Sunday, 24 June 2012

Tour de France - the origins of the history

Dreyfus stripped of rank

Downloaded here.

Now you may think this is all about L'Auto and advertising for sales, as we know the story of the tour quite well. But, as always there are more interesting facts to consider. Spies, treason, secret meetings in Paris - Captain Alfred Dreyfus didn't know his conviction would be one of many factors leading to the birth of the pinnacle of the sport - the Tour de France.

In the early 1890s the Dreyfus affaire rocked France. The young artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus was convicted for treason. Young Dreyfus had allegedly sold French military secrets to Germany via the German Embassy in Paris. Solitary confinement in French Guinea can scare the strongest of men, Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1894. Luckily for him, he just spent five years there.

Later new evidence came to light, suggesting that Dreyfus was innocent, as another French officer was responsible for the contact with the Germans. Still, Dreyfus was sentenced to prison for many more years, based on a dodgy claim by the French military. Words of the framing of Dreyfus spread quickly and during the next years France was divided on the matter. The debate raced on for years.

Newspapers, sales and lies 
Comte Jules-Albert de Dion, strongly believed Dreyfus was guilty, one time debates became so heated he hit the French President in the head with a walking stick. The incident resulted in 15 days in prison and a 100 francs fine. Meanwhile, the editor of the largest sports newspaper, Le Velo, Pierre Giffard, thought Dreyfus was innocent. Giffard wrote many articles in a way that made de Dion to drew swords with a couple of other anti-Dreyfusards such as Adolphe Clément and Édouard Michelin, who opened a rival newspaper, L'Auto.
Of course, the appointed editor of this daily newspaper was Henri Desgrange, picked partly because of his reputation as a cyclist, partly due to his abilities as a reporter and partly because his network in cycling. Back then Desgrange owned a velodrome together with Victor Goddet.
Those early days...

Low sales did not please the backers whilst Giffard smiled and clearly enjoyed the smaller newspaper's struggles. As you probably know, the tour was started to generate increased sales. Desgrange has got most of the cred for starting the tour de France. A fact most are not aware of, is that the idea was proposed by a young journalist named Géo Lèfevre. The 26-year old was poached from Giffard some time earlier. As normal when big hairy goals appear , doubt and hesitance filled the room inside 10 Rue de Fauborge in the Montmartre area of Paris. Until Goddet, who held the financial director position, enthusiastically handed the doubtful Desgrange the keys to the safe saying: "Take whatever you need."

The rest is history.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Schlecks vs Bruyneel - rumble with a cause?

What is next?

Photo credit Barry Ryan, downloaded here.

Many have had their attention on the "situation" in the Radioshack-Nissan-Trek team the last weeks. Fränk Schleck exited the giro after the team had laid down some heavy work for him, and Bruyneel couldn't understand why he (Fränk) left because "He might have had an injury to his shoulder, but yesterday he finished with the best,” Bruyneel told Luxembourg newspaper Tageblatt. “So his physical condition could not have been bad, when he rides with the top 10 places.” as the article over at Velonation says.

The athlete's perspective
Rumours about an uneasy situation within the RSNT-team have been circulating for some time, but this statement, if true, really made the headlines. First of all, it is not easy for any of the parties. Fränk and Andy, where Fränk apparently was the driving force of leaving Saxo in the first place, had a nice first year at Leopard. They surrouned themselves with people they knew, like team manager Brian Nygaard and sports director Kim Andersen to mention a few. Suddenly they found themselves without the power and control any longer. Nygaard got squeezed out, in came John Bruyneel who are used to get things his way. One can only speculate what has been going on behind the curtains of the team bus but Kim Andersen got sidelined too, something the brothers took very hard.

Nothing ruins a day more for a top athlete than breaking the daily routine. Top athletes have their days all lined up, what to eat, what to train when, how many hours to sleep and so forth. Predictability and stability is key. Suddenly they (apparently) was denied this by an intruder ordered in by Becca himself.
This is one side of the story, and there are at least one more, if not several.

Everybody in the cycling media and others, me included, love to point out if something's out of the ordinary with the Schlecks. But is it really? The brilliant INRNG has a good comparativ analysis of Andy Schleck last year and now, and I have to agree, I don't think we've seen the last of the Schlecks. They will be strong in July both of them.

Fränk making a choice?

Downloaded here.

Public vs internally
What can the reason be that the rumble between Bruyneel and the Schlecks got public in the first place? T tell you the truth, I was surprised to see this happen in the media the way it did. Was it good journalism that brought it out, was it pressure that had to be steamed? Was it a part of someone's strategy of getting that dirty laundry out in the open to make a point? Whatever the reason(s) this doesn't look good for anyone.

A team manager could be a manager or he could choose to be a leader. At the same time, riders could act professional in the public, after all, this what is expected of most others in their work-life if they struggle with a leader. Who lose? Everyone. The team as questions converning leadership, direction and power keep popping up making it difficult to perform, the Schlecks as they might come across as difficult to work with, Bruyneel as his public rant harms people's impression of him and Becca as his dream might not come true this year. Sponsors don't like what they see either. In addition to this fans all over the world witness team members and leaders rant in public and accusations fly everywhere. Who to believe?

Normally, the truth lies somewhere in between.

But please, take control over this situation and keep it internally. Let the legs do the talking.