This Week’s Whys #2

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As predicted in my last post, Richie Porte justified favouritism at a slightly curious Tour Down Under (okay, that’s not quite what I predicted). Here are more questions from the world of pro cycling.

Why did Richie Porte lose his streak of Willunga Hill victories?

Objectively speaking, this Tour Down Under was one of Porte’s finest (his sixth podium finish in nine participations, but just his second win). He toppled Daryl Impey – who had bested Porte on the last two occasions – and proved to doubters (including this writer) that he still very much has some punch. However, I can’t help but feel he will be more-than-a-little sad to lose his Willunga Hill crown. With all respect to Matt Holmes, Porte crushed George Bennett and Simon Yates and only slightly better race management would have kept his streak intact. Whilst Trek-Segafedo calmly hauled back the large group containing GC “threat” Joey Rosskopf, it’s a shame that the remains of the group needlessly gained a minute on the final descent. The race was a resounding success for Porte – and the Willunga Strava record will help ease any pain – but he deserved the opportunity for an eight-peat!

Why aren’t we speaking about Simon Geschke?

You remember Simon Geschke, right? The bearded German who roared an emotional celebration, unzipped, after winning a brilliant Pra-Loup stage at the Tour de France. Who, two years later, buried himself in aid of Tom Dumoulin at the 2017 Giro d’Italia. For most of his career he has sat somewhere awkwardly between workhorse and stage hunter; simultaneously very recognisable and sadly underappreciated. Well, he just thundered up Willunga Hill in 6:43 – faster than Porte’s last seven race times – and took third place in the GC on countback. I can’t quite place his role on CCC… but let’s hope it’s a good one.

If you didn’t enjoy this win, you’re a bad person (or you had money on Rigoberto Uran).

Why did Elia Viviani join Cofidis?

No comment. Nessun commento.

Why has the Tour of Oman been cancelled?

Oman’s long-serving Sultan Qaboos bin Said died earlier this month aged 79 and the country has begun a 40-day mourning period. Race organizers have confirmed the cancellation of the eleventh Tour of Oman, mirroring the closure of many hotels and festivals.

This is particularly bad news for Alexander Kristoff, who has won at least one stage of the race for the last six years. One positive from the race’s cancellation is the small boost to the startlist of the always fun Etoile de Besseges: Greg van Avermaet, Matteo Trentin, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Benjamin Thomas, Pierre Latour, Michael Valgren, Clement Venturini, Magnus Cort, Alberto Bettiol..

Why is Peter Sagan skinnier? (And why does it matter?)

Admittedly a theory based on the observation of Argentine snaps rather than hard proof: Peter Sagan does not seem to be holding his Roubaix-winning weight on his early season jaunt to San Juan. Are we simply fishing for the smallest bite of Sagan news? Possibly. But with a new Grand Tour focus (the Giro d’Italia), a big birthday (his 30th) and a friend/coach who was previously a 60kg climber (Sylwester Szmyd), the signs aren’t pointing to a typical Sagan season. Perhaps Sagan_lite will consider romping the rolling Giro stages, adding a race such as Amstel Gold to his Palmares, and going for gold at the Olympics. Or maybe he just photoshopped his waistline.

It’s hard to look skinny in a photo with Julian Alaphilippe. More evidence needed

Why is the wildcard system so tame?

Confirmed: An eleventh consecutive Giro d’Italia appearance for Bardiani. A team who were awesome in 2014, caught doping in 2017, and haven’t done anything since (weird). They’re joined by Vini Zabu-KTM, who are most interesting for their director’s refusal to sanction power metres. Then there’s Androni who are – to be fair – the strongest of the home teams. Tour de France organizers have followed suit and opted for the return of everybody’s favourite farm suppliers Vital Concept, Arkea-Samsic (or Arkea-Samsic-Barguil-Quintana, to give them their full title) and, of course, Direct-Energie. Perhaps only Matthieu van der Poel winning Paris-Roubaix can upset the odds and force the Vuelta organizers look beyond their home borders.

But should we even be blaming organizers? What’s wrong with RCS Sport handing out special treatment to Italian teams at the Giro? Italy are crying out for a generational talent and investment in their home teams is more important than ever following the collapse of Liquigas and Lampre, and the money-pull from the east. Likewise, the French Pro Continental squads can thrive at the Tour in front of every leading director/manager/trainer in pro cycling. It allows young French riders to dream of signing for somewhere other than Groupama-FDJ. There’s also been plenty of talk pushing for a points-led system and any opposition to this change has likely come from teams not organizers.

I also find it a little odd that the likes of Bardiani – after eleven years of slogging away at the Giro – have no interest in riding at the Tour. The RCS could agree with the ASO to a swap deal that enables young French riders to tackle to Zoncolan, and Bardiani to tour French wine country (although, on second thought, perhaps it’s not the best idea to let the Bardiani boys on a lads’ holiday). Nevertheless, I’d love to see a rotation that allows the likes of Bryan Coquard to ride the Giro, or Mark Canola to attack on the Champs Elysees. And why’s Manuel Belletti never ridden the Vuelta!?

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