WorldTour Wrap: so much for 'no such thing as bad publicity' - Road Cycling UK

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WorldTour Wrap: so much for ‘no such thing as bad publicity’

Bad weather in Romandie; bad behaviour by Gianni Moscon; bad decisions by RCS Sport

Advocates of pro cycling will often remark on how telegenic it is – it is a sport made to be watched on TV, they say. Indeed, some people – including my nan – tune in every year to watch the Tour de France just to soak in the glorious scenery of the French countryside as filmed from the TV helicopter.

They associate cycling with the chateaux, alpine passes and rolling yellow sunflower fields of France. Cycling is beautiful, they think.

Obviously none of them has ever watched the Tour de Romandie.

And you thought cycling was telegenic…

The week-long Swiss stage race was hit from the very start by horrendous weather with an opening prologue marred by some very sketchy corners and later stage routes shortened. Eventually the weather (along with the racing, which had been a bit ponderous up to that point) brightened up with a victory from Simon Yates on stage four.  

Richie Porte ended up swiping the overall win from beneath Yates’ nose, after an impressive final day time trial performance saw him claw back enough seconds to leapfrog the Yorkshireman in the GC. Primoz Roglic rounded out the podium.

Is it too early to speculate about the Tour de France in July based on the results of one rainy April stage race? Yes. Am I going to do it anyway? Of course!

As well as Porte and Yates, the Tour de Romandie also boasted Chris Froome among the big names on the start list. There were murmurings that it was an early chance to see what sort of shape Froome was in and whether the contest between he and Porte in July will be as much of a humdinger as it was last season.

Simon Yates shone when the sun did make an appearance pic – Sirotti

In the end it was a relatively subdued performance from the Kenyan-born Brit, apart from a battling late burst on stage one, when he popped out of the bunch, legs-a-spinning and darted through the pouring rain to nudge himself over the line in 5th. Perhaps he was just motivated by the promise of beating Thomas de Gendt into the showers.

Froome has won this race twice before, including 2013 before his first Tour de France victory. To place 19th with no race wins so far in the season is not the dominant form we have come to expect from him. Is there, perhaps, a chink in his armour? Might the Tour actually be won by a team other than Sky this year?

Who said there was no such thing as bad publicity?

One has to wonder what it’s like to work in the Team Sky PR department.

Imagine you are Terence, the newly-minted Team Sky PR & Communications intern. You left university with a 2.1 in International Business and French twelve months ago. After spending June getting over your epic grad week hangover and July on the sofa watching the Tour in your pants, your dad got you this job by pulling some strings with some chaps he used to work with at Jaguar. You love cycling. You are delighted to be working at the world’s biggest bike racing team.

You spend August making the tea and getting to grips with the official team Twitter account. And then bam, jiffygate kicks off. All of a sudden it is like you are in the trenches of a horrible never-ending war where, as well as the efforts of your enemies to try and blow you up with their tanks and planes and flamethrowers, your own side keep inexplicably blowing themselves up with grenades each time you think you might be getting a handle on things.

And Matt Lawton will. not. stop. calling. you.

Gianni Moscon has been banned for six weeks after racially abusing Kevin Reza (pics – Sirotti)

It has been, let’s be honest here Terence, absolutely bloody horrible working in the Team Sky PR department for the last nine months. You didn’t realise going grey from stress was a real thing, but it is a thing, because you’ve aged about a year for every month you’ve worked at Sky. When your dad takes you out for a pint people ask if you’re brothers. Your mum keeps sitting you down and asking if you’re eating enough greens.

Then finally it seems to be cooling off. The dust is settling. The story has run out of steam. Everyone has finally started to forget or at least calm down a bit about that bloody jiffy bag. The team is finally back to winning bike races and keeping its head down. Your searing migraines have almost stopped completely.

And just when the tiny bit of light at the end of a very long tunnel of grovelling apologies is beginning to get a little closer – along comes Gianni Moscon to take a great steaming dump right on the middle of your desk.

It is Friday afternoon, you are sitting at your desk, thinking about where you will go for brunch on the weekend, when you hear your boss come storming into the office. She is on the phone. You hear her yell.

“HE SAID WHAT TO KEVIN REZA?! WHAT?! THAT STUPID BASTARD!”

It’s not been a great year to work in Team Sky’s PR department (pic – Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

Then, to the assembled PR team, she says, in a quieter voice. “Guys, I’m sorry, but it’s happened again. You’ll all have to work through the weekend again.”

And then you, the Team Sky PR & Communications intern, slump forward in your chair. Your forehead presses against the space bar and you close your eyes. Your phone rings. It is Matt Lawton. A single tear begins to roll down your face. This is your life now, Terence.

All downhill from here

In the midst of all the modernisation that is going on in cycling, it’s nice to see the organisers of the Giro preserving a bit of that ‘make ‘em suffer’ philosophy that made Henri Desgrange such a beloved figure in his time as director of the Tour de France.

Never afraid of a bit of controversy, the brains behind the Giro decided to introduce a new classification to this year’s edition, before scrapping it after it drew a certain amount of criticism for making the race unnecessarily dangerous.

Stopping just short of adding a knife juggling portion of each day’s stage, the race organisers decided that it would be a bit of fun to do a descending classification, the winner of which would have been the rider fastest down ten pre-determined segments spread throughout the race.

Quite why the Giro decided to organise this extra bit of competition is unclear; perhaps it was merely a monetisable sponsorship opp (Italian tyre brand, Pirelli, has stuck its name on the classification), or perhaps a means of pepping up the racing, or maybe it was just a way of guaranteeing Vincenzo Nibali wins something at his national race.  

As Service Course pointed out, the Giro has form for sketchy descents too – probably a good job the idea was promptly scrapped, no sooner had it been annonced.

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