Lockdown sees strange times for sponsors

The procycling model is broken… I hear that statement on podcasts and read it in articles continually.

But is it?

The fact that our sports has carried on for over a century, most of that with sponsored trade teams, and continued to provide value and exposure for sponsors whilst remaining free to fans is something that should be admired.

In these times, I am not sure I even know what a “stable funding model” is. But not many teams and organisations in any sort of sport will have it. ,

Budgets are clearly going to be cut and sponsors that remain will have their finance departments casting an ever more critical eye over that key “return on investment” calculation to make sure that for every £1 spent, more than that can be attributed to incoming revenues.

There are a couple of teams at cyclings World Tour level with changes in the offing.

Mitchelton-Scott have been looking for a main sponsor for quite some time and have recently announced a link up with Manuela Fundacion. Its not been without drama and controversy with both the new sponsors and existing CEO claiming they are the teams owners.

But this does show that in Europe there is still a desire to back the sport.

CCC have an altogether more pressing situation with their sponsor being in the retail sector and being hit hard by the lockdown. They are now getting out of their deal a year early leaving the team with a big gap to fill.

There are hopeful noises coming out of the CCC Camp with a number of names linked and their main man confident something will be announced ahead of the Tour de France. Let’s hope so as I still want to see a Van Avermaet/Trentin classics combination in full effect.

There could be more changes ahead or some tweaks to jersey’s as the pandemic carries on. In the meantime we are edging nearer actually seeing some of the 2020 teams in action and we must hang on to that positive in these wretched times.

Stay safe.

Beers of Belgium CC

Roman brewery Tour 2018

https://www.roman.be/en/oldest-family-brewery-belgium

On a rare child free weekend in the short period between the road season and ‘cross starting, the Wife and I took a drive from Lincolnshire to the heart of Oudenaarde for a weekend of walking the hellingen and some food and beer testing.

We stayed at the beautiful Beans and Dreams coffee house doing all of the touristy stuff like eating steak and frites in the town square and working our way through some of the beers in the tiny little bar near the Ronde Van Vlanderen museum.

The first full day saw us take the steep little road out of town towards the Roman Brewery.

We had been booked on a tour which ironically saw us joined by one of the cycling clubs of Antwerp who wanted to ask me loads of questions about whether Chris Froome was asthmatic or not…

The tour guide took us to one side to explain politely that the tour was predominantly going to be in Dutch/Flemish but that he would try and keep us up to speed. He seemed impressed that a British couple were so keen to take the tour.

The buildings themselves were really old and impressive. You see this brewery regularly on TV footage of all the big classics in this part of the world and the giant stills were so well polished and the barrels stacked so neatly that you knew this was a class operation.

After the tour there was a tasting which I thought would be a couple of small glasses to try but this was 15 minute free bar… My wife handed me the car keys before trying a couple of tripels and a nice ruby.

Thankfully the pricing of the shop was such that we could fill the boot of the car (using Antwerp cycling club officials as extra pairs of hands) before heading back into town.

One of us grumpily and the other one groggily.

I will let you decide who was who.

What I will say is that everyone who is a lover of Belgian beers should make the time to take a tour. People are so proud of what they produce and so passionate about it. That comes across in everything they do and say.

The theatre in the presentation of the drinks, even in a free tasting show care for the drinks, it was magical.

Once this is over and we are free to move again, who’s up for a trip?

Why Bardet transfer could be the biggest this winter…

There are two other contracts that have been signed which influences the important of where Romain Bardet ends up in 2021 and beyond.

Firstly there is the commitment of Flemish classics start Oliver Naesen to stay with the Alpine based Ag2r team. It shows their faith in him to deliver a monument (despite a number of near misses including one with a spectators coat) and with some of the other names on that teams retained list there seems to be a bit more emphasis on the all round aspects of cycling than just whether Bardet can even win the Tour de France.

On the other side of the French team divide is Groupama/FDJ and their extension of Thibaut Pinot’s contract.

There is an argument to say that he is even more of a flaky GC contender than Bardet having succumbed to injury more times than Bardet has suffered stage fright. But his team see enough in him to make sure he is tied to a deal.

So with his main French rival under contract and settled in his environment and the main classics star on his own team already signed up (along with a number of other young French talents) does this leave Romain in the wilderness?

Well, he is 29 so if its going to happen in Le Tour he doesn’t have long left. However he doesn’t seem able to address that weakness in time trials and seemed happier to go to the Giro (as Pinot had done in previous years) to get away from the pressure of being one of the home country’s hopes to end their yellow jersey drought.

He clearly feels like a change may benefit him and Sunweb who were caught short (hahah) by Tom Dumoulin’s departure could see him as a good bet for a stage win and mountains jersey at least. After their rudderless performance in the Tour last year it would give them someone to get behind easing the pressure on Michael Matthews on the earlier flatter stages.

I do hope that wherever he ends up we see that sense of freedom back in his riding because when he attacks both uphill and down (remember that thrilling descent from the Dauphine a few years back?) he is box office to watch.

Classics riders on the market for 2021

Sorry to link another CN article but I found this one equally as interesting.

Click here.

The name that leaps out to me is Sep who despite starting to reach the latter years of his career still deserves that one last shot and the Ronde. I hope the sentence at the end of the piece regarding the need for more investment in the EF team isn’t a precursor to another summer of uncertainty for that team.

There is a name missing from that list as a rider that I think is out of contract at the end of the season and that is Jurgen Roelandts. Yes I am a total fan boy and yes that is all based on his 2015 Gent-Wevelgem lone breakaway which is half a decade ago now, but … he is the boss and I expect to see him back in Belgium leaving Movistar and helping one of the lesser teams get to the front next spring.

I am predicting Wanty. You read it here first.

Back to the article however and of course Yves Lampaert and Nils Pollit will command the biggest transfer…

British Cycling updates it Covid policy…

Click here to read the full release.

The gist is that despite the relaxing of government regulations allow groups of six people to meet outside, this isn’t especially practical when riding a bike keeping 2 metres away from each other, pedestrians and traffic without compromising safety.

So the current rules and regulations remain in place until July.

Whilst I understand the impatience of those who thrive on group rides and are desperate for racing to restart, it’s important that we are seen to be doing out bit and the right things.

It’s less than a month away now and if things keep moving in a positive direction, a return to group riding and competition will be worth the wait.

Missing my favourite bar in Brugge

21 Draughts, still talked about to this day.

A nondescript ferry from Hull to Zebrugge on a December Saturday evening in 2014 probably isn’t the start point for too many Belgian beer related tales. However this one starts on the vessel locals affectionately call “The Party Boat” offering super cheap weekend trips abroad to Amsterdam and Brugge.

It was £35 return including cabin and coach transfer and isn’t much more expensive now. The cabins are best described as snug. My Brother in Law who is a submariner uttered the words “Bloody hell, its tight in here” when we went in to claim our bunks.

I had a pre determined reason to go to Brugge that weekend. It was partially Christmas shopping and partially recce for my trip to the Ronde Cyclo for the following spring. What followed was something quite special!

We left the ferry and took the coach into Brugge before meeting up with a friend of mine (another cycling nut) from Amsterdam. The train and coach station converged so it was easy to meet up before sauntering across the cobbles into town.

I know that people criticise Brugge for being commercialised and more expensive than other towns in Flanders but there is a magic and ambience to the place that I think is unique.

After getting a breakfast we looked for somewhere to quench the sort of thirst only a night bobbing about in the North Sea can give you. 21 Draughts was the destination we found.

The service and expertise were amazing and it was there I took my first sips of delights such as Brugge Trippel and Bornhem, drinks that remain on my list to this day.

As opposed to getting out and sightseeing for the day, we didn’t leave until we needed to catch the last shuttle to the boat back to Hull, only pausing for a cone of frites and mayo… naturally.

When I went back for the RVV cyclo the bar was still there and the wife enjoyed one too many before driving to Oudenaarde to meet me the next day after the sportive. However the next time we went back to the town the bar was closed and gone.

21 Draughts is still loved and talked about in our family and much missed. A lovely spot just back from the square and reasonably stocked and priced.

It’s trips and experiences like these that make my love for Flanders and its ale so strong, and despite my favourite bar no longer being there, I hope one day to take the foam off one in the the town.

When cyclists are their worst enemy

Now dont get me wrong… I am a cyclist and I love cycling.

However in my part of the world their is a small knot of riders who appear to be above saying hello to others and look down on motorists.

Surely we should be working to share the roads not have one vehicle or other have any level of supremacy?

Over the weekend I saw a couple of large groups whilst I was out riding alone. On a narrow single track lane a mini peloton coming the other way made no effort to avoid their spread over the road leaving me with the choice of a less than 2 metre gap or a ditch.

They offered no wave of acknowledgement either. They were in the zone and racing.

The following day whilst out on an essential car journey I came up behind a group of three riders on a similarly narrow lane. There was already a car behind them and another two joined the tail behind me.

No-one could get by for almost a mile despite the cyclists looking back and seeing the gaggle of motorists behind them.

And whilst I accept and understand that there is no obligation for the riders to slow up or single up to let the cars through, it would be courteous and show that we understand that the roads are shared spaces.

I do accept that there are some terrible motorists out there, I get my right elbow hair shaved off by wing mirrors regularly, but maybe its time for us to admit that there are some terrible cyclists as well?

Reading some social media and forums it seems that there is a war to be fought on the roads. A war where middle aged males in Rapha kit riding expensive Specialized bikes feel the need to express their right to ride.

It doesn’t need to be like that. We are all just trying to get somewhere.

So why don’t you try letting a motorist pass you on a narrow road if you can. They might acknowledge it with a wave, they might not. But you will have avoided raising their blood pressure so they might considerate to a horse or pedestrian at the next junction.

Pay it forward, it feels good and might diffuse a bit of this perceived tension.