On Tuesday we had Sir Dave Brailsford flogging his marginal gain philosophy to the footballers of newly oil rich Newcastle United – now it’s Jumbo-Visma’s turn for a quirky football-cycling crossover…
With the appointment of Erik ten Hag this summer, Manchester United fans are more optimistic for the season ahead than they have been in quite a long time.
(Don’t worry, I’ll get to the cycling in a minute…)
Following last season’s abject misery, the vibes-based gameplans of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during the previous few years (though I’ll argue with anyone who slanders the baby-faced assassin), and the ultra-negative anti-football of the Jose Mourinho era, former Ajax boss Ten Hag has arrived this summer with the reputation of a tactically shrewd manager in favour of fluid, attacking football.
Much like the United team of the past nine years, Jumbo-Visma had a plethora of big names and a fearsome reputation, but until this season little to show for all that star power at the Tour de France, at least where the battle for the yellow jersey was concerned.
At the 2020 Tour, Jumbo-Visma’s defensive, Mourinho-esque tactics failed spectacularly under the weight of Tadej Pogačar’s heavy metal cycling (that’s a Jurgen Klopp reference, in case you were wondering) on the Planche des Belle Filles.
So last winter, the Dutch team went back to the drawing board – which included calling upon the current top football manager in the Netherlands, oddly enough.
“Someone who has helped me a lot is Erik ten Hag,” Jumbo’s DS, Merijn Zeeman, told NOS this week.
“Someone from a completely different sport, but I wanted to understand from him: how do you come up with tactics? What is the essence of your sport for you?
“Before you make a game plan, what's behind that? I've had the opportunity to talk to him about that a number of times.”
A working group comprised of the team’s sports directors was formed – presumably thanks to Ten Hag’s sage guidance – to explore how best to deal with the Pogačar problem.
Zeeman added: “We also asked guys who collect the data in the background to think along.
“With central questions such as: what can we do better, what are we not doing well, what are our competitors doing? We held a lot of sessions. All in the winter.
“Because with great talents such as Wout van Aert, Primož Roglič, Jonas Vingegaard and Steven Kruijswijk in your team, you can also come up with different tactics.
“Just as good football coaches have good football players at their disposal with whom they can win matches, we can also make plans because you have good riders at your disposal.
“Then we really started preparing for the Tour. We had already done quite a lot of reconnaissance. We knew the course better and better. And we also knew what Pogačar was especially good at. But at the top of the agenda was always that one question: where are his weaknesses?
“We were still looking for that. What are his pitfalls, where is his weakness, what kind of team does he have, where can we hit them? And how do you translate that into our qualities in the course?”
After all this recon, analysis, data-harvesting and excruciating use of football metaphors (oh wait, that’s me), Jumbo-Visma’s work finally bore fruit on the Col du Galibier.
On that Alpine giant, the Dutch team – in a display of fluid, attacking cycling and physical and tactical supremacy – took the race to Pogačar, as Vingegaard and Roglič consistently attacked the Slovenian, until the Dane issued the final blow on the Col du Granon.
If Ten Hag can come up with something half as thrilling and unpredictable as that at Old Trafford, United fans will be very happy indeed.
🏁 🟢@lorenawiebes wins again!
— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 28, 2022
Team DSM’s Dutch sprinter Lorena Wiebes once again proved she’s the fastest woman on the planet, outsprinting world champion Elisa Balsamo and yellow jersey Marianne Vos to take her second stage win of the Tour in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges.
Following the longest stage of the race, a rolling 175.6km, Wiebes – who took the Tour opening stage on the Champs-Elysées on Sunday – capitalised on Trek-Segafredo’s textbook lead out (which included, however, one key error, which we’ll get to in a minute), jumping with just over 200 metres to go to comfortably beat Balsamo and Vos by two bike lengths.
Until around 400 metres to go, Balsamo’s Trek team had played the relatively straightforward finale to perfection (one pesky downhill right hander with 1.5km to go did catch out Canyon-Sram’s Elise Chabbey, who hit the deck).
First the imperious Ellen van Dijk and then Elisa Longo Borghini, hoping to repay Balsamo’s expert teamwork earlier in the race, kept the pace high at the front.
What a 𝐧𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐞 for Elisa Longo Borghini - who goes the wrong way! ⚠️
— Eurosport (@eurosport) July 28, 2022
As the peloton entered the final chicane, however, Longo Borghini – presumably following the lead motorbike – took a wrong turn, switching left down the race vehicle's entrance as the route turned to the right.
While the former Italian champion’s mishap stalled the momentum in the bunch, there was no mistaking who was the fastest on the day, as Wiebes exploded out of the melee to take a dominant win.
Longo Borghini may come to rue her wrong turn in the days to come – the GC contender lost nine seconds to her main rivals and now sits 34 seconds behind Vos in fourth.
Another rider ruing an unnecessary mistake is Human Powered Health’s Barbara Malcotti, who was disqualified by the commissaires for receiving mechanical assistance from a team car that had stopped in front of the peloton (all bike and wheel changes should be made from behind the peloton and the commissaire’s car in the race convoy).
A rookie error (which has also seen the likes of Adam Blythe and Filippo Ganna disqualified for in the past) and one Malcotti can rightfully blame on her team directors.
While the commissaires were busy, so was the medical car, with the stage affected by a dramatic mass pile up that occurred with around 45km to go, which saw Movistar’s Emma Norsgaard taken to hospital with a suspected broken collarbone. Lotte Kopecky, one the favourites for the final kick, also struggled in the wake of the crash and could only manage eleventh in the end.
But there was no stopping Wiebes, who can suffer during the upcoming mountain stages with two stages wins safely in her back pocket.
When Joanna Patterson competed on the athletics track for Northern Ireland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, she could barely have imagined that the next time she would be racing at the Games would be 12 years later… and on two wheels.
In Dehli, the then-22-year-old Patterson ran for Northern Ireland in the 400m and 4x400m relay events.
Despite her promise on the track, the 2010 Commie Games would prove the pinnacle of her athletics career. Life simply got in the way – the Ballymoney native had just started a medicine degree at Glasgow. The long hours and pressure of her chosen career inevitably ate into her training, with running eventually falling by the wayside.
“I never think I properly fulfilled my potential in athletics," Patterson told BBC Northern Ireland this week.
“It's always a regret that I have. I love the track, even now a few times a year I'll go to the track and do a random session because I do miss it.
“It's happened now so I can't really change things. At my age now, to be competitive at that level, I think when you hit 30 in athletics it does get really difficult and you do see your performance declining so I don't think it's something I could get back to at that level.”
However, the urge to compete never fully left Patterson. Four years ago, she began to dabble in triathlon, before devoting her attention to cycling.
In the CTT Ladies’ National 100 Mile Championship Scottish based Jo Patterson stopped the clock with 3:36:41, shaving over five minutes from the record.https://t.co/nn3dXTMQVr
— Martin Williamson 🏴🇺🇦 (@VeloVeritas1) July 22, 2022
It didn’t take long for her to get up to speed. In 2021, and based in Scotland (where she has lived since her university days), Patterson took the CTT 100 mile and 50 mile titles, before beating double Paralympic gold medal winner Eve McCrystal to the Irish national time trial championship. Last week, she smashed the CTT 100 mile record by over five minutes, taking the title again in a time of 3.36:41.
“In cycling I look at the Olympic champions from the past, and actually if you look at the last number of Olympics the time trial champions are all in their mid-thirties," she says.
“It motivates me to know that I've still got time in cycling and I'm still on that progression curve. A lot of that does come from the regret of not fulfilling my potential in athletics.”
Patterson’s rapid progression on the bike occurred despite a horrific training crash in Spain, where she fell into a concrete ditch, suffering concussion and losing most of the vision in her left eye. Her vision remains peripheral and blurred to this day, but she says she has grown used to it.
“After that everyone was saying it would be difficult to cycle with bad vision in your left eye, but these things make you more determined.
“It doesn't really stop me. The only thing is that 3D perception can be a bit of an issue at times, but it's something I've had to deal with and I've learned my own methods of dealing with it as I ride.”
Patterson will once again line up at the start of a Commonwealth Games race next Thursday in Birmingham, when she takes part in the women’s time trial. She forms part of a promising Northern Ireland team that includes Lydia Boylan, Matthew Teggart (fresh from a strong Rás Tailteann last month), exciting prospect Darren Rafferty (who won the U23 Strade Bianche di Romagna in May), and Alice Sharpe.
Highly rated 22-year-old JB Murphy won’t be at the Games, however, after sustaining serious injuries in a crash at last week’s Grand Prix de la Ville de Pérenchies in France.
For Patterson, this year’s Games in Birmingham mean even more than Dehli 12 years ago.
“When I finished athletics I thought I was too old to start a new sport, or that I could start a new sport but I'd never get to the same level in it," she says.
“I never, ever thought it would happen. But it's amazing that it has.”
Compared to the frenetic racing that’s been an almost constant at this year’s Tour de France Femmes, today’s stage to Saint-Dié-des-Vosges has been a rather calm affair, with the peloton happy to let a break of four dangle out in front before the inevitable bunch kick.
But this is the Tour de France, after all, and even the most benign days can change in a flash.
With 45 kilometres to go, a touch of wheels close to the front resulted in a massive pile-up, with almost half of the peloton hitting the deck.
White jersey Julie de Wilde and second place Silvia Persico were caught up in the mass crash but appear to be fine, while Chantal van den Broek-Blaak has been seen sporting some bandages on her right arm after sustaining some nasty cuts.
Worst affected, however, was Movistar’s Emma Norsgaard, who looked in some pain while being treated by the race doctor. The Dane, who was expected to play a key domestique role for Annemiek van Vleuten, has since abandoned the race, the race organisers have confirmed.
We’ll keep you posted with any updates when we get them.
Italian cycling shoe manufacturer Sidi Sports has been bought by the private equity firm Italmobiliare for €66 million, reports Cycling Industry News.
According to the investment holding company, whose portfolio has a net asset value of €2 billion, the purchase of Sidi represents the latest step in the firm’s strategy to invest in innovative companies with ‘Made in Italy’ brands.
Founded in 1960 by Dino Signori, Sidi has become one of the most iconic, prestigious and legendary shoe brands in the cycling world. Their shoes have been worn to many a grand tour victory down the years, including by Tao Geoghegan Hart at the 2020 Giro d’Italia. In 2021, the company had a turnover of almost €38 million.
“I am proud of this deal which respects my history as an entrepreneur over the last sixty years or more. It will ensure that the company can grow even stronger and more competitive” Signori said in a statement.
“Italmobiliare – and Carlo Pesenti who I have come to know and respect – will be able to give continuity to the values and ideas that I have always pursued, consolidating and strengthening Sidi’s traditions and products. I thank my family and all of our employees for their efforts that have allowed us to achieve such brilliant results.”
Carlo Pesenti, Italmobiliare’s CEO added: “With this new transaction, Italmobiliare is expanding its presence in the sports and outdoor market, in a sector that features high growth and further development potential.
“The decision to invest in Sidi is based on the value of a winning brand that is much appreciated, the company’s production efficiency and its potential for future growth.
“For Italmobiliare, this new acquisition is a further step in our strategy of enhancing and strengthening successful Italian brands that are worth accompanying, also in terms of their global development.”
Home of the world's largest bicycle parking garage and the busiest cycle path in the country, the stream of cyclists rolling into Utrecht has grown over the years into a dramatic and seemingly unstoppable flood.
— Dutch Cycling Embassy (@Cycling_Embassy) July 27, 2022
Heading to Utrecht by bike in September. Looking forward to the trip. Not looking forward to how annoyed I’ll feel when I return to the UK and realise how far we have to go to understand the many benefits of this sort of culture and infrastructure
— Andrew Eccles (@AFE59) July 27, 2022
Not too shabby for a city that built a 12-lane motorway in the 1960s…
Awesome tandem thing in Brighton being cycle toured around the UK by 2 Canadians. They said “we’re off along the south coast to Liverpool and then a ferry to Ireland to fly home”. Bon voyage mes amis! pic.twitter.com/RYPWDE38oz
— James Goes Cycling & Sailing🚴🏻⛵️🇺🇦 (@JamesKPatterson) July 27, 2022
Everything packs down into two suitcases for travel although he said it’s a day to assemble and disassemble! Both rider have derailleurs and they camp and travel and have been doing so for 12 months. pic.twitter.com/geXmUSUlL6
— James Goes Cycling & Sailing🚴🏻⛵️🇺🇦 (@JamesKPatterson) July 27, 2022
— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) July 27, 2022
Spanish champion Mavi García’s horror crash during stage four of the Tour de France Femmes, which we covered on yesterday’s blog, has sparked some heated debate on Cycling Twitter.
García’s miserable day on the gravel roads of France’s champagne country – she had already been forced to chase back on after puncturing twice on the rough, rock-strewn roads – was compounded when her own UAE Team ADQ team car driver clipped her back wheel, causing her to hit the ground hard.
Fortunately, García – by some miracle – escaped with just some bad road rash and cuts, and no broken bones.
While I’m sure every cycling fan was relieved to see the 38-year-old back on her bike and seemingly okay, viewers were nevertheless divided over who was to blame for the terrifying collision:
Riders have enough going on without having to worry about cars.
Driver should’ve been aware, no excuse for being so close in the first place and not reacting. https://t.co/vlrxkeThxU
— Gareth (@ErfinderRotwang) July 27, 2022
IMO its the fault of Gracia. Her team car holds the line. She is too close at the car.
I think she was just before at the team car (window open) and thats the reason why the car was so close to the groupe. Or am I wrong? 🤷🏻♂️
— Christian Rocha (@chregirocha) July 28, 2022
Looks like a mistake by the rider!
— Jan Harboe (@Harboe77) July 27, 2022
Wasn’t caused by the DS at all, she was on the limit and clipped the front bumper whilst pulling in front of the car.
— Caron Rees Jones (@CaronReesJones) July 27, 2022
Cycling journalist Peter Flax, meanwhile, argued that the crash symbolised the inherent dangers posed by motorists and cars to cyclists, even during the biggest bike race in the world:
It's sobering to see an expert rider hit by a supposedly expert driver and then watch her cartwheel across the pavement—it's a reminder of how much danger cars pose to folks on bikes and why we want protected separation where it's feasible. pic.twitter.com/WUAxwAVPAv
— Peter Flax (@Pflax1) July 27, 2022
Others, however, including Robert Davis (chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum), pointed out the multi-layered complexity of driving a car at the Tour de France, where – frankly – actually driving the car is pretty far down the list of priorities:
The driver has to: check news from official race radio; reports from riders; be aware of where each team member is; be prepared to drive to/from riders with mechanicals/injuries while instructing mechanic on which bike/wheels to prepare; issue instructions to all and specific
— CHAIRRDRF (@CHAIRRDRF) July 27, 2022
riders; drive to/from incidents; drive to/from riders and give food/drink/advice; keep all relevant information to hand + carry out "normal" driving duties + communicate with mechanics without break for 4 - 6 hours every day, and then assess situations after race and before
— CHAIRRDRF (@CHAIRRDRF) July 27, 2022
Other DS's will be driving in a similar way so most make it without more incidents like this. But it must be super stressful.
I discussed this with @SeanYatesCoach a few years ago and he described being very happy doing it.
(BTW I forgot moto riders..)
— CHAIRRDRF (@CHAIRRDRF) July 27, 2022
Though to be fair, that’s a relatively short list of distractions compared to some of the motorists featured on road.cc…
What a crowd in Copenhagen😱 pic.twitter.com/Bqfx7J4WK7
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) July 27, 2022
All together now, Wembley- I mean, Copenhagen: ‘All we hear is, Radio Vin-Ga-Ga, Radio Vin-Ga-Ga…’
I’ll tell my kids this is Jonas Vingegaard 😸 https://t.co/vqhy0mlO3J
— Emerson Leandro (@emersonvzla) July 28, 2022
Alright, I’ll stop now… though I was having such a good time [ducks for cover]…
Nevertheless, have I ever told you about the time Freddie Mercury was inspired to write the single ‘Bicycle Race’ after watching the 1978 Tour de France pass through Montreux, where the band was recording what became the Jazz album?
Oh, I have? That’s fine then…
Everyone’s favourite 1950s throwback, the Commonwealth Games, kicks off this evening in Birmingham, as the Alexander Stadium plays host to the 12-day event’s opening ceremony.
And, as we noted on the blog yesterday, locals and visitors are being encouraged to get around the city and take in all the sporting action by bike, with both Transport for West Midlands and Brompton offering free bike hire during the course of the Games.
However, not everyone is impressed by Birmingham’s active travel provision for the Games.
Izzy Knowles, a Birmingham City Council member for the Lib Dems, tweeted earlier this week that she had flagged up “confusing signage” on the recently installed cycle lane on the Edgbaston Road.
I’ve flagged up the confusing signage in Edgbaston Rd with @LizClements The newly built cycle lane has been turned into a VIP lane for CG2022. I don’t quite see how this fits in with promoting walking and cycling, or why it’s even needed when the road is to be closed to traffic. pic.twitter.com/Rfal448qXm
— Izzy Knowles 🔶🇬🇧🇪🇺🎩 (@gardensinboots) July 25, 2022
The new segregated bike lane, which sits just outside Edgbaston Stadium, where the women’s T20 cricket will be played, appears to have been repurposed as a ‘VIP lane’ for the Games.
“I don’t quite see how this fits in with promoting walking and cycling, or why it’s even needed when the road is to be closed to traffic,” Knowles wrote.
The councillor for Moseley also told the Birmingham Mail: “I went down to have a look and you could see drivers getting confused whether they were going straight or turning left and being directed down the cycle lane.
“What I'm told is it's been turned into a temporary VIP lane for VIP visitors to the stadium, although I'm not sure why it's needed when the road is being closed to cars during the Games anyway.
“The signage doesn't really explain what road users are expected to do so I have flagged that up with the council. Of course, security does have to be considered so maybe this will become clearer by the time the Games start on Thursday.”
I've received emails, or seen adverts on a daily basis for the last 6 months to walk, cycle or get public transport to the various sporting events.
And then we use some of the *very* limited cycling infrastructure we do have for cars.
— Mark Hipwell (@markhipwell1990) July 25, 2022
Many locals were as equally baffled by the decision to temporarily “commandeer” the new bike lane for “VIP drivers”.
“I don't get it,” one Twitter user wrote. “This piece of cycle infrastructure finished just before the Commonwealth Games, isn't to be used for the Commonwealth Games? Or they've gone in a very weird way to build a VIP car lane?!
“I keep getting communications saying ‘walking or cycling will be the easiest way to get to the Games’. Doesn't look like it from these photos.”
Another said: “Birmingham takes an *extraordinarily* long time to build any decent segregated infrastructure... and then when we do *finally* get some more, it's during an international sporting competition where I've received *daily* reminders to walk or cycle, IT'S BEING USED FOR CARS!”
Others were perplexed by the road signage at the entrance to the bike/celebrity motorists lane, which simultaneously urges cyclists to dismount and share the path with pedestrians.
“If it's a shared path why would cyclists need to dismount?” one commuter asked. “Either you can cycle there – so the dismount signs and barriers can get in the bin – or you can't, so it isn't a shared path.”
"Please consider other path users" if you're not a cyclist or a pedestrian, what are you? A pigeon??
— Cat Eccles (@catecclesstour) July 25, 2022
Responding to questions about the closed cycle lane, a spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said: “Due to the need for security measures that protect the stadium, the newly-installed segregated cycle lane has had to be removed on a temporary basis.
“The street will still be open during the Commonwealth Games at Edgbaston for pedestrians and cyclists although we are asking them to be considerate when sharing the footway on the Cannon Hill side.”
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.