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Today in WTF: Gaviria Out, Landis In? Quick-Fix Sagan and Another Jersey

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Four stories with no relation to each other in one delicious blog post.

Gaviria in Pink Tim de Waele, Getty

The only harder thing for me to manage than writing one blog post in response to breaking news is writing four, so let’s try to work efficiently here...

Gaviria Transfers to UAE

Fernando Gavira, the Colombian sprinter and classics star-in-the-making, has had his contract renounced by a suddenly cash-strapped Quick Step team, allowing him to move to UAE. The 24-year-old has helped Quick Step to some of its 69 victories this season (and counting), but he mostly wins in bunch finishes, and Quick Step have plenty of coverage there. Elia Viviani won stages of the Vuelta and Giro, yielding only Tour de France duties to Gaviria (where Gav notched two wins before crashing out). They also have Alvaro Hodeg and Fabio Jakobsen around to develop into future big-time winners, which they sort of are already. So when Quick Step failed to solve its sponsorship issues adequately, it sounds like they decided some salary trimming was in order, and Gaviria was a nice combination of expensive and expendable.

Moving to UAE seems like an OK option in a pinch (assuming this wasn’t secretly in the works all along). It’s an Italian-ish squad, which makes a good fit for a rider whose likeliest major win is Milano-Sanremo. They do already have Alexander Kristoff, but two heads are better than one, at least when one head can’t be counted on to accomplish anything. I like Kristoff, but he runs hot and cold, and might prefer to share the leadership so he can focus more on a narrower set of goals, like winning Flanders again. They overlap some, but not enough for me to worry about conflict. Whether UAE are any good at sprinter management is a more interesting question, but it’s not rocket science and Gaviria isn’t the type to need a big leadout train all the time.

Another question is whether Gaviria ever develops into a cobbled classics star. It’s not looking great, since he hasn’t won one yet and that was with the winningest classics team imaginable. But it’s worth remembering that he missed this spring’s festivities when he broke his hand in Tirreno-Adriatico. He’s been top ten in Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem, the former at age 21 and the latter twice. So are we really growing bearish on his chances? UAE don’t seem like the ideal setup for Flanders, but Kristoff is royalty in that crowd, so again, in a pinch Gaviria could do worse.

New Classics Series Coming

One of the goodies to drop from the World Championships and its meeting of the damned UCI is that there will be some sort of Classics series in 2020. It will look a lot like past world cup season-long competitions (yay! a new jersey!) which any ‘Cross fan is already well acquainted with. Apparently the UCI will bump the ratings of as many as six existing races to make it a 25-event competition (there were 19 WT one-day races this year), which is good news for ... well, I’m not sure. I guess you’d have to ask organizers of events like the Giro dell’Emilia and the Kampioenschaap Vlaanderen whether they are interested in World Tour status.

Anyway, the idea is something like this:

  1. Bump six races up to WT
  2. Give out a fancy (re. ugly) jersey
  3. ...
  4. Profit!

Yes, this is principally about creating more interest, and therefore more TV coverage, and therefore more dollars. There is no real reason not to do it, jerseys cost a couple hundred bucks to make a dozen of. But as a huge classics snob I am generally in favor of declaring their awesomeness in any form. So sure, give it a shot UCI.

Floyd, Floyd, Not Null or Void

Yesterday we got word that old friend Floyd Landis, who for a couple days was a Tour de France champion, was set to become a sponsor in cycling. Quicker than you can say “this sounds like a uniformly terrible idea,” the nattering nabobs of cycling Twitter took to the airwaves to condemn or joke about it all. But there’s more to the story than an ex-doper who can’t stay away from cycling.

First, before you can complain about the “message it sends,” you had better specify which message you are talking about. Landis plans to plow the $775k he has netted from his whistleblower lawsuit settlement with Lance Armstrong into the team, along with money he seems to be making as a marijuana producer. The former sounds like a redemption story, taking his somewhat ill-gotten gains from another guy’s cache of seriously ill-gotten gains and doing what the sport needs most, sponsoring a team. Well, and whistleblowing. Whistleblowing sponsors might really be what the sport needs most.

Anyway, I should pause here and declare that I still have a soft spot for Landis. Yes, all dopers suck, but take away the doping and Landis... I mean, I really wish I could have seen what he was truly capable of. The solo attack, the degenerative hip... there was surely some real badass in there. But he doped, so it all kind of sucks.

Now Landis is the founder and owner of Floyd’s of Leadville, purveyors of pot products. Ha ha more dope! whatever. Marijuana and cycling don’t have much of a connection... except Landis’ company is actually making hydration fuel products for exercise and post-ride recovery with CBD, the non-loopy-making cannibis byproduct that is gaining steam as a safe and effective anti-inflammatory substance. It’s not WADA-approved, so I don’t know whether Landis will be leveraging his sponsorship with some product sales, but if it ever gets approved it’s a fit for someone’s jersey.

That someone, by the way, is apparently the Silber squad, a Canadian team, which will use the cash to apply for continental team status next year. I’m sure opinion won’t be unanimous but I’m supporting this.

Sagan’s Wrenching Tips: Don’t Do This At Home

Finally, yesterday came word that Peter Sagan’s new book includes an episode where he did something very... very... um, Sagan en route to his victory in Paris-Roubaix this spring. After one cobbles sector he noticed that his stem bolt had loosened and his bars were off-kilter, but with no team car handy Sagan calculated that stopping would cost him a shot at victory. What to do? Start bashing your front wheel into the rear wheel of your nearest rival, in this case Jelle Wallays, over and over until the bars return to their place. Apparently the strategy worked in terms of being able to wrench his bars back into something approximating a straight line. Wallays remains somewhat unamused. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

[Wham!]

JW: Dude, WTF?

PS: Did I do that? Sorry.

...

[Wham!]

JW: I said cut it out!

PS: My bad.

...

[Wham!]

JW: Seriously stop it!

PS: Stop what?

JW: Hitting my wheel!

PS: Did I do that? Oh man, apologies. Won’t happen again.

...

[Wham!]

PS: Me again. Sorry. I suck.

etc. I mean, who does this? Answer: maybe lots of people. Maybe there are bizarre anecdotes unfolding all the time. Seems like the price of having a couple hundred competitive people hang around with each other for seven hours. But this one is just soooo Sagan.