Tuesday 27 March 2012

Cyclopunk's News Digest 27.03.12

Cav&Wiggo for Romandie - Women's Nocturne will go ahead if 50 riders enter - A Very Belgian Intrigue: Merckx, the policeman and the corruption investigation - Conflicting reports on future of Women's GP Ciudad de Valladolid - No easy win at Dauphine this year

Cav and Wiggo to ride Romandie
Britain's two top living (male*) cyclists Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins are due to line up at the start of next month's Tour de Romandie, rather than waiting for the Tour de France as had been expected, according to the Team Sky website.

With many people still wondering if the two riders will be able to work together, mindful of the fact that they have clashed in the past, all eyes will be on the race.

They'll be joined by Chris Froome, Jeremy Hunt, Danny Pate, Richie Porte, Michael Rogers and Kanstantsin Siutsou at the race which takes place between the 24th and 29th of April.

*Nicole Cooke. 'Nuff said.

Smithfield Nocturne Women's Race
After receiving an "overwhelming response" in support of the event and consultation with British Cycling, Nocturne organisers have confirmed that the women's race will now go ahead - provided 50 riders have signed up by the 30th of April.

The race had been cancelled at the request of British Cycling, which runs a women's race the following day. However, as an enormously popular televised event, riders and fans alike felt that the Nocturne was the more important event, especially with respect to the long term future of women's cycling, and rallied together in support.

New sponsorship has inspired a name change to the Rapha Women's Elite Criterium. The race is open to members of female pro teams who are able to satisfy conditions relating to recent results and category. More details - and entry form - here.

...and it'll be on Channel 4
Channel 4 have secured rights to broadcast the Smithfield Nocturne live on the 9th of June, and say they will also make it available on their 4OD catch-up service. This is an interesting development and, if successful, could potentially encourage Channel 4 - who gave up their right to broadcast Tour de France footage in 2001 to make more room for cricket and hasn't shown any cycling since -  to consider showing more in future.

A Very Belgian Intrigue
(image credit: Nationaal Archief, public domain)
Eddy Merckx has become embroiled in a corruption investigation surrounding a Belgian police commissioner.  It appears that Merckx's company had supplied one consignment of bikes for use by officers on duty and was due to supply another when police chiefs decided to switch to a new supplier because officers argued over who got issued a Merckx bike each day and who got one of the older, non-Merckx ones. The case is part of a larger investigation into police procurement of vehicles, including the purchase of between 60 and 80 cars from Toyota.

It is alleged that Commissioner Philippe Boucar then supplied details concerning the supply of 48 bikes by one of Merckx's competitors, including cost, thus allowing his company an unfair advantage and opportunity to respond by lowering their rice to secure the contract - corruption, in other words, which has led Magistrate Jean-Claude van Espen in Brussels to indict Boucar, Merckx, another police commissioner, a police procurements officer and an accountant. In return for supplying the details, Boucar is said to have been permitted to purchase a carbon fibre Merckx bike for himself at a massively reduced price.

Merckx's indictment was delayed in order that the five-time Tour winner, widely considered the greatest cyclist of all time and Belgium's favourite son, would have time to go to Paris where he was inducted into the Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur, the highest honour in France, by Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysée Palace.

Conflicting reports on Spanish Women's World Cup Round
Following an announcement by the Spanish National Federation (RFEC) that this year's GP Ciudad de Valladolid would not go ahead this year, the UCI have released a press report saying it will look at ways in which it can help ensure the event takes place. No reason was given for the suspension, but with many races experiencing financial problems and the Spanish economy currently in a dreadful state, it's probably safe to assume that withdrawal of sponsorship was at least the main cause. This means that until the UCI deems the time fit to tell us, we can only guess at what sort of assistance they'll provide - though a cash injection seems most likely.

Meanwhile, Dutch website NOS says that the UCI have now announced the official cancellation of the race; leading to some confusion over what is actually going on.

"We bear the [women of] cycling a warm heart and are therefore concerned about the deletion of this contest," said Pat McQuaid in an official press release. "I hope that we can offer a helping hand." It's not clear if they have since decided they cannot help the race or if NOS is reporting older news - however, as the loss of the race would reduce events in the Cup to just eight - the lowest since 2000 - it seems unlikely that a decision would be made so soon after the press release.

Vos plots course in Flanders
Dutch megastar Marianne Vos says she has set her sights on victory at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, which is due to take place on Sunday the 1st of April. "So far, I've failed to win this race," says the 24-year-old. "I would like to change that. I have been close a few times, but each time I had to let others win" - she has twice come third and once second in the prestigious race.

Now riding with a Rabobank team assembled largely to support her and having already won the first two rounds of the World Cup right after dominating the cyclo cross season, there's every reason to expect this is her year.

Stage profiles and route, Criterium du Dauphine
Col de Joux-Plane has featured in seven editions of the Tour
de France, most recently in 2006.
(image credit: Jambon CC BY-SA 3.0
The ASO have published stage profiles and a map of the route of the 64th Criterium du Dauphine, immediately sparking widespread opinion that it will be a spectacular race. A challenging selection of high mountains, shorter climbs and time trials ought to provide a competition in which no rider will be able to gain a decisive upper hand until near the end of the race, leading to plenty of battles along the way.

Stage 7 is the Queen with two Cat 1 climbs (1,173m Col de Plainpalais and 1,613m Col de la Colombiere) followed by an Hors-Categorie ascent of the 1,691m Col de Joux-Plane - 11.7km in length with a maximum gradient of 10%. Stage 6 comes close with 1,501m HC Le Grand Colombier. Stage 4 is a 53km time trial.

Stage: 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8. Stage 1 is a 5.7km prologue to be held in Grenoble - the profile is not yet available.

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