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Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:
British telecommunications titan Sky will end its sponsorship of the Team Sky WorldTour program at the end of 2019. The news is shocking, but history tells us even the most successful programs are not immune to cycling’s financial model. Also, in a blockbuster deal, McLaren Group took a 50-percent stake in Bahrain-Merida. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.
Story of the Day: Sky pullout highlights cycling’s financial woes
It’s a dark time to be a top-tier cycling team. The financial sponsorship model professional cycling has been run under since its beginnings has a stranglehold on the sport and is trying to choke it out.
Sky’s termination of its sponsorship of the Dave Brailsford led WorldTour program is actually not that shocking. History shows that indeed companies have a way of leaving cycling while on top, and Sky’s nine-year run is well above average. A few that come to mind are the United States Postal Service (USPS) and Team Highroad with sponsors HTC and Columbia, which ran under a few names from 2008 to 2011. Yes, Team Highroad used the infrastructure of Team Mobile, but the squad was essentially rebirthed.
Both teams were left seeking sponsors after years atop the sport. USPS won six Tours de France with Lance Armstrong and Highroad had a few 70-plus win seasons. Another example is Quick-Step Floors. The Belgian squad was on the brink of collapse before Belgian PVC produce Deceuninck stepped in to be a co-title sponsor.
The changing sponsorship landscape is further highlighted by EF-Drapac’s move to race gravel and long-distance mountain bike events. A WorldTour rider riding Dirty Kanza mid-season was unimaginable a few years ago. But with Rapha on board as a new sponsor and the Britsh apparel brand making a push into the media space, riding non-road race events makes sense for the Slipstream program. It’s a way to bring on another sponsor and keep the team funded.
Team Sky’s sponsorship woes are just another example in the list of many how the sponsorship model in pro cycling is less than ideal.
The Peter Sagan Show, plus a dive into tire treads
Is Peter Sagan switching to mountain biking? Where does he rank among the all-time greats? Caley, Neal, and James discuss a recent interview where the three-time world champ suggested he’ll leave road racing in a few years.
In Nerd Alert, Donn Kellogg of Donnelly Sports joins the trio to talk tires and things of that nature.
McLaren takes 50-percent stake in Bahrain-Merida
Formula 1 motorsport juggernaut McLaren is jumping full bore into professional cycling after dabbling with the sport for years. It took what is being a dubbed “a 50-percent joint venture partner” with Bahrain-Merida. It appears to be a technical sponsorship with McLaren’s Applied Technologies arm working closely with the team.
McLaren is no stranger to cycling. It collaborated with Specialized in 2011 to create the S-Works McLaren Venge. The bike was ridden by Mark Cavendish at the Tour and during his winning ride at the world road championships. Cavendish had been linked to Bahrain-Merida a few months ago, but ultimately signed an extension with Dimension Data.
Vuelta goes Dutch in 2020, Utrecht to host Grand Départ
Utrecht, which hosted the start of the 2015 Tour de France, will see off the 2020 La Vuelta a Espana.
The race will start with a team time trial around Utrecht. The second stage will start in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and finish back in Utrecht. The third stage will cover the Province of Noord-Brabant and start and finish in Breda.
Tech: Just In
In this section we highlight the latest gear, tools, books, etc that our tech editors have just received for testing.
The TyreKey is a 21g plastic lever that’s designed to make installing tight road tyres a cinch. It works by pulling the bead into the rim from the outside, providing leverage and little risk of pinching the tube. It’s made in the UK and also works like a regular tyre lever for removal. We need a little more time with it to decide whether it’s any better than a tyre lever.
Scicon Elan saddle
One of the latest entries into the snub-nosed saddle market comes from a most unlikely source: Scicon, who, up until now, primarily offered a wide range of bicycle cases, saddle packs, luggage, and travel accessories.
Just arriving at CyclingTips’ Colorado office is the new Elan, whose short 248mm total length, 148mm width, flat and broad left-to-right profile, and subtly curved front-to-rear profile are well in keeping with the genre created by the Specialized Power. The padding feels more generous, though, and there’s a gripper section up around the nose, too.
Actual weight is just 203g with carbon rails, and retail price is US$229 / AU$299 / £180 / €199. Learn more at www.sciconbags.com.
What we’re reading
We’ll be reading this one over the holidays. “To Make Riders Faster” is the inside story of Cervelo that recounts how Phil White and Gerard Vroomen formed the company, the struggles along the way and what made it become a leading innovating brand.
Industry Nine adds Micro Spline freehubs for new Shimano XTR
Shimano originally stated that its new Micro Spline freehub body pattern would only be available on Shimano or DT Swiss hubs and wheels, but that position seems to have relaxed in the seven months since the groupset was announced. White Industries had already announced compatible hubs a couple of months ago, and Industry Nine now has Micro Spline hubs and complete wheelsets available for sale, along with freehub bodies that can be retrofitted on to existing Industry Nine hubs. Learn more at www.industrynine.net.
Major upgrade to Princeton CarbonWorks’ Wake 6560 wheels
Remember those wacky Princeton CarbonWorks Wake 6560 aero road wheels that we reviewed a few months ago? Back then, we lauded the rim shape for its obvious speed and stability but lamented the bargain-basement hub and highly ambitious price. Princeton CarbonWorks seems to have heard our call, though, as the Wake 6560 now not only comes stock with superb White Industries hubs as standard equipment across the board, but the price has dropped significantly as well, from US$2,800 down to a far more competitive US$2,200.
Actual weight for a set of Wake 6560 disc-brake wheels is 1,638g (750g front, 888g rear), pre-taped for use with tubeless tires. Learn more at www.princetoncarbon.com.
Happy Birthday too …
Aussies Annette Edmondson and Brenton Jones. Both turn 27 today.
In case you missed it …
Tech: Our production editor Iain Treloar shares his “Ten Products I loved in 2018.”