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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, July 14, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said. - Peter Drucker

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Stefan Küng and Alexandre Balmer win Swiss National Time-Trial Chamionships

Here's the post from Team Groupama-FDJ:

This Sunday proved to be a great day for the whole Groupama-FDJ cycling team at the Swiss time trial championships. Both Stefan Küng and Alexandre Balmer, who respectively participated in the Elites and U23 races, took the national title at Belp. Thanks to these two wins, the WorldTeam AND the “Conti” have now perfectly launched the second act of the 2020 season.

Stefan Kung

Stefan Küng on the Izoard in the 2019 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

And that makes it 4 for Stefan Küng! After 2017, 2018 and 2019, our time trial specialist added a fourth national title to his – elite- record. Almost four months after his last day of racing, in Paris-Nice, the former individual pursuit world champion made it clear he did not want to return his crown. He therefore proved to be unstoppable on the course designed just nearby the Bern airport. After three laps of a ten-kilometre circuit, he beat runner-up, Silvan Dillier (AG2R-La Mondiale), by a consequent margin of 54 seconds.

“It was the first time I was at the start of a race in four months. It was something special, but it’s nice to put on a bib and find back the racing sensations”, Stefan explained afterwards. “Moreover, it went well. My mission was to defend the jersey and that’s what I did. It’s nice to be able to wear it for another year on international races. I did a recon of the course several times and I knew what I had to do. I had a plan in my mind and I was able to execute it 100%. It’s also nice to get this first win with my new bike.”

Due to the coronavirus crisis, his approach to the event obviously changed from the usual. “Normally, the Championships are just before the Tour so we don’t prepare for it in the same way. I’m coming back from an altitude training camp and I did not necessarily prepared specifically for this event. I did a lot of time trial lately but they were included in my schedule anyway. I had not made any intense efforts until now and I felt it today. It was a course with a lot of corners, it was tough to accelerate every time, but it was good to find back these racing sensations. In training, you always have a margin, you adjust the pace, and you can choose a course with fewer turns. In any case, it felt good to race again”.

Earlier in the afternoon, his young fellow-countryman Alexandre Balmer, a Conti rider since this year, took the start of the Swiss Time Trial Championship in the U23 category. Fifth in 2019 during his first season in these ranks, the young rider from La Chaux-de-Fonds was the fastest this time, on the twenty kilometers course (2×10 kilometers) around Bern Airport. However, it was a close call for him to bring the very first win of the year for the Conti. It came down to one second (!) to Joel Suter, also a professional rider at Bingo-Wallonie Bruxelles.

“I prepared really well for this time trial and I was in a really great shape,” claimed Balmer a few minutes after the medal ceremony. “You had to be focused all the way, but I never was in trouble. It was a very technical course where you had to be cautious with your trajectories, especially before the corners. I was often at the limit and I scared myself a bit at the start. I hit traffic cones with my leg and I thought, “you need to calm down now.” I also lost the radio during the race and I thought I had a better lead so I was taking less risk in the corners afterwards. In the end, the gap was of only one second, but luckily it’s in my favour. I’m happy because it hasn’t been an easy week for me. I have travelled a lot. In any case, we are starting the second half of the season with the team in the best possible way. I hope it will go on like this but we are going to take the races one after the other”.

Even though he is quite a versatile rider, Alexandre Balmer is particularly interested in the time trial. Still his practice was put on hold for a while: “Normally, I was supposed to work on the time trial since March,” he added. “But with the lockdown, we all returned home leaving our time trial bikes at the race service. We learned of these championships just three weeks ago, at the last minute kind of. I then quickly went to get my bike in Besançon and I tried to work this discipline as much as I could because the effort is completely different from that of mountain biking for example. With my trainer Joseph [Berlin-Sémon], we tried to make the most of the time we had left. I’m really glad it went well, and now we’re going to try to prepare for the European and World time trial championships because it’s something that suits me quite well. I love pain and I don’t need others to go beyond my limits”.

At barely 20 years of age, Balmer actually took his sixth national title: the fifth on the road, the third on the time trial (after those won in the U17 and U19 ranks). Therefore, he only misses the Elites titles. Watch out, Stefan…

Rick Vosper: By eliminating midseason model years, Cannondale rewrites the Bike 3.0 playbook

As usual, Mr. Vosper is his brilliant, insightful self in the artcle posted in Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.

It's an idea that's been around for decades: get rid of midseason model years and promote a smoother distribution channel with less in-season discounting and forced end-of-season obsolescence.

I wrote about this topic back in 2012, claiming that model years were an idea whose time had come and gone, brought on by 240-day lead times and the need to level-load factory production.

Model years not only forced unneeded obsolescence into the channel, I said, the timing also forced unneeded peak-season discounting midseason model years also forced retailers to commit to an entire year's worth of inventory, half a year ahead of time. In a weather-driven industry, I pointed out, these massive pre-season commitments put dealers literally at the mercy of the elements.

When it comes to preseason "risk sharing," I wrote, the lion's share of the "risk" almost always devolves onto the last person left holding the inventory: the retailer.

Now a major player and Quadrumvirate member, Cannondale, has announced that both it and sister brand GT will end midseason model years, effective forthwith. Replacing them will be what it calls "collections," which are linked to calendar years. The collections also focus on more colorways with fewer incremental price points, and models that carry over from year to year, with updates as needed, including for new component releases from Shimano and other vendors.

To be sure, the move away from midseason introductions and even the larger concept of ending model years is hardly an original idea. Cervélo hasn't used them in years. Felt, among others, experimented with change in the 2010s, and Trek briefly moved to calendar year production in 2018. But, with the exception of Cervélo, these attempts have been short-lived, and brands soon found themselves back to business as usual.

In game theory, a Nash Equilibrium is one where all players adhere to the same strategy because none of them see an advantage to changing.

In the case of Bike 3.0, the midseason model year worked because it was consistent with the overarching goal of locking down selling space at key dealers and denying competing brands access to retailers' sales floors.

But what every other brand in the industry failed to see was that this model year strategy (and its accompanying preseason and other components) really only benefitted the very largest players—Trek, Specialized and perhaps Giant. Despite this, virtually all brands remained chained to the midseason introduction/preseason binge-and-purge treadmill, because it generated the most orders and sold the most product, at least in theory.

What it did to retailers' realized margins wasn't their problem.

You can read the entire essay here.

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