Do you like post-Worlds cycling narratives? Because this is a year for you. Sure, the just-concluded World Championships in Wollongong may not have been as exciting as you hoped, but let’s face it — that’s on you. They were nothing short of weird and wild, at times, and produced enough stories to last into the next week. If you are one of those who has been sucked into those stories, allow me to offer you some help in sorting them out.
On a Scale from 1 to Hilarious, how likely is Remco Evenepoel to be Sold to INEOS?
How likely is this to happen?
This poll is closed
Yesterday Patrick Lefevre, sensing that the Belgian press had exhausted all of the positive angles they could conjure up regarding Remco Evenepoel’s rather incredible burst of greatness, were about to start looking for some negative stories to balance things out, lest they see their reputation suffer accusations of (gasp!) homerism. So he tossed them a bit of red meat, in the form of a nugget about how INEOS headman Dave Brailsford texted him after Evenepoel’s victory in Sunday’s World Championships road race, letting him know that Lefevre should give Brails a shout if he ever wants to sell Remco to ACMEOS Cycling Industries Ltd.
Ineos Grenadiers explores Remco Evenepoel transfer with Jim Ratcliffe wanting immediate Tour de France success— VeloNews (@velonews) September 28, 2022
Dave Brailsford sends a text to Patrick Lefevere: ‘Do you want to sell him?’https://t.co/ikBo8us65T pic.twitter.com/QHIUz0lvYM
The answer, to me, is hilarious. Let’s face it, these wealthy guys like to say outlandish things and then yell “Hahah! JK!” Whether it’s “I’ll buy your superyacht for what you paid” or “I’ll pardon you if I’m ever elected” or, if you own the Phoenix Suns, “I can demean you in any way I want,” there’s always a “Hahahah! JK!” coming next. It’s a great system that always serves them well in the court of public opinion.
So maybe this was just Brails forgetting to limit his tweet to 280 characters and the “Hahah JK!” part got cut off. On the other hand, in a system where the richest team just buys top cyclists as trophies, why wouldn’t they want Evenepoel? For INEOS, their grand tour future is pretty murky. Egan Bernal may never get all the way back to his top form, and even then, could he beat the likes of Vingegaard, Pogačar or (now) Evenepoel? Can Carlos Rodriguez or Thymen Arensman or Tom Pidcock get there? Are we really having a conversation next summer about how the road captaincy will be shared by Geraint Thomas?
So Brailsford, however “Hahah JK” this particular text might be, may very well have (better-hidden) designs on the Belgian star. The question then becomes, what’s in it for Quick Step? Money. And then... nothing.
Check out their roster for next season. Apart from Alaphilippe attempting yet another yellow jersey ambush that would keep the team relevant for a few days, is there any other way for Quick Step to move the needle? Not a chance. And if you have a rep for selling your Great BCS Hope, guess what the next one of those is going to do when you call his agent? This is an existential choice where Lefevre can take a bag, or continue living his life. I don’t know Lefevre at all, but he’s made it into his late 60s as a cycling manager who loves to win, and who is missing one great prize. If all he wanted out of his life was money, he would have chosen... (checks notes) ...pretty much any other industry. Trust me, I am old too, I know that the chance to have some super cool shit happen in your life still is way better than just getting a bag. No chance he does this.
On a Scale from One to Hilarious, How Hilarious is the Mathieu van der Poel Hotel Kerfluffle Saga?
How hilarious was all that nonsense?
This poll is closed
Good lord... By now you have seen a number of writeups of how Mathieu van der Poel was peacefully sleeping, or trying to do so, on the eve of the road race, when some teenage nitwits decided to knock on the door of his hotel room and run away, repeatedly. Van der Poel got tired of this and, to his credit, he did not throw the kids off the balcony of said hotel. You know the rest.
About the only thing new to the story is that the dad, named only as Emad, is making the media rounds complaining that his girls were terrified when an angry van der Poel chased them into their room and apparently pushed one of them to the floor (again, not to the floor of the sea, as was his right under the circumstances). Based on the indignant nonsense emanating from Emad and his wife, it appears that if anyone should be thrown into the sea, it’s probably the parents. “I’m so mad at that guy who got mad at my kids’ incredibly rude behavior while I was sitting in my room watching Friends reruns!” is not, repeat Not, a good look. Nor is “Sure, my girls probably cost him half a million Euros in prizes and endorsements for literally no reason but their own idiotic boredom, but did you see the scrape on (redacted)’s elbow?!?”
As you can see, I am not happy about this. But I am happy to tell you that I have at least resolved one possible line of thinking — the Belgian Conspiracy. An incident like this which just happens to eliminate a dangerous Dutch rival from a major race that is subsequently won by a Belgian... it’s almost too obvious. That’s one reason why it probably didn’t go down that way. The other, more important, reason is the principle of mutually assured destruction. Everyone involved in the sport of cycling, from a road captain to an apprentice mechanic, knows how important sleep is, and how tenuous it all is when you are stuck in hotels night after night.
So, nobody in the sport of cycling is going to pull shit like this. Not unless they think it won’t come back on them, but of course it will. Do you think Dutch fans don’t know how to sneak into a hotel? Of course they do. So no, I do not think the Belgian Cycling Federation put the kids up to this prank. Their shitty dad did, and he needs to stop whining to the media now before van der Poel’s lawyers track him down.
No More Scales; Will the Rainbow Jersey Give Evenepoel Wings?
Will the rainbow jersey give Evenepoel wings?
This poll is closed
CN had a story about Evenepoel’s next phase of life, and was pretty ordinary until this last paragraph:
“This is not going to be paralyzing. Not with him. On the contrary, he gets a kick out of this,” Boonen said. “He has an enormous urge to prove himself, and that jersey is going to give him wings.”
That’s former world champion and all-round nice guy Tom Boonen saying something nice about Evenepoel — which not everyone in cycling is wont to do. But is it true? The history of these “wings” is that they resemble the famous Winged Victory of Samothrace statue, in that they feel like they are made of marble. And we all know how hard it is to ride a bike with marble wings attached to your back.
For ages, we spoke of the Curse of the Rainbow Jersey, when riders like Romans Vainsteins won the jersey and then sort of disappeared, or Oscar Freire kept winning it and having down years. Mario Cipollini won a rainbow jersey — spoon-fed to him, really — and after one last elusive Giro stage he crashed himself into retirement. Alessandro Ballan won a surprise rainbow and immediately contracted a debilitating disease.
But ever since the Days of Thunder (Gods, specifically Thor Hushovd), the jersey has not really cursed anyone. Riders have done a little more or a little less than what people would have expected while in the coveted jersey, and the idea of mystical impediments pretty much went away.
That leaves attention, which the jersey draws, as it was specifically designed to do. Does attention have any downsides for Evenepoel? We are about to find out. He has lived in the spotlight for a while, a completely abnormal life for a 22-year-old, and it hasn’t stopped him from having one of the better seasons a kid that young has ever had. But the attention that is coming his way, after shattering a 44-year grand tour drought and a decade-long rainbow one, is like something else entirely. Like going from a middling nor’easter to a full force hurricane. Fortunately he’s on a team that has the opposite of a rainbow drought happening: Quick Step will, for a second time in this millennium, hold the jersey for three straight years, matching their Boonen-Bettini streak from 2006-8, and they grabbed another year in between courtesy of Michal Kwiatkowski. If anyone knows how to navigate the pitfalls of rainbow fame, particularly as a Belgian rider, it’s those guys.
I think Remco will be just fine, and his team will do their best to slow down the hype train in 2023 before taking the brakes off the following summer. But on his bad days, the jersey will definitely not feel like a set of wings. Not working ones anyway.
Could a Normal Person (Like Maybe Even Me) Just Do Awesome Stuff With a Broken Elbow?
How many people could win a world championship road race with a broken elbow?
This poll is closed
I said ONE
One last item, have you tried to imagine what it takes to win a race with a broken elbow? Women’s road race World Champion Annemiek van Vleuten isn’t crying much about her predicament — she is too busy comprehending how she won a race that she had written off beforehand. She’s also maybe wondering if it’s time to retire, as she planned to do at the end of 2023, but now is maybe rethinking. That script goes something like “I kinda just won the Giro, Tour, Vuelta and World Championships, maybe my fitness isn’t exactly on the wane?”
Van Vleuten will turn 40 next weekend, which isn’t a normal age to be doing such incredible things, but Tom Brady is busily showing the world that winning at this age is not actually very hard. Of course, he could point to the fact that he just has to stand there and throw a football against defenders who grew up terrified at the mention of his name; van Vleuten has to blast out an inhuman wattage for hours on end if she doesn’t want to lose to any of the historically talented riders around her. And in this case, she had to generate that power sitting down, where her elbow could be excused from its power-leveraging duties.
Could you blow past your rivals sitting down, trying not to use one of your arms any more than necessary? No, you could not. You are not so un-freaking-believably strong as to be able to win even after checking 15% of your peak power at the door. Even if your name is Elisa Longo Borghini or Lorena Wiebes or Marianne... wait, let’s not put anything past her. Anyway, chapeau Annemiek and heal up for a Rainbow Campaign for the Ages!