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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, January 14, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Olympics 50 Craziest Stories

Les Woodland's book The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories: A Five Ring Circus is available as an audiobook here. For the print and Kindle eBook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Mathieu van der Poel undergoes knee surgery in Belgium posted this:

Defending champion Mathieu van der Poel withdrew from the Cyclo-cross World Championships in Fayetteville [Arkansas] a week ago with back problems. The Dutchman was struggling with a back problem and already put an end to his cross season after only two crosses (Dendermonde and Zolder). Even behind the classic spring on the road, there is still a question mark.

Mathieu Van der Poel winning the 2021 GP Sven Nys Cyclocross

Today’s surgery had nothing to do with his back. “In a previous crash, a tear had appeared in the capsule of the kneecap,” Alpecin-Fenix ​​clarified. “And as a result of that tear, scar tissue had formed in which a hardened strand rubbed against the bone. Currently it was painless and didn’t bother him, but going forward now is the right time to proactively take away. This operation was separate from the back injury from which Van der Poel is currently recovering.”

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Julian Alaphilippe to begin season in France

Here’s the update from Alaphilippe’s Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl team:

For the second year in a row, the World Champion will kick off his campaign at the Tour de la Provence.

It’s been a good winter for Julian Alaphilippe. L’Equipe awarded him the Vélo d’Or Français and Champion des Champions trophies in recognition of his impressive 2021 season, and the two training camps he took part in together with his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl teammates gave him a solid foundation for what the Frenchman hopes will be another successful year.

Julian Alaphilippe at the start of the 2021 Milano-Torino. Sirotti photo

Winner of back-to-back World Championships, Julian will get his season underway in February, at the seventh edition of the Tour de la Provence, a race he lit up last year. Resplendent in his rainbow jersey, Alaphilippe delivered a spectacular and complete performance at the four-day event – attacking from the distance on the opening day, playing a vital role in the Wolfpack’s lead-out train and putting in a gutsy ride on the slopes of Mont Ventoux en route to a morale-boosting second in the overall classification.

“First and foremost, I want to enjoy my second year in the rainbow jersey. Having it gives me extra motivation to fight for victory in the biggest races on the calendar. I will start the season again in Provence, I liked it there last year and I’m happy to return next month to this beautiful race, in front of my home fans.”

“My season will continue in Italy, with Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, before switching to the Ardennes Classics in April. These are races that suit me and where I want to do good. Liège–Bastogne–Liège will be the biggest goal in the first part of the year, is a race I love and hopefully I will be up there again, fighting for victory”, said the World Champion.

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Dan Bigham discusses role as performance engineer at INEOS Grenadiers

INEOS Grenadiers posted this:

Bigham, an expert in aerodynamics and the current holder of the British Hour Record, joined the team in November and has been spending his time observing and preparing to use his expertise and insights across the performance team.

Bigham won’t race for the team and is not a part of the rider roster for 2022 but the 30 year old has not hung up his wheels. He will still compete in time trials and is looking to tackle the Hour Record again this year, following his attempt last autumn.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” explained Bigham. “I was hopeful that at some point in my career I could work at this high level and I was thinking that maybe an opportunity like this might come in a few years. I wasn’t hunting for it but the way it’s come about is a dream really.

“My role is effectively to apply all of the team’s collective knowledge and science of aerodynamics and equipment to athletes, acting as the conduit in the middle. I can speak in rider terminology because I race a bike, but I can also speak in aerodynamic and engineering terminology and can be the person to bridge the two, as well as work to answer the questions that we currently don’t have answers to. That could be anything from position optimisation, helmets, clothing, tyre selection, tyre pressure choice, pacing strategies to gearing choices. We’re trying to better connect both sides.”

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Bigham spoke to Sir Dave Brailsford and Rod Ellingworth midway through 2021 as the pair looked to build on the performance team ahead of an ambitious 2022.

“Following INEOS’ investment in the Mercedes F1 team and the collaboration across sport at INEOS, the team were already starting to learn how F1 did things and it made them realise there were a few potential gaps around the race engineering, the application of knowledge, and also gearing that towards the athlete - explaining to them why they should do things.

“Dave was looking for someone to take on that role as a performance engineer and test rider, and at the same time I was finishing up with the Danish Cycle Union having worked up to the Tokyo Olympics with them. I got chatting with Dave and Rod, thrashed out a lot of different ideas and they asked me to do a knowledge seeking exercise, going round the team, talking to people, trying to figure out where I would fit in best, and seek ideas without having been prejudiced by being thrown in at the deep end.”

Bigham spent December at the team’s preseason camp in Mallorca, putting important work in with the riders, building relationships, and training with the squad, working under Head of Performance Support and Innovation, Paul Barratt.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the camp,” he continued. “It was a great chance to meet the team more informally after some intense performance meetings in Woking and Paris in November. Just to sit back and learn more about people, build a rapport, what they’ve done before, what they’re working on. Getting to know people was incredibly helpful.

“We did a significant amount of aero testing on the velodrome in Mallorca. I also did quite a bit out on the road as well. There was a lot of benchmarking, establishing systems and looking at what we can do moving forward. As Paul Barratt puts it, there is the flying of the plane - trying to do your job on the move - while also trying to fix and improve the plane as you go.  At the same time I got out on the road with a lot of the guys. At one point I was riding up a climb with Ganna, Tao, Carapaz, Bernal and Yates, it was quite a surreal moment. It’s an epic team to be involved in.

“There will be lots of different areas that open up as we go. Time trialling will lead the way and that’s a bit of a no brainer as there’s always work to be done there, but hopefully we can bring that same mentality and approach across to road racing as well, and look at how we can optimise each of the riders and the roles that they do - so it’s not just ‘you’re riding these wheels, handlebars, helmets, skinsuits’ across the entire team but it can be unique and tailored for their role, course, and each day.”

Bigham has mixed his racing commitments with off-bike work over the past few years and is hugely appreciative of the team’s outlook on his riding ambitions.

“Historically I’ve had to juggle my cycling with my work. To consolidate everything into one role so I’m not doing my own testing and then having to do the same thing for everyone else is one big advantage of coming on board. Everything that I’m developing for riders and the team is the same for me, so there is a benefit in both directions.

“Whenever I’m on camps, I can train with the squad and everyone on the team wants that because it means I can also be the test rider and drive the development that helps the squad. It all works in harmony. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be supported to ride my bike within the team because instead of having two separate streams, pulling and pushing against each other, it meant we were all aligned and going in the same direction.”

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