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Astana Continental team ‘suspended’ in wake of new positive

3 hours 55 min ago

Astana faces intense scrutiny after five different riders associated with the team have failed doping tests in 2014. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com (File).

Astana is pulling the plug on its Continental team following a third doping positive that threatens to engulf the WorldTour team as well.

Perhaps looking to distance a growing doping controversy from the WorldTour team captained by Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali, Astana general manager Alexander Vinokourov told La Gazzetta dello Sport the continental team is being “suspended indefinitely.”

“These young guys are crazy if they don’t realize doping has no place in cycling,” Vinokourov told La Gazzetta during a team camp in Italy. “I want this to be a ‘warning shot’ to our federation. The Kazakh federation needs to do more controls.”

On Thursday morning, there was no official confirmation of Vinokourov’s declaration.

According to La Gazzetta, there also appears to be some behind-the-scenes shakeups inside the Kazakh cycling federation as a result of the growing doping scandal.

A string of doping positives have put the Kazakh-backed organization under the microscope. Two cases involving the Iglinskiy brothers, who both popped for EPO, upped pressure on the WorldTour team. Maxim Iglinskiy was a member of the Tour-winning team headlined by Nibali.

Three more doping cases involving Astana’s development team, with the latest revealed Wednesday involving Artur Fedosseyev for steroids, has created new doubts over the team’s credibility.

Team officials insist they are isolated cases, and do not reflect a larger problem within the organization. Tour-winner Nibali has also staunchly defended his team’s track record, saying earlier this month after a fourth case that, “these four idiots have nothing to do with me.”

That hasn’t stopped the UCI from reviewing the team’s WorldTour license. Speaking to VeloNews‘ Matthew Beaudin last month, UCI president Brian Cookson said the cycling governing body asked its four-member License Commission to review the situation.

“It’s safe to say that everyone was very disappointed by this turn of events,” Cookson told VeloNews in October following the first cases. “But if we assume that there have been three cases [now five -Ed.], that’s something that’s obviously very, very serious, and that’s why we’ve referred it to the licensing commission, asking them to look into all the issues around that and make recommendations as to what impact these issues should have on the license of Astana.”

On Thursday, officials said the UCI would not comment, but confirmed the License Commission would reveal the 2015 WorldTour licenses no later than December 10.

Vinokourov insisted there is no connection between the continental team and the WorldTour team, and said the team has cooperated with the UCI License Commission.

“People must understand that they have nothing to do with us. The only thing they have in common is the jersey and the name,” Vinokourov told La Gazzetta. “There is no problem for the license. We have given all the information that we have been asked about.”

The Kazakh cycling federation underwrites the Astana Continental team, and included 19 riders during 2014. All of them, except two Italians, were from Kazakhstan. The squad is viewed as a feeder team for the WorldTour team, and is being used to help scout new talent.

The post Astana Continental team ‘suspended’ in wake of new positive appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Velo Gift Guide: Mountain bike

3 hours 58 min ago

Evoc Stage 12L pack

$135

The draw: Great for today’s trail riders who might need to carry a little extra.

It’s on the pricey side, but the Evoc Stage 12-liter is a fantastic bag. The elastic Velcro hip band is secure and comfortable, and while the bag isn’t huge, hidden buckles can secure a full-face or half-shell helmet. Water bottle side pockets are a nice touch for short rides, or enduro events, when you don’t want to carry a hydration bladder.

The post Velo Gift Guide: Mountain bike appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Reviewed: SRAM Rival Hydro 22

5 hours 44 min ago

Rival disc brake caliper: Almost identical to Red and Force, except for different mounting hardware and finishes. Photo: Michael Robson

Although third in line behind SRAM Red and Force, Rival mirrors virtually all the performance, design, and durability standards of its pricier siblings, it just weighs more and costs less. It’s this cost-effectiveness that makes it a great choice for a cyclocross ‘B’ bike, training bike, or even a thoroughly competent race bike.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but bike stuff is expensive. If you’re a cyclocrosser and want two identical rigs it’s doubly so. In cyclocross it is definitely advantageous to have two bikes but for most of us, the norm is to ride most races entirely on the ‘A’ bike and only resort to the second, or ‘B’ bike, in extreme conditions if exchanges are required or if there is a mechanical issue.

If you have two bikes, it is important that they are as close to identical as possible so they don’t mess up your handling, but that only really extends so far as setup, position, and how they feel. If you’re on a budget (aren’t we all?) the ‘B’ bike is a great place to save some dollars while hopefully retaining the same performance and feel as the primary ride. Enter SRAM Rival Hydro 22.

Building up a Rival test bike is remarkably similar to dressing one up all in Red. The brakes bled perfectly the first time, derailleur setup and cable layout is the same, and even little things like bottom bracket adjustment and lever reach adjustment have all been handed down from the higher-end groups.

So it would make sense that a bike built with Rival would feel and ride the same as a bike with Force or Red right? Exactly right. If you were to build two identical bikes, one with Red and one with Rival, and ride them blindfolded (this is ill-advised in practice), they would feel exactly the same. Lever size and shape, brake lever action, brake sensitivity, shift paddle shape, and shift action are indistinguishable next to Force and Red. So too is the 11-speed rear shifting and the Yaw front derailleur. It all feels the same and works the same.

So what would be stopping someone from just putting Rival on everything they own? In a word, weight. Red’s shiny finishes and coolness notwithstanding, a bike with all Rival bits will gain almost a pound, and in the world of cyclocross that’s not insignificant. If you want to go svelte and feathery, the only option is to go high-end; that pound is going to cost you.

But the approximate price difference between Red and Rival is right around $1,400. In other words Red costs more than twice as much as Rival. Suddenly the Rival gear is looking pretty attractive — depending on options, it’s around $1,000 for a group.

The good news is this component decision does not need to be made all at once. Rival, Force, and Red are all completely interchangeable and can be mixed and matched as desired. The brake calipers and master cylinder internals of all three are almost identical, the graphics and finishes are different, and there are some substitutions for upgraded materials to shave some grams.

The smallest weight difference is in the brake/shift lever and brake caliper area, so that’s a great place to save bucks for minimal weight gain. Each Rival lever/caliper costs $384, while the Red unit is $590 per side.

One obvious upgrade is the crank. The Rival crank represents more than half of the almost one-pound weight discrepancy between Rival and Red — if you’re going to go high-end for one component, the crank should be it. Depending on bottom bracket options, the Rival crank runs $192-$218, while the Red crank can cost up to $517.

If you’re like me and always stock some essential spares, including a replacement rear derailleur, the Rival version works the same, weighs 34 grams more, and at $59 is a fraction (that fraction, incidentally, is 1/3) of the cost of a Red rear derailleur.

For those looking to hop on the single-chainring cyclocross bandwagon, SRAM Rival can be a less-expensive, and again slightly heavier, alternative to SRAM’s CX1 system. The shifters and crank can be used with a Force CX1 rear derailleur and narrow/wide chainring. Rival cranks are only available in compact bolt diameters, so all of the Rival 22 crank sets are compatible with the CX1 chainring.

Whether you’re building an ‘A’ bike, ‘B’ bike, training bike, or racing bike, SRAM Rival is a flexible, capable, and cost-effective solution for any ‘crosser, and if you tear off a rear derailleur in a muddy race you won’t burst into tears.

SRAM component weights: Red vs. Rival

Rear derailleur: Red: 144g, Rival: 178g
Front derailleur: Red 69g, Rival; 79g
Crank: Red: 550, Rival: 836g
Rear shifter w/caliper and cable inner: Red: 380g , Rival 398g
Front shifter w/ caliper and cable inner: Red 370g , Rival 376g
Cassette: Red 1190 185g, Rival 1130 273g
Chain: Red 22 246g, Rival 1130 259g

The post Reviewed: SRAM Rival Hydro 22 appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Quintana’s complicated recovery from surgery shouldn’t slow run for yellow

6 hours 14 min ago

Nairo Quintana has faced an uphill battle, recovering from shoulder surgery this fall. However, his appointment with the 2015 Tour de France stands, and Movistar is optimistic about its young star. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

Nairo Quintana was all smiles last week at a four-day Movistar team camp, but he’s been gritting his teeth with a slow recovery from shoulder surgery in September.

The Colombian superstar came down with tendonitis in his right arm in the wake of a complicated recovery from surgery, following his early exit from the Vuelta a España on September 3.

“I am still not 100 percent, and I still recovering, but it’s getting much better now. I came down with a little bit of tendonitis, and have been barely able to train,” Quintana told VeloNews. “In terms of the fracture, that has fully recovered.”

The 24-year-old said nagging pain made it difficult for him to ride his bike comfortably, and he’s only recently returned to a full training schedule. Luckily for Quintana, the surgery came during the off-season, and he does not expect any problems in what will be an all-out assault on the Tour de France.

“I will debut at the Tour de San Luís,” Quintana continued. ” We are developing a good calendar to prepare ideally for the Tour. The goal is to arrive at the Tour in best possible condition.”

Quintana survived one of the most harrowing crashes of the season when he over-cooked a corner in stage 11 at the Vuelta a España, and went somersaulting over the handlebars.

Quintana showed great resilience, and with a bit of luck, was able to stay in the Vuelta. Despite losing the leader’s jersey, he vowed to keep racing. It was an early-stage pileup the next day when he landed heavily on his shoulder that sent Quintana packing, and left him with injuries that continues to prove complicated for the Colombian superstar as he prepares for an assault on the yellow jersey next summer.

Quintana underwent surgery in Spain on September 4 for fractures in his coracoid process, located at the top of the scapula in a critical part of the shoulder. Doctors called the injury “complicated,” and inserted two screws to help assure a speedy recovery.

Quintana returned home to Colombia, and said he began to develop tendonitis in his right arm because his arm was immobilized in a sling for nearly a month, altering his range of motion in the weeks that followed.

That kept him off the bike, and although the crash and subsequent surgery ended his 2014 campaign, it happened at the tail-end of the season.

“I am nearly back to 100 percent,” Quintana said. “So hopefully it will all quickly be forgotten.”

Long road to the Tour
Movistar made headlines last week when the team announced that both Quintana and Alejandro Valverde would each contest the Tour and the Vuelta a España. There was some conjecture that Valverde might race the Giro d’Italia for the first time, but the team decided it was better to have both of their aces in the same deck for their most important dates on the calendar.

“With Nairo and Alejandro working together, we have better chances of success. We are stronger together, rather than dividing our strength,” said team manager Eusebio Unzue. “They can share the responsibility of the race between them. We go with Nairo as leader, but [in] Alejandro we have the assurance of a leader who has the experience that few in the peloton can bring to the Tour.”

The pair likely will not overlap beyond the Tour and Vuelta. Movistar will spread their two leaders across the rest of WorldTour calendar, which not only avoids any potential internal conflict, but also gives Movistar a chance to win nearly every major race on the international schedule.

While it’s not set in stone, team officials outlined Quintana’s rough schedule. After debuting at San Luís in January, Quintana will return to Europe in March, most likely at Paris-Nice, with Valverde racing Tirreno-Adriatico. Quintana is expected to race the Volta a Catalunya, with Valverde returning to the Vuelta al País Vasco. Both will likely race across the Ardennes, where Valverde will be the team’s best bet. In June, Valverde is expected to race the Critérium du Dauphiné, with Quintana likely racing the Tour de Suisse for the first time.

“We want to be competitive in every race we start,” Unzue said. “With Nairo and Alejandro, we have two leaders who will start every race with the idea of riding for the overall. It’s obvious that it’s better for us to spread them around the calendar.”

Quintana’s tentative 2015 calendar
Tour de San Luís
Paris-Nice
Volta a Catalunya
Ardennes classics
Tour de Suisse
Tour de France
Vuelta a Burgos
Vuelta a España

The post Quintana’s complicated recovery from surgery shouldn’t slow run for yellow appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Steve Hed, aerodynamics pioneer and industry icon, dies at 59

November 26, 2014 - 2:11pm

Steve Hed will be remembered for his warm, curious personality and brilliant innovations in the field of bicycle aerodynamics. He died Wednesday at age 59. Photo courtesy of HED Cycling.

Steve Hed, a relentless tinkerer whose innovations in aerodynamics and wheel design set industry trends for three decades, died Wednesday. He was 59.

Hed collapsed outside one of the HED facilities, the company he founded, last Thursday. CPR was administered on the scene and as he was rushed to the hospital. He was removed from life-support on Tuesday night and passed away Wednesday morning.

The all-caps HED logo became an icon of the cycling industry over the course of three decades. Hed’s toroidal rim shape set a new standard for wheel aerodynamics; his wider rims changed the trajectory of the entire industry; his one-piece aero bars were revolutionary.

Hed’s life was centered on and around the bicycle. In grade school and high school, Hed was a cyclist and a model airplane enthusiast. He cited the Wright brothers as an inspiration, when asked about his education in an interview from earlier this year with the Greater MSP Business television show on KSTP Channel 5.

During the early 1980s he owned a small bike shop in the Twin Cities area called Grand Performance. His curious and generous nature was naturally attractive.

He made the acquaintance of a composites tinkerer, and the two started making affordable aero bicycle wheels. Hed didn’t create the first disc wheel, but he popularized them among the triathlon community, a sport he supported from its early moments, building composite disc wheels in his garage using woodworking tools. That was in 1985 and his company, HED, is considered by some to be the first triathlon-specific manufacturer.

He also met his wife, Anne, while working at Grand Performance. Anne had heard the shop owner helped triathletes with expenses, and sure enough, Hed reached into the cash register and helped pay for her first Ironman. Anne would become the CEO of HED Cycling.

Hed was proud of the company he built, and the products it produced in the United States. His rivalry with Zipp was deep, but amicable. “The U.S. manufacturers are still the best,” he said in the same KSTP interview. “We have a competitor in Indianapolis [Zipp] and one in Utah [ENVE], and they’re both making great products.”

Though Zipp and HED were considered arch-rivals for many years, numerous current and former owners and employees from Zipp regularly visited the HED booth during the Interbike trade show, an indication of Hed’s personality and reputation. His relationship with Zipp’s former owner, Andy Ording, grew into a warm friendship after Ording sold his company to SRAM in 2007.

Hed was a technical advisor to many of those at the top of the sport, including Lance Armstrong, who was fiercely loyal to HED wheels through much of his racing career. Hed became the aero bike fitter for Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, and others on that team.

“Such a loss. HED was the first sponsor I ever had,” Armstrong said. “I was 16. He called and said, ‘I wanna sponsor you.’ I was thinking ‘Cool, a free disc wheel.’ Then he says, ‘I want you to ride my wheels and I’ll pay you 500 bucks a month.’ This is in 1987. I thought I was a millionaire.”

Also, on Twitter, Armstrong said, “Shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Hed. I loved him dearly as did everyone who ever met him. We’ll all miss him.”

Numerous active professionals expressed their condolences on Twitter.

“So sad to hear of Steve Hed’s passing. He had a brilliant engineering mind and was happy to talk shop while showing me his bike museum,” said Chad Haga (Giant-Shimano).

“Steve Hed, your passion, your generosity and your genius will not be forgotten. So sad to lose you. Rest in peace my friend,” said Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing).

“RIP Steve Hed. #theguru. Such a loss. Heart felt sympathy to close friends and family,” Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol) said.

“I don’t put people up on a pedestal; I’m really choosey about who I give kudos to, but Steve Hed was in a league of his own,” said Jim Felt, founder and owner of Felt Bicycles. “[He was] a hero of mine since I first worked with him back in the early 1990s; when I was at Easton, Steve was helping us with a rim design.

“There are guys that are sharp, but there are other guys that are brilliant, and Steve was a visionary, in a league of his own. He had a vision 10 years down the road, and what he did actually worked. A lot of people dream things up that fall short, but Steve wasn’t that kind of guy, but you wouldn’t know that if you spoke with him. He was so humble.

“Honestly, I couldn’t hold a higher respect for anyone in our industry.”

Hed is survived by his wife of 24 years, Anne Hed, a son Andrew and daughter Rebecca.

The post Steve Hed, aerodynamics pioneer and industry icon, dies at 59 appeared first on VeloNews.com.

German broadcasters mull airing Tour de France

November 26, 2014 - 1:14pm

Marcel Kittel is on the leading edge of the new wave of German cyclists that is helping the country turn the page on the previous generation's doping scandals. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

BERLIN — German state broadcaster ARD is considering screening stages of the Tour de France again after refusing to show live coverage since 2012 due to doping scandals in cycling.

A decision will be made at the end of the year, ARD chairman Lutz Marmor said on Wednesday at a press conference in Hanover, Germany.

Two years ago, both main German broadcasters ARD and ZDF pulled the plug on screening the world’s top cycling race in Germany after repeated doping scandals rocked the sport.

But ARD’s program director Volker Herre says they feel the sport has made significant progress in the fight against doping in recent years.

Recently, German sprint star Marcel Kittel has ben unparalleled in the Tour’s flat stages, spurring renewed interest in German cyclists. He even hinted that he’ll aim for the sprinter’s green jersey at some point in his career.

“Everyone can be proud of it, it’s great to see so many German riders here,” Kittel said after the Tour. “It shows German cycling is part of the top of the cycling world and that’s awesome.”

The post German broadcasters mull airing Tour de France appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Video: Col Collective rides Italy’s Passo Gavia

November 26, 2014 - 9:40am

Ride along with Col Collective on the legendary Passo Gavia, a climb of 17.3km in the Italian Alps.

Editor’s Note: This video is courtesy of The Col Collective. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily represent the opinions of VeloNews.com, Velo magazine or the editors and staff of Competitor Group, Inc.

The post Video: Col Collective rides Italy’s Passo Gavia appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Astana’s Fedosseyev tests positive for anabolic steroids

November 26, 2014 - 9:25am

Team Astana has faced increasing scrutiny as five riders associated with the team have been snared by anti-doping tests in the second half of 2014. Photo: BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com (File).

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announced Wednesday that Artur Fedosseyev, a rider for Astana’s Continental team, tested positive for anabolic androgenic steroids in an anti-doping sample collected at the Tour de l’Ain on August 16, 2014.

This is the fifth positive doping test linked to the Astana team this season, after the Iglinskiy brothers, Ilya Davidenok, and Victor Okishev all tested positive for banned substances in the second half of the 2014.

The UCI has provisionally suspended Fedosseyev, 20, and it remains to be seen if the Kazakhstani will request a B sample test.

After the third of the five positive tests, the UCI asked its license commission to undertake a full review of the management and anti-doping policies of the Astana team.

A decision has yet to be made whether or not to grant Astana a WorldTour license for 2015.

Astana was excluded from the 2008 Tour de France after a series of doping scandals at that time, denying then-Tour champion Alberto Contador the opportunity to defend his title.

It was also the time when current team manager Alexandre Vinokourov was an Astana rider and was himself serving a two-year ban for a blood transfusion.

Astana was interviewed by the UCI earlier this month with relation to its internal drug-testing policies and subsequently announced a collaboration with Kazakhstan’s anti-doping agency to monitor their riders’ biological passports.

The post Astana’s Fedosseyev tests positive for anabolic steroids appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Will back pain force Tim Johnson to walk away?

November 26, 2014 - 8:58am

TIm Johnson is battling back pain but looking for a result at nationals. After that, he will think about his future as a racer. Photo: Dan Seaton (File).

All those bumps, lumps, dismounts, and run-ups were bound to take their toll.

Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), something like American cyclocross royalty now, has been dousing the pyrotechnics of back spasms since 2007. But this year, the fiery pain has been more consistent, and kept him from his best form. And, flatly, if the injury doesn’t get any better, he may have to hang it up.

“I’ve been in a situation for the past two months where I’ve been dealing with this back problem,” Johnson said earlier this week. “Every year I’d have an episode where my back would spasm like crazy … Can’t move, can’t stand up, can’t walk.”

Through the years, Johnson has been able to manage the issues, caused by two herniated discs and contact between vertebrae. But this season, he hasn’t been able to stay out front of the pain. “It’s gotten worse,” Johnson said, noting that on a Saturday — podiums in Boulder, Madison, and Providence — he’ll have a good ride, then fade away come Sunday on a double-race weekend.

“It’s like someone drew a line horizontally across my lower back. And from there down I always feel that line. … All of the sudden your lower back turns into one solid thing. You lose all the power and mobility,” Johnson said. “It really sucks because sometimes it is the most debilitating thing. Because on the outside you still walk, you still talk … but man, when you’re trying to race and you’re going full gas outta every corner and you don’t have your back … I don’t even have a word for it.”

He’s been to doctors and tried assorted therapies for his kinked back. At this point, Johnson, 37, has just dialed down the level. “What’s going on right now is that I had planned on racing more than I had been. I planned on going to UK for the World Cup this weekend. But since I’m really not in any kind of form to represent the U.S. at the first World Cup off the Euro continent, I had to cancel,” he said.

Instead, Johnson will race in Japan, at the Nobeyama Cyclocross Race in Japan. He will then look to the USA Cycling cyclocross national championships in Austin as a benchmark. “I’m going to try and train for the next week and a half, two weeks, and then do another test. And if I haven’t really improved then I’ll know that things aren’t salvageable much,” he said of the season and, perhaps, beyond. In a month or so, Johnson will make the larger call on his future; will he keep riding, or retire?

If he did walk away, it wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Johnson took third in 1999 at the under-23 race at the UCI world cyclocross championships, and he’s a three-time national champion in the elites. He’s as well-known as any cyclocross rider is stateside.

“Growing up, you have no idea what anything is. Ten years ago, at 27, if I had thought about how long I wanted to ride as a pro, then I would have been totally content getting to this point,” he said. “As much as I’ve learned the ins and outs of the actual sport itself there’s so many other things to learn about life. And hopefully some of these things will apply, you know?”

The post Will back pain force Tim Johnson to walk away? appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Farrar to play important part in MTN’s 2015 ambitions

November 26, 2014 - 8:49am

Tyler Farrar takes his first victory of 2014. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — American Tyler Farrar is set to play an important part in the next chapter of MTN-Qhubeka as it pushes to become the first African team at the Tour de France.

“The Tour is the big event in our sport and that’s what we are going for,” Team MTN general manager Brian Smith told VeloNews.

“Nelson Mandela Day is the 18th of July, during the Tour de France. If this African team gets into the Tour de France, then that’s going to be huge for the team but also for the Qhubeka charity.”

The Qhubeka charity is committed to providing bicycles to children in need, in South Africa.

This winter, South Africa’s MTN squad beefed up its second division team by signing several riders from top, WorldTour squads. Along with Farrar from Garmin-Sharp, the team signed Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Dutchman Theo Bos (Belkin), Englishman Steve Cummings (BMC Racing), Australian Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), and Belgian Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

Some critics have said that MTN’s signings did not make sense, arguing that Boasson Hagen, Bos, Farrar and Goss are all the same type of riders: fast and strong, but not enough to win often.

Boasson Hagen won the 2009 Gent-Wevelgem and has won two stages at the Tour. Goss took the 2011 Milano-Sanremo title. And Washington-native Farrar counts stage wins in all three Grand Tours, including his 2011 Tour stage in Redon.

“Everyone has his own opinion,” Smith added. “I had to take on eight riders, thinking what is good for the team and its sponsors. I thought, how do you get brand awareness? I looked for experienced riders with names, riders that people forgot about. It was like when I worked at Cervélo TestTeam, we were looked for people with a point to prove.”

Farrar took the back seat in team Garmin this year as the team focused on its budding stage race talents Dan Martin and Andrew Talansky. Farrar raced the Giro d’Italia, but skipped the Tour de France and Vuelta a España. As if spurred by his new contract, he won for the first time in 2014 in October’s Tour of Beijing.

“Some people forgot about these riders,” Smith said. “If you take Farrar and Boasson Hagan together in a race like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, their combined efforts are that of a race favourite. They just need that confidence and self-belief.”

“It’s good to challenge yourself sometimes,” 30-year-old Farrar told VeloNews in September after he inked his two-year deal. “You can fall into familiar patterns, so going somewhere different, with a different culture; that can be a good thing. I hope it can be a breath of fresh air.”

Farrar, and Smith’s other WorldTour signings, will have several challenges. They must help MTN’s young African talents like Louis Meintjes and Merhawi Kudus, lead the team in stage races and classics, and help bring Qhubeka money.

MTN-Qhubeka receives support from Africa’s telecommunications giant MTN and from electronics manufacturer Samsung, but gives to Qhubeka. The non-profit group provides poor Africans with bicycles in exchange for good deeds, such as growing 200 trees to 30 centimetres or collecting 4500 plastic bottles. Since 2005, it has distributed 51,000 bikes.

Smith wisely signed WorldTour riders from different areas of the worlds to attract potential donors who can help Qhubeka’s work.

“Louis Meintjes, Youcef Reguigui, and Adrien Niyonshuti are not recognised in America, but Tyler Farrar is,” Smith continued. “If Tyler wins next year in an MTN-Qhubeka shirt, what do you think the possibilities are of him rising funds from America?”

The post Farrar to play important part in MTN’s 2015 ambitions appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Video: Global Cycling Network’s essential cyclocross skills

November 26, 2014 - 8:32am

Head to Niel, Belgium with Global Cycling Network to learn the basics of preparing for a 'cross race.

The post Video: Global Cycling Network’s essential cyclocross skills appeared first on VeloNews.com.

Velo Holiday Gift Guide: Road

November 26, 2014 - 8:00am

Cafe du Cyclist Madeleine jacket

$172

The draw: The perfect packable jacket from a brand you may have never heard of.

This time of year, having a wind jacket stashed in your back pocket can make or break your ride. Café du Cyclist is a relatively unknown brand in North America, but it’s a well-known entity in the UK and in France, its homeland. The Madeleine is stylish, packs small, and is windproof — the perfect mix for autumn and cool winter days.

The post Velo Holiday Gift Guide: Road appeared first on VeloNews.com.

A Case for Suffering: Made in Taiwan

November 26, 2014 - 5:00am

Managing editor Chris Case crosses the line in 14th place at the incomparable Taiwan KOM Challenge. Photo: Daniel Simms Photography

Editor’s note: Velo managing editor Chris Case has raced enough criteriums to know there are far more enjoyable ways to spend time on a bike. He has set out to find pain and pleasure at the most unique, challenging, and captivating competitions. Follow along with his experiment to ride the best and most difficult courses, the most punishing and most promising races, on- and off-road, on Instagram and Twitter, @chrisjustincase. Questions or concerns for his health? Send him a note at ccase@competitorgroup.com.

It was pissing rain.

It was the type of day that gave you a simple choice: sulk, or smile. I’ve learned a lesson from years of racing in inclement weather: it’s always advantageous to stick with the grins; pouting only makes you colder.

We were in Taiwan, far from home, in an exotic landscape that I had quickly fallen in love with, about to race bikes up one of the longest hill climbs in the world. The choice was made for me.

I embraced the dreary, soggy conditions, absorbing the wet, the cold, the foul soup of mist and misery and turning it on its head.

I made a case for suffering.

It would have been easy to mope and complain. But a simple flip of the switch in my brain and it was just as easy to tell myself, ‘This is the weather that only the hard thrive in; these are the conditions that make for great stories; these are the days when pain is my friend, and the harder I shake its hand, the more pleasure will come my way.’ I shook vigorously.

It’s not as if it would have been an easy day even if the weather had been tropical. Today, I, along with 472 other intrepid and/or insane cyclists, set out to ride to the top of Taiwan, in the KOM Challenge, all 62-miles of climbing, with its 17 percent average gradient over the last 8 kilometers. The route was famously picturesque, a warped canyon of ancient marble accented by clinging carpets of green, known as Taroko Gorge. You couldn’t imagine a more beautiful route for a race, and on this day that’s exactly how you had to experience the Jurassic decor, since the folds of fog had settled deep into the cut.

We, invited cycling journalists, had been in Taiwan for a week, tasting the flavors of a country rich in sustenance. There had been glorious jungle climbs, through thick, ripe foliage on ribbons of chalkboard black tarmac. Each night we were fed heaps of food, platter upon platter of things we could not necessarily identify, and which we knew we could not finish, but which were offered to us by a people bursting with generosity. We ate heartily. Shrines and temples dotted the hillsides, and stinky tofu stands peppered the curbsides of many a town and city corner.

But now the royal treatment was over; the Taiwan Travel Bureau had invited us here to experience the nation, its culture, this devilish race, and had pampered us in so many ways, but they forgot to talk to the rain gods about our final mission.

The KOM Challenge is, arguably, the hardest hill climb race in the entire world. From zero to 3,275 meters to the summit of Hehuanshan mountain. One road. One direction: Up.

We rolled out to the click of nearly 1,000 pedals popping with the sound of cycling.

The rain, it continued to drop. My teeth chattered; I looked over at Will Routley, an invited professional who claimed the KOM competition at the 2014 Tour of California, whose lips were a pale shade of not-right. We had 18km of neutral rollout, and that was 20km too much. We wanted to race, to generate fury and warmth and spirit. But we had to wait. It was best just to think ahead, to know that it was all about to detonate.

Once we turned into the mouth of the gorge, it was immediate. The racing became racing, and a universally familiar feeling washed over the peloton. We’d all done this before; find your home and settle in for the long climb into the heavens.

There were small rocks scattered on the edges of the gleaming darkness of asphalt from the incessant rains. You notice these things when you’re following unfamiliar wheels; you hope the others notice too and kindly indicate which side to take warning. You notice all these things, and hope.

Then it came. The singular sound of a cycling crash. The shriek of frightened voices and the noise of impact instantaneously register a warning. Sometimes the speed with which your brain can process the information is helpful; you slither by. Other times, you have no choice. Down.

My brain helped me now, and only a slight dab was required to avoid the chaos. But I looked to my right as I tiptoed to safety, and I saw the pained face of a fallen friend, a fellow journalist and professional rider. Down.

To stop, or not to stop? As quickly as your brain can process myriad tactical sensations, it can bog down with moral dilemmas. Conflicting thoughts. I wanted to stop and see if she was okay. She’d probably want me to press on. She could use my help and encouragement if she was able to return to the race. She’s in good hands here; someone will stop to help.

I was swept up the road, allowing myself to be taken farther from a place of decision. It pained me to press on. But I did, knowing that there were only people as hard as diamonds in this race. She would have some story to tell, one way or another. She would come back stronger.

I patiently made my way back through the field, to the pointy end of the race, settling in and finding a rhythm amongst the gathered tribe. This was elite company: small bikes, small people, big engines. I felt like Stijn Vandenbergh among a fleet of Rigoberto Uráns.

We pierced through the floating waters of the atmosphere, concentrated air that combined with the falling rains to create a mobile sweat lodge. We smoothly flowed slowly upward, losing riders one by one, until a finite group of 20 coalesced. And, then, we pedaled on, waiting for the moves to come. I drifted off the front, more so to spawn warmth than to elicit counterattacks. Will tried to bridge to me to make a North American tag-team. His team-issued orange helmet would go nowhere without passengers.

We pressed on. For hours. Only up.

I dangled at the tail of the snake. I sensed the dawning of the drop; any lift in pace, after three and a half hours of climbing and I would drift away, behind and beyond. Sometimes the solo effort is a more comfortable place to be, and so a small part of me was eager for the fall.

And then, nonchalantly, it came. They floated away, softly, silently, and I searched for signs that would help me understand just how much longer I would have to endure this growing ache. Eleven kilometers. Maybe 20 minutes of torture? Deep sighs. Eleven kilometers of torture.

The closing eight kilometers are touted as the hardest of the race, but when you’re numb, or dumb from the bonk, it’s easy to consider them impossible. Unnecessary. Contrary to sane.

But if you’re lucky, inspiration comes to you, and you push on. I received a gift in the shape of small cyclists emerging from the fog, just up the road from me. They were going slower. I knew I was going to catch them. I was better than them at this moment. Momentum. Mental momentum. I rode it.

I had become so cold that my hands no longer functioned. They were catatonic. Hands, in fact, are important for riding a bike. They allow you to shift, and brake, and steer — and also eat. You might call them essential. And when you lose the ability to tear open a wrapper to feed your starving cells, and fear shifting to a harder gear knowing that you may never be able to downshift when the road tilts skyward, you know it is time to hurry home. Grip and ride. Hold on tight. Turn the legs. Churn skyward.

Then, sometimes inspiration comes on a grand scale, such as the sight of a bright orange helmet and yellow socks, the distinctive kit of an Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies professional cyclist named Will. He’s moving so slowly. I’m very much catching him. He is paper-boying so bad that I think I could be hallucinating. ‘I’m going to drop his ass.’ Giddy with the thought. And then, in painful, grinding, slow motion, I passed the pro who was colder than me, only 500 meters from the line.

I know my brain function was compromised at the summit. Some form of hypothermia-meets-fatigue syndrome. I say that now. Then, I was delirious, crawling around looking for warmth, seeing familiar faces but not saying much. Did I smile? I’m smiling now, thinking back, but then I was a shell. Will came across the line moments later; we tried to embrace, the sheer camaraderie almost overwhelming us. But it didn’t go so well. We were pathetic. We were done. Our arms wouldn’t rise for the occasion and we bumbled around and uttered only guttural sounds.

There are times in life when everything blends to perfection like a spritely, summer cocktail: the right people, a captivating place, and profound, collective enjoyment are the only necessary ingredients. This was far from summer, but the satisfying taste of success was effervescent in the whirlwind chaos of a mist-shrouded summit on the other side of the world.

This cocktail, on this day, was made in Taiwan.

Editor’s note: Chris participated in the Taiwan KOM Challenge as a guest of the organizers and had his flights, food, and accommodation paid for. VeloNews would like to thank the organizers for the invitation and their hospitality. A full list of the 252 successful finishers can be seen here.

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Video: High-speed POV track racing footage from Gent Six-Day

November 25, 2014 - 3:36pm

Hop into the derny race at the Gent six-day race to see what it takes to ride a world-class track event.

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Non-qualified elite racers may petition USAC to race ‘cross nationals

November 25, 2014 - 3:20pm

The 2015 USA Cycling cyclocross national championships will be held in Austin, Texas, January 7-11. Photo: Wil Matthews (File).

In an email sent Tuesday, USA Cycling notified UCI-licensed American cyclocross racers that a petition process will be offered if they do not qualify to race national championships.

Elite racers automatically qualify to compete if they meet either of two requirements: Riders must hold one or more UCI point; or, riders must be ranked in the top-90 in the USA Cycling Pro CX standings.

On December 10, USA Cycling will announce the riders who have met these standards.

Starting that same date, USA Cycling will offer the opportunity for elite riders to submit a petition to race nationals, if they did not meet either requirement.

According to the communication, “A limited number of additional petitioning riders will be granted a discretionary start in the elite men’s and women’s races via this start petition process. Rider acceptance will be based off of past national championship and UCI cyclocross race results. The petition link will be posted December 10 on the USA Cycling cyclocross national championships webpage. All petitions must be submitted by the deadline of December 20 and the accepted riders will be notified on December 22.”

More information on the changes to cyclocross nationals qualification standards >>

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Video: How to glue tubular cyclocross tires

November 25, 2014 - 2:52pm

Michael Robson gives you step-by-step instruction for successful cyclocross tubular gluing.

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Tech FAQ: Cold tires and brakes

November 25, 2014 - 2:14pm

Andrew Isaacs, a reader in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has some advice for riding in sub-zero temperatures. Photo: Andrew Isaacs

Dear Lennard,
Minnesota is getting blasted by its first storm of the season, which has me wondering: Are narrower or wider studded tires better for riding on icy roads? Wider mountain bike tires have a wider contact patch with perhaps more studs in play, but narrower tires have a higher pressure contact patch and maybe more traction, right?

Which size tire do you think works best?
— Charlie

Dear Charlie,
I am deferring to a buddy of mine who rides studs a lot. Since I work out of my house and don’t need to commute, I can pick my cold-weather riding. I love riding in snow, but I avoid ice and don’t ride with studs. But my friend Mike Prendergast, who did this awesome film about riding all winter long, is an expert on riding studded tires. Mike has this to say:

Winter cyclists encounter a mix of fresh snow, compacted snow, and ice. And some will face rutted snow or ice on roads and trails.

Studded bicycle tires are fairly wide with the narrowest being around 35mm. In my winter riding experience, the width of the tire is more critical for riding in snow while the number and placement of studs is important for ice. For ice without ruts, studded tires of any width have superior traction.

If you are riding on plowed roads and paths, a tire with around 100-120 carbide studs will be a good choice. If you ride on dirt roads or paths that may or may not get plowed, then a tire with around 240 carbide studs will be needed to handle ruts. Ruts will form after trail- and road-user tracks refreeze.

You will only need wider tires to stay on top of deep snow. As long as the snow depth is not more than a few inches, even a fairly narrow studded tire will drive down and get good traction.
— Mike Prendergast
ChainRing Films

Enjoy riding on the ice, Charlie!
— Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I have begun using tubeless tires on my mountain bike in the past year.

With the colder weather, I am wondering what happens to the tire sealant in the cold. Do tubeless tires work just as well when the temperatures get below freezing? Can I expect lumps of hard stuff rattling around in my tires if I hit the trails when the thermometer is in the 20s?
— Bruce

Dear Bruce,
Tubeless sealant is water-based and will freeze. If your bike overnights in a warm house, and the trails start from your house, performance will be okay for awhile. And in that case, any liquid sealant will have been distributed around throughout the tire before it freezes, so you won’t have chunks rattling around.

But if you drive to the trailhead or store your bike in the cold, you could get frozen chunks rattling around in them, because liquid sealant will have pooled up at the bottom and then frozen. (Orange Seal makes a tire sealant it claims is good in temperatures as cold as “negative teens” -Ed.)

Either way, the combination of frozen sealant, reduced tire pressure, and the tire being stiffer due to the cold makes the sealing of your tires more tenuous and negatively affects its ability to absorb side impacts without dislodging the bead.

Due to reduced speeds in the cold, stiffer, cold tires, and fewer thorns, dangers of pinch flats and punctures are reduced anyway, so there’s less of a downside to using inner tubes.
— Lennard

Dear Lennard,
After watching the near implosion of disc brakes in cyclocross from the seemingly instant and complete wear at Nationals not long ago I was nervous about discs in cyclocross.

I now have a disc bike and have purchased, but not installed, some sintered pads for wet conditions.

It isn’t yet wet and I have some questions. Should I install them now or wait for the conditions to warrant the change?

I followed everyone’s advice and “broke in” my original discs and pads with a few dozen hard stops from full speed. Do I repeat this with new pads or just when I change the discs?
— Davo

Dear Davo,
Yes, in the case of thin mud, sintered pads are better. If you do anticipate thin mud for an upcoming race, you might as well change to sintered pads ahead of time. It’s much less fun to change pads in a rush outdoors in cold weather before a race, and you ought to get used to the feel of braking with them in dry conditions, because many times it will turn out dry when you prepare for mud anyway. You don’t need to replace the rotors; you can just break in the sintered pads on the same rotors (and yes, follow the same break-in procedure).

That said, having a set of wheels with mud tires that have solid rotors on them could eliminate pre-race stress. Solid rotors will make way more difference than the sintered vs. organic pads would have anyway. And if you can also switch to the sintered pads in advance, you will have the ultimate setup for thin mud. If the mud turns thick, you won’t need the solid rotors or sintered pads, but there is little downside to having them.
— Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I recently bought a set of black brake pads from eBay for my carbon clincher wheels. Since I’ve installed them, they been leaving white powdery residue on the brake tracks. I’m able to clean them up pretty easily by wiping it off after my ride. I’ve logged about 80 miles on these pads. These are my third set since purchasing the wheels. I don’t recall the first two sets leaving any powdery residue.

If I was mistakenly sold brake pads for alloy wheels, what symptoms will I encounter? Are there any noticeable differences between the pads, such as thickness or shape? The new pads don’t make any irregular noise in comparison to the previous pads. I’m just little a concerned.
— Dennis

Dear Dennis,
On a hot day with heavy braking on a mountain descent, alloy-rim pads on a carbon rim will tend to melt.

In cooler conditions, they will tend to erode like an eraser rubbed on a piece of paper. It will be powdery. I don’t know about white, though. I would call it more gray from a black pad, but against a black carbon rim, maybe it looks white.
— Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I’m from Winnipeg, and I commute year round. My cutoff is about -25 Celsius (-13F) these days, but I have gone lower in the past, down to -40 (-40F. This is the crossover point, where Celsius and Fahrenheit temperature is equal; I can’t imagine riding at that temperature! -LZ).

A few more things that seem to really slow me down in the cold:
1. Squishy Nokian winter rubber is slow.
2. The grease in my hubs and bottom bracket turns into sludge in the cold, as well as the oil on my chain. Sometimes it feels like the wheels barely turn.
3. Riding on snow is like riding on sand. I try to ride on ice or hardpack as much as possible, but it obviously makes a huge difference. As soon as you hit the snow, you also pick up rotating mass in your wheels. (See post-wipeout pic above).
4. The clothing surface area is probably at least double, and as you point out this is really critical. The wind also contains a lot more power due to increased density, and any kind of headwind is killer.
5. I tend to disagree with the “your body slows down” arguments, since regardless of temperature, I’m normally toasty warm a few minutes into the ride. A light fleece and a good shell over your whole body is enough, as long as you take care of covering your face and eyes. Wind chill is not as big a deal as it seems.
— Andrew

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Tour of Flanders unveils 2015 route

November 25, 2014 - 12:31pm

Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan clashed in 2013 at the Tour of Flanders. Organizers unveiled the route Tuesday for the 2015 edition. BrakeThrough Media | VeloNews.com

The route for the 2015 Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) was announced on Tuesday. The prevailing theme? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The closing 150 kilometers will be the same as the 2014 race, which saw the culling of long, flat sections in the final 100 kilometers. The race won’t go longer than 12 kilometers in the final 150 without a cobbled section or climb, making for tense racing in the closing hours. Last year, Fabian Cancellara won a rugged race blasted with wind and peppered with crashes in the final hundred kilometers.

The big Swiss was in a four-man break with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin), and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and none of them seemed eager to fight the final battle. The race may play out similarly this year, with the big riders waiting until late in the day to roll the dice.

De Ronde will again roll out of the dazzling city of Bruges, and hit Oudenaarde for the first time 100km in. Two hills have been added to the 2014 parcours — the Tiegemberg is new to the race and will be the first climb, and Berendries is the eighth crest, and is back after two years’ absence due to road work.

The main attraction will commence at the Koppenberg, which opens the door to the flashpoint of the race. The short, narrow, and steep climb is more about the struggle for position than anything, as a stressed peloton squeezes down and begins to think about selection. From there, it’s 45km to the finish, with the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg duo again at the likely at center of the winning move. Koppenberg is followed by Steenbeekdries (at 39km), Taaienberg (at 37km), Kruisberg (at 28km), Oude Kwaremont (at 17km), and Paterberg (at 13km). The field will hit the Kwaremont three times and the Paterberg twice.

Flanders is one of the sport’s one-day lions and hosts more than 800,000 spectators along its route. There will be spectator villages on the Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Kruisberg, Koppenberg, and at the finishing line in Oudenaarde.

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Others prefer to wait on sidelines as Velon takes flight

November 25, 2014 - 11:02am

Europcar is one of six teams not taking part in the launch of Velon. Manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau said, "There is always the will to create a NBA-style professional league, and I’m against it.”Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWSport.com (File).

There was a flood of slick, well-produced press releases Monday to announce the arrival of Velon, a group of elite teams to promote a new vision for professional cycling.

Even though 11 top-level WorldTour teams have signed on, six have not. Among them are three French teams (Ag2r-La Mondiale, FDJ, and Europcar), Spain-based Movistar, as well as Katusha and Astana.

It is hard to read between the lines to determine why some teams decided not to participate. Many teams could not be reached for comment, or, in the case of Astana, declined to comment.

“We are not rejecting the project, we just want to wait to see more details,” said FDJ’s Elisa Madiot. “[Team manager] Marc [Madiot] said the project was not very precise. We saw the same press releases that everyone else did, and Marc wants to see more information. We are not against it.”

FDJ’s posture of “wait-and-see” was echoed across other teams that decided to sidestep the potentially game-changing effort by the 11 teams.

Katusha, which is backed by power broker Igor Makarov, would not comment Monday when contracted by VeloNews. Katusha manager Viatcheslav Ekimov could not be reached for comment Monday, but told VeloNews during the Tour de France that they wanted to see more definitive proposals before signing on.

Others were more definitive. Europcar manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau told the French sports daily L’Equipe he’s against the idea, saying, “There is always the will to create a NBA-style professional league, and I’m against it.”

Graham Bartlett, who stepped in as Velon’s CEO, said it was more important to put the group into gear rather than to wait for consensus across all the teams.

“Every team has different objectives. We’ve got 11 teams, and that’s a critical mass, a number big enough, strong enough, to go out there and start doing things,” Bartlett told VeloNews. “You can go out and start doing things, rather than keep talking to try to build consensus — just go out and do something, then you can turn back around to those teams, and say, ‘This is what we’re doing, the door is open.’ We are still in dialogue with those teams, but we decided that, rather than wait for everybody, we would start moving forward.”

Teams cited other reasons for holding out. FDJ said its possible participation was complicated by the fact that its title sponsor is a national lottery, an arm of the French government. Any change in financing would require a complicated review by the French treasury, team officials told VeloNews.

Many were surprised to see that Movistar was not part of Velon. Team officials told VeloNews that they support efforts to evolve and promote a new cycling, but said interests of its current sponsor, Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica, don’t quite line up with Velon at the moment.

“Movistar has met and participated in all the groups, discussions, and meetings with the objective of bettering cycling and work for the future,” read a Movistar statement to VeloNews. “However, Movistar is sponsored by a communications company that clearly [relies] on audiovisual content and TV rights, so our possible participation in Velon must be agreed upon by our title sponsor, and this requires time and a thorough analysis of the situation.”

Another big player that was mum on the topic was Tour de France owner Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO). Company officials told VeloNews on Monday they would not publicly comment on the Velon’s kickoff party.

Although Velon officials spoke in broad terms Monday about the group’s agenda, some see it as a threat to TV rights, now held by race promoters. ASO is by the biggest player in the sport, not only owning the Tour and Vuelta a España, but major one-day races as Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Paris-Roubaix, as well as stage races as Paris-Nice and Critérium du Dauphiné.

ASO has indicated it has no intention of sharing its existing TV rights income with teams, estimated at tens of millions of dollars, and has resisted efforts to share those profits, or to create a new business model. ASO also points out that it already shares a portion of TV revenue, with each team receiving about 60,000 euros each during the Tour, totally more than 1 million euros.

Teams insist they’re not trying to take anything away from anybody, but rather create a strategy to share any future growth in the sport. One team source said, “the idea is to grow the pot, and share it more equitably among everyone.”

One idea being promoted is to tie together the entire racing season that includes all races in one TV package, with profits shared not only among races, but with a percentage also going to teams. Others would like to see permanent licenses, with rights to start all the major races, as a means to generate new sources of income by attracting investors.

Officials from RCS Sport, which own such properties as Giro d’Italia, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-San Remo, and Giro di Lombardia, came out in support of the group’s agenda.

“If done right,” Giro race director Mauro Vegni told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, “it can increase the value and enhance the product we have.”

The UCI, meanwhile, was discreet in its reaction, releasing this statement to the media Monday: “The UCI has been in regular contact with Velon, and looks forward to continuing that constructive dialogue throughout the current reform process, and beyond.”

Velon went public just as the UCI is edging closer to a major reform of how the elite men’s road racing calendar will look in the coming years. The UCI is pressing for a tighter schedule, with fewer race days, smaller teams, and a short calendar without overlapping races. That means stage races could be reduced in size, including one-week races and grand tours. A more precise update of those reforms, which could be phased in over the next several years, is expected to be released during a two-day meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, in early December.

Those efforts tie in with what many teams would like to see; a sport that is more TV-friendly, with a stronger focus on teams, as well as a more compact season.

Velon was born from frustration from teams dating back more than a decade. Teams feel exasperated by a business model that relies on sponsorships to underwrite 95 percent of operating budgets, which today run well over $20 million annually for a major squad. Teams insist it’s unfair that TV rights remain in the hands of race promoters.

Whether Velon sets the stage for another major showdown between the sport’s key players, or if the stakeholders can sit down and reach consensus, remains to be seen.

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Riders, team management comment on new Velon business venture

November 25, 2014 - 10:44am

Onboard cameras provided a new dimension to the finishing moments of the stage 5 sprint at the 2014 Tour de Suisse.

Upon Monday’s announcement of the new Velon business venture among 11 WorldTour teams, several of those teams issued their own individual press releases, all using similar language, addressing Velon’s aims to “make the sport more accessible to all, to bring technology to the races, and to promote stable, credible teams that fans can support long-term.”

Rider and team management quotes on Velon are presented here.

Dave Brailsford, general manager, Team Sky: “Collaboration is the cornerstone to positive change and as such this is very exciting for professional cycling and a big step towards the sport reaching its full potential. The teams involved in creating Velon have come together with a powerful shared vision to optimize the sport and develop new ways for professional cycling to grow. If the teams unite and work collectively with other key stakeholders to make cycling better to watch, easier to understand and get guaranteed commercial support it’s to everyone’s benefit and will encourage even more fans to follow the sport we love.”

Chris Froome, Team Sky: “As we can see from official figures the popularity of cycling continues to grow. More people want to ride and as we saw from the incredible support in the UK this year at the Tour de France more want to be involved in the sport. With the development of Velon, it will allow the teams to work together and help find new innovations to grow the sport, keep fans excited and attract new followers.”

Luca Guercilena, manager, Trek Factory Racing: “The teams share a series of priorities to bring to the table of professional cycling. All eleven Velon teams believe a strong commercial entity representing them is essential to develop cycling. The optimism for the future of our sport in the group is telling. Trek Factory Racing is happy and proud to be a part of this project.”

Fabian Cancellara, Trek Factory Racing: “The teams have a story to tell and it is through a project like Velon that they can be sure that story is heard. The on-bike cameras were a first example of the soul and strength of the collaboration between the teams and the other stakeholders in cycling.”

Iwan Spekenbrink, general manager, Giant-Shimano: “With a group of teams, we have been working together for some time to improve the future of the sport. Together, we will keep on working on a credible and viable long-term future of the sport in which fans are more and more engaged. Last year, we have had already big success involving the fans, with the use of the on-bike cameras. With this formal cooperation, we will keep on working on these initiatives to involve the fans more deeply in our sport and give the professional sport of cycling a sustainable, long-term future.”

John Degenkolb, Giant-Shimano: “Last year, we saw already that the on-board cameras in the races were a great success. The magnitude of positive reactions after my in-race footage shows how valuable it can be to involve the fans closely in our great sport. Therefore, it is really satisfying to see that teams are working so closely together to advance the sport of cycling.”

Marcel Kittel, Giant-Shimano: “It is really positive to see that teams are working so closely together to advance the sport of cycling. By closely involving the fans in an open environment, our sport will be able to work further on their credibility and long-term future.”

Tom Dumoulin, Giant-Shimano: “By making the sport of cycling more accessible and easier to understand for the big crowd, it will be able to reach and activate even more fans around the world. The fact that teams are able to work closely together on this concept, makes it even stronger.”

Brent Copeland team manager, Lampre-Merida: “We at Team Lampre-Merida feel that working closely with other World Tour Teams forming one group, namely Velon, is an important step in the right direction to creating even more interest and excitement for the sport of pro cycling, not only for the stability of the sports future but more importantly for the fans”.

Jim Ochowicz, general manager, BMC Racing: “We have already made a difference, giving fans better insights and exciting views from inside the race,” Ochowicz said. “Now, we have formally come together to help develop ways for professional cycling to grow, for the benefit of those already involved and the growing number of those who want to get more deeply involved in this great sport.” Through Velon, the group will continue to work on partnerships with other stakeholders in the sport, including the UCI, race organizers, and the Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionels (AIGCP).

Tejay van Garderen, BMC Racing: “Velon is a great way for teams to help cycling fans get closer to the sport they love. It will lead to new technology and create even more exciting racing. Cycling has also needed a way for teams to work together, like they do in other mainstream sports. This is a tremendous first step.”

Richard Plugge, general manager, Belkin: “This group of teams has been talking for some time about how to better shape the future of the sport by collaborating with all other stakeholders. Now, we’ve formally come together to help develop ways for professional cycling to grow, to create long-term stability for teams and credible and comprehensive racing. We’ve already made a difference, giving fans better insights and exciting views from inside the race. We want to bring the sport where it belongs, in the hearts and minds of the fans.”

Robert Gesink, Belkin: “I feel this collaboration is a great step forward. During the several races last season we have given the fans great images from the on-bike cams and our live stream in the Vuelta. It’s unique to see a great number of World Tour teams working together for the future of the sport, the teams, the riders and the audience. During the race we battle, but after the finish we work as a team for a better future of cycling. It helps building a better structure and financial stability.”

Wilco Kelderman, Belkin: “It’s a great initiative to have a transparent and attractive sport for the fans and stakeholders. As a team we have tried to give cycling back to the fans and create an upbeat future over the last few years. Now we can share knowledge with several World Tour teams to take the next steps. I already have given the fans an insight on Strava during the Giro, now we can work on greater initiatives.”

Stefano Feltrin, CEO, Tinkoff-Saxo: “The will and desire to change is clear from the work we have been doing for more than the past year with the other teams who are part of Velon. Together with the excellent collaborative spirit of all the founding teams, and the use of a commercial joint venture into which the teams have transferred valuable intellectual property, we have the right ingredients to create lasting change for the benefit of fans, riders, teams and other stakeholders in our sport.”

Michael Rogers, Tinkoff-Saxo: “Velon is setting in motion an interesting structure and unification of the world’s highest level cycling teams within professional road cycling. Together with the introduction of the latest technology, teams will have the platform to deliver thrilling experiences to fans from all corners of the globe.”

Bessel Kok, Chairman, Omega Pharma-Quick Step: “Being the main actors of the sport, this is an excellent achievement for our professional cycling teams to unify and work together in a common way, to defend and mutually increase their commercial interests in the sport. This new commercial structure will allow the teams to develop a range of commercial activities and create additional revenue streams other than traditional sponsorship.”

Patrick Lefevere, general manager, Omega Pharma-Quick-Step: “I am confident this can increase the margin of growth of cycling. The sport is growing year-by-year, and we need new and professional structures to be able to increase and defend our common goals. As teams we are competitors during races. However, outside this world there is a lot we can do together to gain more popularity and to become in the future one of the main sports, considering how many people love professional cycling and people who also use cycling as a recreational activity. The market is huge and this is the first step to improve and to enter into a new era for cycling.”

Mark Cavendish, Omega Pharma-Quick Step: “It will be important to make our sport even better, more understandable, and more marketable for people outside the cycling world. I believe that this kind of project is important to enlarge our fan base and to increase the awareness of our sport internationally, using, for example, technology as we show in the recent past with on board bike cameras.”

Tom Boonen, Omega Pharma-Quick Step: “I am looking forward to seeing what this can provide for the sport, teams, and the riders. It is important to create greater stability for the teams to give the new generation of cyclists a secure environment in which to develop into the stars of the future. It is exciting to see so many teams now working together to do just that.”

Jonathan Vaughters, general manager, Garmin-Sharp: “There has been a group of teams collaborating for some time about how we can, by working together, shape the future of the sport. Facilitating the use of on-bike cameras during racing was our first major step and now, as a formal cooperative, we will be able to continue to create even more opportunities to grow the sport we all love and make it more accessible to our fans. This is particularly exciting for our organization as we look ahead to 2015 as Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling.”

Andrew Talansky, Garmin-Sharp: “It’s great to see teams working so closely together to create an even better future for cycling; and bringing fans closer to the action of the sport we all love. This is an important and exciting initiative.”

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