I have been home for a little bit now, struggling with the cold mornings on my mid week ride after the heat of the European summer during Le Tour de France.
Le Tour is done and dusted almost a distant memory. I as much as anyone else keep reviewing the photo’s, the memories, current and more distant such is the passion for this grand dame of cycling.
In the meantime the politics and posturing, threats of strikes by teams all reasonably argued have disappeared into the background for a moment due to the hype of La Vuelta.
The team rosters are filtering through. Where most are struggling to list a team that can win anything a dominate Sky is fielding a long-list of A grade starters.
Post Tour de France, teams traditionally fielded riders who were not completely wasted by the Tour or as we see with OGE, field new younger riders to give them grand tour experience in what is often mistakenly seen to be a lesser race.
Where once riders would use the Vuelta to hone their fitness for the upcoming World Championships now their performance is critical if you need a job or a team needs a sponsor next year. Sponsors expect performances to be 100% and this will make La Vuelta a great race.
The Vuelta does present some dilemmas for teams with a strong nationalistic base and it becomes even more confusing for the punter given the way the media call races. Sitting on the coach it will be all about the Aussies, mostly in OGE who are likely go in hard at the team time trial, blaze an early path and abandon to prepare for the worlds.
Not an ideal scenario and one that is often repeated.
Back to the politics. Teams are scrambling for commercial survival, not much difference back here in Australia where cycling is a young sport. Team owners globally are clamouring for some ownership of the races (profits) who would not survive without the teams.
Wherever you hail from rights are distributed and rehashed to be filled with local commentary and content. Teams are filled with multinational riders. Our OGE is not ours, it is an international team with an Australian base.
The owners of the biggest race in the world are steadfastly refusing to share the spoils. The owners of the biggest teams are screaming loudly for a share.
Yet If the teams want a share of the spoils surely they need to value all the races.
Internally this time of year can be tumultuous for riders and likewise for teams. Riders are changing teams or looking for contracts, the early sign-ups confirmed but for many there is uncertainty with renewals pending. The Vuelta can be make or break but there is clearly an internal selection battle at Sky for the every race that would make life intense if you were on that team.
I can’t see what can be gained by the British squad having the Froomster on the start line. He was clearly on his knees at the
end of the Tour de France, his struggles on the Alpe d’Huez on the penultimate stage reminiscent of Contador’s breaking point on the Colle delle Finestre at the same point of the Giro.
There are always the moments in every rider’s career when ego starts to make decisions rather than the rationale that should drive an athlete. I might be wrong, all Froome’s ducks may be in a row and it could be a sensational battle but I can’t help thinking that Sky are coming slightly unstuck by maintaining such performance pressures on the rider roster.
Last year the Vuelta was a clash of the teams, Saxo Tinkoff v Sky. Froomes name in the line-up almost a Contador snub, you couldn’t manage 2 Grand tours but I am fit enough.
The Vuelta is presenting as a play off.
2015 Saxo Tinkoff 1 with a win at the Giro, Sky 1, the big one Le Tour. Old mate Tinkoff won’t be happy if Froome wins a double. A Quintana win would level the team owner stakes so to speak and lets not forget the ever controversial Astana who will field Nibali Lander and Aru.
It will be a great race for the owners.
Written by Phil Anderson