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Notes from the New Year Desk

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Oh, do we have... things in store for you this year!

London gears up for Christmas. Photo by David Mbiyu/Corbis​ ​via Getty Images

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes...

  • With a heavy heart, I have to let you know that Jens is not continuing on in his regular editor capacity. Things change, and Jens is suddenly a lot busier now in his life... something about a cat who lures him into napping every time he sits down to write. But he will be around anyway, since it wouldn’t even be the Podium Cafe without him. Just not as an official SBNation-approved management person. Conor and I remain your go-to types for official business.
  • Oh, more bad news. Ursula is still here. I asked him how the prices were coming along for this year’s FSA Directeur Sportif. Here’s his response.
  • On a positive note, you probably saw a post from Andrew about betting. I’m a little bit fascinated with the subject of setting odds and at least pretending to make bets on cycling, largely because it seems kind of insane to even consider doing this. But I know people do, because it’s a thing that exists, and anyway we live in a world where you can bet on what Beyonce will wear to the Grammy Awards. [My pick: a stunning red and black flowing velvet dress with giant TAG-HEUER logos on the sleeves, which opened at 10,000-1.] Don’t hear what I ain’t saying... this blog isn’t allying itself with the gambling world in any way, and I can’t really recommend actually doing this any more than I would recommend other damaging activities, like consuming alcohol and... you get my point. Anyway, Andrew — former EdredonBrowny— is a bona fide expert in the subject and is an otherwise astute observer of cycling, and he plans to be writing for us this year. Very good news!
  • Are you too an astute observer of cycling? Regardless of your answer, this is a good time to remind you that we can always use more writers, more voices, more input and perspective. In fact, you can start now without even checking in with me, though if you’re interested in writing on any sort of regular basis, I’d be glad to hear from you. Every website evolves from year to year, and it’s a good thing. Be a part of our ongoing evolution!
  • Oh, and I think Conor and I are going to try our hand at podcasting. The range of outcomes from this effort are pretty wide. But if it becomes a thing, I can tell you this: it will be an open forum as much as such things can be. That’s all I can say. [Counterpoint: you haven’t said anything.]
  • Closing the books on 2016: if you won a book from me during the contest for, um, my book, I will be mailing it this week. December wasn’t a good time for a run to the post office but normalcy is slowly returning (at the post office anyway). Same goes for the FSA-DS prizes. But if you’re waiting on those, you’ve already heard/are sick of hearing from me.
  • Back out on the road, one bit of news has extra significance, coming on the heels of the closure of the Tour of Qatar — the financial difficulties of L’Etoile de Bessèges. Currently sitting on February 1-5 on the calendar, the race will go ahead in 2017, but it lost a sponsor and the organizers have expressed concern about pulling off the event in future years.

The Lexicon of 2017

Here’s a bit of terminology for the new year. Cycling is always undergoing change, and you may not have picked up on every bit of it. Hope this proves to be a handy guide.

  • Bora-Hansgrohe: That last part is a new sponsor, the Hansgrohe kitchen and bath plumbing maker from Germany. They take the place of Argon 18, a Canadian bike maker. We covered this last week.
  • Cannondale-Drapac: A mini-merger between the Pro-Conti Drapac team and our old friends from Cannondale, which is actually Garmin, which is actually Slipstream. Not to be confused with Cannondale that was actually Liquigas. Cycling lineage is messier than 19th century European aristocratic lineage. Anyway, Drapac is from an Australian investment thingy, as well as Michael Drapac, who started the team. Which/who by the way is still doing a development squad, though the pro side is now... you get the point.
  • Bahrain-Merida: Completely new world tour team, formed by assembling three years of new team rumors and wrapping it in oil dollars from the middle east. Peter Sagan somehow managed not to be involved, so instead the honors fell to Vincenzo Nibali, who woke up one morning and realized he was in Kazakhstan, and called his agent. Rumors of the team using the shortened “Bah-Meh” nickname on their jersey proved untrue. Oh, and Bahrain is sort of a floating suburb of Qatar, where they just canceled cycling.
  • Team UAE-Abu Dhabi: Here’s a developing story for the year: Italian cycling is completely fucked. I mean that in a loving way, because I’m sure they are trying hard. But this is the former Lampre franchise, also known as Italy’s last World Tour team. And when you do the math and subtract one from one, you get... no more Italian World Tour teams. [Remember, Liquigas turned into Garmin. Before that there was Androni-Gioccatoli, which relegated itself, and Mapei and Fassa Bortolo, which morphed respectively into Quick Step and Sunweb (sort of?), and before that there was Molteni I think. And those sneaky Cinzano guys.] Anyway, once Saronni gave up on being Italian, he tried to make his team Chinese, and it worked for like three months, before the key individual at TJ Sports (that’s a Chinese company) fell ill and left the project. So then they became another Arab dealio. Abu Dhabi is the Carthage to Qatar’s Rome. Apparently they host a stage race there now, which is better than canceling stage races.
  • Quick Step Floors: Going back to the team’s roots with the whole floor thing. And fewer sponsors. Retro-chic!
  • Team Sunweb: Formerly Giant-Alpecin, Giant-Shimano, Skil-Shimano, and so on. Run by the interesting Iwan Spekenbrink as a French, Dutch and German team, the latest iteration is really a brand merger between the familiar Giant squad of Degs and Doom and the Sunweb cyclocross name, only really it’s just that the sponsor left ‘Cross (K-Pow and co are now known as Napoleon Games) and switched to road, as so many of us do when we become full of ourselves.
  • Katusha-Alpecin: Next in sponsorship musical chairs, the Alpecin makers of caffeinated shampoo (I know) have dumped their German squad and bet their suds on the Russian rockets. I believe this happened because the Giant-Shimano computers all got infected with some ransomware, and this sponsor change was the deal to restore the German team’s network.
  • One last note on team names: the Belgian Telenet Fidea squad are now known as Telenet-Fidea Lions! I am unreasonably happy about this, and can’t wait for other teams to start adopting mascots, like they do in the good ol USA. And Japan, which is real proof that this is a good idea.