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t-72

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OK, this thread came from an attempt at discussing something on twitter which does not fit into 140, 280 or whatever number of characters twitter limits us to using: I had to get off my iPad onto a real keyboard to get effective enough tools for typing all these thoughts....

Background: Norway has enjoyed a few years with a very vibrant regional racing scene at the Conti team level with as much as 5 teams, 3 short stage races and a few one-day races on the UCI calendar and the teams have participated in races at .1 level in many countries, mostly in Northern Europe but also in France, Portugal, Marocco, etc. The younger riders have also participated on Norway's junior and U23 teams in nations cup races, and several have done rather well.

Looking at *no team in the men's road race in the World Championship last week, Odd Christian Eiking, August Jensen, Kristoffer Skjerping, Daniel Hoelgaard, Vegard Stake Laengen, Truls Korsæth and Amund Grøndal Jansen has been a part of this bustling racing scene in the past few years while the two captains, Kristoff and Hagen were racing here at a time when there were fewer teams at this level. That's 7/9 of the team, so to sum it up - this strong regional racing scene has meant a lot for Norways results at the top level but also for cycling as a sport in Norway in general.

Having 3 short stage races (Tour of Norway, Tour des Fjords, Arctic race) on TV every year has made the sport very popular in Norway (evidence presented here in Bergen last week...ok?). However, it is a bit random which of the squads and which riders on the WT and pro-conti level that show up. Our big stars are often tied up in team sponsor's priorities over in ..California? and other locations that doesn't make sense for the general public (cycling nerds may understand, but does not applaud...)

Thankfully, we have had the conti squads with our young riders and the odd returning pro rider that we can bank on not only showing up but also: racing as hard as they can, to take a stage or two from the big ones. We love it! When #coop August Jensen picked apart Dylan Theuns on an uphill finish in Finnvikdalen this year - that was probably something which will influence young athletes and inspire them to become cyclists in Northern Norway for the next decade or so. Along with #tss Andreas Vangstad's stage win in Tour of Norway a few years back, and #joker Odd Christian Eiking slipping in the last roundabout before a sprint for the line with Bauke Mollema....and the two U-23 #rainbow winners: #coop Svein Erik Bystrøm and #joker Kristoffer Halvorsen. These moments are all parts of the reason why you get 100 000s out in the street watching a race on Sunday.

#coop August Jensen beats #bmc Dylan Theuns on the uphill finish in Finnvikdalen


Sometimes our dreams don't work out. #joker Eiking matched Mollema on the climbs and was ready for the sprint in Lillehammer. Just a little disappointed afterwards.

Good cycling results from Norway these days are no longer caused by a shooting star performing at a level way, way above the rest of the pack. It is built on a quite solid base and the conti teams are very vital components in this. However, already before the Bergen World Championship we saw contours of a rapidly changing landscape on the horizon. This thread was created mainly to report and discuss on where the Norwegian teams are going - and what the consequences will be.

(more to follow..on the changing landscape)

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  • t-72

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    Ok, so ... on to the big changes.

    1. 2/5 teams folding
    The last I saw of #fixit Team Fixit.no was when they disappeared behind the Fløibanen station at Vetrlidsalmenningen in the World championship's team time trial event. Or maybe one week later, if we count *fi Matti Manninen pointing at his arm-warmers with the Fixit logo on while riding in front of the camera in the break of the day at the Word Championship's men elite road race. Fixit originated as a Bergen-based team to compete with Stavanger-based #coop, eastern Norway based #joker and the Grimstad/Kristiansand southern Norway team #tss Sparebanken-Sør. At the time, it looked like a very good idea - but then both Kristoffer Skjerping and later Odd-Christian Eiking, the two best local riders - signed for Joker. In one move, Eikings signature cemented the image of Joker as the premier team and Fixit as an also-ran.
    In its last season, a less regionally aware Fixit team (now with many riders and staff from Vestfold) scored some of its best results, with younger riders including Bjørnar Vevatne Øverland.

    Thor Hushovd's Team Sparebanken Sør suffered a similar fate, although their results and their riders clearly were better than Fixit. Some of their best riders decided to leave for Joker, again cementing the image of Joker as the cycling equivalent of Rosenborg: by default, Norway's best team. #tss cycled onto Festplassen for the final applause and into sports history with a stage win in Tour of Norway by Andreas Vangstad as the best result. 
    This would leave some 23 riders at the conti level this year without the default option "continue" for next year. Likely this will shave a lot of riders from the second-best ranks but the three remaining teams will get some options.

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  • t-72

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    2. Increased competition at the top? Where's   #unox Uno-X really heading?

    Uno-X or Uno-X Hydrogen Development team as is their full name (I believe...it is too long so no-one uses it any more!) was launched for last year, as a joint project between elements from Lillehammer and Ringerike cycling clubs. This in itself is a bit peculiar, to an outsider that is another tree from the same root as #joker, which was founded at Ringerike and features some 3-5 riders from Lillehammer at any given time.

    I still wonder, are these teams really intended to compete with each other, or will they race like Tsjekkoslovakia at the worlds? Uno-x branded themselves as a development team, and it then seemed likely that they would develop racers for a bigger team - that would be Joker then?

    This year, the profile of uno-x was clearly lifted. In the team's management there is now this guy called Kurt Asle Arvesen, who used to be winning national championships, won the U-23 worlds, a TdF stage and whose previous assignment was as a DS for Team Sky. This is a high-profile management for a conti team.


    Then, we see Uno-X lifting high-profile rider Tobias Foss (7th in the Tour de L'avenir) from Joker. Tobias is a special guy. In an interview with procycling.no before the race, he self-identified as a future GC rider instead of the ..urmmph.... typical Norwegian flatlands classics sprinter. He looks to riders like Geraint Thomas (and maybe Gianni Moscon) for inspiration on his career trajectory, points towards the value of building capacity and learning skills as a younger rider and says he might improve climbing skills later in his career by dropping weight. He wants to become a rider with good allround capabilities and not a climbing specialist.


    Tobias Foss finished 4th, 4 seconds behind winner Egan Bernal, on the stage to St Foy in this year's tour de l'Avenir.

    Adding to this, Uno-x has a medium strong and very willing corporate sponsor and Arvesen also seems to have the ability to build some momentum around his plans that some other Norwegian team leaders may be lacking at the moment.

    If you asked me last week, I would say that it still looks strange to brand Uno-X as a development team when it is so unclear who/what they are developing for. However, with Foss on board it looks like they may target the GC in stage races as opposed to Joker seem stuch and can't get out of their niche as strong team for one-day races. I think Foss can manage that, maybe already next year.

    It doesn't seem like Joker will be the one dominating team (aka Rosenborg) anymore.


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  • « Last Edit: September 30, 2017, 14:40 by t-72 »

    LukasCPH

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    Uno-X or Uno-X Hydrogen Development team as is their full name (I believe...it is too long so no-one uses it any more!) was launched for last year, as a joint project between elements from Lillehammer and Ringerike cycling clubs. This in itself is a bit peculiar, to an outsider that is another tree from the same root as #joker, which was founded at Ringerike and features some 3-5 riders from Lillehammer at any given time.

    This year, the profile of uno-x was clearly lifted. In the team's management there is now this guy called Kurt Asle Arvesen, who used to be winning national championships, won the U-23 worlds, a TdF stage and whose previous assignment was as a DS for Team Sky. This is a high-profile management for a conti team.
    This is not quite accurate: Uno-X was formed last year (as in, autumn of 2016), yes - but 2017 is their very first season, and Arvesen has been the big boss from the start. 2016 was still as Team Ringeriks-Kraft, with Leo Snoeks (he of the awesome moustache) as responsible DS.
    There's no doubt that they are stepping things up even more for 2018.

    From my distant viewpoint, the same is true for Team Coop aka. the Kristoff-Ørn project - they couldn't attract the strongest riders when Joker were head and shoulders above everyone else, but they're getting better and better squads each year. 2017 was a start with Galta, Höög, August Jensen, Lindau, and Lukkeda(h)l[1], and for 2018 they've already (re-)signed Lukkeda(h)l, Aalrust, and Fredrik Ludvigsson.


    Also, here's a link to the 2016-2017 off-season's Scandinavia thread, if people want to read up:
    The inevitable Norwegian, eh, Scandinavian pro cycling team thread
     1. can we get a definitive answer on whether his surname is spelled with or without the H?
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    t-72

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    I think your corrections on the timeline are right, Lukas!
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  • t-72

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    3. and what about #joker Joker now?

    I actually started the day with an idea of making a thread called "you must be joking" or "you must be joker" dedicated to our premier conti team (because all the other pro conti teams can have one, right?  :angel ) then choked on the morning coffee learning that long-time joker DS Gino van Oudenhouve is leaving, for Dimension data (..i thought that would be Stig Kristiansens plans, seeing the *no team bus at the worlds.)

    Gino has been a key resource for Joker over many many years and is the responsible leader for the team's high sporting profile and high quality racing programme outside Norway. Of course, the riders at his disposal have been top national talent -  but also there is no denying the results they have achieved under Oudenhove have been great. He has been a very important person for the team, and of course, that poses the question: what now, team Joker?

    There are things I don't know about how the team works. For a small unit such as a cycling team, good results built very much on one persons work are possible. When this key person leaves, they typically end up taking almost all the best athletes with them to a new team. Call this a person-dominated team (it is not unique to cycling, this happens in business too). Others build a unit with a strong culture that can keep creating excellent results even if the persons change. Most fit in somewhere between these two end-members, and I think that is where we will find Joker next year.

    It is not just den Oudenhove leaving, there are a few good riders on the way out too:
    #joker Kristoffer Halvorsen ----> #sky Sky
    #joker Tobias Foss            ---->  #unox
    #joker Vegard Breen         (retiring)
    #joker Adrian Aas Stien     (retiring)


    However, there are  a few coming in:
    #seg SEG Racing                 Henrik Evensen     ---> #joker Joker
    #tss Team Sparebanken Sør Andreas Vangstad ---> #joker Joker
    #tss Team Sparebanken Sør Henrik Evensen     ---> #joker Joker

    Then there are quite a few riders with an unconfirmed status for next year.
    #joker Carl Fredrik Hagen   
    #joker Markus Hoelgaard
    #joker Bjørn Tore Hoem
    #joker Anders Skaarseth
    #joker Rasmus Tiller
    #joker Kristoffer Skjerping (????)   awaiting announcements, his girlfriend just retired from cycling 

    It will be interesting to see what happens with these riders, as their actions will pretty much reveal the level of faith they have in the revised plans for Joker next year. Could Hoelgaard go back to #coop? That would be a revealing move.
    Some of the riders are now at senior level and may contemplate that it does not seem like they'll get much further and just call it quits. A good leadership is more likely to convince them to continue one more year, but Joker does not pay their riders very well and there is a limit as to how long a 20-something is willing to continue living on borrowed money just for cycling. They will need a job at some point...

    There is a confirmed core of 5-6 riders for next season: Dahl, Evensen, Forfang, Knotten,  Vangstad, Skjerping(?)

    Based on that list, and the long "not confirmed" this team could be heading anywhere next year, and then there are the rumours about plans for the longer future, involving Gabriel Rasch, which looks better, but also contradictory:
    • Sky DS Gabriel Rasch will be heading back to Ringerike next year and will take over the team Joker management, because his family is tired of all the travel days with Sky
    • Kristoffer Halvorsen signed for Sky to work with Gabriel Rasch

    I don't know exactly what to make of this, but it might seem like Joker is headed for a less than stellar season (or simply a season lacking the star)  in 2018,  followed by a new rise to the top in 2019-2020, with new riders and new managers.
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  • Leadbelly

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    Has the regionality of the various teams held them back then do you think? What was good for national competition then is not so good now for attracting the right kind of sponsor?

    The inevitable Norwegian, eh, Scandinavian pro cycling team thread

    Evitable seems more apposite now. :-x
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  • LukasCPH

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    Has the regionality of the various teams held them back then do you think? What was good for national competition then is not so good now for attracting the right kind of sponsor?
    I believe that the regionality and (friendly) rivalry is great for the competition among Conti teams - but very much bad for attracting a large-enough sponsor for a pro team.
    No matter which of the Conti teams would step up, it would always be seen (in Norway) as "the Stavanger team"/"the Lillehammer team"/"the Grimstad team" etc.
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  • hiero

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    Has the regionality of the various teams held them back then do you think? What was good for national competition then is not so good now for attracting the right kind of sponsor?

    Evitable seems more apposite now. :-x
    I'm impressed! Two 0.25 cent words in 5 in a proper sentence!  :lol
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  • Eeyore sez . . .

    LukasCPH

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    Yup, #unox are definitely stepping up their game:
    https://unoxteam.no/nyheter/unoxteam-forsidemeldinger-aktuelt/stig-kristiansen-tiltrer-som-sportsdirektor/stig-kristiansen-tiltrer-som-sportsdirektor

    #teamno national coach Stig Kristiansen joins the team as sports director.
    He will continue to be available for the federation if they wish to use him.
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  • t-72

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    There's more to this than meets the eye, but I am a bit confused and don't know what it is that I cannot see.  :S

    It is not long ago I saw an announcement that Stig Kristiansen had resigned with NCF (the Norwegian Cycling Union / Verband or whichever translation suits you better). However, googling and checking sources[1] it turns out that extension was signed as long ago as last year. In the meantime there were rumours that Kristiansen was going to a World Tour team and I speculate wildly that this team was Dimension Data. Now it turned out that Gino den Oudenhouve got that position, but it looks like there is a bit of a link when team Norway turns up with the Dimension data bus. This link can  be Edvald Boasson Hagen?

    Question is what has changed, what made Stig Kristiansen not part for WT before the worlds but made him leave his quite prestigious position as head of one of the more succesful national teams, to a DS position at a conti team, after the worlds? My guess: money and maybe a wish to create something new, a feeling that the results achieved with the national team will be hard to beat in the future. The latter is half psychology, but we can look at the sports ambitions side of it - however, the money part could be simpler.

    The World Championship was applied for and decided in the economical upbeat (for Norway) 100 dollars a barrel regime, but had to be executed in times where the Norwegian oil companies earn a lot less money. There's a trickle down effect and although Norway's economy is not just about oil, something happens when your previously strong arm goes limp. Sponsor budgets were not met so the income side of the Worlds was slim (you might have noticed the fisheries in a more dominating role as opposed to the oil industry as far as sponsorship goes). Furthermore a bad financial decision regarding exchange rate means there is a sum to pick up in pure financial losses as well, and add to that a cup of just poor organization leading to some costly solutions (late ordered temporary traffic signs: 4x the cost). The World Championship was too costly, the NCF is responsible and they can't save money on much,  except wages. It seems like there already is a push to cut manning. There will probably not be a replacement for Stig as head coach. Trying to improve good results on a shoestring budget maybe doesn't look like very much fun. I think that was what pushed Stig Kristiansen out.

    What pulled him in to #unox Uno-X is a different question. First of all there's little doubt that Uno-x seems geared for a different kind of growth where Joker has been doing the same thing year out year in, with incrementally better results more or less independent of who's on the team in a given year. With Uno-x it seems like the wheels are turning a bit quicker, and they have attracted top talent in an age sliver slightly younger than the bulk of the riders on Joker. I kind of doubt that the longer term ambitions are just to become another (and maybe better) #joker team Joker.

    A few other things have changed in Norwegian cycling this year, now there's a stage race with lots of climbing in the national calendar. There are young riders that want to ride for GC instead of becoming cobbles/classics/sprint riders. This might be the new stuff - Uno-X are building a squad around Tobias Foss who might be the next big talent on the boy's side in Norway (I still hold that our most talented young cyclist is a girl!). A rider that becomes a GC contender would put Norway on fire and all the sponsorship money that can't be found for backing a Pro-Conti/WT team would come relatively easily. Some sort of lofty ambitions like that and solid financial backing (aka wages paid on time) from the Reitan-group attached sponsors could be tempting for a highly skilled team leader that doesn't want to back down just yet. 

    I am still pondering though, they still call it  Uno-x Hydrogen Development Team. Develop for whom? Something is hidden from view here  :shh

     1. http://www.mynewsdesk.com/no/norges-cykleforbund/pressreleases/landslagssjefene-forlenger-1696879
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  • LukasCPH

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    I am still pondering though, they still call it  Uno-x Hydrogen Development Team. Develop for whom? Something is hidden from view here  :shh
    Develop for pro cycling.
    I don't think there's a hidden agenda or connection with a pro team - the squad is simply set up as a mainly U23 team that endeavours to bring young Norwegian talents onto the pro circus.
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  • t-72

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    Develop for pro cycling.
    I don't think there's a hidden agenda or connection with a pro team - the squad is simply set up as a mainly U23 team that endeavours to bring young Norwegian talents onto the pro circus.

    You may be right, but isn't the new management just a bit on the heavy side for such an ambition level?

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  • LukasCPH

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    You may be right, but isn't the new management just a bit on the heavy side for such an ambition level?
    I'm sure that if, at some point down the road, in a few years, Uno-X decides to cough up the cash for a ProConti team, Arvesen & Kristiansen wouldn't say no.
    But I don't think that's a definite, stated goal for the project. If it happens, great - if not, they're happy getting their guys onto foreign pro teams.
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