It’s been a while, readers. I apologize, I’ve been busy. Just more of the usual, really: Line up at some big races, spend too many hours on aeroplanes, wear through another set of training tyres. Let’s run through some of the highlights, and lowlights, of the last few months.
As November rolls around and brings the curtain down on a fairly dramatic 2017 season, the peloton breathes a collective sigh of relief. The last months have been testing. Those not suffering from a severe case of Novemberitis are on the comeback trail from injury or fighting keep their head above water and stay one more year in the WorldTour.
It’s getting tougher than ever to stay at the top. For those of us up for a contract, it has been a rough one. With most teams cutting out 3-4 riders from their roster, thanks to smaller team sizes in most races, spots are at a premium. In the new age of data and Vo2 testing there isn’t much room for the selfless domestique who knows his way around a bike race, rides solely for the team but doesn’t push 6/wkg for an hour. This feels like an ongoing trend and makes you wonder who’s going to be getting bottles and taking those early turns on the front in five years.
The UCI commissaries had their time in the spotlight this year, didn’t they? Their inconsistency was laughable at times. I wasn’t in the Sagan ejection sprint, so I saw what you saw. It was the first of a couple decisions that made the Tour a bit of a debacle. Sagan getting his ticket home early changed the course of the race. I had a good laugh at BottleGate, when Rigo Uran and a few others got a bizarre penalty for taking a bottle in the last 20km until they realized Romain Bardet, known French Hero, had also stopped at the lemonade stand. They unashamedly reversed the decision.
We will see how the riders vs. the UCI relationship plays out now with big changes at the top. There is a hope around the peloton that new president, David Lappartient, will address a major grey area, which most of us feel is not so grey at all. There are still reports and speculation amongst the peloton of a few people jumping through completely unethical loopholes by training on cortisone without breaking any rules (Yes, somehow you don’t need a TUE out of competition for oral cortisone). What is potentially more concerning is the rumoured use of thyroid medication. It hasn’t gotten much press but there’s lots of chatter about it. It’s a hormone that is not even on the watched list, it basically speeds up thyroid function massively making your metabolism go through the roof allowing guys to drop massive amounts of weight.
These days, body weight is where guys are getting the sketchiest gains. Or losses, I guess. Guys that used to be rouleurs are dropping 10kg and taking on the lightweights. If they’re doing it with thyroid meds, it’s something that will haunt these guys for life because taking it unnecessarily (some guys do actually have genuine hypothyroidism) will give you hypothyroidism. Stop taking it and you will become very fat very quickly. There is a large problem in America with teenage girls taking it as a way to keep weight off.
Racing grand tours and training like maniacs can already slow thyroid function; it’s one of the reasons we self-destruct. If they are to ban the use of thyroid medication they will have to work out a way to decipher between those who have a genuine thyroid problem or those who have given themselves one from living in the grey area. It has echoes of the cortisone issue, in that it can be used legitimately but prevalence among us elite athletes seems awfully high.
This year brought us the new, restructured WorldTour. It’s a work in progress. As it currently stands, for those not clued into things like WorldTour points allocations, winning the Tour of Turkey currently carries as much weight as Paris-Nice. Makes tons of sense, right? No, not really. Those races are apples and oranges. Still, there’s some good in the new, globalized approach. As much as we don’t like travelling, spreading the sport is a good idea if we make pro cycling a sustainable model. There were successes, too. The Tour of Guanxi was far better than the Tour of Bejing, for example. No one left with smog-induced asthma or positive clenbuterol tests (Yet. Cross your fingers.). Given the state of a few of the boys on the last night, that hangover might have lasted a week or so, though.
Enough moaning, though. How awesome were the Worlds in Norway? The nation put on a show. But the whole thing still lost money, which isn’t a great sign for pro bike racing. With beers 12 euros each, I’m not sure how Bergen came away from the event in the red.
To wrap things up, I present the 2017 Secret Pro Awards.
Rider of the Year. This has to go to Tom Dumoulin. He’s humble, strong, hard-working, and a great champion. He’s a rider that other riders struggle to say a bad word about and who stopped to take a shit and still won a grand tour. What a boss.
Dick of the Year. Gianni Moscon. After spitting racial slurs at Kevin Reza he proceeded to allegedly come after the guys who spoke against him. Crashing someone is never a good idea. Then he held on to a car at worlds and got DQed. Not bad for a year’s work.
Moment of the Year. Stig Broeckx throwing his leg over a bike again, something that didn’t seem probable a year ago. This moment was far more important than anything else.
Race of the Year. The Giro d’Italia was a great battle all the way to the line with aggressive racing and real emotion on and off the bike, amazing fans and not to mention we rode three weeks without a drop of rain! Amazing.
Some guys are already on the road for 2018, some others take this offseason thing to the extreme. Camps are kicking off – usually starting with a meet and greet and a bit of bonding and planning in October. December camp is when things first start to get serious. That’s followed by the pissing competition that is January camp, where we really start to size each other up. You’d think the Tour team was chosen out of that one. One of my first directors told me that whoever wins training camp is fucked for the rest of the year. Since then I’ve made sure I keep a cap on things and save the death rides for February and beyond. Devoting this part of the year to mental health is probably more important than any training a man can do.
I have a few more thoughts on the coming season and on what guys actually think of some of the equipment we ride. But I’ve gone long enough for now.
Until next time.