ of the kilometres cycled today, just a little bit more than 7 km, I would get depressed, dig a hole in the snow and get into it together with my bicycle,” Di Felice wrote. “But if I think of today’s conditions, of the wind that woke me up by tearing the tent pegs and the tenacity with which I said to myself, ‘Omar today come out of this damn tent, even if only for a kilometre,’ then I can be satisfied.”

“Antarctica seems to be a wall,” he continues on December 4, 14 days into his journey with 128 km conquered.

“In front of the total white, given by the snow, by the very low clouds of these days and by the infinite horizon, it makes you lose all space-time coordinates. Visibility is reduced to a few tens of centimetres. And the katabatic winds, which these days don’t give me respite, blow so hard as to make any attempt to move forward almost in vain.

“For this reason, today’s 10.5 km ride doesn’t completely tell the great effort and sacrifice it cost me. Exploring Antarctica means entering an almost extra-terrestrial dimension.”

Yesterday, December 10 was day 20. 12 km covered over six and a half hours to bring his total distance up to 171 km. The task at hand seems unimaginably gruelling.

Given the complexity and difficulty of such an undertaking, traversing Antarctica is unlikely to become the new Everesting. But it would appear Norwegian pro Andreas Leknessund has the right constitution for the challenge, as he gets to training in -24° C/ -11° F temperatures at home during this off-season. We’ll be staying inside, thank you very much.

Feed Zone ?

? Amy Pieters can walk independently again and ride a bicycle, her parents told RIDE Magazine, but she is still unable to speak and has problems with her short-term memory.

? The UCI has suspended Lotto Dstny sports director Carl Roes for six months for when he hit a signalman during an argument at the GP Rik van Looy.

?? Individual Russian and Belarusian athletes, such as Aleksandr Vlasov, will be allowed to compete at the 2024 Olympics under a neutral flag, the International Olympic Committee has confirmed. However, ahletes who have actively supported the war or served in the army or national security services, will be barred, and Russia and Belarus are not eligible to compete in team sports.

?‍♀️ Cofidis will be wearing Mobel kit, replacing Van Rysel, in 2024.

?? UAE Team Emirates have revealed their new strip. It’s more white than before.

? Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué has told Mundo Deportivo he couldn’t sit by and do nothing as it looked like Nairo Quintana would once again be without a team for 2024. “He has made mistakes, that is indisputable,” Unzué said of the Colombian’s Tramadol positive.  “I think Nairo’s arrival will be good for Enric because it will free him from some of his problems, such as the pressure he has been under this year.”

?? Despite underplaying his form heading into Saturday’s Exact Cross Essen, Wout van Aert emerged victorious from his first cyclocross race of the winter, finishing a minute and a half ahead of Jens Adams. Belgian Marion Norbert Riberolle won the women’s race. Kit Nicholson’s gallery of the weekend’s cyclocross action can be found here.

? Mathieu van der Poel will begin his cyclocross season earlier than expected, at Saturday’s X20 Trophy of Herentals, where he will line up against Tom Pidcock.

☃️ Manon Bakker beat Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado at the Val di Sole round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup, while Joris Nieuwenhuis bested Victor Vandeputte in the men’s race.

? Remco Evenepoel confirmed his 2024 will involve Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Tour de France, Olympic Games and World Championships. Speaking at the Belgian Sports Gala, he said he’s aiming for a top 5 GC finish at the Tour and two medals from Paris, and a third Liège victory.

?? Clara Honsinger (Team S&M) is the new American cyclocross national champion, while Eric Brunner won the men’s title.

?? Milan Vader will lead Visma-Lease a Bike at the Tour Down Under, the team’s young rider Loe van Belle told the Clubhuis Team Lucas podcast, with Vader aiming to follow up his Tour of Guangxi win with a second, consecutive WorldTour GC victory.

?? Mark Padun has left EF Education-EasyPost with a year still remaining on his contract and has signed for Corratec – Selle Italia.

Cycling on TV ?

Tuesday December 12th – Friday December 15th

No live racing

? Utterly pointless embargo of the week

We understand the use of press embargoes generally, but when your highest-profile rider has blasted the kit all over social media, the stable door is being closed only after the horse has already bolted.

That didn’t stop the Ineos Grenadiers sending out an embargoed release of their new kit, however. Presumably it’s best to just carry on as if nothing happened rather than face reality. We’d do the same. And to not be total scumbags releasing an embargoed press release even though the information is already public, we have covered up the info and official livery.

Also, because we often find ourselves dunking on Ineos, we’re going to enforce a new rule whereby we have to say something nice about them every time we’re a bit mean. Here goes: the new kit is probably better than the old kit.

Ineos Grenadiers' emargoed press release announcing their new kit design.

And finally …

One thing we didn’t have down on our 2023 cycling news bingo cards was: reporting more than once on Jake Paul’s apparent transition into becoming a road cyclist.

We’ve already reported on (one of) the worst people on the internet’s day out riding in full Jumbo-Visma garb, but now it appears he’s gone one step further and is now not only on Strava but also using Zwift.

With a claim that a now flagged-and-deleted ride up Alpe du Zwift knocked minutes off most of the other fastest times, this could be huge news for Jumbo-Visma, who could probably sign Paul for a fraction of what they may shell out for Uijtdebroeks.

We requested to follow him on Strava to try and get to the bottom of this. Oddly, he followed Thibaut Pinot at the time, but when we checked again after being allowed inside, he’d unfollowed the Frenchman and replaced him with only four people: Brandon McNulty, Mathieu van der Poel, Tom Pidcock, and a civilian named Frank Clifton. Another reason it’s almost certainly not Jake Paul is that as despite calling it a new account there are rides posted that date back to 2021.

Our guess of the account’s true identity would be one of those German cycling memers … a shadow-y yet thoroughly pleasant group we will hopefully get around to investigating at some point next year, but we’re still not going to sending any DMs to ‘Mr Paul’ just to be on the safe side.

? Corrections corner

“Guillaume Martin was not given an award for Socrates on a bike, but its follow-up, La Société du peloton: Philosophie de l’individu dans le groupe,” writes in Cycling Weekly journalist and reader of books Adam Becket.

? Send us yer laundry pics

“Counted six just on the last street of my recovery ride,” writes George Birnbaum, attaching today’s laundromat photo taken in New Jersey. “This beaut looked fitting. A VIP no less.”

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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